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A Terribly Wild Man-TEXT PAGES 22/12/01 7:01 AM Page 14 14 A T E R R I B LY W I L D M A N the time—after its editors accused him of being ‘a lying, canting humbug’. Responsibility for supporting the family landed squarely on the shoulders of the 18-year-old Ernie and his younger brother Arthur. They scrounged for material to build a makeshift shack and Ernie took any type of work he could find: hawking homegrown vegetables, laying bricks, teaching school, selling insurance and guiding prospectors.

In fact, disappointment weighed him down. After four years of work, he had hoped to achieve more. There were only 42 inmates in the mission compound. He had lured a dozen or so from a marginal existence in Cairns with promises of a better life on his mission, but 29 of the residents were children and the rest were disabled, elderly or refugees from traditional marriage obligations. The Kongkandji made up less than one third, and Gribble’s hold on this group was especially tenuous as long as there were viable alternatives on their own land.

It was plainly his ‘duty’ to embrace missionary work as a ‘sacred trust’ from his father. He drew on the Gribble determination and resourcefulness buried deep in his soul. 22 A Terribly Wild Man-TEXT PAGES 22/12/01 7:01 AM Page 22 2 C LASPING THEIR CHILDREN TIGHTLY E rnie was unaware that the Kongkandji, the traditional custodians of Cape Grafton, were silently monitoring his every move. Their dominion extended east across Trinity Bay to Green and Fitzroy Islands and inland as far as the Murray Prior Ranges to the west.

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