How good was he?


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WCB Wilson was one of Queensland’s early pioneering surveyors. While we have heard of Dixon, Staplyton and Warner, few of us know the exploits of Wilson. In this sesquicentenary of Queensland as a state, I thought it appropriate to add some character to a name that we may only see on a plan. I also explore the accuracy of one of his surveys in terms of ‘following in his footsteps’ when reinstating boundaries created by Wilson almost 150 years ago.

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How good was he?

  1. 1. How Good Was He? By Paul McClelland AbstractWCB Wilson was one of Queensland’s early pioneering surveyors. While we haveheard of Dixon, Staplyton and Warner, few of us know the exploits of Wilson.In this sesquicentenary of Queensland as a state, I thought it appropriate to add somecharacter to a name that we may only see on a plan. I also explore the accuracy ofone of his surveys in terms of ‘following in his footsteps’ when reinstating boundariescreated by Wilson almost 150 years ago.IntroductionIn January 2009, one of my surveyors sought my advice on the plan presentation of asurvey he was examining. During the course of our discussion, plans S3122 (1864)and RP77632 (1952) came to light. The latter plan was a subdivision of Portion 270created 88 years earlier on S3122. RP77632 showed an original reference tree at eachcorner of the portion. I thought this would provide an excellent example of thecomparison between early survey techniques and technology and more modernmeasurement and survey equipment. During the course of my research into the plans,I happened to ask Bill Kitson, former curator of the Lands, Mapping and SurveyingMuseum what he knew of the original surveyor, WCB Wilson. Bill’s response piquedmy interest in Surveyor Wilson. Bill said he won the Blue Cross in a war in theMediterranean before he came to Australia.I thought here was an opportunity to put some history behind a name on a plan to gainan appreciation of one of our pioneering surveyors. Through my research, I havegained a respect for Surveyor Wilson and his accomplishments over a working lifethat spanned 62 years across two continents. The following is a short history on thelife of Surveyor William Charles Borlase Wilson. I complete the history with acomparison of his survey shown on plan S3122 carried out in 1864 with later surveys.Army LifeBorn on Boxing Day 1807 at Newcastle in England, William Charles BorlaseWilson (Charles) was the eldest of seven children of John and Elizabeth Wilson. JohnWilson, born in Kent in 1788 was a Captain of the 60th Rifles and also of the 2ndRegiment (or Queen’s Royals). He had served on the expedition to Walcheren,Netherlands in 1809, the Peninsular Campaign in 1811-1814 in Portugal and later inCanada where he lost his life in 1820. Charles’s father had died at Quebec, Canadapossibly during the war against the French. John Wilson was a surveyor in the armyhence his son’s interest in studying surveying and cartography while at Sandhurst.Charles’s grandfather, James Wilson was a Lieutenant in the 1st Veteran Battalion.Thus, Charles was born into a military family and it was only natural that hegravitated to the army life.In 1822, at the age of 14 years and 8 months, Charles entered the Royal MilitaryAcademy at Sandhurst. His height was listed as 4 feet 11.25 inches (1.505 metres) andhis father’s occupation was listed as late Captain, 60th Regiment of Foot. Page 1 of 20
  2. 2. Charles received a commission in the 51st Foot on December 21 1826, just before his19th birthday at the recommendation of the College Commander. He eventually leftthe college in December 1827 at age 20 to join his regiment. He was an Ensign withthe 51st from 1827 to 1835, serving with them in Corfu in the Mediterranean duringthe Greek War of Independence.The Greek War of Independence which began in 1821 ended with the formalrecognition by the Ottoman Sultan of the independence of Greece in the Treaty ofAdrianople in 1829. Albanians gave significant support to the Greek struggle.Intervention by the Great Powers in the form of Great Britain, France, and Russia wasalso important to Greek success. The London Convention of May 7, 1832, confirmedan independent Kingdom of Greece (under the protection of Great Britain, France,and Russia) and delimited its boundaries to include the entire PeloponnesusPeninsular and a northern boundary extending from the Gulf of Volos on the AegeanSea westward to the Gulf of Ambracia.The Greeks honoured Charles Wilson in 1833 at Arta after the retreat of the Turk,Tafil Bougis. Charles was presented with a citation by the citizens of Arta full ofpraise and rhetoric mentioning his traits of courage and generosity in saving residentsof the town during a siege.In 1836, King Othon awarded him the Royal Order of the Croix de Chevalier for hisaction in 1833 at Arta. Figure 1 Royal Order of the Croix de ChevalierCharles served under Colonel George Baker on the international commission fordelimitation of the boundaries of Greece. He was fluent in Greek and had become anexcellent draftsman and surveyor. A series of letters exist written by Charles in thewinter of 1834 to his commanding officer, Colonel Baker. The letters were writtenfrom Carpenisi and Argos where he established his billets. The letters tell a story ofthe harshness of the conditions under which he worked as well as the ill health of bothhimself and a fellow officer, Captain Dunn. They indicate the difficulty of workingwith a multi-national team with officers from both France and Russia mentioned. The Page 2 of 20
