Recollections of a trip to Yorke's Peninsula

Friday 27 Sep 1872, The Irish Harp and Farmers' Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1873) Trove

By Peregrinator.

Starting from Blyth's Plains, we steered our coarse through the adjacent scrub in a westerly direction, where it is about seven or eight miles in width. We had travelled no great distance when our pro gress was obstructed by a fence, which, crossed the track we were following. One of the party — there were three of us — seeing a hut through the thick mallee scrub, went to see if there were any person in it who might direct us to the right road, if road it may be termed. He being told to keep to the left, we struck out in that direction ; and had it not been for the expertness and patience of our driver the vehicle would never have been navigated through " the tangled mass of un dergrowth" — and overgrowth, too. How ever our spring-cart and pair of bays, than which, like Tam O'Shanter's grey mare, Meg, " a better never lifted leg," got safely back to the road again.

We discovered that this fenced paddock had been lately taken from the Government under the Scrub Lands Act ; but how the selectors mean to grub it and make it pay expenses, I am perfectly at a loss to conjecture. Being on the right track we soon got through the scrub, and found ourselves on Mr. C. B. Young's land, of which he lias a considerable portion sown with wheat this rear, because, I dare say, he could not find any one foolish enough to give him two or three pounds an acre for it. or give him a rental of four or five shillings an acre per annum.

The crops in this neighborhood are looking rather puny ; indeed, the land is of a very inferior quality.

Turning a little to the south, we soon came in view of the Diamond Lake : but why it received such an appellation does not well appear. It is a low, salt swamp, with scarcely anything but saltbush growing upon it. About two or three miles further on we arrived at Whitwarta, where we halted and fed our horses. Having done so we entered the hotel, (I forget its name), kept by an astute looking individual, of rather short stature. Each having taken dinner and his fancy beverage, we were again ready for a start, when Mr. Whipcord, as I shall call my friend who drove the two in hand, jumped from the vehicle, ap parently a little elevated in spirits from the effects of brandy and cloves, and said " he should go no further without a drop in the nosebag." What he meant I could not understand until he returned with a gallon of the best P.B. obtainable. Handling his reins and whip, we again started off through rather poor country for about eight or nine miles, when we came in sight of the Gulf. Leaving the Hummocks and Mount Templeton ranges to our right and Port Wakefield to our left, we drove along the head of the Gulf, a low, swampy place, evidently not many years ago covered with the briny sea. Having crossed the swamp, we came to a Mr. Towler's dwelling, where, I believe, farming and squatting pursuits are carried on. The wheat here looked fine and healthy.

Seven or eight miles south of Mr. Towler's, and travelling close to the beach, we arrived at Clinton, alias Port Arthur, where the Wallaroo miners and proprietors formerly received their goods, but which now presents a dismal appearance to the traveller. An old jetty still stands there, but I believe it is very seldom used. A house, once the Clinton hotel, is the only building, save a few sheds, to be seen. A few chains to the west is a dense mallee scrub.

Having pulled up before the door of the ex-hotel, we enquired if we could find water for our horses, to which enquiry a shrewd-looking woman, evidently with an eye to business, answered —

" We sells water."

" All right !" ejaculated Mr. Whipcord.

Retiring to the adjacent scrub, the word " Camp 0 !" reverberated through the still air. A slight rain now commenced to fall, and we found it necessary to make our temporary lodgings as comfortable as possible. Having pulled up under the shelter of a large bush, we spread a tarpaulin over our cart, with some mallee branches underneath it to lie upon. We boiled the billy, or, in other words, made some tea, eat supper, and turned in, i.e., went to rest,

"We'll have heavy rain to-night, said our fellow-traveller, who, by the way, happened to be one of those unfortunate; individuals who prefer Boonycamp's bitters and that good-for-nothing drink called ginger-beer to the revivifying and reani mating " pure juice of the barley."

" Never mind," answered Mr. Whipcord. '' so long as there's a drop in the nosebag neither rain, hail, or snow can do me harm."

