Joe Murray -
associations thru my life and for sometime before .
Family connections Ö.Great Grand Pa drove horse teams for Cobb &
co, to and from White Cliffs Opal Fields. He then bought a change
station, where horses were exchanged when exhausted, passengers
had small breaks, food and accommodation was available . Expanding
he then purchased another 3-4. River traffic and eventually the
rail cut back business, so he sold. He purchased The Murchison
Hotel at Wilcannia on Darling around 1906.
Somehow a parcel of opal went missing in transit. He sold
the pub and bought a so called boarding house, in St Kilda
. It was next door to the Catholic Church, near the top of the
hill. The house had 20 odd so called housemaids, scuttlebutt says
it was a brothel. He befriended prominent business men of
. He is buried at Monsalvat Eltham. He lies beside Peter Lalour
prominent businessman, member of parliament, and one of the
instigators of the
uprising at Ballarat. Most of his children were borne around
Wilcannia according to birth certificates and registrations.
My Grand Father, Patrick and his wife Masie, owned a bush
block at Menindee, he was a blocky. Grew citrus and grapes out
behind the racecourse before retiring onto a house block in town.
Next to the old bush hospital, which was originally set up by the
Nuns. He was in residence when Burke & Wills came thru on the
out leg of their ill fated journey. It is said that he was
considered to be the Mayor of Meninndee. He threw the switch
turning on street lighting when it came. He is buried in Broken
My Father William [Bill] schooled in Meninndee, started his
working life as a telegraph boy in the post office, rose to clerk
and then left home on a posting to Cowra. Here he met his future
wife Lola McMahon from the northern rivers area, Casino, Grafton.
War was in progress and he desperately wanted to join up,
however a medical glitch made him unsuited. Eventually this was
overcome and he was accepted although the war was nearly over, I
was born in May 1946 at Cowra. We as a family were posted to
Townsville, Garbut air base. He worked mainly on crash tender
boats, which were on continual standby for unfortunate aircraft
flying to and from the north.
Around 1950 he took a posting to Woomera and went on his
own, there was no married quarters available. We arrived in 1952
after being staged at Casino on an uncles dairy farm for a year or
so and then to Granddads place at Menindee for another year or so.
Initiated into life on the Darling
I returned regularly to Menindee during holidays. One Uncle
had trucks and a fuel agency, two mail runs one down river the
other upriver, I went many times as off-sider, gate opener. He
also carted wool and did general freight from Broken Hill, sheep
and goats livestock. Construction of the water scheme Menindee
Lakes, The Tandou Project, Water Pipeline to Broken Hill kept him
busy and his sometime off-sider as keen as mustard.
Another Uncle had a news agency, general store, ice cream
shop. A couple of smaller mail runs to and from the trains. A
third Uncle operated a local taxi, and the fourth was dong a
bakery apprenticeship. Plenty of action in Menindee those days.
So at Woomera I was bought up on a 50/50 cocktail of
Darling River & Murray River water, mixed at Wentworth,
extracted then pumped from Morgan South Australia. The rivers were
in my veins.
on the river, fishing, yabbying, swimming and swinging were all
the go. Special things included helping to load water trains,
before the pipe line was built. On a hot day it was a special
treat, getting wet didnít matter. Also used to help the railway
workers often on a
Kalamazoo, pumping out to the yard limits to clean and refuel the
kerosene signal lights. When sheep were loaded the kids all got
into the act, pushing them up the ramps into the carriages, some
squatters rewarded the youngsters with ice creams and lollypops.
There was always someone to help on the days the Silver City Comet
passed thru. On Fridays there was a steam shopping train that ran
to Broken Hill, in some ways a better trip than driving the badly
corrugated road into The Hill. Locked away in the dog box
compartments, you and a few mates.
Woomera we swam in the rivers water, some say that you could still
smell the yabbies. I was also a mascot for a Woomera Rugby team
that played Broken Hill at the hill, and I was allowed to
accompany the drunks to the hill for their match. 500 mile each
way in the new FJ all dirt. Many punctures.
floods we were there water up to the back door, other high river
occurrences were witnessed. Wood cutting for firewood was a
popular occupation for local men.
left Woomera in 1958 we spent time at Menindee again amongst the
goats then pressed on to see mums family and relations at Casino.
Experienced flood, bush fires, and life on a dairy. After milking
and separating for butterfat our cream vats were transported to
the outside property cream box, by horse drawn skid. My father was
and thatís where he was until he arranged accommodation for his
family, at 417 Riversdale rd East Hawthorn.
block of shops and house that once stood here has since been
demolished. In their place stands the headquarters of Birds
Australia . During our occupation I went back to the river many
times , both by train to Mildura then up the river on the mail
truck or by air . From Melbourne To Broken Hill via Mildura on an
Ansett DC3 air coach service .
another posting this time to
, by now I had my own wheels and often shot across to Menindee for
no other reason than liking the place, and a few girls too. A
regular job I would get while there would be a trip to the ice
works at Broken Hill. Picking up a ton or more ice for all the
recreational campers at Sunset Strip, Coppie Hollow and Menindee.
trip was on the river. Starting at
on the Dumaresq, in a 14ft Canadian canoe I intended to paddle
right thru the river system to the
ís mouth. However this didnít work out. Alone, I experienced
at near fatal mistake that severely dented my confidence and
retired near Mungindi. I did witness some very interesting natural
history events on my water borne adventure. But was a little sad
to see many gill nets and set lines across the rivers in out of
the way places. Many had drowned fish and birds entrapped. I cut
after working for some years in Western Australia's Pilbara we
moved back to The Menindee Lakes to set up a wild life
photographic company, I was gob
smacked at the deterioration or mismanagement
of the river system and started to fight for its survival
then. It was not the place to set up a hopefully five star
international photographic camp.
worked as a grader driver on the Wentworth Shire doing maintenance
work up along the Darling and on The Greater Annabranch, meeting
and talking with many people to whom the River was their lives and
their Fathers before them .
I was severely ill and unemployable, many physical problems, and
suffered severe depression. While in La La Land I found
ornithologist John Nelson Hobbs, and as therapy I managed to get
erected a monument to him on the Murray River Bank at Dareton. He
was one of
Australia's, most highly regarded ornithologists (bird watcher).
The highest award for amateur birdoís in
is a gold struck medallion, called 'The John Hobbs Memorial
Medal', it is presented by Birds Australia to only one person,
once a year. He spent much
of his time up along the river observing and collating, recording
much of our early natural history. He is buried at Dareton with
his wife, a local Aboriginal Woman.
direct result of my
work a lovely old gentleman from off the river asked if I would
write his story. I did and Len Hippsley's 'Burtundy Weir on the
Darling River', 42 years of observations from Tulney Point via
Wentworth was born; 50 pages of fact, before computers.
believe that I know a little about The Darling, and I am willing
to share this with you, I will do whatever I can to help restore
as near as possible natural flows to the Darling, and all others
that we have pirated, there are many, , many, more.
Joe Murray - 'walkaboutjoe'