Wirraminna Station, South Australia, part 2

Wirraminna Station

Part 2

Wirraminna was now managed by Thomas W Scott and he advertised for shearers and a cook for the 1891 shearing season, which would start in July. A year later, transport was still a problem and Young and Gordon at Port Augusta wanted teams to deliver its goods to Arcoona, Andamooka and Wirraminna in June 1892. A month later they wanted horse-teams for Wirraminna and promised full loads both ways and increased remuneration.

It didn't matter what animals were used to pull the waggons; they all caused the occasional problems. In September 1892, a correspondent from Wirraminna wrote to the Port Augusta paper that 'a few days ago, while a man named Barney Larkins, was attaching a sideline to a bullock at the Swamp Well, a most extraordinary accident occurred, which has no parallel, as far as can be ascertained, and might have ended fatally, had not an unforeseen providence intervened.

The facts are briefly these, as witnessed by the poor fellow's two mates, who were working at the same well. The bullock in question being somewhat of a rambler, a sideline was being attached, to prevent him straying so far afield, when he suddenly made a plunge, the result being that the chain of its own accord took a turn round the unfortunate man's ankle, and hooked itself securely. In a second, the beast was off at full speed, dragging Larkins for fully two hundred yards over bushes and big stumps at a terrible pace, and all efforts to stop the frightened animal proved futile.

At this crisis the bullock was approaching a claypan full of water, and having got half way across, fortunately for the victim, slipped, and marvelous to relate, broke his front leg. In an instant, Larkins with great presence of mind got the slack of the chain, and by unhitching the hook saved himself from a position of imminent peril, for there is no shadow of doubt whatever that the beast would have dragged him until he came in contact with some of the numerous stumps around, and thus ended his career in this world of sorrow.

News of the accident having been brought to the station, the manager at once went out, and was extremely relieved to find that Larkin's injuries were far less than could have been anticipated, namely a very discoloured and swollen ankle, which I am happy to say is nearly well again. I have mentioned the case to several teamsters, and they all agree that they never heard of such a serious mishap ending in so a miraculous an escape. The bullock of course had to be destroyed'.

Isolation, bad tracks or rain didn't stop members of the Bush Mission. Mr J Beukers, wrote from Arcoona, 'We left Wilgena home station on April 5, 1893 and have since travelled about 170 miles in an easterly direction. The track runs around the north of Lake Harris and Lake Gairdner, through mulga scrub country. At Kingoonya, the country assumes a different look, and stony tablelands make their appearance.

These tablelands differ from those around Lake Eyre in that a belt of timber is every now and then met with, chiefly mulga. At all the camps which we passed on the road we left tracts, but as the people mostly professed to be Catholics, we held no meeting till we got to Wirraminna home station, a run belonging to Mr Henry Scott. We were made very welcome there, and were able to hold several meetings, which were attended by all hands.

From thence we passed on to Arcoona. Leaving Wirraminna, the country is thickly grown over with scrub, which becomes very dense in the neighborhood of Lake Hart. We crossed the southern extremity of that lake. The sun had been down an hour or so, and the pale crescent moon was just visible in the western sky, when we crossed the field of salt.

It was cold, and as our buggy left a distinct wet track behind in the white glistening mass, I could almost fancy that I was again amongst the snow and ice of my native land. Beyond Lake Hart we followed the bed of the Eucolo Creek and passed into a region where rain had but recently fallen, abundance of water lying about, and everywhere green grass and many coloured wild flowers were springing into life. To judge by the dry feed, which we found in abundance everywhere, I should think that this part of the country is not very heavily stocked.

We got to Arcoona home station on the 21st. We passed by Lake Richardson, and both it and the Arcoona Lake, and two small lakes a little further north, are full of water. We went out to Andamooka, 25 miles beyond Arcoona, but were not very well received there'.

Andamooka Homestead 1895 (SLSA)

The next few years were very busy years. In May 1893 all unbranded cattle from Wirraminna, Coondambo and Kingoonya were rounded up and sold. Two months later shearing started at the Island Creek shed and manager CE Gooch was pleased to report that all stands were engaged. When the job was finished, Bagot, Shakes & Lewis would sell the 2500 ewes with 1250 lambs born in March, at the Wilmington yards on 9 August. By this time William Morris Green had left the station and finished up going to Western Australia, where he died in 1897.

Shearing was on again in July 1897 and Henry Scott advertised for a wool classer. Once the shearing was completed, 13,000 of his first-class sheep were sold at auction. This was followed by another auction in October when 50 prime fat cattle, 6050 fat and store sheep and 10 horses were on offer. There were also two water tanks, hurdles, gates, post and a waggonette and buggy to be had. Six weeks later another 4250 sheep were auctioned at Burra.

