Wirraminna Station, South Australia

Wirraminna Station

WM Green

Wirraminna is an Aboriginal word for gum tree water, which is similar to the Kaurna word Wirra Wirra, meaning, 'in the midst of red gum trees'. Other names with a similar meaning are, Wirrabara, forest with running water and Wirrawilla green trees. The Wirraminna run, about 70 km west of Pimba, on lease no. 2727, was taken up by William Morris Green, Henry Scott and HA Short in 1877. Previously WM Green had been managing Wonaka Station.

Henry Scott of North Devon, England, was born in 1836 and arrived in South Australia at the age of 18. For the next 40 years he was interested and involved in the wool industry. He started as a wool buyer, but had other interests as well. When he was 25, he married Emily Gooch on 8 March 1861. In 1877 he was Mayor of Adelaide and a year later was elected to the Legislative Council. Later he was manager of several financial institutions and a director of the Bank of Adelaide by 1889.

He certainly seemed the right partner to have aboard. Having secured the Wirraminna lease, south of Coondambo Station, the trio lost no time securing Eucolo and Island Creek. For several years the boundary between Wirraminna and The Pines station was disputed and after a court case and a new survey the disputed area with its important water hole was granted to The Pines.

As early as May 1878 they advertised for well sinkers and fencers, giving preference to men with teams. Soon the station was stocked with sheep and some cattle. As the place was still very isolated, transport was hard to come by and very expensive. They also had to be on the look-out for thieves of the wandering stock. In November 1879 Green posted a reward of ten pounds to anyone giving such information as would ensure the conviction of the person who took his horse in September and causing the death of it.

At the start of 1880 more contracts were offered for fencing the run and the locating of water. Several wells were dug which supplied good water at shallow depths. Soon as many as 10.000 ewes were grazing in the different paddocks. Another problem faced by the station owners was the killing of sheep and lambs by dingoes and Green advertised for a wild dog poisoner in April of that year. During 1880 only 2000 lambs survived. Regardless of the heavy losses shearing was started on 4 September at the rate of one pound per 100 sheep.

In January 1881, five teams of eight camels each left Port Augusta with supplies for Wirraminna. FC Roberts who was in charge expected to make the return trip in about five weeks. Two months later the Observer of 12 March reported that 'a meeting of gentlemen, holding land to the north-west of Port Augusta under pastoral leases met on Friday, March 4, in the offices of the Hon. Henry Scott, to consider what steps should be taken to facilitate the carriage of wool in the far North.

HA Short

During that meeting, it was stated that 'It appears that owing to the scarcity of water on the route, it is almost impossible to convey wool and stores to and from the stations and Port Augusta, the drawback being so great that in the case of Messrs. Green, Short, & Go., of Wirraminna Station, part of the last clip had to be left on the station. Camels had been employed to do the work, but even they were found ineffectual, as several of them died on the road from want of water, so that only a portion of the wool could be conveyed to Port Augusta'.

'Allusion was made to the fact that 'several enterprising young men who are resident partners with men of capital in Adelaide have been working most strenuously in spite of the difficulties of carrying wire, implements, stores, &c., to the runs, and of moving sheep to and fro, to open up this tract of hitherto unoccupied country, and it was remarked that some encouragement from the State should be afforded them'.

It was suggested 'that a light tramline would be the cheapest and best means of providing the facilities that were required, and to carry this object on, a committee was appointed to obtain statements in connection with the settlement of the country and the probable amount of traffic. When this information is procured the whole matter will be laid before the Government with the view of inducing them to lay down the tramway, or failing that to make a road and sink wells, so as to bridge over the 110 miles of waterless country between Port Augusta and Phillip's Ponds'.

After more than a year very little had happened and cartage rates had become very high and almost impossible for some to pay. There was a lack of water, with some of it of very poor quality. Alexander Warwick, originally of Holowilena (Holowiliena) Station and manager at Wirraminna for Green, died on 5 April from dysentery after drinking some of the water. He was only 36.

The country was also very sandy. By April, teamsters were warned that the route to Wirraminna was almost impassible. Supplies for Clifton Hills on the Birdsville Track were costing 16 pounds per ton and Tinga Tingana, on the Strzelecki track, had to pay 13 pounds. In May the track to Wirraminna was open again, but the going was hard and slow.

