Zachariah Daniel Sparks Skyring Junior, (13th July 1859- 1957) was born at Albert Street in Brisbane and was the son of Zachariah Skyring and Amelia Louisa Sparks.
The Skyring family’s adventurous spirit was to flow from Daniel Budd Skyring, one of Brisbane’s very first settlers, to his son, Zachariah Senior, a well-known cattleman with runs between Brisbane and Maryborough. Zachariah Senior also had a reputation as friend and protector of the aborigines and was fluent in the dialects of the tribes in the Brisbane area.
Zachariah Junior was one of Gympie’s most colourful early pioneers. Gordon Benjamin, reporter from the Brisbane Telegraph (15th of February 1955) describes him as “cutting an imposing figure, at age 96 years, he stood six foot one and a half inches tall, he was articulate and was blessed with a merry sense of humour”. He first arrived in Gympie aged 10 years, accompanied by his mother and three sisters in a two horse dray to join his father on his gold claim at White’s Gully.
The family initially lived in a slab hut built by Zachariah Senior at Mount Pleasant until moving to land selected at Green’s Swamp in the Munbeanna District, so named after the chief of the aboriginal tribe “Mumbe” who had a reputation for being averse to white settlers. Zachariah Junior recalled that when he and his father went out to build a humpy on the selection there were 150 to 200 aboriginals camped there who he saw as being “quite friendly but somewhat shy”. The district was plentiful in animal, bird and fish life and in Bunya trees.
Zachariah Senior chose the time of the Bunya season when aboriginals from miles around gathered for a great corroboree to make friends with them. When Mumbe got ready to spear him, it was one of the chiefs from the tribes nearer Brisbane, where Zachariah senior was already known as a friend, who intervened.
Mumbe was to show his friendship by making Zachariah Senior a blood brother and from that moment on Zachariah Junior was regarded as his tribal son and a deep and lasting affection and respect grew between them. Young Zac was accepted into the tribe, being named “Bunda” and became very fluent in the Wide Bay Dialects. The tribe rarely moved out to hunt without taking young Zac with them and would in fact do his chores so that he was able to hunt with them. The tribe was very protective of young Zac and him of them – when unknown white men approached, Zac would inform them that the aboriginals worked for his father and then they would be left alone.
Zachariah Junior lived uniquely between two cultures. He went on hunting expeditions and walkabouts with the tribe, naked except for a belt and tomahawk. The hunt – a battue- was very scientific, commencing with the tribe marching in open order until the prey (kangaroo) was sighted then the signal would be given by arm actions and no sounds were made or words spoken. The line would gradually bend until the quarry was encircled in smaller and smaller circles. Once the prey was imprisoned and exhausted it was taken using a waddy or nulla nulla; the tribe then feasted. The area was rich in animal life and the hunting parties took place within a few miles of Gympie, nine miles at the most.
Stories that have been retold were of the occasion when Zachariah Senior had sent young Zac aged 13 years to Brisbane with two stockmen to collect twelve cows and a bull. The stockmen succumbed to sly grog and young Zac decided to push on over the mountains near Cooroy. When the cattle scattered, like any young boy he sat down and cried. Through his sobs he heard aboriginal voices discussing him. Speaking in their own language he told them he was “Bunda” of Mumbeanna and that he had failed in the task set by his father. Amongst aboriginals such failure meant great disgrace so they rounded up the cattle and with Zac drove them to the outskirts of Gympie.
On another occasion when Zac sustained a deep gash to his arm whilst hunting, the aboriginals made a plaster of leaves from a tree. When the plaster was removed after three weeks there was only a faint scar.
Zachariah in his own words, published an account in the Gympie Times in a weekly supplement 1938 pages 64 to 67 “Gympie in its Cradle Days”(republished 1952 he told of witnessing several corroborees. There was a great fighting and corroboree ground at Mooloo where he witnessed several pitched battle. The aborigines fought for two to three hours until one side gave way, then they fraternised and held a corroboree. There was a sense of the operatic as they recapitulated with music a particular incident, to the satisfaction of their visitors and themselves. The initiation of young men was a solemn ceremony, regarded with great superstition and rites that were handed down from the ancestors of the tribe under the tutorship of an elder.
Zachariah held the aboriginal people with high regard and respect. He described them as happy people with a ready sense of fun who laughed a lot, were bright and mentally alert and had high observational skills. He acknowledged that many of their arts and talents were superior to the white man as were their moral standards. In turn the aboriginal people taught him their art of hunting and many of their secret customs.
Understandably Zac was saddened at the inhumane treatment that was meted out to the aborigines at the hands of the white man.
In 1882 Zachariah Daniel Sparks Skyring married Annie Murphy a sister to Catherine who was married to James Nash, discoverer of gold in Gympie. Zachariah from 1887 to 1889 managed Manumbah Station for his uncle Alonzo Sparks. By 1895 he had built a homestead at Pie Creek, not far from his old Mumbeanna home where he continued to engage in timber getting for over 37 years, having both a horse team and a bullock team on the road. He ran cattle and grew crops on the river flats of Pie Creek, mainly for fodder. He also grew bananas on a property he had at Mooloo.
Zachariah was well known in association with the Banana Industry which he entered in 1912, serving as president of the district council of the Queensland Committee of Fruit Marketing from 1924 until 1926. The first Gympie Fruit Growers association was formed in 1916 and Zachariah Jnr was on the Administration committee. He was on the first Banana Section Group Committee in 1923 and was elected to the C.O.D. Executive in 1925.
He was a member of the Widgee Shire Council from 1902-1904 and 1907-1918. He was elected chairman in 1911-1912 and 1916-1917.
During the early 1930’s more land was opened up at Tin Can Bay, with blocks ranging from ½ an acre to 7 acres. The largest block was bought by Zac and later divided into the Skyring estate. Zachariah Junior retired at Tin Can Bay and lived there until he died a month before his 98th birthday on the 4th June 1957.His granddaughter Clarice Tuck acknowledges he was a very articulate and interesting speaker, remaining respectful of the aboriginal culture and their secret customs and would never reveal them despite many entreaties from southern journalists.
Brisbane Telegraph Tues Feb 15th 1955.
Z.D.S.Skyring “ Gympie Jubilee” Hunting with the Wide Bay Blacks” Article No 11- Mr Zachariah Skyring supplement to “ Gympie Times” 16th October 1917.
F.Skyring 21st June 1994 “ Information on the Skyring Family”
Gympie Times- Friday 20th May 1994 “ The Great Weekender” An extraordinary pioneer –by Clarice Tuck.