Mail Carrying

Mail Carrying in the Early Days.


Our Hog Bay correspondent has forwarded us a quantity of information with reference to mail-carrying on the Island in the early days from which we extract the following : —

' Mr Christie, who was recently referred to as having been the first to carry the mail on the Island, carried the first mail overland on the first Saturday in April, 1871, which gives 37 years and not 38 as stated in the Courier of August 8 of this year. Mr Harry Bates, of Penneshaw, had, however, carried the mail over land for two years previous to the date above-named. He used a horse called Champion purchased from the Messrs M. and C. Calnan of (at that time) Kingscote. This was one of Calnans' dark bay horses, with black points, and as hard as it is possible to find them. All the old Kiugscoteites will remember this very hardy class of horse that the Calnans had in those far away days. This horse has carried Mr Bates from Rocky River to Hog Bay in one day, and this will give one an idea of the stamp of animal they used to breed on the Island then. Perhaps some will recollect a cartoon that appeared in a comic paper— the Lantern — representing the contractor and his man getting the mail over by a kite during west winds. The kite and mail were being wound in by a horse ; the horseworks were represented as being rigged upwhere the Penneshaw Hotel now stands.

' Owing to the Government having given a lot of very high prices in the North for mail contracts a lot of noise was made in the house by members and it was decided by the Government, at the expiration of 12 months, to give all the contractors in the colony three months' notice of cancellation. At this juncture Mr W. Lyall 'took on' the Island mail in 1871. Mr Bates, however, had been mail-carrying 15 months' previous to this, And he came-on again iu 1877.

'Prior to 1870 the mails were conveyed by Mr Alexander Christie between Talisker Mines, Cape Jervis and Hog Bay once a fortnight in a small whaleboat. The Hog Bay Post Office was just across the road from the residence of Mr Harry Bates. A few years later, however, owing to steps taken by the late Mr E. S. Bates Senr., Mr Harry Bates, Mr G. J. Bates, and Messrs George Woolard and George Lewis a mail was secured to Cygnet River once a fortnight. Mr Harry Bates was approached as to what he would do the service for — first from Hog Bay overland, second from Talisker, Hog Bay and Cygnet River. Mr Bates' offer was £98 a year from Talisker and the work was given to him for three years. At that time no person had ever travelled overland from Mount Tisby to Cygnet River. They always went round the river, by way of Mr John Buick's or else swam the river and this Mr Bates did more than once—that is swimming the horse over. Mr Bates started with the first mail overland on the first Sunday in January 1870 and he claims to be the only man who has done the journey right through from Talisker. He lived at Cape Jervis and the Talisker Mine was 6 miles away. It was his custom to be up and away by 6.30 on Saturday mornings, walking the six miles to Talisker; he would leave Talisker at 8.30 and walk back to the Cape where his brother (Mr E. S. Bates) would have the boat ready for a start. They would then have to 'battle' to Hog Bay, rain or shine. After sorting the mail at Hog Bay (which usually took 1½ hours) Mr Harry Bates would get his horse and travel overland with the mail. To stand this task for years showed that Mr Bates was made of good strong material.

"The mails, made up in a bag at the Cape, were marked Cape Jervis and Hog Bay. They were sortd at Hog Bay and put in a bag marked Hog Bay and Cygnet River. At Hog Bay they were again sorted and placed in a bag marked Cygnet River and Kingscote. Finding this method slow and cumbersome and the cause of loss of much valuable time Mr Bates, on the 26th April, 1878, pointed this out to the P.M.G. and asked that the bags be made up as follows at Cape Jervis : One bag Cape Jervis and Hog Bay, one bag Cape Jervis and Cygnet River, and one bag Cape Jervis and Kingscote direct. This was assented to on May 1, 1878, and thereby a saving of three hours' time in transit was effected. All Mr Bates had to do was to deliver the bag and pick up what was called a road bag. These were the first mails carried direct to Kingscote."

Mail Carrying in the Early Days. (1908, August 29). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 2.
HOG BAY NOTES. (1908, July 25). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 3.