Soon we were all overcome by " balmy sleep," as Somnus administers his favors to those who lie on rough beds as well as to those who repose on downy couches.

How my bedmates rested I know not, but, this I am certain of, that I awoke

About the time when Night had driven Her car half round the vaults of heaven," and found a goodly portion of my body bereft of the blankets and exposed to the chilly air, which near the sea at night is generally felt. Having adjusted the blankets, I was soon again in the " land of dreams."

Awaking in the morning, taking some food, and packing our travelling paraphernalia, we again set off, along the sea beach at intervals, and some times a little inland. Having travelled about 25 miles, we reached Parara. Here we fed our horses, took some dinner, and strolled along the sea-shore, picking up some shells of which there is a great variety. The water here is very good, and requires but shallow sinking to procure it, Mr. Beaman's house is the only one in the place. I understand he is a squatter on a small scale. Our horses being fed, we started off through a very scrubby track for about 25 miles, and, indeed, it is very poor land throughout.

At length we came to a place which, for want of a better name, is called Sheaoak Flat— a nice shady camping ground, close to the water's edge, witli a few sheaoak trees growing upon it. We found abun dance of good water, for there are two wells sunk, and the water is within three or four feet ot the surface. Here we camped for the night.

Awaking in the morning, making our toilet, which resembled that of a New foundland dog,— (as somebody said), a shaking, we set off again, keeping as close as possible to the sea-beach, travelling through scrub land with occasionally small open plains, where sheep were feeding. About 13 miles on our road we came to a sand-hill. Here a waggon was stuck, and the Teutonic waggoner having only a pair ot jaded horses was unable to extricate it. Mr. Whipcord proposed to yoke his pair to the waggon, but the owner said his own horses " Vorkam very vell. Very vell vorkam. No yibum back." At these assertions, we, together with his wife, put our shoulders to the wheel, in the true sense of the term, and the waggon was soon released.

Leaving our German friend, we set off, and soon came to the Beech Hut. Here, also, there is plenty of good water in a creek within one chain of where the tide rises, two wells being sunk there by some squatters. A few miles further on we arrived at Oyster Bay. Here a township is laid out, and the surveyors are surveying the land about, which will soon, I under stand, be proclaimed an area.

About three miles further on we came to Pentonvale Area, a rather stony land, and covered with sheaoak trees.

Travelling still further on, we came to Troubridge Area, very stony land also, with sheaoak and teatree growing thickly upon it. Water is very easily obtainable in most parts of both these areas, being in some places within two or three feet of the surface. The crops in the neighborhood are looking tolerably well. Salt lagoons are very numerous in and about both these areas.

On all sides one might hear the " Gee Dandy, come here Lively " of the bullock-driver, and the stroke of the woodman's axe re-echoing through the fertile valleys. In a word, there are scores of families making a living on these areas, where but a few days ago only a solitary shepherd, with his dog and crook, were to be seen.

On reflecting on these facts I could not help soliloquising— What a misfortune to South Australia that the land was not given to the farmers on liberal terms long ago, thereby giving many of thoso who are now in a state of semi-pauperism a chance of earning a livelihood. I believe I said you could hear the bullock-driver on all sides— well, I made a great mistake. Almost all the best lands in these areas are dummied, and no real work is proceeding on the dummies' land, only the snug cottage, erected for the use of the dummy, and the sheep-proof fence. One may easily know the dummies' land wherever lie sees it from the above facts. I heard, also, that , in some instances the dummies did not reside on their alleged farms three months in the year. It is really strange that our legislators do not put a stop to such a state of things. But I believe the majority of them are in favor of dummyism. Apologizing for this digression, I must resume my account of our journey.

Travelling to within four or five miles of Salt Cheek, we came to Mr. Michael Kenny's farm, and from him we received a hearty shake hands and a cead mille fail the in his wonted open-hearted Celtic manner. Here we partook of Mr. Kenny's hospitality a few days, travelling in any direction we chose.

