HORACE WALTER GOULD, M.B.E.
(Born Warracknabeal 1894)
I have been honoured by a request to write a forward to George Everard’s history of the Wimmera River area.
AsI turn my mind back to the very early days, I ask myself why are histories written and why are they read? I am convinced that if we are to have a healthy and disciplined society, it is essential that we have a sense of tradition and purpose so that we may see the present not simply as a separate period but as a link between the past and the future-. To do this w need a tradition based upon our history, a history of events and of people, upon what our predecessors have achieved and what kind of people they were.
With my parents and two brothers I left Warracknabeal in 1900 to make a home on the land in the Rainbow district which my father had selected early in that year. George Everard was not very happy when Albacutya Station was thrown open for selection because he was hoping one day to get the job there as secretary. He always told me that we would clear the land, but the rabbits would eat us out.
I note in his book that he predicted that we would see thousands of acres of wheat fields before many years. Had he lived a few more years he would have seen how true this prediction was. I wonder how many miles he must have travelled during his life in the Mallee, either on foot or horseback. Strangely enough, he never once told me that he was writing a book. My old friend Everard saw the Mallee in its natural state, and these very attractive places he recorded for us.
What a different place Tonga Lake is today in Wyperfeld, yet Everard must have spent many lonely nights there with only the call of the curlew or the howl of the wild dog for company. To go back seventy years is a difficult task, but one incident I can recall. George and I were Walking together when my dog took to a snake and was bitten on the ear. George was sure there was no cure and that the animal would be dead in ten minutes. I quickly cut its ears off but, as the dog didn’t look too good, we laid it in the shade. When I got up in the morning the dog was home, mother being sure that it must have had a terrible fight as both ears were bitten off.
Old George Everard remains to me a memory of childhood, supremely happy in his log cabin on Mr. T. Mellington’s property.
GEORGE EVERARD, itinerant worker, shepherd and tireless traveller, whose autobiography follows, was once a colourful figure in the Mallee and Wimmera. Born to Jonathan Everard, a London baker, and his wife Lydia Mary (nee Elliott) about the year 1835, he had a sound education in his youth. In 1851 at the age of fifteen he sailed aboard the clipper “Ballangiech” for the Port Phillip District where he was to join his. uncle, shop-keeper, in Geelong.
Adventurous and high-spirited, young George travelled around the colony taking any and every job offered until he met his “Waterloo” in 1857; the Mallee had ensnared him. From then on he persistently returned to the Wimmera River area. Brothers Joseph and Tom eventually came out to the Colony and George met up and worked with Joseph for many years until his tragic death. The rumoured story of this event is that just prior to Christmas 1866 at Pine Plains Station the two Everards and another man drank to excess, became maudlin and made a suicide pact. Joseph jumped into the well first, breaking his neck, and this immediately sobered the other two. George was certainly greatly affected by the death, for as he said: “We had been nearly eleven years constantly together, and the shock completely downed me, and for many months I was incapable of doing any kind of work.” Joseph’s grave remains in the corner of the Pine Plains’ horse paddock today.
Eventually, in the early 1900’s George Everard lived in a hut near Lake Albacutya, making a living from rabbiting. He reputedly wrote PIONEERING DAYS in this hut. After seventy-four years of living in Victoria he died of old age on August 22nd, 1925, aged 95, in the Ballarat Benevolent Home and he was buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery. His autobiography, though, remains as a history of his chequered career and life, a fitting testimonial to all the pioneers of the Wimmera and Mallee.
by George Everard
August 22nd – The ship “Ballangiech” (800 tons) arrived in Hobson’s Bay after a quick passage of 80 days from land to land. On dropping anchor, the bumboat men came on board with beer, cakes, etc. and from them we learned of the gold discoveries at Buninyong. The following day we made our way up the Yarra to Melbourne in a small steamer, spending the best part of the day thumping the water at the rate of about two miles per hour. We disembarked somewhere opposite the Customs House, There was no wharf, so we just hauled up to the bank, crossed over a couple of planks, loaded our boxes in a cart, and made our way to the Rose, Thistle and Shamrock Hotel, in Elizabeth Street (the house was destroyed a few years ago). After a spell of two days or so looking round about the town, we came to the conclusion that it was very small potatoes – the shops were not a patch on the ones in Firebrace Street, Horsham, today, and I don’t remember seeing one with a plate-glass front. Big John O’Shannasy had a draper’s place in Elizabeth Street, with little windows, and pretty dirty at that. Adjoining it were some shanties, mostly of Jew slop sellers and pawnbrokers. The theatre, in Queen Street, was attended by myself and shipmates two nights. The play was Schiller’s “Robbers” and the chief character was taken by a barnstormer of the name of Stark. They gave you plenty for your money, beginning at 7 o’clock and finishing at midnight. After the tragedy there was some singing by Madam Sara Flower and a gent of the name of Walsh, after which a farce was performed. We attended two nights, and as the programme was the very same each night we stopped in the town, we turned in early, and the next day started for Geelong, where my uncle, to whom I was consigned, was storekeeping. It took the whole of a long day to make the trip in a queer- looking old tub called the “Aphrasia” and it was getting dusk when we made the wharf. I got a dray, loaded it with my impedimenta, and made my uncle’s place after dark, and precious glad I was, for it was rough work travelling in ’51. There was not a cab in Geelong, and I don’t remember seeing one in Melbourne.
After, a fortnight’s spell looking round the place, commenced work with a solicitor named Harvey T. Coombe, in Ryrie Street. I was, engrossing deeds all day in a big room upstairs by myself, and the dead quietness of the place nearly turned me “balmy”. I stood it for about three months, when I made a dash for liberty by bolting from my uncle’s and making tracks for Melbourne. I was two days doing the distance; stopping the first night at the Little River Pub, then kept by a party of the name of Perrin. The place was built some years before by John Coppock, who years afterwards became my boss at Albacutya. The hotel was a queer looking shop – more like a stable than anything. The walls were wattle and daub, the roof of bark, but there was plenty of rough tucker and a passable bed. The next day was a good long walk, but I made Melbourne at night. I had a job to get accommodation, but tumbled on the right shop, as it turned out afterwards, at a very rough boarding house in Flinders Street. For a roommate there was a man from Phillip Island, which with French Island was then in the hands of Messrs. McHaffie and Gardner. Two of the latter and one of the McHaffies were off to the diggings, and the old man who had accompanied them thus far was returning to Phillip Island, and was wanting a cook. I grabbed at the job, and next morning went to the office of Bell and Co. and signed on for six months. The old chap had three horses to take back. He riding one and leading one, and the other under me, we started as soon as breakfast was over, making our way through Brighton, then with only one pub that I could see, and very few other houses. That night we made a boarding house at a place called “No Good Damper”. Starting next morning we passed a very picturesque place, owned by Captain Baxter, and that night made Drew’s, a cattle station on the shores of Westernport Bay. After a good supper we went to the beach and made a good big fire, as a signal for the whale boat in the morning. (I must stop here to remark that after leaving Brighton I don’t remember seeing ‘a house but the two mentioned, and I can safely say we never met one individual in the two days’ ride. Sixty-one years have made a wonderful change – watering places, palatial hotels, excursion steamers, and all the rest of it).
To resume, about l0 o’clock, Tom McHaffie and a nephew, about my own age (sixteen years or so), arrived with the whale boat, and we all sat down in Drew’s, and made a real good dinner, after which we carried our saddles and bridles and put them into the boat and pulled over to Phillip Island, and commenced work the following morning, but I was stiff and sore from riding for two days – the first saddle I ever covered. I had never done a hand’s turn of cooking in my life, never even seen tucker cooked, but I was fixed up as cook and had to pull through some way. I could not think of attempting even to make bread, leather jackets and fritters was the limit in that line. The meat was easier – you had only to chop it up in chunks, put it in a boiler or camp oven, and wait; dish up, and stand the racket. In time I got quite used to the growling. You see, I had someone to share it with. The nephew was as big a muff and lime-juicer as myself, and he took it all smiling. He and I got on real well together, brother sufferers as we were. I soon learned how to kill and dress a sheep, and I was improving slowly at the cooking. Before I left I could turn out a Johnny cake rivaling Professor Soyer.
After six weeks on Phillip Island the four of us shifted over to French Island, and here I met my Sedan. The boss had some friends staying with him for a day or two. He came to me and asked kindly if I could as a favour spread myself and concoct a pot off soup, telling me to save the sheep’s head, skin it, and put in the pot, with herbs, onions, etc., etc. – all very easy when you know how it’s done. I had been giving the sheep’s heads away, and had never skinned one, and, believe me, it is no easy job; if you doubt me try one with big horns, and mind you don’t leave any wool at the butts of the horns, It was thinking that just a little wool could not be noticed that was the cause of my undoing. Just before dinner time, I took a spoon to see how it was getting on. I dipped the spoon in and held it up, and the sight was hideous. The wool was in strings a foot long, beautifully festooned with boiled rice. There was no retreat, I had to face it,
so I took it into the dining room, but had not got to the gate surrounding the house before tureen, soup and all came after me with choice language. The dinner was soon over, and in the afternoon, they got the boat up and went over to the plain land, leaving me for a fortnight by myself on the islands. I put in my time reading. The bosses had the best library I have dropped across in all my travels, so I managed to put the time pretty well. When they returned, the four of us went over again to Phillip Island, the only thing occurring of any interest being a visit to the island by a lot of escapees from Van Dieman’s Land, who cleared out with all the stores at the out-station, seven miles from the homestead. They then made the mainland, stuck up a place where they got a horse and cart, and were making_ for the diggings, when they were taken near Melbourne, The only one of us that saw them was the nephew, young McHaffie. There were seven or eight men, and he was very frightened, seeing men dressed as they were in canvas and kangaroo skin hats. They gave him to understand they were police officers looking for absconders, and, of course, he swallowed the yarn, but when he told his uncle, he soon understood and went after them. The fellows abandoned the boat – a real good whaler – and McHaffie took possession of it in return for the stores they had robbed from the out-station.
I put in four months on the island, and it was many years before I spent so long a time in any other one place. I don’t put on any frill about that, for you see at that time I could not swim, or I would have been off when they left me by myself at French Island. ‘However, looking back after so many years, I think it did me good. I learned a lot then that stood to me in after days. I should have had to put in the six months but for a ship with emigrants putting to Westernport Bay through stress of weather. McHaffie went on board and engaged two men – one as cook, the other to knockabout. The next day he put me across the water on to the main land at “Drew’s Station”. At parting he acted as a real gentleman. He gave me my cheque for nine pounds, telling me not to cash it, and putting his hand in his pocket, he gave me a sovereign, saying, “I am giving you this to take you to Geelong, where you had better go to your uncle, and, for Heaven’s sake, stop there, for, with the exception of my nephew, you are the most useless object I ever met.” I thanked him for his kind gift and his outspoken opinions of myself and his nephew. I never saw him again, but still think of him as a kind and good man.
