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A Week on the Macleay – article 2 (1928)

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The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Saturday 21 April 1928

A Week on the Macleay.

Written for ‘Port Macquarie News.’


Article No. 2.

On March 26, 1928, after having spent a couple of happy days at Kempsey, we boarded a service motor car — our destination being Comara, on the Upper Macleay. Mr. G. S. Hill, of Bungay, made all the preliminary arrangements for the trip. We left Kempsey about 9 a.m., and arrived at Comara well before dinner-time.

Mr. J. Sydenham, of Hornsby, was one of the party, but left the car at Bellbrook. As stated in the first article, Mr. Sydenham is a native of the Upper Macleay, and he was able to point out many places of interest as the fully laden car sped along. At Bellbrook he met an old identity, in the person of Mr. Cheers, with whom he had many interesting chats.

We arrived at Comara in good time and proceeded to the station homestead belonging to Messrs. Hill Bros, on Five Day Creek. This Creek was given its name by early settlers because of the fact that it took five days to reach that locality from Kempsey — or at least what there really was of Kempsey at that time.

Mr. Frank Hill, son of Mrs. Hill and the late Mr. Charles Hill, for years of Kempsey, is in charge of the big station property of the Messrs. Hill Bros, at Five Day Creek. A fine cattle station it is to-day — well stocked with good color cows, calves and bullocks. The mantle of his respected father has apparently fallen upon Mr. Frank Hill, as he manages the extensive estate under his care with an efficiency and capability that is most commendable.

On arrival at the comfortable homestead at Comara, we were soon provided with an excellent mid-day meal. Batching is the order at the station, and every man appeared to excel in cooking. Corned beef is one of the principal items on the menu, but it was of the best — station-bred, and station killed. Vegetables galore are grown there — and when one is provided with good wholesome home cured beef, home-grown vegetables, and plenty of bread— well, he needs nothing else.

At the homestead on the occasion of our visit the house staff comprised Messrs. Eric Dew, Keith Dew and Arthur Gale — while Mr. Cecil Supple (who was for a time at Bungay), used to happen along every day. All the chaps I have mentioned know how to prepare a good solid meal— and they also know how to eat one. Mr. Frank Hill himself was not behind the door when the culinary art was handed out — as he gave practical proof of on more than one occasion during our stay at Comara.

The Dews are related to the Herkes family, of the Little Dingo, near Wingham, and they made kindly inquiries about the family, and Humphrey and Jim in particular.

The men on Five Day Creek Station work hard all day, and sleep sound and easy at night. They retire early to bed at night, and rise with the larks in the morning.

The view from the homestead is a most picturesque one. Great mountains line the horizon in front of the homestead, and Mr. G. S. Hill was able to give the names of all the most important peaks. The Macleay River winds its way along just below the station homestead, and Five Day Creek joins the river just adjoining a fine little agricultural area, on which is growing a splendid crop of maize — much of it, unfortunately, had been damaged by a recent flood. The weather during our stay was most unsettled, and as dead and gone Henry Lawson wrote years ago[1], it could then be aptly said:

The valley's full of misty cloud,
Its tinted beauty drowning,
The Eucalypti roar aloud,
The mountain peaks are frowning.

The mist is hanging like a pall
From many granite ledges,
And many a little waterfall
Starts o'er the valley's edges.

The sky is of a leaden grey,
Save where the north is surly,
The driven daylight speeds away,
And night comes o'er us early.

But, love, the rain will pass full soon
Far sooner than my sorrow,
And in a golden afternoon
The sun may set to-morrow.

The Upper Macleay boasts of many picturesque places between Kempsey and Comara. For a considerable distance the main road fringes the Macleay River, and the sight is one that is worth seeing. The road is a particularly good one right through, and the writer was given to understand that though the scenery to Comara is excellent — from that point on to Armidale it is infinitely better. A first-class motor service has long been established between Kempsey and Armidale, and one may leave the capital of the Macleay at 9 o’clock in the morning, and be in Armidale at an early hour same afternoon. To tourists the road has many charms to-day, and it is little wonder that many motorists from all parts of the State — and other States also — periodically make this trip because of the natural grandeur that meets the eye at every turn. Round the cuttings the road reminds one of the Bulga and Comboyne Roads.

