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Aussie Pioneers - 1. AP Chapter 1

The 9-week long journey from our homeland of Britain, to our new home of South Australia, was quite an ordeal for myself and my younger brother Archie. We were the oldest two of 6 children, and our father and mother had very little to keep the whole family fed.

When our father came into a small inheritance from a distant uncle of his, he set aside some of it for his family and the rest was to be spent sending Archie and I to the Colony of South Australia, along with 12 bags of grain, 18 bales of hay, 40 Suffolk ewes and 3 Suffolk rams, 2 dairy cows and a Clydesdale horse, to get us established in farming in the colony, before sending for the rest of the family to immigrate as well.

We stopped in the port of Cape Town in South Africa, where we were able to purchase more provisions for our stock, for the next stage of our journey, and we finally arrived in the harbour of Ceduna on the 9th day of March1912. It was a windy day with lots of cloud cover, as we supervised the off loading of our precious cargo of Suffolk sheep, cows and horse, that had all survived the long journey, along with the remainder of our grain, and 2 bales of hay.

While Archie minded our stock and belongings, I walked to the Land Registry Office, in search of some land to purchase under an occupation license, which I had done some research on before we left our home port of Plymouth, in south-western Britain.

“Yes, young man, what is it you want?” a scruffily dressed man said to me as I approached the counter.

“I have come for an occupation license please,” I said softly, feeling intimidated by the large man at the desk.

“You look too young to be farming in the colony. What is your name?” the man said to me.

“Its Edwin Cameron, sir, and I have travelled with my younger brother Archie, and we have travelled with stock and supplies,” I replied.

“Well Mr Edwin Cameron, how old might you be, as I doubt that you have the strength and toughness to last out in this harsh country?” the man asked me.

“I am 22, sir, and my brother is 17. We are fully aware of how tough it will be. I have been doing a lot of research since my father announced that he was sending us here, and we would like some land to the north west of Ceduna please,” I replied.

“Well, my name is Jake Gregory, the Registry Clerk, and it looks like you have it all worked out then doesn’t it. I highly doubt that you and your brother will last more than 6 months out that way, especially during the coming winter, but if that is what you want, then I will grant you a large plot of 32 square miles at the far north west of the district.

It’s 46 miles north west of Ceduna. Good luck,” the man said to me, as I paid the license fee and he wrote out an occupation license, signing it and dating it for that days date. After he had done that he handed it to me.

When I stepped out of the Land Registry Office, I could hardly believe that it was that easy to get land, and such a huge amount of land. I wondered if the land that I was allocated was suitable for sheep grazing, but I would have to just wait and see when we get there. As I wandered through the streets of Ceduna, I found stables and a blacksmith workshop, and I stopped to speak to the owner.

“Good day to you, sir. May I have a moment of your time please?” I said to the man standing at the forge, where he was fanning the flames to get it hotter. He stopped and looked up when he saw me, and frowned.

“What does a young bloke like you want from a place like this?” the man responded.

“I am sorry, sir, I have just arrived on the ship from Plymouth, along with some stock and supplies. I am looking for a small wagon to be able to load up my supplies and belongings, for our long journey north,” I replied.

“What sort of horse do you have, and what’s the distance you are travelling?” the blacksmith asked me.

“A 4-year-old Clydesdale, sir, and about 46 miles,” I replied.

“I see. Well, I have a dray that would be suitable. It probably will suit for where you are heading. It has sturdy wheels, with steel on the outside. It has an 8 foot by 4 foot tray, with 3 sides, and a wooden seat over the front of it,” the blacksmith said to me.

After looking at the dray buggy, and negotiating a price, I was pleased to have something that we could cart everything in. I headed back to the wharf to collect the horse, so I could hitch up the buggy. When I told Archie that not only did we have a large block of land, but we also had a dray buggy for carting our supplies, Archie was very pleased.

When I returned to the wharf with Honey, our Clydesdale horse, pulling an empty cart, Archie smiled with delight, and we carefully loaded up the cart with our two trunks. One contained our cooking gear of a billy, a cast iron skillet, and pot and eating utensils, some farm tools, including 2 axes, adze, a sharpening stone, a log saw, a shovel, a heavy hammer, two sets of shears, a butchering knife and a couple of steel buckets. The second trunk contained our clothes, a few items to remind us of what we left behind, and some books on farming.

