In mid-July 1876, sub-collector of Customs Brinsley Guise Sheridan set out from Cardwell, sailed his sleek pilot cutter up the Queensland coast, rounded Cape Grafton and put in at a muddy, unprepossessing river-mouth. Mangrove creeks, an open stretch of forest country: was this really the ideal port site for the new goldfields of the mid-northern tablelands? His party came across a group of ­Yidinydji tribesmen cooking fish, “who ran away upon their approach”.

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