Old news from Armidale and New England

Local news from newspaper archives

Posts Tagged ‘macleay

A week on the Macleay – article 5 of 5 (1928).

leave a comment »

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Saturday 2 June 1928

A Week on the Macleay.


Written for ‘Port Macquarie News.’


Article No. 5.

Years after, when the Macleay became more populated, a road was made to the Tableland— it being the only outlet for getting stock to market. At that time no one would purchase cattle on the Macleay unless delivered on the Tableland. About the year 1855 the first bullock dray was taken by this route. At the instigation of John McMaugh, senr., J. Warne, W. Duffety, W. Smith, T. Bradbury and J McMaugh (the latter only going part of the way) accompanied it, and the load on the dray consisted of bacon supplied by Smith and Bradbury. It took them three months to perform the journey. Two other men, named Jimmy Jago and Tommy Barraby, were also of the party, which succeeded in reaching Armidale and disposing of the load.

In the year 1857 the McMaugh family came to live in Kempsey for the purpose of obtaining education for their children, as the first Public School had just been established there and Mr. Price was the teacher. They attended this school till their father died in 1863. Mrs. McMaugh and family then returned to Pee Dee. In 1864 the house that they had just vacated in Kempsey was washed away by the flood, and the river now flows where it stood. John McMaugh, junr., assisted his mother in managing the station. All the sons grew up to be clever stockmen, strong men and fearless riders, and were famed for many deeds of ‘Derring Do,’ until Pee Dee was sold to the late Mr. C. O’Sullivan and the family was scattered.

Amongst the notable stockmen of the early days were: Ellis Reed, of Moparrabah, a most fearless rider; W. Duffety, Alick Brock, and Paddy Burns of Towal Creek; and of Five Day Creek, Dick Sole and Jim Dunn; Pee Dee – J. Chisholm and Ben Halo; and at Kunderang they had William and Ben Supple— both noted riders. After leaving the Macleay the latter went to New England, and was known as the most expert fencer. No wire in those days – split posts and rails. W. Supple remained on the Macleay and made a home at Five Day Creek. He had a large family of sons and daughters, the former of whom achieved fame as teamsters and cedar getters, and are honest, industrious men, and still make the same boast that no cedar is inaccessible to them.

In the year 1857 East Kempsey was the only township on the Macleay. Central and West Kempsey were nearly all scrub, with only a few small houses on the banks of the river. There were no roads, so the river was the thoroughfare and everyone in the vicinity had a boat. East Kempsey had then a general store, kept by the Bradburys, a blacksmith shop, one hotel, called the Bush Inn— a man named Needs was the proprietor, and all business was transacted there. Travellers from the upper river crossed over in a small punt pulled by a rope. Dr. Gabriel was the only medical man, and there was no resident clergyman till many years later.

A few of the early settlers employed the blacks; but they were too treacherous. The man known as Wabro Charlie was a native of Queensland. Mr. F. Panton brought him from there when, he was very young, and he remained in their employ till his death. He was a good and faithful servant, and the Panton family so respected his memory that they buried him in West Kempsey cemetery, and placed a tombstone over him, in the form of a broken pillar, with a suitable inscription.

That inscription is scarcely readable today, and it would be a graceful act to have it attended to.

The mail from Kempsey to New England was conveyed on a pack horse once a week, and very often the mailman was detained for days— not being able to cross the creeks and rivers. Even after the cuttings were finished it was a long time before a mail coach was able to travel that line, and it was not until the cattle runs were cut up by selectors, and the population increased, that a more efficient mail service was given the people.

An old identity who lived on the Upper Macleay in the long ago was a man named ‘Scotchie.’ He was never known by any other name. For years he made his living by carrying rum and tobacco to the different stations. He conveyed the spirits in small kegs on a pack-horse, and the tobacco strapped on the pommel of his saddle. Very often he brought the letters, etc., to the stations if he met the mailman, who would give them to ‘Scotchie’ to take on. During his slack times he was often employed at Pee Dee, and on one occasion Mrs. McMaugh, senr, and her children were left in his care while her husband and the stockmen were out on the run. The day passed quietly away until the afternoon, when two naked wild blacks appeared one at the front door and one at the back. They brandished their spears, and by signs demanded food and tobacco. Mrs. McMaugh stood gazing at them, almost paralysed with fright, and looked around for her protector; but the valiant warrior had hidden under a bed and no entreaties would bring him out. So she backed towards her bedroom door— knowing that there was a loaded gun always kept there. The blacks guessed her intentions and had their spears raised to spear her, when a stockwhip sounded on the Gap in front of Pee Dee, and as the sound was heard very distinctly in those mountains the crack of a whip sounded like a rifle fire and the blacks fled for their lives. Scotchie’s sojourn at Pee Dee was very short after that. He lived to be a great age, and died at Corangula.

An old shearer named McCormack visited the stations periodically when they carried only sheep. Being anxious to save his money, he put a hundred pounds in ten pound notes into a pickle bottle — corking it with a wad of paper — and hid it under a rock. About six months later he returned to Long Flat, and went to look for his hidden treasure, but found that the bottle was full of water owing to heavy rain. The notes were saturated to a pulp. The place is called McCormack’s Flat to this day, and is near Long Flat. The first made road up the river went through Warwick and followed the mountain ranges to the Devil’s Nook Creek, and then up the Nulla Creek and on to Guy Fawkes (New England). The first cuttings, were made at the Devil’s Nook Creek and were afterwards abandoned, and in later years those that now follow the river were substituted.

Skillion Flat was called after a shepherd’s hut built in the shape of a skillion during the time Captain Steele had sheep there. ‘The Woolshed’ in the early days was a small sheep station, five miles from Skillion Flat, and a shed was built there to receive the wool — hence the name. ?? this shed and a yard remained standing till a few years ago. Yesabah, meaning a gum tree; Toorooka, Corangula, Wabro, Torrumbi and Moparrabah are all Aboriginal names. Moparrabah — a cave. Willi Willi — plenty possum.

