1906 Legislators on tour

Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), Monday 5 February 1906, page 1




Kangaroo Island has been greatly blessed. Christened and described by that most accurate of chroniclers Flinders, it provided shelter for the pioneer colonists of South Australia. They gave to the place that historic interest which finds expression in monuments, carved stones, and entertaining reminiscences topped by tall yarns. All this makes for good advertising. The first settlement was on the "island." Mr. Menge, the premier mineralogist, cracked stones with his geologist's hammer in its rugged glens, and, as one early writer puts it, "lived on tobacco smoke and pancakes." The first cabbages produced in the State were grown on the island, and if the goats had not broken down the fence one night the plants, according to the same pioneer historian, would have been fit for the pigs in about-four years." But the soil and the cabbage have come to understand one another better in recent years. The "first" mulberry tree still bears its fruit in season, and the "earliest" grave is the Mecca of all visitors to Kingscote.

This sea-girt land has a past, and the oldest inhabitants continue to live on the memory of the bygone. They call it the "good old times," and impatient youth standing with screened eyes on the lofty peaks of Mount Hope impatiently retorts, "Look into the future. This place is going to move!" A few years ago the stranger came within the gates of the "old timers," tasted the fruits of field and sea, and, feeling refreshed after enjoying the salubrious climate, exclaimed, "Behold! this is a pleasant place." And straightway the t'othersider began living in the future. He sowed in faith, and has ever since confounded the prophets of evil with his abundant harvests.

After a century of somnolence Kangaroo Island is wide awake. The Rip. Van Winkles are beginning to stretch their limbs, rub their eyes, and yawn. By and by the hills will pulsate with life. There are a few more distinguishing facts. Rabbits and dingoes are as scarce as polar bears in the tropics. There is no doctor on the island and no undertaker, which is a simple statement of truth, and not mentioned because of any necessary relationship. Nobody ever gets ill, and it takes most residents a long time to die. Meanwhile there is a boom in cradles and perambulators, whilst little streams of immigrants from the mainland are pouring down gulf, and across straits.

And what is the explanation of this revival? Phosphates!

Legislators had heard a good deal about Hog Bay and its jetty. The four active members for the district saw to that. But members have been impressed with the reports of the agricultural expansion which have reached them, and so when it became necessary that the Commissioner of Crown Lands and the Surveyor-General should visit the country on official business a wish was expressed by legislators to go and see for themselves. The Minister, who thoroughly believes in members getting into the country as the quickest and best way of understanding the wants of settlers, cheerfully acquiesced, and the following gentlemen; left Glenelg by the steamer Governor Musgrave on Thursday evening:—The Speaker (Sir Jenkin Coles), the Treasurer (Hon. A. H. Peake), the Chief Secretary (Hon. A. A. Kirkpatrick), the Commissioner of Crown Lands (Hon. L. O'Loughlin, the Hon. A. R. Addison, the members for the district of Alexandra (Messrs. Blacker McDonald, Ritchie, and Tucker), and Messrs. Archibald, Miller, Pflaum, and Smeaton, M.P.'s, Mr. Strawbridge (the Surveyor-General), and Mr. Alfred Searcy (Assistant Clerk of the Assembly).

The programme included visits to Kingscote and the fixing of a beacon on a sand spit, American River, Hog Bay, as much of the country lying inland as could be inspected, and a visit to the property of the Kangaroo Island China Stone, and Clay Company.

—A Scheme for Closer Settlement.—

The greater portion of the land on the island has been held under pastoral lease, with the advent of artificial manures there is a demand for closer settlement, and lessees themselves want to clear their holdings and make the land ready for the plough. One of the objects of the official visit was to inspect certain areas lying about 20 miles at the back of Kingscote and to the south of the Hundreds of Menzies and Haines. The lessees, who have 37 years out of the 42 to run, offered to sell outright at 2/6 per acre, but the Government has no authority to conclude such a deal. It is therefore proposed to give the lessees a covenant of purchase lease for 20,000 acres in exchange for 70,000 acres, on which it is estimated from 50 to 60 families could be placed. This country was inspected, and judged to be equal to that from which wheat crops averaging two to three bags per acre have been taken this year. The scrub consists of light timber, and can be easily cleared. The soil is a light sand loam, and is easy to cultivate. The Surveyor-General remained at Kingscote, in order to continue the inspection, but it has been practically determined to carry out the scheme, and proclaim one or perhaps two new hundreds.

