Friday, December 11, 2009

A Potted History

Captain William Townsend passed away, aged 83, on 11th August, 1893 at Mango Cottage, Sandgate. By the calendar this means he’d lived in Queensland for 27 years and 5 days, having arrived in Brisbane from Melbourne on the “City of Melbourne” on 6th August, 1866 along with six children from his first marriage and his wife-to-be. This voyage from England had been eventful, what with the “Netherby” running aground on King Island in Bass Strait, a successful rescue of the ship’s passengers and crew, and a period of privation on King Island before a full rescue could be effected.

William was survived by two wives, children in Queensland and the East Indies, plus many grandchildren.

He was born in Padang, West Sumatra, on 6th June 1810, the eldest son of Edward James Townsend and Cornelia Johanna Dederingh. We can assume from these circumstances that he grew up speaking English, Dutch and Melayu. It would appear that he joined the service of the British East India Company, and travelled widely, to Calcutta, Surabaya, and Batavia (Jakarta). On 4th March, 1832, in Calcutta, he married Clementina Cecilia Sophia Chew. This marriage was blessed with 16 children over the next 24 years, not all of whom survived to adulthood.

Clementina died on 17th June 1862, in Padang, and on 18th June, 1864, William re-married to Adeline Jessey Maidmen. A daughter was born to this union on 31st March 1865. Both marriage and birth occurred in Padang. At this point, circumstances become a little confusing. Adeline is known to have died in 1926 in Batavia (Jakarta), but lived for some time before that in Padang. The daughter married in 1884, in Padang, and lived until 1934. However, April 1866 sees William, along with 6 children aged 10 to 17 years, boarding the “Netherby” in London to migrate to Queensland under a land grant scheme.

Following the successful rescue of the stranded passengers of the "Netherby", arrangements were made for the Queensland bound contingent to carry on to Brisbane in the “City of Melbourne”, although many chose to stay in Victoria with the permission of the Queensland Colonial government. Soon after arrival in Brisbane, William purchased what had been the Brighton Hotel with its surrounding lands, and established himself and his family there.
Brisbane Courier, 7 August 1866. Arrival in Brisbane.

In 1872, William married Elizabeth Salmon Thomas, who had also been a passenger on the “Netherby” and the “City of Melbourne”. Between 1872 and 1876, three children were born to this couple. That makes a total of 20 children over a period of almost 40 years.

During his time in Queensland, William was active in the National Bank of Queensland and acted as auditor until blindness forced him to withdraw, was a member of the Acclimatisation Society, was one of the six original Councillors of Sandgate Municipality, was a regular member of marine boards of inquiry, and sat on many committees concerned with the development of Sandgate.

We know from the ‘gossip’ columns of the Brisbane Courier that Adeline visited Brisbane at least once after William’s death, staying at Indooroopilly with her step-son, George Robert.

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