Elsinore was named by Captain Gray, the original owner. Bellbrook because of its running creek, was called that name by Mrs. McMaugh. senr. Pee Dee received that name owing to a bullock being found there with that brand — PD. Where the bullock came from, or who was the owner, was never found out. Towal Creek was called that name owing to a man losing his towel there while bathing. Long Flat is called so from the length of the flat where the homestead stands. Kunderang is an aboriginal name, and is the highest and last station on the Macleay, and is very rough, broken, and difficult of access. It is supposed that Hugh and Rowley Hill were the first owners of it. Hickey’s Creek secured its name from a man of that name who in the year 1854 formed a station there, where the town of Willawarrin now stands. He was killed by the blacks, and the place was abandoned as a station. Major’s Creek was named after Major Innes, who originally owned Moparrabah. Five Day Creek was so called by John McMaugh, senr., as it took them five days to take a team of bullocks and dray from Pee Dee to there when forming the station.

Mount Anderson— or Anderson’s Sugarloaf, as it is sometimes called— received its name from the man who I have already mentioned in these pages. He owned a great deal of property in the vicinity of the Mountain, and the remains of his old stock yard are still standing near the place where the police burnt down his hut. Nothing is known of his antecedents.

Bomangi is also an aboriginal name, meaning wild cattle. It belonged to Major Kemp, who formed a station there; but is such a scrubby, mountainous place, that the cattle got very wild there. Euroka was purchased by the Chapmans, an old pioneer family, and received its name from them. The proper pronunciation of the name is Eureka— ‘I have found it’— Mr. Chapman, senr., having said that the first time he saw the beautiful property now called Euroka.


‘Yes,’ Mrs. H. A. McMaugh said, ‘in the olden days before the advent of the white man, the aboriginal women used sinews of animals, such as the kangaroo, wallaby, etc., to sew the possum skins together. They also used the inner stringy fibres of the Kurrajong bark to make their nets, which they carried on their backs, suspended by a long hand or handle made of the same bark. They usually contained a very weird collection of articles— food, in the shape of a half cooked ‘possum, etc., all their valuables, and on top of all a piccaninny.

When a tree containing honey was located the women climbed the tree with the aid of a vine carried for that purpose, and steps cut in the bark with a stone tomahawk. They ate as much of the sweet food, as they could, especially the comb containing young bees in a state of larvae or pulp – it being a great luxury in their eyes. The rest of the honey was carried in a kind of hamper or dish made of bark, principally the ti-tree bark, tied at each end with currajong thread.

The women bore the principal burden — the men stalking on before with their spears and boomerangs. Some of them carried the fungus growth found in trees, which when once alight continues smouldering for days. From this they made a fire which was first produced from the sparks obtained from flinty stones, or by rubbing two sticks together till they ignited.

When a woman became a wife, a piece of kurrajong thread or the web of a large spider, which spins so strong a web that stockmen riding quickly through a scrub have been caught in it and nearly pulled from the saddle before the web would break was used. This the young woman bound tightly round the middle joint of the little finger on her left hand, and in a short time the bone separated from the rest of the finger, and the top of the little finger came off. The woman’s “outward and visible” sign of the married state was thus secured. This operation was so successful that I have seen several black women of the long ago minus this part of their finger, and there was no unsightly scar. The flesh grew quite smoothly over the mutilated joint. The young men knocked a front both out as their symbol of matrimony.

Their laws were very stringent. For example-if a man killed one of his kind he had to pay the death penalty. A ‘life for a life’ was their law, and even if the culprit found refuge with another tribe, the avenger followed him, and he paid the price. If a young man became a father before he was ‘Kaparched’ death was also his punishment. Of their ceremonies the Kaparoh and Corroboree are the only important ones. The former much resembles the Masonic ceremony. The old men hold a council, and select the boys they, consider eligible to be made men of, and at an unknown time they rush the camp, seize the lads and carried them off to the Kaparah ground, which had been previously prepared in a lonely spot some distance from the camp. A great path is chipped bare, generally up a hill leading to the ground. All the trees in a circle are carved beautifully, mostly in a diamond shape.

When all is prepared they begin a series of physical trials on the boys — only feeding them on wild food, and keeping them well watched. The Mundy, or white crystallised quartz— their sacred stone or emblem — is placed in their hands. This emblem represented God, and no black woman must ever see it under pain of death.

The boys keep their eyes fixed on the ‘Mundy,’ while the men try them with all sorts of weird noises— at night especially — principally using the ‘boora-boora,’ (a piece of wood so shaped that when attached to a piece of sinew and whirled quickly through the air, makes a most horrible and unearthly noise, well calculated to try the nerves of any human being).

The next process was to cut the flesh of the chest, arms and back with a sharp shell, and to mark the unfortunate boys with their tribal signs. Then they rushed at them with spears to try them still more — in fact, they did many things only known to themselves to make the boys brave men and warriors. If any of them failed, showed signs of grief or fear, they were taken back in everlasting disgrace, and pronounced unfit. Later on, when they all returned to the camp, there was much rejoicing, and singing the boys’ praises. They were considered-men now, could take their places as such, and were at liberty to have a wife, and have a place in the tribe.

The Corroboree is really a kind of war dance. The men painted their bodies and faces in the most fantastic manner; they then jump, dance and sing — brandishing their spears. They made every muscle in their bodies quiver. The women used to sit round in a circle, with a huge fire in the middle, and beat time on their possum skins. These were stretched like a drum on their knees. The women also joined in the singing, which was very monotonous, and long drawn out. When a death occurred in a tribe, the wailing of the women continued for days and nights, and was most mournful to listen to. The men who were the nearest relatives of the deceased, sat in the ashes, and threw ashes on their heads. They also cut themselves in different parts of their heads with a Tomahawk, as a sign of grief.

