The Warrah washpool. Newspaper report.

This was published in the

The Maitland Mercury.


Thusday, 2nd November, 1871.


From the travelling reporter of the "Town and Country Journal".


They reported on "Warrah estate", mainly about the washpool and shearing shed.


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The water is obtained here by damming back Warrah Creek with a rampart of earth a quarter of a mile long, by which means a large area of rather shallow and also rather hard water is secured, from which Appold's eighteen-inch centrifugal pump raises a powerful stream, the barrel being inserted in a slabbed well alongside the dam. The whole plant is exceedingly neat, complete and arranged on the square where the pump at the further end of the engine shed is discharging into the reservoir from which it descends by eight spouts underneath, where sixteen men wash 1400 to 1500 sheep a day. The men stand in metal tubs, and are encased in water proof sacks coming down over the tubs at either end of each spout. The jet has about seven feet of a fall from the surface of the reservoir to the sheep's back, the reservoir capacity being 5000 gallons, filled by the pump in forty-five seconds.


A long supply tank at right angles to the reservoir conducts water to the two boilers bedded in earth in the foreground, which are just equal to filling the soak-tank with a judicous mixture of soap, caustic soda, and water, at 110 degrees, renewable four times a-day, and assisted and maintained at that figure by two hot water tanks standing alongside the engine shed. The engine is a sixteen horse-power locomotive one, of Clayton and Shnttleworth's, has been working four years without standing in need of any repairs, while another of twenty horsepower has not as yet been unpacked.


The sheep are brought in from the paddocks, mostly west of Warrah Ridge, and some flocks come twenty-five and twenty-eight miles, till they near the pool, where temporary lanes of hurdles stock in circular form, lead by round about ways to the catch pens, decoy sheep being placed in the inner cirde to draw them round. From the raised and battened platform, Ah Moy, the celestial, bang up above on the left hand shoots each individual and helpless woolly one stem foremost into the soak tank, where they are well ducked in the forbidding mixture, and gradually passed on and upstairs to the balcony, alongside the reservoir, whence they descend into cold water, and are rolled and turned over by the washers under the spouts, A battened incline leads up again out of the cold water by which the sheep, rather short of breath, but with an impressive air of resignation on their wise countenances, ascend out of the water, assisted in the case of the weaker and more exhausted vessels, by a man armed with a T instrument resembling a small broom without bristles. His sheep, after a pause to recover breath, and shake some of the water out of their wool, walk slowly up the battened and railed incline on the right to the drying-yards, where, three or four feet above the ground, on a well battened floor, they stand and drip for twenty-four hours, after which they descend to yards coarsely paved with river shingle, and ruminate for another twenty four hours, they then march four miles to the woolshed, where they are summoned to deliver up the result of a years work to the shearer.


Items of detail are as follow, Reservoir thirty two by four by four, equal to 5000 gallons, filled in three-quarters of a minute by the engine, with a fifty-pound pressure, supply-tank, thirty by three by three, two egg boilers, equal to 2000 gallons, and just filling the soak-tank, which is sixteen by four by four, with swing gates in perforation, and converging to a swim twenty feet long by sixteen inches wide, rather narrow for ram's horns, which occasionally jam and drown the ram. The soak tank has a dry channel in iron on either side for men to stand in handy and conduct the sheep. The engine, besides working the great pump, and keeping the hot water tanks supplied, drives a small pump for sprinkling the dry fleeces by a hose previous to their falling into the soak tank. When not thus engaged, it drives a circular saw, and bores battens for wire fencing, half the run being now fenced with five and six wire fencing, with and without top rail. Six of the eight spouts are regulated by the thumb-screw, the defect in which, is that it breaks the jet, but the other two are adjusted by a parallel lever bar, which, by being on the outside of the spout, permits an uninterrupted fall from end to end, a much better arrangement The capital drying yards measure 200 by 75 feet, the engine shed is 66 feet by 16 feet, the pump well is eight feet square. The washpool has been two years in operation in this form, but this is the fourth year of washing. Most of the ironwork is by Rodgers, of Newcastle. There are forty men now at work at the washpool, wages being 3s and 4s a day according to the kind of occupation done.


