Dene Cordes interviews Jim Tiggerman

Interview with Jim Tiggemann by Dene Cordes 16.02.1985

Mr Tiggemann was born 27th Aug 1910 at Lake Farm, Shoal Bay, Kangaroo Island. His father was manager of Lake Farm Estate owned by Graves Estate. Jim went to school at Shoal Bay until 1920 and then attended the Cygnet River school where he finished his education.

His first job was road making with a pick and shovel, also eucalyptus distilling and yakka gum collection with his father. A little work was obtained in the fruit orchard of Mr August Boettcher.

The roadworks was all carried out without machinery in those days.

Jim’s father August Adolph Tiggemann arrived on Kangaroo Island on 8.03.1901 on the boat “James Comrie” which used to visit the Island. August Tiggemann was then single.

Before him, his father John Adolph Tiggemann [1846-1918] who resided at Thebarton was the best tanner in Adelaide, used to visit the Kangaroo Island, catching wallabies and tanning his own skins. He came from Germany. John Adolph Tiggemann worked on Kangaroo Island in 1907 at a place called “Tin Hut” which was at the head of Cygnet River. Now being part of the Soldier Settlement. The ‘Tin Hut’ was erected when the government put the telephone lines in [1] .

He also used to camp at ‘Long Water Hole’ and finally used to camp at the Cygnet River racecourse area. He always visited the Island for a few months at a time. He was a keen fisherman. He used to tan his own skins, He caught wallabies and possums for leather and making rugs. He left the Island in about 1916.

John Tiggemann married Bridget Williams and they had 14 children, the fifth child being August Adolph Tiggemann- the father of Jim. Jim worked for his father between the ages of 14 and 19 years, as did his brother Perce

Flinders Chase

Although Perce Tiggemann hunted in Flinders Chase for a long period [ he died in recent years], Jim worked in this capacity only in 1929, when he trapped possums and wallabies in the Chase. Harry Hansen was the Ranger at the time.

They camped wherever it was convenient, sometimes in the old mailman’s cottage to the left of the Rocky River homestead. At other times, they camped in tents placed fairly close to where their place of hunting, there being no motor vehicles, Harry Hansen would take them out into the Park in his ‘Buckboard’, where they would set up camp. They virtually lived off the land, being no bread supplies. Their “tucker” was tinned food, wallaby meat and bread were made in a camp oven or ashes. They had no butter, so they used animal fats from the wallabies and possums.

The hunters used to work in groups and take a section of Flinders Chase each. This was in 1929 and all the others [excepting Jim Tiggemann] are deceased. Jim and Mick Bates had the Cape De Couedic end; Tot Chapman and Frank Kasehagen were near the “Breakneck River area; Dave Clark, Perce Tiggemann and Mick Northcott were in another area [2].

Jim put in one year and the others two years at the Chase.

Each year, Flinders Chase would ask gangs to come into the Chase in limited numbers, for hunting and the proceeds would be sent away by Harry Hansen [ Flora & Fauna Board Ranger], to Adelaide. The Board would arrange the sale and send back half of the proceeds. Harry Hansen had to count up the skins at the homestead prior to ‘export’, or else he would go out to each ‘gang’ and collect all the skins and transport them to Kingscote. Thus, it can be seen that not only were the native animals hunted in the Chase, but all the skins were exported. Both the Park and individual hunters were renumerated by this dual effort.

Charlie May built the house [3] near the Mail Hut and this still being hired by the public as a camping venue. Harry Hansen lived in the next house along the roadway[4] George Lonzar built the new house which is presently used by the Ranger in Charge.

Snaring of wildlife was being done right back to Charlie May’s days. The Mays owned the Chase and sold it to Duffield who sold it to Bill Chapman. The Pender brothers had it until it become Flinders Chase [5]. The May family had a horse and cart [1899] and possum and wallaby hunting were the main source of income.

Jim stated they would get a big variance in wallaby numbers with peaks of 30 to 40 on some days and nil on other days. They used to keep shifting the snares to new territory. The snares were made of hemp. Some rabbit traps were used. The traps would also kill feral cats which Jim says are now ruining the kangaroo Island and are a major threat to wildlife, especially effecting bronze wing pigeon, quails, and plovers. Jim can tell a big difference today because of increased feral cats. He used to trap cats near his shed at Murrays Lagoon in recent years and noticed the bird life increase as a result.

Jim recalls that Frank Kasehagen was not particularly good at scrub work but “Tot” [6] Chapman was. So ‘Tot’ asked Frank Kasehagen to leave some lunch out for him because the trappers were away from the campsite all day, every day and they never took lunch with them. Tot said, “leave it in a tree about ½ a mile away, [ready for him when “Tot” would be coming passed, so he could stay out a bit longer].

Frank agreed to do so and packed a nice lunch parcel for him and put where it was arranged. – it was a joke right up to when Tot died at 88 years of age- when Tot picked up his lunch parcel and found what was inside. It contained a raw onion and a pair of wallaby testicles!

