Hundred of MacGillivray

Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), Saturday 14 March 1908, page 11




[VII. — By our Special Reporter.]

Directly to the south of Menzies is the newly created Hundred of MacGillivray, in which originated the scheme for the closer settlement of the island, and incidentally the forward movement which latterly has become increasingly apparent. The holders of the land prior to the innovation were Messrs. A .C. Burgess, J. Dewar, H. Ayris, C. A. Nelson, and A. H. Daw. In consideration of the surrender of their leases and the payment of a nominal amount these gentlemen were granted freehold properties aggregating in the whole many thousands of acres. The remainder of the land was then allotted, and sections of it are rapidly losing their original aspect.

— Roads—Good, Bad, and Indifferent.—

In this hundred I first learned how trying travel may become in a country where sand often predominates for miles at a stretch The main roads from Kingscote to Smith's Bay, Kinch's Station, and Sunnyside (on the Hog Bay route) are good. Elsewhere, however, they leave much to be desired, Indeed in some instances they are execrable, and test to the utmost the skill of riders and drivers. Two or three of the tracks in MacGillivray are solid, and afford a comfortable passage; but wherever the heavy, shifting sand holds sway only strong horses can proceed at a faster rate than a walk. The pair of steeds that a friend and myself drove were not particularly robust—the breeding was there but the bone was lacking and as a result, we spent many weary hours in plodding along at an exasperating snail's pace, annoyed almost beyond endurance by myriads of insatiable flies, and half-choked by dust which arose in clouds with each puff of wind. A still greater drawback to travel in this part of the island is the difficulty of finding one's way owing to the labyrinth of paths. There is not a sign-post to be seen anywhere, and generally it is not until the traveller has followed a track for several miles that he is able to ascertain whether he is on the right or the wrong one. As a body the residents of Kangaroo Island are most hospitable and to entertain visitors pleases them mightily. Adapting an appropriate line from Longfellow's "Evangaline":— "Every house is an inn, where all are welcomed and feasted." Yet they possess one failing, if such it may be termed. When they direct a stranger regarding the course he must pursue in order to reach a certain point, they are not so explicit as they might be. I mentioned this to kind old settler who had unwittingly misdirected me. Thereupon he expressed the opinion that I—not he—was to blame, and added, "You took the wrong track." That is the trouble every time. It sounds simple and easy enough to "follow the fence for a couple of miles, turn to the north, keep straight on for a mile, then turn to the right, then go along until you strike the cross roads. The left one will take you to Mr. —'s place." As I frequently discovered to my cost, a Kangaroo Island mile is approximately 50 per cent. more than the length of the ordinary English mile; the facts are overlooked that one is not an experienced bushman, and that there are probably three or four tracks to the right and a number of well used roads crossing the main thoroughfare. Furthermore, the settlers appear not to have any idea of the dispiriting effect which slow progression between interminable seas of undulating green has upon the mind of the city man. What they learn, however—as they invariably do—-that they have been responsible for one going astray, they are truly sorry, and console one with the advice that "you get accustomed to the geography after a time." No doubt as the inestimable boom to visitors will be raised at the principal "partings of the ways."

—An Industrious Fanner. —

White Lagoon, the farm of Mr. A. C. Burgess, is about 18 miles from Kingscote, and was the first at which l called during my peregrinations through MacGillivray. The homestead is perched upon the top of a knoll, and is surrounded by probably the finest land in the hundred. Mr. Burgess, who was born in Melbourne in 1858, arrived with his parents on Kangaroo Island 10 years later. After having spent five years at Cape Cassini, the family proceeded to West Bay. Then Mr. Burgess's father purchased Karatta Station, which was subsequently sold to Messrs. Stockdale & Taylor. Following that transaction, the family took up their residence at Glenelg, and Mr. Burgess engaged with his father in the fishing industry. The venture, however, was a failure and eventually was abandoned. Thereupon Mr. Burgess, jun. visited the eastern States and the Northern Territory, whence he returned to Kangaroo Island. Sealing claimed his attention for the next three years, after which (except for a short interval spent on Flinders Island) he was sheep-farming on St. Peter's Island for a similar period. In 1888 he secured several pastoral blocks at Mount Pleasant, and grazed sheep in conjunction with his brother. He entered into possession of White Lagoon in 1894, and under his management the property has made wonderful strides. The homestead comprises 3,500 acres, in addition to which Mr. Burgess has 1,300 acres at De Estra Bay, and 78 acres on the Cygnet River. Over 500 acres at White Lagoon are cleared, and about half are out under crop each year. Last season Mr. Burgess, who is a staunch adherent of the fallowing policy, reaped 900 bags of wheat, barley, and oats from 200 acres. The wheats sown were Gammer and Silver King, and the barley Sprat and Buck. All the farming implements are up to date, and the stock— 800 merino sheep, 20 draught and light horses, four cows, and a large array of poultry— always win the cordial praise of visitors. A short distance from the house is a vegetable garden, in which melons especially grow luxuriantly. Mr. Burgess has a most interesting personality, and an inexhaustible fund of reminiscences concerning the gold-digging and bushranging days in Victoria, the wreck of the brig Emily Smith, near to where the Loch Sloy went down, and the discovery of some of the bodies (he and his father found the two first washed ashore), and the habits and behaviour of seals. Several of the sea lions which he saw during his sealing operations were remarkably large. His most successful day's work as a sealer was when he shot 62 fur seals, the skins of which were valued at £1 each.

