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A Week on the Macleay (1928).

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The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Saturday 14 April 1928

A Week on the Macleay.

Written for ‘Port Macquarie News.’

(By F. A. FITZPATRICK).

Article No. 1.

We are the old-world people,
Ours were the hearts to dare;
But our youth is spent, and our backs are bent,
And the snow is on our hair.

Back in the early fifties,
Dim through, the mists of years,
By the bush-ground strand of a wild, strange land
We entered — the Pioneers.

Our axes rang in the woodlands,
Where the gaudy bush-birds flew,
And we turned the loam of our new found home.
Where the eucalyptus grew.

Housed in the rough log shanty,
Camped in the leaking tent,
From sea to view of the mountains blue,
Where the eager fossickers went.

We wrought with a will unceasing.
We moulded, and fashioned, and planned,
And we fought with the black, and we blazed the track,
That ye might inherit the land.

Here are your shops and churches,
Your cities of stucco and smoke;
And the swift trains fly where the wild cat's cry
O'er the sad bush silence broke.

Take now the fruit of our labor,
Nourish and guard it with care;
For our youth is spent, and our backs are bent,
And the snow is on our hair.

— Frank Hudson.

On March 24, 1928, Mr. G. S. Hill, of Bungay, Wingham, and the writer arrived in Kempsey by the early morning train. Kempsey, of course is the capital of the Macleay— a river, by the way, that winds its course through some of the finest country in N.S.W. Particularly is this so on the Lower Macleay. The recent flood did a good deal of damage on some of the farms, but not near as much as was at first anticipated.

Kempsey is a big town, and an important one. It is divided into three parts — West, Central and East. We found excellent accommodation at the Hotel Kempsey— the destinies of which are ably presided over by Mr. and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill and members of their family. Mr. O’Neill is well known on the Manning, and is a brother to Mr. H. T. O’Neill, of Taree.

The week had been an extremely busy one at Kempsey. The Macleay Show had been on, and visitors were in town from many parts. Someone had suggested that the Show be allowed to lapse this year, owing to the flood. However, that idea had, fortunately, not been adopted. Most people readily admit that if the Annual Show in any district is allowed to go by the board one year, it is extremely difficult to get things in thorough working order next year. Anyhow, the Kempsey Show was held as usual, and the financial result has been satisfactory.

Kempsey boasts of two up-to-date newspapers— the ‘Macleay Chronicle,’ and the ‘Macleay Argus.’ The proprietor of the ‘Chronicle’ 1s really one of the pioneers of the Macleay, and should be able to write some interesting tales of the days that have gone. With two influential newspapers, a Chamber of Commerce, Municipal and Shire Councils, and other public bodies, the town and district should always be able to get its public requirements considered by the powers that be.

Kempsey Railway Station is a particularly busy one, and the old complaint of being ‘short-handed’ is heard there. However, in a town boasting of an influential Press and progressive public bodies, it should not be hard to get wrongs of this character righted.

Met in Kempsey quite a number of old friends. Mr. Weeks, for years on the staff of the ‘Macleay Argus,’ was one of them. Mr. Harold Smith, who used to be a regular attendant at Wingham Stock Sales, was another. Mr. G. S. Hill and Mr. Hughie McMaugh met and talked old times over with a vigor and freshness worthy of a great cause. We will deal with Mr. McMaugh in a future article.

On Saturday afternoon, March 24, Mr. Hill engaged a motor car, and accompanied by Mr. McMaugh and writer, a jaunt was made to Crescent Head, one of the favorite watering places on the Macleay. Crescent Head is a nice clean reserve, with a good beach and accommodation for visitors.

Now residing at Crescent Head are Mr. and Mrs. C. Maunsell. Mr. Maunsell is well-known to many people on the Manning, and has done a great deal of droving in his day. Charley is getting well on in years now, and has retired to the seaside, where he puts in most of his time fishing. Hughie McMaugh and Charlie Maunsell— metaphorically speaking— delved into the dim and distant past. They were again riding buckjumpers, shooting brumbies, and yarding bullocks. For a time they ‘lived the old days over again,’ recounted many occurrences of note, and were materially assisted in their task by Mr. Hill.

Portion of the road between Kempsey and Crescent Head is absolutely abominable. It wet weather it must be almost impassable. Seeing that Crescent Head attracts many visitors in summer time, it is certainly a wonder that the Shire Council does not see to the highway leading to it. Lack of funds, perhaps, is the reason; but the length of bad road is not great. If reformed and gravelled, the road to Crescent Head would be good. Out from East Kempsey, when returning from Cresent Head, Mr. Hughie McMaugh pointed, out where Kempsey once secured its water supply. He also asserted that the hole containing the water has no bottom. We don’t know whether Hughie was romancing or not, but a hole-without a bottom seems to us to be much like a ship without a rudder— or a cattle station without a stock horse. Mr. G. S. Hill seems to think that Kempsey’s Big Water Hole must have a bottom. If the bottom has fallen out of it— then how is water held there? Mr. Hughie McMaugh might work the problem out in his spare time.

Staying at the Hotel Kempsey during last week was Mr. J. Sydenham, of Hornsby. Mr. Sydenham is a native of the Upper Macleay, and was for years in the N.S.W. Police Force. He evinces a very keen interest in matters historical, and is a member of the Historical Society of N.S.W. Mr. Sydenham was looking up old friends, and endeavoring to secure additional information regarding the early days on the Macleay, and the doings of the pioneers. On Monday last he visited Wingham.

Mrs. H. A. McMaugh, of Kempsey, has rendered the Macleay district most valuable service in securing and writing up the early history of the district— a copy of which she has furnished to the Mitchell Library.

Mr. and Mrs. McMaugh lived at Coopernook over 50 years ago. There they married — Mrs. McMaugh being a Miss Caffrey. We secured some valuable information from Mrs. McMaugh, and same will be utilised in due course.

However, Hugh McMaugh’s reminiscences of early days on the Upper Macleay need a special chapter for themselves. From him we learned of Wabra Charley, an early day Macleay aboriginal. With Mr. Hill we strolled from Central Kempsey to the General. Cemetery on Sunday, March 26, and found the last resting place of “Wabra Charley.” A broken pillar marks the grave of a faithful blackfellow. The base of the stone bears the following inscription : —

Erected to the memory
Of the Aboriginal
WABRA CHARLIE

By F. G. and W. W. Panton,
Whom he served faithfully
For 23½ Years. 
At the Wabra Station, Macleay River.
Died 29th. December, 1876. Aged 45 Years.

'When the Gentiles which have not the law
do by Nature the things contained in the Law,
their having not the Law, 
are a law unto themselves.'
 — Rom. 2, Chap. IV. — V I.

The Panton family was a well known one in days gone by on the Macleay.

In concluding these few haphazard particulars that constitute the first of a series of articles to follow, we might mention that on the Saturday morning we arrived in Kempsey, the main street leading from West Kempsey to Central Kempsey was, in places, one mass of ‘pot holes.’ It was painful to travel over it. How ever, the efficiency of road building machinery was brought into evidence. The roadway was reconditioned and re-formed, and when we came away from the town the thoroughfare was in splendid order. Whether there has been sufficient gravel utilised to form a lasting foundation we know not, but last week end the road was simply grand.

To be continued.

Written by macalba

June 14, 2013 at 8:00 am

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