Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The Petrie Family - Tom Petrie
When Andrew Petrie and his family left Scotland in 1831, the youngest child, Tom, was a only a few months old. They arrived in Sydney on October of that year, and in 1837 the family moved north to the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement where Andrew was to be employed as Clerk of Works. Tom grew up in the family home at Petrie Bight, and had the run of the settlement and surrounding area. This unique upbringing gave him particular knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and also of the local indigenous people, the Turrbal. Here is a picture of Tom Petrie in later years.
As a boy Tom was allowed to (and apparently wanted to) mix freely with the Moreton Bay aborigines. He learned to speak their language, learned their bushcraft and participated in their ceremonies. He was frequently engaged as a guide or a companion for expeditions outside of Brisbane Town because of these attributes.
After an unsuccessful stint at gold mining in Victoria he came back to Brisbane, married, and bought a property north of Brisbane that he named Murrumba ("good place" in the local dialect). His aboriginal friends helped to clear the land and erect the early buildings on the property which later gave its name to the suburb Murrumba Downs. Tom Petrie was able to go on expeditions for weeks at a time while leaving his stock and the property in the care of his aboriginal workers, confident that there would be no stealing or damage such as that experienced by other white settlers.
Tom and his wife had nine children and one of his daughters, Constance Campbell Petrie wrote some articles about her father's life that were published in The Queenslander in 1902 and subsequent years. They were then published in book form, and such was the wealth of knowledge and the stories contained in it that it became an often-quoted source on the aborigines and early Queensland history. Titled "Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland", it was the result of hours spent by Constance gradually drawing out Tom's stories and recording them. The book is still available at your local library.
The extent to which Tom was involved in the family construction business is unknown, but was probably slight. However, his importance to the people of Brisbane as a result of his exploration of the area and his close relationship to its indigenous inhabitants can not be overstated. After his death in August 1910, the North Pine area was renamed Petrie and in the following year a memorial was erected in his honour. It still stands in a park next to the North Pine School of Arts. Here is a photograph taken at a ceremony at the memorial a couple of years ago - the women are Mrs Janice Hall, great-granddaughter of Tom Petrie and Maroochy Barambah, representative of Tom's friends the Turrbal people.
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