  3. 3. letters also show he was not self sufficient with repeated requests for funds to pay fortheir billets and living expenses. He also sought support from Colonel Baker forreimbursement of his expenses on his return to his regiment in England.In 1836 he purchased a Lieutenancy in the 69th Foot but moved to the 73rd Foot (TheBlack Watch) in 1837, serving with them in Gibraltar, Malta and the Ionian Islandsuntil April 1839 when he was de-commissioned from the Army. Charles was 32 whenhe retired from the Army.Grafton1839 was an eventful year for Charles. In the same year he married his cousin,Elizabeth Hall and soon after departed for the colony of New South Wales. Shortlyafter their arrival, he became a father for the first time with the birth of his daughterElaine at Parramatta. Figure 2 William Charles Borlase Wilson Figure 3 Elizabeth WilsonCharles and Elizabeth arrived in Sydney on board the “Lady Raffles”. The newlywedswere accompanied by Charles’s mother and brothers Christopher and George andtheir families. His other brothers John, Francis and James were already in Australasia.Charles and Christopher, both surveyors in the Army had resigned their commissionsto take up surveying positions in New South Wales. Charles was referred to sociallyas the ‘late Lieutenant of Her Majesty’s 73rd Regiment’. When they arrived in NewSouth Wales, the Surveyor General, Major Thomas Livingstone Mitchell was on Page 3 of 20
  4. 4. leave in England receiving his knighthood and his deputy, SA Perry would not takethe brothers on as staff surveyors, instead employing them as contract surveyors.In October 1839, Charles was employed by contract to make a survey in full detail ofthe Clarence River, and accordingly left Sydney in a cutter bound for the ‘Big’ River.Charles reported:“On board the cutter were 10 persons, including 6 prisoners. The latter were sodestitute of clothing when they were delivered to me that I was detained in quarantineharbour until Sunday morning, the 29th ultimo, in fitting them out with completeequipment.When off Reid’s Mistake, near Newcastle, a severe storm occurred, and the cutter wastaken to Moon Island for refuge, and there she was washed ashore by fearful sea. Ihave great pleasure in being able to report that the conduct of the assigned prisonershas been worthy of encouragement. Through all our trials they worked for both dayand night up to their waists in water, and that, too, without any hopes of reward orremuneration being held out to them, and I have ventured to write a separate letter toHis Excellency on their behalf”.Apparently, it was not until June 1840 that Charles and his party arrived in what isnow Grafton on the Clarence River. The contract the Wilson brothers accepted wasthe plotting of natural features of the south side of the river, dividing the country intoParishes and marking out sections of square miles for settlement. A third contractsurveyor was also engaged on the survey. Surveyor Major Edward Lewis Burrowesworked on the contract until he was laid off with the Wilson brothers. By 1857,Burrowes had moved to Brisbane where he was a district surveyor in the SurveyOffice. He applied for the newly created Surveyor General position when Queenslandbecame a state but the position was awarded to AC Gregory.On despatching his plans to Sydney with his account for payment, Charles received ahand written requisition from Major Mitchell which extended to three written pages. Figure 4 Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell Page 4 of 20
  5. 5. Mitchell had returned from his leave to a New South Wales that had enjoyed buoyantyears in 1839-1840 during his absence. The tide had turned prior to his return inFebruary 1841 and the colony was sliding into depression. Mitchell had personallysuffered criticism from Governor Gipps for his extended absence from the colony.Gipps’s successor, Fitzroy wrote to the Secretary of State: “…it is notorious that SirThomas Mitchell’s unfortunate impracticability of temper and spirit of opposition ofthose in authority over him misled him into frequent collision with my predecessors.”Part of the blame for these clashes with Governors and other senior officials lay withseveral traits of Mitchell’s character, his arrogance, his independent spirit, his activesense of wrong and his volcanic temper. It was in this environment that Mitchell despatched his requisition to Charles in July1841. From the tone of some of the comments in the letter, perhaps there was alsosome jealousy on Sir Thomas Mitchell’s part with having a decorated hero in hisemploy as a contract surveyor.In the requisition, Mitchell criticised Charles’s choice of parish boundaries, his namesfor the parishes, the accuracy of his descriptions and the affront of asking for paymenton receipt of the instruction.Mitchell’s requisition includes:“I am sorry to have to notice various instances they present of carelessness in thedetails, and to say which I do with regret that I am not at all satisfied with them.