Stockman Billy Mateer saves the day!

Our Heritage Collections reference service throws up many interesting stories from our history.  Here is one that we researched recently.

In 1893 it was Henry Plantagenet Somerset of Caboonbah Homestead who observed a fifty foot wall of flood water strike the 120 foot cliff at Caboonbah. As many as five cyclones that had crossed the coast near Noosa and had brought drenching rain to the Brisbane and Stanley River watersheds. It was when the waters broke over Sapphire Gully that Somerset decided to dispatch two men, one to Esk, the other to Petrie. Harry Winwood was dispatched to Esk with a telegram for the Post Master General – this telegram was never sent, its contents warning of the highest flood on record. H. P. Somerset rowed stockman Billy Mateer with two horses swimming behind the boat to high land adjoining the stock route at Reedy Creek, from here he made his way to North Petrie. Billy was able to get through to the telegraph and relay the telegram message to Brisbane.

“Prepare at once for flood. River here within 10ft of 1890 flood, and rising fast, still raining”. Subsequently Caboonbah was made an official flood warning station with a telegraph line from Cressbrook.

One wonders how many lives were saved as a result.

Flood waters on Albion St., Warwick, 1893  Flood waters on Albion St., Warwick, 1893.  Image No: 199833

Engraving of Vernor Family rescued near Fernvale, 1893 Engraving of Vernor Family rescued near Fernvale, 1893.  No: 121166

Eagle Street, Brisbane, 1893 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 1893.  Image No: API-033-01-0005

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  1. jsanjuan

    Many people already forgotten what happen in the past and it is sad to know that they do not look back to this information. Today i am looking back to learn information about Henry Plantagenet Somerset. I need to admit that i read about Caboonbah Homestead before but i never had the chance to learn about flood water. Anyway, thank you for letting me know.


  2. rollo waite

    I’m afraid the above story is only partially truie. The first 1893 flood (1-2/02/1893) was caused by a cyclone that crossed at Yepoon and delivered 36 inches of rain at Chroamhurst in 24 hours. Woinwood was sent to Esk with a message at that time and the above messge is the one sent.
    Approx. 2 weeks later, Mateer was sent over the Diagular Range (telegraph was dowen betweeen Esk and Ipswich – and the first message was mostly overlooked). There seems to be no record of Mateer’s warning getting through)
    There were TWO other cyclones – a smallish one which crossed at Bustard Heads, 11/02/1893 and a destuctive cyclone which crossed at Bundaberg, 17/02/1893.
    Mateer was a game stockman fro Mr Kemp’s station, Dalangal, Eidsvold, who just happened to be at Caboonbah at that particular time. Although 2 horses were sent with Mateer, one broke away and Mateer had to accomplish his epic ride with one horse called Lunatic.
    There seems a high probability that either or both of these latter cyclones contributed to the 2nd flood and Mateer’s ride would have been made under very difficult, wet conditions.
    I just happen to be H P Somerset’s grand son. Rollo Waite

  3. Bob Kirkwood

    I was up at the Somerset Homestead last year and got a lot of movie footage from outside,never got inside, there was a car rally in the grounds at the time and i got destracted and took a lot of footage of the vehicles which were all lined up.
    I work at sea and flew home to Brisbane a couple of weeks ago from Singapore , the next morning read about the Somerset Homestead “Caboonbah” burning down , what a loss for us all.
    I happened to call a mate Brian Benson( Movie Maker) , and discovered he was in the Redcliffe Hospital to my surprise ,so went and saw him, he made the movie “Deludge”,on the ride of Billy Mateer and the Floods and story of the 1893 Floods.
    I’d been out to Toowong Cemetery with a relation looking up one of his family’s graves,a few days after arriving home ,and photographed the grave of Arthur Hoey Davis ,”Steele Rudd”, told Brian and he asked did I see Billy Mateer’s Grave ?, I said I hadn’t ,and then he told me about how he fitted into the movie which Ray Barrett starred in.
    Brian said he’d done a lot of research before making the movie (may have talked to you Rollo??)and told me that the day the funeral notice of William Mateer appeared in the Brisbane paper in 1934, there was a story in the same paper that the government was going to start work on the Somerset Dam.
    I then mentioned all this to Greg Hutson at Kilcoy at the Historical Hut up there,( phoned him to find out if it was raining up there and if so how hard) he asked did I see the grave of Hiram Barnes? again , who was he?? and it turns out he was an American who he said drove the first Cobb and Co. Stage coaches in Queensland ,died in 1917, and is buried there (Toowong cemetery),with his wife and another lady , maybe there daughter, never looked up the family tree.I know that was getting off the track, but the information just keeps coming in.
    Yes I just keep adding to the information, and it was just before all this rain ,(20-5-2009). I naturally thought I’d woken up the past with the ghosts of the 1893 floods
    I’ll go out there (Toowong)again from Redcliffe when I get a chance,and look up the graves mentioned, and place them on “Google Earth”.
    I’m no relation to anyone connected to all these people, but take a lot of interest in all the history around the place, hard to find people connected to Queensland anymore , a lot from overseas the interstate. Engage someone in conversation in a pub, shop, doctors surgery etc.,and their eyes “glaze over” Ha ! Ha ! , then you find they are just here to make a living and have no interest or connection in the place what so ever.
    I have another story about a family connection in an unmarked grave in Toowong from1885,(I’ll have to put a marker on it one day soon , it’s half way up “Knob Hill”), also information about a grave which was on the corner of Anzac Avenue and John Street here in Redcliffe , a tavern has just been built on top of it, my granparents lived diagonally across the road,in 1910 after they were married, father and uncle being born in the house at 39 Anzac Avenue.
    Being a builder most probably was the one who discovered it while building the house, it was set well back on the block , I asked my dad why that particular house was set so far back ,I’d noticed all other homes down that side of the street were perfectly in line, he said when they went to dig the holes for the stumps,they found the remains of a grave,so just went back deeper into the block, I never asked any more about it,I assumed the gran father may have built the place,and that is why my father knew aout it, the way my dad told me, it was as if it was common knowledge, we never mentioned it again.(Pity)Yes it may have been common knowledge at the time, but they are all dead now.
    I told some people who I thought had positions who would be interested in the history of a town and was fobbed off with,” it may have been just Old Folk Lore.”
    I’m sure there are people put in positions just to dismantle our history, makes you wonder what they are suppose to be doing in there positions.
    I like to hear what everyone knows or has heard, maybe it triggers some other parts of the puzzle.
    Well I’d better finish , what is going to happen to the remains of “Caboonbah” ???

