A few rotting timbers are all that remain of a shipyard where the three-masted barque Royal Tar was built from local timber in 1873. I stumbled across the story walking along the Nambucca River in Northern NSW and the name rang a bell with me. It called back to mind a strange tale about an idealistic union man called William Lane recruiting bush workers in Bourke to join him in creating a Utopian settlement - in Paraguay of all places!
And here I was standing on the birthplace of the same Royal Tar that carried this Australian ‘Moses’ 10,000 km across the Pacific and round Cape Horn to build a ‘new Australia’.
Lane saw himself leading a ‘great exodus’ of workers, leaving class distinctions behind to
demonstrate that a true socialist community was possible. He announced in prophetic tones
that, “One great success would give men more faith than a whole century of talking and
Predictably, Lane’s stern dogma of no alcohol and no sexual relations or intermarriage with
the native Paraguayans didn’t sit well with the hopeful colonists. When the experiment
failed after a few years, though he never professed religious faith he admitted, "We
appealed to the material dissatisfactions, when we should have appealed to the spiritual
When I find a story like this, I’m reminded that legislating behaviour from the top down or
from the outside in, has always proved a failure in the long run. The Church has often tried.
And I think William Lane was right in the end. Human society needs spiritual transformation
from the inside out.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.