I put in the night at Drew’s place, and the following day made the boarding house at “No Good Damper”, stopping there until morning. Next day I made tracks to Brighton, and next day to Melbourne, where I had a job to get a bed. The rush by this time had set in to Ballarat, and the Bay was full of ships. There was work anywhere you went, and money to be made easily, with little work. I was not long spending my cheque, and with the pound I went down to Williamstown, where I got a job unloading sugar from the barque Napoleon, from the Mauritius. The pay was 12/6 a day and tucker. I was ten days at this, and then went up to Melbourne, where I knocked about for a week, and came back to Williamstown and started work with a stone mason putting in foundations in blue stone. I left him and picked up with an American nigger bricklayer, who put me on mixing mortar and carrying bricks. I stopped with him a month. My next job was assistant at the Semaphore at Gellebrand Point, signalling to Batman’s Hill, where ships were coming in in scores from all parts of the globe. It was easy work, and I was ‘paid 12/- a day. My mate with the glass made out the flags, and called them out to me. I signalled the first steamer of the P. & O. line, the “Chusan” and the following one, the “Formosa” and amongst others, the “Vulcan” troop ship, with the/ 40th Regiment on board; the ”Great Britain” on her first voyage; the “Cleopatra”, “Golden Age”, and many others – both wind-jammers and steamers. My end came one day when I let the button at the end of the halyard slip through my hand, and the weight of the line in the other hand pulled it up to the yard-arm. It was about 30 or 40 feet up to the cross-trees, and then you had to go out on the yard-arm to get the wooden button and pull it down to my mate. I could not do it, and my mate had to go into Williamstown and give a sailor £1 to do the job. I was a day or two in Williamstown, and one Sunday was standing on the wharf when a boat was putting off to the coal hulks. The man at the Stern oar called out to me, asking if I wanted a job. I was aware they were paying £1 a day, and was ambitious of earning that screw, so I told him I would accept his offer. Ile pulled in and I jumped into the boat and went out to the coal hulk. There we commenced work at night loading the tugs, and after that the Geelong steamers. I was first put to carrying the baskets to the hatchway, and one basket was more than enough. When filled you took hold of one handle, the filler the other, and threw it on your back. When he performed the operation on me, I thought I was going in two, so I let, the basket go, and the lot of the coal fell on his toes, and, there was some lurid language. I was then put to shovelling. If you have never done this work before, you may believe me, it’s a “Tickler”. I could not do it quick enough, and through the handles and hooking on the rope. I managed to do this until breakfast time, when I got my meal with the others, after which they put me ashore, and I was glad to get there. My next job was with a German carpenter Captain Pascoe had seen me mooching about, and, knowing my uncle in Geelong, talked like a father to me about my way of life, and advised me to apprentice myself to Lahnig, a carpenter. I was introduced to the German chap, spent a night with him, found out he was able to play three or four instruments, and went to work the next day. I had been about a week with him, when he went to Melbourne on business. He had been making window sashes, and left a lot to put together. I thought I would astonish him when he came back, so I tried to fix them up, but broke a lot. When he arrived he did not appear much astonished, but you could make no doubt about his temper. He used some beautiful swear words in two languages, opened the door and gave me a parting kick on the posterior parts, and told me to go to Hell I did not take his advice. I had a bob or two, so I went to the Chip Inn, then kept by Baker, but afterwards by Taverner, the father of our late Agent-General in the Big Smoke. I was talking to the butler, when another man came in – a stranger to me, as I thought. He recognised me at once, and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was not doing anything, but would be glad to do anything light and pleasant. He turned out to be a Mr. Lindsay, who had a pub about half-a-mile away, near the quarries at the Lighthouse. I walked home with him, had dinner, and while at the table he put me up to a good line of business. At that time Williamstown got a good deal of its water from Melbourne in lighters. There was plenty of real good water in the quarries, and his idea was for me to take a hogshead, fill it, roll it up to the loading houses and sell. Tie lent me the barrel and a bucket and wooden funnel. I started away, got a load, and rolled it up to the first house, where I got 10/- for it. I filled another one on the following day, got the same amount for it, and was beginning to think I was on a real good wicket. I stuck at this for about ten days, when the money began to burn, so I went to Melbourne and got rid of it as easily as shelling peas. I came back to Lindsay’s, and after giving me a lecture on things in general, he proposed me trying a tun bat, saying I could get a pound if I could roll it up to the houses. I fell in with his idea, but to my sorrow, after I had trundled my but down to the water, filled it and got to the corner of the first house, it rolled between two big boulders, bung down. Do what I could, it would not budge. Two or three men passed laughing, but were in too great a hurry to help me. I do believe I was the only one in Victoria at that time not in a hurry, and I never have been violently busy since. However, I acquainted Lindsay with my trouble. He went down with me, and the two of us managed to get it over and let the water run. I then rolled it back, and gave up the job. I was walking about Williamstown when the Postmaster called me over to him, asking if my name was -. I told him it was. He said he had been looking for me for some days, as there was a registered letter waiting there. I went in and signed for it When I opened it I got a £5 note, and instructions to come back to my uncle in Geelong, Melbourne called. I took the steamer in the afternoon, stayed a week there, and then started to walk to Geelong, with two pence half-penny in my pocket. I managed the distance in one day, and could not have done it by myself, but had the company of three runaway sailors, who were making for the shipping in Geelong, and coaxed me along. It was dark when we made Geelong, and I had to face my people in the following rigout: A pair of sailor’s canvas trousers, a big blue jersey, and a Kilmarnock bonnet with a great round ball on top. I was ashamed to appear before my uncle in that rig, so I went to the hotel next door to our place and get the landlady to go and fetch my aunt. When she saw me she nearly had a fit, laughing at the figure I cut. We’ went to the store, and when my uncle cast his eye on me he was nearly kicking me out for an imposter, but I soon proved my identity. The next day he took me up to town and procured me a civilised rig-out, and I commenced serving out sardines, pickles and tea. A day or two after my return we went for a ride to Mount Moriac, to a friend’s place, and in the afternoon, while they were conversing, I made for the summit of the mount. The glorious view of ‘the country commanding the plain with Mounts Hessie, Elephant, the cloven hills looking west, and the Grampian mountains, and the Pyrenees to the north was only my undoing again. I never rested until I saw more of the country. I put in three months behind the counter, and then made a bolt for the West. I worked a few weeks at Arthur Hopkins’ station put in a couple of months at Harding’s station, Mt. Gelebrand, hut keeping for two shepherds, and with a pound or two in my pocket, started again, picking up a bullock-driver on the road to Port Fairy. I chummed in with him, and was some days on the road. On arriving, I put up at the Stag Hotel, then in the hands of old Wall, father of Mr. Wall, of Dimboola. I stopped there two or three days, when I fell into the hands of the biggest terror I have ever met in the colony “Bobby”, or as he was usually called, “Scubby Moffat. He was down for a load of rations. His bullock driver was in bad health, and I took on the job of piloting them back to the station on the Eumeralla. We were three or four days on the road. The second day Moffat overtook us. He had picked up two runaway sailors, and hired them at 10/- a week. On arriving at the station a little before dinner, and after Unyoking the team, I asked him for a bit of soap to wash myself. He went off pop, told me I had a good cheek wanting to run up a score for luxuries, and only a few minutes on the place. I had to do without the soap, and began to think I had run against a snag. We all sat down to dinner together on salt beef and potatoes-, with the bone in them. After the meal, he sent a boy out for another team of bullocks. I yoked them up, and was drawing in logs all the afternoon. We had supper in the gloaming, after which the two sailors asked the boss for some blankets.He went off again in style, cursing and telling the chaps to go into an outhouse full of potatoes where they would find an old tarpaulin. They went out, and I saw them no more that night. The boss, a married couple, and I sat up by the fire for some time. He was very talkative, and I began to think rather personal in his allusions to me. He commenced telling that he had two or three shepherds lately, who had been hired for six months, but had bolted after a few days. He continued “Now, my London pickpocket, if you serve me the same trick, I will follow you to blazes, and give you six months for breaking your agreement. (I had signed for six months). We sat up for some little time longer, and every now and again he addressed himself to me a “Whitechapel Bird Catcher”, “A New- gate Knocker,” etc. Now, I had never caught a bird in my life, nor had I picked pockets or had any connection with Newgate, and I began to think I had dropped in with a lunatic. I was to take a flock of sheep the next morning, so went to bed and started early the following day. He counted out over two thousand young sheep, but would not give me a dog, and, of course, I had a nice day of it. Some of the sheep came home hours before I did, and he gave me fits over it. However, I had made up my mind to sling both the sheep and the owner. I heard he was going over to a neighbour’s a few miles away. I drove the flock about a couple of miles, and then made through the bush to Port Fairy, walked all day and part of the night; slept out near the town, got my breakfast, and started for Warrnambool, reaching it about sundown. I stopped there one day, and the next went to work with a threshing machine at 12/ a day. I put in the season with the thresher, and then hired with a party of the name of Lysaght, a farmer, near Woodford. Here I stopped three months, and then picked up with a mate, who had been in the colony some years, most of the time in Gippsland. His description of the country filled me with a longing to see it, so we both started to walk the distance, and made right across the Western District, through Melbourne and Dandenong, where we met a party of the name of Desully. He had a lot of work fencing and a stock yard to put up, and gave us the route to the place, but told us we would have a job crossing two or three rivers, which were in flood (it was one of the worst winters for rain). However, we started, and, after wading two days through swamps, and being out two nights, having a job to find enough dry ground to make our doss for the night, we came to the conclusion to turn back. Two days after, at Dandenong, we met a settler of the name of Leckie, and took a job splitting a thousand posts. We were some weeks at this work, and on finishing and being paid, we started for Melbourne, putting in the night at the pub at Brighton, where my mate commenced drinking. In the morning I bought a pair of boots, put them in my swag, and, after a job got my mate to start. We made Melbourne, and went to the first hotel over Princes Bridge (I think the Queen’s Head), at the corner of Flinders Lane and Swanston Street, but could not get accommodation. Leaving my mate, I started out to look for a place to put the might in, and had a job to find lodgings. When I returned my mate had vanished, and the barman could give me no information of his whereabouts, so I had to grin and bear it – ruined completely swag, boots and all gone. I never saw the object again. I had just enough money to buy a new rig-out, and, with a few shillings left, made to Yan Yean waterworks, where I tackled navvying. I was put on to the face with a pick weighing about a quarter of a hundredweight, but was soon shunted, when I went to another ganger and was put on to wheel clay into the puddle across two planks. The first trip with the barrow, I fell in to the trench, barrow and all, so was full up of that, and was put on to the track, placing roots in ruts the dobbins made on the embankment. I was two or three days of this, when the doctor at the hospital wanted a man to attend a poor fellow who had been dreadfully burnt while lying out drunk. It was a frightful burn, halfway round the body. I had to make a supply of poultices of bread and milk twice a day and to help the nurse. The doctor came in one day as I was removing the poultice. He abused me for my softness, and, taking hold of it, forcibly dragged it off at one welt. The man screamed at the pain, and I nearly turned sick, and threw up the job. Being full up of the Yan Yean, I made tracks for the plains and the squatters. I had been on the tramp about a week, when I struck a job hut-keeping for two shepherds on a station near Lismore, or as it was then called Brown’s Water- holes. The two shepherds were both off their dot, one melancholy mad and the other rather dangerous, so I put in two months to get a few pounds, and made for Ballarat, where I fell into a job as a cook, for a mob of swells making for Geelong. They had only been out from the Old Country about ten months, and were bidding goodbye to the “blasted karlines” in disgust. They were a comical crowd. Their impedimenta filled two drays, and consisted of the most curious lot of rubbish conceivable – all bought in London for the diggings. They had a meat safe, bigger than some of the huts I lived in it had to be hauled up to a tree with a rope and block. They had a dray that could be turned into a boat, for crossing rivers, and their cradles for washing gold would make a cat laugh. We were about a week making Geelong. At camping time each night, they had three shifts taking watch for bushrangers, and were armed to the teeth with revolvers, bowie knives, etc. etc. I had a goodtime with the johnnies, nothing much to cook but dampers, as they had plenty of tinned stuff, and a plentiful supply of bottle ale and porter, and were very free with it. It was a real pleasure trip for the old carter and myself. On reaching Geelong they gave me £3. But I am before my story, and may mention here what I saw coming though Ballarat, a week or two before the ructions culminating in the Stockade affair. On passing the camp there were two or three men chained to trees, and guarded by old pensioners in the queer uniform of. Chelsea Hospital. They had the old Brown Bess muskets, I rather think, with flint locks. On reaching Meredith we met the 40th Regiment and a naval contingent, and shortly after making Geelong I heard of the Eureka unpleasantness.
I stopped in Geelong two or three days, and then made for the bush again, getting a job at Cressy, then called “The Frenchman”, after Duvarney, the first publican at that place. The hotel was then in the hands of one Woods, a Yorkshire man, not long in the country. I took the job of stableman, and was making good money, and getting rid of it easily, having met a fellow cooking there whom I knew in London as a piano forte case maker. During my time there a mob of shearers were knocking down their cheques, and when stony broke the publican started them for Colac, where they lived two or three mornings running. They would come back after boozing the two or three bottles he gave them. Of course, the publican jibbed at last, and after hanging about until the afternoon and getting no more drink, they put a match in a stack of hay, burning it, and nearly he house as well. The police were sent for, and three of them received two years each for their mad work. After a month or two, Mr. McNabb took a fancy to me, and gave me a billet looking after his sheep running amongst the lakes. All I had to do was to keep them from coming past my but towards the road and crossing it but I was too near my old chum at the pub. He, was getting the Saturday review regularly from Home, and I used to go down after every mail to get the papers, and was caught there by his nephew, and soon got the sack. I went into the home station to get settled up, and was rather astonished when he put his hand into his waistcoat pocket and handed me one shilling as all I had coming, after six weeks’ work. This was the smallest settlement I had received to date; the remainder had gone with my chum at the pub.
I then made my way up to the Hopkins River, and started fox trotting sheep at 25 bob a week, and it was worth it – the most disgusting work I ever tackled. We were sitting down at the job and had the sheep caught for us, there being three besides myself at the game. After putting them all through our hands, the races came on at Wickliffe township and the lot of us attended them, and we put our feet in it in doing so. The boss, Mr. Wyselaskie, was supposed to be away in Tasmania, but came home and caught us in the height of the fun, next morning sacking the whole of us, including the overseer, but leaving the cook still at the station, as he had not attended, as someone had to look after the place and he very unwillingly was not included in the crowd. Three of the men and myself then made for the Wimmera, and crossing the Pyrenees we made Crowlands, where I parted from my mates, getting a job with a drover with sheep for Geelong. We delivered them at the sale yards, and I then made my way by steamer to Melbourne, having heard of my brother’s arrival in the colony some time before.
I could get no trace of his whereabouts, and having little left in my purse and the races being on at Flemington, I made my way there, and soon got a job watering horses. The grandstand at that time was alongside the Saltwater River, and the water was brought in lighters from Melbourne. The lighter men had a row of buckets on the course, and I with two buckets, had to keep them full. I received 15/- per day for the work, and stopped during the meeting, but never met my brother, although he was on the course all day selling race cards, and was doing better than I was,- clearing 30/- a day as I learnt afterwards, when we met eighteen months later. I stopped on the course the three days, and it was rare fun at nights. The attendants at the booths would bring out all the broken food left during the day in tablecloths, and tumble it out on the grass, and then there was a. scramble. There was pastry and cold meats and potatoes, sandwiches, and all sorts of grub mixed up together, and jolly good feeds we had Of course it was al fresco, no plates, and we had only our pocket knives, but we made the best of it, and were ready for work the following day, sleeping out at night under the stars with a tarpaulin covering us. I saw little of the races and have but a slight recollection of a few of the horses’ names, Alice Hawthorne, a mare bred by Thos. Austin, of Barwon Park, was the crack racer of the day.
After the races I went into the town thinking I might meet my brother, but was disappointed, he having taken a job of horse driving with a load for the diggings. I was knocking about a day or two and fell in with a young fellow, a native of Plymouth, and a fellow passenger of mine from the old dart. He had an accommodation tent at Campbellfield, on the Sydney Road, and wanting a mate, I chummed in with him, and went out the next morning, He had an old man looking after the place, but could place no confidence in him. There was a pub about a mile away, kept by a man of the name of George Vinge, a well known person at that day. When we got to the tent it was shut up and the old fellow away drinking at the shanty, so he got his walking ticket, and I was installed as partner in the concern, We did a good trade with the escort from the Ovens diggings, the eight or ten men guarding the wagon and the driver, stopping both ways for hot coffee and other drinks hotter still. They were a queer crowd, cadets from England, real Johnnies, the only colonial being the driver of the wagon. Our other customers were the fellows making for the diggings, and these as a rule had a bob or two to spend. Those coming down we generally found stone broke, but they got a feed and we passed them on to Melbourne. I used to have to go into town every week – the road was through Pentridge, now called Coburg. At that time there were no walls round the buildings, and the traffic went right through the middle of where the prisoners were working, with a cordon of warders rifles guarding them. You were supposed to go through the line of sentries without stopping or speaking. The old hands and long sentence men were in uniform, with the broad arrow all over their clothes, but with these were a good few runaway sailors and others in their own togs. Now, I was going through for the first time, and was about the middle of the workings, when a man was making towards me. On passing he said something. I could not catch the words, and was going to ask him what he wanted, when one of the warders caught sight of us. He made over to where I was standing, and frightened the life out of me. Had he taken no notice of the fellow he would not have got the fig of tobacco I dropped on the road, as that was what he wanted, and, no doubt, he picked up when he got the chance. I went through many times after, and saw the prisoners getting their dinner. Two Chinamen would be carrying a wide board with holes in it containing deep tin plates, with what I took to be boiled meat and potatoes. The men were lined up, and each got his portion, and they just sat down on stones and made their mid-day meal. I put in two or three months at the tent game, and, wanting a change, dissolved partnership with my mate, and made into Melbourne again. G.V. Brooks was at the Royal, and I saw him in “Alexander the Great”, or the “Rival Queens, and in the name part of “Rob Roy”, “the Irish Poet”, and “O’Callaghan on his last Legs”, the two latter rollicking broad farce and comedy. He was great in either tragedy, comedy or farce, and I have since seen Chas, Keen, Creswick, Barney Sullivan, Montgomery and others, but none could fill the bill to my taste like Brooks. It was a treat to see him walk the stage even such a splendid figure, and off the stage in private life a real man in every respect. Since the London went down, carrying the poor fellow to his untimely death, no actor has ever gained the good will and affection of the Melbourne public to the same extent as G.V. Brooks.