  4. rollo waite

    The 1893 and 1841 floods were the highest recorded in the Brisbane and Bremer rivers since 1840 (recorded history), far higher than the no. 3, the 1974 flood (cyclone Wanda).
    H P Somerset was in a commanding posiition to observe and wrote a note for the Esk news, 1932. Of course, his vain effort to warn Brisbane on two occasions was only a minor part that he played. Due to his persistence, Caboonbah became the first flood warning station in Queensland (which he manned without remuneration fo many years) and he was instrumental in getting the Somerset dam built (was a state politician for 16 years).
    Thus I urge all concerned with Heritage and History to urge the Qld. Water Board and Government to at least preserve the historical site of Caboonbah, which might well lead to some sort of rebuilding.
    The Water Board, in conjunction with the Brisbane Valley Historical Society has restored (1989) and kept Caboonbah going until its untimely destruction.
    For anyone who has been there, there is no experience more worthwhile than standing on that high vantage point at Caboonbahand thinking back to the times of 1893, where H P S saw it all.
    I have written a bit of an article on the status and importance of the 18793 flood in the history of Qld. Also included, is H P Somerset’s 1932 article. This was filed by Ms Serena Coates ( Heritage, John Oxley Library).
    Having been brought up in that Mt Beppo district when it was thriving and vibrant with samll mixed farms everywhere, it seems sad to see the sparse settlement of today – almost as if the very district has died.
    However, the two dams and the beautiful mountains, hovering as they always did, it still is a great district toi visit – if only to look for the ghosts of the past.
    R B Waite

  5. rollo waite

    A few miles from the Caboonbah homstead, is the interdenominatal Caboonbah Church, built in 1905 by residents of the district – Henry and Katharine Somerset, Andersen’s sawmillers in Esk, R D Soden
    (went guarantor for the church) and others. Services were held at about monthly intervals by various protestant denominations for many years (probably up until the 60’s or so). As mentioned previously, the distict ceased to thrive and, as with many Brisbane and other churches, the frequency of services declined.
    However, this unique church has been kept going as a practical, historical treasure by various committees over the year and there has been at least one srvice held a year (usually November). Such services have been well attended by locals from the districts snd old residents returning, almost as a pilgramage. These days the Roman Catholic Church has taken part in these activities.
    Of course, there is cemetery behind the church where there are numerous family graves. All these graves are illustrated on the Shire council website.
    The local shire council (Esk, I think) has done an excellent job keeping the grounds well mowed etc. It is great to see that, even after all these years, the church has been well maintained and even improved on (a picnic shelter for use after the services and a modern toliet has been built by volunteers and subscriptions to the church funds). The church is still used for funerals , weddings and christenings.
    Personally, it was heartening to attend such a service only a few days after the Caboonbah homstead was destroyed by fire. Thus this old church stands as a memorial to the `old days’ in tthe Mt Beppo district.

  6. rollo waite

    The legend of Billy Mateer and the recognition of the part that Henry Somerset and Caboonbah played with the 1893 flood is due almost entirely to the efforts of various people who have concerned themselves with the history of the upper Brisbane Valley.
    I refer particularly to the making of the movie, `Deluge’ , about the 1893 flood – written by Andrew Mardi, directed by Martin Oversen and produced by Brian Benson and Denise Bender. They put their time and money into this effort which lifted this story from obscurity and put all concerned, including Caboonbah on the map. Of course, various members of the Brisbane Valley Historical Society played an integral part with all of this, including Somerset descendants (some had `bit’ parts in `Deluge’).
    Personally, I stand in awe of those people who have contributed to the recognition of my Grandfather and the times in which he lived – where a heroic horseman, with little to prove but his courage and the needs of others, risked life and limb to ride across the Diagular under such hazardous condition. Bush poets (Ellis Campbell, Tony Hammill and others) have put have put pen to paper with tributes to those concerned, particularly Billy Mateer.
    In all of this, I’m not forgetting the John Oxley Library Blog.
    Thanks a lot to all concerned.

  7. rollo waite

    This is a submission from John Leach, Soomerset News, Toogoolawah, where he maintains (from experience) that the most outstanding of Somerset and Mateer was crossing the flooded river.

    My apologies for my delay in replying to your emails of 22nd. Pace here
    has been insane for a small newspaper, 11 to 12 hours in a day is just
    not enough. Sincere thanks for sending copy of your Mum’s account, and for the map last time. It will be my project to try to traverse one or more of those routes, one way or another. Your poem is really beaut. It sort of adds a bit more life to the natrrative, whilst remaining an historical account in itself. Many thanks for sending that as well. Re
    our discussion around Henry’s navigation across the flooded combined
    river, I was not previously aware that it was 70 feet or more in flood.
    I have shot the rapids down the river when it was only 20 feet in flood,
    and we got from Somerset Dam wall to Lowood in one day. I know well how fast it can move. I have rowed dinghies all my life, sometimes in the flooded Brisbane River, at Sherwood-Indooroopilly, attempted a row
    “up-hill” against the ebb tide through 17 Mile Rocks ( before they
    blasted it), rowed fair distances through fairly large swells in Moreton
    Bay, rowed a 14foot canoe (with thwart, rowlock blocks & 7foot oars
    fitted), 2km out to sea from Balinga Beach, trolling for tailor, across
    past Kirra, to Greenmount, back & forth all afternoon. I really am
    utterly amazed and awe-struck at Henry’s herculean feat in rowing a
    heavy pine-plank dinghy, with a passenger, and towing two horses through what must have been a fearsome torrent running at at least 30 to 40 knots. That alone was an epic, in terms of strength, endurance, & sheer guts. The extent of his gameness & fitness was well beyond the scope of most peoples’ knowledge or imagination. Both heroic efforts must be preserved and promoted as a unique chapter in Brisbane Valley’s history.
    Fictional “action” movies now look a bit tame don’t they? Sincere thanks once more Rollo, and looking forward to catching up again. Regards, John Leach.

  8. Gold Bullion Coins

    Each one of us should not forget the past because it plays important part in our lives as a human. Flood is a big problem to all of us and i need to admit that it is my first time to know about fifty foot wall of flood water situation. I hope to read more explanation about it. Thanks!

    Gold Bullion Coins

  9. rollo waite

    The Legend of Billy Mateer by Rollo Waite 12/06/09

    The stockmen of Eidsvold were rugged and bold
    as they herded the shorthorns in days of old,
    through ironbark and brigalow – country’s that rough,
    over rivers and ridges, these stockmen were tough.
    One name has lived on for many a year
    that daring young stockman, Billy Mateer.

    He herded Kemp’s cattle, way out at Dalgangal,
    he’d sort any herd that got into a tangle.
    From dawn until dusk he would manfully work,
    there was no station job that Billy would shirk.
    He’d relax on the weekends and ride into Eidsvold,
    or Mundubberra at times, `wherever the beer’s cold’.

    There’s many a mile between Eidsvold and Esk
    that’s where Billy went on a horse buying quest,
    for he knew good horses as soon as he saw them
    and they needed good horses at Dalgangal station.
    So he visited properties from Esk to Crowsnest,
    then on to Caboonbah – as an uninvited guest.

    It was raining like blazes when Billy arrived,
    he unloaded his buggy and had his clothes dried.
    For the Bundaberg cyclone was sending it down,
    fresh floods were threatening the down-river towns.
    Between Esk and Ipswich the line was awash
    Any warning to Brisbane must be taken by horse.