… Your descriptions are also erroneous, some in different respects. Those of (Parishof) Foothill are bound up with the numbers reversed. This evidence of carelessnesscannot easily be tolerated in a work performed by contract which should be submittedwith such uniformity and precision, as a fixed price entitles the parties to expect, aprice sufficient, one would suppose to spare me any further trouble, anxiety orresponsibility about it. I beg you will understand that it is my intention to employ onlysuch contract Surveyors as I can depend upon in every particular connected withtheir business, and that as the detection of even a single error throws doubt on theaccuracy of the whole work, such palpable carelessness and blundering throughoutthe whole work shakes my confidence in the whole of these productions.… I also object altogether to the names you have given to the Parishes: all words onGreek derivation are decidedly objectionable for very obvious reasons: we want nofanciful or far fetched names, and I desire that they may be introduced no more. If youcannot find easy sounding names or others of descriptive or obvious character, youwill be pleased to leave a blank for the names, that they may be filled up here, andyou can be informed, so that you may be enabled to introduce them on Maps ofadjoining lands, and to refer to them in correspondence.… In conclusion I would observe with respect to the urgent application made to theOffice by your agents for the payment of your accounts, that an attention to yourwishes in this particular would have been best insured by the most fastidious attentionto accuracy, and that it is not to be tolerated that a large mass of work should be Page 5 of 20
  6. 6. submitted to me in an imperfect state, and payment for it immediately demanded, as ifthe very labour of investigation were likely to insure payment without further enquiry.Your accounts are returned for any adjustment they may require in consequence ofthe required alterations.”At the end of 1841, the Government put off the contract surveyors including theWilsons, having just imported eight staff surveyors. Two of these surveyors wereappointed to the Clarence River. They initially sat idle for over five months with sixconvicts as their assistants. “They were given no proper equipment but one of theirexcuses for inaction was that they were afraid of the blacks.” Charles, however, was anoted linguist and always maintained good relations with the Aborigines.Charles eventually finished his survey to the satisfaction of the Surveyor General.However, it is reported in Hansard of the New South Wales Legislative Council inDecember 1843 that the member Mr Windeyer presented a petition ‘…from WCBWilson, praying an adequate remuneration for the loss he will sustain by the abolitionof his contract with the Government, for the survey of the south bank of the ClarenceRiver’.It is assumed that Charles and his brother continued to gain employment as surveyorsin the Grafton district, however, whether they received additional governmentcontracts is the subject of speculation.Suffice to say that in the early 1850s, Charles became the Clerk of Petty Sessions inGrafton, being the first to occupy this position. He continued in the position until1857.During his time in Grafton, Charles and his wife had a further 10 children, theyoungest born in 1863 when Charles was aged 56, just prior to his family’s departurefor the young colony of Queensland.QueenslandFrom the moment Queensland became a state in its own right, Charles was keen tomove his family to the new colony. In 1860, he first applied to the Surveyor Generalof the new colony of Queensland, Augustus Charles Gregory, for a position with theSurvey Office. “Grafton August 7th 1860.SirBeing desirous of eventually settling with my very large family in the new Colony ofQueensland (where I feel assured that a wider and more desirable career lies open tothem than in New South Wales) I do myself the honor of soliciting from youemployment in your department either as Draughtsman – Surveyor in the field, or inany other official capacity that might be required of me.Without troubling you with the perusal of Certificates of my previous services andqualifications I beg leave to refer to Mr Deputy Surveyor General Burrowes on that Page 6 of 20
