Farina, a Latin name meaning Farinaceous or flour. It was not named after the Italian chemist, Johann Maria Farina the inventor of Eau de Cologne. Farina was surveyed in 1876 by WH Cornish and R Peachey, on a reserve named Government Gums or Gums waterhole, on the pattern first used by Colonel William Light. It had 432 allotments of a quarter acre each and 88 suburban blocks ranging in size from five to eleven acres. The town was officially proclaimed on 21 March 1878.
Farina remained too small to support a hospital so the District and Bush Nursing Society of South Australia established a 'Cottage Hostel' in the old Transcontinental Hotel. The hostel, due to its isolation and distance from Adelaide or Port Augusta, found it difficult to attract nurses or even a doctor and thus operated only intermittently. It was often only serviced through the visits by sisters from Marree. Mrs Bell, secretary of the hostel valiantly searched for nursing staff as well as endeavouring to make the hostel economically viable. One of the nurses to serve the Farina community was Claire Mincham, who later married Hans Mincham, author of several books on the Flinders Ranges and at that time teaching in Lyndhurst.
By 1882, the narrow-gauge railway had reached Government Gums and despite the drought of that year, optimists hoped that the town would become the centre of a vast agricultural storehouse. The railway soon became known as the Transcontinental Railway and the Great Northern Railway.
Within a short time Farina (Map) became the railhead for the loading of cattle, from as far away as Innamincka and Queensland, and a meeting place for Afghan cameleers. These Afghans and their camels provided a reliable transport service for more than seventy years.
On 10 October 1883 an entertainment was given in the Railway good-shed by local amateurs. The proceeds, which amounted to about £10, were devoted towards the purchase of an organ to be used at religious services, which are conducted from time to time by the Roman Catholic clergy from Port Augusta and the Church of England minister from Quorn. The entertainment was a grand success, which was for the most part due to Mr O'Brien, who was throughout indefatigable in his exertions in getting it up, and carried out his part so well, as stage manager, that everything passed off nicely without the slightest hitch.
The entertainment consisted of songs, duets and recitations with two farces, the programme concluding with the laughable farce "The wigmakers" the respective characters of which were well represented by Stacey, Provan and Fitzgerald. The recitation "How we beat the favourite" was well rendered by Mr SA O'Brien, so well, indeed, that some of the old northern tightlegs might be seen to slowly rise, as it were, in the stirrups, so carried away were they by enthusiasm with the reciter, until brought to their bearings by their short necked neighbours from behind. Mr CD Kean ably presided at the piano during the evening, and also sang a couple of very nice songs.
By 1888 its population was around a hundred, occupying some 30 houses. The acting postmaster that year was AS Lewis and the Transcontinental hotel was run by RE McDonald while George Tyler White had the Exchange hotel. A year later Thomas D Gibson was appointed postmaster and EE Schroder was manager of the National Bank of Australasia.
The town grew quickly and apart from the two hotels it soon had a church, hospital and school. Its population, which at one stage numbered more than four hundred people, supported several shops, including those of Manfield and Bell. It also had a number of Afghans and Aborigines living in and around the town.
Today the town's only residents are Anne and Kevin Dawes and their two children. Together they run the Farina pastoral station while Anne still finds time to teach at the Leigh Creek Area School.
When visiting Farina to admire this 'Open Air Museum' you can stay at the Bush Caravan Park, which does have hot showers. For information on camping and 4WD tours of the town and its surroundings, contact Kevin and Ann Dawes, Farina Station, via Lyndhurst, South Australia 5731. Phone/Fax 08 8675 7790.
The road to Witchelina station.
If you like to find out more, you can also buy the beautifully illustrated, books FARINA, 'such a beastly place' and Postmarked Farina, Letters from an Outback Schoolteacher 1918-1919. Both are available from Rob Olston, 7 Burnbank Street, Lake Wendouree, Victoria 3350.