    Henry Somerset knew of Mateer’s reputation,
    as a daring stockman at Dalgangal station.
    and to warn of the flood he’d conceived a bold plan,
    that required a `crack’ horseman – Mateer was his man.
    So he put it to Billy, “it’s rough going, no fear!”
    “She’ll be right, don’t you worry,” said Billy Mateer.

    ” The horses I’ll give you are the best I can pick,
    the feisty one’s Oracle, the other’s Lunatic,
    but don’t be put off by the Lunatic name,
    he’s sure on his feet, and by jove he is game.
    They’ll carry you far through water and mud
    and get you to North Pine to warn of the flood.”

    Then Mateer led the horses down to the boat
    and both men jumped in to keep it afloat,
    Somerset did the rowing while Mateer held the reins
    and to make matters worse it was pelting with rain.
    Things only got worse as they surged through the foam
    For Oracle broke loose, swam the river back home.

    ” What a pity,” said Henry, as they got near the shore.
    ” You’d have made it with two, but with one, I’m not sure.”
    ” That’s o k, ” said Billy, ” but if I had to pick,
    the best horse by far is this one, Lunatic.”
    Billy patted the muzzle of the one left to ride.
    ” You’re a game man,” said Henry, ” God be at your side.”

    Billy leapt into the saddle with no more delay,
    shook hands with Henry and was then on his way
    to track Reedy Creek as it flowed to its source,
    they traveled so smoothly, both rider and horse.
    The going was heavy as they plowed through the mud
    To swim Reedy Creek as it raced with its flood.

    Billy grasped at the mane of brave Lunatic
    as they swam Reedy creek, running dirty and quick,
    then back into the saddle and onward they forged
    `til they finally arrived at Diagular gorge,
    They followed the spur on their mountain ascent,
    They both took a breather, then onwards they went.

    They slid down the mountain to the valley below
    through rocks and past boulders, the going was slow.
    For this part was by far the most dangerous bit
    and both horse and rider just had to be fit.
    To Billy such adventure was really a treat,
    He thought nought of danger with his mighty feat.

    He paused for a while at the Terrors Creek pub,
    unsaddled Lunatic, had a beer and some grub.
    Asked directions as how to get to North Pine,
    saddled up and rode off to the railway line.
    He rode into North Pine, to the railway station,
    Henry’s note was delivered at its destination.

    Now the years dim the memory of Billy Mateer,
    he departed this life in his sixty fifth year,
    our enquiries about him are mostly in vain,
    and a grave at Toowong is but all that remains.
    But his name will live on for many a year,
    That daring young stockman, Billy Mateer

    And we’ll thrill to his ride on that horse Lunatic
    and for Somerset’s warnings so thoughtful and quick.
    They were all heroes then, two men and a horse,
    braving the dangers of nature’s harsh force.
    As I pass the Diagular, my thoughts become strange,
    ghosts of Billy and Lunatic might still ride the range.

  10. Gail Irwin

    My daughter is doing a family history, and I asked my sister for help. She told me about Billy Mateer, our mothers, fathers uncle. I googled him and came across your website. Thank you for the insite it make for a great read, I only wish my kids could have seen the movie. I can’t wait to show the kids this wonderful website. Sincere thanks.

    Gail Irwin

  11. Grant H.

    Hi, I stumbled across this website and what a piece of history from my local area that I never knew. I am very fascinated and would love to know where to purchase/view the move Deluge about the 1893 floods. Thanking you for your assistance.

  12. Bradley Bopal


    Please be aware that the first rider sent by Somerset was Henry (Harry) Winwood my Grandfathers Uncle. Any information with regard to him woulkd be of interest in our family tree research. He was from Cressbrook station.

  13. Bradley Boal


    Please be aware that the first rider sent by Somerset was Henry (Harry) Winwood my Grandfathers Uncle. Any information with regard to him woulkd be of interest in our family tree research. He was from Cressbrook station

  14. Tony Hammill

    I’ve been associated with the Brisbane Valley since 1960 and first heard the story of Billy Mateer’s ride about that time. I recently wrote an article for the Somerset newspaper in which I stated that Billy’s ride was quite demonstrably the world’s greatest documented and celebrated ride. Paul Revere’s 11 km ride down established roads in good conditions by moonlight pales by comparison. Billy rode in excess of 40 km in cyclonic conditions over rough bush tracks,flooded creeks and the D’aguilar Range to North Pine to wire Brisbane of the approaching flood.
    In retirement I am now promoting him in every way possible. I commissioned a painting of his ride which will soon be completed, and I hope to then set up a display in the valley honouring Billy and the great Henry Somerset.Eight poems have now been written about Billy,and I’m pleased to say I wrote the first in 1999, but greats like Ellis Campbell have done their bit and his poem’ Valour Rode the Range’ can be googled.I’d appreciate it if everyone could talk about and help promote Billy.
    Does anyone have a photo of Billy as a young man? My number is 38430624.
    Tony Hammill

  15. Tony Hammill

    My thanks to Rollo Waite, grandson of H P Somerset, for posting his fine poem ‘The Legend of Billy Mateer’ on this blog. Rollo and I are both researchers, though hopefully not rivals! Ellis Campbell,from Dubbo,is another mate of mine and the most accomplished bushman I have known. What he doesn’t know about horses isn’t worth knowing, and his praise for Billy and Lunatic is profuse.I haven’t to date heard anything but praise about Billy.

  16. Tony Hammill

    Whatever fame accrues to Billy in coming years, let the record always show that the people who kickstarted the recognition process were Brian Benson and Denise Bender in their fine film ‘The Deluge’ from the 1990’s.I count them both as friends.

  17. Tony Hammill

    As stated, I hope to set up a display this year in the Brisbane Valley honouring notable figures,which I’ll title ‘Legends of the Valley.’ So far i have Henry, Billy, and James Mcpherson, the Queensland bushranger.Harry Winwood, the stockman who rode to Esk for Henry to wire Brisbane in the first flood,also deserves a guernsey, so perhaps a relative would like to contact me with a photo and brief biography(ph 38430624).
    My ultimate aim in all this is world recognition for Billy,but I’m sure there will be positive spinoffs for the Valley.

  18. Wayme McLean

    I am sorry if this is off topic a bit but a quick question to Bob Kirkwood in regards to Brian Benson.
    I think Brian is the guy who made a video of the construction and opening of the Riverside Mine in 1983 and I am trying to locate a copy of the video any help that you could give me would be appreciated
    Wayne McLean

  19. D.Q.

    Would anyone be able to tell me more about Billy Mateer’s life? While conducting research on an unrelated story, I came across a reference to a Billy Mateer in a boxing match in Cairns, 1910 and other references re boxing from about 1890. Is this the same man or was there more than one Billy Mateer?

  20. Anonymous

    There’s no doubt that this Blog has attracted a lot of attention. Certainly looking through google, it seems that there were numerous Billy Mateer’s, for example an Irish darts player etc.
    The name has a great ring to it and goes well with the Billy Mateer of this blog – the one who rode the range back in 1893.
    I might have been in error having Billy travel from Eidsvold to Esk by buggy. In those times, long distance horsemen often used a number of horses; for example, Henry Somerset rode alone the 700 miles from Blackall to Toogoolawah using 6 horses. However, on another occasion he rode one horse (a mare, Joan) from Cardaga (North Burnett) to Cressbrook, 142 miles, in 25 hours -9 pm one night until 9.30 pm the next night. The reason for this was to take back a dray to transport dropped calves out to Blackall. It’s truly amazing to discover just how people surmounted distance and difficulties in those days.