  7. 7. head, who will I feel assured from his very long and intimate knowledge of me, beable to satisfy you respecting the same. Trusting to your favourable consideration of this application I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient servant, W.C.B.Wilson.”The Surveyor General responded on 23 August 1860:“Mr Wilson to be informed that although there is not at present any vacancy in whichhis services are required, it is probable that there will be employment for LicensedSurveyors at the usual scale of fees. A.C.G.”Charles Wilson again wrote to the Surveyor General on October 29 1860.“SirHaving reference to the latter part of your letter of the 31st of August last, I have thehonor to request that (as the Land Bill has now passed) you would be so good as toinform me, whether there is any immediate prospect of my obtaining employment inyour department as Licensed Surveyor or otherwise, I have the honor to be, Sir Your most obedient servant W.C.B.Wilson, Licensed Surveyor.”Once again the response from the Surveyor General was in the negative.However, in 1862 Charles accepted a contract to survey the original location of theTown of Marlborough in central Queensland. His survey is depicted on plan M211.Due to later flooding, the town was moved to its present position and the locationsurveyed by Wilson became a holding.In October 1863, having moved his family to Brisbane, Charles again wrote to theSurveyor General from Leichhardt Street, Spring Hill seeking a license to performsurveys under the new Real Property Act 1861. He signed off this letter asGovernment Licensed Surveyor, New South Wales. The Queensland license wasgranted on 19 October 1863.BrisbaneIn early1864, Charles made a number of surveys in and around Brisbane. He surveyed69 portions at Doolandella depicted on plans S315 (dated 27/02/1864) and S3122(dated 1/06/1864) and a further 11 portions along the Brisbane River at SeventeenMile Rocks shown on S3126 (dated 08/07/1864). I will explore the survey on S3122 alittle later.Somerset Page 7 of 20
  8. 8. In 1863, the Governor of Queensland, Sir George Bowen proposed a settlement in thefar north of the new colony to serve as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors, a supplydepot and coaling station to service the major shipping route through Torres Strait. Asite was selected on the mainland in the lee of Albany Island and John Jardine, thenpolice magistrate and gold commissioner in Rockhampton was appointed GovernmentResident and established Somerset.In April 1864, Charles Wilson accepted a contract from the Surveyor General, ACGregory to survey the Town of Somerset on Cape York Peninsula. The letter ofinstruction indicated his remuneration would be one pound ten shillings per diem witha further six shillings and six pence per diem for a chainman and five shillings and sixpence per diem for a labourer. To be extracted from this pay was the cost of anyrations purchased from the government store. He was despatched to Port Albany onthe HMS Salamander accompanied by John Jardine, the Police Magistrate to establishthe Town of Somerset. With respect to issues outside his brief from the SurveyorGeneral, Charles was to defer to Jardine. He was instructed to survey the streets notless than two chains wide and the town allotments to be one rood, having frontage ofone chain to the streets. He was also instructed to carry out a feature survey of thecountry adjacent to the settlement “as far as the means in your power may admit”. Hewas instructed to survey suburban allotments of five to ten acres beyond the distanceof one mile from the town centre should suitable spots be found.In his first report dated 6 September 1864 he advised that he arrived in Somerset on2nd August but was unable to commence operations until August 8. He advises he hasprimarily been engaged in making a detailed survey of the town site in order to runthe lines of the streets “to the best advantage”. He goes on to detail his “chief objectin the design viz. to make the leading streets on the high land at Point Somerset – andFly Point in direct and easy communication with the heart of the township”. Hedescribes the soils, topography and vegetation of the town site and surroundingcountry but has nothing positive to say about the surrounding countryside. Figure 5 Somerset, Cape York circa 1872 Page 8 of 20
  9. 9. By letter dated 2nd December 1864 he furnished his second report on the progress ofthe survey. In the report Charles mentions difficulties with the Aborigines and anattack on his camp on September 13 when two marines were speared. He outlines onanother occasion when two of Mr Jardine’s horses were speared and his were stolen.He subsequently recovered his horses a fortnight later. Charles indicates the climate is“salubrious – the heat is not oppressive and the weather surprisingly equable, thethermometer being 84o by day, and 84o at night”.There is a handwritten note in the margin of the report by Governor Bowen whereinhe states, “I have read this letter with great interest. I think Mr Wilson should beapprised of the confidence and support of the government and of its entire approval ofhis conduct under many difficulties – June 9 1865.”In April 1865 Charles provided an excellent 15 page handwritten report entitled“Descriptive Memo respecting the township of Somerset and the Adjacent Country”.This is a well written and thorough professional document providing comment on thesite, its geography and its climate. The headings in the margins include:  Selection of the site of the Town of Somerset  Evans Bay  Muddy Bay and Storm Bay  Somerset Bay  Tides and Currents  Irregularities of the Tides and currents  Rise of Tides  Somerset Bay Boundaries  Somerset Bay  Landing Place  Geological Formation  Metals and Minerals  Building Sites  Timber  Resins  Woods Dyeing  Trees Common to Queensland  Wild Fruit Trees  Wild Grape  Absence of Trees Common to the rest of Australia  Agricultural Capabilities  Garden Experiments  Failure of Marines Garden  Failure of Mr Jardine’s Garden  Soil of Township  Soil Generally of the District  Pastoral Capabilities  Unfavourable for the Depasturage of Stock  Climate Page 9 of 20