I once witnessed the funeral of a young gin. They rolled the body in a blanket and Ti Tree bark, which they bound round and round with vines till it resembled a mummy. The blacks carried it on their shoulders, the women following with loud wailing, and when they came to the paddock fence they put the corpse through the middle rail, then under the bottom one, and then over the top. This was done to puzzle the departed one, so that she would have some difficulty in finding her way back. It seemed a very unnecessary procession. Then they invariably broke up camp, and went as far away as they could from the place. Long before the aboriginals knew of the white man’s weapons they killed most of their food with spears. When they located the animals they were hunting, they went round and round them several times in circles – each time getting closer to their prey — till they were near enough to spear them.

As for fish, their quickness of sight and wonderful dexterity, enabled them to spear them in dozens, in shallow water. The old pure bred aboriginal is seldom seen now. They are quickly passing away, and the half breeds are taking their places. Many of the latter seem to inherit the vices and weaknesses of the white man— and very few of the black man’s virtues. When I was a child, my father gave the blacks their Christmas dinner, and as there were a great many aboriginals on the Manning those days, they assembled in great numbers at Christmas time, and made their camp in the paddocks. A beast was killed, and given to them with quantities of flour, sugar, tea, and tobacco. A black woman who had worked for white people, and knew something of cook ing, made the plum puddings for them, and boiled them in the big copper while the men made a huge fire some distance away, and cooked the meat. Needless to say there was great feasting for days.

On one occasion I noticed a camp a long way from the others, and curiosity led me to try and find out who they were in it. To my surprise I saw several tall, athletic looking black men, without clothing— except one kind of kilt of stripped possum skins round their waists. Their bodies were marked with strange figures in white pipe clay. Their hair was long and drawn up round on sticks about foot high on top of their heads. They looked like a horn, and gave the black men a very savage appearance. was afterwards told they were wild, uncivilised blacks, and never came near white people. However, it seemed that they did not object to eat their food.

I have known some of the aboriginals to be very faithful, honest and industrious. On the other hand, others were lazy, greedy, and very untrustworthy. One old fellow I knew was a typical black savage, with very little trace of civilisation. He generally wore as little clothing as possible. A boomerang or spear was always in his land, and he had a supreme contempt for work of any kind. His wife, who had mostly lived with white people, was just the opposite. At one time she was very sick. Jacky, her husband, made his appearance, and asked me for food for her, I filled a flour bag with fresh meat, bread, etc. He had as much as he could carry. A week after the wife came tottering along, emaciated, and said ‘Me berry hungry, missus. Never had anything to eat long time,’ said she. ‘Jacky stop in bush and eat up all you gib him.’

The old glutton never went back to the camp till he devoured all I sent his sick wife. However, it was seldom they were like that. Usually they were very kind to each other, and shared everything with them. They were also very kind to children, and were fond of them.

I believe there are many strange rites practised in the Kaparah, that are profound secrets, and no black man will divulge them.

Only one white man ever witnessed that ceremony, as they placed guards all round the Kaparah Ground, who kept strict watch. This man, who saw the ceremony, had a very peculiar taste, and lived with the blacks when a youth. He was very curious to find out the secret rites, and was caught trying to look on. They gave him his choice — Death, or to be ‘Kaparahed.’ He choice the latter, but would never tell what he went through.

The Last of His Tribe.

Yes, it was Henry Kendall who penned the following verses relating to our disappearing race of aboriginals:—

He crouches, and buries his face on his knees,
And hides in the dark of his hair;
For he cannot look up to the storm-smitten trees,
Or think of the loneliness there -
Of the loss and the loneliness there.

The wallaroos grope through the tufts of the grass,
And turn to their coverts for fear;
But he sits in the ashes and lets them pass
Where the boomerangs sleep with the spear -
With the nullah, the sling and the spear.

Uloola, behold him! The thunder that breaks
On the tops of the rocks with the rain,
And the wind which drives up with the salt of the lakes,
Have made him a hunter again -
A hunter and fisher again.

For his eyes have been full with a smouldering thought;
But he dreams of the hunts of yore,
And of foes that he sought, and of fights that he fought
With those who will battle no more -
Who will go to the battle no more.

It is well that the water which tumbles and fills
Goes moaning and moaning along;
For an echo rolls out from the sides of the hills,
And he starts at a wonderful song -
At the sound of a wonderful song.

And he sees through the rents of the scattering fogs
The corroboree warlike and grim,
And the lubra who sat by the fire on the logs,
To watch, like a mourner, for him -
Like a mother and mourner for him.

Will he go in his sleep from these desolate lands,
Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced woman who beckons and stands,
And gleams like a dream in his face -
Like a marvellous dream in his face?

This concludes our account of ‘A Week on the Macleay,’ which was taken during the last week in March, 1928 — such trip having been arranged by Mr. G. S. Hill, of Bungay, and being made in his company. We again thank Mr. Hill for his kindness — as also Mr. Frank Hill, of Comara, for his hospitality. We cannot express or keenly our thanks also to Mr. and Mrs. H. A. McMaugh, of East Kempsey, for the valuable information furnished us regarding the early days on the Macleay. The week’s holiday was one of the most interesting we have had, and it was also instrumental in bringing forth information that will be valued long after we have penned our last par. A few copies of the articles will be printed in booklet form for distribution among those concerned. Shortly we hope to have material for further interesting articles relating to the Magnificent Macleay.

— Ed. ‘Wingham Chronicle’

Written by macalba

July 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

A week on the Macleay – article 4 of 5 (1928).

leave a comment »

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Saturday 19 May 1928

A Week on the Macleay

Interview with Mrs. H. A. McMaugh at Kempsey.



Article No. 4.


Opposite the mouth of the Nulla Creek, and on the opposite side of the river, is the picturesque little home of Elsinore. In the early forties, before Pee Dee was formed, J. McMaugh, senr., purchased Elsinore, and went to live there. It was during his residence in that place that the wild blacks were so troublesome, and Mrs. McMaugh, senr., used to dress in her husband’s clothes when the men were away, to frighten them. It was almost a common occurrence to see their camp-fires on the mountain at the back of the house. After a time a dispute arose about the boundaries between Wabro and Elsinore. At last it was decided that the Elsinore home stead was on the Wabro boundary. Consequently, the home was abandoned and the run known as Pee Dee Station was formed.

A few miles above Bellbrook, on the other side of the river, is Burrega Farm, the property of the Scott family. In 1854 Eardley Murray Scott, then a mere youth, came to the MacLeay and found a home at Pee Dee, where he secured some education from the tutor who was employed to teach the young McMaughs. He became an expert horseman, and obtained a good knowledge of stock. When William Smith purchased Long Flat Station, and his manager (Stewart) was killed, he gave Eardley Scott the management of’ the station. Scott remained there for several years, and married my sister. Subsequently he purchased Burrega, and as the years went by he added to the place by buying adjacent land, and so formed a good home and a valuable property. He had a large family of sons and daughters, most of whom were born at Burrega. He was much respected by all who knew him, and was an industrious, honest, high-principled man. His death a few years ago was greatly regretted, and a great loss to the district.

The next place of interest is Pee Dee Station, the old home of the McMaugh family. Before the station was formed John McMaugh, senr., had charge of the different places owned by Captain Steele, who was a great speculator, and owned much property in different districts at that time. He was first at Five Day Creek, and then Towal Creek. The latter place was later sold to J. Warne.

After leaving Elsinore, Pee Dee was the McMaughs’ permanent home. My husband’s earliest recollections are of the mobs of cattle galloping with noise like thunder, being pursued by the blacks; and some of the milkers would come home with spears stuck in them, and he often saw the men pulling them out. Many of the cows were killed and eaten by the blacks.

In the year 1854 a traveller came one day to Pee Dee, and asked Mrs. McMaugh for a night’s lodging. During the afternoon another man arrived – a man named, Dr. Milham — who said he had been stuck up by a masked man, and robbed of his watch and chain, but stated that the robber did not get any money, as he had it hid den in his shirt. He had £200, and was on his way to New England to buy horses. The traveller who had arrived before Dr. Milham left Pee Dee very early next morning, and when the latter arrived at a place called Trappo, a few miles on his journey to New England, the same masked man who had robbed him before came out of the scrub, and covering him with a revolver said ‘Hand out that £200 you have in your shirt.’ The masked man was the traveller who asked for a night’s lodging at Pee Dee the night before, and of course overheard Dr. Milham’s statement about the hidden money, and having his mask off he was not recognised. The bushranger was a man named Wilson, and he took his quarters up in a scrubby creek near Burrega, and continued his evil doings for some time, defying the police and causing much excitement.

Inspector Ross was in charge of the police then, and the men were named : Clogger, Sergeant Dempster, and a few years, later Dangar, and Porter were in the Force. Lieutenant Polding and Sergeant Scott had charge of the black trackers, and when the wild blacks attacked the whites or did any misdeeds, these men came up and took heavy toll of the marauders — shooting them down without mercy.

As Wilson continued his daring robberies, the police were kept busy, and often arrived at Pee Dee at midnight and demanded the assistance of John McMaugh, senr., to help them try and secure the bushranger. However, they were not successful but they must have given him a fright, as he made his escape to New England, and was shot there. The police seem to have had great power in those bygone days, as a man named Anderson, who had a place called McKenzie’s Creek ,not far from Bellbrook, was called upon to supply rations to the police when they were hunting the bushranger. He refused to comply with their request and on their return to the police station at Belgrave, they reported the matter to the Commissioner, who at once sent Clogger to burn Anderson’s hut down — which they did very effectively.

The conveyance of the mail up to a few years after the cuttings were completed, was carried out on a packhorse, and arrived only once a week, and was very often detained a fortnight at Pee Dee or some other place, owing to the river and creeks being in flood.

There was no resident Clergyman in Kempsey, and about every two years Caonon O’Reilly, from Port Macquarie, and the Rev. T. Tyrill (afterwards Bishop of Newcastle), called at various places on the upper river on their way to New England, and baptised the children, etc.

Duffy, who was overseer of Towal Creek, then the property of’ Mr. Warne, was fishing in the river, when the blacks speared him, and the weapon passed through the flap of his trousers. My husband remembers seeing the garment and having the holes pointed out to him where the spear went through.

An old shepherd named Carrol was minding some sheep at a place called Smith’s Flat, 15 miles from Pee Dee. John McMaugh, senr. (my husband’s father), went up to count the sheep, and when he arrived there were no sheep or shepherd visible. While he stood at the door of the hut, wondering what had become of them, a huge blackfellow wearing Carrol’s shirt came in view, and on being asked where Carrol was he struck his chest defiantly. McMaugh had a gun and powder, but no shot, so he drew a nail from the hut wall, rammed it in the gun, and fired, hitting the black in the leg. Immediately about a hundred blacks appeared; but they were often frightened when one of their number was hit, and so in this instance they all ran for their lives. McMaugh then went lo look for Carrol, and found him two miles further on with his throat and head cut by a tomahawk. He rendered what assistance he could and then took the wounded man to Five Day Creek, where he was then living. Mrs. McMaugh helped to bind up the man’s wounds; and some idea can be gathered of the extent of his injuries, when the gruel they tried to strengthen him with came out through the hole in his throat when he tried to swallow. Yet he eventually recovered, although it was weeks before a medical man could be procured from Port Macquarie — there being none on the Macleay.

In 1845 Kunderang Station was the property of a Captain Goblin. He had two shepherds and their wives there, and they were found dead — murdered by the blacks. It was quite a week after the tragedy that the bodies were found, and about 800 sheep were also missing. The matter was reported to the Commissioner (named Massey) at Kempsey, and he in company with John McMaugh and several men from the station, tracked the sheep to where the blacks had driven them. They found a large number of blacks camped under a cliff, who immediately showed fight. A battle ensued, but the white men were well armed, and a great number of the blacks were killed. The only casualty on the other side was a horse. The men took cover behind the trees and fired on the murderers. A few of the sheep were found; but the blacks were so numerous that they killed and ate twenty a night.

About the year 1849 a man named Chisholm had charge of Kunderang. He was a married man and had a family, the youngest a boy of three years of age who was in the habit of going to the milking yard for a pannikin of milk. While his mother was milking one morning, he got his milk as usual, and when his mother returned to the hut be was nowhere to be found. A search was made by all hands far and near, and kept up for a week; but the unfortunate child was never found. It was always supposed that the blacks were hiding in a thick scrub near by, and carried off the boy; so his fate will never be known.

The cedar cutters killed by the blacks, the only escapee of the party being G. Spokes, were getting cedar at the head of the Wilson River, very near the Macleay. They were supposed to be free men, and may have been working for Major Innes.

The first cedar cutters on the Upper Macleay were a family named Thompson. As there were no roads then, the timber was floated down the river and creeks to Kempsey. As many as 200 logs have been counted at the one time lying at the mouth of the Nulla Creek, and there must have been a great many more uncounted.

Of all the stations on the Upper Macleay in the old days Moparrabah was the largest. It was then owned by Major Innes, and had about 3000 head of cattle on it, of no special breed — Durhams, Herefords, etc., had of then come into fashion.

Wabro and Towal Creel were the next largest, and carried nearly the same amount of stock. At Wabro there was upwards of 1000 head of horses as well — many of them wild — and traps were built to catch them in, and in latter days, they were shot.

Each station had its own brand. They used a diamond at Moparrabah; Wabro, B.P.; Towal Creek, W.; Long Flat, M.I.; Pee Dee used the well known I.M.;. Toorooka’s brand was S within a circle. The runs of those stations were unlimited — there being no selectors in those days of wild blacks. Some of them had 100,000 acres, some 60,000, and so on.

The notorious blackfellow, Blue Shirt, was responsible for many murders. He belonged to a tribe on the Nambucca, and was never employed by white people, as he was always wanted for his crimes, and a reward was offered for him.

Previous to, the arrival of the German family on the Nulla Creek, named Sauer, and in the very early days, a man named Sparks formed a station there and had two men in charge. One of them showed great kindness to the blacks, and gave them tobacco and rations. He was often warned of their treacherous nature. One morning his mate, a man named Dick Sole, was Milking the cows some distance from the hut when he saw the blacks dragging, the body of his mate towards the creek. He at once made his escape, and got to Elsinore, 8 miles way and reported what had happened. The police were sent for and they found the body in the creek. They then, went in search of the blacks, some of whom were shot, and others taken prisoner. Through an interpreter they gathered from one of the captive blacks that the murdered man employed two friendly blacks to cut a tree down, and while be was showing them the place to cut it, they hit him on the head with the axe and killed him. The place was then abandoned as a cattle station— the stock all being purchased by John McMaugh. Many years afterwards a police station was formed there.

A man named Duffety left his wife unprotected at Towal Creek Station, when the blacks surrounded the house and carried the woman away a prisoner. So cunning were they that they carried her away to the head of the Macleay, and hid her for three weeks in a gorge under the tablelands, at a place called Boosers, at Moonee Plains. She was at last recovered by her husband, assisted by the police and other men. The blacks did her no harm, and having the rations they had stolen from the station, they had plenty of food, it seemed a trying ordeal for a woman to be forced to live three weeks with wild blacks, but in those days, most of the females were hardened and indifferent to what fate had in store for them. Then they were more like men. It was a common occurrence for stockmen to change their wives with one another, or sell them for a pound of tobacco or a bottle of rum. Some of these women had never seen a side-saddle, and when Mrs. McMaugh arrived with hers, they eyed it as a curiosity, and made trips on purpose to see it.

Coming events cast their shadows before — and like the girls of today, they all rode astride. Most of them were wonderful horsewomen. Mrs. Supple, senr., especially, could break in a young horse with the best of the men, and yard a beast with the most expert stockmen at that time.

John McMaugh, senr., seems to have been a man of great character. He was very hospitable, a good manager, generous to a fault, and perfectly fearless. Pee Dee Station was known from New England to the mouth of the Macleay for its kindness and hospitality. There was ever an open door, and no one was ever sent away empty. He was the first man to find a track from George’s Creek to the tableland (Geogla), one of the first stations formed on New England.

(To be continued.)

Written by macalba

July 3, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

A Week on the Macleay – article 3 of 5 (1928).

with 4 comments

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Saturday 28 April 1928

A Week on the Macleay.

Written for ‘Port Macquarie News.’


Article No. 3.

On March 28, 1928, the writer was introduced by Mr. G. S. Hill, of Bungay, to one of the few remaining old original pioneers of the Macleay River — in the person of Mr. H. A. McMaugh. Mr. and Mrs. McMaugh now reside at East Kempsey,

Though over 77 years of age, Mr. McMaugh is still an active man, has a remarkably good memory, and can tell some interesting stories of his experiences on the Upper Macleay in the days long since passed. Mr. McMaugh informed the writer, at the outset of the interview that he had lived in the Manning district over 50 years ago.

‘Yes,’ he proceeded, “I lived at Coopernook for some, time. I was born at Five Day Creek, on the Upper Macleay, 77 years ago. My father and mother were amongst the very early settlers on the North Coast. I was reared at Pee Dee. You have heard of Pee Dee. Of course you have! The late Con O’Sullivan presided over the destinies of Pee Dee till his death. Mrs. O’Sullivan and some of the family still have it. Pee Dee is a fine property.

‘I lived at Pee Dee till I was old enough to get married. I went to Coopernook later, and there married Miss Caffrey, and resided at Coopernook for ten years. I think there is a place on the Upper Manning to-day that is known as ‘Caffrey’s Flat,’ called after my wife’s father, who was killed through being thrown from his horse between Wingham and Taree.

