The settlement of the Western Australian Wheatbelt around York and the Family chases gold.

Well readers you can see why this blog is called a discontinuous narrative as I bounce back a few posts and rejoin the tale of my Great Grand Father Edmund Cahill and his pioneering life in Western Australia.

At the end of my post (https://piecemealadventurer.com/2021/11/08/with-time-served-in-fremantle-gaol-then-it-was-on-to-york/ ) Edmund had settled and become a successful farmer in the settlement of York. The first inland colonial settlement in Western Australia established in 1830.

The rolling hills around York and a ready water supply from the Avon River made the area favourable for grazing and by 1851 convicts, like Edmund, were sent to the area to expand the settlements and to colonise the lands.

Convicts built new settlements like Toodyay 64 km, north of York, where the old mill and hotel show its early prosperity. Northam become the major town in the district when the trainline to the gold towns further west was routed through it.

Settlements like Greenhills have all but disappeared with only the old pub left.

Others like Beverly have reborn as areas of tourism and art.

As settlement spread more and more the Ngoongar Aboriginal people were displaced. But they never ceded their land.

In the 1847 Spanish monks had established a monastical village, New Norcia as a base for missionary activities in Western Australia. It was here the many aboriginal children stolen from their parents were trained as maids and servants and deprived of their own ancient culture.

In Northam the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Cultural Centre provides in its building the story of dispossession, the frontier wars and the families broken and the children taken away.

The treatment of the Australian Aborigines, the disrespect for and destruction of their culture, is in my view marks the worst aspect of European colonisation. It was a brutal destruction. I think there is nothing more emblematic of the destruction of the culture than the stealing of Aboriginal children form their parents, a process that was undertaken in Australia for 100 years from 1869 -1969 as part of the policy of Australian Governments.

Despite it all this, below is the last piece a visitor reads before leaving the centre.

Edmund and his brother were most likely part of this dispossession as they successfully farmed their land. Young Irish convicts themselves stolen from their family and land, having been driven to stealing by the famine and the seizing of crops and livestock by the English overlords . Transported from their homeland that had been struck by famine and forced on a long dangerous voyage to the hot dry strange land.

They also pined for home. The Tipperary School in York an example of the Irish calling out to home.

But for Edmund, his wife Bridget and family, success in farming wasn’t enough and when in 1887 gold was found nearly 300 km west of York followed the gold rush to the new settlement of Southern Cross. In Southern Cross there is a monument to the pioneers. The Shovel and Pick representing the miners and the Scythe and Rake representing the farmers.

In moving to Southern Cross they really did start a new life. Edmund changed his name to Edward and claimed to be 10 years younger than his age. Why he did this is unclear. Whether it was to escape his convict past or to make himself available for a position suitable for a younger man or some other reason, Im left to guess. Its a sign of the times that a man who was prominent in society could make such a change.

Edward lived in Southern Cross until his passing on 24 April 1895 at the reported aged of 55. (but he was born in Ireland in 1830 so really 65). On the edge of Southern Cross there is a list of those who were buried in the original cemetery (now destroyed)

In the Southern Cross Museum I found a transcript of Edmund/Edward’s obituary which had been posted in the Southern Cross Herald. It states he was ‘one of the first residents of the town’, ‘was held in high esteem’ and ‘was a former resident of York’.

But the family had contracted gold fever and following Edmunds death Bridget and her two youngest children, Patrick (My Grandfather) and Michael with their families headed further east, to the edge of the desert, chasing gold that had been found in and around Kalgoorlie. That’s a tale for another time.

In my journey through Australia last year I was determined to make myself open to Australian Aboriginal culture and through that make my own connection to the land. It has been an experience that has affected my greatly and has allowed me to at least have some understanding of aboriginal connection to the land and how beautiful and powerful that is.

Seeking out my family history at the same time allowed me to feel the longing for their homeland my fore bares felt and to some small extent maybe I do. Maybe its my once ginger hair which is part of the Celtic gene that makes me feel that way.

I have travelled to Ireland twice and will likely return again. On my last visit there, (look for Ireland in the drop down menus) I was in a pub in Bantry. I had just finished a pint of Guinness when another was plonked in front of me. I looked up at the barman and was about to speak when he said – ‘the boss said you have an Irish head on ya, this ones on the house’ – says it all really!

With time served in Fremantle Gaol then it was on to York

The area around Fremantle and upstream in the Swan River to Perth is quite beautiful.

Beautiful sandy beaches flank the mouth of the Swan River and its bustling Port.

From Kings Park there are views over the River and the City of Perth

Kings Park includes the Perth Botanic Gardens and its amazing native flora collection.

Not that my Great grandfather would have had time to enjoy any of these beautiful sights as his home was Fremantle Gaol. From his arrival in 1853 until he and his brother were given a pardon in 1855 they worked, like all convicts on the gaol. The limestone extracted from the site of the gaol and cut into blocks on site.

It would have been hot dusty work with no escape. Summer temperatures in Perth are often in the high 30c range and not unusually 40c+. Temperatures unheard of in Ireland, but the convicts toiled in the heat, sleeping in quarters on the quarry at night.

I should introduce my Great grand father. His name was Edmund and his convict records describe him and 6ft and 1/2 inch tall (only 1 inch shorter than me) stout with a ruddy complexion, (mmm could be me) with brown hair and hazel eyes (phew Im not a reincarnation my hair was once ginger and eyes are blue). A tall strong man in modern days in 1853 he was the tallest on the ship and I can imagine that strength was well put to work in the prison quarry till he and his brother were pardoned in 1855.

Not long after being pardoned, Edmund married and Irish Bridget and with his brother they all headed west to the farming centre of York. York was the first inland white settlement in Western Australia with the colonial settlement process continued the dispossession of Aborigines starting in 1831.

