History Parkes

stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past

Brolgan

The Australian crane aka brolga, was once called "brolgan" and has the same definition as the place name in Aboriginal language, "native companion". Source: Bush Heritage Australia website; and ABC website
The Australian crane aka brolga, was once called “brolgan” and has the same definition as the place name, “native companion”. Source: Bush Heritage Australia website; and ABC website

Many of the towns in the Parkes Shire who have seen their heydays come and go have questionable futures. However Brolgan isn’t one of those, with its site set to play an integral part in the logistics of the nation. While its future is exciting, there is a history that is often overlooked and underappreciated. This blog hope to redress this.

A fascinating part of researching old towns and localities is how they were officially recorded in the Census. The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics – the forerunner to the Australian Bureau of Statistics – did not include Brolgan in its 1947 Census, but Brolgan does feature in the 1954 Census with a population of 55. The CBCS then omitted Brolgan again in the 1961 Census and by 1966 the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, J. P. O’Neill had devised a new way to record results and only Bogan Gate, Parkes, Peak Hill, Trundle and Tullamore are recorded.

Early History of Brolgan

Brolgan is another place name with Aboriginal origins – the word ‘brolgan’ means ‘native companion’ (Source: Royal Australian Historical Society Volume 13 Part 2 (1927) p106) In Wiradjuri, the word for ‘brolga’ is burralgan (Source: Geoff Anderson, Wiradjuri Language Group)

A place called Brolgan is first mentioned in 1853 in New South Wales Government Gazette article about CROWN LANDS BEYOND THE SETTLED DISTRICTS where there is also mention of Brolgan Plains (Source: Trove) Newspapers and Government Gazettes of this period also made mention of Brolgan Plains Run and Back Brolgan Station. Often frustrating for modern readers is the lack of consistent spelling in people and place names. Brolgan also experienced this, with a notice for public auction for the station of Thomas Morris, called “Bralgan” or “Brogan” (Source: Trove)

There was even a racehorse called “Brolgan” that was owned by Mr T. Henty and raced at Albury in 1862 (Source: The Melbourne Herald October 4, 1862 p.6)

County map of Ashburnham highlighting the location of the parish of Brolgan. Source: County & Parish Maps of NSW with Index by Alice Jansen (1999) p.9

When cadastral maps were drawn up, Brolgan became a parish, in the county of Ashburnham.

Click here to read about the county of Ashburnham

Throughout the latter part of the 19th Century, Brolgan is mentioned at least weekly in either newspapers or NSW Government Gazette. The land was highly prized and Brolgan had a proactive branch of the Farmers & Settlers Association, who campaigned for the release of more land for settlement.

Excerpt for an advertisement selling the station property of “Back Brolgan” which adjoins Gunningbland and Brolgan Stations and is twenty miles north of Forbes. Source: Wagga Wagga Express and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser July 26, 1873 p.3
Brolgan Station, along with all livestock, has been purchased by James Rawsthorne. Source: Wagga Wagga Advertiser and Riverine Reporter October 4, 1873 p.2
Mention of Brolgan Creek, which meets up with Goobang Creek. Source: New South Wales Government Gazette 28th April 1874 [Issue No.97] p.1309
Mention of Brolgan Hut, after a walking couple became lost and desperate need of water. Source: Australian Town and Country Journal December 23, 1876 p.11
The Australian crane or brolga, has occasionally been known as the brolgan. Source: The Australasian November 26, 1881 p.7
The brolga (Antigone rubicunda) was once known as ‘the brolgan’ and shares the same definition of “native companion”. Source: Wikipedia

While many towns and localities had small one teacher schools, Brolgan had two. The first was Brolgan Public School, but after the railway line was laid and Brolgan Siding grew it petitioned the NSW Department of Education for a school. Initially it was Brolgan Siding Provisional School, but after more campaigning by the locals it was granted full status becoming Brolgan Siding Public School in 1901.

NOTE: For a definition of school types click here

An excerpt from a newspaper report about gold mining, with mention of Brolgan Dam. To read the article in its entirety click here. Source: Australian Town and Country Journal May 13, 1882 p.22
The first mention of a school at Brolgan, is in a list of public schools work tenders. Brolgan School would be mentioned six years later when it received funding for painting, repairs and general improvements. The tender for this work was obtained by Matthew McGlynn. Improvements were tendered in 1897 with addition of another school building and teacher residence. Source: New South Wales Government Gazette June 29, 1886 [Issue No.356] p.4338
A mention of the Venables surname and Brolgan – the Venables brothers purchase 1100 mixed hoggets. There would be Venables in Brolgan until the mid-1970s. Source: The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser August 29, 1891 p.456
Teacher appointment at Brolgan School of Mr Samuel J. Butler. In his time at Brolgan School, the Butlers would have a daughter (1894) and a son (1896). Source: New South Wales Government Gazette August 22, 1893 p.6485
The Parkes Farmers’ Association were concerned that not enough land was available for settlement and wanted portion of land in Gunningbland, Coobang, Coradgery, Burrawang, Genangie, Warrigal, Nelungaloo, Brolgan and West Billabong to be thrown open for settlement. Source: The Daily Telegraph June 3, 1895 p.5