— Hawk's Nest.—

Twenty-four miles south of Kingscote and about a quarter of that distance from White Lagoon is the charmingly situated property owned by Messrs. A. H. Daw and G. A Nelson. It comprises 3,500 acres of freehold and 44 square miles of' leasehold. When Mr. Daw, who is the working partner, arrived on the estate three years ago only a few acres around the house was ready for cultivation. Now 600 acres are cleared, and each day sees that number increased. The balance of the country, with the exception of that covered by a corner of Murray's Lagoon — the largest sheet of stock water on the island — bears the usual low scrub, relieved in odd places by tall gumtrees. The soil varies from a rich red loam (interspersed with occasional patches of limestone) and black peat to a light sand. Last season Mr. Daw put in 250 acres of Lancefield malting barley, 100 acres of Silver King and Marshall's No. 3 wheats, and 50 acres of Calcutta, Cape, and Algerian oats for hay. The grain crops averaged two bags an acre, and on the best of the fallowed land Mr. Daw obtained 50 bags of barley off 10 acres, which had been drilled with bone super. This year's similar area will be placed under crop, and about 300 acres fallowed. Imported grasses, including Cocksfoot, Prairie, red English clover, and lucerne have done extremely well on the back flats near to the lake, as also have potatoes, mangolds, sorghum and onions. This, too, without any irrigation. A resident of Mount Gambier, who closely examined the soil, assured Mr Daw that it was equal to the south-eastern land for the production of potatoes and onions. Besides the area cleared for cultivation, there are 1,000 acres of fairly open country, well grassed and admirably suited for the grazing of sheep and cattle, of which Messrs. Daw & Nelson have 1,000 and 25 respectively. Of the former I saw scores of magnificent specimens feeding around the edge of the lake, where the receding water leaves exposed a luscious grass, which grows almost perceptibly. To observe that the horses are the best procurable one needs only to travel behind them. At present Mr. Daw has to cart all his produce, mostly over sand tracks, to the bight of Nepean Bay, 35 miles distant. Consequently he is wholly in sympathy with the proposal to construct a railway from Kingscote along the 'back-bone' of the island, and trusts that if it is sanctioned the line will pass within three or four miles of the Hawk's Nest. He and his partner have expended over £3,000 upon their property, but doubt if they will succeed to any noteworthy extent unless the iron steed should come to their assistance. That Mr. Daw will spare no effort to make the place renowned is certain. Enterprising, determined, and as strenuous a worker as could be desired, he sets his employes a grand example. When he invites a visitor to 'step inside' the homestead, he apologizes for its humble appearance; and meagre appointments. At the same time he mentions that within eighteen months he hopes to have "a proper house erected on that little hill over there." Then he dilates upon the possibilities of the land, and his own intentions and aspirations. Just below the proposed dwelling he has had planted walnut, apple, pear, and other fruit trees, and has an elaborate scheme of implement sheds and stables. After he has finished his day's work now he walks, rides, or drives to the lake, about a mile and a half away, has a swim, and, if so inclined, knocks over a few of the thousands of duck and other waterfowl which swarm in the waters. Messrs. Daw & Nelson own also 7,000 acres at Karatta on the south coast, about 50 miles from Kingscote. which they are preparing for the advent of the plough.

— At Pulcara. —

A journey of five miles from Hawk's Nest, through small scrub and brush, brings the traveller to Timber Creek (or Pulcara, as it. is now known) , the property of Mr. H. Ayris. This gentleman has over 3,000 acres of freehold land, the greater portion of which, he informed me, is of a sandy nature, with a little ironstone rubble and a yellow clay subsoil between 6 and 7 in. below the surface. Among the islanders ''Yacca" is the designation given to the country, on which the native grasstrees flourish in profusion. Although comparatively only a new arrival in this part of the island, Mr. Ayris has made gratifying progress, and is having built one of the finest stone dwellings within the boundaries of the Kingscote District Council. He has cleared something like 400 acres, and his crops last season were such as to strengthen his opinion of the potentialities of the soil. A small plot of ground which he sowed with white Spanish onions produced an average of 27 tons to the acre. Many of the tubers weighed half a pound, and other vegetables also grew to perfection.

— Modern Methods.—

After an hour's steady drive from Mr; Ayris's, the homestead on Birchmore, the estate of Mr. J. Dewar, of Millicent, appears at the bottom of a range of hills. Altogether there are 7,500 acres of freehold land, upon which the most modern principles are being brought to bear with a view to its utilization for farming and sheep raising. Mr. Dewar believes in moving with the times, and his two sturdy sons, who reside on the farm, are worthily supplying evidence of the advantages to be derived from that practice. Since about the beginning of 1905 they have cleared 300 acres, and on the day of my visit were scrubrolling with a traction engine (the first on the island), to which was attached a triangular contrivance made with railway rails. The latter ripped up roots and levelled broom bush— the principal difficulty in the way of successful clearing with the ordinary roller owing to the necessity of billhooking it when it does not break off, which happens nine times out of ten with remarkable ease, and should be even more effective after few minor improvements shall have been added to it. Subsequently a five-furrow stump jump plough was hitched to the rear of the engine, which rattled over some burnt country at a great pace, and turned up the soil in a thorough and clean manner. The farmers who witnessed the exhibition were delighted with the work performed, and prophesied that other similar engines would soon push their way through the virgin land. It is Mr. Dewar's intention to devote himself chiefly to woolgrowing, but he recognises that to enable the best results to be obtained the plough must precede the sheep. The initial crop of wheat put in by Mr. Dewar yielded between 15 and 16 bushels an acre, but the returns from the wheat, oats, and barley last season were not so good.

—Other Farmers.—

Recent settlers in the hundred are Messrs. A. Badman. T. Reed (who has several men scrub clearing), A. J. Robertson, Smith Brothers (whose homestead is just approaching completion), J. F. Kroger (who arrived about a month ago), and the Kangaroo Island Oil Company. Altogether 52 blocks were allotted, but the other successful applicants have not yet begun operations.

"KANGAROO ISLAND." The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929) 14 March 1908: 11. Web.

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