To resume, I left Melbourne for Geelong, and on arriving at that place took the coach for Drysdale, and from there walked to Portarlington, and went reaping at Captain Langland’s farm.There were a lot of us at the crop, which took a fort night and two days to cut out. I then went back to Geelong, stayed a day or two, and then hired for six months at Fitchett’s Registry Office to go shepherding for John Hastie, on Lake Corangamite. I was five days making the station, and next day was installed in a movable hut between the Great and Little Corangamite. Here, I had good easy times, and plenty of reading, until the shearing commenced, when being unable to procure a cook, they sent for me. I was tired of shepherding, and by this time I had managed to acquire the whole secret of bush cookery. I could make bread, role-poley, dough-boys, and I rather think was the introducer, if not the inventor of brownie, the national topper up of a feed, to the natives of Australia. I am rather proud of this, but have put on no dog, or that sort of thing. I got through with the shearing with only two stand-up fights, and most of the mob stood to me with a few bob, so I did not do so badly. I then made my way To Melbourne again, thinking I might drop across my brother I knocked about the town for a fortnight without hearing or seeing anything of him, and then returned to Geelong, and the next day was behind a storekeeper’s counter, serving out the usual sardines, pickles, and tea. I was here something like five months, when my brother turned up all of a sudden, and with a good cheque in his pocket. We had a time of it for a week at the finish up, we made up our minds to take to the bush, as the only way at that time of getting a crust. There were any, amount of men walking about the towns of Melbourne and Geelong, mostly men, who had been unfortunate on the diggings. There was no way of getting on the land, and nothing for it but to tramp the country looking for work.
There were actually half the population on the track. Every. station in Western Victoria had its hut full every night, and on the Wimmera and Glenelg Rivers as many as fifty or sixty men would turn up every night and expect to get supper and breakfast.
The two of us were on the road for seven weeks before we got a job, and were very lucky to fall into one then. Hundreds of men were out of work until shearing commenced. Without a doubt it was the worst time Victoria ever went through, and it lasted until after the passing of the first Land Bill. Since that day the country has progressed steadily. There may have been times when through drought there was stagnation for a season or so, but taken by and large, it has continuously been changing for the better.
In March, my brother and I left Geelong, and, after tramping over the best part of Western Victoria, and, sampling the south-east of South Australia without getting a show of work, we were making back to Geelong. After passing through Horsham, we made North Brighton, James and Henry Darlots’ station. That day they had just finished drafting a mob of cattle for Fred Gazzard, and they were sitting on the top rail of the yard having a spell before dinner, when we presented ourselves and asked for the boss. James Darlot, or as he was better known, Cockey Darlot, answered when we asked for work. He took a good look at us, and asked me where I came from, and. I answered London. He then wanted to know what part of the Great Smoke. I answered Pentonville, and he replied, “When you are next asked that question tell them you are from ‘sling, ton of Clerkenwell”, alluding to Lord Derby’s pets. The Darlots were Sussex men, hence the name of North Brighton, they having been born at Brighton in that country. However, he promised me three weeks’ work dipping sheep, so that we might be able to get a new rig-out, telling us they (the squatters) were very shy of new chums dressed as we were. We went to work next morning, and put in seven weeks, which was very acceptable after seven-or eight weeks on the track and short commons. There was a real good cook there, well-known round Horsham in those days, by the name of Morgan, and we soon put on fat, as the work was easy. We put through the sheep within the three weeks, and then were carting bricks, burning lime, etc., for some chimney building. The bricklayer, Tom Sayers, and hip laborer, Charley Saulsbrey, were shipmates with my brother, from home-, and were living in Horsham for years after, Saulsbrey becoming the licensee of the Farmers’ Arms, previously kept by James Moore. Subsequently he became manager of the Australian Club, Melbourne, where he died.
The sheep were all shepherded, not a fence between North Brighton and the Murray, of course, with the exception of horse paddocks at the home stations. The shepherds were mostly married men, all well known in Horsham for many years afterwards. Their names were John Kelly, Jack Campbell, Jack Leehane and Bob Carr and, I think, Mick Maher. The two latter both turned publicans; Carr built the second pub in Dimboola, and Maher put up a building and got a license at Lawloit. There is not one of them alive today. After putting in seven weeks we were discharged. When settling with the boss he told us to go into Horsham and proceed to Langland’s store and get. a rig-out of blue shirts and moleskin trousers. We took his advice, and were never after long out of a job.
Horsham at that time was just a typical bush township – one store, a pub, kept by Captain Bowden, and another one just built by a party of the name of Welch. The other huts were of logs, mostly bullock drivers living in them, the king of the lot being Alex Smith. There was a boarding house run by Mrs. Forrest, but neither butcher, baker, commission agent, nor clergyman, and they appeared to rub along very well without them – especially the last two mentioned. Another working on North Brighton, and for long afterwards residing in Horsham, was James Gleed, a quiet, reserved, hardworking man, and one both my brother and I chummed up with. I rather think he must have been a gamekeeper in the old dart, for all his spare time was devoted to the gun and he could talk interestingly of the habits of the birds and animals he brought down. Long ago he passed over the bar, but I am given to understand his widow is still living in Horsham.
On the track once more, we made to Ballarat, as letters and papers were lying there, and at once made back as we had heard a lot of talk about the Mallee while at North Brighton. We made tracks across from the Four Posts, as Glenorchy was then called, and our route lay right across the Horsham plains. At that time there was a shepherds’ hut in nearly every clump of bull oak. We were about two days crossing the Nine Creeks (Dimboola), and each night stopped with shepherds. The last we called at was near the Sailor’s Home, and then we made the acquaintance of Sam Anderson and his wife. Anderson was a native of St. Helena, and you don’t run against people from there every day. He was good company, and could give graphic descriptions of Longwood and other places connected with Napoleon’s sojourn on the island. The poor fellow some three or four years later was drowned at Lake Hindmarsh Station, swimming his horse after the cows. He was liked by all, masters and men, and his grave was fenced in and a stone still standing marks his resting place on the pine ridge at Jeparit. His widow was about the first baker in Horsham.
Our next stopping place was Upper Regions, then occupied by Daniel Cameron. The station had not long before been divided into two homesteads, Lochiel being in the possession of John Holt, a brother-in-law Of Cameron. The night we called there, Holt took a fancy to my brother, and hired him for six months at a pound a week. It was a real mercy he did not cotton to me, for my brother never got a brown copper except the few shillings he spent for clothes, etc. However, I partly sadly from my brother, and took the track on my own for Lake Hindmarsh. It was a good day’s walk, and the creeks and billabongs being full, I had to go round well into the Malice. (I may as well give a description of what the Nine Creeks was like. The ground where Dimboola now stands was beautifully grassed and timbered with magnificent red gums and at the edge of the Malice a few pines, not a soul living near than Clowes. This is the man who took up Pine Plains ‘in the forties and had to abandon it, there being no waterholes where there was a shepherd’s hut).
To resume, I made nearly to Antwerp that night, sleeping under a pine tree near the horse paddock. The next morning, just after starting, I met the owner, Horatio Ellerman, with his little daughter. He was full of sympathy for my having passed the night under a tree, and invited me up to the station for breakfast. I had not eaten anything since the day before at Upper Regions, so I made good work with my knife and fork, and then had to go into the parlor to list to a lot of extempore prayers and a sermonette, etc. We got over it in a hour or so, and pushed along for Lake Hindmarsh Station, where I arrived a bit before sundown, and was made real welcome. After supper, Henry Ellerman, brother of Horatio, came into the kitchen. I got no work from him, but he was good enough to pull me across to Tullyvea Station – just across the Wimmera River – where Joe Davis, Mr. Coppock’s overseer, was staying for the night. They were wanting a shepherd, and I had to agree for six months at a pound a week, and sign an agreement, stating the rations at 1O lb of flour, 12 lb of meat, 2 lb of sugar and 1/4 lb of tea, and coarse salt ad lib. Tullyvea at this time belonged to Akenson Bros., and was a cattle station, as was Pine Hills. The opposite side of the river, afterwards Lake Hindmarsh, and now Jeparit, Mr. Ellerman was getting rid of cattle and stocking with sheep. I put in the night with a stock rider, one Jack Beebe, who made me very comfortable in one of the neatest huts I have come across. He was a remarkably neat man, stirrup irons, bits, etc, all polished and hanging behind gauze to keep flies off. Around the walls were dingo skins, and the pelts of ‘possums, native cats, etc. Beebe stopped with the Atkinson’s until they sold out to Mr. George Faris, who turned it into a sheep run, and I have never seen him since.
The next morning I had to cross the river again, and started on the east side of Lake Hindmarsh for Albacutya a long walk of twenty-four miles. I pegged away all day, and about sundown made Corajabrim, and across the flat I could just see a light burning. Thinking I was near the homestead, I made for it, and pulled up ata an out station, where there were three or four men lambing down a flock, and I put in the night there. I got a good supper and breakfast, and walked three miles, until I made John Coppock’s, my place of residence for six long months. The three miles of country between the hut and the home station on the right hand side of the road had been mostly under water, and was mostly drying up. There were two or three shallow lakes that had become nearly dry, and the vegetation, consisting of marsh-mellows, was over six feet high, and the ground between the mallows was covered with sow thistles, while on the left side was a deep channel, like a river, with six or eight feet of water, the overflow of Albacutya. All these depressions have never had water in since, the floods in the early fifties being the cause in this year.
On arriving at the slip panels, the scrub prevented me seeing the buildings, and I was thinking I had got off the track when after a walk of another hundred yards, the home stead appeared on a low ridge. It consisted of five huts and the store, all built of pine logs in American fashion, the roofs of bark. In front of the huts stood the woolshed, a tumbledown old place that disappeared after the 57 shearing for a new and up to date building. There was neither stable nor cultivation paddock, the horses doing real well on the native grasses. I went to the biggest building I saw, thinking it to be the boss’s place. It proved to be the men’s quarters, and the cook pointed out the master’s quarters’, a small but of one room. I at once made my appearance before the boss, a big burly man with a clean shaven face, and I gave him to under stand that I was the new shepherd. was told to go to the men’s hut and take a day’s spell, and at dinner time I found out the boss dined with the men, he taking the head of the table, and carving for about half a dozen of us. The dinner was damper and boiled mutton, and for the six months I stayed was invariably the same. The damper was made with carbonate of soda baking powder was not in vogue and the cook had always a stock of six on hand and the one in cut, baking a fresh one every day, and placing the last made in a bucket, and all dipped their pannicans into it. The table was made of pine slabs two inches thick, and the seats were two rails resting in forks driven into the ground. Our community consisted of six all told; the boss and five others, one a bullock-driver, and two roustabouts, and another shepherd and myself. As for the cook, I don’t include him, being a regular duffer. He made our lives a misery. The boss had to put up with him, as there were no travellers ever passing. During my six months there was only one passed with his swag, but he would not take on cooking, so we perforce had to put up with the wastrel.
The day I arrived and the following day I was spelling, amusing myself walking about looking at the run. The country was pretty clear, surrounded with pine and bull-oak and mallee on the eastside; the west side was Albacutya Lake and the Outlet Creek, with plenty of grass and pig faces, the latter long since killed by rabbits and heavy stocking. The home station paddock at that time was one mass of scrub, consisting of hop bush, currant bush, and thick with pine and clumps of mallee and other timber. I have seen them for hours looking for the horses. At the ‘back of the primitive section there was a chain of beautiful lakes, the overflow of Albacutya, and good shooting on them all. I commenced my work on the third day. The boss came with me to the yard and counted out two thousand two hundred sheep. He lent me his own dog, and I started rather dubious as to whether I should bring them all back, but soon found out I had a soft thing on with Jerry, the dog. The day passed at last, and I made back alright, but I had come to the conclusion it could not be continued without books. I was wondering whether the boss had any, so the next morning I summoned up courage to make inquiries. The boss was still in bed when I knocked on the door. He told me to come in, and I made my want known, and he, pointing to a shelf, told me to help myself. There were about 150 books, and a poor lot they were. However, before my time expired, I had read them all over twice. As for news, we had to do without. There was no Post Office nearer than Lake Hindmarsh, and no mail beyond that. Whenever anyone was going down that far they brought it up, a pack horse carrying a three bushell bag fall. During my first spell at Albacutya, we got the news of the outer world twice. You may guess how I looked forward for someone going down, as at that time I was getting the Saturday Review and the illustrated London News regularly from home.
There were few incidents worth recording during my six months – just a monotonous getting up, going out with the flock, eating my meals, and sleeping. One thing I may mention at that time I am writing of, there was just a track like a cattle pad between the Murray and Pine Plains, and no water after leaving the Kulkyne Lakes until you made Werringra, where the Wimmera River ends on Pine Plains Station; so it was very seldom anyone tackled the journey.One poor fellow attempted the job, got as far as Tiegia, and caved in a mile or so beyond. Hisloss was made known at Dimboola, or Nine Creeks, as it was then called. A constable rode to the spot, scraped a hole with a stick, rolled the remains in, and covered it with earth. On his return journey his horse died some eight miles from Pine Plains. He had, of course, to walk that distance where they found him a fresh mount.
I got on well with my boss – one of the quietest men I ever met. I have heard him give a description of his early struggles. In the latter forties he squatted at Albacutya with one flock, partly the property of his boss (Captain Egerton), and partly his own. He had been shepherding for the captain, and had taken sheep for his wages a common occurrence in the days before the gold was discovered. Previous to his living at. Mount Egerton, he had built a rough log house at the Little River, beyond Geelong, got a license, and opened the first pub there. I passed it in 1851, when it was in possession of a person of the name of Perrin. It was a rough looking place, and at some distance I took it for a stable.
During my first term at Albacutya I never heard the boss laugh but on one occasion, but it was a laugh to remember. It put me in mind of Carlyle’s description of Professor Tuefels droch’s – he shook like jelly all over. The cause was a blunder one of the hands made at the table. They were talking of the Bunyip, when one said he could not live in the water. He was contradicted by another, who said he could as he was an antibillious” animal.