About a mile south of Salt Creek is situated the township of Edithburgh. At Hungry Point I understand the Government intend erecting a jetty for the use and convenience of the farmers and others. There is an hotel there, built by W. Young, of Port Wakefield, which is indeed rather too small for such. I learn he was refused a licence for that reason. A store was being erected there by Mr. Gottchalk, of Eden Valley. I heard that Mr. Martin, Machinist, of Gawler, was on a visit to the areas, and had received orders for about 50 reaping machines.

About nine miles to the west is another township — Weaner's Flat. This seems more like a township than the other, as there are a blacksmith's and a saddler's shops, a store and post-office already in working order, and an hotel nearly completed.

Growing weary of pleasure-seeking, we started for home via Gum Flat, where we camped one night. Gum Flat is about 20 miles north of Pentonvale. Plenty of water is easily obtainable. The station belongs to a Mr. Rogers. Some fine gum trees grow there, from which it derived its name. Kangaroos are veiy plentiful in the neighborhood, and some say there are more kangaroos than sheep on the runs. Some persons live wholly by hunting and killing these marsupials, and selling their skins for 15s, or 20s. per dozen.

Leaving Gum Flat next morning we travelled through rather scrubby and rough land, we arrived at Urania head station, in Yorke Valley. The only buildings at this so-called head station are two miserable huts, one of which is valueless. Entering into the best of them, we found that it was not quite uninhabited, as some dying embers were still in the sooty fireplace. We had not been long, inside before a man came to the door, with rifle in hand, who seemed rather surprised at his strange intruders. Giving the usual salutation, he advanced a little further, and soon we were all seemingly good friends. He having the weekly papers with him, we spent a good part of the night in perusing them. Our new acquaintance was a boundary rider, or some such person, belonging to the station, and from him we learned that Mr. Rogers had taken 800 acres from the Government under a mineral lease, he having discovered a copper mine in Yorke Valley area.

Starting next morning to have a look at York Valley, we met with the so-called mine, but so far as copper ore was concerned there was no such thing there, only a few surface stones, evidently brought by some person from some other place and broken there, at the 12 or 14 feet deep hole that was excavated, apparently to deceive the public. Anyhow, we came to the conclusion that the rumor we heard must be a hoax, as certainly the Government would not grant a mineral lease until they sent some competent man to inspect the mineral qualities of the so-called mine. It might be that Mr. Rogers, from his hatred towards " cockatoos," tried by some means or other to deprive them of the land around the alleged mine. Having taken up our abode that night at Kilkoanna, we were gathering some wood wherewith to make a fire, when Mr. Whipcord picking up a stick, let it drop again as if it had been a snake, or some such venomous reptile. On going to see what was the matter, I found the stick belonged to an old railing which enclosed a grave hard by, which seemed to be the last abode of the mortal remains of some loving father, or mother, or perhaps the grave of some once agile stockkeeper, whose thread of life had been rent asunder without a moment's warning, as is the case in man instances in this our Austral land. Anyhow we could not help thinking that this was a proper place for a cemetery reserve, but no such thing is left there. Perhaps the surveyors did not notice the grave referred to. Next day we made a start for home, and about seven or eight miles from Yorke Valley we came to Kalkabury area. There is some wheat sown there, and it is looking very healthy.

Leaving Kalkabury we travelled through a dense scrub until we came to what is called the Cocoanut Station, but now wheat is sown in the neighbourhood.

About I3 miles further on our way home we came to Brown's Hotel at Green's Plains, where we took a little beverage, as if to shorten the way home. Leaving there, and about seven miles further on, we found ourselves on top of the Hummocks range, which appeared like a huge camel under us. On we came still further until we arrived at Mount Templeton, where the crops are looking excellent.

The sun had now sunk behind the western horizon, and we had still 15 miles to travel, but now the pale-faced moon shone out us brightly as could he expected, and we made our way home before we halted, rather fatigued from the wearisome though pleasant journey to Yorke's Peninsula.