Gundagai, Report from the Interior

The Sydney Morning Herald

2 September 1844

Gundagai. August 28.

Since the date of my last communication the weather has been incessantly wet, and all the low lands of this district and the Tumut have been completely inundated.

The Murrumbidgee has been higher than we have seen it for two years past, and all the lagoons and inlets dependent on the river for a supply of water have been, and are, filled to overflowing.

All communication with Gundagai was, for a time, entirely cut off, save by the adoption of the Highland dress, and even sans calotte you were not sure of reaching the town in merchantable order.

A bird's eye view of the village on the evening of Thursday list, gave it the appearance of a pigmy ocean, studded with small islands, in the midst of which our Vulcan's forge rolled its dark column of smoke, and emitted its jets of bright flame, like a miniature volcano amid the waters.

Our innkeepers were very sensitive on the subject of their cellars, (for the traveller must remember that the publicans in Gundagai never adulterate - and in this age of counterfeits this is no "small beer" compliment.)

The surgeon was on the qui vive for resuscitatory cases, and low shoes were at a discount; but all passed off swimmingly by Monday.

The town, however, up to that period, was no pleasant residence for those afflicted with hydrophobia, or who, unlike the father of all shipbuilders, old Noah, were without an ark to remove their "hams," and other valuables.

I have not heard of any accident by the floods of any consequence; two men, however, were nearly drowned at Mr. Tooth's station, by the swamping of a canoe, neither of them could swim; but they were providentially driven in by an eddy to the bank, where they fortunately caught the branches of an overhanging oak, and were, with some difficulty, saved.

The Lower Murrumbidgee has latterly been scourged by a visitation in the shape of two armed and mounted villains, who have been committing several serious depredations, the last of which was a robbery at Mr. Oak's station, where they plundered the hut of fire-arms and one hundred rounds of ball cartridge, together with all the flour, tea, sugar, and tobacco, leaving the men totaly unprovided.

They have taken horses from one or two stations, and are now supposed to be en route for Adelaide. They are said to be two men who escaped from the Lachlan Border Police a short time since.

There were two troopers stationed down the river some time ago, but have been withdrawn, and all that part of the country is now without protection of any kind, and where a policeman is never seen but to deliver assessment papers.

But the Border Police say, "the powers that be," were not enrolled to protect the settlers, but to defend the "poor blacks" from the aggressions of the squatters.

But that it is the general impression here amongst us that the Border Police is in the "last agony" a petition would be go up to his Excellency to allow the removal of the force under our Commissioner to Gundagai; for the position it now and always has occupied is absurd in the extreme, being upon the boundary of location, and close to Yass, with a squatocracy extending or radiating from it in front, to the north and west, for 250 miles, whilst all one side and to the rear is within the boundary! Is not this ridiculous?

I have seen the letter of "Non Nobis Solum," in reference to my suggestions that the settlers should boil down their surplus stock themselves, and had he condescended to temperance in his style, or adopted arguments of a rational character, I would have endeavoured to convince him that he is not infallible, when he asserts that my suggestions are based on "farce" and "absurdity", and grounds that assertion on the important fact, that he saw a cask of tallow, winch "one of his neighbours" had "rendered down, (and evidently done in the most filthy manuer,) which contained "portions of skin, meat, and cartilaginous substances, with a proportion of maggots."

A most erudite reason truly for condemning the proposition of a system which is now universally gaining ground - he appears not to know that bags made of the skins, forms as good a receptacle for the tallow us casks, and saves carriage too; and as to butchering, he ought to know that an aboriginal can skin a beast in a style equal to any butcher from Smithfield - his letter is all Bunkum.

There is a gentleman in this neighbourhood now boiling down his own surplus fat stock, and the tallow is of first-rate quality- his average is about 23 lbs. per sheep, and the fat which he exhibited in Sydney was pronounced by "the trade" as equal to any they had ever seen - he employs the aboriginals; but has sufficient sense to keep the "skin, cartilaginous substances, and maggots" in their proper places.