The woolshed, which stands on rising ground close behind the head station at East Warrah, is not remarkable for size or pretension, but it is a cool serviceable shed, well-built, and has a good roomy, shearing floor. Thirty pair of shears undressing thirty fleecebearers, make a busy scene, an average of fifteen minutes of rapid clipping elapses, when one by one each shearer come to the perpendicular from a bent position, beginning with the smartest (but not always the best, therefore) and ending with the young beginner or the tortoise, and each sheep gets up a little puzzled at the situation and loss of his coat, and slips about the floor seeking a way out. If his understanding is weak he gets among the men's legs, when he receives prompt directions by the head, accompanied by a lack at the opposite extremity, after which, in the ordinary language of bush direction, " he can't miss it." Shorn sheep join unshorn sheep in the corridor surrouding the shearing floor, until all are shorn, when Mr Thompson calls the tally, and each shearer, answering to his name, tells the number he has shorn -" John Smith, eight, Thomas Smith, seven, William Smith, nine, James Smith, six Robert Smith, seven, Morgan, ten, McRae eleven-"-and so on All the names being called, Mr Thompson stands by the gate to count the sheep as they pass away to grass if the nmmber counted corresponds to the sum of the tally the account is correct, if not the counting has to be done again.


Each fleece is removed to the sorting table as it falls from the sheeps back, and classified, while locks and pieces are swept up, accidents, however, will happen with the best regulated shears, but when a spot of red blood appears, "wash” is ordered, and an active free-and-easy youth, looking as if he wanted it, strolls up and dabs a small brush on the spot from a healing mixture held in his left hand, and retires tunefully. There are no less than thirty bins for classification of the wool, which is divided into first, second, and third clothing, first and second combing, super, locks and pieces, skirts and black wool, of which last there is about one bale every season.


The press is a good old rack and pinion, capable of turning out a dozen bales a day, averaging three hundredweight, and branded A.A. Co.


East of New Warrah, beside the woolshed, boasts the manager's residence, a very commodious and comfortable cottage about to be enlarged, also, shearers' barrack, store, stone stable, and out-buildings, and has a grand look-out upon the home plain dotted with cattle, and watered by Warrah Creek, beyond which rises the Pinnacle, crowned by a cairn, to which, by custom bound, I added two stones, and beyond this again tower the vaned heights of the Liverpool Range in the blue distance.


Old Warrah bears out its title well, looking old, abandoned, and forlorn. This, however, is not strictly correct, for I saw a blacksmith and two dogs in it , but Windy Point, or West Warrah, has a dense population of ducks, ten thousand being reported as riding at anchor on one dam. There are the overseer's cottage, store, huts, drafting yards,and large dam for watering sheep, which watering is extensively provided over the estate for in addition to several dams, there are wells sunk, eight of which are worked by horse whims, the wells worked thus are eight by ten feet, slabbed, and beside these there are several of smaller dimensions.


Two roads, by permission, traverse the property , the Great northern, with a toll bar near Willow Tree, on its eastern boundary, and another running through the centre lengthwise.


The Warrah staff consists of the following officers, superintendent of stock and stations, Mr S. A. Craik, sheep overseers, Messrs George Fairburn, R Hudson, J J Roberts, and J H Gamack. The hands now employed muster 270, as follow, general hands, 140, at the washpool, 40, at the shearing shed, 60, contractors 40.

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25.09 | 09:36

Absolutely delighted to come across a part of my direct ancestors history about which I knew very little and shall endeavour to find out more
Thank you Prof. A.

23.09 | 22:23

Very interesting Kelaher family history. Impressive number of trained nursing sisters. Jack lent the Copelands a cream horse, Playboy, in 1950's, ridden by Kate

09.09 | 17:58

Wonderfully informative. Thank goodness for Jane and John Atchison's work

06.09 | 14:33

I am Jack Kelaher and I am proud of my pop, dad and ancestors.

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