In 1929, Jim was in the Chase and never came in- he would complete the whole season, working every day to move the line if going further away. In the winter, some mornings were all ice and dampness, and the ice would come through the tent. Flinders Chase was colder than many parts of the Island. The tent would be shared by trappers. Skins would be pegged out on trees.

Wallabies lived on the native flora, not on grass as they do today with the abundance of farming pasturelands. In those days, any cats which were trapped were considered the property of the trapper and there were many cats destroyed this way. Jim says that today, goannas kill the kittens and has seen many goannas with a kitten in its mouth. For this reason, he believes people should not kill goannas as clean up vermin. During one season of three months, Jim trapped 36 cats and sold them to Ernie May in Kingscote for 3 shillings each. Jim recalls lots of Wallaby catchers earning a living outside of Flinders Chase where the lands were open to all hunters, whereas Flinders Chase was by invitation only and careful selection.

Mr Tiggemann recommended that Olive Bald should be interviewed in regard to the Caves.

The road to Cape De Couedic was just a bush track. The lighthouse keepers had their own horse which they took to Rocky River every two weeks to pick up provisions, [but not to Kingscote]. The provisions came from Kingscote to Rocky River via the Mail man who made 4 day trip to Flinders Chase, while the Mail run to Cape Borda was a separate trip.

My father [August Adolph Tiggemann], had the contract for 6 trips, but I did the lot on my own.

Jim well recalls doing one of the trips to Flinders Chase-it was in 1926 and Jim was 16 years, -they had two horses and a “buggy”[also called a Trap”] , leaving on a Sunday morning. They reached MacGillivray where there was a post office run by Mr Nicholls [where Marven Veitch now lives].

Jim had never been past MacGillivray in his life, and they had to go all the way to the Chase.

Mrs Nicholls was paid one shilling for the lunch. The next mail drop was at “Brumby’s” letter box [where Ron Willson now lives], and then down to Redlands to Seager’s Property at Murrays’ Lagoon.

Next was Charlie Griffiths at Kaiwarra Station where an overnight stay was welcome- Jim had never met the Griffiths before.

Next day the mail run reached Rocky River, completing the two-day trip and then the next day, the two-day return trip began.

There were mailboxes on the roadside at: Stunsailboom / Karratta, [Tilka, May and Edwards], Vivonne Bay [Campbell’s] .

There were no other mailboxes until Rocky River. Jim had not previously met the Hansen’s at the Rocky River Homestead. Cape De Couedic people came to collect perishables from Jim and the mail both ways at Rocky River, so he had to be sure of the timetable.

Earlier on, the lighthouse supplies were received by the ship “Lady Lock” from Adelaide and then were hauled up the Weir cliffs by the ‘Flying fox’ equipment. The goods included cut wood, kerosene for lighting, coal, and supplies for the three lighthouse keeper’s families. The same ship would continue around the coast to Harvey’s return where similar supplies were landed for the Cape Borda Lighthouse keepers.

Jim continued the Kingscote to Flinders Chase Mail run every two weeks with the same routine, for a further six trips. Between Kaiwarra Station and Rocky River, Jim had noticed in one two-week interval, that his tracks were not been disturbed, so there had been no traffic that way!

Jim used to observe a lot of kangaroos and other wildlife both inside and outside Flinders Chase. There were numerous wallabies to be seen in the evening near Eleanor River. The Tiggemann family lived at Lake Ada on occasions hunting.

For the horses, he used to take two bags of chaff on the ‘Trap’.

Mail to Adelaide was sent via the ship Karratta once or twice per week. The Flinders Chase Mail run was also supposed to be a passenger service, but Jim did not take any passengers during his runs.

The animal skins were sold by auction in Adelaide for overseas buyers. Possum skins were for furs. The red furred skins were not as good as the blue furred ones [which were doe’s] and of better quality. Those which were damaged in the trapping process bought less money, there being six different quality gradings- so it was important to be skilful in the skinning of animals.

Wallaby skins were only for leather, and there was a set price of about 15 shillings per dozen. Possum skins were on average worth about four pounds per dozen.

It was expedient to be quickly into the early part of the trapping season when prices were higher because the prices fell as the season went on.

At one time Jim remembers the revenue being six pounds per dozen skins.

When the summer hot weather came, the possum’s skins were inferior whereas, in the winter they grew new fur, and the quality was good- thus the reason for camping out in cold conditions!

Harry Hansen would not allow any kangaroos to be hunted, but he was a reasonable man who trusted his hunters- if a Roo was caught in a snare and died, then it could be skinned. Sold by the pound weight, a Roo skin would be worth 6 to 8 shillings per skin and was solely used for leather.