‘After leaving Coopernook, I went to Wabra Station, on the Upper Macleay. I bought the station. At that time there were 5,000 cattle on the station, and at least 1,000 horses. The whole run comprised something like 60,000 acres. I held Wabra Station for about seven years. When I sold the station Mrs. McMaugh, the family and myself came to reside in Kempsey.

‘Yes, I had money in the early days. I paid £13,000 cash for Wabra Station. I had good and bad luck during the time I held it. However, the fact is that the Bank of N.S.W. got it at the finish. It’s just another instance of the ups and downs of the man on the land in Australia — more downs than ups.

‘So far as I know, Wabra Station has since been cut up into what are considered ‘living areas.’ and sold. I have been living in Kempsey ever since selling out.

‘Yes, I was in Kempsey in the year 1864, and the biggest flood I ever clapped eyes on occurred in the Macleay at that time. The floods of recent years have been trifles compared to the one that deluged the Macleay district in the year 1864.

‘There was no direct road to West Kempsey at that time— I am speaking of 1864. And, again, there was no road between Kempsey and Armidale —only a bush track. The people today sing out loudly about disadvantages they now have. The early pioneers did not complain — it was useless. They just worked and worked and kept on working. It was a case then of working your own salvation out — or going to the wall. Some went to the wall — but they did so after paving the way for others, and made their battle easier.

‘My late father was one of the organisers who took on the task to get a bullock team through to Armidale from Kempsey. The party— led to a great extent by my late father — cut a track up by way of what is known as ‘The Guy Fox.’ Do you know that it took six months for that bullock team to reach Armidale from Kempsey. To-day one can leave Central Kempsey at 9 o’clock in the morning, and be in Armidale by 4 o’clock in the afternoon, or a trifle later. Yes, things have progressed since the days when my dad and mother toiled on the Upper Macleay. Why, to-day you get to Armidale from Kempsey in an hour or so by aeroplane. It’s really marvellous.

‘My father was managing a station for Captain Steele at Belgrave in the early days. In fact my father was the first to establish Towal Creek Station for Captain Steele. The Hill Bros, own the station property to-day. ‘The Australian aboriginals were very bad those days. Some or them were most troublesome— but one can not wonder that they were, seeing that the white men were taking their hunt ing grounds from them. My father had many narrow escapes from being killed by the blacks on the Upper Macleay in the very early days of settlement. The blacks on one occasion killed a man at Long Flat, on the Upper Macleay, cut his head off, and stuck it on a pole.

‘Yes, the blacks also ‘killed two shepherds and their wives at Kunderang Station, for years owned by the late Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald died there not so very long ago, as the result of a riding accident. The blacks. on that occasion also drove away 1,000 sheep.

‘My father was one of the party that went in pursuit of the blacks with the police. Sergeant Clogger, I believe, was in charge of the police and trackers. No. Lieutenant Polding and Sergeant Scott had charge of the black-trackers.

‘I well remember a bushranger named Wilson, who frequented the Upper Macleay. However, Mrs. McMaugh has some particulars recorded in regard to Wilson. Wilson was once put up the chimney at a hut near Pee Dee. This was at Jim Dunn’s hut. The police happened along suddenly, and for a while Jim hardly knew what to do. The police asked for a pannickan of tea, and the only thing to do was to make a fire outside and boil the billy. The policemen did ask what the idea was in making the fire outside at the open, chimney, but evidently a satisfactory answer was a big lump of butter in his pocket when he went up the chimney, and the heat of the chimney melted most of it. Jim said the butter was dripping down into the fireplace. However, Wilson made his escape while the troopers were having some tucker. ‘My father once left the station on the Upper Macleay with a mob of cattle for Port Macquarie. He left an old man in charge during his absence. My mother was also there. A party of blacks evidently knew my father had gone away, and came to the homestead, asking for ‘Bacca.’ The old man left in charge cleared out when he saw the blacks. However, just when it looked as though there would be trouble, a whip cracked, and the blacks made off — thinking that stockmen were coming.

‘My mother used to put on men’s clothes when the men were away from the station, and she also knew how to use a gun. My father captured a 1 noted black in the early days, known as ‘Mogo.’ A reward was offered by the authorities for the capture of ‘Mogo.’ The reward was fixed at £50. My father blackened himself, and went into a blacks’ camp at Towal Creek, where ‘Mogo’ was camped. He overpowered and captured him with the assistance of others with whom he was accompanied. ‘Mogo’ was taken to Belgrave Police Station, and was later shipped to Sydney. He died on the vessel. My father did not get the reward. The police authorities in Sydney, instead or seeing that he got the reward, told him ‘to be more careful with the next prisoner he took charge of’ — to bring him along alive.

‘Kangaroos and wild cattle were plentiful on the Upper Macleay in the early times— as also were wild horses. We shot about 500 wild horses on Wabra Station just after we bought it. My father was a great horseman. I could ride most animals that ever looked through a bridle in my young days. I once went from the Upper Macleay to the New England district for the purpose of riding a noted buckjumper of the time. I rode him to a standstill.

‘I remember Warwick Racecourse (on the Macleay River) when it used to attract the people from near and far— all the people there were then to attract. They used to have great racing— no bookmakers and no ‘pulling horses’ those days. They raced for the love of the sport. The Oakes and Moore families had some great horses — as also had the Chapman and the Cheers’.

[Photograph on NLA Trove website]


The above represents the photos of two ancient Macleay River Aboriginals. Both of them have long since been called to the folds of their fathers. Old Charley Warna —the shorter of the two black fellows — died at the age of 118 years. The tall blackfellow was known as ‘King Billy.’ When the photo was taken he was just on the verge of 100 years of age. ‘Why, the Oakes family had 200 horses drowned at Seven Oaks in the 1864 flood. In addition, 500 cattle were drowned on the Macleay. Two blackfellows were also drowned at Seven Oaks, and at least four people lost their lives in the flood at Kempsey proper.

‘There were no roads and no bridges in the early days. I also remember that where the Macleay River runs now below Kempsey there was a house and land property. The 1864 flood altered things. The original Seven Oaks Station was on the opposite side of the river in early times to where it is to-day. The old homestead was washed away by the 1864 flood.