The branding of calves was in progress when we struck the station at Five Day Creek. Mr. Frank Hill and his stockmen were up to their eyes at work. The branding yards are located on the opposite side of the Macleay River to the homestead — years ago the homestead used to stand on that side of the river also. On March 27th. all hands and the cook crossed the river at early morning, yarded nearly 90 weaners, and started the operation of branding. They adjourned for dinner at mid-day, and returned to work immediately after.

They had no rain to speak of at Comara but just after 2 p.m. that day the river started to rise rapidly. There had been a heavy storm in the direction of the headwaters of the Macleay, and when the men knocked off branding in the evening, and sought to return to the homestead for the night, they found that the river had risen in the meantime over nine feet, and was then a rushing torrent Mr. Frank Hill proved himself equal to a difficult occasion, and put his horse into the flooded stream. The animal and rider, fortunately, reached the homestead side of the river safely. The other chaps — among them a couple of aboriginals — were not taking any of that risk, and in the darkness of the night rode round the mountain side to Long Flat, where they secured shelter and tucker. They were boated over next morning, and successfully swam their horses over also. The incident just went to show how prepared the average Australian has to be on a station and in the bush for emergencies — even in these days of enlightenment. Mr. Frank Hill was none the worse for his adventure, but he did not accept a pressing invitation from the chaps “across the flooded waters” to swim back with provisions for them for the night. Such a task would have been exceedingly risky — and the men did not expect to have it undertaken. They had appetites like horses that night, too.

On the day we left Comara on the return journey to Kempsey, Mr. Frank Hill and his stockmen were setting out to muster several hundreds of young bullocks. They were to be driven to Armidale, and, trucked from there to Quirindi. There were some fine fat bullocks on Five Day Creek Station. They were not of the big variety — just the sort of bullocks that are in demand these days by butchers in the metropolitan market.

There was grass galore on the station. The cattle do not appear to be able to keep it down— but the same thing applies just now to most areas in N.S.W. Not for years has there been such a prolific growth of grass and herbage.

Mr. W. J. Mowle, of Smith’s Flat, Upper MacLeay, is one of the pioneers of the locality. He has lived there for 33 years. At one time he informed the writer that he had Carrai Tableland, but sold out to Mr. Cecil Wright. Mr. Mowle told us that he had frequently been asked to write his life’s history. He has grown old and grey on the land, and has seen many changes. He promised to write his history — or dictate it, have it taken down, and sent on to us. Whether he will do so, remains to be seen. Anyhow, if Mr. Mowle carries out his promise, it should be a very interest ing document— this life history of a man who has effectively helped to blaze the track on the Upper Macleay in the days of his prime.

During the stay at Five Day Creek Home Station, Mr. G. S. Hill availed himself of the opportunity of visiting Pee Dee Station, once the property of the late Mr. Con. O’Sullivan. Mrs. O’Sullivan is still in the land of the living, and resides with members of her family at Pee Dee. The sons manage the property these days. Pee Dee is a fine property, and it has had some distinguished visitors in days gone by. Judge Murray was one of them — as also the Crown Prosecutor of the day. The name of O’Sullivan is a household one on the Upper Macleay, and one that is highly respected. Mrs. O’Sullivan belongs to that good-hearted class of people who did much for Australia in the days when there was much to do.

Away in the dim and misty past many an early-day settler — shepherd or stockman — was laid to rest in the wilds of the bush on the Upper Macleay. Their graves to-day are unmarked, perhaps, but nevertheless they are there, and this circumstance brings back to memory one of A. B. Paterson’s poems, entitled ‘Over the Range.'[2]

Little bush maiden, wondering-eyed.
  Playing alone in the creek-bed dry,
In the small green flat on every side
  Walled in by the Moonbi ranges high;
Tell me the tale of your lonely life
  'Mid the great grey forests that know no change.
'I never have left my home,' she said,
  'I have never been over the Moonbi Range.