Mr. Coppock died in ’65 and was buried at the station. His nephews erected a stone to his memory, and inscribed thereon:- “An honest man”, a just and true one he was; when he settled with a man it was with orders on Holmes and White. Geelong; he would fill in the pounds only, and would always manage to have a-pile of silver and coppers so as to settle to the last penny.”
After being about a months on the station there returned.. from Ballarat, a party of two or three men, who had taken down two thousand fat sheep. They fetched a pound a head, and it gave the boss great pleasure, so much so that he started Tom Ross, the man in charge, with a flock of his own, and made over the west side of Albacutya to run them on. He hung on for a year or two and then made a bolt of it, the ground falling back to Mr. Coppock.
Shortly before my time expired my brother joined me at Albacutya. The boss found him a job until my time was up, when my brother and I made our way to Geelong. Another brother having arrived from England – he was working near Meredith, at Dolly’s Creek and we had the good fortune to hear from him there. After stopping a day or two, we were-on the track again, and making Mount Fyan’s Station, in possession of Messrs. Cummings, we got on as hutkeepers, my brother being about a mile and a half from my but with one shepherd, and I with two flocks. I had two yards of eighty hurdles to shift a day; my brother had only one yard. We only stopped about three months, and then made a start for the Mallee once more. On reaching, Nine Creeks, we got a job at Lochiel, Holt’s Station, and fell into work splitting posts and rails for a horse paddock. On completing and getting our cheques we made back to Albacutya (Mr. Coppock’s), and both fell into work, my brother as hut- keeper at Otaheity for one man, and I as cook at the home station. By this time, August 1858, the Government had let tenders for the mail to Pine Plains, so once a week we got plenty of reading, a consolation in those days in such an out of the way place. We seldom saw any strangers, as the swagmen were chary of tackling this route, they having to turn back on their tracks on going through the Murray, and it requited a tough stomach to face that, having to carry water and tucker about eighty miles. Shortly after commencing work another poor fellow succumbed, not a hundred yards from where the one perished before. He started from the lakes with a blackfellow and his lubra. They had a kangaroo -skin full of water with them but the heat of the weather and the swag proved too much for the white fellow. At last he jibbed, and they (the blacks) stayed with him one day trying to coax him along, but it was no go; so they filled his quart pot, and left him. They were two days before they made water at the north end of Weringra, the blackfellow having to carry his lubra a good part of the last day. They stopped a week before they made into the station, some six miles away when they reported having left the man on the road. The owners sent a man at once to the Nine Creeks for the police. It was terribly hot weather, and by the time the constable reached where the man was lying, he found he had been dead about a fortnight. He did the best he could, scraping a hole with a stick, and covering him up in this manner.
I never heard whether he was ever recognised. Another of the many lost since I sojourned in the scrub.
Shortly after this incident, the shearing commenced. The shearers had been at work only a day or two when a hawker with a cargo of whisky on board made the station. He camped near the homestead, and brought a couple of bottles to the shearers’ hut. This started them. The next morning, while away from his horses, the shearers looted his wagon, taking a cask containing about twelve gallons of whisky, a pistol and a flute. By the time he came back there was not a sober man in the hut. They had broached it at once, pouring it out of the bung-hole into pannicans, and spilling it over the floor. When the hawker returned with his horses and found his loss he came to the but and asked whether they would give him the cask. A well-known villain, of the name of “Choken” was sitting astride the barrel, like Bacchus with the man’s pistol in hand, and he told him he would shoot him if he did not make tracks, and that soon. The boss was at him, too, threatening to send for the police, so he had to beat a hasty retreat. And now commenced one of the most awful orgies it has been my lot. to see. Most of the men had done time in Tasmania, and a queer lot-they were. ‘I had to go up to the shearers’ but shortly after they began drinking. When I got near the door, the smell of the whisky nearly knocked me over. They had saturated the floor with it, and most of them were lying about insensible, and fora week not one of them did a stroke of work. They tried to coax the boss to help them out with it. One of them would bring a pannican and leave it on his table when he was getting his breakfast in the roustabout’s hut. The old fellow would take it back to the Shearers’ quarters, and just throw the pannican and whisky on the floor and leave it there. It took about a week to get through the grog, and a day or two before the work was resumed shearing. A day or two before they cut out, the hawker made his appearance with a couple of bottles, thinking he would get paid, but not a shilling would they give him: He was frightened to come near the homestead and the boss hunted him off the station.
We got through our six months and made tracks again to Horsham, where we made enquiries respecting the fare by coach to Ballarat. We found it would make too great a hole in our cheques, so we made arrangements with a carrier to take us as far as Ballarat. He had a load of sheepskins, and charged us ten shillings each to carry our swags, and was to tucker us during the trip. The carrier got on alright until he reached Amphitheatre, where he lost his horses. He was three days looking for them, and he got my brother and I to look after the load while away. We made a start on the fourth day, when we reached Ballarat. We passed through the place, and camped on the other side until morning. Shortly after we took the track. The Leviathan coach overtook us with a big placard on it, “Two and six to Geelong.” They stopped and we climbed up, and had a grand ride to the Pivot. Next morning they sent round runners offering to carry passengers to Ballarat for nothing, and give them dinner at the Clyde Hotel as well. There were two lines of coaches – Cobbs and the Estaffette – and the line of railway being nearly finished, they were at war with one another competing for the traffic. We stopped a day or two in Geelong, and took the steamer for Melbourne, and had a good time there. We saw G.V. Brooks in “Othello,” “Richard III,” and “O’Callaghan on His Last Legs.” We made back to Geelong and started for the Western District. We got work within a week at Robinson’s Struan Station, near Mount Elephant, my brother driving bullocks carting firewood out of the Stoney River. He had a mate with another team. They would camp at the edge of the rises, go in and fell, and then haul out the butts of the trees with the bullocks. They could only cart two loads a week. While my brother was at this I was working at a dam, facing it with stone, and mighty hard graft it was for a pound a week. My brother received 25 bob, and earned it As soon as they got in enough for the twelve months we got our walking ticket. We were only two days walking when we both got on hut-keeping at G.W. Cummings’ Mt. Fyan’s station, my brother for one shepherd and I for two. My job was chiefly shifting eighty hurdles every day, while my brother had only one yard to shift every other day, except in wet Weather, when he had to shift them every day. This was a fifteen shillings job, so as soon as the winter set in we give it best and made another shift after about three months at it. We had about a week’s tramp. The first day we were making through Hood’s station, near the Salt Creek; it was a very windy day, and one extra heavy blast caught my brother’s hat. It took it clean up in the air, and it no doubt landed in Tasmania. We never saw it fall. Well it does not look the thing for a commercial traveller to appear without a hat, so we made Hood’s homestead. The bass was sick in bed. He sent a little boy out to see what we wanted. My brother told the boy to inform his father that a gentleman had lost his hat with the wind, and he would take it as a great favour if he could let him have anything in the shape of a head covering. The boss was good enough to send the boy back with a waterproof cap, with a peak bound round with brass. We thanked the boy, but there is no doubt my brother looked a pretty sight. Some took him for a first mate of a liner, and others for a German musician, and would ask at night if we had our instruments with us. We did not make a store until we got to Cavendish, when we got a new felt hat.
Next day we reached Glen Isla, then owned by Burnett Bros. We both got on at once at a pound a week each, my brother breaking in cows to milk (it was at that time mostly cattle running under the mountains, and very wild they were), and I took on cooking for the men. We were in for the winter with a real good boss, splendid fat beef and plenty of vegetables, a good warm but with six or seven men for mates, any amount of good reading procurable from the house – magazines, illustrated papers, etc. – so we put in the winter very cosily. The season was a very wet one, and during our four months we never saw a traveller. They could not well reach the station, the rivers being flooded. About the end of July we made again for the Mallee, the shearing season being near. We tramped up the Warracknabeal Creek as far as Lake Coorong, now Hopetoun, and then made through the heath to Wonga Lake, at present leased by J. Poulton and Sons, being the first ever to cross through. We stopped at the home station at night, then occupied by Thompson and Anderson, they having bought it from Henry Eller- man, it being the southern portion of Pine Plains run. The homestead at this time was at Gymbowen, or as it was afterwards called, the Black Flat South. It joined Nypo, owned by Archibald and Sons, On the morning following we, on passing Wonga Lake, heard dogs barking, and made down to the water side, and found the Pine Plains crowd washing sheep. The boss over the wash put us to work at once, my brother to go on shearing, and myself wool-pressing. The sheep were. put through next day, and we all started for Pine Plains, and a real job we had getting the sheep through the porcupine and scrub. When they reached the yards, the sheep looked worse than when they started. This was the first and last time sheep were washed. at Wonga Lake.
At the time I am writing of, the Pine Plains run was in the occupation of Coombes and Ellerman. The latter was a younger brother of Horatio Ellerman, of Antwerp Station, years after Presbyterian clergyman at Lawloit and Lismore in the Western District. The younger brother also held Lake Hindmarsh ran, The north-west of Werringra, then a large lake, was rented by Edmonston and Earmacker, they running cattle and fattening them in about three or four months. All the lakes and water courses when drying up sufficiently to graze on were one mass of tree mallows and sow thistles, the mallow being in many places over a man’s head on horseback, the thistles covering the ground like a carpet. The lake, when we made our appearance, was drying up fast, and the cattle were all off the run. When the lake was full after the floods in the early fifties, and the cattle men camped on the north-west end, it took two days to take rations – one day out, and back the next. The lake has never been full since. In the year fifty-three it backed water all over the country, the runs south of Pine Plains being covered – lakes and billybongs everywhere.
When I first came to Albacutya, there was a chain of lakes between Rainbow and the Albacutya homestead, on the east side of the road, and on the west for a mile or so a water course like a river, and at the west side of the run three beautiful lakes, irrespective of Albacutya. All these depressions have been dry ever since, with the exception of Albacutya, the latter having filled three or four times and dried up as often. I have even shepherded sheep on the big Lake Hindmarsh, and now to return to Pine Plains.
There is no doubt at that time I thought it one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, such diversity of hills and plains, the hills covered with pines, and the open country dotted with clumps of pine and bulloak, and here and there quandongs and currant bush. At the foot of the Sand Hills the ground was one mat of pigfaces (miserbreanthmums) with their beautiful flowers. The rabbits have killed most of these. (The quandongs and pig faces entirely.) Dogwood and sandal wood have all disappeared years ago, and are lying prone on the ground, and for years now the place has been of little use, and as far as I can see will not recover until the Government cut it up and the cockies et on it. They will soon alter the place. I was on it for years, and never knew of anyone contracting disease there. It is hot in summer, but a thoroughly healthy dry heat. This I can safely say after fifty-five years. I know of only one man, an old Chinaman, who died there, and he died through want of opium. There are four graves near the home station – all suicides – and the poor old Chinaman’s. Three of the graves were occupied by victims of drink; the fourth, disappointment was the cause.
To resume, a day or two after we arrived they commenced to shear, and my brother got a stand on the board. I was to havea show to learn, but one of the partners had promised the place to a young fellow shepherding, and so I had to take his place„ We went out to the hut next day and had the sheep counted to me. There was another shepherd there, and our hut-keeper was a native of Van Diemen’s land, Dan Gordon by name, commonly called “Cranky Dan”, an original genius in the cooking line. He could make a good dish out of the most heterogeneous things, and give them most astounding names. However, he was better than most of the hut-keepers at that time, and he used to amuse us singing at night songs of his own composing. There was no rhyme and less sense, and when he finished a verse he did a little high and lofty tumbling, and then brought all to a close with a few howls. To keep him in form he made a track to run and jump in, bordered with pines he transplanted. My other mate was a Canadian sailor, with a most awful Yankee twang in his speech, but I got on alright with the fellow.. I would be reading all day, and at night he would want to know about it. I used to pitch him, some real queer yarns. He could not read himself, poor fellow. He left before the shearing was done,• and I never saw him afterwards. No doubt he made back to Canada. All his talk was about sledging and tobogganing, whatever that is. While I was with the flock, Lake Werringra was nearly dry; in feet, it got so salty that the sheep would not drink it, and I had to water them at wells near the.home station when they finish ed shearing. Then I gave up the flock to the young fellow, and he had to do the time he agreed to.
My brother and I then went to Wonga Lake (they had been waiting for us), and here l learned to use “Joseph Sorby” as the shears were called in those days. I made a poor, poor job of it at first. But my brother was alongside, and before I left I managed to get up to thirty a day. We had ,a married couple in the hut, the woman the cook and her husband was drawing water from Brimmin Lake. The couple afterwards built the second hotel in Dimboola.
After cutting out at Wonga, we got on at Lake Hind- marsh. The sheep were about half cut out. The board was not full and we started and remained there until they finished, 1860, when we took a contract to put up six miles of Mallee fencing. We had about six hands, including two natives: the last mentioned were felling mallee, the others were driving stakes and filling in. My brother was with this lot, while another man and myself were in the frontage of Lake Hindmarsh splitting stakes out of bull-oak, the boss having to cart them out to the line of fence. On our completing the job we had a trip to town, and then our next job was with John Holt, splitting posts and rails for the horse paddock at Lochiel near Dimboola. During the time we were doing this, our rations were brought out by Donald Wallace, years after the owner of Carbine, the great racehorse, The shearing was now near at hand, and we went looking for a shed.
After a week’s tramp my brother got on with Johnny Broughton, at Booropki, and went through the shed. There was no room for me, so I had to pad the hoof to Lanty Ryan’s Bunyip station. The board was full, so I had to take a job of hut-keeping for a shepherd at Yannipy. After putting in a week or two the cook for the shearers made a bolt in the night, and I was sent for to take his place. The terms were good, thirty shillings a week, and the three weeks’ wages the bolter had forfeited were to be paid to me. I had about 40 men, all told, had to kill all sheep, and fetch water about two hundred yards – a pretty tough job. However, I pulled through to the end. The men nearly all made me a present, the ringer” giving me fifteen shillings and a great lot of tobacco he had won at poker.
Soon after my brother re-joined me, and he took a flock of sheep to shepherd, and I was hut-keeper for him. We put in the time till the end of April. We got settled with, and made our way to Albacutya, and stopped there for a week or two when the Cameron Bros. sent for us to come to Pine Plains. We started at once, and both got on. They were just about starting lambing, and my brother went out with a flock to Yallum, a beautiful plain near the boundary of the Corrong run. It was the first time it was occupied, and was in first-class trim, being covered with cotton bush, sour bush, and the edges well grassed. As soon as the ewes began dropping I was sent out to help. There was two of the Camerons and two other men besides my brother and self, six all told. This number remained while the bulk of sheep had lambed, when my brother and I took charge, remaining there until near shearing time, when I was left by myselff.
Before my brother left be. had to bring the carriers through the four miles of heath and scrub from Waith to Yallum, rather a: tough job as no one had ever been through before. It was the first and last time they ever tried to cart wool by that route. During the time we were lambing down they had to cart all water from Pine Plains, over twenty miles, and over a pretty rough road, so we had to be very careful how we used it. It took two trips a week to keep us going. There was no rain to speak of until August, when there was just enough to keep us in water for drinking.- Frosts were frequent, and ice in the day pans sufficiently hard for the lambs to stand on. However, with all sorts of drawbacks, we managed to get 85 per cent. of lambs, my brother and I getting a shilling a head over 75 per cent. I was a few weeks by myself before they sent for my flock to come in to get shorn, and I was glad to shift. It was a lonely job.I had no one nearer than Coorong on one hand and Pine Plains on the other; It would be a job now-a-days to get men to tackle such work. When the shearing was over we went out to the north and of Werringra, I shepherding and my brother pumping water for the sheep and cooking for the two of us. We put in the time at this until the month of May, when we started out with a flock of ewes for the Salt Lake country, some forty miles or so from the home station. It took three or four days altogether; the first day brought us to Gunnah where we camped for the night, and next day camped at Jambaloke, after passing Underbool at the latter place we had dinner, At that time I don’t suppose there were a dozen people in Victoria aware o? the place. There is a railway station now somewhere near where we camped, Next day, after crossing Chave’s Plain, we went about three or four miles and camped for the night. There was not a drop of water to be got nearer than Tolongawank, so we sent the cart on to that place. There had been a tank sunk the preceding winter, but had not been covered, and it was full of dead kangaroos and emus. The driver was fool enough to fill a keg-full of the stuff and got back about midnight. But before he arrived my brother and I had gone in for the roots of the hakiea, or prickly mallee. It being virgin ground, untrodden by sheep or cattle, it was easily pulled up in lengths of 20 or 30 yards. We cut it in pieces of about a foot and placed it upright in a tart pot and billy, and Soon got a good drink each, and with that had to make shift until we reached Narr. Next morning, about breakfast time,
we found a good sized crab-hole full-of clear water, and concluded to stop here and lamb down the flock. The next few days were occupied in making yards and pens, gates, etc., and at sundown we poisoned what meat we had with strychnine, and next morning on making a search got three wild dogs, During our stay there we were never troubled with the vermin. After putting up tents and bunks the driver of the cart started pack to the homestead at Pine Plains, We had a bag and a half of flour; the half-bag was good enough, but when we were in the middle of the dropping and tackled the whole bag, we had a nice treat. It was in a dreadful state with weavils and maggots. We tried all sorts of ways to make it eatable, but failed; even went so far as to cook it right through into crust. It was no go, none of us could get it down, so when we killed a sheep we baked the liver and eat it for bread. As soon as the lambing slackened a bit, the boss walked into Pine Lodge one day and back the next day, bringing about 20 pounds on his back, and started the dray with a full bag. After about four weeks the boss and another man left, my brother and I taking charge of the flock. We were at Narr (now Gnarr) until the lambs were strong enough to walk, and then were shifted to Tolongawauk, where in the interim the boss had made a good-sized log tank, covered in. When we reached the place we were surprised to find it full heavy rains falling there while we had none at Narr. We were two days travelling, the second day making it about sundown. Just before reaching the open mallee country there was a stretch of sand, at the end of which was a long ridge, backed by mallee. The first view of the place appeared like a garden, it being covered from end to end with, flowers – white, blue and yellow. The sheep made a rush of some hundred yards or so, and were full in no time. Then we reached it, our feet sunk in some inches. One would imagine it had been cultivated. It was one of the most beautiful sights I ever saw. We left the flock, camped and went on some mile and a half to where we were going to stay, and put up bunks and a table and a bush yard, and then went back and brought the flock. They were that full we had a job to get them along, The next day we never left the camp; the sheep were in sight .until we yarded after sundown.The carter left next day, ‘and we were left alone, my brother and I, for a month or two, The ground was open round the camp for about a mile, and we amused ourselves trying to find out more open country, Towards the end of my brother’s stay he was poking about in the mallee, and getting up a pine tree, was the first white man to cast his eyes on the open country now known by the name of Sunset. Of course he could not refrain from having a look round. It was near sundown, and I was expecting him. I waited a bit, and got anxious, so I started to look for him. I went about a mile and heard him and the dog pushing the sheep along through the scrub. He was in great glee at having found such a good stretch of good grazing ground. The next day we both vent with the flock, I stopping with the sheep, and my brother poking about trying to find out more open country. But it was no go, and to this day Sunset is the ultima thule in that direction. Soon after my brother left me to go into the home station to shear, the boss sending out another man to take charge of the sheep. In about a week or two they sent out for the flock, and we bid good-bye to one of the prettiest bits of mallee country I ever saw, All this stretch of land will one day, and not a long time ahead, be growing wheat, and be the homes of scores of families,
While I was one day walking about amusing myself, I was all of a sudden called by my name, and on looking round, two little black boys, Nero and Blucher, were making towards me, I could not get much out of them, as they had been out in this part something like twelve months, and had forgotten what little English they ever had. I asked them where Charlie, their father, was, and they pointed with their lips towards the west. I looked round, but could see nothing of Charlie or his two lubras. The boys left me, and that was all I ever saw of them during my stay at Tolongawank, but I often came across their camps, and the heaps of hakea roots was something astonishing, You could see them piled up like small hay stacks at all their camps; in the summer time they had little else to depend on. Charlie and the lubras stayed out some years, and at last made out in the open country at Border Town, and from there to the mission at Antwerp, where Charlie lies buried, I saw the boys many years after; they were young men, and they recognized me at once, calling me by the name I was known by amongst the blacks, Boringiman. I think they are alive yet.
About five miles from where we camped there was another flock, with a boy in charge as shepherd, and his mother cooking for him. He had been out about a month, when one day towards evening he saw a fire some two miles away, and a day or two after, his sheep being in that direction, he made over in order to see what was up, thinking it would be one of wild Charlie’s camps, but when he got to the place, was rather astonished to find the camp had been one of white men, with horses. He saw where they had camped, and where three or four horses had been tethered to stakes. They must have been there some days, as there was a great lot of paper littered about, and amongst the rubbish any amount of empty Packets of Wotherspoon’s lollies, Scotch mixtures, etc., with empty sardine tins. Some time before there was a most brutal tragedy committed at Dennis’s, or Nichol and Ayrey’s Station, near Glenorchy, A hawker of the name of Selby and his boy were done to death in a frightful manner, the two being tied to two trees, and while rifling the spring cart it is supposed they were disturbed, and they then with a tomahawk murdered the two unfortunates by splitting their heads open. There was a great to-do over it, as usual, three or four being suspected and examined, but discharged, The real perpetrator were never found, and no doubt the camp the boy saw was that of the miscreants, They camped there to spell their horses, and then made through the scrub to the Darling, and no more was heard of them
To return to the sheep. We were two or three days on the road to the homestead, picking up on the way the other folk five miles from where we started. On arrival, we found them nearly cut-out, and they commenced at once on the fresh ones. They soon put out, and after paying off the shearers, drafted a flock for sale, starting in a day or two, my brother and I were about eight or ten days before we made tracks for Melbourne. We padded the hoof as far as Ashens, where we overtook the sheep, keeping with them two days, when they were sold to Mr. Pearce, of Newington, near Glenorchy. We all made for Stawell, and took the coach for Ballarat, and the train from there to Geelong, and steamer thence to Melbourne. Four of us put up at the old Rose, Thistle, and Shamrock, in Elizabeth street and had a good time for a couple of weeks. G. V. Brooks was at the Royal, and we saw him in “Richard III,” “Othello”, and “Rob Roy” at the old Princess. There was an American named MacKean Buchanan performing in Sheridan-Knowles’ “Virginias”, with his daughter as Virginia, and two bigger muffs Yankee Land never turned out. The house was laughing most of the time, especially during the most tragic scenes. They both spoke with a delightful twang, and their by play was a caution. We managed quite easily to get through nearly two years’ wages, but before low water mark was reached bought a spring cart and horse to bring three of us back to the mallee, After ten days’ travelling we made Pine Plains, and hearing they were wanting two shepherds at Wonga Lake applied there, and both of us got on. This place was then occupied by Mr. Thomas Bray, formerly a draper in Geelong, he having bought the run from Thompson and Anderson. Our huts were about five miles apart, and neither had a hut-keeper, so we seldom saw one another. From this on, the bosses seldom supplied hut-keepers for shepherds, this saving £45 a year. It’s unnecessary to say they did not rise the shepherd’s wages a brass farthing; that stood at the old rate – one pound a week. The country was all sand hills, covered with spinifex and small mallee and other scrubs, The only openings were lakes; one of them where I watered, Brambrook, was a very pretty spot. I watered there every other day, and alternate days was on the heath east towards Coorong boundary, It was very rough work, and the tucker was still rougher, having to cook at night when the sheep were yarded. I managed to put in four months. My brother jibbed after about seven weeks and went down to Lake Hindmarsh Station, where he took a contract mallee fencing for Mr. H. C. Ellerman. After some time he sent for me, and I joined him cooking for the camp of five men, It was a pretty long job, but before we finished, Mr. Ellerman bought a flock of flukey sheep from down country, and not having a paddock ready to put them in, sent for my brother and me to take charge of them at the 12-mile hut, We were six days going the distance, making two miles a day,’ It was raining most of the time, and we were carrying our blankets and tucker, the boss bringing out bread and meat. In the evening he would fetch us a part bottle of whisky; and being wet through, we wanted it. One day it was falling most of the time, and at night it set in for a regular downpour. The ground was too wet to camp on, and were thinking we would have to sit up by the fire till morning, when I remembered that there was an old hut about a quarter of a mile away, with a door to it I told my brother and we started, and took it off the hinges. It was made of pine boards, roughly adzed, and my brother started to the camp with it on his head. It weighed something near a hundred weight, and for two days he could not turn his head to look round. We put it on two logs in front of the fire, and put in a miserable night.
The next day we reached the 12-mile hut, and they brought out our swags and a fortnight’s tucker. It was about the time the shearers were making for the Darling, all horsemen, and our hut being close to the road they made it their stopping place for the night. We often had six or eight of them, and our rations went at a rare rate. Before the week was out I was into the home station for more rations. The boss took it kindly, and I started back. That was 24 miles, and with the load on my back I was pretty tired. However, before I reached camp I saw five horses hoppled out in front of the hut. I had to set to and commence making a damper and frying chops for the crowd, tired as I was in another eight days we were out of tucker again, and I took the sheep for the day, and my brother went in for more rations. This time the boss tackled some, saying it was too hot altogether, and told my brother he would shift us where the travellers would not find us. The next day the dray came out and carted our things just over the sand hills. We were there about three months, and during that time we never saw one traveller, the mail man excepted, he passing going up and on the return trip.
When we went into the home station the sheep were in real good store condition, and almost free of fluke. Mr. Ellerman treated us well. He paid us a pound a week each, and gave us a bonus of four pounds. The shearing was just commencing, and we both got a stand, I as a learner, the first time I tackled the game. The sheep were shorn in the grease, and I can’t say I relished the work; it was too dirty a job, but I managed to reach forty or so before I finished, when we bought two horses and started for the south-east. We were on the track for ten days, but were too late; the sheds were all full, and we made tracks to Mount Gambier, where we spelled a week. It was not much of a town at that time, but the environs are a perfect paradise. I have been there many times since, and was always loth to leave it. I have travelled a lot in my time, but the mount and the lakes, I consider, one of the most beautiful bits of scenery I ever came across. The only place worth comparing to it, in my estimation, being Geelong. Not being able to get a shed, we made back to the mallee again. By this time Pine Plains had changed hands, the Cameron’s having sold, and Muirheads being the purchasers. We went on, my brother as shepherd and I as hut-keeper. We were not long there before they discovered scab in the sheep, the flock contracted it from stragglers from Cow Plains. The owners were in a great way, as they were just starting on their own, and had nothing to dip them with. One of the brothers went down to Horsham for sulphur and tobacco, and while he was away the other brother was making a dip and putting up yards. It was some time before the load of stuff arrived on the ground. It consisted of wool bales full of damaged cigars and tins of snuff. They commenced at once and soon cleaned the flock. There has never been an outbreak of scab since. The Muirheads had to cut things fine in consequence of their bad luck, reducing wages to 15s. a week, so we made tracks again for the Murray.
About this time there was a rush for the Barrier Ranges, long before Broken Hill was thought of. My brother and I started for the Darling, intending making the Barrier from Menindie. It was the worst season on the rivers and Northern Wimmera I have ever seen. We rode through the Kulkyne, and the people there gave us such a bad description of the road that we left our horses at the Mournpool Lakes, and padded the hoof with matilda up the rest of our ‘journey. After spelling a day or two at Kulkyne, we made down the river to Wentworth. I have never seen the Murray so low since. We could cross quite easily in most places, having to swim the middle about a chain; the rest we could walk, the water being so shallow. All along both sides of the stream was a fringe of dead and dying sheep, bogged in the mud, and too weak to free themselves – a fearful sight – the poor creatures still alive with their eyes torn out by the cursed crows; flocks of the wretches in every gum tree.
We made Wentworth in a day or two, and camped for a spell, and then started up the Darling River. It was very warm weather, and the feed something awful. You could see the different flocks of sheep miles away by looking in the sky, Above every flock there was a dense red cloud of dust. How they managed to keep the sheep alive was a caution, as they were all shepherded at Tapio Station, twelve miles above the junction of the rivers. We met two or three parties returning, and by their accounts we came to the conclusion to turn back, There was a dearth of provisions, and teams could not travel for want of feed for horses. One of the parties we met had sold a bag of flour at Pooncaire for twelve pounds, and we paid pound for flour, four and six for tea, and ninepence for sugar. At Tapio Station we made a cut across the back country for Gall Gall, on the Murray, thus saving a good many miles, and here we saw further proofs of the dreadful season Most of the way the country was intersected by billy-bongs and a few swamps, mostly dry or nearly so, having six or seven inches of water on the top, and the rest thick mud. Cattle were running on this part of Tapio, and in every creek or swamp were dying cattle up over their backs, their heads just out of the mud, and not a solitary eye amongst them, The crows had served them the same as the sheep, It was a sickening sight to see the poor creatures constantly turning their heads from side to side, and not be able to aid them in any way. Crows from that time get but a poor chance from me. Of all the birds these are most damnable – the black fiends. I shall never forget the awful sights I saw during that trip, It was enough to give one the horrors, the poor beasts, and to have to leave them to their fate made one miserable. Thank Heaven there has never been anything like it since,
After making back to Kulkyne, and spelling a day, we went out to the lakes. At Mournpool there was a good horse paddock and homestead; caught our horses and started back through the scrub to Cow Plains, My brother and another man took a contract to sink a couple of wells at the homestead. During the time my brother and his mate were at work, I was 12 miles away on the road to Pine Plains, splitting slabs for another well. I was working by myself for about a month, when they joined me, having finished their job on the homestead. The boss being short of rations, and there being two or three very bad with scurvy, he got my brother’s mate and I to go down to Dimboola with the sick people, consisting of a married couple and a single man, a shepherd, and to bring back what was wanted for the station. We had to carry the shepherd on our dray, the married man had a spring cart of his own. He had three children, one of them quite a baby, still at the breast. The mother and child were in a dreadful state-with scurvy. We were on the road a week, and making Dimboola the seventh day out about mid-day. We camped on the river, and whilst at dinner, Dr. Telford, then the owner of Mt. Elgin station, passed, had a look at the mother and child, and pre scribed for them. The poor baby died next day. The shepherd I saw six months afterwards; he was then on crutches. The others I lost sight of, they had enough of the mallee.
We loaded up the next day, and started back, crossing. the river at Dimboola, and keeping on the west side of the river and Lake Hindmarsh. On reaching the head of the lake we met my brother, when we all travelled back together. On arriving at Pine Plains we fell in with Mr. Ewen Cameron, he having been sent up by the agents to take charge, the Muirheads having gone bung. They had wretched bad luck – bad seasons and the scab in the sheep gave them no chance. They were young men, real hard workers, and full of confidence in them selves, but they struck the country at a bad time, and so had to cave in.
My brother and I were hired at once by Mr. Cameron, he being one of the partners of Cameron Bros., who sold to Muirheads. We had lived with the Camerons two years, and found them first-class employers, and were real glad to see them back in the district. Most of the Muirhead’s men leaving with their employer, it left the station with but a few grass hands to carry on the work. The run was bare of grass, on the open country there was nothing for it but to put some of the sheep on the heath. We were sent with a flock of two thousand to Sand Mount, about four miles from Wirringra, on the road to Cow Plains. As soon as rain came we were shifted to the north end of Wirringra, where we remained until shearing, when we gave up the sheep and tackled the blades. By the time we cut out there was good feed and the promise of a good season. Our horses were in good condition, so we started for the south east of South Australia. We were five or six days on the road, when we were put on at Lake Roy, then in possession of James and Walter Laidlaw, a small place and a very pretty one. There were only six shearers, so we slogged in and soon cut out, and we made for Reedy Creek. We were too late for another shed, so we made for Guichen Bay, where we paddocked the horses and spelled a week. We hired a boat and spent most of the time on the water, enjoying our selves greatly, when we started again for Mount. Gambier. On reaching the mount we had another spell for a week, rambling over the mount, from which a grand view is obtained – you can see McDonald Bay, and the Southern Ocean, Mount Schanck, and a great stretch of country. The environs of the mount are most picturesque – the Blue Lake a gem, while the Valley, Leg of Mutton, and other waters very beautiful. It was during our stay here first became acquainted with the writings of Thomas Carlyle. There was one wet day during our spell, and wanting something to read we inquired whether there was a chance of getting a book or two. We were directed to the office of the Border Watch, the local newspaper. Their diggings was then in a little stone hut. We knocked at the door, and the editor compositor and printers’ devil, all in one, answered our questions concerning books. He had about half-a-dozen for sale, and amongst the lot was Carlyle’s address as Rector of Edinburgh University on the choice of books, and Sartor Resartus. I commenced on the former and my brother on the latter volume. By the time I had gone through it twice my brother gave up Sartor for a bad job. He could not digest it -tpo tough altogether. Since then I have bought Sartor about half-a-dozen times, and twice I have purchased the whole of Carlyle’s works 34 volumes. They are scattered all over the State at present, and I often wonder whether they are giving the pleasure to others that I enjoyed poring over them in my seventy-eighth year. I will have to get the French Revolution once more to read, and to go through it again. the most wonderfully graphic book I ever read, or I expect to read. The day I purchased those two books was a red letter day in my wandering life.
To return to my yarn. After spending a week in the beautiful mount we saddled up our horses and made back to the scrub, once more to Pine Plains and went on at work for Cameron. Soon after our return the run was sold to Messrs. Reid and Armstrong. We stopped some time with them, and being offered higher wages we went through to Kulkyne, then in the hands of Leslie and Ross, where we both went on shepherding. It was very rough country, and we earned our wages every copper. I was walking all day. When we got tired, we made back to the old quarters, Lake Hindmarsh, where I got four miles of mallee fencing with three mates. When the weather was wet or cold I often walked twenty miles. We were about two months over the work, and, as there was no chance of further jobs, I and one of my mates made back to Kulkyne, where they were letting a lot of mallee fencing. My brother was still shepherding a flock of weaners. He had a mate to help, as they were rather troublesome to handle. A few days after I left him for Lake Hindmarsh they had bad luck. The two lost everything they had, clothes and all their tucker, even the whole of the sheep they had killed the night before. A boat load of “skunks” had made a clean sweep of everything, and after yarding the flock, they had to walk three miles to the home station for a feed and to get rations. My brother’s mate lost about ten pounds worth of clothes. My brother was more fortunate; his chief loss boots was a new pair of Wellington boots he had purchased two days before off a trading steamer. The thieves had paid a visit to all the huts on the banks of the river. One poor fellow at a hut eighteen miles from the homestead lost all his rations, and was two days without food when the boss went out and sent a man with rations to relieve his Wants. There was a police station a mile from Kulkyne, with two men in charge. They went in pursuit of the thieves, and for three days were hunting for them in all the bends of the river, but could not get any luck. They no doubt were in some billybong off the river, so the police gave up the chase. However, a week or two after the occurrence, the Inspector (Mr. Chambers) made his monthly visit, and he gave the constables what-for, and soon after the police station was abandoned. It was originally formed to catch the horse stealers making through from the Western District for New South Wales. There was another station in Rose’s Gap for the same purpose. The traces of it can still be seen right on the summit of the Gap. The men at both places had a good time of it, seldom or never having a charge, just amusing themselves fishing, boating and shooting on the Murray and the lakes. The men at Rose’s Gap had not the same chances of passing the time, only when they were nearer to neighbours, and twelve miles or so from Glenorchy.
The best part of this year was put in at Pine Plains; my brother and I were pumping water for sheep, the station at this time being in the hands of. Reid and Armstrong. About the beginning of August we made tracks for Lake Hindmarsh, and commenced shearing for Henry Ellerman. We soon cut out, and then made back to Pine Plains, and helped to cut out the sheep there. On the completion of shearing we both resumed our work pumping, and continued at it until the following May, 1867, when we took a flock out to the Salt Lakes, some 40 miles from the home station. It was during our spell here that my brother discovered the country called Sundown, a beautiful stretch of good grassed land, surrounded by open mallee (born to be cut up for farms). In July of that year my brother went to the home station, as they were about the beginning of the shearing leaving me by myself with the sheep. I was all alone in my glory for five weeks when the dray came out to shift me to the homestead, and very glad I was, as had I been there a few weeks longer I should have gone balmy. The flock I brought in being the last to shear, they soon cut out. My brother and I tackled the pumping again, continuing at it until my brother’s death, which took place on the 22nd of December. We had been nearly 11 years constantly together, and the shock completely downed me, and for many months I was incapable of doing any kind of work. I was mostly travelling. I had friends in Geelong. I would stay a few weeks with them, and then make back to the mallee, put in a short time with chums, and again take the coach for Ballarat and train to Geelong, and so backward and forwards.
I killed the time until July, when I turned to again at Albacutya, then in the hands of the Row Brothers. I was cooking at the homestead three months and after this was droving. At this time they were boiling down at North Brighton, then in the hands of Caffery and Jarvis. We were about a week on the road, and when within two miles of our destination two or three men came out, and cutting off about 500 sheep, drove them to the works. When we reached the place at sundown everyone of the sheep were in the boilers and on the way to make tallow. We stopped a day at the works and by this time the whole of the flock of two thousand sheep were in the vats. During the day I spelled. I had a good look over the place, and real worth while the day was spent. Everything went on like clockwork. There were about twenty five men killing, each man had a small pen. When they filled it up he would go in with a hammer, and in about a minute he would stun about a dozen sheep, pull them over a grating, and then stick them. There were some men doing over a hundred a day. As soon as the pelts were off and the entrails out, revolving belts with hooks carried them to the cutters, where each carcase was cut into four quarters, and again carried on to the boilers, where men packed them in tightly, the lids of the vats screwed down, and in a few hours was the clearest of tallow. It was about the busiest affair I ever saw on the Wimmera. There was one man constantly employed curing the tongues. He had a place specially adapted to the work – beautifully clean. I don’t know exactly, but should think there were, well, say, a million hanging up in lots of fifty each. When I was starting back, Mr. Jarvis gave me a string, and jolly good they were. Never, again shall we see them boiling down good fat sheep. Freezing has altered all that.
On reaching Albacutya I was out for a billet, so as the shearing was near I bought a horse, and made my way to Lake Hindmarsh, and went through the shearing there, alter which with a mate we started for Mount Gambier district. Passing through Nhill and Naaracoorte, we made Gaichen Bay, where we spent two days, mostly boating, my mate being a thorough sailor, having been two years before the mast, and previous to that had been with the pilot at the bay. At the time I am writing about, he (the pilot) had a farm near the township, and a small place with sheep on it, about 30 miles away. Having a mob or horses to shift to his station, we got the job to take them there, and we were two days; on the job. On arriving, we commenced with the shears, having two aboriginals as mates, their two lubras pressing the wool. My next job was at Glencoe Station, cutting thistles. The whole of the country in the south east was pretty well covered with the Scotchmen, and the South Australian Government Compelled the occupiers of land to cut them. The Glencoe people had no less than about forty men in three camps of about a dozen each, with a ganger over each camp. Nine men worked in the face, using scythes, and behind three boys with hoes were cutting the small thistles. There was a cook at each camp. We had breakfast at sunrise, worked until mid-day, when we knocked off during the heat, and resumed work until sundown. We were living in tents, and most of the men were sleeping on heaps of ferns. The country was infested with snakes, and we sometimes killed as many as two dozen a day. The men with the scythes would hold them down with the flat of the scythe, and the boys would run up, and finish them, cutting them in two with the hoes. I stopped three weeks. On the last Sunday I was riding outside my tent, when one of my tent mates carried his ferns out to air them. He was sitting on the heap with the paper, reading, when a tiger snake about three feet long crawled out between his legs. Frightened to move, he called me, and I gave him what-for with the hoe. That night I slept but very little, and made up my mind clear, and next morning walked into Glencoe, got my wages, caught my horse, and made Mount Gambier. After spelling a week, I started again for the mallee.
By this time Pine Plains had changed hands. Reidand Armstrong were away and the station in “Money Millar’s” hands. Wonga Lake was thrown up by Forsyth, and had been purchased by McVean Bros, sons of John McVean, of Stoneyford, near Colac. Upon reaching Lake Hindmarsh I crossed over to Tullyvea, and went on cooking for a contractor mallee fencing some miles out west from the lake and on the edge of the heath. the job was soon over, and the rest of 1869 I put in with friends in Geelong.
Making back in July to Lake Hindmarsh (by this time Mr. Ellerman had thrown up the sponge, and Mr. Ewan Cameron was managing for the owners in Melbourne). As soon as he commenced shearing I went on the board, and on finishing went over to Tullyvea where my mate of last year was at work. I waited a day or two, and then started again for another shed in the south-east. On the third day we made to Adam Smith’s, a beautiful place near Naaracoorte. Starting the next morning, we were overtaken by a long slab of a fellow. He had stopped at Adam Smith’s the same night. But my mate and I had been in the men’s hut, while the long customer was entertained in the house. We jogged along, the three of us, all day, making Robinson’s Station, Struan, at night. We got permission to hopple out our horses, and while doing so my mate got a chance to let me know who our fellow traveller was. No less than Adam Lindsay Gordon, the so-called poet. However, he had to doss down in the men’s but that night with my mate and myself. During our day’s ride he had seldom opened his mouth to speak. But when my mate was talking horse, he would occasionally make a remark, and then ruminate again I suppose manufacturing some more of his poetry. At night, we struck a real good old sort, one Anthony Sutton, owning a place near Mount Gambier. The poet was known, and was taken inside. Next morning, parting with the great Australian poet, my mate and I made Wattle Range, Widow Cameron’s station. We went through the shearing, and while doing so, on each succeeding Thursday, We were treated to the great chieftain of the pudding race, Haggis. Myself and a Lancashire chap were the only ones that cotton’d to it. When it was first introduced, my lanky mate wanted to know whether the liver was eaten. He was told he could please himself. We tackled it, and the two of us made it look small before we finished, since when I never pass haggis.
On finishing, I made the Mount, leaving my mate, he stopping with his people on Glencoe run. I made back to Lake Hindmarsh„ and about the beginning of 1870, started down to Mt. Egerton, where my brother Tom was living. It was a remarkably wet winter, raining nearly every day, I put my time in with a mate digging holes. You could not call it gold digging, for we never got any worth saving. On panning off we would see a beautiful streak of the very finest gold dust but the only way to procure it was with a little ball of damp clay; rolling it over the gold it would pick it all up, and we would admire it, and then throw it away. During my stay at Mt. Egerton, a party of Chinamen, in one week, made twenty-two ounces in old workings, not more than a quarter of a mile from where my mate and I were sinking. We used to put down a shaft about ten feet, one sinking and the other bailing the water out of a catch hole. If we both went home to dinner together, when we came back the hole was running over with water, so we went separately one stopping bailing. This was my only experience of gold digging. I stuck at it until the end of July, and then started up, country for the sheds. I made Lake Corrong, then in possession of Bell and McGuiness. I was ten days on the road, and had a job getting along, the rivers and creeks being all in flood, having a difficulty crossing some of them. The grass everywhere that year was most luxuriant. On crossing Morton Plains on my way to Corrong, it was like a field of wheat. There was any amount of kangaroos; you could only see their heads over the grass. I had great work crossing the Dunmunkle and Warracknabeal Creeks. At the former, making it at sundown, we had to stop all night on the east side, the men coming out at Karyrey Station and telling us not to attempt crossing until morning, as it was dangerous to do so, and at Brim Homestead we crossed in a boat. We made Corrong. The station by this time was nearly all fenced in, and was carrying ninety-five thousand sheep. There was a big board of men, and we were six weeks cutting out. On finishing, we made through the heath and sand to Wonga Lake. By this time it was in the hands of Cameron Bros., the McVeans having sold out. They had bad luck with the seasons. Bad they been able to hold on another year, they would have made a pile. The river came down and filled all the lakes, and for the four years the Camerons had the run there was no good seasons
Of course, I made again for another shed, buying a horse, and with my mate of the two previous years, was making for Mount Gambier. We made Glencoe station, and both got a stand, and commenced the next day barbering the jumbucks. We managed to pull through to the end, but it was a tough job, men being sacked every day, having a tartar over the board.
To return to my brother. He was soon full up of his job, and he and returned to Pine Plains. It was near shearing time again, and until the start we were knocking about doing odd jobs at a pound a week, and then started on the jumbucks, cutting out in about five weeks. We then got up our horses, starting for the southeast of South Australia, but pulled up at Lake Hindmarsh, the board being short of two hands, and we went on shearing there. In four weeks the shed was cut out, and we Left our horses in the paddock and made our way for Melbourne, where we enjoyed ourselves for a fortnight At the end of that time we took the steamer for Portland, spent a day or two in the dull old town, and got on shearing at a small station some miles out in the occupation of Mrs. Cameron and Sons. It came in very handy, as funds were getting low. We made about seven pounds, when we started north, making Branx holme the first day. On the next day we camped at Merino Downs. The country here was a great change from the dreary stretch from the coast. We made Hamilton a beautiful town now but in those days very small potatoes. The races were on. at which we attended; just a mile or so out of the town, unfenced, any amount of timber, no grandstand, and some of the jockeys were in queer rigs – trousers in their boots and a handkerchief round their heads. Only one was in jockey costume – the well – known Billy Trainor. There was a publican’s booth and “any amount of drinking. A few were in the logs at night, but it was a jolly meeting. After spending a few days in the township we made for the mountains, passing through the Victoria Valley, a beautifully picturesque walk, and made Robertson’s station at night. Going up before sundown to buy some rations, we met a rum old customer in the owner. He was near out of flour and refused to sell or give us any., He asked us if we could eat oatmeal, and receiving an answer in the affirmative he sold us two pounds. We only had quart pots, so we borrowed a saucepan, and made a big feed of what Dr. Johnson defined in his dictionary as food for horses in England, and for men in Scotland. However, it stood to us until we made better quarters. We were two days making Horsham, where we took in cargo after the oatmeal spell. We stopped one day, and the following morning coached it to Lake Hindmarsh. We spelled a day or two and then caught our horses, which were in grand fettle, and started for the Murray. We were four, days making Kulkyne. The station then was in the hands of Messrs. Leslie and Ross. They were just making a start to fence in the run. We took a contract of five miles of brush fencing. For a mate we took in as partner a party of the name of Cregan, he having a team of bullocks. The team was at Albacutya, so Cregan and I started for there on horse back. We were four days making the place, a day mustering them. They had been in good country, with plenty of grass, and were in good condition. Started the following day, and was a week on the road, making about fifteen miles a day. During our, trip for the team my brother had put on two men, and they had been felling timber, so we made a good start. Two days after we arrived on the ground. Three men were at the fence, and the team drawing in the timber. I was cooking for them. Where we camped on the Kulkyne Creek there were tons of pie melons, so I had peaceful times with the crowd. Most all in the bush in those days had little in the way of vegetables or fruit, and melon pie was a treat. They could put it away morning, noon and evening. In the middle of the night one of the chaps working at the fence would often tackle it. I found it a great soother in keeping them contented, and was never without a thumping pie or melon jam. Our chief dishes were sea pie, made in a nail can, with three decks, roley poley duff, made with black sugar. There was no baking powder to be got. The substitute for bread was damper, baked in the ashes. There being five of us, each with a most vigorous appetite, had to cook one every day about the size of a tombstone. The tea was made in a bucket. Yet on this poor tucker we were jolly as sand boys never had an ache or pain, and could work like trojans. We were about three months on the job. We should have been done sooner, but were kept back by the rain and the bullocks rambling.
Finishing the contract we started back to Albacutya, then in the hands of Messrs. Row Brothers. They were fencing in the run, and we took some miles of the boundary fence to put up dog leg, with timber cut on the margin of Lake Hindmarsh and mallee the best part of the way. In the heath we had to cart the mallee and stakes, which kept us back a lot, and the bullocks wandered, and we could not get on without them, so there was lost time. We made a little money out of the job, averaging about 15/— a week. I was cooking, and was kept hard at it, as I had to fetch the sheep from the home station, walking in one day and bringing the mutton out the next. The swans were breeding on the lake, and we had plenty of eggs. This was the cause of our being so long on the job. The bullock drivers, when looking for the cattle, would drop across a nest of eggs, and we would make a fire and scoff a couple or three, and then put in only a day or two a week. The job would have paid well only for this.
The shearing commencing shortly after, we got a place on the board at the Lake Hindmarsh. After cutting out there we saddled up and made for the Murray River, and got on at Mildura, then in the hands of Hugh Jamieson. At this time it was one of the best managed stations on the Murray. Jamieson was the first on that Part of the river to irrigate. There was a splendid orchard and vegetable garden, with a windmill pumping water from the river. It was this garden that took the eye of the Brothers Chaffey, and was no doubt the primal cause of their settling at Mildura. I have seen many stations in the three States of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales but in all my experience, never came across one to be compared with Mildura. Everything was as near perfection as was possible at that time, now fifty years ago. There was nothing very grand about the buildings, but the homestead, men’s huts, woodshed, etc., were neat and in perfect order. The roads even were made between the men’s quarters, and between there and the woolshed, a wharf on the river, for the steamers to load at, and outside of the homestead paddock a comfortabie hut for the travellers, with five bunks, and a cupboard containing utensils. This was kept locked. When wanted the swagmen applied at the stores, and were given a key with rations of tea, sugar, flour and, meat. A printed placard inside asking the men to clean up in the morning and return the key to the storekeeper. These rules were seldom omitted by the users of the hut. In keeping with this was their treatment of their employees. Their men always had Saturday afternoons to themselves. The boss, after dinner, on the completion of the mid-day meal, would bring down to the huts a big armful of magazines and illustrated London papers, all neatly covered with strong paper, and leave them with the men for the week, and the following Saturday would replace them with fresh ones.
It was a rule of the place all through the year, at noon, for all the men to line up at the store, where Mr. William Jamieson would be waiting, to serve out a glass of rum to each white man, and to the aborigines a glass of real good wine. On Saturdays there was another tot in the middle of the afternoon, when he brought the papers down to the hut.
On finishing shearing we found our horses had get out of the horse paddock and had made tracks to Pine Plains, so we were in a bit of a fix. However, the boss had made it right with the skipper of the Pride of the Murray steamer to take us to Kulkyne with our saddles, bridles and swags. We were a day and a half on the boat, and when we reached there we were provided with horses to take us through the scrub. I must here mention another kindness of Mr. Jamieson. My brother, during the shearing, in catching, was struck on the neck a real violent blow by a ewe. It commenced to swell at Once, and by night he was hardly able to speak. The boss sent a man on horseback 18 miles to Wentworth for the doctor. It was near morning when he arrived. My brother then was near pegging out. He at once lanced him in two places under the tongue, giving him almost instant relief. This was only a week from the finish of the shed. My brother was unable to do any more work, and we were thinking it would make a hole in our cheque when we came to settle. We were agreeably surprised on that day to find the station had paid the doctor, in full. During my brothers stay at Mildura he had a job to swallow anything, and the store was, placed at his command in the shape of tinned milk, sago, mazina, and anything he wanted. Mr. Jamieson came down every day to see him, and told off a man to attend to him at night. We were paid in full, the station settling the doctor’s attendance and other expenses.
We were two days making Pine Plains, where we got on pumping water for the sheep, my brother at the homestead and I at a hut two miles away. Most of the work had to be done night and morning; during the middle of the day we were spelling for the wells to fill up. we were at this job about four months. During the rest of the year until shearing we were out in the back country shepherding.
About this time Mr. Coppock, of Albacutya, had a brother arrive’ in the colony. He was about sixty years of age, and had been a publican in Manchester. He was a married man with two children. He left his wife and children, in Melbourne, and he started for Albacutya, to see what the country was like. The mailman took a horse for him to Lake Hindmarsh to bring him to Albacutya. On arriving at the station, then in the occupation of Mr. Henry Ellerman, he was kindly treated, and the next morning was directed to take the road to the left on leaving the horse paddock. There were only the three roads at that time the road he came by from Dimboola, the road north to his destination, and one due east to Pepper’s Plain. The poor new chum took the latter, followed it to the plain, and, there it ended, at that time there being only a track or two across the dam. Here he had a good drink, and on mounting his horse he headed due north. On the following day he let the horse go, thinking he would make to the station, and they would send out men to look for him. The horse made a beeline for the lake, some six miles from the homestead, and when the mailman was on his return trip from Pine Plains and Albacutya, he found the horse with the saddle and bridle on. He caught him and took the horse to the homestead, when all hands started out to search. They thinking he would make east. They lost two days searching in this direction, returned to Pepper’s Plain, and tried north. On the fourth day they picked up his tracks he had been circular sailing and at about sundown reached the poor old fellow, near done-for. He had made a cover from the sun’s rays and had laid down to die He had not a drink since the first day at Pepper’s Plain. He was found at what is now known as the Cattle Trap, a rough shop for a lime juicer to get slewed in. Today it is all robed, not a stick of mallee to be seen, just a few sticks lining the roads and for forty miles is all in farms. To return to Mr. Coppock, they had a job to get him round, and it was not till the second trap of the mailman that he reached his brother’s place. After a week or two he got his wife and children to Albacutya, where he stopped for some months. He never took kindly to the life. His experiences in the mallee had soured him, He soon returned to Manchester, and I should have much liked to hear him pitch about Australia, more especially the beautiful Mallee, and his sufferings in it,
On finishing the sheep, I again made back to the mallee, and went on working for a contractor fencing in the last paddock at Lake Coorong. I continued at it until January 1871, when I made a trip to Mount Egerton, to my brother Tom. I stopped there a fortnight, and then came back to Lake Hindmarsh Station, at this time in the hands of Mr. Hogg. There was a big job of fencing in hand, and I got on at work with the contractor, E. Cregan. The line of fence was about eighteen miles from the homestead. There were five men and a Chinaman cook. The boss, with a team of bullocks, was mostly employed carting water. It was, a very hot summer, and it kept him going; having to go, into the river at the homestead, it took him a day going in and two days returning. We were belting away for some weeks, when on getting up one morning the whole atmosphere was full of smoke, and the sun rose like a copper disc. We could not form an idea where the fire was, but were pretty sure it was not very far away. On starting the men to work the boss gave orders for the cook and myself to stop behind, and clear away all the dry leaves and sticks around the camp. We were about two hours at work clearing, when all of a sudden the flames in big tongues, with a roar would leap over the mallee. As soon as I saw this I was off to a little plain, about a quarter of a mile away, where I set fire to the grass. The chinaman was not long after me; he had managed to save his coat and opium pipe, etc. We stopped about twenty minutes on the plain, and on making back to the camp saw a sight. I hope I may never see the like again. We had a big tarpaulin for a tent; it was a job to find out where it stood. The bullock, dray, with the tank of water, had toppled over, and was on the ground, the fire having burnt through the fetchells and the spokes of one wheel. There were five sheep in a pen all dead three were on the ground and two were standing straight up, with their entrails on the ashes of their pen. The whole of us lost our swags; the boss was the greater loser, 11 miles of fencing being burnt. All you could see was a white line, with just a few stumps of the stakes. In the tent was a bag of sugar, one of flour and a chest of tea. The fire came diagonally across the fence, about a hundred yards above the camp, leaving about three-quarters of a mile unburnt. The three men continued work, not knowing where the fire was, until they came home to dinner. They had finished all their Water in their bags, and were going to get a drink at the tank; it Was nearly on the boil.. They made a fire, and making a pot of tea, had a spell, and when it began to get cool towards evening we started for the homestead.
We made Pepper’s Plain, where we stopped all night. The boss coming out after dark, and hearing what was up, rode in again to the river, where his bullocks were turned, out, while with us he told us that the hawker was at the station. I, knowing that half of his stock consisted always of whisky, came to the conclusion to make my way to Dimboola and get another swag. The men, of course, made the homestead, where the contractor shouted a case of whisky, and that was all they got for weeks of hard graft. Of course the contractor was the greatest loser. Had he got the fence passed and measured he -would not have lost to so great an extent. The whole of the country for miles around is now farms, with tanks and water channels running through the country, The old dray was left to its fate, and lay there for years after.
At the time the fire was raging on the east side of the lake, another was burning at a frightful rate on the West side, on the station belonging to Mr. Ferris. A party of three men were putting up a mallee fence on the heath. Two of the men were well known to me, one of them, Buck Riley, I had known since I came to the colony. The others James Martin, I was acquainted with, as a hard working man and good fellow. The third man had not been long in the district, and was a native, of St. Helena. Riley and I had been shearing the year before at Wonga Lake. The three poor fellows lost their lives, it is supposed, by fire. Their bodies were never found, not even a scrap of their clothing, boots, or anything that could lead to their identification. Their tent was ashes, and their billys and all tin ware destroyed. At the end of the burnt fence the heads of the axes and the mall rings were found together with their billy with the dry tea and sugar in it. Of course the solder had melted, the billy had burst and the contents were on the ground. For weeks after the police and a mob of men were scouring the heath in vain. Even after the most had given up all hopes, one of the best bushmen in the Wimera district was riding for days without result, Each of the men had, money coming; Riley no less than £35 Martin must have had about the same amount, and third poor fellow a good sum. The only one that Mr. Ferris had any knowledge of concerning their relations was James Martin, and in his case the money coming to him was forwarded. The other two had no relatives in the colony. Of course, there was a great loss in fencing. Row, of Albacutya, had some twenty miles burnt, with about six hundred sheep. Hogg, at Lake Hindmarsh, twenty-five miles of fencing and a, thousand sheep; and others on the Warracknabeal Creek were the losers of both sheep and fencing.