For many years Jim engaged in hunting outside of Flinders Chase. In 1946, he was at Wheaton’s & Gerald Ayliffe’s at MacGillivray, in 1947/1948 Jim was trapping at Thomas’ place at Point Morrison, & in 1949 at Salt Lagoon which is at the head of American River near the YMCA corner.

Perce and Jim were not the last of the people to be commercial hunters in Flinders Chase. Jim left Kangaroo Island in 1930 for ten years. Perce Tiggemann stayed on at the Chase for one or two years after Jim.

There was no yakka gumming done in Flinders Chase that Jim can recall- George Lonzar would know this. No eucalyptus was distilled from Flinders Chase because the narrow leaf eucalyptus tree only grows on the eastern side of KI.

Traps and snare were checked every morning. Jim would find that some of the animals had choked, some disappeared and others had run away with the stick.

Occasionally there would be an echidna in the snares, in spring, up to 4 goannas would sometimes be caught-in the winter they would hibernate.

Jim always let the echidnas go. Sometimes they would burrow, buying themselves with the snare attached. Echidnas were then and are still plentiful on the Island but land clearing a had destroyed a lot.

Goannas were hard to handle, so Jim used to cut the snare and let them go - they would be ready to bite one!

Wallabies when snared, would be quickly killed by holding by the tail and back legs, the tail held up high so the head rested on the ground, then Jim would place his boot on the neck and pull to break its neck. Possums would be killed in the same way, but Jim first hit them with a ‘waddy’ to stun them.

Wallabies could be skinned as soon as they were killed, then placed in a haversack made from wheat bag and carried as a backpack back to camp. Wallaby skins were used for leather, so there was no need to worry about the fur- that is why they could be skinned the same day and then back at camp be pegged out on trees with nails. If there were no suitable trees, saplings were cut about 6 cm in diameter, these would be stood up on the ground to make a wall and the wallaby and possum skins were then nailed on.

Possums would not be skinned straight away because the fur comes out easily from warm flesh [7] So they were skinned the next day. Possums would be heaped up and covered with branches and leaves. Jim once had a blue doe possum skin which measured about 52 cm by 30 cm, pegged out skin nose to Tail. A buck possum had a red skin and was larger in size!

The carcasses were left to lie- if wild pigs were nearby, they would clean up the carcasses, if not the crows would help! There was then a vile smell from the dead and rotten carcasses. Jim said the wild pigs are still plentiful in the western end of the Island.

The Trappers carried pocket skinning knives plus a round carborundum sharpening stone about 7 ½ inches in diameter- the stone had one course side and one fine side for sharpening [Jim always carried two knives].

The Charlie Burgess & family were hunters in Flinders Chase long before Jim’s era- and they built a hut at West Bay. Jim Tiggemann found the hut again in 1984 after 57 years from when he first saw it.

The first hut was his fathers and is now just a heap of stones, Olive Bald would know the more of the burgess history. Old Mr Burgess left West Bay in about 1877 and before that his entire livelihood was by the sale of native fauna skins. ‘The Mars’ shipwreck refers to Charlie May and his son Bill as Wallaby trappers at Flinders Chase- Thus the Mays were also engaged in this occupation.

The revenue from Wallaby Skins brought higher profits in the earlier era than when Jim Tiggemann was a trapper. Mr Len Burgess who lives in Adelaide knows a lot about this activity. He is a different Burgess family to Olive Bald.

The Actual Wallaby or Possum snares involved the following structure:

  • Saplings were cut, such fork sticks were driven into the ground, [fairly loose]

  • The hemp snare was hung from it , about 18 inches [or lower]

  • It was placed on a wallaby pad [path]- because wallabies and possums use the same path

  • The animals would walk/ hop into the snare and get lassoed. The cunning animals would dislodge the snare -or would knock it out of the way. Wallabies are cunning and possums are not, so they are much easier to catch

  • Summer season is not good for snaring because the fork sticks are not easy to drive into hard ground and also the wallabies are more cunning in summer.

Jim stated that there were never really big profits in being a hunter- it was always a battle financially. In the summer Jim used to cut yacca gum or making eucalyptus oil, plus road making elsewhere on the Island.

[1] Note by G Chapman- it’s North East of ‘Long Water Hole’ & it was used to put the Cape Borda- Kingscote Telegraph line

[2] Shackle -western highway area

[3] Rocky River Homestead was already in existence when Charlie May shifted out to Rocky River- the May family added another room and laundry etc.

[4] Houses built by the Mays for William and Caroline May

[5] Actually, Charlie May sold the Chase to Duffield, Who then lost the lease to the Pender Bros due his loan expiring and then it was sub leased to Will Chapman until the huge bushfire of 1917/1918 wiped out all the fencing, farm buildings and stock.

[6] “Tot” Chapman [ proper name was Marsden Chapman]

[7] Possums have a simple defence mechanism- when grabbed by another animal or when fighting, the fur is quickly shedded. For an animal like dogs, it can cause the mouth to be clogged with fur, suffocating the dog.