stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
One of the many villages whose prime period is in the past, Nelungaloo is an often overlooked and underappreciated part of Australian history. With not one but three famous Australians having a link to Nelungaloo, it is a significant historical venue. In addition it is remembered fondly by those who grew up there, with memories of “cracker night” and the Nelungaloo District Co-op still talked about today. Nelungaloo was originally the name of a property and is an Aboriginal word means “lizard” (Source: NSWRail.net website)
Prior to Nelungaloo becoming the name of a property and later a village, there was mention of Nelungalong – a parish in the county of Ashburnham – in 1876.
The first mention of Nelungaloo on Trove is in 1881 with the announcement of the newly-appointed magistrate, John George Hutchison Lackey (NOTE: The area was spelt Nelangaloo) Source: The Sydney Morning Herald Monday 13 June 1881 page 3 Less than a year later there are several references to wool sales from Nelungaloo. There was also a report about some arson work occurring at the magistrate’s property, with a stack of wheat burnt to the ground (valued at £200) with the additional misfortune of losing 300 sheep due to poisoning from a native weed. (Source: Australian Town and Country Journal Saturday 5 January 1884 page 15) The Lackeys owned 2088 hectares in Nelungaloo in 1895. According to local historian, Elsie Hawke (née Freeman) the residence in which the Lackeys first lived was called Calala (Source: E. Hawke (1987) p.1)
Elsie Hawke (nee Freeman) lived in Nelungaloo and wrote a book called Recollections and Reminiscences of Nelungaloo: 1895 to 1987. She was interviewed for an oral history recording in 1988. Here she shares her family and their coming to Nelungaloo in 1899. Source: Elsie Hawke Oral History Recording
Elsie recorded a lot of her Nelungaloo memories in a local history booklet. Here she recalls what life was like in Nelungaloo around the turn of the 20th Century:
My parents Melissa and Tom Freeman arrived in the area in 1901 and first lived next door to Mr and Mrs W Davies at “Colwyn Farm” where Mrs Amy Davies (Dave’s wife) still lives. We remember our mother telling us that she had only a dirt floor in her house and at one time had to take her washing to a dam in a spring cart, also was able to stand at the door of the house and shoot rabbits as they were in plague proportion many times in the early days.
Elsie Hawke (1987) p.3
Even today, the post office is a vital component of the community. This is truer in more remote towns and villages. Elsie Hawke explains how Nelungaloo changed with the coming of its own post office:
In 1914 Mr Nock persuaded Melissa Freeman to open a Post Office which she conducted with the help of the family until 1943 when son Neville and his wife Dot took over and managed it until it closed in 1971. This was a community service which was much appreciated. Prior to the opening of the Post Office I’ve been told the mail came out in bags and left for residents to sort and collect their own mail.
Elsie Hawke (1987) p.4
Elsie Hawke retells how the early days of schooling in Nelungaloo:
The first school opened in 1901 with James Jeffries as teacher but this closed in 1902. Nelungaloo pupils attended Brolgan school and when it closed they went on the train to Gunningbland until school opened again at Nelungaloo in 1921. It closed in 1961.
The first school picnic was held on September 21, 1922 on the day of the total Eclipse of the sun, and picnics were conducted annually until after the school closed. The Nelungaloo school pupils used to compete in the Small Schools Amateur Athletics Association Sports days and great excitement was experienced by pupils and all residents when the pupils travelled to Forbes and brought home the Pennant.
The names of teachers in that period were:
- 1921 Miss D. Machin (now Mrs Dunn)
- 1922 Miss E. Morphy (Mrs C. Corke)
- 1926 Miss M. MacGregor
- 1929 Miss E. Wenning (now Mrs Drabsch)
- 1934 Miss J. Matheson (now Mrs Mac Magill)
- Late 1934 Miss I. Martin
- 1938 Miss J. Putland
- 1943 Mrs E. Gould
- 1944 Miss G. Freeman (now Mrs Beasley)
- 1946 C. Murphy
- Miss P. Bartlin (now Mrs R Lydford)
- 1947 A. Stevenson
- 1948 E. Wade
- 1949 R. Woods
- 1950 Bill Jones
- 1951 N. Wright
- 1956-60 R. Evers
- 1956 A. Sykes (relieving for Ron Evers for a few months)
- 1960-61 P. McKeowen
In 1934 a Parents and Citizens Association was formed and continued to successfully help the school and pupils until the school closed in 1961. Many local residents were involved in the activities right through these 27 years.
