Lower Murrumbidgee News
The Sydney Morning Herald
17 February 1846
Lower Murrumbidgee, February 1.-
The want of rain is producing in this district the most serious consequences, hot winds and a continuously unclouded and scorching sunshine have withered and seared every green thing upon the flats and plains in the neighbourhood of the river, and on which our flocks and herds mainly depend for subsistance in the height of summer; whilst the bush fires have laid waste the ranges in every direction.
Nor is this worst result of the continued drought, the ponds of water which in the back country serve occasionally to maintain a couple of flocks of sheep, and enable the grazier to relieve, temporarily, that portion of his "run" situated upon, or commanding the river frontage are drying up, or have become unwholesome, and the removal of the stock to the river is a compulsory measure calculated to result in serious consequences to proprietors, lest hereby the main portions of their sheep walk becomes overstocked.
Should we have a dry winter, the egregious folly of the government in concentrating cattle and sheep within the narrowest possible limits will soon display itself, and hundreds of stations in the "back country" which now pay a license fee, will be abandoned.
It is a positive injustice to charge the grazier ten pounds for the occupancy of a water hole on his "back run" which no living soul beside himself could make any use of, and which, should dry weather (as at present) prevail, is useless even to the proprietor.
We think that if a man pays for the occupancy of pasture land to the extent of four, five, or six stations on the river or other permanent water, he is at least entitled freely to the use of the detached pond in his back land, for which he is indebted to a casual and providential fall of rain, and which is for half the year as likely to be a mere "water hole" as a hole of water.
Every grazier, large or small, should be allowed one station on every establishment to meet the exigency of a dry season or for change of pasture in case of disease, and for this he should not pay.
The attempt at concentration has been made during a good season, and after a repetition of years of fertility, but we must not forget the awful droughts from which we have suffered during bygone years; and should our flocks and herds be crowded together, and the windows of Heaven closes, upon us for two or three successive summers, (as has been the case,) and when there is no longer unoccupied country for the grazier to fly to with his starving and famishing stock, what will become of the argument in favour of "concentration ?"
What will become of the grazer? What will be the result to the whole country? I am aware that, to hint at the possession of land by the grazier, unless he pay the "utmost farthing "for the occupancy thereof, is sufficient to raise a clamour from the anti-pastoral faction, who cannot or will not distinguish betwixt an individual benefit and a public good, and who are too selfish and envious to give the graziers credit for any other feeling than that which stimulates to the possession of pounds, shillings, and pence; who would exult in their depression or misfortune, yet are nevertheless but too glad to fill their pockets from their un- tiling exertions.
The graziers form the most important member in our national body. Wound that member if you will, but be assured ye that inflict the injury, you will participate in the suffering. Many stockholders are becoming alarmed at the aspect of the skies, and if, as I said before, a dry winter ensues, not only will the argument in favour of "concentration" be falsified, but a deep and serious injury inflicted on the graziers, and in consequince the whole country.
A short time since a horseman was driving a fat bullock across the Murrumbidgee River, at Gundagai, and not being well acquainted with the ford, forced the beast into deep water, and I regret to say both man and horse were drowned in the attempt to follow. I have not heard the poor fellow's name or if his body was recovered.
A most distressing accident occurred by fire on the establishment of Mr. Charles Tompson, in this neighbourhood, about ten days since, which has resulted in a serious loss to that gentleman, his wool sheds, yards, and greatest portion of his harvest of the present year, having been reduced to ashes.
The fire broke out about one o'clock, p.m., just after the labourer employed in thrashing the wheat had left the shed to go to his dinner, and the only causes to which can be attributed this melancholy result are, that the man had either left a fire burning close to the wheat, and a spark had blown into it, or had deposited his pipe, containing burning tobacco, in the shed, and ignition of the straw had taken place.
This last supposition is most likely the correct one, for most labourers are addicted to the habit of smoking to excess, and so careless are they in the use of their pipes, that it is no uncommon thing to see their clothes on fire, in consequence of incautiously returning the lighted pipe from the mouth to the pocket.
There is no reason whatever to suppose an incendiary had done the deed, and little doubt remains but it was the result of gross carelessness in the man employed in thrashing. Smoking in stables, sheds, or barn, should be made a misdemeanour, and punishable by law, for really it is carried to such an excess by labouring men that accidents of the kind above noted are liable to occur continually, and many fires whose origin is never traced, doubtless have their existence in the careless use of the pipe.
The wheat crops on most places of the Murrumbidgee this year, have failed, and the loss to Mr. Tompson is consequently greater, as the expense of replacing it will be thereby increased.
Labour still continues scarce up here, and wages higher than at the commencement of the year.