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|Western Mail 17 july 1909 THE DOODLAKINE DISTRICT. ITS REMARKABLE PROGRESS AND PROSPECTS. (By Gifford Hall)|
YALKIN a wetter district.
In Connection with the Grazing of Stock on stubble-fallow, I was surprised to note that on 160 acres, partially stripped, Mrs. Cumming has grazed 140 head of sheep and four horses from December to date, selling 50 good lambs in March, and killing mutton as good as any I have tasted for some time. This is a fact that should be carefully noted, though allow- ance should be made for the early spring 'ing of greenstuff this "good" season. Yalkyn.
"Yaikyn" being my headquarters, I naturally looked over this fine place first. It is owned by Mrs. Cumming, whose guest I was, and it is worked by her eld- est son, Mr. Redmond Cumming. I could have found no more hospitable or busi- ness-like hostess, or headquarters so com- fortable. Indeed I owe to the happy, kindly Cumming family at large a very pleasant profitable week. The farm is three years olds 2,800 acres in extent, and has at present 300 acres under crop. The Cummings intend to eventually crop 500 acres, after clearing 1,500, and there aro 500 acres clear now, with 300 more fast coming to the plough for fallow. The house is a commodious, comfort- able grey granite building, upon the crest of a rise, and overlooks a vast sweep of bush and farm land. Mrs. Cum- ming may well be proud of it, and her selection of site. To the south, indeed, lies "a sea of Austral silence" that is literally a delight to one who looks on it in the hush of day dawn or twilight Mrs. Cumming has had her struggle, before the tide turned. She started "Yalkyn" on little but pure grit, living at first in quarters much less pretentious than those of to-day. Her watchwords have been "courage and tenacity," and while she is some years in advance through private resources, I have not a doubt but that ehe would have built "Yalkyn" somehow and some time through sheer force of character and will power.
I am glad to report that the "Yalkyn" crop compares well with the best crops of the district, evidencing good farming on the part of Mr. Cumming. The ploughing, I remark as excellent. Mr. Debigh, friend of the family and plough, man, knows his work. Besides his in- terest in "Yalkyn" as farmer of the land. Mr. Redmond Cumming holds 200 acres of first-class and 700 acres of grazing on his own account. Seeing that he con- verted 24, acres from bush to fallow in three weeks, and intends continued clear- ing. Mr. Cumming's outspoken faith in the country is pertinently backed. The Cummings have a number of horses, several cattle, a nice flock of sheep, and some pigs and poultry. They have planted an orchard and run a very [ tidy vegetable patch.
Early Days in South-East. Chat With Mrs. Kate Cumming, I am longing to revisit the south eastern district. I have not seen it since the early times, when nearly a lifetime ago my parents were among the earliest settlers there." So said Mrs. Kate Cumming, on Tuesday, to a representative of The Register, who sought her out and requested particulars concerning the fine enterprise shown by her father, the late Mr. Harry Jones.
Mrs. Cumming is staying at The Willard, Wakefield street, headquarters of the Woman's Christan Temperance Union, and is enjoying a reunion with, old friends in Adelaide after years spent away in the other States.
'The dry bones of the past' were galvanized into life on Tuesday, when Mrs. Kate Cumming grew reminiscent and recalled memories of the south-east, before the now well known stations of Binnum and Kybybolite were on the map. Frances, now a flourishing ~ pastoral center, was named after Mrs. Cummings's mother, but when she first remembered the locality of residences there were none, and gum trees and scrub provided a veritable bush land. Her father, a newcomer from England, conceived the idea of opening up that wilderness and converting it into pastures. To that intrepid pioneer's far sightedness and energy this district owes much, and his daughter has every reason for the obvious reverence she shows for his memory.
Mrs. Cumming hails from a race remarkable for longevity, as is happily illustrated in her own case. A tall, well-set-up figure, with fair colouring and youthful face, one would never estimate her age to be more than 60. Yet she openly confesses to being in her seventieth year. 'Though I certainly don't feel it, ' observed the subject of this Chat, 'so much of my life was spent on my father's stations, out in the open air, and away from the jar and fret of so-called civilization, that Time seems to have dealt leniently with me.'
Blazing the Trail.
This led the conversation to early times, and Mrs. Cumming said her father, Harry Jones, came out from Shrewsbury, England, in 1842, in the 'ship Lightning, with his brother, Derwas. Harry held an important post in his father's privately owned Bank of Shrewsbury, but he tired of such a cut-and-dried existence, and pined for adventure. 'He certainly got it, later on, in Australia,' observed the daughter reflectively.