  10. 10.  Absence of Fevers and other Diseases  Temperature  Fisheries  Trepang Turtle  Aborigines  AnimalsAs well as laying out the Town of Somerset, Charles also explored and mapped thelocal area venturing 22 miles to the south. His survey is depicted on plan S1121, dated14 March 1865. The plan is described as a survey of sections in the town and “alsoshowing features of town and environs to the Polo Rivulet”. Unfortunately, the landsurrounding the settlement was inhospitable and the settlement failed in 1877.However, Jardine’s son Frank who with his brother Alick had driven a herd of cattlefrom Rockhampton to Somerset arriving in 1865 lived on in the district. He initiallyreplaced his father as Government Resident and later established a cattle station.Accompanying the Jardine brothers on their expedition was surveyor AJ Richardson.The expedition is shown on plan G524 on a number of sheets. The sectionapproaching Somerset shows many of the features surveyed by Wilson.MaryboroughIn late 1865 Wilson commenced a survey of the Mary River and its tributaries frommouth to source. The plans of the survey indicate he spent the best part of two yearscarrying out this survey. The surveys are depicted on off-format size plans numbered:  WB3914 14/02/1866  WB3926 31/05/1866  WB3940 05/08/1866  WB3945 08/10/1866  WB3955 15/06/1867  WB3954 20/07/1867  WB3960 20/08/1867Because of their size, these plans are not available in the Department of Environmentand Resource Management’s image system. However, colour images are available onrequest. I consider these plans are brilliantly drafted when one considers they weremost likely hand drawn by Charles Wilson personally. They not only show the riverbut also the surrounding topography and existing access tracks. By the time hecompleted this survey, Charles was approaching his 60th birthday.During 1868, he undertook a couple of surveys of portions in the Brisbane Rivervalley up near Esk. Then, in 1869 he moved his family to Mackay where heestablished a local survey practice.MackayFrom 1868 until 1884, Charles continued to undertake contract surveys for the SurveyOffice in and around Mackay. In August 1869, he purchased 340 acres on the PioneerRiver at Woodford (now Pleystowe) for 160 pounds, 9 shillings and 5 pence per acre.He had surveyed Portion 16, Parish of Greenmount in the same year that he purchased Page 10 of 20
  11. 11. it. The survey is shown on plan K12464. He owned the land until 1882 when he sold.However, he continued to hold a mortgage over the land.His eldest daughter, Elaine, purchased the adjacent lot to the east, Selection 69(Portion 15) consisting of 88.75 acres at the same time. However, she only paid 14pounds 15 shillings, 3 shillings and 4 pence per acre. One wonders at the pricedifferential between Elaine’s and her father’s properties. She later sold the land in1878.During his time in Mackay he undertook 270 surveys as he aged from 61 to 77. Theplan of his final survey was dated 02/12/1884, just before his 77th birthday.In January 1874, Charles wrote to the Surveyor General seeking work on theEndeavour and Palmer Rivers in north Queensland at the height of the gold rush. Inhis letter he states: “One of the greatest drawbacks the surveyor will have to contendwith will be even when paying exorbitant wages, the desertion of his men and thedifficulty of replacing them at any price.I should however for the most part be exempt from this difficulty as I could beaccompanied by two or three of my sons – young men of great experience who haveworked with me in the bush from infancy”. The response from the Surveyor General was; “Inform that a salaried surveyorhaving been already dispatched to Cooktown there is no present requirement for MrWilson’s services in that district but should the surveys increase so as to requireanother surveyor, this letter will be taken into consideration”.In September 1881 Charles again wrote to the Surveyor General along the followinglines:“SirI have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your memo declining to give me anyfurther employment as a Licensed Surveyor.In your previous letter of September 23 last you were however pleased to state asfollows;“In reference to withdrawal from you of instructions for surveys in the MackayDistrict pending the examination of your work in the field – having received thereports of Mr Staff Surveyor O’Connell I approve of your being reinstated as aLicensed Surveyor of the Department. I have the honor to be, Sir Your obedient servant W Alcock Tully Surveyor General”Upon receipt of this letter I reasonably supposed that being reinstated I was placed inmy original position as surveyor; and that a similar notification addressed to theCommissioner would have enabled him to have given me some share of the surveysrequired in the District - but in your last memo before alluded to you state;“It is no imputation or slur on your ability professionally, but it is not to be supposedthat a man of your age should or could undertake the onerous work of a FieldSurveyor” – Page 11 of 20
