The pioneer who put her experiences into verse

You just never know what treasures you might find hidden in the bookshelves of historical collections.

Whilst browsing in the Queensland section of the Cairns & District Family History Society’s library, I came across this article and poem written by my husband’s paternal great grandmother, in a Queensland Pioneer Book.  It provides a wonderful description of the hardships of life in the bush in the early days.

Queensland Pioneer Book, p86.
North Queensland Pioneers, compiled by J. Black.
Published by the Country Women’s Association of Queensland
Townsville, Queensland, 1932?



The only pioneer to put her experiences into verse.

Mrs. Thompsen writes:

As one of the ancients, I am enclosing some descriptive verses of my early days in North Queensland, hoping they may interest present day residents.  Unmarried, as Sarah Sloan, I came to North Queensland to marry a building contractor named A. Thompsen.  We never made a permanent home, just travelled from one construction to another.  I, like the gypsies of old, made my home wherever I happened to be.  Through many years I did my duty to the best of my ability, and now in my 66th year.  I am a widow, the mother of six children, all prosperous, four of them married and I have seven grandchildren.  At present I am living very contentedly with my youngest son, so comfortable and contented with my lot, I sometimes think it is too good to last.  I came fra’ Kilmarnock, “ye ken where that is.”  In 1920-21, I re-visited that town, but found it cold, so was glad to return to Sunny Queensland.



Just an emigrant to Queensland’s far North.
Two score years have passed, since I came forth.
Out from the land that gave me birth,
To this wonderful land, at the end of the earth.

Bold Captain Cook, of noted fame,
To one of his haunts along I came.
To Cooktown on the river Endeavour
Remembrance of which, only time can sever.

The year was eighteen eighty five,
And the vessel Wooroonga by which I arrive.
To see a land both stern and wide,
With sunshine bright on a flowing tide.

I found no gold or precious stone,
Not a friend to greet me, a welcome home.
To a tent in Australia’s mountains grand
Or flowing wild rivers or coral strands.

Per tandem team and old caravan,
I travelled over those mountains grand.
Where dingoes and crawling things run loose
Miles upon miles from any hoose.

Those wide wild rivers no bridges did span.
Drive in the horses the best way you can.
They rush down a steep bank into the bed,
There to drink their fill, then go on ahead.

The onward we’d go, jog, jogging along,
And often the way would seem very long.
Before we again any water would see,
To boil the billy and make the tea.

Then when the toilsome day was o’er,
Begin again and do some more.
Fetch the water and gather the wood,
And then feed up as soon as we could.

So then when the horses and all were fed,
Rake out the ashes and bake the bread.
Put on the billy to boil the beef,
And then we could have a little relief.

The sun had long since gone down West,
Ere we could settle down to rest.
Just spread out out blanket under a tree,
Or near the fire as the case might be.

To waken up at early dawn,
And listen to the sweet bird song.
We glimpse the sun, and see it rise,
And we think of the gates of Paradise.

Like this we go on in the great out back,
And we feel a charm the cities lack.
We have beaten down a rugged track,
That has earned for us the same Wayback.

Those happenings were in the Early Days;
But I love to think of the old bush ways,
Far dearer to me than heaps of gold,
Are the cherished scenes from the days of old.





Extract from the Queensland Pioneer Book, p86 (pdf).

Queensland Pioneer Book, p86.
North Queensland Pioneers, compiled by Black, J. (Jane).
Published by the Country Women’s Association of Queensland
Townsville, Queensland, 1932?
Digital master available: National Library of Australia; nla.obj-37171399.

Also printed in the Townsville Daily Bulletin, 11 Feb 1931, p5



Posted in Genealogy and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. Joan, I had no idea your husband is related to the Sloan family. My half sister, Daphne Joyce Wood married Arthur Leonard Sloan at St. John’s CofE on 28 May 1949

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *