Cooplacurripa Cattle Droving

Cooplacurripa Cattle Droving


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The Gloucester Advocate (NSW : 1905 – 1954)  Fri 22 Jul 1932 Page 4 


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Written for the ‘Wingham Chronicle’


Article. No. 14.

Featured Image: Cattle Droving Photograph c. 1950s


I remember in the very early days a big mob of mixed cattle being shifted from Cooplacurripa Station to the Barwon. Mr. J. K. Mackay had a station out on the Barwon, and also owned Cooplacurripa at the same time. ‘Mercadool’ was the name of Mackay’s Station on the Barwon.

As far as I can recollect, it was either J J Gallagher or John Higgins who had charge of that mob of cattle. John Higgins is dead — died some years ago. He has two sons at Gloucester to-day — Thomas and J. R. Higgins. Mr. J. J. Gallagher is still in the land of the living and has extensive property interests at Krambach and Bundook. J. K. Mackay was a very fine general in selecting men to do his droving. He knew just what qualifications were required for a big job, and ‘ he also knew the men who were likely to possess those qualifications.

The mustering of this mob of cattle on Cooplacurripa Station took, some time — that is, the mob that was later started off for the Barwon. All hands were engaged in the. mustering, and J. K. Mackay superintended the whole job.

The cattle were all mustered into the home paddocks, and one morning early we left the station, find made for Nowendoc with the five hundred head. Mr. Mackay went with us. We went by way of Hungry Hill. Having arrived at ‘Nowendoc with the mob, we paddocked the cattle at night on Mr. Thomas Laurie’s station. Next morning early we moved off after breakfast, and stopped at RiaMukka. We paddocked the cattle there for the night and camped there ourselves. 1 might say that there were at least ten drovers with the mob up to this stage of the journey.

The Cooplacurripa Station hands accompanied the mob of cattle as far as Callaghan’s Swamp. We could not get a paddock’ for the cattle at Callaghan’s Swamp, so we picked out a camping place on a ridge that was thickly timbered. We made a fire all around the circle occupied by the mob of cattle. That was done so as if to have some safeguard, in the event of the cattle becoming frightened, and attempting to stampede.

We had to pitch our tents some distance from the place where the cattle were camped — at least some 500 yards away. Our camp was on the side of an adjoining ridge, overlooking the cattle camp. There were five stockmen left on watch, and they were to be replaced later on in the night. About midnight, the stockmen who were in their bunks were disturbed by men shouting and cattle bellowing.

The cattle had made a rush and were coming right towards our camp. They galloped right into the big tent and took everything before them. Joe Robinson got his rug as he was jumping out of his bunk hurriedly. He took the rug with him and got behind a tree. He waved the rug with the idea of frightening the stampeding mob, but he might just as well have waved his bootlace. One of the galloping cows took the rug on her horns, and she would have taken Joe Robinson with her also, had he come from behind the tree.

It took a week to re-muster the mob. Several of them were killed stone dead during the wild stampede. Others had their horns knocked to smithereens, and, generally speaking that night was one of the wildest — from a stampeding cattle standpoint — that I remember.

After the cattle had been duly mustered, another start was made for the station on the Barwon. I believe that at least one hundred head of cattle were lost in that mad stampede. Some, of course, were killed, as I have previously mentioned. It is interesting to note that, some years after, a number of those cattle that had been left, were got together by Mr. Fletcher, who owned Callaghan’s Swamp at that time. I think his name was William Fletcher, but I am not quite sure.

The remainder of the cattle were safely taken to the Barwon. Mackay had some fine cattle out on the Barwon those days.1 believe that the Mackays of to-day still own property out on the Barwon. It is great cattle country.

I was out there myself on one occasion.


Billy Corbett was a stockman on Cooplacurripa when I was there. He was also Manager on Giro Station. Billy was a good all-round horseman, and his wife and family were as kind-hearted and as hospitable as one would wish to strike after a hard day’s work in the saddle.

Billy Corbett, when I was on Giro, asked me once to go to Ben Lomond — the highest point on New England. We had to go there for three hundred bullocks for J. K. Mackay, of Cooplacurripa. Corbett was then Manager of Giro— which J. K. Mackay also owned at the time.

When Billy Corbett, John Sullivan, Reuben Homewood, and myself arrived at Ben Lomond, it was snowing hard. We had to stop |there three days. It did not take us long to get the cattle. J. K. Mackay came along the day before we started with the cattle, in order to inspect them. We started off, in due course, with the cattle, for Giro Station. It took us about a week to go from Ben Lomond with the cattle to Giro.

About every second night the bullocks. would make a rush. However, we were prepared for them, and did not lose a hoof. They were fine big Devon bullocks— amongst the best I ever clapped eyes on. They were ali four- and five-year-old bullocks.

I remember that on the journey to Giro, we were minding the bullocks on a reserve near Walcha. We had to make fires round them. Billy Corbett and Jack Sullivan had been on the “first watch.” They came off watch, and Reuben Homewood and myself went on. When we went on watch, the bullocks were all lying* down lovely. However, about half an hour after we had been there, the bullocks made a most determined ‘rush.’ Some of them came straight up to where I was sitting on my -horse. Reuben Homewood was on the side from where the cattle came up. The bullocks made straight towards the tent. We had the tent pitched in the fork of a l5tg tree, and that split the mob up considerably, with the result that the crush was not so bad as it would have been otherwise.

I gave a shout of warning that the bullocks were coming, and I was then driven straight ahead of the onrushing mob. Billy Corbett rushed out of the tent and climbed a sapling to safety. Jack Sullivan was not so lucky. In his haste to get to a place of safety, he made a rush, and the tent fell down on him. Neither Billy Corbett nor Sullivan were hurt, however.