A concert was conducted from the school during the early days and I well remember a school concert arranged by Miss Morphy and conducted in a shed at Nelungaloo Homestead. We were transported by horse and sulky for final rehearsals, a very happy part of school days.
E. Hawke (1987) pp.5-7
One of the most famous of all Australian Bushrangers, Ben Hall, has a strong link to Nelungaloo. Ben Hall used some caves in Nelungaloo – however the entrance has since been closed up after University of Sydney Spelological Society explored them in the 1960s or 1970s. Ben Hall had other caves in different parts of the Central West, including one in Weddin Mountains National Park, near Grenfell. The site of his tragic end – historian Peter Bradley states that “….the body was riddled with no less than thirty two holes…” – is located in Nelungaloo. As parishes and county boundaries gave way to Local Government Areas (LGAs), the site of Ben Hall’s shooting “belongs” to both Forbes and Parkes. However the significance of Ben Hall’s shooting, as well as his place in bushranger folklore, means the site rises above trivial ownership debates.
NSW Office of Environment & Heritage explains the historical significance:
Ben Hall’s Death Site is associated with the introduction of the Felons Apprehension Act (Outlaws Act) which permitted police or anyone else to shoot on sight. The brutality of Hall’s murder is partly a consequence of the introduction of this legislation, even though it was not legally in force until several days later. The manner of Halls death at this site demonstrates police brutality and fear when dealing with the bushrangers, Hall was shot numerous times and then many more times after he was dead.
Ben Hall’s Death Site is associated with the employment of Aboriginal people by the NSW police. The site demonstrates the skill of Aboriginal trackers Billy Dargin and Charlie (Gooloogong?) which ensured the police were able to locate Hall.
Ben Hall’s Death Site contributes to the State significance of the Ben Hall Sites through its intimate associations with Ben Hall and the place he holds in the public’s imagination. Hall’s Death Site has contributed to the romanticisation of a notorious bushranger. The site has high social value as evidenced by the naming of the road (Ben Hall Road), signage and a monument and visitor numbers to the site despite its distance from Forbes township.
Nelungaloo’s second special significance is that it was the residence of Horace Keyworth Nock (1879-1958). Nock was a farmer, politician and company director. Born in Salisbury, South Australia, he was educated at Tarlee State School and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide. His entry on Australian Dictionary of Biography website states that:
…[Nock] joined his father’s store and wheatbuying business. Nock ran the business after his father’s death in 1904, until 1914. He then bought a grazing property, Nelungaloo, near Parkes, New South Wales, and despite early adversity built up a prosperous mixed farm, establishing an English Leicester sheep stud in 1917. In 1924 he was elected to the executive of the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association of New South Wales, and was its president in 1928-32 and treasurer from 1938 until his death.
Nock’s description and influence are described on his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography:
Grey-haired and keen-eyed, with wild eyebrows and bristling moustache above an old-fashioned stovepipe collar, Nock was widely known to farmers (the ‘Cockies’ Patron Saint’) and sought out on agricultural issues. A vigorous and persistent advocate for rural interests, always well-armed with figures, Nock was an effective watchdog over various tariffs. He was a lobbyist for the appointment of the Gepp commission on the wheat, flour and bread industries (1932); for the introduction of a home consumption price for wheat (1938); and for abolition of the ‘wool draft’ (a buyer’s discount worth £500,000 a year to producers).
The F.S.A. was active on many issues, and Nock was closely involved in much that it did, particularly as a director of its official organ, the Land. A member of the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation and a director of the Australian Pastoral Research Trust, he was also a member of the Australian Wool Board (1939-48) and the Australian Wool Council and represented Australia at the International Wool Secretariat (1948). He was chairman of directors of a chain of country newspapers and radio stations.
In 1946, with the backing of the F.S.A. and various rural groups, Nock’s company, Nelungaloo Pty Ltd, mounted a notable challenge in the High Court of Australia to the Commonwealth’s power of compulsory acquisition of wheat crops. Nock argued that, under the constitutional requirement that acquisition be on ‘just terms’, growers should be paid the export price (which was higher than the domestic) for the whole crop. It was believed that £30 million was at stake for growers. The case did not succeed, and after prolonged litigation leave to appeal to the Privy Council was refused. However, the case provided some of the impetus for Commonwealth and State wheat industry stabilization Acts of 1954, which involved a compensation formula agreed to by growers.
