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Home -> David W Carnegie -> Spinifex and Sand -> Part 5 Chapter 16

Spinifex and Sand - Part 5 Chapter 16

1. Part 1 Chapter 1

2. Part 1 Chapter 2

3. Part 1 Chapter 3

4. Part 2 Chapter 1

5. Part 2 Chapter 2

6. Part 2 Chapter 3

7. Part 3 Chapter 1

8. Part 3 Chapter 2

9. Part 3 Chapter 3

10. Part 3 Chapter 4

11. Part 3 Chapter 5

12. Part 3 Chapter 6

13. Part 3 Chapter 7

14. Part 4 Chapter 1

15. Part 5 Chapter 1

16. Part 5 Chapter 2

17. Part 5 Chapter 3

18. Part 5 Chapter 4

19. Part 5 Chapter 5

20. Part 5 Chapter 6

21. Part 5 Chapter 7

22. Part 5 Chapter 8

23. Part 5 Chapter 9

24. Part 5 Chapter 10

25. Part 5 Chapter 11

26. Part 5 Chapter 12

27. Part 5 Chapter 13

28. Part 5 Chapter 14

29. Part 5 Chapter 15

30. Part 5 Chapter 16

31. Part 5 Chapter 17

32. Part 5 Chapter 18

33. Part 5 Appendix

34. Part 6 Chapter 1

35. Part 6 Chapter 2

36. Part 6 Chapter 3

37. Part 6 Chapter 4

38. Part 6 Chapter 5

39. Part 6 Chapter 6

40. Part 6 Chapter 7

41. Part 6 Chapter 8

42. Part 6 Chapter 9

43. Part 6 Chapter 10

44. Appendix



Since we were not to retackle the sand forthwith, we laid ourselves out
to rest and do nothing to the very best of our ability. This resolve was
made easy of execution, for no sooner had the Warden, Mr. Cummins, heard
of our arrival, than he invited us to his house, where we remained during
our stay in Hall's Creek, and met with so much kindness and hospitality
that we felt more than ever pleased that we had arrived at this
out-of-the-way spot by a rather novel route.

Since Kimberley (excepting the South African district) must be an unknown
name to the majority of English readers, and since it is one of the most
valuable portions of West Australia, it deserves more than passing

Hall's Creek, named after the first prospector who found payable gold in
the district, is the official centre of the once populous Kimberley
goldfields, and the seat of justice, law, and order for the East
Kimberley division.

Attention was first drawn to this part of the Colony by the report of
Alexander Forrest, who discovered the Fitzroy, Margaret, and other
rivers; but it was not the pastoral land described by him that caused any
influx of population. Gold was the lure. The existence of gold was
discovered by Mr. Hardman, geologist, attached to a Government
survey-party under Mr. Johnston (now Surveyor-General), and, though he
found no more than colours, it is a remarkable fact that gold has since
been discovered in few places that were not mentioned by him. Numerous
"overlanders" and prospectors soon followed; indeed some preceded this
expedition, for Mr. Johnston has told me that he found marked trees in
more than one place. Who marked them was never ascertained, but it was
supposed that a party of overlanders from Queensland, who were known to
have perished, were responsible for them.

In 1886 payable gold was found, and during that and the following year
one of the largest and most unprofitable "rushes" known in Australia set
in for the newly discovered alluvial field. The sinking being shallow,
what ground there was, was soon worked out, and before long the rush set
back again as rapidly as it had come, the goldfield was condemned as a
duffer, and left to the few faithful fossickers who have made a living
there to this day. The alluvial gold was the great bait; of this but
little was found, and to reefing no attention to speak of was given, so
that at the present time miles upon miles of quartz reefs, blows,
leaders, and veins are untouched and untested as they were before the
rush of 1886. No one can say what systematic prospecting might disclose
in this neglected corner of the Colony. There are many countries less
favoured for cheap mining; Kimberley is blessed with an abundant
rainfall, and the district contains some of the finest pasture-lands in

A scarcity of good mining timber, the remoteness of the district from
settled parts, and the bad name that has been bestowed upon it, are the
disadvantages under which the goldfield labours. Nevertheless two
batteries are working at the present day, and a good find by some old
fossicker is not so rare.

Setting aside the question of gold-discoveries, which may or may not be
made, this district has a great future before it to be derived from the
raising of stock, cattle, sheep, and horses. So far only a limited area
of country has been taken up--that is to say, the country in the valleys
of the Ord, Margaret, and Fitzroy Rivers and their tributaries. There
still remains, however, a large tract lying between those rivers and the
most Northerly point of the Colony as yet unoccupied, and some of it even
unexplored. One or two prospectors have passed through a portion of it,
and they speak well of its pastoral and, possibly, auriferous value.

Cut off, as it is, by the desert, the district has the disadvantage of
none but sea communication with the rest of the Colony. This necessitates
the double shipment of live stock, once at either port, Derby or Wyndham,
after they have been driven so far from the stations, and once again at
Fremantle. A coastal stock route is debarred by the poverty of the
country between Derby and the De Grey River, and a direct stock route
through the desert is manifestly impracticable. It seems to me that too
little attention has been given to horse-breeding, and that a
remunerative trade might be carried on between Kimberley and India, to
which this district is nearer than any other part of Australia.

What horses are bred, though otherwise excellent, are small--a defect
that should easily be remedied. The cattle, too, are rather on the small
side, and this again, by more careful attention to breeding, could be
improved upon.

Hall's Creek is by no means a large town; in fact, it consists of exactly
nine buildings--post and telegraph office and Warden's office and court,
Warden's house, hospital, gaol, police-station, sergeant's house,
butcher's shop and house, store, and hotel.

Besides these there are several nomadic dwellings, such as tents, bush
humpies, and drays.

A house is a luxury, and some of the oldest residents have never built
one. "Here to-day and gone to-morrow, what's the good of a house?"
was the answer I got from one who had only been there for ten years!

Mud-brick walls and corrugated-iron roofs is the style of architecture in
general vogue. The inhabitants are not many, as may be supposed, but
those there are simply overflow with hospitality and good spirits. One
and all were as pleased to see us, and have us live amongst them, as if
we had been old friends. The population is very variable; the surrounding
district contains some fifty or sixty fossickers, who come into town at
intervals to get fresh supplies of flour and salt beef--the one and only
diet of the bushmen in these parts, who, though very rarely seeing
vegetables, are for the most part strong and healthy. Sometimes cases of
scurvy, or a kindred disease, occur; one poor chap was brought in whilst
we were there, very ill indeed. I happened to be up at the hospital, and
asked the orderly (there was no doctor) what he would do for him in the
way of nourishing food. "Well," said he, looking very wise, "I think a
little salt beef will meet the case." And such would indeed have been his
diet if I had not luckily had some Liebig's Extract; for the town was in
a state verging on famine, dependent as it is on the whims of "packers"
and teamsters, who bring provisions from the coast, nearly three
hundred miles, by road. Twice a year waggons arrive; for the rest
everything is brought per horseback, and when the rains are on, and the
rivers running, their load is as often as not considerably damaged by
immersion in the water.

A monthly mail, however, and the telegraph line places the community much
nearer civilised parts than its geographical position would lead one to
suppose. The arrival of the mail, or of the packers, is a great event,
more especially since no one knows what they may bring. Thus a train of
pack-horses arrived at a time when flour was badly needed, but each load
consisted of either sugar or lager-beer--both excellent articles but
hardly adaptable to bread-making. The climate, situation, surroundings,
and want of means of recreation all combine to make the publican's
business a lucrative one. When, as sometimes happens, a fossicker comes
in with a "shammy" full of gold, and lays himself out to make himself
and every one else happy, then indeed the hotel-keeper's harvest is a
rich one. And since nobody cares much whether he buys his liquor, or
makes it of red-pepper, kerosene, tobacco, methylated spirits, and what
not, the publican's outlay in "only the best brands" need not be

Christmas and New Year's Day were, of course, great days of revel;
athletic sports were held, and horse-races. The latter were not quite a
success; the entries were very few, and the meeting was nearly resolving
itself into a prize-fight when one owner lodged a complaint against the
winner. As a rule the race-meetings are better attended; every bush
township has its meetings throughout the continent, and, in remote
districts, there are men who entirely "live on the game." That is to
say, they travel from place to place with a mob of pack-horses, amongst
which, more or less disguised by their packs, are some fast ones, with
which they surprise the community. These men, though great scoundrels,
are considered to be earning a legitimate living, since no man need
gamble with them unless he likes; if he is taken in by them he has
himself to thank.

Christmas Eve is celebrated by a performance known as "tin-kettling," in
which all join. Each arms himself with a dish, or empty tin, which he
beats violently with a stick. To the tune of this lovely music the party
marches from house to house, and at each demands drink of some kind,
which is always forthcoming. Thus the old institution of Christmas-waits
is supported, even in this far corner of the world.

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