There were other problems as well. In May 1883 John and Mary Todd brought an action against William Morris Green and other owners of Wirraminna to recover the sum of 150 pounds as damages for wrongful dismissal and losses sustained from it at the Port Augusta local Court. John Todd had been employed as boundary rider by Green on 10 June 1882 for one year at one pound a week. His wife Mary was engaged as a cook at ten shillings a week.

They were both dismissed on 11 March 1883 and ordered to leave the station the next day. Mary was close to her confinement of child number five. They stayed in a makeshift tent for a few days waiting for a lift to Port Augusta. After finally arriving at that town Mary gave birth, but the baby died after a few hours. After a lengthy court case and accusations from both parties the Todds were awarded 105 pounds and eight shillings damages.

This was a substantial amount and may have influenced the decision to offer the sale by the owners of Wirraminna. At the same time though other stations such as Coondambo, Kingoonya, West Oakden and others were also put on the market. This was probably mainly due to the drought and the poor economic returns. By October wool was still waiting at Wirraminna, unable to be transported due to the want of rain.

As always in South Australia, and particularly in the north, it never rains, but when it does, it pours. Such was the case in March 1884 when heavy rains caused quite a flood at Wirraminna. During this time, there was a change in management at the station. William Morris Green, who had been appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1883, was still in charge but had now the assistance of George Henry Willey who was appointed in September 1884. The rain had done wonders and the pleasing effects could still be observed a year later.

The Observer of Saturday 29 August 1885, published an article written by 'Nomad' who had recently visited the area. He wrote; 'After entering the Wirraminna boundary gate we took a detour to the northward of the track to visit some wells, and noted the fact that when once off the travelling route the quality of the feed improves, as it well may, since it has no extra burdens to bear.

Wherever the limestone formation crops up the soil looks dry and the vegetation is less thriving, a circumstance due to the fact that this particular soil requires more moisture than the looser sandy loam. The first well visited lies in the same line of depression as the Big Swamp Well on the Coondambo side, and yields a supply of 11,000 gallons of fresh water. A pretty little swamp close at hand contains a good supply of surface water, and round about it, bright green herbage is springing.

Driving on through alternately open and lightly timbered country we come to another good well, surrounded by some big mulga trees, and furnished with an immense circular tank formed of upright tree trunks, backed up by a clay embankment. An empty hut stands a little way off, near which melon plants are growing in wild luxuriance and bearing liberal crops of fruit, which lie neglected and untouched, wasting their savouriness on the desert air.

We rejoin the track a mile or two further on, and traversing the same country as on the up trip, arrive at Wirraminna in due course. The Wirraminna Run is a very extensive one, comprising some 1,200 square miles, a good deal of which is however, undeveloped. The run goes south as far as the southern end of the Island Lagoon, which bounds the greater part of it on the east, while Lake Gairdner forms the greater part of the western boundary.

The Arcoona country joins it on the north, the Pines touches it on the east, and Coondambo on the west. It has some excellent scrub country, and saltbush flats which the spring moisture covers with grass, but the southern country requires a good deal of developing. The station shore 19.000 sheep last and expects to cut 7,000 lambs this year in addition. After once more partaking of Mr Green's hospitality, we harness up a fresh team and move on by moonlight for the Ponds'.

Two years later shearing started in late August, after that team had finished their job at Island Creek, at a rate of only 18 shillings a hundred. Although conditions had improved somewhat, especially the availability of water, people still perished during their travels between, or on stations. In November 1888, Davis, manager at Wirraminna found a dead body near the Island Creek dam. As it turned out it was that of George Brown who had left Wirraminna for Port Augusta on 1 November.

In 1890 the station was managed by Thomas Scott, who applied for well sinkers as the drought seemed to have set in once more. There was also a change of ownership being talked about. To ease the pressure on the limited water supply, it was decided to sell some of the stock. On 21 June, Elder Smith & Co auctioned more than 4000 Wirraminna sheep at Wilmington, as well as 80 head of cattle and 20 horses.

Five weeks later, another auction was held by Bagot, Stokes & Lewis at the Stirling North Railway yards. This time there were 3000 Wirraminna sheep, including 1300 lambs who been sired by Bungaree rams and had mostly dropped in April. At the end of July, it was announced that the partnership between Henry Scott, merchant of Adelaide and Henry A Short of Paradise had been dissolved by mutual consent, and that the business carried on by them at Wirraminna and Kingoonya, would in future be carried on by Henry Scott.


Part 2

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