Sydney (Kindara) Rollands – Sam’s mother.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
STRADDIE TALES - THE DUGONG MAN
ANOTHER STORY FROM STRADDIE
Stradbroke Island, where I live, is rich in traditional native folklore. The island’s Aboriginal name is Minjerribah, and its people, the Quandamooka have lived here since long before written history.
Over the centuries a great number of European explorers and seamen passed briefly by, Captain Cook on his voyage of discovery in 1770 and Matthew Flinders some time later. Both made note of the island before moving on to continue their voyages. But a lot more lesser known adventurers made land, dropped anchor and stayed.
They weren’t stupid, they obviously knew they had chanced upon a veritable paradise and they were in no hurry to leave.
The original inhabitants were made up of several tribes or clans. They were friendly, hospitable and willing to share their island bounty. The newcomers slowly became part of the community and in time their European and Pacific Islander names became part of the Minjerribah landscape. Their offspring married, blending with the Traditional Owners and inheriting their rights and traditions.
Unfortunately, European newcomers on the mainland quickly multiplied, establishing Government bureaucracies that eventually found their way to Minjerribah, swiftly changed the name to Stradbroke Island, and then began moving the locals into Mission settlements.
Which brings me to the early 1900’s and Sam Rollands, the Dugong Man.
One of Sam Rolland’s ancestors was a South Seas Islander who met and was charmed by a woman of the Moorgumpin people of Moreton Island. The tribe eventually crossed the narrow channel to the island of Minjerribah and there, some time later Sam married the widowed Margaret Brown whose tribal name was Miboo.
Her brood of children became his, and in years to come he would be fondly known as Grandfather Rollands, not only to his own children, but to the young Brown’s and their offspring as well.
Some years earlier Bureaucrats from the mainland, now going under the title Aboriginal Protection Association, established a Mission Station near Dunwich, naming it Myora, though locals preferred its original name, Moongalba.
Sam became it’s resident policeman. A job that entitled him to a wage and a policeman’s uniform; but still left him plenty of time to maintain his orchard of 11 orange trees, nine mango trees, bananas, lemons, guavas and sweet potatoes, and still find time to hunt the dugong...
As you can clearly see, life on Straddie, even back then was lived to a different beat of the drum.
POLIO AND SISTER KENNY
Polio, or Infantile Paralysis was once the scourge of the world, with frequent epidemics either killing many victims or rendering them unable to walk, or even to breathe normally.
A present day Elder on Straddie, Aunty Rose Borey, remembers her elder siblings in the 1930’s struck down with polio and their mother lathering their limbs with the dugong oil, alternating with hot salt water baths. They survived with no after effects.
Sam Rollands proudly kept a letter he received, from Sister Kenny, requesting a supply of dugong oil for her ongoing work with polio patients.
Sam Rollands though, wasn’t admired by his peers for the dugong catches alone. Over the years he established a rapport with the Chief Protector of the time, John Bleakley. When a voice was needed to settle a dispute with officialdom, it was Sam who did the negotiating, communicating either by letter or in person.
His mother, Sydney Rollands, Kindara her childhood name, one of the Amity Point Elders mentioned by the Historian, Thomas Welsby, as his dear friends, received an education on the mainland. Her son would feature in many jousts with the Government Teaching Board, as the Myora community battled a succession of closures, neglect and petty wrangling.
The Chief Protector who became his friend, John Bleakley, valued and respected Sam to such an extent he waived repayments to the Department for his house. And when, at the age of 80, the old gentleman was informed by a local official that he would need a permit to continue dugong fishing, Sam took his complaint to the Chief Protector.
The local official was immediately over ruled.
Grandfather Sammy Rollands continued living at Myora, tending his garden and fishing the Bay for dugong until his death in 1936 at the age of 85. His wife Granny Miboo, the former Margaret Thompson predeceased him in 1932.
Robyn Mortimer ©2011