Little is known about how the South Sea Islander workers lived on the plantation. Documentary evidence is limited. Newspaper accounts from the 1860s shed some light on their lodgings. Later articles in newspapers report the Islander lodgings surviving into the early 20th century, being close to the river bank, a circular structure but then in use for housing and feeding the calves.
In 1868, the Reverend Dunmore Lang, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, wrote about his visit to the plantation at the invitation of George Raff. At the time of his visit, Moray Field had 160 acres under cultivation and the mill was in operation. Raff’s undertaking required considerable manpower and the workforce included over 60 South Sea Islander labourers who were living in:
“…a bothy, as such buildings are called in Scotland, for the accommodation of the South Sea Islanders, to the number of sixty-five…This building, like all others, is erected of sawn timber, and painted outside, with a corrugated iron roof, is upwards of eight feet by forty.
…a raised platform stretching along each side of the building, like the berths in the steerage of a ship, each of the inmates sleeping on his blanket on the boards, the fire for cooking their provisions being on the floor in the centre of the building, around which they congregate in the evening, after the labors[sic] of the day, as in their native isles.”
(Brisbane Courier, 1868, ‘Cotton and Sugar, The Great Staples of Queensland’, 6 October, p.2)
Bob Towson remembers a roundhouse building in this audio recording and talks about its timber construction. We think this is the building in the picture above, but it looks more like it has eight sides, making it a Hexagon.
Karen talks about the roundhouse and where it was located.
Maybe it could be the limehouse, described in the newspaper as being a little away from the other buildings in the settlement. A chimney and blackened area can be seen in front of the Hexagon building. Lime was used in the sugar process and was made by burning bones – likely to have been cattle or another large herbivore.
John Dunmore Lang (1868) Cotton and Sugar, The Great Staples of Queensland, The Brisbane Courier, 6 October 1868, p.2.
Unknown Author (1925) Work on Farms, Progress at Caboolture, The Brisbane Courier, 5 Dec 1925 p.15.