  21. John Somerset

    I read with interest the messages about Billy Mateer and HP Somerset. Like Rollo Waite, I am related to HP Somerset, being his great grandson. What a wonderful history trail you are all leaving for us to enjoy – thank you. On a lighter note, my Father, Arthur Somerset, born at Caboonbah in the same room as his father Captain C.W. Somerset (my Grandfather and HP Somerset’s eldest son) used to acompany HP Somerset in a horse and sulky to the planned site of the now Somerset Dam wall. Dad was about 5 years old at the time. Arthur used to carry a hip flask of Brandy to press to HP Somerset’s lips in the event of a blackout of which he was expeiencing some episodes at this time.

  22. Tony Hammill

    Hi again

    In Feb 1978 I interviewed old Madge Brennan on tape at the family home (now demolished) in Somerset Dam.She related her memories of the 1893 flood which stopped at her doorstep, H.P.Somerset visiting her father Paddy by sulky, and other pioneers of the district such as Lumley-Hill (“a blowhard!”) and the Cross family who owned the Crossdale pub (the missus was a bit of a hard case!).Thought you’d enjoy some 19th century gossip! Hope this doesn’t violate blog policy!
    I’ll be transferring the tape to cd shortly.

    Tony Hammill.

  23. D Bender

    Message for Wayne Mc Lean re ‘Riverside Mine’. Brian Benson can be contacted on his mobile 0419 769086 and can assist you with a DVD of the film he made of it years ago if you are still interested.

  24. r b waite

    Here is a comment from H P Somerset’s memoirs regarding
    traversing the D’aguilar range from the Brisbane to the Pine
    rivers valley in 1872. Almost certainly, this is the route that
    he sent Billy Mateer on in 1893:

    Henry had `100 pounds to his credit with the Government Saving
    Bank’, when Mr Joyner at Samsonvale wrote, offering the MConnel’s
    60 young store bullocks to fatten. McConnel did not want them but
    suggested that H P S should inspect them for himself, offering to
    run, fatten and sell them (on agistment) if he bought them on
    part cash terms. If suitable, Joyner would be required to drove
    and deliver them to Cressbrook. Henry proceeded to Samsonvale via
    Gregor’s Creek, Kilcoy and Caboolture – a three day journey,
    arriving late in the evening. Next morning he inspected and
    bought the bullocks and waited while Joyner wrote out a sale
    agreement in his office. Looking at a map on the wall, he saw
    what a `circuitous’ route he had ridden as Mt Brisbane station
    was just past the D’aguilar Range.
    ” I’ll return over the range,” he told Joyner.
    ” Only blacks on foot go that way, you’ll never make it,” was the
    response, “but if you like I’ll pilot you to to the creek and
    show you a spur leading to the top”.
    Having made a sketch showing Reedy and Byron creeks, and having a
    cuppa with Joyner, he ascended the spur, dismounted and cut his
    way through the scrub, using the knife Lord Alfred Churchill had
    given him. He saw a creek down below with a gorge full of red
    cedars. He led the horse halfway down, mounted and, cantering
    along a dray track, found Jack Conroy with a dray loaded with red
    cedar logs. He asked Conroy if he was on the right track for Mt
    ” Yes, follow the creek, but who are you?”
    Natrurally, Henry told him `who he was and where he’d come from.’
    ” You’re a bloody good sort of new chum, then,” was Conroy’s
    Thus encouraged, Henry made Mt Brisbane for aftrenoon tea and
    Cressbrook for a late dinner.
    Thus, said Henry, ” Joyner was wrong.”. He attributed his skills
    with `sense of direction’ to `paper chasing directing’ at
    Wellinton College. Twenty years later, the first mob of cattle to
    cross that range were H P S’s own fat’s from Caboonbah, which he
    took to meet a drover on the far side, to reach the sale yards in
    time for the Christmas markets and `topped the price, despite
    travelling night and day on the hoof’.

    Note: This has been rewritten in the third p[erson by R B Waite

  25. Mary Knight

    My great grandfather, Matthew Cuthbertson, was one of the seven men drowned in 1893 when the Eclipse Mine flooded. I would dearly love to have a copy of the movie ‘Deluge’, so was wondering if anyone could help me.

  26. Mary Knight

    Thank you so much for the information on the movie ‘Deluge’. I have ordered it from the website you mentioned and I should have a copy in a couple of weeks. Your help is very much appreciated!

  27. Tony Hammill

    Hi Mary

    The Deluge can still be purchased through the producers of the movie if you are interested. Denise Bender is away at the moment but you can leave a message on her email at


    Tony (Billy’s Publicity Agent)

  28. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    I can now announce that the painting of Billy’s ride I commissioned from multi-award winning North Coast artist Pam Hopkins ( is completed and I picked it up yesterday.It is fabulous and I believe it is set to become an iconic image, one that will be immediately spring to mind when anyone mentions Billy. I will be disseminating it in every way possible with no profit to myself- through wine labels, tourist facilities,prints etc.

    Lunatic the horse is the star of this painting, and if anyone expects the brilliant sunny colours for which Pam is famous they’ll be disappointed. Cyclones are not noted for their sunny atmosphere!

    Tony ( Billy’s Publicity Agent)

  29. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    The Billy Mateer painting by Pam Hopkins has received enthusistic reviews by numerous people including members of the Somerset family. The key words used have been ‘dramatic’ and ‘authentic’, and one woman said, ” He reminds me of ‘The Man from Snowy River’ ” which was music to my ears. I truly believe we have an iconic image here which I hope will soon be known everywhere as long-overdue recognition of Billy.

    The North Burnett Regional council has ordered a print for their tourist centre ( Billy came from Eidsvold) and it will be unveiled in late October when Ellis Campbell’s poem on Billy will be performed by Ellis on tape, and both will feature on a DVD about Eidsvold shortly.

    I will relate further good news as it transpires.

    Tony ( Billy’s Publicity Agent).

  30. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    I have just entered negotiations on an agreement to market Billy, and it is serious. It happened faster than I could have imagined. I will reveal more as the situation unfolds.

    Tony ( Billy’s Publicity Agent).