‘An old blackfellow once told me a story about Trial Bay. It was to the effect that a Miss Madden came from England, and was on her way to Port Macquarie. However the boat was caught in a storm, and was blown into Trial Bay. The blacks had never seen a sailing vessel before. Some of the sailors got ashore, and were speared by the blacks. Miss Madden was captured by the blacks. The late Johnny Spokes could have given a lot of information about this matter. Johnny Spokes only died a few years ago.

‘Yes, Johnny Spokes once had a narrow escape from being murdered by the blacks, on the Upper Macleay. They knocked him on the head, but he got away. The blacks settled a party of cedar cutters. I remember the blacks chasing a mob of cattle down the river when I was at Pee Dee, and they had to be driven off — that is to say the blacks.

‘I remember Wabra Charley, who used to work for the Panton family, and whose remains are buried in the Kempsey cemetery. The grave is marked by a broken pillar to-day, and the inscription is scarcely readable. It would be a good idea to have the inscription attended to before it is completely obliterated. Wabra Charley was a faithful servant to the Panton’s. I remember well when he died, and the circumstances. The inscription should be renewed. ‘The most of the fat cattle in the early times were sent to feed the prisoners in Port Macquarie Gaol. £1 per head was a fair price for fat bullocks those days. Cedar cutters were numerous on the Upper Macleay, where cedar cutting was the principal calling.

‘Mrs. McMaugh and myself have reared a family of 12 — seven boys and five girls. They are all alive to-day. My mother kept a big store and butchery at East Kempsey in 1864. She did much to help the flooded out people in the big flood of that year. ‘ Nearly all the people lived on corn meal bread when I was a boy, and bark houses were all the fashion. ‘By the way, a horse was once found at the head of Willy Willy Creek that was supposed to have been left there by Wilson the bushranger. It was really the offspring of Wilson’s animal. The scrub was very dense in the locality. Willy Willy Creek runs under a large rock, and it is called the Rock Bridge. Very few white men have seen it. This place is situate at the foot of a very high mountain, known as ‘The Black Hill,’ and another known as ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ About 65 years ago a shepherd was killed in a hut at Fetor’s Creek by the blacks on Towal Creek Station. William Dufty (the overseer) saw a blackfellow near the hut. They chased him on horseback, and ran him into the Macleay River at Trappo Flat. The blackfellow swam to a rock in the middle of the river. The men threw stones at him from each side of the river for several hours, but the black used his tomahawk as he would a heilaman, and every stone was skilfully guarded off.

‘Lieutenant Polding, who was in charge of the black police at Nulla Creek in the early times, made a raid on the blacks on Five Day Creek on one occasion in particular. The black police used to wear red bands round their heads to distinguish them from the wild blacks, and thus prevent them from shooting each other. The black police took everything else off when surrounding a wild blacks’ camp — everything but the red band. ‘They brought in a black girl on that occasion. She was between 12 and 13 years of age. I remember my mother taking the girl food. However, she would neither eat nor drink, and was sent on1 to Kempsey. Later she was taken to Sydney.

‘Many years ago William Lawrence and I were exploring the Black Mountain on the Upper Macleay. We were trying to get round a very steep siding. My horse tripped and fell. It rolled about 50 yards, and then got caught in some rocks. Lawrence got down and lifted one of the animal’s feet to try and release him. The rocks suddenly gave way, and over a cliff went Lawrence and the horse. I expected to find them both killed. Fortunately, there were a lot of grass trees growing there, and they had fallen on some of these. Lawrence was not much hurt, but the horse was considerably injured. We had to stop at the bottom of that cliff till next morning, and it was one of the most uncanny sights I remember having experienced. It imprinted itself on my memory ever after. Dingoes evidently smelt the blood from the injured horse, and they came in packs to the top of the cliff, and howled dismally throughout the night. We walked about ten miles next day through thick jungle to a selection, where I got a horse to ride to Wabra.’

(To be Continued.)

Written by macalba

June 26, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

A Week on the Macleay – article 2 (1928)

with one comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

A Week on the Macleay (1928).

leave a comment »

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

A Week on the Macleay.

Written for ‘Port Macquarie News.’


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

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

“Australia Unlimited”

leave a comment »

Cairns Post (Qld.), Wednesday 7 March 1945

In his 35-page book on the Clarence River hydro-electric gorge scheme, Sir Earle Page. M.H.R., a member of the Australian Country Party, has introduced into the murky atmosphere of politics that gleam of combiner idealism and common sense which is as refreshing as it is scarce at the present moment. In a masterly review of the publication. Hon. D. H. Drummond, M.L.A., Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Country Party, comments that the book contains more challenge to thought, to constructive criticism, to courage and to imagination than any other one thing that has been produced during the whole period of the war. It makes the other plans for post-war reconstruction look like midgets of ineffectual vision. Whether the critic will agree with the Doctor, or whether he win disagree, he will find himself forced up against the question which the Japanese menace still points, viz., that if Australia and Australians do not tackle these things in a big way, they may never have the final opportunity of completing them even in a small way.

Sir Earl draws pointed attention to the lack of an electrical connecting link between Sydney, the greatest Australian manufacturing city, Newcastle, its great coal and power producing centre, and Brisbane, the centre of Queensland’s industrial activity. Briefly his suggestions for immediate action are the linking up of Newcastle and Brisbane with a 66,000-volt power line, via Werris Creek, Armidale, Glen Innes and the Clarence Gorge, with another line of 165,000 volts as far as Werris Creek, then of 68,000 volts as far as the Clarence Gorge, and from thence to Brisbane of 165,000 volts.

The question of an immediate market for the total output of the gorge hydro-electric development would be completely changed if it were an integral part of the Newcastle-Brisbane high voltage transmission system. Brisbane would be immediately able to purchase a substantial portion of the whole output, and the balance would be absorbed locally or utilised in the general transmission system.