'Father and mother are both long dead,
  'And I live with Granny in yon wee place.'
'Where are your father and mother?' we said.
  She puzzled awhile with thoughtful face.
Then a light came into the shy brown eye,
  And she smiled, for she thought the question strange
On a thing so certain — 'When people die
  'They go to the country over the range.'

'And what is this country like, my lass?'
  'There are blossoming trees and pretty flowers,
'And shining creeks where the golden grass
  'Is fresh and sweet from the summer showers.
'They never need work, nor want, nor weep;
  'No troubles can come their hearts to estrange.
'Come summer night I shall fall asleep,
  'And wake in the country over the range;'

Child, you are wise in your simple trust,
  For the wisest man knows no more than you;
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust —
  Our views by a range are bounded too;
But we know that God has this gift in store,
  That, when we come to the final change,
We shall meet with our loved ones gone before
  To the beautiful country over the range.

On the morning of Thursday, 29th March, we bid adieu to Comara and the kind friends we had met at the Station. The kindness of Mr. Frank Hill, and his men during our brief sojourn at the homestead materially assisted to make our stay there most pleasant and happy, and the trip will remain in memory as one of the happiest it has been our privilege to make. We arrived in Kempsey early on the Thursday morning, and spent the day there.

The next article will deal with information secured by us from an interview we had in Kempsey with Mr. H. A. McMaugh, of East Kempsey. Articles to follow will give vivid pen pictures of the early days on the Macleay, the material for which has been furnished us by Mrs. H. A. McMaugh, a gifted lady now well on in years. Mrs. McMaugh has collected quite a lot of most valuable information regarding early pioneering life on the Upper Macleay — as also in regard to the early day blacks. Some of her work is to be found in the Mitchell Library in Sydney to-day. Though this good lady’s work may be poorly appreciated in the year 1928, it is safe to say that long after the present generation has been laid to rest, that work will be valued by historians yet unborn.

(To be Continued.)

[1] http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/lawson-henry/rain-in-the-mountains-0022022
[2] http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/paterson-a-b-banjo/over-the-range-0001024

Written by macalba

June 20, 2013 at 8:00 am

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Cause of flood

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Wednesday 31 August 1949, The Sydney Morning Herald

Sir,-I question, the statement that, the disastrous flood at Kempsey was the result of heavy rain around the hills of the town.

This would contribute; but would cause a local flood. The cause of last weeks disaster was the heavy rains between Bellbrook, (30-miles west of Kempsey), Armidale, and Walcha.

Last Friday’s report in the “Herald” of heavy flooding at Armidale and continuous heavy rain plainly showed to any old inhabitant of the Macleay that a disastrous flood was imminent. The late Dr. Casement, of Kempsey, in the early 90’s forecasted that Central Kempsey (the main business centre) would one day be washed away. He cautioned the council against interfering with a belt of jungle scrub, about a mile above the town.

The council cleared the undergrowth away and subsequent floods did the rest. Huge fig and other jungle trees were uprooted and swept downstream. This disappearance of the scrub allowed the swift flowing currents of the succeeding floods to move more swiftly on to this portion of the town. Thus, man interferes.


Written by macalba

September 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm

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Floods On North Coast Threaten To Isolate Several Towns

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Saturday 27 August 1949, The Sydney Morning Herald

Several towns on the lower North Coast and northern tablelands are in danger of being cut off by floods following torrential rain.

Local floodings have occurred in the Coffs Harbour, Armidale, and Port Macquarie areas, where heavy falls of snow are also reported.

Low-lying areas of Kempsey are a sea of water, and before morning it is expected that most of the town, including the main streets, will be under water.

All residents in low-lying areas of the town are leaving their homes and thousands of head of cattle are being moved to higher ground.

There were distressing scenes last night as these residents began to move their furniture and belongings in blinding rain and intense cold.

Part of the railway line between Uralla and Kelly Plains is under water and railway officials say that if the rain continues to-day all railway traffic on the line will stop.