One of the trio of Australian bush poets alongside Henry Lawson and “Banjo” Paterson. Will Ogilvie’s work is perhaps overshadowed by his fellow bush poets. During his lifetime his poetry was in high esteem; Ogilvie’s Fair Girls and Gray Horses was claimed to be second only to Paterson’s Man from Snowy River! (Source: Trove)
How well revered was Will Ogilvie? John Meredith recorded the following:
….how did others see [Ogilvie]? J. Corrie, writing in the world’s oldest magazine, The Scots Magazine, December 1958, gives this graphic outline of the young Borderlander:
A handsome, quiet-spoken Scot of medium height and comprehending glance, with a fair moustache and brick-red complexion, deeply sun-tanned; a dusty, modest figure who had little to say when other bushmen were boasting of man-killers they had ridden, but who showed, as soon as he approached a horse, however untameable, that he had little to learn about handling them.
Douglas Stewart wrote of Ogilvie that “Australia had the best of him”, meaning of course, that we got his best years, for all of his twenties were spent in this country. The combination of a talented, well-educated young Scot and the literary ebullience of Australia in the 1890s resulted in a balladist who frequently outshone his Bulletin contemporaries. The influences of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson and the excitement of his new life, working as a jackeroo on Belalie Station gave form and content to galloping rhymes which outdid those of our earlier horseman-poet Adam Lindsay Gordon.
John Meredith (1996) p.14
John Meredith’s excellent resource, Breaker’s Mate: Will Ogilvie in Australia details Ogilvie’s time in Nelungaloo as well as the friends he made:
In April 1896 Will got work at Nelungaloo Station, and there he made the acquaintance of the horse-breaker, Harry Harbord Morant. The pair shared two interests: writing bush poetry for The Bulletin and the ability to ride any horse just about anywhere. As is well-known, Morant wrote under the pen-name of The Breaker.
[Gordon] Tidy’s poetry, although published, was pedantic and lacked imagination; The Breaker’s was often lacklustre, and neither could measure up to Ogilvie, whose swinging verses were imbued with a Gaelic mystique which set them above those of all of his contemporaries, frequently surpassing even The Banjo and Henry Lawson.
The three poets joined forces with Reg Lackey, son of the owner of Nelungaloo Station, and after weekend drinking sessions the quartet got up to all sorts of high-spirited pranks, such as playing polo in the main street of Forbes, and using a couple of butchers’ carts for chariot races around Parkes! Frequently after Sunday afternoon revels, they would adjourn to the Parkes Champion Post [then called The Western Champion] newspaper offices where they would work all night helping Tidy to produce Monday morning’s paper.
John Meredith (1996) p.42
Whilst at Nelungaloo, Will Ogilvie became friends with controversial character, Harry “Breaker” Morant (Source: West & Roper (2016) pp.66,67 & 346). The two men of the bush also shared a love of horses and polo, and Ogilvie took part in the historic first international match of polo which was played at Bogan Gate in 1896.
Nelungaloo also forms part of the title of the late Kevin Cork’s excellent thesis Twenty-four Miles Around Nelungaloo: The History and Importance of Cinema Exhibition in Pre-Television Times to a country area of central-western New South Wales. This well-researched document, posthumously published, highlights the importance of cinema to the communities of the Parkes Shire in the days before television. While larger towns – Parkes, Forbes, Trundle etc – had established cinemas, the smaller villages would utilise the public hall. While Cork was unable to find any evidence that Nelungaloo Public Hall was used for screening pictures, there were reports that the hall was used for many social dances (K. Cork (1994) p.240-241)
Click here to read a pdf version Kevin Cork’s Master of Arts (Hons) Thesis Twenty-Four Miles Around Nelungaloo: The History and Importance of Cinema Exhibition in Pre-Television Times to a country area of central-western New South Wales
In her excellent book Jewels Along The Newell Margaret Dwyer recalls an interview with Nathaniel Montgomery Orr MLC:
Nat’s Dad settled at “Caledon Hill” and Nat, who is now 95 years of age, remembers the twenties as a great time to be young. There were school picnics where his claim to fame was winning the high jump (not for nothing, those long legs!). There were cricket clubs at Wongalea, Gunningbland and Nelungaloo, tennis at Nettlebecks….
M. Dwyer (2014) p.122
Still photograph from YouTube series Parkes Telling Tales. Nelungaloo resident, Allen Hourigan, walks inside the old Nelungaloo Hall for the first time in years and memories come flooding back. Source: YouTube
Video footage of freight train through the Nelungaloo railway. Source: YouTube
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:
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