NARROW ESCAPE: Moreton Bay region, drawn here in mid 1830s, was home to “the father of the Press” in the Colony of Queensland, Mr A S Lyon.
NARROW ESCAPE: Moreton Bay region, drawn here in mid 1830s, was home to “the father of the Press” in the Colony of Queensland, Mr A S Lyon. Contributed

Newspaper publisher’s odd exploit

ENGLISHMAN Arthur Sidney Lyon arrived in Moreton Bay from Melbourne just before 1846. In February 1846, he convened a meeting at the Victoria Hotel in order to establish a newspaper. The Moreton Bay Courier appeared on June 20, 1846, and his connection with the newspaper lasted three years. He then founded two other local newspapers, including the Moreton Bay Free Press in 1850.

In October 1855, he became editor of the North Australian in Ipswich and later established a newspaper on the Darling Downs. In June 11, 1858, he issued the first edition of the Darling Downs Gazette. Ill health forced him to leave Drayton and return to Cleveland and the southern islands of Moreton Bay, where he lived until his death on October 22, 1861, aged 44.

Around August 20, 1850, when Arthur Lyon was living on Peel Island in Moreton Bay where he was collecting shells and other items of interest, he was told by some local Aborigines that five men had landed their boat near Amity Point. The men came to Lyon's hut and stated they had escaped from a whaler anchored outside the bay and had no provisions as their biscuits had been damaged by water.

They told Lyons they had mistaken Stradbroke Island on which they landed for the mainland and despite Lyons telling them he was suspicious of their tale, believing them to be deserters from the immigrant ship Meridian anchored in Moreton Bay, the men stuck to their story.

NARROW ESCAPE: Moreton Bay region, drawn here in mid 1830s, was home to “the father of the Press” in the Colony of Queensland, Mr A S Lyon.
NARROW ESCAPE: Moreton Bay region, drawn here in mid 1830s, was home to “the father of the Press” in the Colony of Queensland, Mr A S Lyon. Contributed

Having few provisions to spare, Lyons told the men to proceed to Cleveland Point where they might get assistance before continuing along the road to Brisbane.

Lyons agreed to accompany them and direct them to Cleveland Point, but after landing, one of them confessed they were indeed the deserters from the Meridian and had taken the captain's gig (boat).

One of the labourers at Cleveland Point informed the crew it was the worst place to land as it was where police had captured deserters from the ship Argyle. Arthur Lyons told the men it was not his intention to aid them in their escape and despite his protests the boatswain, who was the ringleader of the deserters, decided they would all head to the Tweed River.

The crew forced Lyons to show them how to navigate their way out of the bay and they set sail for the Tweed. The famished men landed on Cook Island, where they ate young pelicans and pelican eggs.

Lyons informed the crew that the mouth of the Tweed River was nearby but they did not believe him because the breakers at Point Danger hid the view of the river. The men decided to continue on to the Brunswick but rough seas prevented them from seeing the river there as well.

The boatswain declared his intention of going on to the Clarence so it took all of Lyon's persuasive efforts to convince them to turn back. He argued that they had no food or water, it was not safe to sail at night and the south-easterly wind made it impossible for them to land.

Eventually all the sailors except for the boatswain, who sulked and refused to help, agreed. They gave Lyons the helm and turned the boat back to the Tweed. After three hours hard rowing they beached the boat where they saw some Aboriginal people who helped pull the boat up the beach. Food was also cooked for the hungry sailors.

The next morning, the deserters walked to a sawyer's hut and did not return until the following day, when they announced their intention of walking to the Clarence. Lyon, with the help of some local Aborigines, launched the boat and sailed to the mouth of the Tweed River. It was ebb tide so it was an effort to get the boat into smooth water before proceeding along the river to the shipbuilding yard of a Mr Ferrier, who had a schooner on the stocks nearly ready for launching.

Arthur Lyons was given provisions and with four Aboriginal men accompanying him, recrossed the river bar and headed north until Peel Island was finally reached.

He remained marooned there for some time and when finally rescued was exhausted, starving and in need of hospitalisation. Arthur Lyon's tale of adventure caused quite a sensation in Moreton Bay.



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