Reminiscences By Mr. L. G. Phillips, of Strathalbyn


Mr. Lance G. Phillips, who spent many years on Yorke Peninsula, and whose father was the manager of Moorowie and Orrie Cowie Stations, recalls some interesting events of those old times. He said Mr. Fowler became proprietor of Moorowie Station about 1850 or a little earlier. The original proprietor was a Mr. Sharples. At the time of the purchase Mr. Fowler had a partner, Mr. Thomas Guy. They also held a pastoral lease in the Far North, "Eura Bluff," and the "Rocky Waterhole" at the north end of Yorke Peninsula, afterwards called "Yarraroo," taken from the native name, "Yarramulka," which means "rock hole with good water." I think "Moorowie" in native lingo means "Salty Water."

Some of the old station buildings are still to be seen at Moorowie, such as the storehouse, harness room, and the old stables, with the date of erection (1858) still on it. Still there are the ruins of the old station office and the room now used as the Moorowie School; this last must be 80 years old, and is still a substantial structure. The old men's quarters are now in ruins, but a two-roomed cottage close by is still in use as a barn. It was there, says Mr. Phillips, that my father (the late George Phillips) and mother lived as a married couple, afterwards to become manager, which position he held for 40 years.

A £500 Wool Press And the link with the past that still remains is the old dumping press. There were three of these, which came out from the old country about the same time— one for Penton Vale, one for "Orrie Cowie" (then called Black Springs), and one for Moorowie. I think the initial cost was about £500 each. When Moorowie was sold to Mr. G. Brooks, this press was submitted by auction, but as there was only a bid of £5 it was not sold (there was a reserve of £50), and changed hands with the property each time. Up to my last visit to Moorowie, some 2 1/2 years ago, it was still in working order. The procedure was to bale the wool in the ordinary box press, and then dump the bales later, banding them with hoop iron, as the wool was shipped direct to England. This dumping was done to reduce the size of the bale to three feet square, thus taking less space when stowing in the ships. The wool was carted to Salt Creek (Coobowie) and taken by ketch to Port Adelaide. I remember the name of one quite well, the "Omeo." The last wool dumped by this press was in 1895, and it was operated by myself and Mr. Alex Thomson, who still resides near Yorketown. I think we averaged about 20 bales a day.

There is still at Moorowie, in fairly good order, the old station cemetery, in which are buried the parents of Mr. John Butler, of Minlaton (grandparents of the late Capt. Harry Butler). My infant brother and two station hands were also buried there.

In those days Moorowie carried about 20,000 sheep. It included then the "White Hut" and "Stone Hut" leases in the Hundreds of Carriebie and Warrenben.

Police Depot on the Station

In the early days of Moorowie there was a police depot on the station property, as the blacks were very troublesome. This police depot was at one time in charge of the late Inspector Tolmer. The late Tom Coward was also there for a time. I believe the Police Department still hold the piece of land. It is a little north of the old shearing shed, and still called the "Police Reserve." The little well where the police got their drinking water is still there.

My earliest remembrance of the location of the blacks camp was a little north of the homestead and slightly west of the old men's kitchen. When a boy I attended many a blacks' corroboree there. Their principal burying place was in the sandhills, near Longbottom's farm. There is a reserve there called "Onegowie," meaning "fresh water in the sand."

Some of the old station hands still reside on the Peninsula, viz., Mr. Tom Eggington at Warooka; George Eggington, at Marion Bay; and Alex Thomson, near Yorketown, who erected most of the stone walls round the homestead. At shearing time Mr. Christian Twartz, of Yorketown, was on the job.

I omitted to mention earlier that practically all the carting was done by bullock teams. The family vehicle was a spring dray or spring cart. Yorketown was known as "Weaner's Flat." I believe Penton Vale Station had a hut and sheepyards near there, where they used to send the lambs to be weaned, shepherded, of course, as there were no paddocks in those days.

Rabbits brought from England

In reply to a question, Mr. Phillips said, "Yes, Mr. Fowler did bring rabbits from England to Moorowie, and introduced them to some old wombat holes in the old station home paddocks, south of the homestead, near where there was afterwards an orchard planted. I can quite remember when there was a wool-washing plant at Moorowie, but all evidence of this has long ago disappeared, and the old well filled in."

The Corroborees

We put some further questions to Mr. Phillips in reference to the blacks and their corroborees. He said corroborees were usually held at night. The male blacks would dance round a fire, and imitate kangaroo hunts, fishing exploits, fights with other tribes, etc They used to daub themselves with pipe clay and red ochre. The men would chant a kind of song and the women would sit around in a circle with an oppossum rug in their laps, rolled up to make a drum, which they used to beat with their hands, and keep excellent time, too. Each song would represent some event, such as the "hunt corroboree." I remember one vividly, the "rain corroboree," or, in native lingo, "the Munga corroboree." The natives had a meeting place for north and south blacks at Minlacowie, somewhere between the Baptist Church and the fingerpost, known as the "old chimney," or "Yonglacowie." Anstey and Giles a hut there. I believe the ruins are still there. I remember a shepherd named McDonald being in charge. Corroborees used to last for nearly a week. There was a good crowd of blacks in the tribe, whose hunting grounds extended from Moorowie to Warrenben. About 100 used to congregate at the station, and they were very troublesome in the early days; that was why the police camp was formed.

Horse Breeding

In reply to our question as to whether horse-breeding occupied the attention of the station owners, Mr. Phillips said: "Yes, it was carried on very extensively, both at Moorowie and Penton Vale." Mr. Fowler imported the Clydesdale, "Aggravation," from England, which I believe cost £500 to land. The late William Gilbert, who held "Orrie Cowie" (muddy water), then called "Black Springs," started to breed draught horses in the Hundred of Carribie, on what is now known as the horse station, but the country was so stony that the young horses used to get very tender-footed, and developed what is called "bumble feet." They gave up breeding horses and tackled cattle, some of which went wild in the scrub and were there for many years, till John Hannay, who then owned "Orrie Cowie," bought them from the Government and had them destroyed. Prior to that it was the practice of landholders to take out a licence (£5 a year I think it was) for the right to shoot the wild cattle. Very often one got shot that carried a brand, and this was the reason the station people destroyed them.

Mr. Phillips quite remembers the late Ebenezer Ward. He said: "He built the house where Mr. Arnold Bennett now lives, and called it 'Parawurtie House.' When he took up the block, 'The Ranch' he called it, he said it was the Garden of Australia. He served the Peninsula well in Parliament."

The Three-Chain Road

The three-chain road from Lake Sunday up the Peninsula, Mr. Phillips mentioned, tapped the principal stock breeding places on the Peninsula, viz., "Lake Sunday," "Penton Vale," "Tukocowie," and not far from "Orrie Cowie." To get to Adelaide in the early days was either by ketch from Alice, with the popular Capt. Johnny Heath, or overland by coach, via Moonta.

Mr. Phillips' father came out from England as a boy of 16 in 1858. He went to work for Mr. Fowler, and was stationed at North Hut, now owned by H. A. Koop & Sons. Here the young man was employed to assist the shepherds. Each shepherd had a hut-keeper on account of the blacks, and he used to do the cooking, help pull the water, and watch the sheep at night. He remained at Moorowie for 50 years.