{Band of Officials Arrive to } {Form a Colony }

Article excerpt

Sir Maurice Charles O'Connell

ON March 30, 1854, a small band of government officials arrived on the Tom Tough to form a colony to be known as Port Curtis.

Maurice Charles O'Connell was appointed as Government resident and installed in office by Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy in April 1854.

O'Connell was born in 1812 in Sydney, son of Maurice Charles Philip O'Connell and Mary Putland, nee Bligh (the daughter of Governor Bligh). He received his schooling in England and Scotland, as well as military school in Dublin and Paris, and joined the British Army in 1828 at the age of 16 years.

After marrying Eliza Emily le Geyt at Jersey, he went to the Spanish wars, where he led a regiment of Irish volunteers. He rose to the office of general of brigade in the British Auxiliary Legion.

On his return to England he purchased a Captaincy in the 28th Regiment.

His father was appointed to command the troops of New South Wales later that year, and Maurice joined him in the position of assistant military secretary.

O'Connell failed in a first attempt to win a seat in the Legislative Council but represented Port Phillip from August 1845 to June 1848 and then became Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Burnett District.

He was asked to commence settling the area north of the Burnett, which became known as Port Curtis.

He was then appointed Government Resident of Port Curtis on January 2, 1854.

He arrived in Port Curtis in the Tom Tough, along with his wife and 56 other passengers. Eight settlers had already found there way to the area.

Two weeks later, more tradesman, officials and families arrived on the Spitfire, followed by more on the Jenny Lind.

The Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy, arrived on April 16 on the HMS Calliope, to install O'Connell as government resident, commissioner of crown lands and police magistrate.

O'Connell's company set up tents at Barney Point, in which they lived for some time. It was to be two years before their house, Toolooa House, was to be built.

The rest of the town grew slowly.

At a land sale held in 1854, most of the land was bought by speculators from Sydney. Very few ventured to the town to take up residence.

By the end of 1855 the population numbered only 60.

A select committee in New South Wales censured O'Connell's leadership and proclaimed the settlement as a waste of money and resources.

O'Connell was reportedly a difficult man to work with. He had a quick temper and he and MacCabe had a number of conflicts.

O'Connell's post was abolished in 1855 after a Select Committee changed the status of Port Curtis from Government residency to pastoral district. …