1887. The big wet.

1887. The big wet.


1887 was a very wet year? 1886 was already wetter than average with nearly 30 inches of rain.


While Quirindi recorded over 1,000 mills in 1887, "Valais", on Warrah's south west corner received 1,350 mills, Blackville, on Warrahs western boundary received 1,150 mills. The only two months without big rain was September and October which would have greatly assisted at shearing time.



Warrahs shearing and wool shed.
Warrah's woolshed today. New full roof.






Since reporting to you in the 7th Ultimo we have had at various intervals 2.29 inches of rain, which brings the rainfall of the year up to 29.80 inches. The weather has been cool generally for the time of year, a hot sun, and cool south easterly winds having prevailed.


The surface water supply remains good, but little diminution having taken place in the tanks, and the creeks still continue to run into the paddocks adjoining the Southern boundary of the estate - Phillips Creeks supplies water to the stock from South to North, Yarramanbah to the centre of Emu Paddock, McDonald Creek to the upper paddock bearing its name, Millers Creek as far as Green Hill, Jacks Creek to Upper Harrisons, and Warrah and Borambil Creeks throughout the extent of the run. The only wells which we have found it necessary to use hitherto are Campions Island, St Helena, Parsons Hill, Round Island and Harrisons, and judging from the present state of the creeks and tanks I do not think we shall find it necessary to call many more of them into requisition for some considerable time to come.


The run, although wearing a rather brown appearance owing chiefly to the quantities of rubbish which have taken temporary possession of a large portion of it, still retains more than sufficient green grass for the present requirements of the stock depasturing upon it, and as a consequence everything, short of recent arrivals of cattle from Gloucester, is rolling in fat, in fact were the Company to require such a course, the whole of the sheep from the lambs upwards might be realized upon through the fat stock market.


Frequent attempts have been made, with indifferent success to destroy the thistles by burning, but later on, I feel sure, we shall be able to sweep them off by these means, provided the prospects of the season will be such as to warrant the destruction of grass which would necessarily follow, as regards this, however, we shall have to exercise caution.





Weather prospects have now ceased to be matter for consideration, as this must give us sufficient carrying capacity for 200,000 sheep, and I am getting anxious to see a purchase of up to 40,000 suitable wethers made. Store wethers of fattening ages are, however, almost unobtainable just now, unless at prices admitting of no margin for profit, and I have no wish to see the run heavily stocked in this way, nor would I advocate the purchase of young sheep under 2 years old, unless they could be secured from good wool growing stations, such as Gurley or Collaroy. There are now on the run 114,053 sheep, 3,097 head of cattle, and 113 horses.


 We are experiencing considerable difficulty in working the sheep at present, owing to the over growth of old half decayed Saucy Jack which covers a large portion of the run, almost an army of men being required to muster a paddock clean in anything like reasonable time, but now that there is no longer danger from fires spreading I have hopes that we shall be able to get rid of a great deal of it by burning.


The recent heavy rains have induced a fresh growth of Saucy Jack, also variegated thistle, and Bathurst Burr is making its appearance in many places, the latter pest has not matured sufficiently to necessitate employment of more than perhaps a couple of burr cutters, but it will, I fear, entail considerable expense later on.





I had 472 applicants for billet of store keeper, although 3 insertions only of this advertisement was given, I will select Mr. G. Humble provided his referees, to whom, I have written apply favourably. Mr. Humble called on me personally, is a strong active single young man and I thank will be very likely to suit, besides which he has been known to me.





I have agreed with Humble to do the store keeping and herewith enclose copies of what has been written on the subject for your persual. There was 500 applications for the appointment many of whom were highly recommended. There is now any quantity of green grass on this run and all stock are doing well.





Acting under instructions from you to proceed to Bogamildi and Goondiwindi for the purpose of inspecting several lots of store wethers, under offer to the Company at 7/- cash, I started up on the 15th, and returned yesterday, the 28th. I was not very much impressed with the Bogamildi wethers, especially when considering the price at which they were offering, but although of medium frame, and shorn rather late I came to the conclusion that no better sheep were to be had for the same figure, and that the Company could at least lose nothing by taking them, so closed accordingly. The number is about 22,000 with a rejection of 10% from one lot which numbers 10,000. We have till the 12th proximo to remove these sheep, and arrangements are now being made for bringing them down.