  12. 12. My services have certainly been long and arduous, extending over very many years –during which time much danger and hardship had to be encountered – It is true that Iam consequently advanced in years, but as I am notwithstanding quite as capable oftaking the Field as many younger men, I cannot but hope that you will not uponserious reconsideration deprive me of the means of obtaining my livelihood.I have the honor etcWCBW”Surveyor General Tully responded on 16 December 1881 with: “I adhere to my previous decision – I was led to replace Mr Wilson’s name in the listof surveyors on his representations that he did not require work – and I was desirousof placing an old officer in a position which would free him from any reflection on hisprofessional reputation – I have done what I promised to do and Mr Wilson cannotexpect me to do any more.”It would appear that Surveyor Wilson had reached the status of Emeritus Surveyor, atleast in the Surveyor General’s opinion.He only completed a further four surveys after this letter.While in Mackay, Wilson continued to name places after Greek names. One examplewas Kalamia Creek near Ayr, Kalamia being a Greek word meaning place of reeds.He named the creek in 1877. It was from this name that Kalamia Mill and laterKalamia State School got their names. Charles is mentioned in the historical sectionof the Kalamia State School’s web site.Charles Wilson died four months after his final survey on 6 March 1885 at age 78 andis buried in Waverly Cemetery in Sydney. His wife, Elizabeth passed away inBrisbane on March 9 1902 and is buried beside her husband.S3122Plan S3122 is an early example of Charles’ work in Queensland. The survey wasdated 1 June 1864. It is a survey of portions 260-293 in the Parish of Oxley, themajority of the portions are to the east of Blunder Road, Doolandella, cross BlunderCreek to Oxley Creek further east. The plan, drawn by Charles is a cartographicmasterpiece notwithstanding it has suffered through the tyranny of time and regularuse. The plan is like a colour lithograph showing drainage patterns and vegetation aswell as the surveyed portion boundaries and reference trees.The survey was conducted in early 1864. At the time the directions to surveyorsrequired brands on trees and pegs to be in Roman numerals. The Corner Referencetable on the plan shows some significant branding of portion numbers on thereference trees e.g. CCLXX, CCLXXI.Staff surveyors at the time were issued with both theodolite and circumferenterhowever it is considered contract surveyors may only have had access tocircumferenter for their surveys. The circumferenter was a magnetic compass with analidade. Its accuracy was subject to daily, annual and lunar variations in the earths Page 12 of 20
  13. 13. magnetic field, solar magnetic storms, local attractions and static electricity in thecompass glass.Measurements were effected with the Gunter’s chain. These were chains made ofmetal of one hundred individual links, the total being 66 feet long. With constant use,there was significant wear and tear which caused the tape to stretch. An error of onelink (7.92 inches) in 3 to 5 chains was considered normal. Figure 7 Gunter’s Chain Figure 6 CircumferenterSurvey procedures were often less than precise. If a tree blocked a line of sight, asurveyor might sight to the trunk, walk around it and approximate the continuing line.Topography also played a role in the accuracy of surveys. Measurements made alongflat terrain were more accurate than those over slopes.This was the technology and practices with which Charles conducted his surveyshown on plan S3122. The topography was variable ranging from creek flats tosteeper slopes on the ridges dividing the watersheds.In his report to the Surveyor General, Wilson describes his survey as “34 farms – onand near Oxley and Blunder Creeks”. He describes the soils, vegetation andtopography of the land covered by the survey. He indicates he “connected my work toprevious surveys by tie lines viz Portion 260 with 50 and 52. Number 264 with 280 –Number 276 with Number 13 of the Parish of Yeerongpilly and 293 with 101 of thesame Parish.I found the survey of Number 51 incomplete and incorrect – The southern boundaryhaving been extended to 20 chains instead of being 17 thus making that Portion 20instead of 17 acres and the eastern boundary not marked – I have however put apicket and marked a corner tree at the 17 chains as there is a corresponding tree atthat distance on the northern boundary.” Page 13 of 20
