Furber forgot to duck

Next year 2022 is the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the Queensland city of Maryborough, but the city owes its very existence to Ipswich, and specifically to Ipswich’s Doctor William Dorsey. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

Previously I shared a tale about Doctor Dorsey and his Ducks. It was in 1850 when he allegedly stole some ducks which caused a huge fight in the main street of Ipswich that entertained the whole of the town.

But now I need to tell you about George Furber. He was born in Parramatta in New South Wales in 1810 and both his parents were of robust convict stock. Furber’s father arrived in Sydney with the Second Fleet in 1789. Furber’s mother was the offspring of another Second Fleet convict and also a First Fleeter who of course arrived to establish the new colony a year earlier in 1788.

Young Furber grew-up to be a tough specimen that was typical of the old pioneer class. In West Maitland he did well as a farmer, thanks ironically to free convict labour. That was until in 1841 when five of his men went bushranging and committed an outrage against the wife of the local reverend.

Furber had to look for safer pastures and so came north and arrived in Ipswich in 1846.

That’s when he first met Doctor Dorsey. Dorsey was one of the very early free settlers in the Moreton Bay colony, later top become Queensland. He was Ipswich’s local doctor and magistrate, and had probably the biggest mutton chop whiskers in the colony.

Doctor William Dorsey

Furber put down his roots and purchased the Golden Fleece Hotel. He then went up to the Wide Bay District and in 1847 built a woolshed and store on the south bank of the Mary River. Furber therefore became, without doubt, the first European settler on the site of what subsequently became Maryborough.

However, shortly after setting up shop up there, Furber was dealt a tremendous blow by the local indigenous mob. That’s because an axe was put through his head. Furber regained consciousness and somehow managed to ride his horse the one hundred and fifty miles back to Ipswich and the nearest doctor, who of course was Doctor Dorsey.

Thanks to the Doctor’s excellent surgical treatment in Ipswich, Furber recovered, and other than a shocking gap in the back of his head, seemed none the worse. And so Furber went back up to Wide Bay to finish founding Maryborough.

But he hadn’t learned a thing. You see he again attracted the ire of the local mob and was again hit in the head with an axe. This time Doctor Dorsey wasn’t on hand to save him, and Furber died in 1855.

Today Maryborough has plaques commemorating George Furber, and next year will probably remember him as a founding father.

One of George Furber’s plaques

But Maryborough should also acknowledge Ipswich’s contribution and the skills of Doctor Dorsey of duck fame – the doctor who saved the life of their founder George Furber, even if it was only after his first and not his second axe attack.


Photo credits:
Summertime2 by Mary Cassatt – 1st Art Gallery
William McTaggart Dorsey – Nuneaton and Bedworth Local and Family History Forum
Maryborough original site – Maryborough Hope Gardens

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