My grandfather, realizing that he could not keep his boys tied to his. apron strings, wisely gave them their portion of the estate, and let ;hem go. My father often told me that tie was sure he inherited his love of adventure from a notable ancestor, Sir Harry Goring (one of my own sons has us name), who fought zealously for England in the seventeenth century. Having taken up land in Victoria, father put up a brave fight against new climatic conditions, almost impenetrable forests, menacing aborigines, and primitive living facilities. To two 'gently' nurtured Englishmen such experiences must have been awful, and they won through, and eventually decided to widen their horizon by exploring the Western district of Victoria. This finally brought them across the border into South Australia. In Victoria they were absolutely the first white men to hew a clearing in the Kilmore district, and rounded a station there, successfully breeding stock and cultivating that virgin country. Looking round at station life to day, went on Mrs. Cumming, 'it seems to me in the words of the quotation that there were giants on the earth in those days.
Two years after the Kilmorees establishment, father and uncle Derwas went on another exploration, covering the whole of the western district near Mount Arreplese, and journeying through Colerame into South Australia. Two drovers accompanied them, to assist in the difficult task of conveying 400 cattle, 40 horses, and 1.000 sheep into new territory. People thought is a mad venture at the time, but, later on, realized the method in that madness. Horsemanship and Aborigines. Mrs. Cumming said that the expedition came, out into territory now known as Frances, but in those times was called Cadnite, on account of its lake. Subsequently the present name of Frances was bestowed by its present owner, in honour of his fiancÚ, Frances Caton, in England.
In 1857 Mr. Jones paid a return visit to his homeland, and married Miss Caton. They at once returned to Australia, and landed at Melbourne, where Mrs Cumming was born. When she was three months old they journeyed in stages to Binnum, where the family resided for 17 years, taking a pride and watching the growth and development of that district. Some of the finest horseflesh in Australia came from Binnum, and that station owner in his love for a good mount found a kindred spirit in his eldest daughter, Kate.
Directly a specially spirited horse would be broken in, Mr. Jones would say, aside to Kate, 'Put your habit under your pillow, and get up at daylight. You are going to ride a splendid colt to-morrow.' Mrs. Cumming said she would never forget those early morning rides, and the joy of gradually mastering a fiery tempered mount. Her mother was never allowed to know of such expeditions, for she would naturally have been very anxious and with good cause, for Kate would ride anything, and did not know the name of fear. 'Have you had many thrilling adventures?' enquired the interviewer. 'Naturally one does not come unscathed through such experiences as we had,' was the_ reply. 'But a few scratches from an accident never kept me long an invalid. But father had one close call. He was camping out at Frances, with only a little dog for company, and. he had been warned that the blacks were resentful of the white man's intrusion upon their land. Suddenly the dog gave a growl, but father thought it was on account of some native animal. A seeond time the dog growled, and then, seeing that his master would not realize his peril, that sagacious creature barked right into his ear. Of course, father jumped up then, just in time to see a huge aborigine poising his spear to kill him. ' He succeeded in frightening the blackfellow away without doing him injury- and the happy upshot of that was a life-long friendship. The very man who strove to kill father even tually entertained his little daughter by making' tiny spears for her to play with. Helping the Natives. 'Both my parents were very fond of the natives,' proceeded Mrs. Cummin 'and whenever they were ill they went lo mother for help. Once when father was riding after cattle at Cadnite he came * across a deserted native camp. There were signs of sudden flight: probably a hostile tribe had appeared. Piles of frogs lay beside the still-smoking camp fire, and had been taken out of the lake, and were all ready to be cooked. Father was just going to ride on when he heard the crying, of a child. Entering a wurlie he saw a baby just able to toddle, which had evidently been overlooked in the hasty exodus. This little boy was conveyed to the station, and lived there for the remainder of his life. The blacks ' were good workers, and were invaluable in making brush fences, which were so much used in those days. As a proof of the sterling qualities of the pure-bred aborigine,' continued this interesting raconteur, 'we had a boy named Jimmy Tarpot, who used to put the sheep into the shed at shearing time. He showed such aptitude that Mr. Hawarth, a well known woolclasser, took him in hand, and, as a result, Jimmy became the woolclasser for the whole district. Speaking of the natives recalls a case that suggests modern spiritualism. When the boy Billy, whom my father had discovered in the deserted camp, grew up, he married a native girl (Jenny) who worked for us. She died, and later Billy was taken ill. Cold winters and civilization combined proved too much for many of the blacks. My mother used to nurse them devotedly. When Jimmy was dying he suddenly sat up, extended his arms to the doorway, and exclaimed 'Yes, Jenny, I am coming!' and so passed to his last sleep in sure faith of an eternal union with his loved wife.