I also accepted the Eastern Creek wethers at the same price, owners undertaking to deliver at Warrah.  The latter lot which number 8500 are Queensland bred, large well grown sheep, long woolled and in good condition.


Hearing, whilst out inspecting this lot, that Amos Bros had 10,000 for sale, I went to Tulluna and inspectd them. I found them to be a very fine lot and offered 6/9 cash, which the owners, I am informed, cosidered ridiculous. Therefore we are not to have them.


 Whenever it may be considered expedient, to purchase any large numbers of sheep again, we should I think, go to Queensland for them. The Queensland wethers are much larger than the average New South Wales sheep (which have become stunted by hard seasons) and the market as a rule is much lower. The prevailing price off the board varying from 4/6 to 5/6 per head, and the cost of driving from 6d. to 9d.





Since writing you on the 29th, with the exception of 1.50 inch of rain recorded on the 5th and 6th, the weather has been fine with warm sunny days, cool nights, and light south easterly winds. No frosts worth mentioning have been experienced, and more perfect weather could not be desired. The Liverpool range has however been covered with a thick mist, during the greater part of the time, sufficiently heavy to strengthen the main water sources and maintain a vigorous current in the creeks, the most of which are still flowing through the estate from South to North.


The overgrowth of grass, herbage, and rubbish on the plains is perhaps greater than it ever was in the memory of the oldest inhabitants, in fact so much so, as to render some of the paddocks temporarily unfit for sheep. We have however succeeded in getting the country set apart for the early lambing in fair order for the purpose, by heavily stocking in the early part of the season and a judicious use of the cattle. I am informed that this rank vegetation is producing worms in sheep throughout the northern part of the Colony, in fact the disease has appeared in the flocks of some of our adjoining neighbors, and Physicking is being resorted to in the neighbourhood of Murrurundi.  It appears to affect hoggets only, especially late lambs, and readily given way to treatment, but at the same time heavy losses have already been experienced on some of the Barwon and New England Stations, and much heavier are anticipated during the coming winter.  I am glad to report that although we are watching closely for symptoms of ailment none have appeared, and at the present time the whole of the Company's sheep are in fine robust condition, and perfectly healthy.  I regret however to state that we have had a large number of sheep poisoned during the past month, through eating poisonous weeds, which have sprung up on the plains.  In my last statement I alluded to a loss of 110 ewe hoggets, which resulted from this cause at Jacks Creek immediately after the sheep had been turned out of the yard, later on a further loss of 20 occurred in the same way, and on Friday last, whilst removing a flock of ewes to Yellow Plain for lambing 80 of them died after leaving Jacks Creek, where they had been yarded for the night on the journey in.  There can be no question about the whole of these sheep being poisoned through eating unwholesome weeds when coming hungry on to them out of the yard, and we are becoming rather chary  about putting sheep in the yards at all, or in fact moving them from one part of the run to another.





I herewith hand you my monthly report. The past month has been a wet one generally and it has been sufficient owing to the moist state of the ground prior to the rain to produce a great rush of water in the creeks, causing them to overflow their banks, flood the plains, and do considerable damage to the fences; in fact it would almost lead me to suppose that to have the whole of the Windy fences on the low lying lands swept down by an unusually heavy flood, is quite within the bounds of probability, however we must not quarrel with the rain, no sheep have been drowned, the losses among the lambs have been small, and our prospects of a splendid season are well assured by it. The Saucy Jack which threatened to take possession of the Run in the early part of the year is making no headway, and in a great many places it has almost disappeared and given place to the old indigenous grasses, but I cannot say as much for the variegated thistle which is rapidly spreading and taking possession of large tracts of country. The stock have however acquired a taste for it, especially the lambing ewes which are beginning to devour it ravenously and prevent its growth on certain portions of their lambing grounds, and I feel satisfied that it would be quite possible to temporarily kill it by heavy stocking.  No inconvenience through native dogs has been experienced during the month, although they are about, two having been shot at Glen Moan and one at Millers Creek, during the last fortnight. 



