í QUEENSLAND PIONEERS
i NAT BUCHANAN
(By JOHN E. BENNETT.)
"\TAT BUCHANAN line probably a high
claim to the title of the greatest of ali Australian drovers. He was tara near Dublin in 1820, and arrived in Aus- tralia with his people six years later. His brothers, Frank and Amlrew, answered tile lure of the gold of Cali- fornia, but. scratched in vain for tho yellow melal and were forced to work their passage homo again.
In 1R50 (the yenr of separation) Nat jrined with Landsliorough and explored the Fitzroy and Belyando River.- in search of suitable properties for graz- ing. As a result of these efforts Bnwcn Downs, the largest station in Australia, was founded and run by a company comprising Landsborough, Bvchnnan, and others. It fell to Buchanan's lot BB an experienced drover to bring the stock up the western rivers mid across to Bowen Downs in order to stock it, and these first excursions oc- cupy a large page in the development of the Australian pastoral industry.
In 1871 he married Katherine Gordon, Fitter of the famous Gordon Brothers, whost career» were so indissolubly asso- ciated with that of Burhnnan in after rears, Mrs Buchanan deserves to go down In history an ono of the great women pioneers of Australia, for »he accompanied her husbnnd tn the stution which was then on the outekirtu of settlement, and there lived with him through all the trials of the times.
In 1871, Buchanan took up land on the Bellinger River, in N.S.W., the "beautiful Bollinger." He found, how- ever, that the area was too restricted for one of hia leanings and took up land in the north, once more at Rocklands, lu the interim he had explored much of the Gulf country and had acquired vast holdings, but a sudden drop in values had left him almost penniless. That was prior to his selection on the Bellinger. Towards the end of the 1870's commenced thc famous «eries of long-distance droving feats that has
made him famous.
The first major one was from Travers and Gibson's station at Aramac, across what ia now the Northern Territory, to Glencoe station. The party carried 12 months' supplies of food per three drays and 00 horses. Burketown was then a deserted village and from Cloncurry they had to traverse 1000 miles into which white men had never been. Buch- anan, prince of bushmen as Captain Hickey called him, would push ahead to choose each night's camp and to select the best waterholes, or to find the only waterholes where water was scarce. As for himself on these journeys, it wa« said that he seldom drank water, and could last longer than most men with- out fluid of any kind whatsoever. The Gordon Brothers were members of the outfit.
They crossed the McArthur near where Borroloola now stands. While Buchanan was ahead eome miles looking for further supplies, one of the men wat killed by the blacks, being decapitated us he stood over the camp fire. Apart from that there were no casualties, and actually more cattle than the partj storied out with were delivered, be cause some of the calves born on tb( road were saved. The Gordons remained on Glencoe, hut Buchanan returned tc explore the country south-east of Dalj
In 1881 be performed a remarkab]< feat by driving 20,000 cattle from Queensland across to Glencoe on behall of those great pioneers of the cattle Sn dustry, C. B. Fisher and Maurie« Lyons. Although the cattle were de livered safely with scarcely the loss of > single beast they went down in their hun drcds afterwards to something con traded on the property, and, we an told, thc survivors- never thrived at all Foi the next three years or so Buchona! was engaged on these long drives witl cattle for North Australia. In 188! ho stocked Wave Hill station iron Bowen Downs, and in the same yea] drove a mob of 4000 beasts from Rich mond, near Hughenden, across to tin Ord River in Western Australia.
Looking back over those year» we fini that he was thc first man to stock th. Barkly Tableland, thc Northern Terri tory, Victoria River or thc Ord River il W.A. An even greater feat was to fol low. In 1800, he took a trial shipmen of bullocks to Singapore in order to tes what was thought might be an excellen outlet for the stations of North Aui tralia. Thc animals brought £8 pe head, expenses came to £5 per head, th ring of dealers in Singapore oppose. th» move and no further trade tool pince.
Two years later came the big diñaste of 181)2, when failures on thc station were the order of the day. With a mo from the Ord River Buchanan starte west for somewhere beyond Hall's Creel They crossed the lower Fitzroy bevon thf King Leopold ranges, which the penetrated, passed along in the vicinlt nf Ninety-Mile Beach to Marble Bar i W.A. From there they struck aero« towards tin» upper waters of the Foi fescue, found a track through the Han merslcy and Opthalmia Rangea lying bi tween that river and the Ashburton an dominated by Mt Bruce, a 4000 ft pea' on to the headwaters of the Ashburtoi crossing that river to the Gasci'vn thence to the Upper Murchison, whei the mob was safely handed over after journey of 'POO miles along an unkrow w ay, later called Buchanan's track.
In 1S04 Buchanan lost Wave Hi through the financial crash and. i nearly 70 year* of age, was engaged ( find a way for the S.A. Governmei from Sturt Creek to the Barkly Tnbl land. His only companion wa?
black boy, whom he had to handcuff i a heavy camel saddle to prevent hi running away for a portion of the jon ney. The journey, despite great har ships, wan eventually completed, BI Buchanan retired to Tamworth distrii where he spent the remnants of his es ingsin purchnsinga lucerne farm. whi. lu- worked until his death in 1901.
It is of interest to note that Andre Buchanan BP far back as 1SS2 fas inned a sheep shearing machine.