Trains affected are those to Moree, Tamworth, Brisbane via Wallangarra, and Glen Innes.

A “Herald” pilot who flew over the northern tablelands yesterday said the country between Uralla and Armidale was badly flooded.

The country north of Armidale was thickly covered in snow up as far as Ben Lomond.

“Ben Lomond must have had a two-foot layer of snow,” he said.

“Yesterday’s fall of snow in this area was the heaviest I have seen on the northern tablelands.

“Because of bad visibility I did not see Armidale at all when I flew over it.

“All the creeks south of Armidale are running bankers and have spread out across the fields forming giant lakes.”


Last night the Weather Bureau issued a flood warning for the North Coast, and a storm warning to shipping off the N.S.W. coast.

Further heavy rain during the night and early to-day (Saturday) was expected to cause flooding in some areas between the Bellinger and Manning Rivers.

Rough to very rough seas were expected east and north of Sydney.

The Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. S. F. Kellock, said last night that snowstorms and heavy rain had wrecked the main northern tablelands trunk line on both sides of Guyra.

Only four trunk lines of the normal 27 to Brisbane were working. Armidale last night reported the heaviest floods.

The local gas works are flooded and all gas supplies have stopped.

All roads leading into Armidale are blocked by heavy snow and floodwaters.

Police evacuated six families from low-lying parts of the town yesterday.

They rescued one woman who was stranded with her three-months-old baby in water knee-deep.

Police said last night that if rain continued to-day more than 50 families would have to leave their homes.

Dumaresq Creek broke its banks yesterday morning and late last night an area of half-mile radius was under water.


Up till 10.30 last night 12 inches of rain had fallen in Kempsey.

All creeks below Bellbrook are running bankers, and bridges are covered. The road north and south of Kempsey is cut.

High winds and rain are reported from all parts of the Macleay to-night, and rain is still falling.

Buses and ambulances have been stationed between West and Central Kempsey.

It is expected that the river will break near the railway bridge in the early hours of the morning, thus cutting all communications between Central Kempsey and West Kempsey.

Beisldown River, which flows through Dorrigo, is 5ft 3in over its banks. Police say this is the highest level for 23 years.

Thousands of pounds’ worth of crops have been destroyed in the Dorrigo district.

The Bellinger River has broken its banks in many parts and has risen from its normal depth of four feet to twenty feet. About 6 inches of rain fell yesterday.

Police have evacuated 12 families from low-lying areas.

They said the town itself was not threatened, but if the river rose any further about 200 people would have to leave their homes along the river’s banks.

Following are reports from the affected areas:


NAMBUCCA, Friday. – Record floods arc expected on parts of the Nambucca River following average falls of about 10 inches of rain during the last 24 hours.

This evening the upriver towns of Bowraville and Taylor’s Arm were isolated by road.

Taylor’s Arm, at the town of Taylor’s Arm, was 40 feet above normal at 5.30 p.m. and still rising fast.

The Bowra River at Bowraville at 8 p.m. was up 27 feet and rising at the rate of one foot an hour.


COFF’S HARBOUR, Friday. -Struck by a cyclonic disturbance which hit the harbour early this morning, nine fishing launches and two valuable yachts were washed ashore, at Coffs Harbour.

One launch was smashed to pieces on the jetty and is a complete loss.

The launches are part of the Coff’s Harbour deep-sea fishing fleet and are valued at approximately £25,000. The yachts are privately owned and are believed to be valued at £30,000.

Fishing gear and launch fittings valued at thousands of pounds have been lost.


KEMPSEY, Friday.-The Macleay River at Bellbrook is within two feet of the record 1946 flood mark.

In that year the river broke its banks and caused damage estimated at £100,000. In some quarters it is feared that losses in the present flood will be even greater.

The 45ft Seventh Day Adventist launch Leleo was swept ashore early this morning, about a mile from Crescent Head on the north side.

The crew of three white men and five natives is safe. The boat is being buffeted by heavy seas.

BELLINGEN, Friday. – Following torrential rain, the river is rising at Bellingen, and there is now over 20ft of flood water.

