POORAN DABEE-SINGH A PIONEER – PART II
© Len Kenna and Crystal Jordan 2014
Pooran Dabee Singh was born in the Burnett District, Queensland in 1849 and was by far the most interesting of Dabee’s three sons. As a young man Pooran was interested in horses, no doubt influenced by his early childhood by his father’s cab and horse businesses. As a young man he commenced a Royal Mail and Passenger Service to Cleveland with two coaches and relays to the Rocks, Capalaba. He quickly ran his opponent, Mr. Kerr off the run. As an illustration of Pooran’s good nature he helped Mr. Kerr set up a cab business in the city by giving him a horse worth £15 ($30) and £10 ($20) in cash. He took up a subscription and was able to present his late opponent with about £30 ($60) to support him to set up a new business. Besides conducting the Brisbane to Cleveland mail service, Pooran met all boats that called at Pinkenba and regularly carried the skippers to and from Brisbane.
He had two great loves: his family and his horses. His knowledge of horses earned him a good reputation in the community. He also broke in horses and cured sick or injured horses, sheep and other animals with his remedies. Pooran Dabee Singh submitted one such remedy, to the Government and the Pastoralists Association on how to control blowfly infestation in sheep. His suggestion involved a method of luring and killing blowflies on sheep. He named this treatment “Marchee Tael”. If this trial had proved successful it would have reduced the need for mulesing of sheep.
On other occasions he was called upon to judge horses at agricultural shows. He was also a judge at the Redland Bay Races. Pooran Singh was the first to introduce trotting races to Brisbane with the horses being raced along main roads. The last trotting contest in which Pooran was engaged in, was in the 1880’s, when he drove a horse named Charlie, owned jointly by Mr. Billy Mooney and Mr. Errin Wakefield. The race was conducted from the Brisbane Post Office to the Sandgate Post Office and had to be trotted within a certain time. Pooran won with nine seconds to spare and collected a purse of £1,000 ($2,000) prize money.
He was educated at the old Normal School and then attended St. John’s School at the top of Queen Street, Brisbane, also Mr. Scott’s School in Queen Street and later Spring Hill. Because of this education and his upbringing Pooran was a thrifty man with good business acumen. While operating his Mail Service which terminated at the Brighton Hotel, Cleveland, he met and married Elizabeth Goodall whose father Andrew Goodall was the owner of the Brighton Hotel until 1907 when Pooran purchased it. The hotel later became known as the Grand View Hotel. He owned the Grand View Hotel as well as many farms and other properties until 1926 when the hotel was sold prior his death in 1927.
Pooran mixed freely with the Indian Contingent during their visit to Brisbane during the Federation of Australia Celebrations in 1901. He was reported to say that the Indian Troops were only too willing to visit Australia, not merely because it was Queen Victoria’s wish, but in order to disprove the belief that Indians were unwilling to leave their own country.
During the First World War he demonstrated his patriotism by donating large sums of money to various appeals, and in numerous other ways; for example he spoke fervently at recruiting meetings about India’s and Australia’s contribution to the war effort. For his efforts Pooran received a letter from King George V thanking him for his suggestions. The suggestions were placed before the Indian Government in regard to recruiting and other war problems, and it is interesting to note that his suggestions were put into practice by the Indian Government.
In addition to speaking at recruitment rallies Pooran was one of the keynote speakers at the Queensland Loyalty League in May 1919. He was also critical of the government’s approach to the employment of Indians in the sugar industry, as Indians were British Subjects and had a right to employment. Mr. Thomas Joseph Ryan the Premier of Queensland said that he saw Mr. Singh and gave him a fairly long interview before the publication of Mr. Singh’s letters in the various newspapers. One of the letters in The Bulletin reads, “One Pooran Dabee Singh a dweller in Brisbane for some forty years raises an uncomfortable point for the Ryan Government to perch upon.” Mr. Ryan claimed that for a considerable time he had been in contact with the Federal Government on the matter.
Mr. Ryan stated that he referred Mr. Singh to the Minister for Agriculture who deals with the question of employment in the sugar industry. “The Queensland Cabinet Asiatics may not work in the canefields but Germans may. Pooran Singh wants to know from the chief secretary if this is the reward for his countrymen receive battling against the Gerhog in Belguim, France and Gallipoli.” Note: Later in 1919 during the last year of the Ryan Government cane price boards were set up, providing fair returns for growers and fair wages for sugar workers.
Pooran’s other interests were: he was on the building committee of the Cleveland School at Raby Bay, Cleveland. He wrote letters on the need to improve the Brady Gully and Tingalpa Creek Roads. During World War One, he leased his property “Grange Hill” to the Red Cross to be used as a Convalescent Home. He also wrote to various Newspapers supporting the erection of a jetty and the need for a lifeboat to be at the ready at Cleveland Harbour, the early port for Ipswich, where there had been a number of lives lost due to boating accidents. In 1917, he was instrumental in organising an Indian Display in Native Costume, at the Repatriation Day Procession to the Exhibition Ground.
Following his death at 23 O’Connell Street, West End, Brisbane, on the 21st June 1927, Pooran was described in the following manner; “he died peacefully amongst his family about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon, and his funeral will take place at 2.30 o’clock this afternoon, to the Toowong Cemetery. He leaves a widow (nee Miss Elizabeth Goodow (sic Goodall), of Cleveland), two sons, one daughter, and three grandchildren, all living in Queensland.” His body was buried on the 22nd June 1927 in the Church of England Section of the Toowong Cemetery, Toowong, Queensland. Pooran Dabee Singh was survived by his wife and four of his five children, Mary Jane, Elizabeth Helen, Andrew Frederick Hamilton and Victor Singh. His son William Ernest Goodall Singh died aged 1 year on the 29th October 1884.
Pooran’s great grandson, Frederic Robert Hamilton Singh and great grand-daughter Margaret Helen Hamilton Singh, enlisted in the Royal Australian Airforce (R.A.A.F.) during World War Two. Flight Lieutenant Frederic Singh also recorded as Frederic Robert Stuart service numbers 025954 and 414093 enlisted on the 20th July 1941 and Margaret enlisted later on the 2nd of October 1942. Flight Lieutenant Frederic Singh was reported as missing in action and taken prisoner about June 1944. Both Frederic and Margaret were discharged from the RAAF on 26th February 1946.
Kenna Len & Jordan, Crystal, translated into Pubjabi Dr. Balwant S DhillonAustralian Sikh History 2019