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state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Stockman Billy Mateer saves the day!

By JOL Admin | 8 May 2009

Our Heritage Collections reference service throws up many interesting stories from our history.  Here is one that we researched recently.

In 1893 it was Henry Plantagenet Somerset of Caboonbah Homestead who observed a fifty foot wall of flood water strike the 120 foot cliff at Caboonbah. As many as five cyclones that had crossed the coast near Noosa and had brought drenching rain to the Brisbane and Stanley River watersheds. It was when the waters broke over Sapphire Gully that Somerset decided to dispatch two men, one to Esk, the other to Petrie. Harry Winwood was dispatched to Esk with a telegram for the Post Master General - this telegram was never sent, its contents warning of the highest flood on record. H. P. Somerset rowed stockman Billy Mateer with two horses swimming behind the boat to high land adjoining the stock route at Reedy Creek, from here he made his way to North Petrie. Billy was able to get through to the telegraph and relay the telegram message to Brisbane.

“Prepare at once for flood. River here within 10ft of 1890 flood, and rising fast, still raining”. Subsequently Caboonbah was made an official flood warning station with a telegraph line from Cressbrook.

One wonders how many lives were saved as a result.

Flood waters on Albion St., Warwick, 1893, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No: 199833

Engraving of Vernor Family rescued near Fernvale, 1893. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No: 121166

Eagle Street, Brisbane, 1893. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No: API-033-01-0005


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