News from the Interior - Gundagai
The Sydney Morning Herald
29 July 1844
We dwellers in "a far off land," hail with intense satisfaction the weekly arrival of Her Majesty's mail, which puts us in possession of your valuable journal, and enables us of the "back woods" to throw off for a time the monotonous tedium of a bush life, and enter by sympathy into all the busy scenes of the stirring world beyond us, and of which we appear but as "things a part."
With more than ordinary interest we turn to the perusal of those portions of your columns headed, "News from the Interior," and wherein we find the transactions of nearly every district in the colony regularly noted down, together with all the more serious business of its social and moral condition descanted upon.
It has long been matter of surprise here, that no correspondent has been found to represent the state of this extensive, populous, and highly interesting neighbourhood, and with the exception of flourishing as the superscription of the numerous communications and newspapers which weekly are deposited in our post office, Gundagai is scarcely known at all.
Be it for me to raise the veil which has so long hidden the dawning merits and rising advantages of our little village.
Situate on the immediate bank of the beautiful river the Murrumbidgee, and the halfway house, as it were, betwixt Melbourne and Sydney, the high road to which places runs directly through the centre of the town, and in the midst of one of the most extensive and respectable grazing districts of New South Wales, Gundagai is from its position at once marked out as the site of a future large and flourishing inland town.
Many improvements have latterly been effected here and amongst the most beneficial to the district, we must mention the erection of a large punt upon the river, which plies at all hours, and has cost the proprietor, Mr Edward Norman, innkeeper of this town, no less a sum than betwixt four and five hundred pounds, and reflects the greatest credit upon his exertions for the public convenience.
Previous to its erection it was no uncommon occurrence for teams laden with wool or supplies, and flocks of fat sheep, to be detained either on the right or left bank of the Murrumbidgee for weeks, before they could effect a passage over the stream and when they did so, it was generally obtained at the risk or loss of the stock, and positive injury to the goods or wool by the application of the water.
The punt is capable of carrying an immense weight, and is admirably constructed.
Not one moment's delay is occasioned to travellers or teams, or fat stock, in passing this hitherto enormous obstacle to the free passage of the route to Sydney or Melbourne.
The tallow man has affected this district also, and drays conveying the valuable secretion are to be seen continually "plodding their weary way" to town.
On my return from Yass a few days since I met several, and I could not but imagine that the quality of their burden acts by attraction the unfortunate quadrupeds which drag them; or the owners of the boiling establishment have some unknown mode of extracting the tallow from the poor jades without destroying them, leaving them also to drag their fat and (on the score of economy to carry their own hides and horn to market: for such is a piteous deplorable set of animals as the working oxen eyes never beheld.
Truly, they were a paradox, for so lean that they could scarce crawl, yet were they overburdened with fat. Y
ou are an advocate for the boiling down, and so am I: so are all who have the good of the colony at heart, but, graziers must themselves put their shoulders to the wheel, or their ladle to the pot, and themselves boil down their surplus stock, on their own establishments.
The amount of work which can be done in this way by one pair of hands, and one small boiler capable of holding a score of sheep, is scarcely credible in the aggregate, and all the extra work, such as bringing wood and water, &c., could be done by two or three aborigines for the ofal.
The idea of driving fat stock 300 or 400 miles, and then expect them to "boil down" remuneratitively, is absurd in the extreme: for all persons of experience know, that the fatter the animal is, the worse he will bear a journey- it is only average cattle that can be brought to market in good order, and they are not fit to boil, though they out a respectable figure in a shambles.
Stock to boil should never be moved from their pasture, but to inter the coppers. This needs but a trial to convince anyone.
The profits derived from the present "public" system are too much in favour of the proprietor of the concern, rather than the owner of the cattle, and, as Sam Weller says, are not "at all ekal, Sir ."
Much inconvenience and loss is sustained by parties in this neighbourhood and district, from the fact of no Bench of Petty Sessions existing nearer than Yass, and the magistrates of that favoured locality seem to be inclined to play at “hide and seek” with all parties whom they may cite for appearance before them, and it is an everyday occurrence for porsons to be summoned to that Bench from a distance of 100 or 140 miles, and then to find there is no magistrate in attendance, not even he who has subpoenaed you. Why is this?
Yass boasts four resident magistrates, beside several in the immediate neighbourhood, and yet this shameful abuse of the time and purses of private parties is perpetrated. I have just returned from a fools errand of this kind.
A man gave up his sheep because I refused to give him money, as he was then in debt.
Relying on the samples of extrordinary judgment occasionally exhibited by their worships thereabouts, the man summoned me for non-payment of wages and breach of agreement; I appeared, but complainant did not, and if he had it mattered little - there was not a single magistrate in attendance, even he who summoned me was absent; I wished to take out a warrent for the fellow, but of course, from the same reasons, this could not be done: I was run to an expense of £2 3s , and had to take a man from the establishment as an evidence at a great inconvenience, and to rude 140 miles.
This is not a solitary case, it is a frequent occurrence.
There were men at the Court House on the day I appeared, who had summoned their employers, and whom I heard complaining of the hardness of the case as they had not 3s 6d. to obtain a fresh summons.
Now, gentlemen, will you oblige all parties hereabouts, and be good enough to say, whether, under these circumstances the aggrieved parties cannot recover their expenses from the J. P. who summonses them, in the event of his not attending, to hear the case?
This is a matter of some consequence to us now, for pounds shillings and pence are "but as things that were" in our remembrance; and yet even this is but trifling compared to the public injustice of such proceedings on the part of her Majesties’ justices of the peace.
All the inconvenience would be remedied by a court of petty sessions being established at the Tumut or where it ought strictly to be, namely in Gundagai.
Mr. De Salis, in this neighbourhood, has lately been sworn in as a magistrate of the territory; and if the commissioner of our district occupied his proper locality, which also is Gundagai, the district would have the blessing of a court at once established within it.
It is really too bad that an immense tract of thickly located country such as this is, should be without a magistrate to settle grievances and that parties should have their pockets picked by the carelessness and inattention of the Yass Bench.
The weather for a long period has been very wet and cold. The autumn was excessively arid and the plough was in consequence greatly retarded.
Many persons have not yet done wheat sowing, and should the summer set in rapidly and dry there will be but poor crops.
The stock have suffered much deterioration in condition from the inclemency of the weather and from the same cause the grass does not grow.
A labouring man, attempting to ford the Murrumbidgee a short time since at a place called the Sandy Falls was drawned: his body I believe has not been found; and as the river is swollen considerably it is probable the poor fellow's remains will never again be seen.
A fatal accident also occurred in Gundagai on Thursday week. A number of stockmen, under the influence of liquor were testing the speed of their horses and in passing Mr. Andrews's gate a dog ran out and crossing the passage of one of the animals the horse was thrown heavily to the ground his unfortunate rider fell with great violence on his head and the horse on his body, which he rolled over.
The man was immediately taken up but from the symptoms he exhibited it was evident to all that he had received a mortal injury.
Mr. Davison, surgeon, of Gundagai was in immediate attendance and the poor fellow was carried to Mr. Normans where he received every possible attention both from Mr. Davison as well as Mr. Norman and his friends but he never spoke again; he lingered until Friday night when he expired from the effects of concussion of the brain. From the time of the injury to his death he never spoke or exhibited any signs of consciousness.
The day before this occurred, a dray, laden with thirty-nine bushels of heavy wheat on its way to Mr. C. Tompson's station passed over the body of the driver, an assigned servant of that gentleman, and strange to say, without killing the man.
He was kicked down by one of the pole bullocks, and the wheel passed over his chest: he was much injured, but is doing well.