A study of the data, says Sir Earle, will show the high priority of the undertaking. A consideration of its immediate and remote benefits will demonstrate that, though this dam, when constructed, will be the largest in Australia, it will immediately prove fully reproductive from its inception. This is due to its geographical position, combined with the economic progress that the development of both primary and secondary industries in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales has already attained.

He visualises in the main scheme the full development of the watershed of the Clarence, which includes, not only the Clarence Gorge, Jackadgery, Nymboida and other reservoirs, but also the Styx hydro-electric scheme on the Macleay, and a number of other subsidiary schemes which all will contribute their share to the ultimate development of the area. It is estimated that if the major scheme is ultimately developed to the full, in the case of the gorge proposal, a dam 320 ft. high would impound 3,400,000 ac. feet. This does not probably convey very much to anyone until it is realised that the storage would be equal in capacity to three dams of the size of the Hume on the Murray River, and would, very closely approximate to the famous Assuan dam on the Nile River of 4,000,000 acre feet.

(Contributed by the Australian Country Party, Queensland.)

Written by macalba

September 28, 2011 at 8:08 am

The Dora Dora Blacks

leave a comment »

Tuesday 19 January 1892, Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal

A wire yesterday says that two armed blackfellows supposed to be the Dora Dora murderers; called at the residence of a selector, 12 miles from Walcha, near Orandumby Station, about midday on Saturday last. A party of four police, with a black tracker, went quickly in pursuit. The blacks are only about a day and a half’s days journey from the Macleay, where they will reach very rough and difficult country. Parties of police at the head of the Macleay and at Cunderang and Long Flat direction will try to intercept them should they take that route. It will prove very rough, mountainous country, impassable for horses for miles upon miles. The Macleay and north coast police are exercising the utmost vigilance, and it will not be their fault if the blacks are not captured.

Written by macalba

April 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Succulent Grasses.

leave a comment »

Tuesday 23 September 1902, Clarence and Richmond Examiner

Mr. A. R. Crawford, of East Cunderang, writes in the “Macleay Chronicle” respecting the introduction of swamp couch to the Macleay. Owners of swamp land on the Clarence know the value of this couch, and as a fattening or milk and butter producing feed it is unsurpassed. In fact, there are few artificial grasses that are equal to it. By it the swamp lands are transformed into the richest pastures during the summer months, and the carrying capacity of these marshy tracts would not be credited by the grazier of the sterile country out west. Mr. Crawford recommends the introduction of Guinea Grass, stating he grew it in the 70’s. It grows 6 to 7 inches in 24 hours after being cut. and that in the heat of summer. It attains a height of 8ft., and should grow well on the coastal rivers. We notice that since the drought a number are advocating the growing of saltbush on the coast districts. What is sadly needed for the dry territory of Australia is a description of grass that will stand the drought, even though it may not have the fattening qualities of the couch. Experience is teaching the bitter lesson that a grass that will keep stock alive when a drought sweeps the sheep and cattle walks bare of herbage would be invaluable to the grazier. It is in this direction that our Agricultural Department might do a great deal of good. Our swamp lands are superbly grassed by the water couch and what is now required is a product that will clothe the higher pastures, and prevent them becoming the scenes of desolation they at present present.

Written by macalba

April 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

District news: Death at Cunderang, storms, pests, shearing

leave a comment »

Saturday 2 December 1905, Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton)

GUY FAWKES, Wednesday.

A man named Francis Stewart, for many years in the employ of Mr. Fitzgerald, of Cunderang Station, died very suddenly on the 15th inst. He was taking a load of goods to the station, and became suddenly ill. The youth who was with him went to Cunderang for help, and on his return found Stewart unconscious. They endeavoured to take him back to Newel’s accommodation house, but he succumbed half a mile distant. The Hillgrove coroner was away, so the Guy Fawkes coroner was sent for. He was also away. The police then sent for Mr. A. Waugh, J,P. (and ex-coroner) to hold a magisterial inquiry. It appeared at the inquest that Stewart had been under Dr. Casement’s treatment, suffering from a clot of blood on the spine. It was found that death was due to natural causes hastened on by intense heat. Mr. Fitzgerald speaks very highly of deceased, who was much respected throughout the district. Mr. A. Waugh had many difficulties to contend with on his return journey, the whole of the Big Hill being on fire and the cuttings obstructed by fallen timber in many places. Owing to the kindness of Mr. Chas. McNell, who came seven miles with a draught horse and axes, they reached the tableland in safety.

On Saturday a splendid storm, giving about on inch, fell over the district. On Sunday there was another storm and slight hail, and more fell on Monday and Tuesday. The district was in a bad state, and looked worse than during the drought, but will very quickly recuperate now. Stock on the whole look well.

Four hundred dairy heifers, from the Macleay River, going to Casino, passed on Sunday, and are a very good lot.

Hares and rabbits are on the increase, and all the landowners are waging a war against them with dogs and traps, the stock fences, blackberries, etc., all being burned off. Mr. Sabine, the Grafton Stock Inspector, was up and tried poisoning, but was not successful. Besides other pests, the dry year seems to have brought a tremendous quantity of grasshoppers, which are doing a great deal of damage.

Shearing is about over. The fleeces are very good this year.

The local. Rifle Club has increased its members’ roll to 50. A very good and central range has been obtained in Mr. Waugh’s racecourse paddock.

A meeting of the local branch of the M.U. I.O.O.F. was held in Mr. Hackett’s hall on Saturday night.

Written by macalba

April 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Conspiracy alleged

leave a comment »

Saturday 4 May 1935, The Sydney Morning Herald


Two well-known cattle dealers, Frederick Betros and Norman A. Towle, on remand from Wauchope, were charged at Kempsey Police Court with conspiracy in connection with the passing of alleged valueless cheques in the purchase of several lots of cattle from various stockowners on the Macleay River. The Crown submitted 45 witnesses, the hearing extending over two days. Both men were committed for trial, bail being fixed at £200 in each case.

Written by macalba

April 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: