|Dalgety Bourke key staff in 1960-all deceased except me From LtoR- Ron Ney,me,Jim Garnsey and Peter Garry. Photo taken in 2002.|
We left a very wet Sydney on Friday 1st May on a big round trip (link to map) so as to also take in a visit to Gail's favourite elderly cousin, Midge O'Halloran, at Condobolin.
Up the M1 expressway to the turn-off onto the new M15 (Hunter Expressway) which I was keen to use for the first time, then along the Golden Highway thru' the very wet Hunter Valley to Denman. A lovely Devonshire Tea at our favourite coffee shop at Sandy Hollow thence through Merriwa, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Gilgandra to Coonamble. Called to see John Brien, my long time agent friend, who was "riding camels" in the Middle East, but had a cup of coffee with his successor David Chadwick and got the local "news". So far the country all green and in good order.
We had arranged to spend the night at former Clyde property "Pier Pier" with Phil and Liz Woodhill who were the Clyde Managers in my time. It was just like old times and they thoughtfully had their Overseer and Jackaroo for dinner just as we would have done in days gone by. So good to see them both looking so fit and enjoying life in their usual enthusiastic manner. Country as dry as a chip from about "Pier Pier" onwards and the "Pier Pier" flock down from the usual 12,000 breeding ewes to only 3700-and they were being hand fed! Massive new woolshed very impressive. Phil told me that they were not getting a lot of flooding in the "Cutbushes" and "Eden" marsh country in spite of constant small flows and there was a Government plan to eliminate the so called "By-pass Channel" in return for which the Government was providing capped and piped bore water to downstream Macquarie River graziers for stock watering purposes. With wool prices much improved in recent days, and booming sheep and cattle prices, the old addage of "just add water" is very apt.
We followed the gravel road down to near Carinda and then the very good newish bitumen into Walgett. The country got even drier as we got closer to Walgett and continued horrific after we took the western road (Kamilaroi Highway) to Brewarrina. I read afterwards that Brewarrina had had 50mm of rain in the previous 48 hours, but there wasn't much sign of it. "Beemery" mid way between Bre and Bourke looked pretty awful.
The Bourke Show was well attended, but given dry conditions there was no actual ram sale, but several studs had rams on show. We were pleased to be invited by President Scott Mitchell to join the Committee for a very nice lunch. Les Walsh gave a very complete, yet brief speech in opening the show, which was well received. The trophy for the best cotton crop was again not awarded, but I have Ian Cole trying to find who has it and get the competition reactivated for future years. Gail and I attended a very nicely conducted Evening Service at the Anglican Church where we made up 50% of the congregation!
Consistent with past Show day practice we had dinner at the Port of Bourke Hotel with Les and Francis Walsh, but this time we didn't shout all and sundry for dinner! We stayed in my favourite suite-The Mona Lisa-at the Riverside Motel.
We headed off down the Kidman Way to Cobar at about 10:00AM. The country which is hard bushy land in the best of times, was made even worse by the current drought. The Cobar main street was closed for re-surfacing so we kept moving to Mount Hope. If anything this country was even worse and the "road kill" was massive-'roos, goats, pigs and the odd sheep. I was concerned that I did not hit a 'roo in my flash BMW and in fact did not come close whilst motoring at a fair bat. Close to Mt Hope were a number of properties which appeared to be only running goats and which were eaten into the ground. To my surprise the pub was in operation and we had a hamburger lunch before turning south east to Euabalong. I was reminded of the pioneering work which Jock Bremner did in trying to farm the Mt. Hope mallee country when we were at Hillston in the late 1960's. Some are still at it. It was only as we approached the Lachlan flood plain near Euabalong that we struck green feed and from then on the country was great all the way back to Sydney. We mistakenly crossed the river at Euabalong and had a gravel road (Lachlan Valley Way) until about 15kms from Condobolin. Had we stayed on the northern side we would have had a sealed road almost the whole way. However, it was interesting to be on a different track and it is clear that the Lachlan when in flood, floods to the south as it does upstream of Condobolin and we passed thru' some very attractive country.
After stocking up with afternoon tea requisites we arrived at the O'Halloran house where with a bought in Chinese dinner we passed some four hours with Midge and Jim, both of whom are now in their 90's. We were pleased to see their daughter Joy who dropped in while we were there. Tired from all the driving we had an early night at our usual Condo motel.
I was frustrated by not being ready to leave until after 9:00am.