Sir Joshua Peter Bell, who began his parliamentary career at Dalby.
Sir Joshua Peter Bell, who began his parliamentary career at Dalby. Contributed

Drinks flowed freely in old-time Dalby elections

TELEVISION brought the recent election campaign right into our homes.

Pat Hannan remembers what it was like in the early days when election fever was experienced in Dalby.

Pat was born in Ireland in 1843 and arrived in Moreton Bay in 1864. His first job was with a farmer just outside Brisbane.

After that he secured a government job and was sent to Dalby. He worked on clearing a road from Bowenville to Dalby.

At that time the courthouse had just been built and there was a bridge over the creek near Gayler's hotel.

The brick dam was built in 1866.

'Scrammy' Coxen had a station out at Dogwood just across the Condamine River and he was the first member of parliament Dalby had.

It seems Henry Thorne of Ipswich put up against him and beat him.

Thorn owned Cobble Cobble which later became Warra.

He saw his term out until the next election when he was challenged by Joshua Peter Bell of Jimbour.

At every political meeting for a month before the election there were free drinks at every hotel in town.

Thorne had five pubs and Bell had six.

In 1866 Bell had 200 Irishmen working at Jimbour with Charlecombe as their boss.

The polling booth was in the School of Arts in the Recreation Ground.

Charlecombe marshalled all the hands on Jimbour.

He marched the 200 men along Drayton St like soldiers up to the School of Arts where they voted.

Thorne was a poor speaker, unlike Bell who won the election easily.

Pat Hannan remembers the day.

"I was assistant barman at O'Keeff's hotel that day, and I remember we had a bill for 75 pounds against Mr Bell for drink, and five other hotels had big accounts, too,” Mr Hannan said.

"There were no beer drinkers here in those days; it was all rum, pale brandy, dark brandy and Dunbar whisky.

"The rum used to come to town in hogsheads.”

So now the district had a new Member.

On his election to parliament, Joshua Peter Bell became Colonial Treasurer in the Herbert Ministry.

He remained in Parliament until his death in 1881. He fulfilled many positions in his time including president of the Legislative Assembly.

Pat Hannan reflected on their new politician: "Joshua Peter Bell did not do much good for Dalby, he had not the time.

"It was his son Joey who put Dalby on the map of Queensland.

"He was the best man we ever had for Dalby and the best we ever will have.”

Joshua Thomas 'Joey' Bell was elected to Parliament some 13 years after his father's death.

A new era was starting and farming settlement around Dalby was beginning.

"He got the Tara line and the Bell line built. Dalby would have nothing but for him.

"He brought hundreds of people from Victoria and South Australia and other parts, gave them free passes on the train and settled them on the land.''