Allan Cunningham was born in Wimbledon, Surrey, in 1791 and died in NSW in June 1839. He visited Queensland, then part of NSW, no less than 7 times and became known as the Foster Father of Queensland.
Cunningham is mostly remembered for his work as an explorer, however, before this he worked as a Botanist, collecting specimens for the Royal Gardens at Kew, under the direction of Sir Joseph Banks.
In 1814, Banks sent Cunningham first to Brazil for a year and a half, and then to NSW to collect plants. In 1826, Cunningham learnt that the Government wished to encourage the exploration of the Colony, especially to the North, so he asked the Governor to support a journey to the north of Liverpool Plains.
Allan Cunningham had already made three sea trips with King, surveying Australia’s coastline; had travelled with Oxley to both the Lachlan and Brisbane Rivers; had himself explored the land north of Bathurst, and had found Pandoras Pass to the North of Liverpool Plains.
Governor Darling, having approved Cunningham’s expedition, provided him with 6 convicts, 11 pack animals, navigational instruments and sufficient rations for 14 weeks.
The expedition left Segenhoe on April 30th 1827. On May 30th Queensland was reached and the McIntyre was crossed somewhere to the east of Beebo on June the 1st.
The party journeyed eastward to a spot near the present site of Gore, where a camp was pitched.
On June the 5th after passing eastward through Durakai Scrub to a range above Thanes Creek, the beautiful sight of the area he named "Darling Downs" came into view. That night they camped on the bank of the river he named Condamine’s River, after an officer who was Aide de Camp to His Excellency, the Governor.
On June the 6th, the party travelled along the valley of Glengallan Creek. From Cunningham’s report to the Governor:-
"Towards the afternoon of the 7th, having gained the forest grounds on the eastern ridge of the Downs, we continued our course to the northward and eastward about one and a half miles through a beautiful Apple Tree Forest, abounding in Kangaroos, upon reaching the base of a remarkable flat topped Mount, camped on the bank of a narrow creek (Freestone Creek) furnishing plenty of water, and upon a patch of the finest meadowed pasturage I have seen in NSW.
On the morning of the 8th, proving exceedingly fine, I set out from the encampment, accompanied by one of my party, to ascend the table Mt. above our tents, from the elevated summit of which I had promised myself an extensive prospect around.
After pushing our way through a mass of dense thicket investing the foot and flank of this eminence, we gained an open spot on it’s flat summit in about 2 hours, whence an extensive view afforded us of the country from the North by way of West, and then South and South East....
Large cleared patches of land lying to the North of the Darling Downs were named Peels Plains, while others bearing to the South and South East of my ample undulated surface, were entitled Canning Downs in honour of the late Right Hon. George Canning."
This flat topped mountain was named Mt Demaresq by Cunningham and the valley on the northern side was named Millars Vale. (Maryvale)....
Heavy rain set in and continued for 48 hours until the morning of the 10th when fine weather returned. They left their camp with the intentions of reaching higher points on the main range, looking for bearings to fix points on the coast:
from the report:-
"Persuing a course to the South at the base of a thickly wooded ridge stretching from Mt Dumaresq about 4 miles, to a hill of tubular figure too (Mt Sturt) we passed round its foot and altering our course to the North East, we entered a very beautiful grassy Vale which I named after Captain Logan (now Swanfels) where we camped...."
From here Cunningham climbed the main range making his observations and finding the pass to the coast. A party was sent to explore what was thought to be Cunningham’s Gap, however it is now known that Cunningham’s Gap cannot be seen from this point, as Mt Mitchell shields the Gap from view. It must then have been Spicer’s Gap that was seen by the observers.
(From Cunninghams own observations and remarks in the following year, when trying to find the same pass from the east, it appears that he was uncertain of the location.)
Cunningham left Swanfels and returned to NSW via the McIntyre River to arrive in Sydney in July.
Cunningham returned to England in 1831 and came back to Australia five years later, as Colonel Botanist, only to die within a short time from an illness aggravated by his untiring travels.
References for this form:
1. the report to Governor Darling by Allan Cunningham.
2. The Warwick Story by Father J. McKey.