Thursday, September 1, 2011


Just collecting my thoughts and sorting information (primarily news clippings) into the one place for a project I am planning...

Mid winter in 1823 Captain Mark Currie accompanied by Major John Evans and the bushman Joseph Wild embarked on a journey of exploration south from Bong Bong (Roughly Bowral) entering the so far unexplored country from the junction of the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers and travelling to the east of the previously discovered Limestone Plains (Canberra City area) discovered a vast rich plain that he named 'Isabella's Plain' after the governor of the day Thomas Brisbane's daughter.

Today apart from a token reminiscence by way of a modern Canberra suburb 'Isabella Plains' (note difference) the area is known as Tuggeranong after the 1840's property established on Isabella's Plain. But apart from whatever the Ngambri People called it Tuggeranong was originally named Isabella's Plain. Just a bit of trivia...

The project plans to follow Curries route from the 1st June 1823 (by that date unexplored) crossing of the Queanbeyan River and (by modern means) follow his route through the southern part of today's Australian Capital Territory to his discovery of the Murrumbidgee River. As I have discovered this was historically a point of contention.

The discovery of the Limestone Plains (Canberra) was only shortly before by a Dr. Charles Throsby who ventured down the Molonglo but whether he reached its confluence with the Murrumbidgee is seemingly unknown. I suspect he turned back before meeting the Murrumbidgee, my reasons, it was his holy grail (2nd expedition) and I feel a discovery would have been more widely celebrated and documented.

So I think Currie travelling south west came upon the River somewhere around Pine Island in Tuggeranong and being unable to cross followed the river south past Tharwa and onward to the junction of the Numerella River. Interestingly he appears to have been just east of the Murrumbidgee and crossed the Numerella thinking he had crossed the Murrumbidgee.

At this point as he looked out across the plains he decided in true Australian explorer fashion to curry favour with the governor and christened the Aboriginal Monaro of the Ngarigu People 'Brisbane Downs.'

Personally my family took up land a few kilometres south and called it 'Reid's Flat' (present day Bunyan). That is where the project ends as the party, running low on supplies, returned to Bong Bong with the news of Curries discovery of Isabella's Plain, the Murrumbidgee and the expanse of the Monaro discovery.

A few clippings mentioning Currie's expedition sorted by date...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 9 May 1927

National Library of Australia


The Canberra Times - 6 June 1953

National Library of Australia


The Canberra Times - Friday 12 June 1953

National Library of Australia
A brief mention of the 'project'. My recent interests have involved the use of video and I find it to be a pleasurable and interesting pastime combined with my interests. I have been practising with techniques, editing programs, YouTube and such until recently with a very old 4 mega pixel camera.

As I intend to produce (at least some) accessible video based material on Canberra's history and heritage (and its fun) I have purchased a camera with HD resolution to improve the watch-ability of the amateur stuff I create. Cheers



  1. Would have loved to know what supplies & equipment they carried with them. So few records on this sort of thing.

  2. I was actually amazed at what some of them took with them Keith... Horses, bullocks, drays, flocks of sheep and one expedition carried a full mahogany dining table so the gentlemen could 'dine' properly. It must have been a very cumbersome journey I imagine.

    What I find interesting about the exploration of south-east NSW in particular is my belief that when they found a route it was more often than not an existing Aboriginal pathway or in fact a highway.

    Joseph Wild, the first man tagged with 'bush-man', was well adapted to getting his information from Aboriginal People. It was Wild who learnt of the great river Morumbidgee (Murrumbidgee)and it's general whereabouts and passed that information to the gentry. I note Wild was the common factor in all the expeditions of the area.

  3. Dave with research you will find your route. The map above from Sydney is way out mate. Yes many routes follow old Aboriginal Paths. Highway 31 is not one of them it is a settler route and has nothing to do with Wilds era.

    Generally full mahogany tables accompanied dignitaries like governors such as Governor Lachlan Macquarie when he visits lake George in 1820...

    Hint Google "Old Sydney Road Queanbeyan" the road to Sydney that goes to nowhere is the end of an Aboriginal Path and the route Currie Evans and Wild took through QBN 1823...

