1954-05-01, English, Article, Journal or magazine article edition: TOWNSHIP IN THE MUD (1 May 1954) Australian Geographical Society.

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TOWNSHIP IN THE MUD (1 May 1954)
 
Bookmark: https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/257601555
Physical Description
  • 1027 words
  • article
  • photo
  • Journals
  • Magazines
Published
  • vra, Australian National Travel Association, 1954-05-01
Language
  • English

Edition details

Title
  • TOWNSHIP IN THE MUD (1 May 1954)
Appears In
  • Walkabout., v.20, no.5, 1954-05-01 (ISSN: 0043-0064)
Author
  • Australian Geographical Society.
Other Contributors
  • By JOHN GARDNER
Published
  • vra, Australian National Travel Association, 1954-05-01
Physical Description
  • 1027 words
  • article
  • photo
  • Journals
  • Magazines
Series
Part Of
  • Walkabout.
  • Vol. 20 No. 5 (1 May 1954)
  • Rex Nan Kivell Collection
Subjects
Summary
  • TOWNSHIP IN THE MUD By JOHN GARDNER UJ E rode along a lonely white road through several miles of flat, marshy country, low scrub and thick mangroves, and came to one of Australia’s strangest ports, a link with one of the great explorers, Captain Charles Sturt. We were at Port Gawler, an eerie six-street township in the mud and mangroves groves of St Vincent’s Gulf, a couple of hours’ sail from Port Adelaide or a ride of twenty miles or so by road from the capital. Salamanca Street was silent. The streets called Badajos, Busaco, Vittoria and Nive were deserted. The only people in sight were a few men fishing from the charred, broken piles of Lisbon Wharf at the end of W aterloo Road. There was no traffic on the deep, cool river which flowed in from the Gulf, split in two near the wharf and spent itself inland. A few launches and dinghies tied to mangroves rose and fell softly with the tide. There were no human inhabitants of this 115-year-old port. No family has ever built there: none ever will. It is a township under mud, a pioneers’ mistake, a dream which faded. Only one of its six streets has been made, Waterloo Road, the link with the port and the main highways further inland. The other five streets are lost in the mangroves and swamps on the banks of the Gawler River, their survey pegs buried in the black ooze which is sometimes covered by the sea. Captain Sturt saw the spot as he followed the newly discovered river in from the Gulf. He had settled in South Australia after his historic journey in a whaleboat down the Murray to find its mouth, and was soon to become the colony’s Surveyor-General. In a report to the South Australian Company, Sturt strongly recommended a special survey of the area, that is, one ahead of its turn. That was late in 1838. In February ruary 1839 the Colonial Secretary (Mr George M. Stephen), with Mr 1. B. Strangways, a Mr Nation and one Strange, an attendant who had accompanied panied Sturt on his visit the previous year, rode their horses to the “port . Here is Waterloo Road, the only made street in Port Gawler. The other streets are mere pegs, buried in the nearby mangrove swamps. Broken remnants of Port Gawler wharf. Good fishing is virtually all that is left in this pioneers’ dream that died. They explored the district, enthused, and spurred their mounts back to the infant capital of Adelaide. They told the colonists of the fine saltwater water stream (which Stephen named “Strange’s Creek) linked inland by a chain of ponds to a broad freshwater stream called after the Colony’s Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Sir George Gawler. The Colonial Secretary ordered a Special Survey. “It is my intention,’’ he declared, “to lay out a town for sale.” Surveyor Lindsay reported: “Land of the richest description ... an excellent site for a town.” A public auction was announced, auctioneer Neales Bentham informing all that “Port Gawler must become come a port of very considerable importance, ance, and the town one of great trade”. Later Mr Bentham was “instructed to sell by private contract the remaining town allotments in -this desirable location”. tion”. THEY built “Lisbon Wharf”, and a sailing ship traded between Port Adelaide and Port Gawler twice a week, connecting ing with a spring dray which rumbled for hire between Port Gawler and a point a few miles inland. Grain, wool and flour from the newly opened farmlands in the Lower North were sailed around to Port Adelaide or to waiting windjammers a mile or so out. This trade died as new hard roads ran out like fingers from Adelaide to the farmlands. The ketches stopped calling. The wharf rotted away until only jagged piles were left. The colonists found that you could not build homes in the mud— and a township died at birth. Which all shows how wrong we can be. There is not one person in the township ship on most days. When the few amateur fishermen and picnickers leave Port Gawler ler late on Saturdays and Sundays, and the sea begins to cover the streets so proudly named after battles in which some of our pioneers fought Napoleon, the place is as solitary as it was when Sturt saw it. Puzzled over conflicting records giving first 1839 and then 1869 as the date of Port Gawler’s beginning, I asked the Chief Draftsman of the South Australian Lands Department, Mr S. W. Symon, if he could bridge the thirty-year gap by a search of his records. In Mr Symon I found a civil servant with a deep love of Australian history and a lively desire to bridge the gap I had mentioned. What might have been a ten-minute talk lasted three-quarters of an hour. By pressing buzzers which brought messengers with maps, books and charts Mr Symon was able to show that Stephen phen s Special Survey of “township allotments” along the river bank was made privately in 1839. Also, in 1839 the Crown reserved the actual port area. This, however, was not subdivided for public sale until thirty years later. It was not until we had been searching for about forty m.nutes that we discovered this. Mr Symon found the clues in a 114-year- old field sketch book, still in a wonderful state of preservation. District Clerk Andrew Driscoll told me that the port had no future—only a nacf Tlio Wol i „ i i past. Ihe local council had no complete written history of the port. It would prob- ably revert to nature. He pointed out an interesting fact. If you follow the salt- . . , 0 , Strange S Creek ) to a big earth embankment which divides it from the fresh water which comes from higher land and floods pastoral rniinfiMr 4.„u ( 1 1 tz \ country, you can catch freshwater fish on one side of the embankment and salt- water fish on the Other. Strange Creek, indeed ! ’ But “Port Gawler”, name for that quaint, solitary outpost without a human resident, is still being printed on maps. And land is still for sale,
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Language
  • English
Identifier
  • DU80 (LC)

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