Sunday, 1 March 2009

Frenchman’s Beach- Stradbroke island

Frenchman’s Beach
“A group of four French speaking sailors from the South Pacific Islands were cast ashore here in the late 19th Century. Some of their descendants still live on the island”

"In 1880 a group of Northern Italian peasants left their homes bound for their new life in the Pacific- a 19th Century scam as it turned out"

Great grandmother Catterina
Never had the opportunity
To set foot on this island idyll.
Her island dream killed her.

Her paradise was a malarial breeding ground
A leech infested hell.
A Frenchman’s mirage
Sold to unsuspecting Italian peasants
As a promised land.“La Nouvelle France”.

How romantic that must have seemed.
By steamer from Barcelona
Across the southern oceans
To a new world in the Pacific.
No convict hulk, no sentence
An adventure freely chosen
One worth investing your whole life in.

These men and women were dreamers
But they had known hard toil.
Their backs had seen the sky (and sun)
Year after year
Tilling the unyielding fields of the Venetian plains.
What research had they done
These one hundred families?
What knowledge prompted such faith?
What desperation drove their choice?

Had not the French proved these Pacific dreams were true?
Did not thriving colonies precede them?
Was not the promoter a respected Marquis?
Naysayers are always full of doubt
Telling the grandest lies
To thwart the dreams of adventurers.

The era of steam was
An era of possibilities.
This was 1880 after all
Not a voyage into the unknown.
No Captain Cook or William Dampier expedition.
But Nouvelle France (Cape Breton)
Was a French maggot on the fringe of wildness;
No fresh water, no shelter,
No sanitation, no fields of corn.
Just a tragic site on which
To dump gullible expeditioners.

An unmarked grave
In the penal colony of French Noumea
Was the closest Catterina
Ever came to her dream.

Would she had been one of four cast ashore
On Catterina Beach.

1 comment:

Mickc said...

I like the French links between the Marquis, Noumea and the beach at Stradbroke.
Great step grandmother?
Great grand stepmother?
Step great grandmother?