Homes are menaced at East Bellingen, and some people have been evacuated.

Bellingen is cut off from Dorrigo, the river being 5ft above the Thora Bridge.

The only traffic to north of Bellingen is by rowing-boat. The only bridge is 15ft under water.

ARMIDALE, Friday. – Armidale is suffering its worst flood for half a century.

Since rain began to fall about 11 o’clock on Wednesday night, nearly seven inches have been registered.

At midday big flakes of snow fell.

Written by macalba

September 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Road report: Armidale to Kempsey

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Friday 8 October 1937, The Sydney Morning Herald

Reporting on the road from Armidale to Kempsey the N.R.M.A. states that the run to Wollombi [sic] is over a fair to good metal and gravel surface. Steep grades and winding road require the exercise of care on the Big Hill between the summit of the range and George’s Creek, on the Upper Macleay River. At St. Helena Creek a detour is necessary because of the construction of a new bridge, and careful driving is advised. The road down the Macleay River to Bellbrook and Kempsey is very narrow and winding in places, and the going is slow. For the last l8 miles to West Kempsey much of the gravel surface is worn and corrugated. This road passes through fine scenery. Although the total distance from Armidale to Kempsey is slightly under 120 miles the average time for the trip is five hours.

Written by macalba

August 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

River falling at Kempsey

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Tuesday 23 June 1925, The Sydney Morning Herald

KEMPSEY, Monday.

Warnings Issued by the Weather Bureau on Friday and Saturday caused considerable anxiety In the Macleay district. On Saturday a slight fresh appeared In the river. On Sunday morning the river at Bellbrook was reported to be 13ft 6in high, with heavy rain pouring over George’s Creek. The river at Kempsey then was about 4ft 6in over normal summer level. It was stated this morning that at Bellbrook it had risen to 14ft 6in, but that rain had ceased at Georges Creek, and the flood was falling. Both messages stated that only light rain was falling at Armidale, from which the bulk of the flood waters come. Usual precautions were taken at Kempsey to prepare for a flood, which now is not feared.

Written by macalba

April 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Church dedicated at Bellbrook

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Tuesday 13 February 1906, The Sydney Morning Herald


KEMPSEY, Monday.

Two new churches in connection with the
Church of England have been dedicated by
the Rev. H. Jobson, rural dean, one at Bell-
brook, and the other at Moparabah.

Written by macalba

April 5, 2010 at 6:09 am

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Rainfall reports

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Tuesday 25 July 1922, The Sydney Morning Herald


KEMPSEY, Monday.

Torrential rain is falling, and as it is just a
year ago since Kempsey's big flood, the public
are much perturbed regarding the discontinu-
ance of weather reports at the post-office.

No information is available beyond Kempsey's
rainfall. The custom of giving information
regarding the conditions at Bellbrook and
further up the river has been discontinued.
The discovery of this fact to-day occasioned
great indignation. The president of the
Chamber of Commerce wired Dr. Page pro-
testing and asking to do his best to have the
reports made available regarding the condi-
tions at Bellbrook, George's Creek, and Armi-
dale. The absence of this information to
people on the lower river is a serious menace,
as with such rain as is now falling, floods are


Owing to the cutting out of the country
weather reports no registrations of falls in
the centres other than Bathurst have been
received at the local telegraph office, caus-
ing considerable indignation, and widespread
complaints at the action of the Federal autho-
rities. The weather reports from the western
and other centres are eagerly looked for
here by pastoralists who have interests in
those distant localities.


As a result of the representations made by
the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle
Page), to the Minister for Home Affairs (Sena-
tor Pearce), the department, it is stated, has
instructed Bellbrook, on the Upper Macleay, to
send out weather reports to Gladstone, the
centre of the lower Macleay flats, and also to
issue from the Kempsey office hourly bulletins
recording the conditions at Armidale, George's
Creek, and Bellbrook.

Arrangements have also been made for the
temporary resumption of the transmission of
rainfall records from all coastal and highland
stations for the purpose of advising residents
of the areas that might by affected by floods.

Written by macalba

April 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm

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