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An Autobiography

Speculation, Charity, And A Book
In the meantime my family history went on. My nephew was sent to the Northern
Territory to take over the branch of the English and Scottish Bank at Palmerston, and he
took his sister from school to go with him and stay three months in the tropics. He was
only 21 at the time. Four years after he went to inspect the branch, and took his sister
with him again. I think she loved Port Darwin more than he did, and she always stood up
for the climate. South Australia did a great work in building, unaided by any other
Australian State, the telegraph line from Port Darwin to Adelaide. and at one time it was
believed that rich goldfields were to be opened in this great empty land, which the British
Government had handed over to South Australia, because Stuart had been the first to
cross the island continent, and the handful of South Australian colonists bad connected
telegraphically the north and the south. The telegraph building had been contracted for by
Darwent and Dalwood, and my brother, through the South Australian Bank, was helping
to finance them. That was in 1876-7. This was the first, but not the last by any means, of
enterprises which contractors were not able to carry out in this State, either from taking a
big enterprise at too low a rate or from lack of financial backing. The Government, as in
the recent cases of the Pinnaroo Railway and the Outer Harbour, had to complete the
halfdone work as the direct employer of labour and the direct purchaser of materials. A
great furore for goldmining in the Northern Territory arose, and people in England
bought city allotments in Palmerston, which was expected to become the queen city of
North Australia, Port Darwin is no whit behind Sydney Harbour in beauty and capacity.
The navies of the world could ride safely in its waters. A railway of 150 miles in length,
the first section of the great transcontinental line, which was to extend from Palmerston
to Port Augusta, was built to connect Pine Creek, where there was gold to be found, with
the seaboard. South Australia was more than ever a misnomer for this State. Victoria lay
more to the south than our province, and now that we stretched far inside the tropics the
name seemed ridiculous. My friend Miss Sinnett suggested Centralia as the appropriate
name for the State, which by this gift was really the central State; but in the present crisis,
when South Australia finds the task of keeping the Northern Territory white too arduous
and too costly, and is offering it on handsome terms to the Commonwealth, Centralia
might not continue to be appropriate. Our northern possession has cost South Australia
much. The sums of money sunk in prospecting for gold and other metals have been
enormous, and at present there are more Chinese there than Europeans. In the early days,
when the Wrens were there, Eleanor was surprised when their wonderful Chinese cook
came to her and said, "Missie, I go along a gaol to-morrow. You take Ah Kei. He do all
light till I go out!" The cook had been tried and condemned for larceny, but he was
allowed to retain his situation till the last hour. Instead of being kept in gaol pending his
trial he earned his wages and did his work. He had no desire to escape. He liked
Palmerston and the bank, and he went back to the latter when released. He was an
incorrigible thief, and got into trouble again; but as a cook he was superlative.
That decade of the eighties was a most speculative time all over Australia and New
Zealand. I was glad that leaving the English and Scottish Bank enabled my brother to go
into political and official life, but it also allowed him to speculate far beyond what he