Local History at Henry Kendall Cottage
The first settlers were often the recipients of government land grants which they used to begin their farming enterprises. The timber and shipping industries were prominent, in the early years, as was the farming of such produce as citrus and stone fruit.
Henry Kendall Cottage, originally called 'Cooranbean', was built, in 1836-40, by Peter Fagan, who was an Irish ex-convict. On receiving his Ticket of Leave, Fagan was reunited with his family and became a policeman (obviously, his convict beginnings were now forgiven him!). He obtained a grant of 100 acres, at Brisbane Water, and began a number of businesses, including that of running the cottage as an inn. Reading about Peter's struggles - the shipwreck that cost him the cargo which was to pay his debts - and his triumphs - the profits which allowed him to acquire an extra 60 acres of farming land - makes me realize just how courageous and hard-working were the early pioneers.
In 1865, a family tragedy occurred, when Peter Fagan accidentally administered Strychnine to members of his household, instead of quinine which was a form of medicine. Panic ensued when those who had taken the poison became violently ill and it was realised that the wrong bottle had been removed from the medicine box. Of the family members affected, Peter Fagan's wife, daughter and sister-in-law all died. They passed away within hours of drinking the substance, which had been purchased some years before for the purpose of destroying the native dingos. The responsibility for this tragedy must have weighed terribly on Peter's mind for the rest of his eleven years on earth - one can only hope that his spiritual life provided him with Divine consolation.
Some years ago, Henry Kendall Cottage was renamed, in honour of the well-known poet who spent several months there, in the late nineteenth century. It is a small, four-roomed dwelling, solidly built out of locally quarried sandstone. Along with the accompanying farming and general interest museums, it contains an abundance of interesting artifacts, household items and machinery from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
We found the kitchen and laundry appliances particularly interesting. Household chores were so obviously more labour-intensive, in the past, but I wonder if more care was taken over each task. With machines taking over from the chores we used to do by hand and materialism creating a'disposable' mentality, it seems that efficiency is the goal of much of what we do, these days, rather than pride, skill and craftsmanship. Just looking at the blue laundry dye and all the hand-operated laundry appliances, made me realize the trouble taken to keep their clothes smart and long-lasting. I doubt that many of us would really want to go back to those tough, pre-electricity days but have our modern conveniences made domestic life a bit too easy? I wonder if we have almost lost the sense of satisfaction of our labours and the benefits of hard physical effort, now that machines and appliances do so much of our work for us.
(The bottom five photos are from the museum's website as no photos are allowed inside the buildings.)