In Australia’s early days of large sheep runs, a key character in the development was the itinerant workers who became known as swaggies. They are remembered today in Banjo Patterson’s poem and song Waltzing Matilda. Walking from property to property looking for work, they provided an important supply of labour to the Squatters as they trudged the tracks with their swag (Matilda) on their back. (a bed roll with all of their worldly possessions rolled up in it).
They would walk for many hundreds of miles, occasionally getting a lift on a wagon, but mostly on foot. They would take on any work and often were put on as a cook, shearer, shepherd, fence builder, rabbit trapper, Dingo trapper or any other job they were offered.
George Everard was such a person travelling the Wimmera and Mallee region. He wandered as far as Adelaide, Melbourne and even Phillip Island. His wanderings would take him up through Mildura to the north when there was no town just a sheep run called Mildura Run, and south to Portland. He visited Melbourne often and spent time in a fledgling Mount Gambia.
George had a good education in England before coming to work for his uncle in Melbourne. He didn’t take well to the work and set out on the path of the swaggy, Keeping a journal as he traveled. In his later years he sat down in a hut at the Albacutya run and put his memories down.
It is rare to get a document from the perspective of the Swaggy but here is one by George Everard. It is a fascinating read and gives an insight to the birth of Australia from the point of view of these famous itinerant workers. I hope you enjoy it.
Through life’s journey you come across personalities that have a major effect on you. Usually these are family that you have known all of your life but sometimes they have been part of your world for a short time and had a major impact on you.
Dawn Petschel was one such person and it was a shock to get a call from her son on my birthday to let me know that she had passed away and I was required by the family at Dawns request to speak at her funeral. I wasn’t sure I was the one that should do it as I only knew her for five years, surely there were others that would do a better job. But when told that it was her wish I had to do it.
I prepared the speech while in Melbourne with the family for my birthday and set out for Rainbow the day before the funeral. Everything was going to plan until we arrived.
My little Chihuahua Bam Bam (Al Carbonero) was first to the back door of the car when we arrived and I lifted him out to go for a wee. He suddenly rushed back to me and I picked him up. His heart was pounding and he was very stressed, it was eight o’clock in the evening and I sat with him trying to comfort and calm him but to no avail there was no vet to go to and just before midnight he passed away in my arms. I had lost my best friend, constant companion and comforter that had ridden the ups and downs with me for the past nine years. He may have been small, but he knew just what to do when he saw that I was feeling down. He would climb into my arms stand up and look me in the eyes with a look of it will be OK and then lay down and cuddle into me. A silent act but it said it all.
The emotional pain was intense as I struggled with his loss and was still carrying him in my arms at two o’clock in the morning. How was I going to cope at the funeral with this double loss in my life.
Somehow I managed and got through Dawns funeral with his little body lying on my pyjamas waiting for me. I couldn’t bury him so I made a tomb for him but months later I have not recovered from his loss. He was too young to go and I still needed his ever present comfort.
This is the reason I have not been able to put up new posts and stories this year. Only now am I able to write this but not without a tear in my eye. I am hoping to get back into it again in 2016 but I will never forget my little champion.
This is Bam enjoying a run in the sand at Lake Hindmarsh a few months earlier something he loved to do..
Bam is at rest in his tomb. He is lying on my pyjamas with his chin on his favourite teddy between his paws.
Farewell to a wonderful lady and friend. A tireless worker for her community and a welcoming smile for strangers.
Nothing was too hard for you and you inspired others with your enthusiasm. Your knowledge of the history of the area and the people that lived there will be missed by many for a long time. You were always ready to share what you knew to anyone that asked and if you didn’t have an answer on family tree issues or history, you would search tirelessly to find it for them.
Rainbow is a better place because of you.
Your friendliness, knowledge, hard work and commitment to the community has ensured that.
Rest in peace wonderful lady.
Your work is finished and now it is passed on to others.
You set a standard that will be hard to measure up to.
We will miss you.
When driving around the tracks on the east side of lake Albacutya you are likely to discover a quiet little site that Parks have set up as a free camp site called O.T.I.T. but little is known about its naming. There are theories and they may have some truth in them but my challenge is to fined evidence of the origins which will be the subject of a future page in the history pages.
So far I have been given the names of two Thomas brothers as the likely source of the name but it is proving difficult to find any documented evidence.. I know that they couldn’t have been there before John Coppock who owned the lease on this land from 1846 and was the first white in the area, and I know that it was named before 1858 when George Everard, an itinerant worker and his brother arrived looking for a job when John Coppock was still alive. John gave George a job at the homestead and sent his brother to OTIT as the hut keeper for the shepherd, although he spelt it Otahiete in his memoirs in 1858. So they were not land owners as John Coppock had the lease and were possibly shepherds working for Coppock. My search will continue but I don’t think I will find all of the answers very quickly.
As Sherlock Homes would say “The game is afoot” I will continue my research and hopefully add the story of O.T.I.T. to the site pages.
Following are a couple of pictures of the campsite. If your looking for a quiet location to spend a few days then O.T.I.T might be a place for you to camp. The access is on dirt roads but is accessible with a caravan. They have a number of fireplaces, plenty of wood, tables and a toilet on the site.
Sue and I (Phil) have travelled through a number of lives together. We met in our late teens and spent time travelling and camping in an ex army series II Land Rover. Spending a lot of time in the Victorian High Country camping in a tent.
Then it slowed down when the children arrived, followed by the Grand Children. Now we are starting new having spent a few months each year for the past few years traveling in a 1970’s 17 foot Franklin pulled by a Rodeo Ute. we have stepped out with a new rig (now our home) to see as much of Australia as we can.
The old Rig
The new Rig
Being a keen history buff, it is my intention to seek out the local history of the places we visit and put my findings in this Blog.
If you enjoy finding out about remote places and people I hope you enjoy the stories I place here.
Traveling Australia by caravan. Our life on the road