Being about full up of mallee fencing I made my way down to Mount Egerton, had a spell with my brother, and saddling up my horse travelled back to Wonga Lake, Cameron’s station. I was there most of the year fencing and stripping box bark for roofing. I went through the shed shearing, and on cutting out made again for the south-east, and went on shearing at Fairview, eighteen miles from Naaracoorte.
Cutting out the sheep, I rode to Mt. Gambier. After spelling there for a week I started back for the scrub, and on reaching Pine Plains, went on cooking for a camp of fencers. I was there a month or two, and made back to Wonga Lake, and was working there until the shearing. I struggled through, and then made to Wattle Range in the south-east. On finishing I was making my way back, when I dropped into a job sheep droving at Komorn, a station of Money Miller’s, near Penola. Our destination was another station of Miller’s, named ,Bumbang, on the Murray River. We were seven weeks on the road. The only incident worth recording occurred at Edenhope, then called Lake Wallee. We had a colonial experience man with us, rather fond of his whisky, and on reaching the above township he got into trouble with the storekeeper, and playing up in the establishment in his cups, landed in the watch-house. The man in charge, on hearing he was in the logs, went back to bail him out, but got the drink in him before going to the watch house, and, abusing the policeman in charge, he was lumbered as well. This was on a Saturday. Well, the Court only sat on Tuesdays, so we ‘Were left without a boss until that day. We managed to keep the sheep together until Tuesday, when they appeared at the camp – both minus a sprat. We were wanting stores, and the boss coming to me asked me what money I had, and if I could lend him a pound or two. By the rare chance I had most of my shearing cheque on me, and during the rest of the route financed the crowd. I know the boss had sufficient funds on leaving Komorn to take him to his destination, but no doubt it took all he had to square the storekeeper for the new chum’s little joke. However, I lost nothing. On settling up on the day of their shivoo, someone wired down to the office in Melbourne, and a man was started off to relieve the drover. he, the new man, being told to make Swan Hill, thinking he would take that route, and make down to the Murray to Bumberg. He never overtook us until we reached the Mournpool Lakes, on Kulkyne, as we took the route by Horsham and Warracknabeal and Corrong, and then through the back country on to the Kulkyne run.
The new man, on reaching us, was duly installed as boss and was, with us until we delivered the sheep, about ten days after the new man meeting us. After they took delivery we were all settled with, the men dispersing in all directions, myself making for the Kulkyne homestead, where I went on cooking for some two or three months. I left that to go cooking for one man, the overseer at Tyegia, near where the Ouyen railway station now stands. I was only getting a pound a week at the home station, and had nearly thirty men to dish up, and I got the same amount skimming the pot for the overseer and myself. It was a lonely job, but my mate in the hut had plenty of books, and Mr. Septimus Miller sent me out his kangaroo dogs, and I amused myself hunting. I was six months on the job, and at shearing time went in to shear. I was six weeks before finishing, when for a second shed made again to the south east, and got one at Mount Graham, then in the hands of Mr. John McInnis. At this place I dropped across the finest cook I ever saw on a station a Canadian half-caste, crossbred with an American Indian. A tall good looking fellow, and a master at his craft. A bit of a martinet in the hut; he would not allow the general rule for the men to hack and cut at their discretion, but appointed two men to carve, myself being one of these. I was not much of a dab at carving, but all the mutton was boned, and rolled, stuffed with sage and onions, so it was an easy job. He made the best bread I ever saw; no baker by trade or cook could hold a candle to him. For the two lunches, morning and Afternoon, there was pastry fit for the Melbourne Club was sorry when we cut out.
The following year I was mostly knocking about at Kulkyne, working for contractors, fencing during the greater part of the year. I was shearing in the season, and made my way down the south-east. On finishing I got on at Benara, Ellis’s station, the wool shed being six or seven miles from the home station. It was a very wet season; some weeks we would only have one or two days’ work. It took us into the following Year, 1875 before we cut out. On doing so, hearing they were short of men at Mount Graham, made my way there, and got a Pen. I was hard at it until the end of January, when had a good spell in Mount Gambier: and then started back for Kulkyne. On reaching Pine Plains they were starting a flock for Mill Park, one of Millers properties, near Melbourne. I took on the job of cooking for the crowd and driving the spring cart containing the swags, etc. I was six weeks on the road. Nothing of any interest to relate happened until we reached Mount Egerton. At that place we were rounding up the sheep just before camping for the night, When passing a big gum tree it suddenly broke short off about twelve feet up the stem, and came down in the middle of the flock, killing right out ten of them, and fearfully wounding six or seven others, that we had to skin. These were salted and the 3 did the crowd until we reached our destination. We had e young colonial experience chap with us. and he had a narrow escape, the tops of the boughs scratching his face and tearing his vest. On reaching Mill Park our fares were paid to Melbourne. We attended the office in Market street, and received our wages. I was to have taken the horse and cart back to Kulkyne, but when I got back to Mill Park the order was, for me to stay and help get in the hay. I was not in for this kind of graft, so started at once for Diggers Rest. caught the first train and booked for Inglewood Prom there I padded the hoof to Kulkyne. I was working during the year fencing, and during the two or three months preceding shearing, I had a job with a mate defining all the water areas, cutting posts, and putting them up at the corners of the blocks. Our time was mostly taken up with travelling, and the distances were no little journeys apart, the run being something near seventy miles from the river, south to the Pine Plains boundary, and the same distance east and west. Of course, we had a horse and cart for our tools, swags, tent, etc. A lonely time we had, but made it bring on the shearing, on the conclusion of which I made my way to Wentworth, where I took my passage on the Rodney steamer for Echuca. We were six days doing the trip, stopping so often taking in wood, wool and other cargo. I had three or four other shearers as mates. It was a pleasant time and before we reached Echuca we had two barges loaded high with bales, and about two hundred and fifty on the steamer. The deck passengers had to sleep on bales of wool under the house, where the cabin, passengers put in their time. There was only. about eighteen inches between the top bales and the deck above us. A lot of our time was put in fishing with a wire between the bales for our boots, saddle straps, etc., that had fallen dawn between the corners of the wool bales. One chap had to land with one boot, while I was fortunate, only losing my swag straps. However, we replaced our losses on reaching Echuca, and there we took the train for town, reaching Melbourne near midnight.
After a week’s spell, I took a passage in the steamer Dawn, for Portland. I had another week there, fishing and swimming in the bay and otherwise enjoying myself, and then started back to work. On reaching Kulkyne there was a mob of sheep at South Avenue, another station of Miller’s, near Guichen Bay, to be shifted to the Murray. I was sent with the man in charge, knowing the track. I was about a week making the Avenue, and a day or two mustering and engaging men. It was a real good season for grass, and we took our time on the road, On reaching the station they took delivery, and I then made for the Darling River. Got on at Burtundy, mustering and cutting lambs, ear marking, etc. On completing, with a mate I took a contract to pull down and re-erect a couple of miles of fencing. Finishing this job, and nearing shearing time again, I made back to Kulkyne and went through the shearing there.
1876 and 1877
I then went through the scrub to Pine Plains. Not getting a job there I tramped to Cow Plains and got a job of cooking for a contractor’s camp. After a week or two I was taken ill, and had to leave. I was four days on the road to Pine Plains, and nearly pegged out. On reaching the station I stopped a week recuperating, and then made my way to Lake Hindmarsh, where I took on rabbiting. I pegged away at this for six months, and then made my way to the Western District and got on shearing at Thomas Cummings’ station, Stoney Point. During my time here shearing, the employees got up a sweep on the Melbourne Cup, which I was lucky enough to win, having drawn Chester, and this added seven pounds fifteen shillings to my cheque on being settled with. I then, with a mate, made Colac and took the train for Geelong, had a good time there for a week, and then trained again for Inglewood, and from there we tramped to the Wimmera. We got a job at Longerenong, then in Mr. Bullivant’s hands, and were some months at contract work. On finishing, my mate and I made through to the Murray where I parted with my companion, he taking the Murrumbidgee, on the road to Queensland. I could not stomach a trip of these dimensions. I made the Darling River and Burtundy Station, and got a job droving. I walked out to an out hut at the back country called Arumpo, and was hired at thirty shillings a week. Our destination was Deniliquin, where I trucked the sheep, after seven weeks’ travelling. I got a free pass for Melbourne, put in a week in town, and then, made for Geelong, and took the train for Colac.
After two days’ travelling I got work shearing for McDonald Bros., at Mt. Shadwell. on cutting out I made tracks for Lake Corrong, then held by Lascelles and Mandeville. By this time the place Was in a bad way with rabbits and wild dogs The number of sheep had dwindled down to a few thousand, and it was a Job to keep them alive. I took a job dogging, by trap, and poisoning them. It was a rough, lonely life, walking long distances every day, the traps being on old roads and cattle tracks. Half my time I was lying out. My camp was an old shepherd’s hut, with most of the roof off; but still there were compensating moments, the getting the best of the dingoes, cunning customers as they are. They were worth one pound, that being my recompense for each dog; of course, the firm supplied me with rations. I continued at the job for about four months, when I threw the game up, and before I got work again, tramped through to Pine Plains, and from there to Cow Plains, where I went on fencing, some ten miles from the homestead. The season was a real bad one; sheep that poor, were hardly eatable. Flour, full of weevil and maggots, had to be sifted before making a damper. Each man was allowed a bottle of lime juice a week, thus keeping away scurvy. We were eight weeks on the job, when I was glad to get away, making Nhill. After a spell of a week I started again. I had a good few pounds in my pocket, and I wanted it, for I was walking the whole of the winter.
The country was in a deplorable condition with rabbits and dingoes. Some of the stations had no one but a caretaker at the homestead. The sheep were all removed or dead, slaughtered by wild dogs. I made from Nhill through by Pine Plains, from there to the Murray, up the river to swan Hill, to Kerang, Boort, Morton Plains, Lake Coorong, Pine Plains, Cow Plains, through to Pineroo, down through the Heath to Tintinara, across the desert to Bordertown, back to Lake Hindmarsh, on to the Murray River, thence to Wentworth, at the junction of the Darling, twelve more miles to Avoca, Cudmore Bros! station. where I got a job fencing and cutting cord wood for the engine until the shearing commenced. This was the longest time and the biggest tramp and loneliest I ever made. I was sometimes for weeks together and never saw a man travelling. I went into the most out of way places thinking to get work, but things were bad. What with drought, rabbits, and dingoes, there was no work going. By the time I got on at Avoca my funds were down to seventy two Shillings. I started the jaunt with thirteen pounds in my pocket. My troubles were not to end yet. After shearing three weeks I was taken bad with influenza, and was in bed three weeks at the station in company with three other unfortunates. As soon as I began to mend, with a mate, we made Wentworth, and taking passage on the steamer Jane Eliza on Saturday night, made Morgan. On the following Tuesday during the trip we took on shearers at Book-puram and Most of them were drunk, and continued in that state until they reached Adelaide. On reaching the wharf, at Morgan, we went, to the only hotel, a fine stone building, The place was a pandemonium with drunken men. As my mate and I were not on for their company, we got some tucker went about a quarter of a mile away, and camped under a tree for the night. On the following morning we took the train for Adelaide; the carriages were full of the boozers, most of them having a bottle. Before reaching our destination the compartment was stinking with whisky. We parted with the crowd at the loop line running to the port, thinking to catch the Coorong steamer for Lacepied Bay. On reaching the wharf we were in time to see the boat about a quarter of a mile away, so we had our dinner at the Port and took the train back to Adelaide, where we had to put in three days, until the Penola sailed. We spent the time pleasantly, the environs being very picturesque. The nights were passed at the Theatre Royal, Wagner’s “Lohengrin” being performed, Madame Antionette Link being the star singer. Sunday was rather dull time to put in at the Holy City of Churches.
The next day we started on the boat for the southeast making Lacepede Bay the next morning. its a poor enough harbour, and there was a heavy sea running. A small steam launch came alongside; it was jumping up and down, and it was a job having to jump when it was on top of a wave. My mate did the trick without making a bungle of it. I was rather nervous, and jumping when she was in the trough of a wave, made a mess of it, bruising myself badly. An old lady had to be put in a sort of a tub cut in two, and lowered down with a block and tackle. On making the wharf we went to the only hotel where I stopped until the next day. My mate had friends a mile or two away, and made their place. The next day I started up to Reidy Creek calling at the stations, trying to get on shearing, but was unable to find work, as they were not commencing for a week or two. My funds were running out, there was nothing for it but to make back to the old quarter. I have never shorn a sheep since.
When I reached Lake Hindmarsh the place was in the hands of the agents, Mr. Hogg having left it ruined some years before. He had real bad luck. On making Horsham he stored a lot of his property at Gillis’s Wimmera Hotel, and lost the lot by fire. I got a job with Mr. John Affleck at Lorquon. I stopped six months, and then went to the Exhibition in Melbourne. I had my dinner in the building; it was a memorable meal, being the worst I ever was afflicted with. I was in town a week, and making back to Lake Corrong, found it in a parlous condition. Only three thousand sheep on the place, and they had to be shifted twice a week to keep them alive, and this on a station where they shore a hundred thousand ten years before.
At this time the Government was doubtful whether the Mallee was worth saving, and the two daily papers were full of leaders, asking the same question, and for three years they were debating the subject. During that time the country was going from bad to worse. I had a job to pull through, but managed to get work shepherding at Morton Plains, stopping there until the squatters got a fresh lease in ’83, when I shifted to Lake Corrong, with my boss, he having became manager for Mr. E.H. Lascelles. There were camps of men all over the run, fencing, ringing trees, and trying to decrease rabbits and for nearly two years Mr. Lascelles made most strenuous efforts to redeem the country, and to very little effect until he got permission to cut it up for cultivation, since when the country has been gradually recovered.
This year 1885 saw nearly the end of the pastoral occupation of the lands, most of the lessees following the example of Mr. Lascelles, surveying and cutting up their runs for agriculture. When the cockies got possession they made short work of the rabbits. They may not have exterminated the vermin, but they soon brought them down to a minimum, doing little or no damage. I have only come across one run Ned’s Corner, on the Murray Frontage, where they actually reclaimed the place for sheep. Their efforts were mainly confined to strychnine poisoning with dog wood. I was working on the place in ‘1892 and was astonished at the splendid work accomplished. At this time they had sixty or seventy thousand sheep on the run.
In bringing my reminiscences to a close, I would remind the Press and Parliament of their miserable doubts respecting whether the Mallee was worth saving. In a very few years the whole of the north-western portion of Victoria will be one vast wheat field, affording homes to thousands of prosperous families. I will now conclude, wishing the present holders of the land may have the good luck their strenuous labours are worthy of, and which was denied most of the pastoral tenants.