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Bray, Joshua (1838–1918)

There were two Joshua Brays. There was the somewhat tired and frail old man who drove at lengthening periods into town for his mail: the shade of a big man, looking, as he sat in old-style Phaeton, outside the Post Office, peculiarly detached and a little pathetic–suggesting rather the scholarly recluse than the man of action. That was Joshua Bray as the young generation knew him.

The other was the Joshua Bray that the old hands knew: the man of action, the – 'King of the Tweed'— Our first Magistrate, first C.P.S., first Postmaster. The man who first crossed the Richmond ranges bringing cattle to the Tweed, who blazed the track, who first camped at the Blue Knob, who made the way through scrub and forest, over flooded creeks and miles of swamp, but who went on, notwithstanding. This was the man the old hands love to talk of—athletic, venturesome, shrewd, far-seeing—the true type of the pioneer.

He saw the Tweed grow: he helped it grow more, perhaps, than any. He was Joshua Bray, of Kynnumboon, when Kynnumboon was the Tweed. He saw the first river township, rode over the swamp land where was the beginning of Murwillumbah, rode over the place where new Murwillumbah was to be. He was almost the last of the real 'old brigade': that was why, perhaps, his thoughts of late seemed so far: he had helped make the Tweed, but the new Tweed with its commercial hustling towns was not his. So he stayed at Kynnumboon in the old house he himself had built over half a century ago, thinking, one imagines, of the days when the world was young, when men were men, and their work was to do.

Mr. Bray was born in Appin, New South Wales, on 3rd September, 1838: he started out in life at an early age, and in 1855, then only 17, he had a cattle station on the Tumut in partnership with his brothers. It was in June, 1863, that he came to the Tweed, having sold his Tumut property, in company with his brother-in-law, Mr. S. W. Gray, M.L.A., —this was the first of the "Bray and Gray" partnership that figured so largely in the early days. Single then, Mr. Bray lived first with Mr. Gray, in a house built on the site at present occupied by Mr. E. Twohill, just beyond the North Arm bridge, but later built the house in which the family still live; this was in 1865. On the 18th May of the following year Mr Bray married Rosalie Gertrude, second daughter of George Russell Nixon, M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge, to whom were born 14 children; 11 of whom are still surviving. These are Mrs. E. H. Johnson, Mr. W. M. Charles, Mrs. Percy Lawson, Mrs. S. N. Barnby, Miss Florence Bray (Sydney), and Misses Ethel and Marjory Bray (Kynnumboon) and Messrs. Edward, Rex, Frank and Percy Bray. Mr. Bray was a keen imperialist and his family followed him closely in this regard, the whole of the sons have played their part in the Empire's defence. One, Clive Bray, being only recently reported killed in action. Percy and Frank are still on active service. Edward, after serving at the front, is now engaged in munition work in England and Rex is also doing war work. The two older boys, Rex and Edward, also served in the Boer war. Mrs Bray and the Misses Bray, have played their part too, being indefatigable workers for the soldiers.

From the day of his advent on the Tweed Mr. Bray figured very largely in its affairs, filling, as was mentioned in yesterday's issue, practically all the public offices then available, and having large private business interests. He had extensive dealings in land, timber and stock, eventually amassing a considerable competence.

There were many stirring incidents in this old pioneer's early life in the district. He was a particularly smart man then, could run like a deer, and played a great part in opening up the district. Mail services were few and far between then, once a month or thereabouts two blacks used to go across the head of the Brunswick to Ballina, taking the mail from the Tweed and returning with letters from the South. Very often great difficulty was met in securing the services of blackfellows for this work, owing to the frequent "bullen bullen" (state of war) existing between the various tribes en route. Mr. Bray it was who charged himself with the duty of organising the blacks for the mail service in order to keep communication with the South, until he induced the Government to run a horseback mail between here and Casino; also another horseback mail from Nerang Creek to Kynnumboon. Several amusing incidents happened in this connection, Mr. Bray being nearly always a participant. On the occasion of one of the tribal disturbances the mail runner engaged by Mr. Bray flatly refused to carry out the contract, and when approached with the mail bag, turned and went for his life to the river. Mr. Bray gave chase, and then ensued one of the best sprints ever seen in the early days! The black, "Micky the Priest," however, reached the river first and dived across to the opposite bank, which was all standing scrub and made off through the bush. After the disturbance the runner returned and resumed duty. At that time, it might be mentioned Mr. Bray was the smartest runner in the locality.

Mr. Bray was the first man to drive stock from the Richmond though the tracks over the ranges to the Tweed, and in this connection materially assisted the cattle industry here. He was also interested largely in the cedar industry, he and his partner opening up many fresh centres on the River. Shortly after Mr. Bray's arrival at Kynnumboon, his brother, Mr. James Bray (since dead) arrived here and took up his residence at Dunbible, where he acquired a lot of property, afterwards taking up duties as a P.M. on the Richmond River.

Later, Mr. Bray to a great extent gave up the more active countrv life, and devoted his time to his public duties, which were sufficiently wide to keep even one of such abundant vitality occupied; the Crown Land Agency was in itself a big undertaking, yet in addition he carried on many other duties. He was Police Magistrate, presiding at Murwillumbah and Cudgen— always riding to the latter place, indeed everywhere possible: he celebrated marriages, doctored the ailing. He was Gold Mining Warden and held a score of other offices. Always devoted to home life, and having little inclination for social amenities, he was rarely in evidence apart from his official duties: to which he devoted most scrupulous attention. He was a great reader, and, in his own circle, fond of recalling the stirring days of old.

Advancing years caused Mr. Bray eventually to dissociate himself from his public offices, and later he retired completely from any participation in public affairs, and settled down in the evening of his life, to the quiet of his home. Of late years his health failed, and he had several severe bouts of illness, culminating after a last sickness of some months, in his death in his eightieth year.

The funeral moved from the residence, at Kynnumboon, yesterday afternoon, at 3 p.m., and in obedience to the special wish of the deceased there was no hearse, the casket being conveyed to the cemetery on a lorry draped in black. The cortege was of considerable length. Included in those present were the Shire President (Cr. E. C. J. Marks), the Mayor (Ald. Connor), the shire councillors and aldermen, all the leading professional and commercial men of the town, farmers and old friends of the deceased. The chief mourners were: — Mrs. Bray, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Barnby and Miss Ethel Bray (daughters), Mr. E. H. Johnson, Mr. S. N. Barnby and Mr. Percy Lawson (sons-in-law), and Mr. G. C. G. Wray (manager of Condong mill). The casket was proceeded to the graveside by several choir boys of All Saints' Church, and the Rev. H. Lilley (Tweed Heads) conducted the service in the absence of Rev. H. B. Madden. Messrs. C. J. Wray, P. Lawson, S. N. Barnby, A. Cheers P. Smith, sen, and W. J. Forrest acted as pall bearers. The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Messrs. Holston and Trivett.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • death notice, Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW), 26 February 1918, p 2
  • probate, Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW), 24 May 1918, p 2

Citation details

'Bray, Joshua (1838–1918)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bray-joshua-26774/text34380, accessed 19 September 2019.

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