So far as I was concerned, I rode ahead of the mob for fully half a mile. I got on to the road, where the cattle would eventually have to cross. It was a white road. When the bullocks came to a certain part of the road, I was there, and sang out at them. The result was that they stopped. The white road was the means of stopping them to a great extent. It is remarkable what will stop stampeding cattle at times. How simply they can be stopped. On the other hand, it is just as remarkable what will not stop them.


While I was on Giro Stations Mr. J. K. Mackay sent me to a cattle station then owned by a woman named Mrs. Wright. The station was located forty miles the other side of Armidale.

With me were station hands from Giro named Nicholas Marr and Jack Dodd. We left Giro Station early one morning on horseback. We also had two packhorses with us. It took us five

days to get to the station owned by Mrs. Wright. On the day following our arrival, we got to work early, and mustered the cattle we were after. There were about five hundred head of bally bullocks in the big paddock. They were Durham Crosses, and a splendid lot— but very wild. J. K. Mackay first of. all inspected the bullocks, and then instructed us to draft out three hundred that he was prepared to take. The Manager of the Station— I cannot now recollect his name — said to me, after the bullocks that J. K. Mackay wanted had been – drafted:

“Look here, you’ll want to be very careful with those bullocks when you are driving them on. There has never been a mob taken from this station yet that have not taken the gates with them.”

I might here state that there were a good many gates to pass through. However, I told the Station Manager that I was not frightened of them taking the gates with them— what I was a bit afraid of was a wild rush by the bullocks at night — when they might ‘take our lives with them.’ We got through the gates all right with the bullocks, though they were all pretty ‘flash’ and ‘touchy.’ The first night we managed to get a good yard for them. The next night we had to camp on a travelling stock reserve. It was not all fenced in, and we had to watch the bullocks all night.

The next night we came on to another travelling stock reserve. I remember that I was getting ‘done up’ for want of sleep, but I struck an old an old drover on the road. I said to him: “Do you want a job, Mate.” The old chap I replied: ‘My horses are poor, but I’ll take the job on.’ I then told him that I was ‘done up’ for want of sleep, and wanted him to go on watch over the bullocks that night.

After we had tea that night, I ‘turned in,’ and I had not been long in the bunk when I must have been dreaming. I suddenly jumped out of my bunk, and sang out: ‘Look out — here they come.’ Only for the old chap – George White — I would have fallen in the campfire. The bullocks were not coming at all. It was want of rest that had got on my nerves.

I might mention that up to the day before I picked up George White, I had a blackfellow with me. He had come along from Mrs. Wright’s station but had to go back. In fact, I coaxed him to stay a day longer with me than he really should have. This blackfellow was a splendid chap amongst cattle. He was a fine horseman, and as good amongst stock as two ordinary stock men.

We camped about twelve miles from Armidale another night with these bullocks. We camped on a fenced-in reserve but had to pay 5s for the use of it. That helped to pay for any damage that might be done to the fences.

We put the bullocks in just at dark, and I said to the chaps with me: “Now you go on up and pitch the tent, ‘hobble’ the horses out, and make a fire. I’ll ride round the fence and see if this reserve is secure.’ I did so.

When I returned, my mates had the billy boiling. I hobbled my horse, and just as I was having tea, we suddenly heard the bullocks ‘rushing.’ In that wild rush they knocked five panels of the stock reserve fence down. I ran out, got my horse, saddled him up, and jumped on him. I then followed the sound of the galloping bullocks.’ It was a drizzly wet night, but I could 1 hear, them galloping through the timbered country. The men caught their horses quickly, and followed me.

Before I caught the bullocks, they had galloped madly through a wire fence, and carried away about four or five panels. When they had done this, it is rather interesting to note that they had really got back into the same paddock they had in the first place stampeded from. They had gone round in a circle and struck another portion of the stock reserve on which they had- been placed in the first instance.

Here we held them till break of day. When we counted the bullocks next morning, I was two short. We looked well for those two bullocks but could not find them. Accordingly, we had to push on without them. We travelled right on that day to Armidale, where I got a paddock for the bullocks for the night.

Next morning another start was made, and that night we camped on a reserve near Uralla. There it started to snow, but we pushed on. Next night we camped on Salisbury’s Plain. It snowed all the way to Tia — four days. A man by the name of Brown owned Tia Station those days — his manager then was Sam Watts. He gave me a paddock to camp the bullocks in for a day or two till it stopped snowing. It snowed for nearly a week that time without stopping. When the snowstorm finished, we pushed on with the bullocks. We went through Nowendoc, down Hungry Hill, down to Giro Station, and there we | paddocked the bullocks for a week.

Then we started off with them for Dungog. We went through Gloucester, and on. We had no more trouble with those bullocks. We delivered them to J. K. Mackey at Dungog three short. One bullock had died, and. two had got away from us in one of the early stampedes.

This was one of the worst experiences I ever had in droving. My two drovers felt the excessive cold very much. So did I. I used to keep a bottle of brandy handy in case of it being required for medicinal purposes. Just prior to this a blackfellow had his jaws frozen for a week, and it was discovered that the only thing that would give relief was good brandy or rum that would bring the stringybark off a sapling. However, I found it very hard, to keep either brandy or rum. Both were medicines that were particularly popular in the early days. In fact, frozen jaws were numerous if it was known that the supply of ‘Torch Light Procession Rum’ — or ‘Chain Lightning’ Brandy were on the menu.