Wilpena Pound

I'd best start from the beginning, when folks first came to farm here.

The way Dad told it, a stockman named Chace found a way into the Pound back in 1851. Dad said that "Wilpena" was an aboriginal name and that the early settlers called it the Pound because it was just like an enclosure. I guess with its natural towering walls, a permanent water supply and only one entrance through the Sliding Rock Gorge it seemed like a perfect place to hold stock.

Mr. Price was the first Manager of the Wilpena Run - 120 000 sheep on 400 square miles! The pastoralists stocked their land to the limit in those days. They had no choice. Their rent was based on what the Government thought they should run. Of course it was way too many sheep for this country. Poor fools! Dad said that's what ruined them.

1864 - 1866
The Great Drought of the eighteen-sixties brought many of the pioneers to their knees.

At the Big Commission, 1867 I think it was, it came out that the overstocking and the drought had destroyed most of the vegetation fit for pasture.
Hard to believe isn't it, in just fifteen years!

The saltbush plains had been eaten out. The land left bare. Many pastoralists just walked off their land. But not Mr. Price. Although he lost 20,000 sheep and 2000 cattle, he wouldn't be beaten.

The secret he said, was to fence in feed near water to keep in reserve for bad times. Mr. Price reduced his stock to 20,000. He built hundreds of miles of fences, (I can't get used to these kilometres!), and managed the Wilpena Run for another twenty-two years until the lease expired in 1888.

Rain would follow the plough

My parents moved onto the Hundred of Arkaba when my oldest brother, Henry, was nine. They built our family home there. We called it Glenallen.

The droughts of the sixties had passed. The rains came each year. The north was called a Land of Promise. They were good years. Folk from the south couldn't get up here quick enough! Farmers replaced pastoralists. A run of good harvests restored confidence in the land. Everyone was saying: "Rain would follow the plough"

Henry, we called him Harry, got married when he was eighteen. Harry and Florence lived at Glenallen and helped run the farm. And he made a little extra carting goods to outlying stations. They only had two years. In 1888, the year I was born, Harry lost Florence and his baby son, just months apart.

Six bushels to the acre and the only crop reaped in the district

Things were beginning to change again and good years were hard to find. The rains were patchy. The crops failed. The wonderful predictions of the eighties seemed like some cruel joke. Hard work wasn't enough to grow wheat up north. You had to have the rain.

Dad reckoned the Pound looked promising for wheat. The soil was good and the rainfall much higher than around Hawker.
He took up a twenty-one year lease. The boys cleared the scrub using an old boiler as a roller. It was pulled by a team of bullocks.

We harvested our first crop in 1902, despite it being a drought year.
Although we never grew as much wheat up in the Pound as we did down south, what we produced was the best they ever saw in Hawker.

Nothing was ever easy out here

The worst thing of all was getting the crop out of the Pound. The Gorge was almost impassable with its swamps and boulders. But there was no other way. My brothers built a road along Wilpena Creek and over Sliding Rock. It took years. Everything had to be done by hand.

First the great sloping surface had to be drilled and massive iron spikes were forced into the rock. Gum logs were cut and dragged into place against the logs up to the height of the spikes, to make a level surface. My brothers never worked so hard in all their lives!

Even after the road was built we couldn't get a full team through the Gap. There was a sharp bend in the road. We had to use a small wagon and move the load onto a larger wagon past the bend. The trip down to Hawker would take all day.

We had to make ladders up into the trees so the chooks could roost safely at night.

This was a sad year for us all. My good father, God rest his soul, passed away. My five brothers went their own ways. Harry kept up the lease of the Pound, clearing land and planting crops.

As I said before, I came up here when I was twelve, just a girl, to keep house for my brothers. I tried to plant a garden like mother's at Glenallen. What with fig trees and apples and vegetables to water it seemed as if I was always carrying up a bucket of water from the creek.

In those days there were dingoes all over the place. I used to lay awake at night listening to them chewing bones outside the house.


What a year it was! It seemed no sooner did we get back on our feet that we were hit by another drought. The north was a dustbowl. To this day I can see and smell the rotting stock that starved to death that year. We prayed that the crop in the Pound would carry us through to the next season, as Glenallen had failed.

All we wanted for Christmas that year was rain

We all gathered at Glenallen. The sky was as black as pitch on Christmas morning. I'll never forget the, rain that fell that day. It was as if the heavens had opened. When we got to the Pound our road was gone. A huge flood had washed away the road that Harry and the boys had laboured over for years. We got the rain we prayed for but our wheat-growing venture in the Pound was over!


I went back to Glenallen to help mother with the farm. Harry stayed on in the Pound running horses and cattle until the lease expired in 1921.

In 1917 1 sold my share of the Pound Lease to Harry for two hundred pounds. I moved over to live with my sister Ellen in Port Lincoln. Harry moved back to Glenallen and kept on with' his carting business. He married a local girl, Reta Lottie Pyman in 1922. They lived in the family home until Harry died in the Hawker hospital in 1929.

1929 - it only seems like yesterday.

Yurlu's Journey

Aboriginal people tell how giant semi-human creatures that were created at the beginning of the world were responsible for all the creeks, hills, gorges and mountains in Australia. Of these, one of the most beautiful parts of the Flinders Ranges is lkara (Wilpena Pound), and the most valuable is the Leigh Creek coalfield.

Long ago there was an old Kingfisher Man called Yurlu who lived in the west near Kuyani territory. Yurlu journeyed south from his home at Kakarlpunha (Termination Hill) to attend an important malkada (corroboree and initiation ceremony) at Ikara (Wilpena Pound).

On the way, Yurlu lit a big signal fire to let the people know he was on his way to the ceremony. The charcoal remaining from this fire formed the coal deposits at Leigh Creek and several small deposits in other places on the way down. Aboriginal people called it Yurlu's coal long before white men ever came into the country.

When Yurlu was passing through Brachina Gorge on his way down to the ceremony he saw two Akurra (powerful Dreaming serpents) travelling in the same direction.

Yurlu reached the ceremony, but in the meantime the Akurra Valadupa (male and female) had entered Ikara through Vira Warldu (Edeowie Gap). When Yurlu arrived the ceremony was well under way. Yurlu snatched the firestick from Walha the wild Turkey Man and threw it up into the sky. This stick turned into the red star Wildu (Mars).

Akurra came up to the ceremonial ground in whirlwinds and caught and ate all the people they could find. Yurlu and Walha managed to escape and flew off southwards. Also managing to escape were a Wilyara (newly initiated man) and a Vardnapa (partly initiated man). They both fled eastwards.

The Wilyaru kept on going until he went too far over the border. Aboriginal people there told him he had come too far, so he had to turn back towards Mt Chambers.
He kept on travelling until he couldn't go any further. He stopped south of Mt Chambers. There he turned into a large rock on the side of a small hill. The rock, reddish-black in colour, is now known as Wilyaru Rock.

The Vardnapa stopped at a creek near Wirrealpa Station and transformed into a stoney hill.

The two Akurra were so full after eating the people that they lay still and willed themselves to death. Their bodies form the walls of the Pound and it is said that St Mary's Peak is the head of Ngaarrimudlunha, the female Akurra.



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Last updated: Tuesday, 08.09.2009 2:41 PM