The cruise of the Francois 1928 Percy Islands 10th to 12th May 1928 Francois arrived at Middle Island that afternoon. The Ship’s Log adequately describes the way the visitors were impressed by the exquisiteness of the scene before them.  © Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds All about damper The very earliest form of bread – made by humans since long, long before recorded history – was an unleavened mass of grain and water cooked in flat cakes on  hot hearthstones, or in lumps in the hot ashes. It went by many different names, but was no different, essentially, from what we in Australia call “damper”.   In England in the mid-nineteenth century a pamphlet  referred to the damper as being “close, hard, and heavy, and requiring almost the stomach of an ostrich to digest” and went on to describe the method of making it… “A stiff dough is made of flour, water, and salt, kneaded till the arms ache, and the mass has acquired the consistency of stiff clay. It is then made into a cake, two or three inches thick, and from twelve to eighteen broad. The wood ashes are partially raked from the hot hearth, and the cake being laid on it, is heaped over with the remaining hot ashes, and thus baked. When done, and wiped with a cloth, the outside looks dirty, if it is not so. In the bush, where brewers’ yeast cannot be procured, this indurated dough is the usual bread. From “The Story of Damper” by Janet Jackson - Leading Edge Did You Know? “At anchor all day Percy Islands. Sky fine and clear. Delightful spot, glorious day, wonderful fishing. Fresh water both ashore and a boatload of big fish, cod and emperor.” A tale of buried treasure Captain Kerr found himself reminiscing about an incident that occurred 50 years previous. He had anchored on that very spot while he was mate of the mission schooner Bertha. According to his story, they arrived at dusk, and the following morning while taking their coffee on the hatch, they saw a man walking along the beach followed by twenty white goats.  The man turned out to be James Joss, the first inhabitant of the island.  He was later reputed to have amassed considerable wealth, and after his death the rumour abounded that he had buried 1,500 sovereigns at the root of a mango tree. The mango trees on this island have been well ‘root pruned’ by many enthusiastic diggers over the years looking for the rumoured treasure. The party went ashore in the launch and steamed up a creek, finding an abundant supply of fresh water. A good old ‘souse’ in the water freshened up their salt soaked bodies. It had now been over a week since they had left Brisbane and the loaves remaining in the bread locker finally gave out. According to our reporter on the spot, Barrie, “…they had grown whiskers of a sticky green. We’ve been trimming mustachios off the bread for days, but now that the loaves have grown “ziffs” and got all heated and excited in the process, we have bidden them farewell – over the side.” Duncan went ashore and lit a fire to cook some damper. Well, at least he tried but the effort wasn’t entirely too successful as the fire wasn’t hot enough. The White Family The highlight of their stay was a visit by Mr H. B. White who held a pastoral lease on the two largest Percy Islands, Middle and South.  He lived there with his wife, daughter Dorothy and two sons, Claude and Harold. Originally from Canada, the Whites continued to live as sole residents on the island for forty-three years.  Their comfortable house of seven rooms was perched on top of a hill one and a half miles from the beach.  Mr White not only had many goats, but also ran 1500 Merino sheep on the island, the income of which provides a substantial income. The wool was taken to the beach by a sledge but they transported most of their stores by packhorse. The family was quite resourceful, growing all their produce and numerous fruit trees and milling their own timber for building. The few cattle on the island performed poorly so the goats provided milk for domestic use. Mr White told his visitors that a retired Indian Army officer, Colonel Armitage, who started a coffee plantation on the island with railroaded labour, had built the house. However, the end of the Kanaka labour regime effectually stifled his efforts to grow coffee. The Whites showed their visitors an unusual pet, a flying fox, which was born two days after its parent was captured. The little chap had developed into a member of the household and would come at a call like a dog or a kitten. Mr. White said it displayed a marked degree of intelligence. Upon their departure from the White’s homestead, the Francois party were presented two large bags of lemons while they in turn sent Mr. White home with a 20 lb. cod tied to his saddle. After dinner the crew attempted to hoist the launch aboard but found one of the davits was bent. Mac took this problem in his stride. He was the most imperturbable, good-tempered man who always met all his troubles with a smile. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ was his motto. So he suggested they take the davit weighing 3cwt. (152  kg.) ashore and make repairs. A fire was built on the beach and Mac, acting as ‘smithy’, straightened the davit using a crack in a rock as a vice. After shipping it again, they hoisted the launch ready for an early start in the morning. Setting sail early on Saturday 12th they departed Middle Isle, and fairly flew along, averaging 7 knots and at one stage reaching a speed of 12 ½ knots. By mid-afternoon Francois anchored in Maryport Bay, Brampton Island, 32 km north-east of Mackay. Like most of the islands off the Queensland coast, Brampton was first sighted by Captain James Cook who passed through the area in early June 1770. Later, in 1934, the Busuttin family from St Bees Island commenced a resort on Brampton Island, managed by Arthur and Jess Busuttin. Percy Islands - 1928. Williams Collection