Mrs. Cumming said she could go on at great length with such reminiscences, but realized that space was limited. Reverses came, and Binnum had to be sold. Then Mr. Jones retired from station activities and went to live at Robe. A monument to his artistry is still to be seen in that lovely old home Karratta which he built as a private residence on the cliffs, and which he subsequently let for a term as the viceregal residence. It was one of the finest mansions in the south-east. The Mummified Blackfellow. 'What about Kybybolite Station?' was asked. 'That was founded by my uncle, Heighway Jones,' said the niece, and was a remarkably fine property before it was cut up. Before leaving the topic of this Narracoorte district, she continued, 'it may be topical to mention the famous blackfellow that was discovered in the caves, and was allegedly stolen by American visitors, conveyed to New York, and shown all through the States. That is all fabrication, as you will learn. Uncle Derwas was very keen on the caves, and declared that the lime stone formation suggested great subter ranean possibilities. So he took lanterns and lamps and ventured into unknown depths, and thus was the original discoverer of the now-familiar caves He came across the body of the dead aborigine, who had evidently crawled into a cave to die, and was so impressed witi the historic value of that naturally mum mified corpse,- lying as though still alive, that he was instrumental in having an iron cage erected to protect it from vandalism. But those Americans succeeded in obtaining possession of the body, and got it safely to daylight. Then Nemesis overtook them, for the sudden transit from the damp, dark cave into the open air caused that shell to crumble practically into dust, and their unprincipled theft was useless.' Mrs. Cumming grew reminiscent about the old days when Robe was one of the busiest spots in the south-east. Many notable families dwelt there, entertaining was done on a lavish scale, and when a 3all was to be given an orchestra would be engaged to come from Adelaide. Festi vities at Karratta were lightly touched on, and the open-handed hospitality of Mr. Jones was unconsciously revealed. For example, he was a keen fisherman, having his. own boat, and when he returned from, a day's -pleasuring on the briny his full nets were always at the disposal of the people. One day those nets disappeared from their moorings, and after a search all over the bay they were found full of sharks. The trophy v^s safely brought to 'land, and attracted much local excitement; particularly as one specimen measured 16 feet. After some years spent at Robe the family took a trip to England. Then Mrs. Cumming returned to Australia, and went to stay with a married 'sister, Mrs. Bewer, on the Lachlan (N.S.W.). There she met Mr. Charlie Cumming, and was married. Later, a return visit was paid to South Australia, and then the wanderer settled in Western Australia, in order to be near her daugh ter. Her- father returned to his native land, and - died there in his seventieth year. : . ? ' ? 'China Tea!' 'As I chat,' observed Mrs. Cumming, 'memory plays me an odd trick. .For my mind goes back to a nasty experience that befel Uncle Derwas. In those primitive days the overland route was a trying ordeal to the unseasoned traveller, such as the Chinamen, who banned from entry into Victoria used to land at Robe and walk across the Coorong to Ade laide. It used to be a great sight for us to watch the new arrivals sitting cr. the sea shore at Robe, using their chopsticks at an al fresco meal, and chattering away in their weird tongue. Now to link up Uncle Derwas and the wanderers. He was travelling citywards about a claim, and my aunt accompanied him, for women pioneers prided them selves upon enduring hardships with their men. At the Two Wells stop, camp was made, and the billy boiled. But a strange looking scum appeared on the surface of the liquid, and auntie refused to drink it. Uncle merely laughed, declaring the quaint taste must arise from the salbsur roundings. For the next billy-boiling, auntie explored the second well, and re turned with a white face. ' She had found the feet of a Chinaman sticking up behind the well. Uncle Derwas told me after wards that he spent a most uncomfortable day, hating all yellow men, and trying not to think of his genuine 'China tea!'' A Gallant Family. In reply to the query. Mrs. Cumming said the family had numbered five three sons and two daughters and there were six grandchildren. But two of her boys had fallen at the Great War, and the third had narrow escapes in his transport work.
The eldest son. Capt. Redmond Cumming. of the 14th Battalion, was at the landing at Gallipoli, and then went on to France, being wounded at Noreiul. For two years he was a prisoner of war in Germany, and ' eventually died from effects of wounds, two years after returning to Australia.
The second son, Capt. Derwas Goring Cumming, M.C, proved worthy of the traditions of his ancestor, Lord Goring, and won distinctions in battle, making the supreme sacrifice at Villers-Brettoneux, in 1918. The third son, Caton, was occupied with transport duties during the war, and is now chief officer with the P. & O. Company. Of the two daughters, Mrs. Elsie Bates is a widow, resident in Western Australia, and Miss Laura Cumming has gone to England on a visit to her father's and mother's people. 'Your wife looks stunning to-night. Her gown is a poem!' 'What do you mean, poem?' replied the struggling author. 'That gown in two poems and a short story.'
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updated 8th July 2011