State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 38 Spring 1986

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Why I Became Interested In Natural History

Henry Greensill Barnard, whose story follows, died in Brisbane on 7 October 1966, aged 97 years. He was a humble man, and there are many gaps in this modest narrative which was written at the request of Alec H. Chisholm.
His contributions to natural history as a collector were considerable, and his published observations, listed in H. M. Whittell's The Literature of Australian Birds, provide information to support his work and record his observations.
As a young man, in 1899, he was a member of a small party led by Archibald Meston, who were the first to collect an adult male specimen of the lovely Golden Bowerbird Priondura newtoniana, on the Bellenden-Ker Range. His voice, on tape (also in the RAOU Archives), relates this memorable event.
Later, with A. S. Meek and his brother Wilfred Barnard, he collected for Lord Rothschild, of the Tring Museum, England. Exploring the islands east of New Guinea during a journey which lasted for 16 months, they were able to amass a valuable quantity of eggs, bird-skins, insects, reptiles and native implements.
His work on family properties, and later on his own, was interspersed with other expeditions, both for the Australian Museum, Sydney, and private collectors. However, as stated in his story, the majority of his trips were sponsored by the noted pastoralist and collector, H. L. White, of “Belltrees”, Scone, N.S.W. The results of these are now housed in the magnificent H. L. White Collection held by the Museum of Victoria.
Early in this century H. G. Barnard married a daughter of Dr Elworthy, of Mt Perry, and settled on his own property raising stock, but never ceasing to observe the wildlife around him.
His wife, brothers and sisters — he was one of seven children — all predeceased him, and he spent the last years of his life with his married daughters, first in Rockhampton, then finally in Brisbane. He is buried in Rockhampton.
The selfless work of our early ornithological collectors has often been recorded elsewhere — H. G. Barnard ranks high amongst them all.
  • Chisholm, A. H. Obituary The Emu. vol. 66, no. 4 (1967), pp. 391–3.

  • Chisholm, A. H. Obituary Queensland Naturalist, vol. 18, no. 3–4 (1967), pp. 74–5.

Tess Kloot

Notes

Born in Rockhampton, Central Queensland, on 11th April 1869, I left that town four years later in a buggy drawn by a pair of horses (there were no railways or motor cars in those days) accompanying my father and two elder brothers, aged 6 and 8 years. Our destination was Coomooboolaroo station on the Dawson River, then lately purchased, unstocked, by my father. The homestead was built of bush timber with slab walls and floors, all put very solidly together. There were many blacks in those parts in those days, and as we grew older we hunted with them in the then wild bush, and learned from them the life histories of many of the birds and animals.
My father had started a collection of butterflies, moths and beetles. To this collection he now added birds’ eggs. He was very thorough in collecting and made us collect a skin of the bird of every kind of eggs taken. These skins were sent to Dr E. P. Ramsay, Director of the Australian Museum, Sydney, to get the scientific names. My father loved the birds and told us to protect them, which we did by destroying snakes and goannas. We had a large garden at the station, and every afternoon, at four o'clock, a tin rattled and in a few minutes numbers of pigeons, doves, and quail were feeding on wheat scattered on the path in front of the verandah. There was a large lagoon near the homestead and no one was allowed to fire a gun near it, so there were always large numbers of waterfowl there. The lagoon was covered with blue water-lilies and never went dry. Bird-life in those far-off days was very numerous and the daylight chorus, once heard, could never be forgotten. Sad to relate,
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bird-life in Queensland, owing to drought and other causes, is now very scarce and the morning chorus is almost nil.
Since those days at the old station the writer has been [on] many trips for various collectors — such places as Ferguson Island, the Trobriands and Woodlark, off the east coast of New Guinea, were visited in 1894 and 95, and Port Darwin and Cape York in 18%. A return to station life then took place; this lasted till June of 1910, when Mr H. L. White of Belltrees, Hunter River, N.S.W., wrote asking me to go on a collecting trip to Cape York; so the wanderlust was stirred again, and in June 19101 left Rockhampton for Cape York, remaining there till February 1911. Returning to Rockhampton I was off again in January 1913. This time it was Brunette Downs, on the Barclay Tablelands, Northern Territory. After working that locality for five months I worked down the McArthur River to the little township of Borroloola. It was wild country then; just now it is coming a good deal into notice. I returned via Port Darwin in March 1914. In June 1916 I was again in the North, this time in the Rockingham Bay — Cardwell district. Returning to Rockhampton at the end of the year 1 took on the management of Rio station, 300 square miles of brigalow scrub and prickly pear, and put in some of the hardest years of my life riding after scrub cattle.
A long life spent mostly in the bush and wild places has given me a vast knowledge of birds and their ways of life, and one learns to love them not only for their cheery ways but also for their great assistance to man in destroying pests. Unfortunately, after passing 85 winters one's sight and hearing fail and it is hard to see their bright ways and to hear their cheerful songs.
H. G. BARNARD

REFERENCES

RAOU Archives.