  31. r b waite

    How good it is that Billy Mateer has ridden back through the mists of the past in such a remarkable way. From a chance visit to Caboonbah on that memorable day in 1893, this stockman from Eidsvold (Kent’s Dalgangle station) has taken his place in the rich history of `those early days’ in the upper Brisbane valley. In a way, Billy can be seen as representing all great stockman over the years, but none so tough and demanding as those in the pioneering days, when great horsemen rode all over Audtralia herding cattle and simply travelling.
    At the moment I am writing my grandfather’s ( H P Somerset’s) early expeiences. It is breath taking reading an account from suich an adventurous man – not only of his early childhood, but of his amazing adventures in the Australian bush (and this was when he first landed in Australia as a young man in his 20th year as a `new chum’). Yes, Henry Somerset knew a good stockman when he saw one, such as Billy Mateer, because he hd been droving and riding over countless miles of Australia (northern rivers, NSW, and various drives through inland Queensland, way out to the Barcoo, well and truly beyond the `black stump’).
    So here’s to Billy Mateer and all those tough Aussie stockmen over the years. From my poem, `Queensland drovers’

    “When old age catches up with them
    and their droving days are done,
    they think of thos mighty cattle drives,
    of the hard times and the fun.
    For the day will come when they sadlle up
    for that stock route in the sky,
    But the legends that the leave behind
    will never ever die.
    And they’ll ride once again
    as they did in days of yore,
    these stockmen of Australia.”


  32. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    On Monday 9 November we had the launch of the Billy Mateer painting at the museum at Old Petrie Town. There were 15 people present including Councillor David Dwyer and Local Studies Librarian Leith Bartel. I spoke during the meeting of the Pine Rivers Historical Society, giving the background and significance of the ride, and stressing Billy had ridden down the road right outside the building, and that the railway station Billy sent the message from is now sited in their grounds.

    I had intended to unveil the painting, but was beaten to it by other forces. I was about to unveil it when asked a question about Hentry Somerset. I took two steps to the left, and had only uttered a few words when the ladies in the audience started squealing! I looked to the right and there was the blue cloth sliding off the painting, and the painting started rocking. Billy rides again, and in the direction of the station! I grabbed the painting, steadying it, looked to the ceiling and said, “Sorry, Billy!”

    The meeting loved the painting (and the show) and burst into applause.

    Maybe I’ll actually get to do the deed on the western side of the range!


  33. Tony Hammill

    Hi all

    Leith’s surname above is given as ‘Bartel’ but should read ‘Barter’.

    Sorry, Leith!

    Tony (Billy’s Publicity Agent)

  34. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    The painting of Billy riding in the cyclone was unveiled in The Somerset newspaper in early December with an article by John Leach, and received a very positive response from the public. The artist, Pam Hopkins, received several orders for prints. My goal is to make that image instantly recognisable in the Brisbane Valley, and will try to get one hung in council chambers.

    I am writing a series of articles for The Somerset called ‘Legends of the Valley.’ The first one, Captain Logan, should have appeared this week. Billy is about No 6 in the series. Having recently completed proof reading of Henry Somerset’s memoirs ‘Trombone’s Troubles’s’ which will probably be published this year, I’ll be able to include some of his adventures.

    Best wishes

    Tony (Billy’s Publicity Agent-unpaid!)

  35. r b waite

    To followes of this Blog,

    I have finished and widely circulated `Discovering my Grandfather’, which is the rewriting of my Grandfarhers memoirs with the theme of discovering Henry Somerset (he died in my parents home when I was five). This has been made available for the Somerset Reunion
    12-13/3/10 and, so far this long overdue effort has been well received, partcularly among H P S’s descendents.
    Of course, this writing is mainly about his life from 1852 -1890. However, a summary of his life and an Eppilogue is included. I address the question of `discovering him’ and briefly discuss the times in which he writes.
    This has relevance to both Mateer and Winwood as it deals with the process of H P S’s life which led to his living at Caboonbah and the part they all played with the 1893 flood.
    regards, Rollo Waite

  36. Rollo Waite

    Hello to supporters of this blog,

    The descendent’s of Henry Somerset had a reunion at the Bunya Mtns. resoert last weekend. Approximately 120 descendents and others met over the weekend to remember our roots in the Brisbane Valley, with particular ref. to our Cabonnbah heritage.
    Two great descendents books were available, beatifully compiled by Christine Jackson (nee Somerset), plus my re writing of Henry Somersets memoirs, `Discovering my grandfather’
    Qiuter apart from this activity, Denise Bender has almost finished `Trombone’s troubles’ (Henry Somerset’s memoirs) and Tony Hammill has been writing a series of articles for the Somerset (Toogoolawah newspaper), `legends of the Valley (Brisbane).
    So all in all, the traditions of those far off, Caboonbah days are being kept alive. Billy Mateer and those other great hoprsemen still ride.

    Regards, Rollo Beaufort Waite

  37. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    Things are coming along at a rattling pace. Phil Close of Woongooroo Winery near Kilcoy has agreed to become Billy’s official promoter and is staging an official launch at the winery in June, with competitions to be announced in bush poetry and art. He also intends to stage vintage car rallies, and is sponsoring a whole range of merchandise including mugs, tee-shirts, prints, wine labels etc.

    I have determined the date of Billy’s ride beyond all reasonable doubt as Friday 18 February 1893, and his article in my Legends of the Valley series will be appearing shortly in The Somerset newspaper. John Leach of The Somerset has also discovered the actual route Billy took over the D’Aguilar range.

    This whole project, with the help of like-minded people, has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. The final touch will be a statue raised to Billy.



  38. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    The date above for the ride should have been Friday 17 Feb not 18.

    John Leach of The Somerset newspaper informs me he has now absolutely determined the route of Billy’s ride on Friday 17 February 1893. He has accomplished this through Henry Somerset’s memoirs in which he describes the trail he himself blazed, and through a family at Toogoolawah who used the same route to get to the coast in the old days.

    This means we will be able to calculate the actual distance travelled by Billy to North Pine, and is a great step forward. John also intends to hold an annual 4WD trek along the route.

    We have snatched history from the jaws of oblivion. It’s quite exhilarating, and shows what like minds and a team effort can accomplish. Tony (Billy’s Publicity Agent)

  39. Rollo Waite

    For those who read this blog,

    It is interesting noting the various observations with particular reference to Billy Mateer’s ride and the amount of delving is commendable.
    As Tony maintains that the ride occurred occurred on February 17, this coincides with the date a cyclone crossed the coast at Bundaberg.
    I can agree with John Leach’s work re. the route Billy took. See my note of Sept. 9, 2009 in this BLOG.
    For further information I suggest that the following site be accessed:


  40. Rollo Waite

    Hello out there

    Foot note to my last submission: The excellent article on Henry Somerset in The Caboonbah Heritage article is incorrect with rtegard to Mateer’s destination – He went to North Pine (Petrie) not Caboolture.

    Rollo B waite

  41. Phil Close

    It is with great delight that our Estate, Woongooroo Estate at Kilcoy, is promoting the name and legend of Billy Mateer. This year, we are organizing a $500 Bush Poetry Competition, a $500 Photographic Competition, relevant souvenirs and a special annual memorial horse event which will be announced at the Estate on Saturday 12th June at our Billy Mateer Open Day. We have commemoratively labeled Hero Country Red 2009 – a fruit driven medium dry Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc. This superb wine has the Pam Hopkin’s painting on the label. Billy bloggers can get more information at
    It is indeed gratifying to see the renewed and awakening interest being shown in this legendary horseman. I hope our Estate can be a catalyst to aid this escalating awareness.

