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Lowe Kong Meng


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Lowe Kong Meng (1831-1888)
Lowe Kong Meg was born in Penang and learned English and French. He became a trader and came to Melbourne in 1853 in his own ship, setting up as an importer. Among other lines of business, he bought a gold mine at Majorca, Victoria, and speculated in many other mining ventures in the colony. He was also connected with banking and insurance and became the wealthiest Chinese resident in Melbourne. He was active politically against anti-Chinese legislation.
Contemporary Australian writers described him as 'cultured', 'superior', 'influential' and 'highly esteemed', a gentleman with an 'exceedingly generous disposition' who 'gave liberally to churches and public charities, without respect to creed and denomination'. His leadership of the Chinese community in Victoria was also recognized by Emperor T'ung Ch'ih, who conferred on him the title of mandarin of the blue button, civil order, in 1863.
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I've been told that we had 20,000 Chinese working one of our gold rushes. I doubt that many would have been of Lowe Kong Meg's level. The Chinese worked alongside all the others from all over the rest of the world. It was a tough life for all. There was a lot of animosity toward the Chinese partly because it was believed that they sent most of their gold back home. Nobody knew for sure how well they were really doing because it never showed.

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There's been stories about really small mine shafts being dug by the Chinese; I don't know how accurate it is. Back in the 80's, I did five weeks on a diamond drilling rig doing core sampling on an abandoned gold mine. Those old shafts were fairly small and looked scary to me. I checked the history of the mine in the Queensland Mines Department records and it was one of those mines that closed during WW1 and never re-opened.

 

Other stories from the old gold rush days paint a picture of the whites going for the easy alluvial gold by panning, and the Chinese taking more time to dig shafts out from the creeks. Also the Chinese were patient enough to do some crevicing after the main rush of miners had moved on.

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A good read is Eric Rolls "Sojourners", and "Flowers and the Wide Sea", the stories of the early Chinese in Australia. Eric Rolls was a farmer from Baradine (NSW) - a really interesting bloke who was a self-taught naturalist, historian, and writer of renown. 

I've stayed in Eric Rolls original "Cumberdeen" farmhouse at Baradine in 1994, when it was rented by my BIL. Rolls' farm was adjacent to the Pillaga Scrub, and his naturalist bent was initially formed by study of the Pillaga Scrub.

He wrote his first book, "A Million Wild Acres", about the Pillaga Scrub and its formation and development, whilst farming at Cumberdeen. The farmhouse now appears to be derelict.

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9 minutes ago, onetrack said:

...He wrote his first book, "A Million Wild Acres", about the Pillaga Scrub and its formation and development, whilst farming at Cumberdeen...

Always amazed me that Bob Carr thought the Pilliga was natural and deserved to be made a National Park. 

The impact on little timber towns near and far was substantial.

9 minutes ago, onetrack said:

 

...The farmhouse now appears to be derelict.

A sad fact that so much of our short history is allowed to rot away. Last Sunday I took this picture of the house in which Bano Patterson is reputed to have composed our national song, Waltzing Matilda:

 

 

 

 

 

image.jpeg

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1 hour ago, Old Koreelah said:

sad fact that so much of our short history is allowed to rot away. Last Sunday I took this picture of the house in which Bano Patterson is reputed to have composed our national song, Waltzing Matilda:

Very true, Old Koreelah. Walking through all those old ruins of farm houses and abandoned station homesteads brings on a mix of sadness and curiosity. Some of them would have been quite flash houses in their day and full of families and life.

 

One that comes to mind was an abandoned property in the St.George/Surat district in Queensland. It had a mix of reasonable box country and some dams and mainly hard, hilly mulga country. I'd guess the original owners couldn't make a go of it when Australia stopped riding on the sheep's back. They would have sold it to a nearby farmer who would have used it as a reserve drought block most likely. So with no people living on the property, the house would have gone into rapid decline. It looked like it had been empty since the 60's, judging by the state of it. We stayed there for a couple of months in the early 80's doing an oil & gas exploration survey. The shearers quarters and woolshed were still in fairly good nick, but it was sad to see the big old house in such a run down state. It probably would have been built in the late 1800's.

 

At that stage, the property had been bought by a mob called Washington Developments who were the development company that sold all those melon holes at Tara to Victorians. Poor buggers bought the blocks sight unseen and thought they were getting a nice block in sunny Queensland not far from the coast. So they were going to do the same with this property; try to flog off rough mulga country in the middle of nowhere to unsuspecting buyers.

 

The old house was really big, with verandahs all round and fully fly screened. Huge big rooms, chimneys and fireplaces, it even had old beds and furniture. One interesting thing was all the old fridge and freezer gear was still there. They were an odd type with some sort of brine tanks and a kero fridge. At that stage the house was inhabited by possums and pigeons and the odd carpet snake. Run down as it was, the house could have been re-stumped, straightened up and repaired at considerable cost. The good news is that I drove past that property about five years later and someone had bought it in it's entirety and moved onto the property, running it as a grazing concern. The big old homestead was returned to it's former glory and it even had smoke coming out of the chimney as I drove past. Life had returned.

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On 09/08/2020 at 12:16 PM, willedoo said:

...The good news is that I drove past that property about five years later and someone had bought it in it's entirety and moved onto the property, running it as a grazing concern. The big old homestead was returned to it's former glory and it even had smoke coming out of the chimney as I drove past. Life had returned.

Good news!

Another rare example of an old homestead being saved:

A few years ago my sibling and I gathered for what would have been our mum's 100th birthday and spent the night in the home she was born and grew up in. We were lucky enough to be invited to stay the night by the new owner, who not only appreciates the history of the farm, but is restoring the old homestead.

 

It seems that when other decendants of our pioneering grandparents heard of our little gathering they forgot decades of recriminations about the farm passing out of the family and also came back for a visit.

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