Maleny’s new park – Selectors Green – pays homage to two of the town’s hardy pioneering women, Jane Dunlop and Margaret Hankinson, whose lives encountered incredible hardship. They survived in a male-dominated, Dickensian society that would be totally unrecognisable today. Here are their stories.

by Judy Fredrisken

Maleny local Bill Hankinson was born too late to know his ancestors – Margaret Hankinson and Jane Dunlop – but he reckons they did it tough as they cleared the scrub to establish a future for their families. 

When Jane Dunlop and her husband, Francis Dunlop Snr, left Scotland in 1855, their country was in turmoil, ravaged by a potato blight, while landlords were increasing rent and displacing tenants.

Many Scots had responded to newspaper advertisements, like the one in The Sydney Herald in 1852, which called for workers saying they “have ample employment for many thousands of emigrants provided they be men who really give a good day’s work for a good day’s wages. 

“We do not want idlers; neither do we want any more of that swarming class of young gentlemen who can do nothing but sit on a stool and handle a quill: Of those we have enough.”

Initially, the Dunlops and their two daughters settled in Brisbane. Mr Dunlop, an engineer by trade, was assisted in his passage by Mr W Pettigrew who ran a sawmill at Albion and sourced timber from the Blackall Range. 

After the death of her husband in 1865, Jane Dunlop was left struggling with five children.

According to Bill, the great-great grandson of Jane Dunlop, she ended up running a house of ill-repute to make ends meet and went to jail for a year. 

“She just did whatever she had to … to survive. After her husband died, she had no income, then the kids got taken away from her when she went to jail,” explains Bill.

At the time, it was quite common for a widow or widower to have their children taken away from them if they could not care for them. 

Orphanages were full of children who were “not orphans, but children admitted to State care due to family breakdown or poverty”. More disturbingly, The Orphanages Act 1879 says: ‘A child could be hired out or become an apprentice at 10 years of age’. 

Try running that past today’s Human Rights Commission!

Bill continues:  “Pettigrew was a religious and kind man and wanted to help Jane.”

It must have been a relief for Jane when, to meet the requirements of the selection act, Mr Pettigrew appointed her and her four children as occupiers and caretakers of his selection on Bald Knob, a position she took up in 1875. Thought to be the first white woman on the Range, this gave her a chance to turn her life around. 

Jane’s family lived in two bark humpies, carrying all their provisions up from Landsborough to fulfil the conditions of the selection – clearing, fencing and erecting yards for cattle. 

In 1880, her son Francis Dunlop Jnr took up a selection on the site of the Maleny Primary School and in 1885 his mother came to live with him. By this time he had built a house.

John and Margaret Hankinson took up their selection nearby.

“My great-grandmother Margaret Hankinson had been widowed with four children when she married John Hankinson. 

“John Hankinson came to Maleny to follow the timber industry in 1880 and selected what is now Selectors Green. She had another five children with John Hankinson, but he died soon after in 1881 leaving her with nine children.” The youngest was only six months old. 

Margaret’s vulnerability is highlighted when shortly after her husband’s death, she found herself in court, claiming ‘£200 damages for trespass and the wrongful removal of log cedar from her selection’. The accused was Isaac Burgess and Margaret won the case. 

The strain of being widowed, the dispute with Burgess, and burdened with the responsibility of the selection took its toll – Margaret was desperate. 

In 1885, she wrote to the Minister for Lands requesting an exemption from the five years continuous land occupation, asking that she be allowed to earn money “by my needlework” instead. Permission was granted. 

“I imagine in those days, she would have taken on mending and making clothes for other settlers and their children,” says Bill. 

“To survive, she would have to be self-sufficient. She probably had a couple of cows to keep her in milk and made her own butter. She would have had a few chooks and grown some veggies.” 

Sadly, Margaret died in 1887 aged 45 years. 

“Apparently she was buried the day she died,” says Bill.  “At that time you couldn’t take a body from here to anywhere, there was no refrigeration. So there was no time to organise a funeral or for anyone to come and pay their last respects.”

Her early death left her youngest children as orphans, but by then, a couple of the older girls were married. 

In a quirky twist of fate, Margaret’s daughter Jane had married Samuel Burgess, the son of her courtroom adversary – Isaac Burgess, and along with her other sisters, ended up caring for the younger children.

“Jane raised George Hankinson – none of them went into an orphanage as I recall,” says Bill. 

Today, there are still many descendants of both women living in the Maleny area. 

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