So I followed in their footsteps and checked out of Fremantle Gaol and headed to York

Its a bit over 100km to travel from Fremantle to York and it was certainly easier whipping along the road east on a motorbike than would have need the journey in 1855.

The road to York crosses the Darling Ranges, a low mountain range the attracts rainfall that feeds the catchments of Perth to the west and the towns on the eastern hinterland.

Recent bushfires had scared the bush but in the miracle that is the Australian bush there are the plants that like fire. The grass trees or Xanthorrhoea australis to be formal are one example.

Bush fires, grass trees and strange animals. I wonder what my troop of intrepid Irish forebears thought as the headed east after a mere 2 years in this strange land.

Looking out over the town of York and its surrounds you can see the lovely green bush .

Down in the town the grand buildings tell the tale of past prosperity.

But the grandest of buildings is the Town Hall

I had come to York om a bit of a hope and a prayer about finding any information of my Great grandfather in years so far past.

In the town hall I walked up the stairs to the balcony and there was an Honour Board of the councillors.

And when the Municipality of York in 1861 was Edmund Cahill

Now I hear some of you saying that that goes to prove that local government is just full of criminals. But just hold your horses.

At the York Historical Society Archives I was able to view a copy of the 1859 York Census filled in by Edmund showed that they had worked hard to be successful farmers in this new land.

At the farm there was Edmund and his brother, and wife Bridget, their two children and two employed labourers also from Ireland. The had 50 acres under cultivation and 46 head of livestock. This in the 4 years since pardoned and land that could only be dreamed of back in Ireland.

The family was also instrumental in establishing catholic church a beautiful building still standing and prominent in the town.

But such acquisition doesn’t come without a cost.

The cost was being paid by the local aboriginal people for whom land is part of them.

In the park opposite the church on the eucalypts the aboriginal colours are crocheted onto the tree. The colours have meaning. Black represents the aboriginal people, yellow represents the sun, the giver of life, and red represents the land and aboriginal connection to that land.

That connection with land, with country will never be broken for a first nations person.

You may have thought that with success in York Edmund and Family would have settled and be content but there are more twists to this tale yet.

In the next blog let me show you some some of the towns around York before we rejoin Edmund and his family as they continue their pioneer journey further east.

It was time to cross the continent again!

It was was a short few hundred kilometres ride north from Esperence to Norseman.

Norseman is the Western Australian town at the start of the 1400 km stretch of road across the arid south of Australia commonly called the Nullabor crossing.

Basically between Norseman and Ceduna in South Australia there is little more than conveniently spaced road houses.

There was a storm brewing across the wheat fields so I stopped a couple of nights at the Norseman Pub for the weather to clear.

The pub is welcoming and the town though small has some examples. My room opened up onto the balcony where I could brew my morning coffee.

The road in places runs close to the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. The cliffs are certainly a feature of the crossing.

In the Australian winter months the Bight is a breading ground for Southern Right Whales. Unfortunately by the time I got here they were on their massive migration b ack to Antarctica for summer.

There were a was a stop at a roadhouse and at the little village of Penong on the crossing

Penong has an amazing windmill collection including the biggest in the country. These were used mainly for pumping water out of bores in this big dry land.

And now I’ve stopped in the lovely coastal village of Streaky Bay. I’m having a beer with a view.

And have a beautiful camping site on the beach under the shade of a big old Silky Oak tree.

I’m on the last bit back to Melbourne and on my next leg I will cross the route I took heading north into the Flinders Ranges back in March. Nearly 8 months ago having covered 26,000km.

There is still 1500 km to go so I hope I’m not too early in paying a little tribute to the Stienbock the BMW adventure bike that has gobbled up the miles and the challenges over these many months.

But the Streaky Bay jetty was a perfect spot to pose infringement of the sunset and under the stars.

Wave Rock

Wave Rock is much more than its famous wave like curve but part of a granite rock field that spans hundreds of kilometres south to the coast near Esperance and east past Norseman to the Nullabor Plain.

The curve is just the face of this Granite Inselberg.

The huge rock hold little forests on top.

A drinking water dam at its side

Views across the adjoining country side.

And rock formations carved by time

The rock has an edge effect forest around its base. The water run off from the granite rock providing a water supply in an otherwise arid place.

At a nearby granite outcrop there is a cave with some very old aboriginal rock art.

Hand stencils are considered some of the earliest forms of rock art and this cave near Wave Rock has many examples.

These can be seen clearly if you enlarge the photos.

So there is much more to Wave Rock than can bee seen at first glance.

Jewels in the South of Western Australia-Denmark and Esperence/Cape Le Grand

After months in the hot tropics of northern Australia and the arid dry coast of central Western Australia arriving in the cool damp southern parts of the state was a sharp change of environment.

The area was cool and moist with rain never far off and a swim in the Southern Ocean is nothing short of bracing.

The landscape around the river and lake is quite beautiful.

But for my the highlight was walking through the coastal forest of Black Butt, Paper Bark and Melaleuca trees.

With the colour of wildflowers and moss sprinkled through

Around 350km east of Denmark is the city of Esperance with the Cape Le Grand National Park near by.

The coast at Cape Le Grand is wild in natural beauty etched by the wind and water.

It’s the quartz in the granite rock formations that makes the sand the whitest in Australia.

In an environment like this I could not help but scale a peak

Or take a dip in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.

Cape le Grand was such a peaceful beautiful place.

A mother kangaroo happy to show off her baby joey.

Maybe we should all pause a time and think about the beauty of the natural world because it is nature that sustains us.

Maybe can all stand up like the people of little Denmark did in the lead up the World Climate Change Conference and say We Can Do It by cherishing our natural world.