  14. 14. In 1952, 88 years after Wilson completed his survey, Arnot Jorgensen subdividedPortion 270 as shown on RP77632. At each external corner of the portion, he foundan original reference tree from Wilson’s survey. This allows us to compare the surveyof Wilson from 1864 with a survey with relatively modern technology – theodoliteand five chain steel band. Jorgensen’s survey adopts the Blunder Road boundary ashis datum for meridian. The following table shows the differences between the twosurveys. Boundary S3122 RP77632 Difference o o 1 Western 0 1600 0 1607.75 +7.75 2 Northern 90o 2500 90o06’30” 2514.6 +6’30” +14.6 3 Eastern 180o 1600 180o04’15” 1610.5 +4’30” +10.25 4 Southern 270o 2500 270o09’55” 2512.6 +9’55” +12.6This represents chainage differences of 1 link in 200 on the western boundary, 1 linkin 170 on the north boundary, 1 link in 150 on the east boundary and 1 link in 200 onthe south boundary.More recently in 1990, RP805124 measures the street frontage of Portion 271 to anoriginal reference tree at Blunder Creek. This survey probably used total stationtechnology. The difference recorded is +15.59 links in 3110 or 1 link in 200.As a general statement, one could argue that later surveys are measuring 1 link in 2chains greater that Wilson however this is not consistent. So the value ofproportioning to determine intermediate corners is diminished because thepresumption of a consistent scale factor difference may not apply in this case. Allreinstatement evidence needs to be considered before proportioning is adopted as ameans of reinstating intermediate corners between two fixed corners.Also of note are the meridian differences up to 10 minutes. Note the individual anglesare different by 6’ 30”, 2’ 15”, 5’ 40” and 9’ 55”. This would be consistent withoriginal bearing and angle observations by circumferenter.On later surveys around Mackay, similar differences were noted over Charles’smeasurements. This by no means diminishes the quality of the surveys by Charleswhen you consider the technology, vegetation, topography and methods under whichhis surveys were carried out.Charles drew his own survey plans and his field notes were written in ink. They tooare classic examples of survey records.In late November 2009, with two of my surveyors, we drove out to the Blunder in ourair conditioned vehicle with our hand held GPS to pay homage to Wilson at the gumtree down on Blunder Creek in Portion 271 that he referenced in 1864, 145 years ago.It was unfortunate that we had to get out of the vehicle and walk the last 500 metres inthe 35 degree heat. On previous surveys it is described as ORT Dead. That is an aptdescription for all that remains of the tree. But it is still a reminder of those pioneering Page 14 of 20
  15. 15. surveyors who went before us and of the real hardships they faced apart from thetechnical difficulty of surveying in the 1800s.Figure 8 Wilson’s Tree, Station f, S3122 Page 15 of 20
  16. 16. ConclusionIt can be seen from this potted history of the life of William Charles Borlase Wilsonthat he lived a full and robust life. He worked in the surveying profession from theage of 15 until he retired at age 78, a professional career that spanned 63 years acrosstwo continents.He was a true pioneering surveyor of both New South Wales and Queensland havingarrived in New South Wales in 1839 and in Queensland in 1862. During his career hedealt with a number of Surveyors General in both New South Wales and Queensland.His contemporaries were Sir Thomas Mitchell, Sir Augustus Charles Gregory, MajorBurrowes and William Alcock Tully. His career in Queensland covers the length ofthe state, an achievement not many of his current peers could claim as well.He was a great family man having sired ten children. However, he was also aware ofhis obligations with respect to his extended family having arrived in Australia with hismother and younger brother, his older brothers already being in residence.From his early training in surveying, he became a noted cartographer as well as fieldsurveyor. He was a good linguist, fluent in Greek and able to communicate with manyAborigines. He named many places during his career, drawing his inspiration from hisexperiences in the army. Many place names are associated with his commandingofficers or after Greek places, a habit which infuriated Major Sir Thomas Mitchell.When you look at the results of his survey shown on S3122 compared with latersurveys, you may think that the quality of his work was not acceptable but when youtake into account the conditions under which he worked, the equipment andinstruments he had at his disposal, the topography and vegetation he had to workthrough, it is my opinion he did an exceptional job.In a recent article in the BGGS News from the Dean of School he says, “If we canlive with openness to the processes of our past, then we can also live with greateropenness to the opportunities and richness of our present and to the limitlesspossibilities of our future.” This particularly applies to cadastral surveying in that ifwe do not understand and remember the past practices of surveyors and thelimitations and hardships they worked under, then we have limited our scope to trulyfollow in their footsteps.During my surveying career, I have found that you develop a respect for ourpioneering surveyors in working over their surveys and gaining a first handappreciation of the conditions in which they worked without all the luxuries andbenefits that we currently have at our disposal.So Charles Wilson, how good was he? In my humble opinion, bloody good!AcknowledgementsI would like to acknowledge Kaye Nardella, curator of the Museum of Lands,Mapping and Survey for making the museum’s files available to me for research for Page 16 of 20