Other facilities that Brolgan had included:

  • a hotel (Brolgan Hotel on Trundle Road)
  • a horse racing course (Brolgan Race Club)
  • a weekly mail service (To and from Parkes and Trundle)
  • a cricket club
  • Francis Foy‘s horse stud “The Monastery”
A list of Publicans’ Licenses, including Brolgan Hotel. Source: New South Wales Government Gazette February 18, 1896 p.1220
Brolgan Race Club, along with Peak Hill Race Club, were granted registration of the Australian Jockey Club. Source: The Australian Star April 25, 1896 p.11
Brolgan was included in the mail run from Parkes to Trundle for a once a week delivery which was to commence on January 1st 1897. The tender for this mail run was obtained by Joseph W. Fletcher. This would be a busy year for Brolgan with the building of a railway station in this year also. Source: New South Wales Government Gazette September 25, 1896 p.6697
An excerpt from a newspaper report on the newly appointed teacher, Archibald Carson to Marshmead Provisional School (also known as Brolgan Siding Provisional School) in Brolgan. The school would change from provisional to public status in 1901 when it became Brolgan Siding Public School. To read the report in its entirety click here. Source: Western Champion May 4, 1900 p.5
An excerpt from a newspaper report about Brolgan & Warrigal Farmers & Settlers Association branches to join to Gunningbland branch to impress their case at the upcoming annual session of the Farmers & Settlers Association. The report contains the names of residents of Brolgan including Curley, Reid, Luhrs and Mill. To read the article in its entirety click here. Source: Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder June 1, 1900 p.10
Advertisement for a social hosted by the Brolgan Cricket Club. Source: Western Champion October 5, 1900 p.9
An excerpt from a fascinating newspaper article highlighting the technological advantages of 1901 compared to former years – in this case street lighting. To read the article in its entirety click here. Source: Western Champion August 9, 1901 p.5
An excerpt from a newspaper report on Brolgan Public School picnic. The teacher is listed as Mr Carson, who was appointed as teacher to Brolgan Siding Public School in 1901 (Source: Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales 15 November 1901 p.963). To read the article in its entirety click here. Source: Western Champion May 2, 1902 p.14
An excerpt of a lengthy letter to the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald where Brolgan Creek Government reservoir receives special mention. The government paper deems the drought has broken and thus usual charges will apply for obtaining water. To read the letter in its entirety click here. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald January 7, 1903 p.5
Alderman Bowditch suggesting a way of solving the unemployment in the area would be to undertake the cutting away of a hill near Mr Venables’ property in Brolgan. Source: Western Champion January 9, 1903, p.7
Resident of Brolgan, Mr J.G. Lackey – who happened to be the son of the President of the NSW Legislative Council – is persuaded to contest the next State election for the Ashburnham electorate. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald April 7, 1903 p.4
A Newmarket Handicap winner, Playaway, has been purchased for Mr Foy’s Brolgan Stud. Source: Western Champion March 24, 1905 p.8
After a long drought, the rain fell in the Parkes area. Brolgan experienced 193 points (approx 49mm) in an hour! Source: Evening News April 6, 1905 p.5
A young man from Brolgan taken too soon. Private Arthur Roy Ford was killed in action during the Great War. Source: Western Champion June 1, 1916 p.15
Photograph of Francis Foy. Francis, along with his brother Mark Foy Jnr, established Mark Foy’s department store in Sydney. Francis had a stud farm in Brolgan which was called “The Monastery”. While a well-known horse racing identity, it was all for fun – Francis Foy gave away all his winnings. Source: West Pittwater website
Obituary of a long term resident of Brolgan, Mr Edward Venables. Arriving with his parents in 1871, the Venables are one of the pioneering families of Brolgan. Source: Western Champion January 6, 1933 p.12
An excerpt from a local newspaper report about gathering of farmers from Nelungaloo, Gunningbland and Brolgan districts. While Mr J. Venables is mentioned, “Braeside” at the time was owned by his neighbour Mr F. Nicholls. To read the article in its entirety click here. Source: Western Champion October 13, 1933 p.4

Brolgan and Sunstruck

In 1972 a British film company came to the Parkes district to film most of the Australian scenes for the Harry Secombe-led Sunstruck. While the Parkes Champion Post of the time reported the locations as being “near Nelungaloo”, both current and former residents of Brolgan will highlight that it was their town, not Nelungaloo, as the actual location.

This map has been made using information supplied to Parkes Library from a sketch map drawn by Gwenda Chester, who is the daughter of Joe Venables.

To read about Sunstruck click here

Braeside, the home of Joe Venables, is located in Brolgan. The Venables allowed the film company to temporarily use the house, turning into the fictional Kookaburra Springs’ Mayfair Hotel.