    Kind regards,
    Phil Close – Owner/Manager, Woongooroo Estate

  42. Tony Hammill

    Hi All
    Last Saturday’s first Billy Mateer Open Day at Woongooroo Winery near Kilcoy was fabulous! With bush poets,a kelpie demo, boot throwin’ (not to be confused with boot scootin’!), oilskin-wearing horsemen, great food and wine (yes, the Hero Country 2009 red is fruit and spice heaven), a great product and memorabilia display,and the presence of the Mateer family in force gave a marvellous atmosphere of conviviality.
    Long may this event prosper and promote Billy!

    Tony Hammill.

  43. Rollo Waite

    Hello out there,

    The History of the Brisnabe Valley and Somerset is certainly coming alive with the activities of Tony Hammil, Phil Close, John Leach and others. It seems the spirit of Billy Mateer has carried folk along and ‘the Valley’ will once more resonate with the recounting of the past glories.
    I must say that I never felt inclined towards history (except my own personal memoirs), until I decided to write ‘Discovering my Grandfather’ (about H P Somerset). But once I got on the bandwagon I have been carried along.
    S9 I say ‘ good on all of you – may your activities increase.
    Hooray for now, Rollo B Waite

  44. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    And thanks Rollo.
    I am now resigning from the position of Billy Mateer’s publicity agent. The position now rightly belongs to Phil Close of Woongooroo Winery who has adopted Billy wholeheartedly and will publicise him wherever his wines are displayed and sold. His efforts in only a few months since I first contacted him have been truly remarkable, as have those of the other visionary, John Leach of The Somerset newspaper, who has rediscovered Billy’s trail over the D’Aguilar and published the findings.
    I will, however, retain my position of Guardian of the Legend along with John and Phil.

    All is well!


  45. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    On Tuesday 8 June I attended the ceremony at The Spit at Somerset Dam at which the Governor presented a plaque to Somerset Dam for its recognition by Engineers Australia as an Engineering Heritage National Landmark. The day was fine and sunny with a cool breeze blowing, and the Dam made a magnificent backdrop to the proceedings.

    After the ceremony I served as tour guide to a small busload comprising Her Excellency, Her Excellency’s aide, and engineers. We visited the dam and township, and I took the opportunity to regale my captive audience not only with the story of the dam, but also with the story and praises of Henry Somerset and Billy Mateer. To use the old cliche, a great time was had by all!

    We now look forward to the first annual Billy Mateer trail ride later this year, which will involve both horses and four-wheel drives.



  46. Rollo Waite

    Hello followers of this blog,
    Last Thursday, 5/8, there was a gathering at Caboonbah for a 5 minute movie for Channel 7 to show on ‘Queensland Weekend. – for Henry Somerset and Billy Mateer re 1893 flood etc. and for Woogooroo Winery’s activity with this. Included in the cast at Caboonbah were Ian Mateer (descendent of Billy’s), John Leach (Somerset News) and myself (as Grandson of Henry’s and to recite 4 lines from my ‘Mateer’ poem). After Caboonbah they were going to Woongooroo. This will be shown some time later in the year on a Sat. evening (6.30 pm I think).
    Regards to you all, Rollo Waite

  47. tony hammill

    Hi All

    I look forward to seeing the Billy Mateer segment on QWeekend later on, and it sounds from Rollo’s report that it was a great occasion.I believe they survived very well without me: I had a prior engagement.

    On Tuesday John Leach, Phil Close and I visited Seqwater in the city at their invitation. An officer congratulated us on our research, since they had heard of Billy but knew nothing about him. They are in 100% on the Billy story, and have asked us to design info boards to be set up at at the Brisbane Valley dams and info centres. Phil coined the phrase ‘bigger than Billy Mateer.’ The way things are going, one could be forgiven for thinking that!



  48. Phil Close

    Hi All,

    My winery is not able to continue with further promotion of Billy Mateer. I wish all who carry on with this promotion, continuing and resounding success.

    Kind regards,
    Phil Close – Owner/Manager
    Woongooroo Estate

  49. Anonymous

    Where have you gone Billy Boy Billy Boy,
    since you last surfaced in August,
    If not at Woongooroo, perhps up at Kilcoy,
    or maybe somewhere else in the district.
    What about Lunatic, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
    Do you still ride him hard round the ridges.
    Does the sight of an ale still bring you joy
    in a place where’s there’s no need for fridges

  50. Tony Hammill

    Thanks to the anonymous rhymster above for his valuable contribution, but I fear that in his heaven, Billy wouldn’t be drinking ale, but rather a rough red! Unmask yourself, scoundrel!

    The Billy project is indeed going full steam ahead despite some recent hiccups. Seqwater is preparing information boards with Pam Hopkin’s painting for display at info centres in the Valley, and an annual trail ride is being organised to commemorate Billy’s feat each February.

    The sky’s the limit!

    A merry Christmas free from hard labour, and a prosperous (despite the banks!) New Year to all!


  51. Denise Bender

    The following is a review of ‘Trombone’s Troubles’ by Peter Malone. Henry Plantagenet Somerset’s book can be purchased from Boolarong Press at a cost of $39.95.

    Experiences of a Queensland Jackeroo in Early Pastoral Days

    Henry Plantagenet Somerset
    (Edited by Denise Bender, Boolarong Press, 2010)

    Henry Somerset sounds a sufficiently elegant English name, but Henry Plantagenet Somerset!

    This edited account of Somerset’s life and career in outback Queensland is one of a number of memoirs that are being published, offering a detailed look at life in particular areas of Australia and bringing to life the characters and events of past times. This is a most welcome development preserving the Australian heritage.

    There was a time up to the 1960’s when going back into the past was not something one did. In fact, Australian History did not have much place in school curricula. Academic pioneers like Russell Ward and Manning Clark brought Australian History as a discipline into the universities. But, during the 1960’s, a renewed interest in preserving documents for archives led to many theses on Australian characters, on significant events and on particular areas like exploration, on squatting and farming, on religious issues. We remember that it was not until the 1970’s with films like Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Getting of Wisdom that our history became part of the wider public’s consciousness and there was a greater recognition for our novels and poetry.

    Since then, also with the growing interest in Australians investigating their family trees, we take for granted that we should know about the past and preserve the memories in such books as Trombone’s Troubles. Henry Somerset (nickname Trom, because of his deep voice at school) wrote the manuscript in 1935 and hoped it would be published at the time of his death (in 1936).This did not happen. Now 75 years later, Denise Bender, who explains her long interest in Somerset in the Prologue to this book, has been successful in seeing the memoirs in book form, well produced with quite a number of photos accompanying the text.

    At times, the memoirs read like a novel. Somerset had a flair for words and for description. He does not write in a style which draws on metaphors. Rather, he has an eye for detail and for factual information that makes the book also like a documentary. His style lures the reader in. He speaks directly, quite conversationally at times. While he was clearly from the Victorian era (and his photo suggests a likeness to, say, George V, upright, bearded, fit) , and espoused the values of the times, he is also a common-sensed man who adapted from a British way of life to an Australian colonial experience with some ease.