The transfers from Gloucester during the month consist of 18 ewes and 293 steers most increase of the year 86, which arrived on the 23rd, in charge of Robert Kay, looking remarkably well considering the cold snowy weather he states he experienced when crossing New England. None of these cattle have suffered any ill effects from the change, and for the future I would strongly advise you to continue your present policy of sending up the steers, so far as may be practicable, direct from their mothers. All the cattle on the Run are healthy and present a fine thriving appearance, but at the same time pleuro pneumonia is very prevalent amongst travelling stock, and notwithstanding the fact that every care is being taken.





The annual shearing will commence on the 24th, weather permitting, and with the exception of the re-fixing of the dumping ram in the cylinder at which the men are now working, all preparations have been made.


Additional shearing room has been provided for 12 more shearers, and sheaves have been fitted under the sliding gates of the catching pen which will have the effect of causing them to work more easily than they did previously. The roof of the wool shed has been thoroughly overhauled and made waterproof, the sky lights having been taken out and re-set, and the leaden valleys soldered and repaired wherever leakages appeared.


I have enrolled 80 shearers and instructed others to come and take their chance of employment in the event of a full board not turning up. The same carriers we had last year have been contracted with to haul the wool to the railway station, and at the same rate - viz 4d p.cwt. Similar arrangements for catering have been entered into with the same men,as last year. Campbell and Austin will again press the wool and as usual Mr. Stead will sort it, therefore the only hitch that is likely to occur in the way of a successful start, lies in the danger of opposition from the Shearers Union. Up to the present however I do not think the Union, which is giving so much trouble to stock owners in the southern districts, has succeeded in extending its influence to this as many of the men to whom I have spoken, appear to be entirely ignorant of it, but at the same time suspicious looking characters from Riverina  occasionaly apply for positions.





It continues to be extremely wet. I telegraphed you this morning that we had made a good start  with 65 shearers on the board. The men appear to be a good average lot and  nothing short of wet weather will be likely to cause the work any hindrance. The Shearers union was never hinted at by a single man in search of employment, nor were the conditions of the agreement questoned by anyone. We started at 9am on the rams and I now enclose particulars of the weights of the home paddock lot which were shorn by Geo Jerry, Edwin Hazel and McDonald of Collaroy. The fleeces are somewhat light but this is accounted for by the unusually light conditions of the wool which does not contain a particle of dirt. We have not broken faith with a single man, although I had promised shearing to 90 only 67 turned up and these I had put on letting other shearers to whom I was not pleased go by.






The condition of the cattle is highly satisfactory all descriptions of which are healthy and gaining growth rapidly.  The oldest bullocks have increased very considerably in weight, and a draft of 200 may be taken from them, whenever you think fit to instruct me to send them forward, but as they are still very young I would feel better pleased to see them remain here a little longer in order to attain more growth.  I started Robert Kay to Gloucester yesterday, for the purpose of bringing a couple of hundred steer weaners, which Mr. Wiseman advises me he has waiting for dispatch.


Mr Pitt informs me, that we may expect the first consignment of Queensland bullocks to arrive in the course of a fortnight, and arrangements have been made accordingly for their reception.   



The improvements for the month consist of the erection of a suspension bridge over Warrah Creek, for the purpose of passing sheep across to the shed in time of flood which seems pretty constant now. A new wire fence from the stables to Yellow Plain forming the eastern side of the shorn sheep paddock, which was not previously sheep proof, and a fence round the Storekeepers cottage.






The cattle are in fine healthy condition and all Warrah bred bullocks of sufficient age are fit for market. On the 29th, I dispatched 205 exceedingly prime bullocks to Sydney in charge of John Frith, and purpose under your instructions, directing him to return again for a similar number, but owing to want of age I fear we shall not be able to get a third draft heavy enough for market this year.