  4. Thanks for the info Cam. Its one of my ongoing projects (its a hobby :) I need to do a new post. Cheers Dave.

  5. I am surprised you have not got the route after all you have all the newspaper clippings. It's right in front of you.
    If your interested I have been doing a bit of research into their expedition mapping their diary onto Google Earth because I have found Aboriginal Archaeology at the end of their journey and have been mapping their route to challenge back to Cooma Celebrations
    "On the 4th June they arrived at some very extensive downs where they met a tribe of natives"
    I am pretty sure I know exactly where they met.
    I agree with you the explorers mistook the Numeralla River for the Murrumbidgee to tie it in with the Archaeology I am interpreting. I believe the explorers made it as far as Round Mountain above Rosebrook.
    The settler walls on the Monaro are not settler walls they are Aboriginal. One example even tells you how far it is to get to the coast like a travel distance sign just not in Km's but in days...
    My family property is at Chakola and I have stood on Ryie's hill at the monument and can not accept they could not have noticed the 1km wide river flats.
    Then I discovered the Aboriginal Cathedral...
    Currently writing a book about Aboriginal Monumental Art/Architecture the scale of which is akin to Landscape Art being read from Civic Canberra which is located in Queanbeyan...
    Have you read Bill Gammages new book? The Biggest Estate on Earth?

  6. My route was speculation Cam. I will definitely check out Monaro Pioneers I haven't been there in a while. I am very interested in your research Cam and I'm sure a lot of readers here would be too. , the Aboriginal info is great. If you would like you could write a post for here linking to Monaro Pioneers and your upcoming book. It would be a permanent post that should at least generate some traffic and educate people at the same time. Think it over and let me know. No I haven't read the book. I'll check it out. Cheers

  7. for a good time try...
    Route 31 is Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchells 1830 -1843; “The great South road” becoming the Hume in 1928 was a compromise between what I would think was two aboriginal path ways (although aboriginal path ways is just a guess).
    1) Macquaries Government Road 1820-1825
    2) South or Argyle Road 1818-1833 to the south.
    Of interesting note workers had already reached the top of Wild’s Pass by the time of Governor Macquarie visits Lake George in 1820 and by the time of Currie’s expedition 1823 the limit of white settlement is just north of Lake Bathurst.
    You will notice that the road you are intending to follow goes west from Throsby Park at Bong Bong. This is because it was intended to link up with another road from the newly established settlement called Bathurst.
    Mulwaree is the local area but when used in the travel diaries it appears to mean the earliest river crossing point at what is now Goulburn. Look up early Goulburn History on Wiki and the town centre was moved from the location of the original settlement (now the police academy I believe).
    Wild Pass will be a very interesting place for you. Travel along the ridge line; it will most likely be a location for undisturbed ancient Aboriginal path ways.
    As for posting on your site re Aboriginal Monumental Landscape Art... maybe later I have done 12,500 words so far and have only just begun to scratch the surface. Besides I think I have discovered a very significant Aboriginal Totem and need to continue with my book and telling people what I have found in electronic format leads to silence... Something about cultural sensitivity and I need to discuss with the traditional owners the Ngarigo first... I don’t do scar trees; the trees I am documenting are sacred and I located 3 Bora rings in 48hours. Not to mention the totem... I believe they are called a songline... It’s all Indiana Jones stuff really.

    However I will post you my email address if you want my interpretation of the expedition by dates but please do not post my email address on your site. The work I have done is supplied in a google .kmz file not pdf.

    I am however still tinkering with the Canberra to Cooma leg and return to QBN via London Bridge it is not complete but has taken over two days so far to compile with testing, testing and more testing.

    I applied the principles of landscape “templates” as per Bill Gammage book and am pretty sure the dates can still be plotted on landmarks/forests that are pretty much the same as they were in 1823.

    White settlers did not have to clear forest. The Treeless Plains of the Monaro are tree less due to Aboriginal intent. My grandfather has some explaining to do but that will have to wait until I am dead. He did not clear a much at all... I realise now his bush hut took advantage of such a sacred grove clearing as described in Bill Gammages book.

    Also look up John Blay and the Bundian way. Pity he has removed his south Coast pathways project. John gets a mention for that work on South Coast path ways in Bill Gammages book.

  8. Thanks for the info Cam. Great stuff! I was only planning on travelling from Queanbeyan to Nummerella but I am very interested in any routes leading past Inverary Park Bungonia (near Marulan) my GGGGrandfathers joint. Email me when you get the chance. Of course I wouldn't publish your email. All very interesting stuff and I'm pleased to meet someone who has put so much effort into their research. I think its an important subject. Cheers


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