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The trip from Inverell to Murrurundi in 1873

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Tuesday 18 March 1873, The Sydney Morning Herald



MY last missive treated of Inverell and its tin mines, short as it was, yet it was the result of a week’s weary wandering through swollen creeks and over roads heavy as black soil moistened could make them. Before taking my departure from the town, by invitation I attended one of those social little reunions so much prized by lovers of all that is English, “a public dinner,” given by the friends of Mr. E. V. Morriset to that gentleman prior to his departure from their midst. Mr. Morriset was for a considerable period manager of Byron station ; in that capacity he made many friends, fast and true and the “Inverellites” could not allow him to leave without tendering some token of regard. A neat little banquet at Mather’s where about thirty took seats to do honour to their guest, gave a fitting opportunity for a few short but expressive speeches, fraught with manly friendliness and good feeling towards Mr. Morriset.

Away from Inverell, in the direction of Tamworth, I for a second time made the acquaintance of that model township Bundarra, To reach it I had to cross the Bundarra, or Big River, which flows close to the town. I found it up “with a vengeance”-teams, buggies, and other vehicles waiting on either side for the falling of the water. There is no disguising the fact this river requires a bridge across it at this particular point. The traffic on the road of late has much increased, being as it is the shortest route to the mines around Inverell, and a main mail line. Cobb and Co, meet the difficulty ; and what difficulty is that that enterprising company will not meet by placing a coach on each side of the stream and conveying the mails across by boat.

To relate my own experiences. I found the river far too swift and deep for a trial, and so had to charter the boat, a private one of the flat-bottomed class, took off my saddle and trappings, and swam my horse by a lead. Had I travelled with a buggy a week’s detention would have been the result, as in the case of some commercial travellers I found in the town. Bundarra is about to receive the blessing of a telegraph line shortly, and, when in the vein for improvement, the Government might attend to a few more wants. The Court and its business, for instance, I found that tedious and vexatious delays oft occur through the absence of a petty sessions clerk, also from the non-appointment of some J.P.s in the district. The Inverell clerk; I was informed, receives £50 per year for his attendance at stated times at Bundarra, but through pressure of business at Inverell and distance, he rarely puts in an appearance, nor could he be expected so to do. I heard much dissatisfaction expressed by many engaged as witnesses in cases, at the loss of time these bad arrangements at Bundara occasioned, and for that reason give it publicity.

From Bundarra to Stony Batter is about 30 miles, over a middling road, and almost a level country. Stony Batter is not a place I would care to reside in, and if I had to stay there I would not put up at its only hotel. A short track, only available for horsemen or light vehicles, leads through Longford station, and brings the traveller in 30 miles to Bendemeer – a postal town on the main Northern road. This town is about 30 miles from Tamworth and 60 from Armidale, bordering the table-lands close to the Moonbi Ranges. The country around is one of rare beauty at this season ; suitable for agricultural or pastoral uses. Tin and diamonds have of late been discovered in its vicinity. Several parties are around, working good selections or prospecting. Want of time alone prevented me paying them a visit.

In no part of the colony have I noticed such active operations in road making and repairing as I met in my progress from Bendemeer to the Moonbl. Badly the road required what it is at present receiving, for in many parts the heavy traffic cut it up dreadfully. Six miles from the town, the famous hill known as the Moonbi on the chart, and the “Moonboys'” as pronounced by all I heard utter its name. It is a hill, and a nasty one for a heavy-laden team to rise. The gradients are, however, gradual, and the pinches few in its length (about four miles). To descend is pleasant enough. Warmer and warmer grows the atmosphere as the traveller leaves the New England district and enters the Liverpool Plains. The day I rode down it I felt light, as my attire was the bearer or wearer of a coat too many. Onward for eight miles, through a picturesque country, with lofty hills well timbered on each side, I made the township of Moonbi, where the first of the agricultural country claiming Tamworth for its market commences.

Bendemeer is but a small place, but Moonbi is more diminutive still, merely a village on the road side. Yet from the excellence of its hotels, it is a favourite halting place for travellers. From this pleasant village I made an early start for Tamworth, distant about fourteen miles. Farms on each side of the river – the Peel – extend all along the way ; the road running right of the stream. ‘The homesteads and their well-fenced lots make the way pleasant to one that too often journeys along through the blank bush ; for I confess, much as I like the grandeur of wild bush scenery, I prefer having a chance sight of a human habitation on the road.

It was my first visit to Tamworth and I made the town’s acquaintance under peculiar and favourable circumstances, for I entered it on a gala day, the first of the Tamworth annual races. The races I have already rendered an account of. The town has been so oft described that I suppose it is as well known by my readers as by myself, yet a few lines concerning it may not prove too boring.

Tamworth, distant from Murrurundi, the present terminal railway station, about 60 miles, is the capital town of the Liverpool Plains district, and I must, for information sake, state is not connected or a part and parcel of the Armidale or any other New England district. A great town now it expects to become greater. Town allotments are valuable ; one intended for the Commercial Bank, not much too large for the building, recently brought £700. The country around is a splendid one for agriculture, and selections innumerable extend for miles around the town, giving employment to two mills, one of them an immense affair to outward appearance. Large as these grinders of wheat are, another is needed, and will shortly be supplied, the speculation of two of the worthy townsfolk, estimated to amount when built and fitted to over £5000.