Your letter of the 31st is duly to hand.  I am sorry to hear that your negotiations for the purchase of Bree's property have fallen through but at the same time I felt convinced from the first that the old being would try to catch you over the minor selection and duly warned you of it.  Mr Manchee has just contested a most expensive case over a similar transaction and only saved himself over a bad description of the land  having been put in by the plaintiff's lawyers. The land in question that he so nearly lost comprises that beautiful flat at Taylor's Gate on Yarramanbah,  also 100 acres on the east side of the creek which would have secured to the plaintiff the whole of the permanent surface water on the eastern side of Manchee's run. They were simply non suited and may bring the action forward again but will first have to pay the law costs which are very heavy.


With reference to Captain's Creek I know the ground but have perhaps no more knowledge than you have of the situation of the selection and it would be necessary for me to make an inspection of it previous to furnishing you with a reliable report.  The ground is however, I believe worth 30/- per acre but I am not at present in a position to say whether any portion of the leasehold is open to selection. I think Doyle gave more than this valuation for it previous to fencing therefore he places most probably the same valuation on his enclosed crown lands. An unconfirmed report has fast got abroad that Macgrath is dead and has left his land to Geo. Mullens, who is in indigent circumstances, together with £1000, I can scarcely believe the report but at the same time he is in an unhealthy state and the Company must surely secure his holding sooner or later.





The Darling Pea, however I regret to say, has acquired great growth over most of the timbered country, many of the ridges presenting quite a scarlet appearance with it, and contrary to my experience in similar seasons, the lambs are acquiring a great liking for it, so much so that we have found it necessary to remove them to country where it does not grow.


A native dog made its appearance in Warrah Creek last week, but was fortunately shot by a kangaroo shooter before any damage was done to the sheep. On the Millers Creek Run however I learn that they have not been so fortunate, rather serious losses having occurred amongst the sheep through their depredations, but, as during the past month six of them were destroyed, I am hoping that the existence of the pack has been closed. 


Warrah bred Sheep

The grown sheep of all ages, are in fine condition, the quality of the wool of those recently shorn being good, the fleeces long and lustrous and light in the greases, yet heavier than usual in weight, their carcasses also are exceptionally fat and well grown. The lambs however are not looking as well as the state of the country on which they are depasturing should lead us to expect, although their death rate has not been heavier than usual. The whole of them have suffered from an attack of worm disease, lately so prevalent in New South Wales, and we have been in consequence compelled to subject them to medical treatment which I am glad to report I believe to have been effectual, all of them having regained their lively appearance and losing that dejected air so characteristic of the complaint. The No. 2 stud lambs appeared to suffer more severely than the flock lambs and have in consequence been dosed a second time.





I now hand you my usual monthly statement. The rainfall for the past month amounts to 5.02 inches and the entire rainfall this year, in the annals of my recollection of the weather in the northern districts extending over a period of 22 years, is unprecedented. All the creeks and watercourses are running strong through the estate, and a large portion of the low lying country along the north boundary, is partially under water.  As a natural result the overgrowth of grass and grass seed is very great, and far from conducive to the welfare of the sheep, which always appear to thrive better on the shorter pastures of drier seasons. The rain has again commenced to fall this morning and I fear we are in for another wet season.






All description of this class of stock are on the whole healthy and thriving, and perhaps in better condition than I have ever known them to be. The young Warrah breds are as fat as Chinese hogs but too small to realize upon in the near future, and it would appear that the purchased bullocks are competing for premier place in the fat stock market.  The Cotherstones are three parts prime also the Yaccamunda's, and the more recent arrivals the Grosvenor Downs are very little behind them. The latter lot however have troubled us a good deal of late, by displaying a tendency to the much dreaded pleuro' complaint, and about ten of them have already died of very suspicious symptoms. Post mortems however have revealed the fact that these odd animals were suffering from the after effects of pleuro and not from any infectious disease. I have therefore decided not to submit them to further operation of inoculation.



Wethers Fattening

These were never in better condition than they now are and the sheep already dispatched to market were perhaps as a whole the most creditable lots that have ever left the station. We have no doubt heard complaints from the Agents as to weight, probably induced by their inability to obtain high prices. The sheep have however in every instance topped the market as regards price and the only fault the butchers have been able to find with them is that they have proved too fat for ordinary consumption. All sorts and conditions of this description of stock are prime fat and are merely awaiting their turn for realization at Homebush.


