On the night of 11 September 1866 a crowd of more than 400 hungry men who had found their way into the town surged from the Dunmore Arms in George Street.
Urged on by their leaders, one reportedly shouting ‘Bread or blood’, these men were victims of the collapse of the British banking system that had brought government and company work to a standstill. Armed with stones, they headed towards the Commissariat Store in William Street to express their anger.
The authorities were concerned. Artillery had been set up at the gates of Government House further down George Street. Hundreds of government officials were sworn in as special constables by Brisbane Police Magistrate Hugh Massie. The climatic end to the protest came when a police baton charge pushed the mob back into Elizabeth Street. Magistrate Massie had to read the Riot Act twice before the crowd dispersed. He was hit in the eye by a stone on the second occasion.
Sobriety seemed to have returned by morning. The government offered passage to Rockhampton to some, returned others to the railway line construction outside Ipswich and found three men guilty of riotous assembly and disturbing the peace. Gradually the economy improved and this small crisis was forgotten.
Paul Wilson, ‘The Brisbane riot of September 1866’, Queensland Heritage, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 13-20.