Once we had everything loaded onboard, I left Archie to start leading the sheep and two cows out of town, where they would meet me, while I went looking for a general supplies store, to stock up on food supplies for the stock and for Archie and I.

After half an hour, with dwindling money, I had the buggy loaded up with more hay, bags of wheat and oats, a bag of corn, plus 2 barrels for storing fresh water, flour, salt, tea, preserved meats some bread and sugar, as our main food supplies, along with 4 chickens and some work shirts and trousers for both of us, plus two long lengths of rope. By the time it was all done, the buggy was quite full, and it was getting late in the day.

Taking it slowly, I directed Honey out of town, heading north, and about half an hour later, I found Archie watching the sheep and cows as they grazed on the plentiful supply of grass. All the stock had bells attached around their necks, so we could keep track of them, and make sure none of them wandered too far away.

When I pulled up near Archie, he looked at the now large pile of supplies on the back of the wagon and smiled, before walking over to where the two dairy cows were grazing. He tied them to the back of the wagon, while I jumped down and began to get the sheep moving in a north westerly direction.

Archie jumped up onto the wagon and grabbed the reins. “Move on, Honey,” I heard him say and she began walking, pulling the load behind her quite easily. A bit over an hour later, as the sun was beginning to set to the west, we decided to stop for the night, even though we were only a few miles out of Ceduna.

Grabbing one of the ropes that I had purchased, I tied one end of it to the buggy, before feeding it through each bell strap on each sheep, then tying it off at a distant low tree, to allow the sheep to wander only a small distance.

With the second rope, I tied one end on the other side of the wagon, then through the halter of the two dairy cows, then the other end to another low tree. Archie had disconnected Honey from the harness, and put the hobble straps on to prevent her from wondering off too far, before taking out one of the buckets, and giving Honey and the two cows a good drink of water.

Once the stock had been looked after, we began to set up our camp. We had fresh bread and salted beef and pork. Our camp rolls consisted of a length of canvas, two blankets and a pillow each, as we set up our beds under the wagon, before we gathered up some wood to make a small fire to heat up some water for a cup of tea each, and to wash up our plates.

With a good slice of ham and two slices of bread, that should last us three days, we sat down and ate our basic meal while we waited for the billy to boil. We decided to stick with basic rations, so that we could get to our new land as soon as possible, without having to dig out and putt away all the coking gear all the time.

I had estimated that it would take us approximately three days to travel the 46 miles to get to our destination. I was told and shown on the paperwork given to me at the Land Registry Office, that he land had wooden pegs in the ground, making the boundary of the land. It had been set by the district surveyor a few years ago, with the marking of “NW CED 026” on each of the pegs, that identified the property. Below it were the letters giving its boundary location, “SW COR” for the South west corner. The pegs were spaced 1400 feet apart.

With all the information that I had gathered before we made the journey, I was able to learn that the seasons are opposite to those in Britain, and that the summers can be scorching hot during the day, and cool in the night, and in the winter, it can he fairly cold and wet, like it is back home in Plymouth, and that the rainfall is between May and September.

From what we had seen so far, the land was very flat, with no sign of hills or ranges, with plenty of low shrubs and trees, that I have learnt are mostly called Eucalyptus trees.

When we woke the next morning, the sun was just low to the east, so it was still reasonably early, and I looked around to make sure we still had all of our sheep and cows. Honey snorted and shook her head under a nearby tree. While I fed and watered all of the stock, including the sheep and chickens, that were in the same cage they travelled in on the ship, we had a quick breakfast of fresh water and bread, before Archie harnessed up Honey.

Meanwhile, I undid the rope on the tree that was looped through the harnesses of the cows and I tied the end to the last cow, and did the same with the rope with the sheep, so they could walk along behind the buggy, without us having to follow them on foot to keep them from straying. When we set off once again, for our first full day in our new homeland, the sheep quickly got the hint that they needed to follow the buggy, while the cows were happy to do as they did late yesterday.