  17. 17. this project. I would also like to acknowledge Bill Kitson, the former curator whopiqued my interest in Charles Wilson which led to my own research of his history.I would also like to thank my fellow surveyors, Clinton Elvery and Hugh Smith fortheir assistance and enthusiasm for the project.Paul McClellandCadastral SurveyorNovember 2009 Page 17 of 20
  18. 18. ReferencesBedwell, EP, (1872) Watercolour, Somerset, Cape York, Queensland, NationalLibrary of Australia. Retrieved November 24 2009 Library, University of Oxford (2002), Catalogue of the papers of ColonelGeorge and Mrs. Caroline Julia Baker, 1809-57. Retrieved 27 April 2009, Frederick J, (1868) Narrative of the Overland Expedition by F and AJardine, 1867. Retrieved November 12 2009 Chains (1986), Article taken from "Backsights" Magazine published bySurveyors Historical Society. Retrieved November 17 2009, A, (2009), Remembrance of Things Past, BGGS News 13/11/2009, Volume 28Issue 34Foster, William C, (1985) Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell and His World 1792-1855, ISA NSW 1985The History of Kalamia State School (2006), Retrieved April 23 2009 and Proceedings of the NSW Legislative Council 1843. Retrieved 27 April 2009 Campaign, Retrieved November 22 2009, W (1995) My European Ancestors, Australian Pioneers, Unpublished FamilyHistory, Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, BrisbaneWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Carpenisi Greece, 27 October 1834,Bodleian LibraryDoctor Lehley Medical Report on WCB Wilson and Captain Dunne to ColonelGeorge Baker Kallidromi Greece, 3 November 1834, Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Argos Greece, 1 December 1834,Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Argos Greece, 4 December 1834,Bodleian Library Page 18 of 20
  19. 19. WCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Argos Greece, 14 December 1834,Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Argos Greece, 18 December 1834,Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Argos Greece, 22 December 1834,Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Napoli de Romania Greece, 25December 1834, Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Napoli de Romania Greece, 29December 1834, Bodleian LibraryWCB Wilson Letter to Colonel George Baker Nauslia Greece, 2 February 1836,Bodleian LibraryColonel George Baker Letter to WCB Wilson Nauslia Greece, 3 February 1836,Bodleian LibraryNSW Surveyor-General to WCB Wilson 15 July 1841 Survey Requisition, Museum ofLands, Mapping and Surveying, BrisbaneWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 7 August 1860 Correspondence seekingemployment, Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, BrisbaneQld Surveyor-General to WCB Wilson 23 August 1860 Correspondence refusingemployment, Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, BrisbaneWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 29 October 1860 Correspondence seekingemployment, Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, BrisbaneWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 19 October 1863 Correspondence seekinglicence to practice under the Real Property Act, Qld State ArchiveWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 1 June 1864 Survey Report of 34 farms on andnear Oxley and Blunder Creeks, Qld State ArchiveQld Surveyor-General to WCB Wilson 28 April 1864 Survey Instruction Town ofSomerset, Qld State ArchiveWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 6 September 1864 Interim Survey Report No 1Town of Somerset, Museum of Lands, Mapping and SurveyingWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 2 December 1864 Interim Survey Report No2Town of Somerset, Museum of Lands, Mapping and SurveyingWCB Wilson Descriptive Memo respecting the Township of Somerset and theAdjacent Country 18 April 1865, Qld State Archive Page 19 of 20
  20. 20. WCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 30 January 1874 Correspondence requestingsurvey work on the Endeavour and Palmer Rivers, Qld State ArchiveQld Surveyor-General to WCB Wilson 27 February 1874 Correspondence refusingsurvey contract work, Qld State ArchiveWCB Wilson to Qld Surveyor-General 6 September 1881 Correspondence requestingsurvey contract work, Qld State ArchiveQld Surveyor-General to WCB Wilson 16 December 1881 Correspondence refusingsurvey contract work, Qld State Archive Page 20 of 20