John Frith'sCoonoo Goonoo wethers were sold on the 17th of this month at an average price of 8/8 and more also - also Goonoo Goonoos - on the 24th at 8/2d. Since then owing to the flooded state of the  creeks and rivers but two drafts have been dispatched consisting of Nivi Downs wethers, namely 2050 on the 15th inst in charge of Isaac Frith and 2050 on the 23rd with Herbert Tudor.





Your letter of the 31st duly reached me. Mr Merewether's fears as to his son's health have surprised no one more than Harry himself and he is cursing the Yarraman correspondent for publishing a rap he got from a cricket ball which necessitated his retirement from the match.  Mr. H. Merewether was unfortunate enough, it would appear, to stop a ball with his privates instead of with his bat but suffered but little inconvenience afterwards from the mistake. He was camped out at McDonalds Creek for a week with the other young men, cutting a patch of thistles which may probably account for the neglect in writing to his father. He is however quite well and has nothing at all the matter with him.


We had, I think, better build a bachelors' establishment at Old Warrah for the English importations and now that the saw bench is working we have a fine opportunity to get the timber for it.  I had a talk with Sisson this morning to Thomas complaints about the Sydney men and he thinks their conduct is worse than I am informed of and recommends not only clearing them off the place but closing the Willow Tree grog shop.





The total rainfall for the past month amounts to 4.88 inches, which has caused all the creeks to again flow, or partly flow, through the Estate, without however producing anything in the shape of a flood. The artificial reservoirs have been refilled, and a fresh growth started in the pastures. The Run is therefore still overgrown with rank grasses, which are sour, and not conducive to the well being of the Stock.  Some of the paddocks have been fairly well cleared of this undergrowth by burning, and others , by heavy stocking with cattle, but owing to the moist season the grass has been too green to burn. 


The variegated thistle so far does not threaten to become so great a pest as it proved in 1887, but I regret the Bathurst Burr, has grown to such an extent over the low-lying lands, as to render the cutting of it not only an impossibility, but the attempt a sheer waste of money. Under these circumstances we have decided to confine our efforts to cleaning the timbered country, and such plain paddocks as are considered practicable and which may be accomplished at a cost of about £150.





The past month has been dry, no rain having visited the station since the 2nd, when we had 107 points, which constitutes the total quantity registered here, since the date of my last report. Although the ground is very dry, the run still looks green, and the forebodings of the Riverina Stock owners as to drought in the near future, need not be a source of any uneasiness to the Company. The fact is we are still suffering from a super abundance of half green, sour, feed, which the stock will not eat or even look at, but I am glad to say that the past few dry weeks have enabled us to clear off a considerable quantity of this, and the work of burning is still being vigorously proceeded with. The paddocks which we have succeeded in keeping eaten down by heavy stocking, and all the early burnt country, is in fine trim, and even now in the present dry state of the ground, the vigor of the roots is sufficient to produce a green tinge over the ground, in the course of a week, after burning.


The sources of the watercourses are still vigorous, the tanks nearly full, and the creeks continue to flow well on to the plains - Philips Creek still flows through the estate - Yarramanbah into Emu Paddock - Pump station into Paddys Point - McDonalds as far as ite intersection with the cattle track - Millers Creek into Greenhills - Jacks Creek into Harrison - and Warrah and Borambil Creeks through the north boundary.





I have your letter of the 20th and note your remarks re Sucklings sheep shearing machines.  Of course there can be no exception to anything he does, or may wish to do, in this way of facilitating the success of the working of them. Previous to getting your letter, I had written him requesting an interview in reference to the matter.  Now that it has been decided to use the machines, I hope you will lose no time in procuring them on the best terms possible.  I have also written to the Secretary re the Murrurundi Sheep Show.  If the Murrurundi people shirk meeting us on their own ground we cannot be responsible for our walk over. 

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Ian McInnes | Reply 05.12.2018 08:33

It is truly amazing and terrific that these reports have been preserved and made available.

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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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