The principal portion of the buildings stands on a flat close to the river side unfortunately too low in flood times. This lamentable want of judgment in the selection of town sites is not alone chargeable to Tamworth. Too many of our towns have the same fault ‘ a reason for it is easily obtained. Early settlers, as a rule, squat down as close to the river side as possible particularly if business people and the main or any other line of road runs close to its banks. This was the case with Tamworth the road was close to the river, and there was erected a store, a public house, and a blacksmith’s shop. The place grew in importance, and the buildings became more plentiful, but all around the old centre. Thus it is when the Peel River grows angry from long rains, it takes its revenge out of the lower and principal part of the town; cuts up the road, washes away its metal, and, after doing serious damage of other kinds, again seeks its bed. The puzzle is why the present main road was not formed over the higher ground, which forms the central part of the town, as laid out.

It would have been far more economical and many think better judgment, but as in the case of Mahomet and the mountain, I suppose as the buildings could not go to the Government road, the road had to go to the buildings. The country sloping up from the road in question for a mile backed by spurs of the Moonbi, affords a capital position for buildings well drained and free from all danger of floods. On and along this portion of the town some of the best buildings have been erected. The School of Arts or Mechanics Institute, and the churches are neat buildings, and the latest addition is a fine Oddfellows Hall. The latter building I inspected interior and exterior.It stands on an excellent site, is substantially built of brick with a handsome front. A fine lofty well ventilated hall, well lighted and furnished, having a gallery at back, is admirably suited for meetings or entertainments. The oddfellows of Tamworth deserve credit for their energy and efforts to promote the interests of the order.

Strolling through the town, at the lower end, I had a peep at the hospital, a neat cottage building, surrounded by verandahs well sheltered by vines, forming an excellent cool promenade for the patients. Entering the hall of the building, on the right and left are two large wards for males, lofty and scrupulously clean. Past them to the back is the female ward, on the left, and opposite it, the dispensary and surgery. The attendants have quarters at the back of the building, where, in a spacious yard, the outoffices, bathroom, and wards for infectious diseases are placed. The medical staff consists of Drs. Dowe and Tayler. I was informed by one of the committee that much dissatisfaction exists among the townsfolk at the non-restoration of the former Government subsidy, rescinded sometime back, which was pound for pound collected ; now only half that sum is voted. The fact of patients, coming hundreds of miles to this hospital for treatment (and many do) entitles it to special attention.

Opposite the town, across the river, which is spanned by a wooden bridge in a ricketty, condition, as regards its upper works, I had a look at the portion of the town situated on the Peel River Company’s ground, This company holds a small slice of country, a portion of the original A. A. Co.’s grant. The country held attends along the Peel as far as Nundle; taking in the river’s windings it amounts to about 50 miles of river frontage: back it extends 10 miles. I may be incorrect in estimate of the block’s size, but I am positive in the statement of its being the choicest portion of Liverpool Plains, selected long ereTamworth dreamt of becoming a fitting place for the iron horse to drag a ponderous load along. The Church of England school, of stone, is on this side of the river, also some good substantial business places. Leases of building blocks and sales of lots are offered by the company on terms fairly liberal.

Strange to think, Tamworth is not incorporated : unfortunately, like many other towns, private interests will not become subservient to the public good There is not, what there ought to be, and will be eventually, a law compelling towns over a certain population to adopt local municipal institutions. The post and telegraph office in the town seems to be one of the fairest specimens of that class of building met by me in my wanderings. There can be no question as to its able management in Mr A’Beckett’s hands, but how hard worked that gentleman must be, with a dally mail from Sydney, and mails for and from all sorts of places arriving and departing at all hours day and night. From general observation throughout the colony I have ere this arrived at the idea that I would not like to be a postmaster. The Court-house is not a bad one, roomy enough for the purpose, but the police arrangements in the shape of accommodation are rather scattered.

The coaching along the Northern road from Murrurundi up to Queensland, with branches to towns en route, is really praiseworthy. Cobb and Co. strive to overcome every difficulty, the vehicles are good, and the horses A 1, as a rule in fine condition. I enjoyed my jaunt from Tamworth to Murrurundi ; sixty miles in 9 hours, with ample time for refreshment on the road allowed, is not at all a bad pace. Murrurundi I found not as bright as formerly ; the prospect of rail extension is not a blissful one for the holders of land in the town, and it is astonishing how much the value of building lots has depreciated.

The School of Arts, a neat handsome structure, is now nearly complete, and will soon be occupied. In notes published of Murrurundi eight months back, I particularly referred to the disgraceful state of the building used as a Public school. I was sorry to find on passing through the same complaint reached my ears. Is there no remedy ? Surely no inspector would visit the building without adding his condemnation to that of the district people.

Written by macalba

April 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

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