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Enjoying Life at Eighty BUSH STILL CALLS
With faculties undimmed by his 80 odd years, Alfred Giles, explorer and Northern Territory pioneer, is spending the evening of his days at St. Peters. To him the words of Shakespeare, "My age is a lusty winter, frosty but kindly," apply with special force.
To be perfectly, candid, Mr. Giles has lost count of his age, but he reckons that as he came to South Australia with his parents as a boy in 1849 he is safe in set- ting it down as "more than 80." "I came from Kent, where the hops grow, and I have been hopping ever since," he remarked with a merry twinkle in his eye. His father, the late Mr. Christopher Giles started farming on Wakefield River, erecting a wooden house he had brought in sections from England. He had a 400-acre block there. He was the first chairman of the Upper Wakefield District Council. In 1852 he embarked on pastoral pursuits, taking up land in what is now known as the Ketchowla country. He died in Adelaide at an advanced age. Mr. Alfred Giles was educated at the famous school conducted by the late Mr. J. L. Young, then situated in Stephens place. The late Dr. W. Gosse, one of the earliest medical men in Ade- laide, had his rooms at the corner of Stephens place and North terrace, and his son, Willie Gosse, who afterward made a name as an explorer, particularly in the Lake Amadeus country was a fellow student of Mr. Giles. Famous Schoolmates Other schoolmates were Jack Cleland, who was afterward one of the survivors of the wreck of the Gothenburg, and a pioneer o£ the Northern Territory explora- tion, and who is still alive, Messrs. "Paddy" and Charles Cameron Kingston, Gavin and the late Dr. Gardner (sons of the late Rev. John Gardner, formerly .of Chalmers Church), and Stephen King and John Frew, who were subsequently mem- bers of the expedition of John McDouall Stuart, which first crossed Australia from Adelaide to the Indian Ocean. Mr. Giles as a schoolboy remembered seeing McKinlay, the explorer, getting on a camel at the old police barracks. Fired by the stories of the adventures of McKinlay, Stuart, Sturt, and other ex- plorers young Giles longed for an oppor- tunity to emulate their deeds of daring. His opportunity came when Mr. John Ross agreed to accept his services as a member of the party which went ahead in connection with the construction of the Overland telegraph line, and he looks back on that journey, when hundreds of miles of country was first traversed by white men, as the outstanding achievement of his adventurous career. The party travelled 300 miles east of the area traversed by Stuart. "Ross was a great leader," he remarked reminiscently, "and," as he took another pull at his pipe, "he was a fine friend." Mr. Giles recalled the names of several survivors of that notable band— Messrs, Chalmers, of Daly Waters; Neate, of Menindie; and Jack Cleland, of Port Ade- laide. The love of the bush, and the Northern Territory that trip engendered, has never died. "Low Bungles'' of Adelaide "I lived in the Territory for 50 years," he remarked. "I have been in Adelaide five years, and I am not used to it yet. There is not enough room here," and he flung his arms out. "They call the houses bungalows here. I call them 'low bungles.' People close up the houses and make them dark. In the Territory the houses are open and airy, with plenty of light, and people live on the verandahs mostly— great broad verandahs where you can stretch your legs in comfort. 'Can white men live there? Why, of course. Look at me!' And the old eyes flashed. Mrs. Giles smilingly acquiesced. "We reared a family there, and two of my boys are still there," he added. Mr. Harold Giles, the youngest, is
manager of Elsey Station, made famous by Mrs. Gunn in 'We of the Never 'Never.' Leslie, the second son, is in the Govern- ment service at Darwin, and was Acting Government Resident recently during the temporary absence of his chief. Two sons, Major Giles, and Leslie, went to the war, and the youngest son was getting ready to do so when the armistice was declared. 'The Territory is all right,' he said. 'The country cannot be blamed, but the management is simply abominable.' Mr. Giles still has an interest in the Territory. He owns a station at Pine Creek. In days gone by he formed Spring Vale Station, and early in 1882 established Delamere Station on the Flora River, and grew cotton. Notable visitors were re- ceived at Spring Vale, including Ernest Favenc, the explorer, who, with his wife, spent six months there; Lord Kintore, a former Governor of South Australia; the late Sir Edward Stirling, of the Adelaide University; and Alexander Forrest, brother of the late Lord Forrest, another notable explorer. About eight miles from Spring Vale Mr. Giles discovered a number of large caves, containing beautiful stalactites and stalag- mites, which be named the Kintore Caves. He took the late Hon. T. Playford, a former Premier of South Australia, through the caves, and the politcian, who was chiefly remarkable for his huge bulk, got stuck tight between two stalac- tites, and one pillar had to be cut down before he was released. Seven Times to Darwin Today Mr. Copley Playford, his eldest son, is Government Geologist in the Ter- ritory, and he and Mr. Giles are firm friends. Once in a flood they were marooned on high land abutting the Fer- gusson River, and had to subsist for a fortnight on bread and jam. 'No; I 'am no relation to Ernest Giles, the explorer.' replied Mr. Giles to a question. 'We have been mistaken for brothers. I started out four years ahead of him. I began my exploring in 1870, and he came along in 1874. I met him on the Peake.' Mr. Giles was the first to cross Leichhardt's bar, a famous spot on the Roper River, after that ill-fated explorer had crossed it in 1845. He negotiated the bar in 1871. And the bush still calls the old pioneer. He travelled seven times from Adelaide to Darwin altogether, the last time in 1878, after which he settled to pastoral pursuits. One of his trips was with 5,000 sheep for the overland telegraph line con- struction party. He delivered the animals safely at various points. There was no township at Oodnadatta in those days. It was called the Yellow Waterhole, or Angle Pole, and later was known as Hookey's Waterhole. Right through his life the words of Kipling, taken from 'The Explorer,' have, as it were, been ringing in his ears — 'Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges. Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!" The roving days of Alfred Giles are over, but he is doing the next best thing. He is busily engaged writing his remi- niscences dating from 1878 to the present day. They will be worth reading.
MR. ALFRED GILES explorer, who fs 80 years of age.
MR. ALFRED GILES explorer, who fs 80 years of age.