Also known as
Thomas Domville Taylor
Thomas John Domville Taylor was one of the earliest European settlers on the Darling Downs, Queensland and made pencil sketches of of the landscape and daily life. These sketches are some of the earliest visual records of European occupation of the Darling Downs, and also depict some of the earliest conflicts in the region between settlers and Indigenous communities.
Grazier and sketcher. Thomas John Domville Taylor was one of the earliest settlers on the Darling Downs to visually record his life and movements in the colony.
Taylor was the third child of Mascie Domvile Taylor and his wife Diana née Houghton. He was baptised on 10 April 1817 in Chester Cathedral. Taylor’s father had matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford in 1802 and attained a Master of Arts in 1809. He was appointed Rector of Langton, Yorkshire in 1818 and Moreton Corbett, Shropshire the following year, a post he held until his death on 9 October 1845.(1) Macsie Domville Taylor held the Manorial seat of Lymm Hall; is it likely that Thomas and his siblings grew up there.
Taylor arrived in Sydney aboard the Euphrates on 20 December 1839.(2) Little is known of his early time in Australia, however Taylor’s sketchbooks reveal that he travelled south to Omeo Plains and the Snowy Mountains before moving northward passing Liverpool Plains and Byron Plains, eventually reaching Queensland in 1841, accompanied by John Howell and Charles Markham.(3) By 1842 Taylor had established himself on a pastoral lease bordering the Condamine River known as the Broadwater. Taylor was partnered with Dr John Rolland, who had travelled to the Downs with his wife Fanny and their two children in 1842.(4) The lease for Broadwater had initially been taken up by James Wingate in 1841, but was renamed Tummaville by Rolland and Taylor by 1843.(5)
As early arrivals in the region, Rolland and Taylor essentially built Tummaville from the ground up. Taylor’s sketch of the first camp at Tummaville shows a Spartan set up of a circular tent and two gunyah-style constructions around a campfire; with a dray, a few head of cattle, chickens, a dog and a horse accompanying the party.(6) A second sketch showing the finished station evidences that within a couple of years the business partners had erected four more substantial structures, including a large building with verandah and fireplace.(7) Dr Rolland provided medical services to the community around him, and in October 1843 Fanny Rolland gave birth to the couple’s third child, Charlotte, the first baby to be born in the region.
While living at Tummaville, Taylor made several sketches of the station and its surrounds, as well as depictions of daily life. These sketches include a panorama of the Long Reach in the Broadwater at Tummaville, a detailed view of the landscape around Cecil Plains station, and a sketch of a bullock dray descending Cunningham’s Gap.(8) A second, more comical sketch titled 'Gee Smiler!’ highlights the difficulty of traversing the range between the commercial centres around Moreton Bay and the pastoral leases on the Downs.(9) More prosaic scenes depicting roping a bullock, roping cattle, and a wool press are also represented among Taylor’s drawings.(10)
Tummaville was located on country known to the Giabal, Gambuwal, Bigambul and Jarowair communities, and Taylor’s sketches evidence escalating tensions between settlers and indigenous communities across the Darling Downs. A sketch inscribed by Taylor 'Aborigines of Australia on the lookout for whitefellows’ depicts five aboriginal people sitting atop an elevated viewpoint observing three men on horseback emerging from scrub in the distance.(11) Fine details including scarring on the men suggest that Taylor may have based this representation on indigenous subjects that he had contact with. Another sketch inscribed 'Squatters in search of blacks N.S.Wales’ depicts a dozen relaxed squatters at camp with their horses and travelling accoutrement.(12) This image contrasts with a more potent scene a few pages later, 'A party in search of blacks,’ which depicts a man holding a rifle giving directions to four similarly dressed and armed man, while an attendant, possibly indigenous, sits nearby, and a large group of figures on horseback amass in the middle ground.(13) Towards the end of the sketchbook, one page titled 'Shooting blacks N.S.Wales’ features three loose drafts of armed settlers aggressing towards indigenous Australians, and another titled 'Drinking N.S.Wales’ depicts an indigenous man armed with a spear, about to attack a settler who is drinking from a waterhole.(14)
The most potently graphic image among Taylor’s sketches is a drawing executed in 1843 records 11 men loading their rifles and shooting as they advance toward a group of about 25 aboriginal men, women and infants.(15) The presence of gunyahs in the image suggests that the aggressors may have approached a camp, which justifies the lack of defence observed in the scene – just one man peers around a tree holding two spears, and another man carries a boomerang. Taylor inscribed beneath the image ‘The Blacks who robbed the drays on the Main Range of Mountains attacked by a party of Darling Downs Squatters after following them for a week.’ Historian Ray Kerkhove notes that this image may be connected to the storming of the Rosewood Scrub in late-1843.(16) The image is one of the earliest and most significant depictions of violence by European communities on the Darling Downs towards indigenous people.
These sketches of conflict contrast with more intimate depictions of indigenous subjects in Taylor’s papers. A caricature portrait of Peter Boombiburra in the scrapbook of Taylor’s step-mother depicts Taylor’s ‘servant’ dressed in trousers, smoking a pipe.(17) His scarring is visible and a camp dog sits by his side. Taylor’s most intimate and impressive drawing of indigenous life was executed in 1844, and depicts a group of men performing a corroboree around a campfire by moonlight, accompanied by women instrumentalists.(18)
In July 1844 Rolland and Taylor dissolved their business partnership. Taylor negotiated a new partnership for Tummaville with a member of the Ross family. This venture was short-lived; within a year Taylor left Tummaville to take part in an expedition mounted by Christopher Pemberton Hodgson to search for explorer Ludwig Leichhardt. The party left Jimbour Station on 8 August 1845, and while on the expedition, Taylor kept an expedition diary and took several sketches. These include a loose sketch of the party resting, maintaining their equipment, and surveying their position; a view of a mountain; and a drawing of an indigenous mortuary platform that the search party observed near Dogwood Creek.(19) After a six-week journey, the search party returned to Jimbour Station on 19 September 1845.
Taylor’s father, Mascie Domvile Taylor died on 9 October 1845.(20) It is perhaps for this reason that Taylor departed Australia for London on 16 June 1846 aboard the General Hewitt.(21) Tummaville was acquired in 1846 by Thomas Gore, brother of St George Richard Gore who owned neighbouring station Yandilla.(22) Taylor would not return to Australia, however, keen to preserve his memory of his time in Queensland, in 1847 he commissioned Chester-based artist George Pickering to complete an ink wash sketch of the interior of his hut at Tummaville.(23) Taylor died on 14 September 1889, at Trouville Road, Clapham Common, and was survived by his wife Charlotte.(24)