Gwenda Chester is the daughter of Joe Venables and remembers the filming occuring on her parents’ property. Her dads horses, Spin and Jenny, were also used in the film. Gwenda recalls that Spin was a particularly flighty horse and the one that Maggie Fitzgibbon had to ride. However the actress demonstrated her horse-riding prowess and handlded Spin really well. Wilf Norris of Eugowra supplied the main horse, with Dobbin playing Old Nell in the film. Dobbin died a week before the film’s world premiere in Parkes.

Joe Venable's old "Braeside" home on his property in Brolgan (near Nelungaloo) was used by Immigrant Productions and turned into Mayfair Hotel, the pub and "headquarters" for Kookaburra Springs Public School's P&C meetings. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday, January 5, 1972 p.3
Joe Venable’s old “Braeside” home on his property in Brolgan (near Nelungaloo) was used by Immigrant Productions and turned into Mayfair Hotel, the pub and “headquarters” for Kookaburra Springs Public School’s P&C meetings. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday, January 5, 1972 p.3
Personal photograph of Sharryn Cunningham (nee Helm) who was one of fourteen Parkes children chosen to be in Sunstruck. Sharryn is the blonde haired girl in the front row with the two pigtails. Sharryn was only seven when she appeared in Sunstruck and she said it was a real thrill to be involved. Source: Sharryn Cunningham personal photograph
Personal photograph of Sharryn Cunningham (nee Helm) who was one of fourteen Parkes children chosen to be in Sunstruck. Sharryn is the blonde haired girl in the front row with the two pigtails. Sharryn was only seven when she appeared in Sunstruck and she said it was a real thrill to be involved. Source: Sharryn Cunningham personal photograph
Harry Secombe’s eldest child, Jenny, was publicist for Sunstruck. This newspaper article, while stating the filming occurred at Nelungaloo instead of Brolgan, details the interaction between cast and crew and the locals. Jenny Secombe was particularly impressed by horse trainer, Fred Chester. Fred told her that he broke his first horse in when he was 9 years of age. Source: Parkes Champion Post January 19, 1972 p.10
Harry Secombe loved cricket and he assisted David Elvin (Coach House Motor Inn manager) and Bob Aitken (Parkes Champion Post editor) in organising a mid-week cricket competition. The Business Houses Cricket Competition utilised daylight savings and had shortened matches. While the newspaper report said Harry Secombe declined to play, Bob Aitken emailed Dan Fredericks and said Harry Secombe DID play and loved it. Source: Parkes Champion Post January 24, 1972 p.3
Parish of Brolgan, County of Ashburnham. Source: Trove
Brolgan School photograph from 1903 with teacher Mr Carson. Source: NSW State Archives

The future of Brolgan

Many towns and localities have a great past but their futures are in doubt. The same cannot be said for Brolgan, due to its location it is poised to plan an integral part of 21st Century Australian business.

Map of Inland Rail highlighting the significance of Brolgan. Source: Inland Rail ARTC website
Photograph of where Brolgan Station used to be, looking east. The possible remains of the platform are a mound on the right in the middle distance. Source: NSW Railnet website
Train crossing at Brolgan Road railway crossing. Source: Flickr website
Photograph of sign pointing to Parkes National Logistics Hub on Brolgan Road. Source: ABC website

Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:

  • Trove;
  • Parkes Champion Post;
  • Gwenda Chester and Sharon Horwood;
  • Sharryn Cunningham;
  • Geoff Anderson;
  • David Nash;
  • the many members of the Facebook page Parkes In Photos of Years Gone Past
  • staff and volunteers at Parkes Shire Library

HAVE WE MISSED SOMETHING???

If you have stories, photographs or memories that you are willing to share about Brolgan (or the film Sunstruck) please contact Parkes Shire Library via dan.fredericks@parkes.nsw.gov.au so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.

REFERENCE LIST

Feature Picture Images

3 comments on “Brolgan

  1. David Nash
    June 30, 2020

    Halfway between Brolgan and Nelungaloo sidings is Portion 30 in the Parish of Brolgan. The 1887-99 parish map showed this as occupied by Caleb Nash, and several adjacent portions to the north and southwest were in the name of his son James Ernest Nash. In December 1914 Caleb Nash (1835-1920) wrote in his memoir that about 1878, “After looking around I bought a small station near Parkes called Brolgan, this was swimming in water when I bought it, but in two years time I had not a drink for anything and I lost about 4,000 sheep out of 6,000. I then decided to get out of it at the first chance. I sold to the Williams’,” [quoted in WF Nash 1987 Nash Stories]

    Like

    • parkeslibrary
      July 1, 2020

      Thank you for your feedback David, it is fascinating. Do you have a spare copy of Nash Stories, I would love to have a read of it sometime. Kind regards.

      Like

      • David Nash
        July 1, 2020

        Thanks Dan. We need to remedy the Parkes Shire library’s lack of a copy of Nash Stories — I’ll try and hunt up a spare copy.

        Like

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This entry was posted on June 30, 2020 by in 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1972, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, Aboriginal, brief background to cadastral maps, Brolgan, Early History of Brolgan, The future of Brolgan, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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