4. Work on the Island

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), Saturday 24 February 1906, page 44


(By Ethel A. Bates.)

Part 4.

The lives and work of the islander has little variation. The principal industry is that of barley-growing, for which the island is splendidly adapted. The yield ranges from 20 to 60 bushels per acre. Very little wheat-growing is done, although the new settlers are introducing it to a far greater degree. 

At one time eucalyptus factories flourished, and farmers were occupied in this money-making process between seeding and harvesting. This industry, whilst the oil could be disposed of at 1/8 to 1/6 per lb., was, to those who owned factories, a. veritable gold mine. However, these days are past; oil still continuing low in price, the factories are, with one or two exceptions, closed down, awaiting further deve-lopments. A plant for the manufacture of eucalyptus oil, as it in sometimes constructed here, is of most original design. First, two 400-gallon iron tanks are procured, the top is cut off, and a lid, bolted down on all sides, is substituted. Huge fire places with chimneys are scooped out, and on these the immense tanks are placed. Leading from the centre of the lids are 8-in. pipes, laid in troughs of galvanized iron. These continue for some yards; the pipe then leaves this trough and doubles back into the condensor, which is always kept full of cold water. At the end of this is the receiver for the eucalyptus. The leaves are cut, drawn, and pressed into the tanks very firmly; it is then about a quarter filled with water, the lid is placed on and screwed down, the fires are lighted, and soon the boiling process commences. When boiling the steam commences to run through the pipes; reaching the condensor, it is condensed, and before many minutes the oil is transferred to the receiver, where it awaits further treatment, that of refining. Whilst in its crude state it is very strong, and is generally whilst in this state used for medicine for horses, &c. A tank constitutes a still, and when the leaves are good they average 10 to 14 lb. of eucalyptus oil per still. 

On Kangaroo Island there is plenty of scope for yacca gummers, and this work is carried on to a great extent, as is also pig-farming. Recently an enthusiastic young fellow determined to try his luck in this line of life. He purchased a tract of country of the inferior sort and commenced operations. Fields of mangolds were planted, breeding sows were purchased, but this farm is now abandoned, whilst the spot is vaguely referred to as 'Never More,' the significance of which all will understand. 

I might here mention that the islanders have excelled most people as lovers of quaint names. Here we possess a selection glorying in the name of 'Frog More,' whilst another is marked on our maps and charts as 'More Pork.' However, we feel sure that you will unanimously agree that 'Never More' speaks more eloquently than any. 

Another island pig-farmer was equally as unfortunate as the one recorded above. He labored under the delusion that his large herd of swine were suffering from fever; consequently, without even giving the poor things time to utter a prayer, this pig-breeding novice summoned rifle men innumerable to his premises and instructed them to deal out death and desolation. The pigs were afterwards pronounced as not having possessed a trace of fever. With two such pathetic instances before them the islanders have now decided to abandon pig-farming. 

Sheep, dairy, and poultry are, however, well represented. The trapper at one time flourished, but, figuratively speaking, his day is done. Kangaroo and wallabies have either become extinct or decided that men of his type are not always to be trusted. The china clay mine is also a source of employment for many local young men; this is a going concern, and the islanders are looking to this to help them on to prosperity.

Yacca still, Kangaroo Island. SLSA [B 36521]  c. 1900
Eucalyptus still, Kangaroo Island. c.1900 SLSA [B 36522]