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A Week on the Macleay – article 2 (1928)

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

A Week on the Macleay.

Written for ‘Port Macquarie News.’

(By F. A. FITZPATRICK).

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

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Written by macalba

June 20, 2013 at 8:00 am

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One Response

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  1. Pee dee was named after the wife of the duffty named fellow whos wifes name was penny duffty ,THE EARLY SETTLEMENT OF THE UPPER MACLEAY, the search party was able to follow her aboriginal captors by following trees penny would carve her enitials PD leading to her release

    Ben Booth

    February 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm


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