    The early chapters tell of his coming from India to England, his family background and his schooling, especially his schooling. This part of the book is reminiscent of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, bringing the behaviour of boys and staff to life, the detail of the classes, choirs, sports.

    This penchant for detail continues throughout the memoir making it a source for historians to explore. Place names and dates. Books read (like Lorna Doone).Descriptions of flora and fauna, of birds, of trees offer comparisons with the land as it is now. And plenty of outback characters.

    If one wants to know what it was like living in Queensland in the later decades of the 19th century, there is plenty of information here. This also means that Queenslanders, familiar with the towns and country described, will particularly relish reading this past. For those not familiar with Queensland, comparisons can be made with their own state history. And there are some amusing anecdotes, like the history of the initially reluctant bushranger, James McPherson. There are stories about the aborigines, referred to as ‘blacks’ and sometimes as ‘niggers’. (And one is reminded of changes in language when there is a footnote re the word ‘faggot’, explaining this is a word for ‘a bundle of twigs, sticks or branches bundled together’).

    And for the more serious historian, the book contains 15 Appendices, consisting of letters, poems, of family trees, documents and an account of the floods of 1893 (which were the subject of Denise Bender’s feature film, Deluge, which depicted Somerset’s role in warning Brisbane of the potential damage, which led to the building of the Somerset Dam on the Stanley River, named in his honour).

    The tone of the book can be gauged from words of the author himself in the Foreword.
    But, as it is of myself and my own doings, as well as sufferings and experiences, that
    the tale has had to be truthfully told, how could it be written down by a very ordinary individual otherwise?

    Review by Peter Malone.

  52. Denise Bender

    Title: Trombone’s Troubles
    ISBN: 9781921555534
    Author(s): Henry Plantagenet Somerset
    Price $39.95

    Henry Plantagenet Somerset’s Trombone’s Troubles depicts the first three decades of his life, including his early childhood days with his family in India at the time of the Indian Mutiny, his schooldays at Wellington College and his years spent as a jackeroo and a station manager in Queensland. Through his eyes, we relive Queensland pastoral life in the 1870 with its rich tapestry of people and events. Henry arrived at Moreton Bay in the barque Polmaise in 1871 after three months at sea. He began his station life in the Brisbane Valley while working for the McConnel family at Cressbrook Station. Henry won the heart of Katharine McConnel daughter of David Cannon McConnel. On their engagement, they travelled overseas and were married at the British Legation, Berne, Switzerland in 1879. Henry established his home property at Caboonbah in 1890 and he and Katharine became an integral part of their local community.Henry days as a jackeroo and stockman left an enduring love of Queensland. which is reflected in his memoirs. Above all his account of his experiences in the bush shines a light on his personality and reveals him to be a man of action and compassion, a capable and caring individual, a grazier, politician and visionary.The reader will delight in the specially selected appendices which highlight their lives and dramatic times at Caboonbah in the Brisbane Valley. Henry is most famous for his role in the 1893 Great Brisbane Flood which is vividly described in Appendix B. The Somerset Dam and the Somerset Regional Council now bear his name, worthy and enduring tributes to the memory of a man of substance, whose favourite quotation was Write me as one who loves his fellowmen.

    Like Queensland which bears his mark, the character of Henry Plantagenet Somerset looms larger than life in this extraordinary epic.
    Rod Fisher
    Brisbane Historian

  53. Rollo Waite

    Hello out there
    Just compare the warnings given with the current Brisbane flood to those sent out in 1893. Henry Somerset sent grim warnings by horsemen of the floods threatening downstream settlement with Winwood to Esk and Mateer to North Pine (Petrie) – though these were virtually ignored. However, with today’s technology, most people were warned, albeit not sufficiently to avert disaster with the Toowoomba incident. Fortunately, back in 1893, there was considerably less settlement in Brisbane and Ipswich.
    Hopefully, the Royal Commission into this recent flood will sort out the history of recent events so that the River City can relax with some degree of comfort. .
    Somehow the spirit of those times lingers on.

    Regards, Rollo Waite

  54. Rollo Waite

    Will Brisbane’s vulnerability to flood disasters ever cease? That is the question that must be resolved. In 1893, Henry Somerset saw the need for a flood warning station ansd the construction of the Somerset Dam. Following the 1974 flood, Joh Petersen had the Wivenhoe built. Although both these dams have served Brisbane well for water supply and flood mitigation, Brisbane is still prone to flooding. In particular it is absolutely essential that there is no chance that the Somerset and the Wivenhoe will be breached. Despite technology and progress. the elemental force of nature is as relevant today as it was in 1893.
    Rollo Waite

  55. Tony Hammill

    Hi All

    Rollo’s comments are spot on and now I wish to add my own.

    So once again we have watched a tragedy unfold because Brisbane’s flood mitigation measures have been inadequate or ineffective. Once again lives and busineses have been shattered; once again there will be heart attacks due to stress; there will be depression, suicides, and marital breakups; once again property prices will plunge along the river and in low-lying areas; and confidence in the security of our great city is gone, perhaps for all time. As Wayne Swan said, this has been the greatest disaster in Australia’s history.

    The illusion of Wivenhoe the Saviour has been shredded. We now realise that we live under the volcano: a watery one, but one that leads to fear as much as it did for the citizens of Pompeii living under the shadow of Vesuvius.

    Last year I wrote an article on Billy Mateer and the 1893 floods,and attended the ceremony at Somerset Dam on that brilliant June day when the governor presented a plaque for engineering excellence. Now in retrospect we all seemed like naive children, having no idea what was approaching. Perhaps we are changed forever, and will talk about pre-flood and post-flood, just as the old folk talked about pre-war and post-war. In my research I read of the victims of those previous floods,and now we have a new crop of hapless victims. There is a depressing sense of deja vu for me. Perhaps an honour roll of all the victims of all the floods should be compiled, lest we forget. And major changes must be made.

    My own children are now what I call Children of the Flood, having joined those of us who lived through the 1974 flood. My eldest son was evacuated from the city and helped clean out a friend’s house, and my youngest son was cut off at Caboolture, and witnessed all the damage around Strathpine. They are still coming to terms with the experience, but the memory and the emotions will stay with them all their lives. I can connect to three floods, having known two people who lived through the 1893 disaster.

    I know what William Faulkner meant when he said, ‘The past is never dead; it’s not even past.’ Perhaps during the floods, which also hit the Brisbane Valley hard, a lone figure stared down from Caboonbah at the river in flood, while a lone horseman rode the bush track over the D’Aguilar range on a mission of salvation.

    In memoriam.


  56. Rollo Waite

    Hello all,
    My comments relate mostly to the Brisbane and Ipswich flood.
    How boldly can we talk with the Wisdom of hindsigh; and everywhere with this flood enquiry there are people speaking out. Many have been terribly hurt by the various manifestations of the “Great Floods” of December and January. Lives have been lost, property destroyed, people want restitution and people want justice. There are many calling out for this, and there are many ducking and weaving and shivering in their boots if they think they will be seen to have failed in lessening the extent of the disaster.
    Some see this enquiry as “the day of reckoning”, when all who have been seen as deficient with their various duties are brought to account. Others cynically see it as a waste of time. There might well be some litigious outcomes. However despite all these possibilities, it is essential that some degree of truth, some closure, some commonsense emerges, rather than thousands of pages of documentation that goes nowhere.
    They talk about the water that was released at the peak of the event which certainly contributed to the Brisbane flood. Had this not been done the very integrity of the Wivenhoe might have been at risk – and what if the whole dam was breached, where would we have been? It might well have been a situation as bad as “the Dam Busters” of World War Two. Whether this crisis could have been averted by more strategic and earlier releases, is a question that needs to be answered.
    In very simple terms, people of Ipswich and Brisbane need to know that such calamitous events are unlikely to happen again. Furthermore, the event has put so many people under considerable pressure to do the right thing during the times of crisis. Let’s face it, they most likely did their best, even if that is shown to be wrong. I certainly wouldn’t have liked to be put under such pressure.
    Let’s hope that the enquiry clears the air and points to a more viable flood mitigation measures for the future. Rollo Waite

  57. Patricia Wiltshire

    I am interested in the reference to a Mateer by Rollo Waiter. I would like to know who this Mateer was as I had relastives by this name who arrived in Maryborough from Ireland in 1863.

  58. Rollo Waite

    Hello Patricia Wiltshire,

    Billy Mateer was a stockman from Eidsvod (Dalgangel Station) who was staying at Henry Somerset’s Caboonbah home when the 1893 flood struck.
    Henry Somerset got Billy to ride over the D’iaugilar Range to Petrie with a warning of the second flood, approx. 17/02/1893. This he accomplished, crossing the flooded Brisbane R and Reedy creek – about a 40 mile ride, over a mountain in torrential rain. Of course if you read the blog entries you will discover more about Billy and others who featured in this drama.
    There are descendents of Billy’s in S E Qld, for example Ian Mateer at Ferny Grove (I think) and Ruth Mateer at Redcliffe or thereabouts. You can always look me up in the phone directory (R B Waite).
    Yours is the first entry since mine of 28/05/11 and it’s good to see that the blog still receives attention.
    Regards Rollo Waite

  59. Tony Hammill

    Hi Patricia

    These certainly seem to be your relatives. I am the researcher on Billy and can give you the addresses of Billy’s rellatives and also my writings on him. Please cotact me at



  60. Patricia Wiltshire

    Thanks for your feedback Rollo and Tony. I will contact both of you with more details of my Mateer connections.

  61. Robert Whyte

    An interesting addition from Trove:

    The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933

    A Memorable Ride.

    How Brisbane was warned of the great flood of 1893 has never been recorded in detail in print, and the story makes interesting reading. At the critical moment the telegraph failed. Mr H P Somerset, on whose property at Caboonbah the flood gauges were situated, and who had been advising the heights as the river rose, realized that unless a warning was sent through to Brisbane a fearful catastrophe would occur. He enlisted the assistance of Billy Mateer, a stockman and offered to provide him with two horses in order to ride across the D’Aguilar Range to North Pine at top speed and send a telegram to the metropolis. Rowing a frail canoe, Mr Somerset swam his horse, Oracle, across the river and tethered it on the bank. Then he returned and swam another horse, named Lunatic, across. While he was landing Lunatic, Oracle broke loose and re-swam the river, which was nearly a banker, and run- ning very swiftly, landing half a mile downstream. Lunatic alone had to carry Mateer on his memorable race against death and disaster, and both of them arrived safely at North Pine, whence the message was dispatched Although the message was received in Brisbane much later than if the telegraph line had been working, it prevented heavier loss of life and property.

  62. Robert Whyte

    I’m writing a version of the story and i would welcome comments.

    Billy Mateer
    on a horse called Lunatic

    The man who
    raced the Flood

    In February 1893, three cyclones swept down on South East Queensland, drenching the Brisbane and Stanley River valleys. Buninyong, the first of the cyclones, after heavy rain for days, finally unleashed 914.4 mm of rain in a 24 hour period, concentrated around Crohamhurst in the upper Stanley River near Peachester.

    Henry Plantagenet Somerset, living in the Caboonbah Homestead near the junction of the Brisbane and Stanley Rivers, had watched the river rise above the record 1890 flood. The sky then cleared with the river still peaking. To Somerset’s amazement, he heard a roaring sound from a massive flood coming down the Stanley. It was the Cromahurst downpour, a 17 metre wall of water on top of the already swollen river.

    Somerset sent Cressbrook bullocky Harry Winwood on horseback to Esk to warn the people of Brisbane by telegraph. The message got through and the warning was posted outside Brisbane’s General Post Office. Yet because of the fine weather, Brisbane ignored the warning. When the flood arrived the town was devastated. It was one the three worst floods in history, far greater than 1974. Homes were drowned, bridges and roads destroyed and many lives were lost.

    A week later the second cyclone added to the deluge. Again Brisbane and Ipswich were battered. Then came the third and most damaging downpour, coming as it did on top of the already swollen rivers and flooded lowlands.

    It was 17 February, 1893. Henry Somerset saw the waters rise up again, this time from torrential rains in the Upper Brisbane, to reach a height of 22.5m above their normal level. Again, Brisbane had to be warned. The Esk line was down, destroyed by the first flood. Billy Mateer, top stockman at Dalgangal and a superb horseman, volunteered to ride out via the D’Aguilar range, treacherous in the best conditions, virtually impossible in the wet.

    Billy and Henry Somerset took two horses and crossed the swollen Brisbane River. Henry rowed a heavy pine-plank dinghy, towing two horses through what must have been a fearsome torrent running at 30 to 40 knots.

    One horse, Oracle, broke loose and swam back. It hurtled downstream, nostrils gulping air. The two men just made it with the remaining horse, Lunatic. Over rough bush tracks, through flooded creeks and up steep spurs for over 65 kilometres, Billy Mateer rode in wretched conditions. He followed Reedy Creek to D’Aguilar Gorge, then down the steep range to Terrors Creek and on to North Pine (now Petrie).

    The warning was sent. Once again, it was mostly ignored. Coming from North Pine, the people in Brisbane thought it was the Pine River in flood. Yet some took notice and who knows how many homes and lives were saved?

    The skill and courage of Harry Windood, Henry Plantagenet Somerset and Billy Mateer is a testament to the spirit of the people of the Brisbane Valley. Billy Mateer’s ride is surely the greatest feat of horsemanship in history.

  63. Rollo Waite

    I’m a grandson of Henry Somerset’s and have the version of the above as written for an Esk Newspaper in 1932 by my grand father. In recent times the whole matter has been given considerable publicity, as reading other entries will show. My grandfather’s article has been published as an appendix to his memoir “Trombones Troubles”, edited by Denise Bender. Tony Hammill has become an ardent supporter of the contribution made by Billy Mateer. John Leach ex The Somerset Newspaper (lives outside Toogoolawah) has done a remarkable amount of research on these matters.
    As far as I can see and in its brevity, what you have written more or less agrees with the facts that are known from those far away times.
    In fact it’s good to see some interest being taken in these matters again.

    Ro9llo Waite


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