Drawing the Downs: Thomas Domville Taylor
Timothy Roberts, HGRC Visiting Fellow, 2019 to 2021

Taylor’s hut, Tummaville, Queensland, approximately 1845 / Thomas Domville Taylor (National Library of Australia, call number PIC MSR Volume 1191 #PIC/20299/53)

Tummaville was established during a wave of pastoral growth to the west of Toowoomba during the early 1840s. One commentator noted in November 1841 ‘I believe there is no doubt that all the stations on Darling Downs have been taken up. Parties who now want runs “go over” the range to the Moreton Bay side.’ [7] As early arrivals in the region, Rolland and Taylor essentially built Tummaville from the ground up. Taylor’s sketch of the first camp at Tummaville shows a Spartan set up of a circular tent and two gunyah-style constructions around a campfire; with a dray, a few head of cattle, chickens, a dog and a horse accompanying the party. A second sketch showing the finished station evidences that within a couple of years the business partners had erected four more substantial structures, including a large building with verandah and fireplace. Dr Rolland provided medical services to the community around him, and in October 1843 Fanny Rolland gave birth to the couple’s third child, Charlotte, the first baby to be born in the region.

Life on this rural frontier was challenging. As Rolland was the only trained medical practitioner in the region, he attended to nearby emergencies, including the fatality of John Hill, who had been speared at Eton Vale station. Christopher Gorry, an employee at Eton Vale, described the event:

John Hill started early one morning for the camp near Mt. Rascal, in order to take home some bullocks. He told me to follow him in about half an hour’s time, which I did, and to my surprise, met poor John Hill with a spear right between his shoulders, sticking to the saddle while his horse galloped home, and the spear dangling at the horse’ rump, until he arrived at the slip-rail near the house with myself close after him. Mr. Elliott, with myself and others, came to his relief. We lifted poor John off the horse, and had to cut vest and shirt on each side of the spear wound ere we could take it from the wound in his body, four or five inches. He lived in great pain. I was send for Dr. Rolland at his Broadwater station, who attended John for a week, but held out no hope of his recovery. He lingered on for eighteen days, and then passed away. Another station hand any myself attended to his requirements up to the time of his death. In those days there were no coffins at hand, so we made a shroud of his blanket, and buried his body in a sheet of bark, in a little flat near the garden on the bank of the creek. [8]

Another tragedy occurred in 1843 when a man died trying to swim across the Condamine River. After two weeks his body was found and interred at Tummaville. [9]

While living at Tummaville, Taylor made several sketches of the station and its surrounds, as well as depictions of daily life. These sketches include a panorama of the Long Reach in the Broadwater at Tummaville, a detailed view of the landscape around Cecil Plains station, and a sketch of a bullock dray descending Cunningham’s Gap. A second, more comical sketch titled Gee Smiler! highlights the difficulty of traversing the range between the commercial centres around Moreton Bay and the pastoral leases on the Downs. More prosaic scenes depicting roping a bullock, roping cattle, and a wool press are also represented among Taylor’s drawings.

7. The Omnibus and Sydney Spectator, 27 November 1841, p. 4.
8. Thomas Hall, The Early History of Warwick District and Pioneers of the Darling        Downs, Toowoomba: Robertson & Provan, Ltd, 1925, p. 21.
9. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 1843, p. 3.