Breaking of the '50-'51 Drought

23 April 1915 The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser

(Per favor of the Hon. James Gormley.)

NO. 2.

Washing Sheep In The River.

In October, '50, the pinch of the previous summer and winter, with-out rain, began to be seriously felt.

The lagoons at Nangus, where we usually washed the sheep before shearing, were without water, so we washed the sheep in the river, which was very low.

The dust was so bad that the sheep, from the time they were washed until they were shorn, were folded at night in a bend of the river, where there were long tussocks of grass from the previous year's growth.

Paddocks Bare As Ploughed Fields.

 By mid-summer the frontages to the river were as bare of grass as a ploughed field. Out back there was abundance of kangaroo grass.

Kangaroo grass is a perannual, is deep rooted, and has a wonderful power of growing and keeping green in hot, dry weather, but it loses its nutriment when the frost sets in in the winter.

 Travelled Miles For Water.

The travelling from the river miles back for grass, and then back to the river for water, soon made cattle, horses and sheep so lean that so many perished, and the river banks were strewn with carcases of dead animals.

Out back the opposums and iguanas got so weak that they could not crawl up the trees, and died on the ground.

 First Cattle Sent To The Mountains.

Bill Edwards (Adelong Bill), who was managing Gillingroe Station, which was situated on the south side of the river, opposite Nangus, informing my father, that he intended to take a mob of cattle to the mountains at the head of Tarcutta Creek, so my father sent some of our stock with the Gellingroe cattle, and sent me with Adelong Bill to assist to drive the cattle to the hills.

We drove the stock for four days, and then turned them loose where, there was fairly good grass and a good supply of water.

As my two brothers and myself went gold-digging a few months afterwards, we never saw any of those cattle again.

Black Thursday Bush Fires.

The 7th February, 1851, was a memorable day in the Fort Philip district (Victoria), as well as the southern-part of New South Wales.

Over a considerable part of the southern districts, and in Port Phillip, where the country was only lightly stocked (and more particularly back from water), there was long grass, the growth of former years.

Bush fires started on the River Plenty, near Melbourne, early in February, on a day when the wind was blowing strongly from the south.

Flames Travel 40 Miles An Hour.

The fire was reported in one of the Melbourne papers of that time to have travelled 40 miles an hour.

Thousands of stock perished in the flames, homesteads were burned, and many persons went into the rivers up to their necks in water to get away from the flames.

I well remember that terrible day, for I was out back from the river with a companion, and we had to go thir-teen hours without water.

I pulled through fairly well, but my mate nearly perished. I heard the late Hon. George Day relate that it was so dark where he resided on Black Thursday that the fowls went to roost between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon. ' .

Drought Breaks In April And May.

I have previously stated that the drought of '50-'51 broke up with thunderstorms in April and May, similar to what we are now having in the southern part of this State.

O'brien's Creek A Banker.

 I have heard Joseph Cox state that in the autumn (probably April), when he was camped on O Brien's Creek, he one day went back to his homestead, Livingstone Gully, and had not Seen any indications that rain had fallen in the neighbourhood.

He found the creek at the homestead was perfectly dry. After a time his dog came to the house quite wet, so he went up the creek a short distance, and found that the creek had come down a banker, and filled the Water hole to within half a mile of the .house.

A similar, occurrence, took place at Nangus about the end of April.

On one part of the run we noticed that the cattle had not come to the river for water as usual, and on going back from the river about ten miles found the creeks had flooded by a heavy fall of rain.

Inches Of Rain In May.

 A general-break up of the drought did not take place, until about the middle of May, and then there came rain, rain, and that the country became so soft that it would bog a duck.

Tarcutta Creek Half-Mile Wide.

 In the beginning of June, my eldest brother, who was then 21 years of age, had two horse teams, carrying goods from Gundagai to Wagga.

He travelled on the south side of the river, and when he got to the Tarcutta Creek he found the stream about half a mile wide.

He had to camp on the bank for several days until the creek partially sub-sided, and when he did attempt to cross one of his companions was drowned, and the body was never recovered.

Wagga Streets Flooded.

 A flood came down the river about the same time as Tarcutta Creek was up.

The flood waters of the river and creek reached Wagga at the same time, and overflowed the banks, and came to the verandah of my sister's hotel, which was built at the corner of Fitsmaurice and Trail streets, now known as the Crown Corner.

Station Residences Inundated.

 A few days after the flood reached its highest point at Wagga my brother Thomas and myself came to Wagga, and brought a spare horse for our elder brother to ride back with us to our home at Gundagai, as we were then preparing to start to the newly-discovered gold-field in the Bathurst district.

All the stations from Gundagai to Wagga were then on the bank of the river, and houses mostly inside lagoons. Many of the residences had been inundated by the recent flood.

North Wagga A Lake.

The few houses then at North Wagga had been flooded. When we reached Wagga we hobbled our horses on the north bank, and a blackfellow took us to the south side in his bark canoe.

 (To be continued.)