For the next day, we travelled at a slow pace, so as not to tire out the stock, stopping a few times during the day to allow them to rest, while we had a bite to eat and a drink. In the middle of the day we used the buckets to give the stock a drink of water each. “You know, Brother, we are going to have to find a water source very fast, if we are to keep the stock and ourselves alive,” Archie said to me.

“Yes, Archie, that has been on my mind often since we left Ceduna. It is a lot wilder than I had expected, and this low shrub is going to be quite a job to clear away, so we can plant some crops and pasture for the stock,” I replied, as I looked around us, looking at the wide flat country stretching away in the distance.

“How long before we get to our property do you think?” Archie asked after a period of silence.

“I think one more day. We just have to keep a close eye out for the marker pegs,” I replied. It was the early afternoon the next day, when Archie spotted the first marker peg in the distance, and he jumped off the buggy and ran to it. Before long he came back to let me know.

“So, is it our boundary. And whereabouts are we on the property?” I asked impatiently, as Archie caught his breath from the jogging.

Archie nodded his head. “It says NW CED 026, and SE 02” Archie eventually said, and I smiled. “That means we have arrived, and we are ½ a mile west of the south-east corner. Well done, Brother,” I said, as I looked at the location of the sun, which was about three hours away from setting.

Let us go to that marker, then from there we will head due north for ½ a mile and see what the area looks like from there,” I suggested and Archie nodded his head in agreement. After travelling for about an hour, and spending half of that crossing a limestone rocky outcrop, I pulled the reins to a stop on top of a small hill.

“I think this will do for now, Brother. We will set up camp here, and explore the area, and see if we can find a suitable place to make as our new home,” I announced, and I jumped off and started to unharness Honey, and put the hobble straps on, before checking on the sheep and dairy cows, who seemed to be doing ok from the long and rough journey.

I tied the front end of the buggy to a tree, to keep it level, and so there was more space underneath, so we could store the grain and food supplies beneath in case it rained, which the clouds were looking like they would at any moment. Once we had all the stock fed and watered, I helped Archie to put the last of the food and grain under the buggy, along with our two trunks and our bedrolls.

Retrieving the shovel, he walked down to the bottom of the small hill, which was only about twenty feet high, and began to dig a hole, which I presumed was in search of fresh water.

Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved

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Chapter Comments

10 minutes ago, mikedup said:

Very interesting start to the story. The wilds of Os

Yes in the earlier years of South Australia.

This story has a lot of historical fact in it, to give my followers a look into what life was like when emigrating to Australia in the late 1800's

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I'm new to this site Mr Quokka, and also a fellow sandgroper, and have been to Rotto many times, the land of the quokka. My first ever visit to South Australia saw me at the town of Hahndorf, a place settled by passengers and crew of a German ship.  Even the Captain left the ship and moved to the new settlement.

Those early farmers both Brit and German were a tough lot!

A nice start to your story, and I look forward to following it.  

Edited by masuk
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1 hour ago, masuk said:

I'm new to this site Mr Quokka, and also a fellow sandgroper, and have been to Rotto many times, the land of the quokka. My first ever visit to South Australia saw me at the town of Hahndorf, a place settled by passengers and crew of a German ship.  Even the Captain left the ship and moved to the new settlement.

Those early farmers both Brit and German were a tough lot!

A nice start to your story, and I look forward to following it.  

Thanks mate, and welcome to GA.

Preston, aka Quokka

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It obviously says something about me that the whole time I was wondering when something bad was going to happen. I kept expecting someone to steal their supplies and or stock, etc. I was hoping they wouldn't end up in a foreign, harsh and unforgiving land, far from loved ones with just the clothes they are standing in, etc. Thanks for that. Okay, so...lead on McDuff.

For the purists - yes, yes I know...it's Lay On...:)



Edited by Buz
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I was just roaming through the listings on GA when I came across your pen name, Quokka (Preston). I have previously read several of your stories about Australian country life and thought I would give this one a go. I am not sorry I did -- it looks like an interesting tale of early days in the South Australian outback. Of course, I will have to keep my dictionary of Australianisms handy as to a North American it is a somewhat foreign language, but that just adds to the interest for me.

   So far these young men look like they are doing very well, much hard work, but getting a good start on their farm.

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