The cruise of the Francois 1928 Palm Island 26th to 28th May 1928 Palm Island Problems In 1914 Palm Island was gazetted as an Aboriginal Reserve. By law, if any Aborigines misbehaved, they could be sent to a Government settlement. Aboriginal and Islander people from all over Queensland were sent to Palm Island.  Due to its isolation and the difficulty of escape, the island was considered an ideal place to hide away ‘uncontrollables’. The island soon became known to Aborigines as ‘Punishment Island’.  In 1918, Robert Edward Curry became the first superintendent, and set about establishing a proper settlement. Curry had been born in South Brisbane and became a stockman in Malanda, west of Cairns. Although he had an injured, scarred left elbow, he joined the Australian Military Forces in 1915 when he was 29 years old. While serving in Egypt, Curry contracted mumps; but it was a crushed foot that hastened his early return to Australia in December 1916, unfit for duty. [5] Curry joined the Department of Native Affairs, and took his new wife, Agnes, to his posting on Palm Island. When Curry began his administration of duties on Palm Island his left arm below the elbow had begun to wither, and he suffered pain from his foot injury. By the 1920s Curry had a reputation as a 'benevolent dictator' and a diligent worker. Gunyahs became sheet iron shanties. When a sawmill was established, wooden cottages appeared. The timber was logged in Mundy Bay and transported by bullocks and packhorses to the mill. However, the Governor of Queensland, Donald Thatcher, visited the island in 1923 and was critical of the squalid living conditions he observed. The settlement was under financed and leprosy and venereal disease were epidemic. Medical facilities were almost non-existent so a medical superintendent, Dr. Maitland Patterson, was assigned to the island hospital, his wife assisting him. Tragedy was to befall the Curry and Patterson families … but that’s getting ahead of the story. Welcome to Palm Island Francois came to anchor off Palm Island 300 yards from shore. Mr. Curry, who turned out to be a cousin of George Wardle, immediately boarded her. Shortly after breakfast they all went ashore and were greeted by the most amazing sights. The party walked up an avenue flanked by tall coconut palms and lined by whitewashed stones. The gravel path was raked to perfection. At the head of the avenue was the superintendent’s residence, a pretty, creeper covered cottage set in a delightful garden of flowering tropical shrubs. They passed the football ground, sports area, Post Office, bandstand and two large dormitories for the children. Along another similar avenue there were residences for the assistant superintendent, the store-keeper, the launch attendant and the sawmill manager while on the other side was the hospital with Dr Maitland Patterson as medical superintendent and his wife as Matron. Mr. Curry took the party in his new 7-seater car along a road for six miles to the farm which supplied the settlement with a variety of vegetables. This vehicle, at the time, was the only car off the mainland of Queensland. Mr. Curry was indeed a very progressive individual. The natives lived in either ‘white man’ cottages or primitive dwelling places. A native police force assisted Mr. Curry watching over the 800 prisoners. Every evening a band played – they were not very talented, but their enthusiasm made up for their lack of tune.  © Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds Did You Know? Building on Palm Island. 1928 Palm Island Butcher. shop 1928 Palm Island sawmill. 1928 Party from yacht with Tom Pryor. 1928 Mrs Williams playing with two island children. 1928 Barrie meets a native policeman. 1928 Hospital staff and Francois  crew front of the Palm Island Hospital. 1928 One of ten tribes who entertained the visitors. 1928  Murder on Palm Island Over the next two years,  Administrator Curry’s relationship  with the other white staff on the  island deteriorated into feuds.  Gradually he succumbed to the  combined effects of alcoholism and  mental illness. His wife had died in  childbirth a year after Mac’s visit, and  Dr. Patterson was no longer supplying  Curry with novocaine, the treatment  for his ‘neuralgia of the cranial nerve’. On 2nd February 1930, Curry ran  amok, wearing only red bathers and  armed with dynamite, petrol and  revolvers. He murdered his young son  and step-daughter and then burnt the  house in which their bodies lay.  He  then went to the home of Dr  Patterson, where he shot him and his  wife, before escaping to adjacent  Fantome Island. When Curry returned  to the island, he beached his boat and  began walking to the community  carrying a .303 rifle and a handgun. A  lone Peter Prior met him on the beach  as most of the other inhabitants had  fled to the hills for safety from the  rampaging Curry. Pryor called for him  to surrender but Mr Curry ignored him  and pointed his gun at the aboriginal  man. Prior then shot him.  Charged with the murder of Robert  Curry, Prior was taken to Townsville  and imprisoned. He was released when  the Crown dropped the charges, but  Mr Curry’s brother threatened to  shoot Prior, so the aboriginal was  locked up for several months “for his  own protection”.  Peter Prior had only carried out the  instructions given by the authorities  and carried that remorse with him  until his death. He died in March  2000, aged 94 years. [8]   The following day Francois remained at anchor off Palm Island. Mac and Jim did a spot of fishing and caught four Yellowtail weighing about 20lbs each. Mac had his own sawmill in Brisbane so he showed great interest in the mill on Palm Island.  A corroboree was given in honour of the visitors and many photos were taken of the ten competing tribes. Mac recorded in his ship’s log: “A wonderful island, 800 aboriginal delinquents.  Everything in wonderful order, reflecting greatest credit on Mr Curry and his staff.” Walking down Mango Avenue Left to right: Tom Pryor, Mac Williams, Francis Ann Williams, George Wardle, Mrs Kerr and Captain George Kerr. During her visit the previous day, Mrs Patterson had met Jacko the magpie and he had obviously won her heart. So she sent the little bird a present with a note: “Palm Island Sunday Dear Mrs Williams Have been hoping to see you during the day but no luck. A thousand thanks for the lovely little chain and the papers. Enclose an egg for your dear little birds tea. Sincerely yours Ethel Maitland Patterson” The letter from Mrs Patterson. 1928  [6] That evening, Frances Ann also gave the crew a ‘surprise’ dinner, a royal repast – stewed chicken, boiled onions and white sauce, mashed potatoes, plum pudding and custard. One of the Aboriginal staffers who worked for Mr Curry was Peter Prior. Born in Bowen, Peter was sent with his family to Palm Island to work when he was a young teenager. He grew into a tall, strong man and was assigned by Mr Curry to oversee the road gang, and also the cargo boat that brought the food supplies. His father was Tom Pryor, who became elder of the Birri Tribe on Palm Island. As well as native policemen, there was an overseer, Thomas Hoffman, and two other staff, Mr Ballard, the store-keeper and Bob Hamilton. [7] At dawn the following day, after spending two days at the Palm Island settlement, the Francois party departed for Townsville. They carried with them Mr. Ballard and Mr. Hamilton. Leaving the rest of their newfound friends behind, they had no idea of the disaster that would befall some of the inhabitants on Palm Island. [See Column at left] Queensland State Archives, Digital. Image ID 5796 Brass Band, Palm Island, 1931. Courtesy Queensland State Archives