—An Official Statement.—

With reference to this, the Commissioner of Crown Lands has made the following statement:—"For some time past there has been an agitation to cut up land, but as it is all held under pastoral and agricultural leases it was not possible to deal with it. The pastoral leases do not permit holders to utilize their land for agricultural purposes, or to divide it into small holdings and transfer it. The country is not altogether adapted for pastoral purposes until the scrub is clear and a little cropping done. The owners of several leases, not satisfied with the present condition of affairs, have offered to give up about four-fifths of their property provided they get a covenant-of-purchase lease for the balance. If this is done the Government will cut up the other portions—about 70,000 acres—in blocks of from 500 to 1,000 acres. The country that we saw is of fair quality, and with the use of artificial manures should produce fair crops. It was let on pastoral lease, because the land was regarded as useless for any other purpose. Superphosphates have made all the difference. The bulk of the leases on the island, are pastoral, but the land we visited is easier of access than most parts. If this experience is a success we can continue it. Judging by last year's crops which we saw apparently useless land with good cultivation artificial manures has returned from two to three bags to the acre. there is never a drought on the island, but some times there is too much rain in the winter and spring to suit the wheat crops."

—Driving a Pile.—

Legislators were afforded an excellent object lesson of the useful work entrusted to the captain and crew of the Governor Musgrave. South Australia has an extensive coastline, and the duty of attending to lighthouses, buoys, and beacons, is entrusted by the Marine Board to Capt. Weir.

A 12 x 12 jarrah pile, 40 ft. long, had to be driven into a sandspit off Kingscote, and a guiding beacon fixed thereon. A strong breeze from the south-east brought along a choppy sea, which added to the difficulty of the task. The character of the work he is called upon to perform compels Capt. Weir to take his vessel across reefs and navigate her in shallow water. The bow of the Governor Musgrave was run on to the sand bar, and within an hour the substantial piece of timber had been forced 17 ft. into the sand, and the beacon fixed. The operation was performed by means of the hydraulic jet, a system first employed by Capt. Ede in sheetpiling the mouth of the Mississippi. An iron pipe, with a nozzle is fixed alongside the pile, and a stream of water is forced into it from the donkey engine. The jet of water digs the hole, and the weight of the timber, carries the pile down.

—China Stone and Clay Mine.—

Included in the itinerary was a visit to the china stone and clay mines, situated eight or nine miles from Hog Bay. The drive is across the Hundred of Dudley through, low scrub, consisting of broom, tea tree, and honeysuckle. The soil for the most part seems to be of ironstone formation, with a clay subsoil. Barley has been grown near Hog Bay for many years, and there is no apparent reason why agriculture cannot be extended indefinitely at this eastern end of the island. The first ploughing is said to have been done in these parts with a team of goats. A few years hence and traction engines will be at work. Messrs. Barnfield, Milne, and Kingsborough accompanied the legislators to the mine, and included among the visitors were Mr. W. E. Frazer, manager of the Bank of New South Wales, and Mr. Brisbin, from the United States. The company is working on 400 acres, and has the right to search over seven square miles of country.

The place was originally worked for tourmalines, but Mr Joseph Provis, the present manager, who had had experience in clay mines in Cornwall, discovered clay deposits which on analysis and practical tests have given wonderful results. Under the guidance of Mr. Provis the visitors inspected the shafts and dug out samples of white clay, felspar, mica, and silica. There is no doubt about the extensive deposits. To the casual observer the drives appear to be through solid beds of white clay. The company hope to do a large business in silica bricks; for which purpose the products of the mine are eminently suited. The clay is put through a crusher, consisting of two huge revolving stones, and from there the material passes through a grinder. It comes out as fine as flour, and is then ready for the potter.

The mill has been running continuously for three months. Several parcels have been dispatched to Sydney, and Mr. Provis was able to satisfy the curiosity of those present by exhibiting vases and crockeryware manufactured from the clay which he had mined.

The visitors were entertained at a capital luncheon, provided by Mesdames Provis, Wilson, Sow, and other ladies of the district, and the results of their efforts would have done credit to a first-class city hotel. Mr. Barnfield presided, and acknowledged a vote of thanks, carried at the instance of the Commissioner of Crown Lands who is also Minister of Mines. It was mentioned that Australia annually imports china, earthenware, and tiles to the value of a million sterling, and the company hopes to get a portion of this business in due course. At the instance of Mr. Tucker, the ladies were specially , thanked for their hospitality.

Legislators returned to their duties favourably impressed with all they had seen on Kangaroo Island. They sampled the fish, and found them excellent, and expressed surprise that fish should be so scarce and dear when city and suburban consumers want to buy. They visited the excellent fruit garden, at American River belonging to Mr. John Buick, and were able to realize that soil and climate are capable of producing fine apples and luscious peaches. On the jetties and in the fields members saw a fair quantity of wheat and parcels of yacca gum ready for shipment. The trip was thoroughly enjoyable, and provided an excellent object lesson of rural development in a hitherto neglected part of the State.

LEGISLATORS ON TOUR. (1906, February 5). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article200836505