With the continuous drought and depression in the north, the Port Augusta Dispatch reported on 14 January 1898 that Wirraminna would be given up by the present owners. Apparently dingoes and rabbits had been very bad and the seasons even worse. In April the Pastoral Commission stated that Kingoonya, Parakylia, Andamooka and the Wirraminna runs were all abandoned.

It also meant a great disappointment to a young girl who really enjoyed her time. She wrote on 22 January 1898, 'Dear Aunt Eily, I am eleven years old and a new niece from whom you have not heard before. I wish to become a member of St. Vincent's Juvenile Club. I enclose a penny stamp for membership card, also one shilling in stamps for the little orphans. We used to live near the Goodwood Orphanage when in town; it is over two years since we came to live in the country, and I like it very much.

We live at Wirraminna! My sister and father rode over to see us on horseback last Thursday. I had a ride on a camel last week, which I enjoyed very much; as I had to ride alone, I was afraid at first, but I didn't fall off. As they have a type-writer here I am trying to learn, and am sending you a letter written with it. Dear Aunt Eily, I shall conclude, wishing yourself and the little orphans a very happy and prosperous New Year. I remain, dear Aunt Eily, Your affectionate niece, JENNIE PALMER'.

On 9 June the last 7000 sheep were auctioned and all had to be removed from Wirraminna by the end of the month when the lease would expire. Not all were sold and about 3000 of them were auctioned at Wilmington in August. When the station was cleared it was looked after by Swinden, a government caretaker. Interestingly, isolation problems had been reduced as during 1898 a direct party line had become available from Port Augusta to Gibson Camp, Oakden Hills, Coondambo, Kingoonya, Tarcoola and Wirraminna by using the telegraph wire.

In June 1899 Wirraminna Station was taken up once again. This time JG Terry, the well-known mail contractor of the North East was giving it a go. He appointed WFF Smith as manager. On 29 September, LA Wells called in after reporting on the recent gold discoveries at Wilgena. Laurence Allen Wells, was born at Yallum Park near Penola on 30 April 1860. After spending most of his youth at Mount Gambier, he joined the South Australian Survey Department in 1878. He had already done a lot of surveying at Charlotte Waters, Birdsville and Innamincka. He had been involved with August Poeppel and John Carruthers as well as the Elder Scientific Exploration.

The South Australian Register of Wednesday 23 May 1900, reported on the recently discovered goldfield at Tarcoola and that Mr R Broadbent, the Secretary of the Gawler Prospecting Syndicate, has just returned from a trip to that Goldfield. He left Gawler on Monday, May 7, accompanied by Mr. Thomson, an Adelaide expert.

They arrived at Port Augusta the same night, and started the next morning with a trap and pair of horses and driver on their journey of 294 miles north. By midday they had covered 35 miles, to Euro Bluff. About 14 miles of this was sandy going. Dinner was obtained at a boarding-house there, and one fresh horse, and then to Gibson's Camp, or Gunther's Hotel, 26 miles further on, was made for and reached. Fifteen miles of this stage was heavy, and the balance fair going.

They started next morning with a fresh pair of horses, and stopped at Monalena Camp, 19 miles out. This was nearly all a sandy track, fairly heavy. After resting there about four hours, a 'fresh pair of horses was obtained, and Lake Windabout was made for. Six miles of this was very heavy, but some of the rest has been 'made,' and is good. An hour's spell and tea were taken, and then the journey was resumed as far as the Pines Station, a distance of 14 miles over a tableland of loose stones or gibbers.

No bullocks, horses or mules here!

There the travellers had to camp for the night under a bush. The Pines Station was left behind the following morning with the same pair. Phillips Pond was the next stoppage. This is the residence of Mr Brennan, the Manager of Mount Gunson, and represented a stage of 10 miles, the first two of which was sandy and the other rough, stony tableland. A daughter of Mrs Brennan did the horse-hunting, and after three hours she brought in a pair of steeds, one a mule, 'Climber,' and a quadruped with a reputation.

With this couple the party got as far as the Acacia Waterhole, where they camped and had tea, and then after an hour's spell drove on to Wirraminna Station, where they arrived at midnight. They had covered 42 miles since leaving Phillips Pond. Most of that journey was through heavy sand. In this stage Lake Hart was crossed, and in the moonlight looked like a snowfield. It had this appearance both in the moonlight and daylight. There is hardly a drop of water in the lake, just an encrustation of sandy salt.

The Manager of Wirraminna Station, Mr Smith, hospitably received the tourists, and entertained them for the night. They started the next morning with a fresh mule and a horse, and went through to Coondambo Station, a 26-mile stage. The travelling was fair, but sandy in places. After a short stoppage for tea, a fresh pair of steeds, this time both, mules, took the party along at a good pace to the Bitter Well, 23 miles.

The Wirraminna station and surroundings were looking well in 1900. There was a splendid supply of water at the homestead and with the means of a miniature irrigation scheme vegetables were grown, while a big fig tree yielded a heavy crop each year.


To be continued.

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