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Early Transport

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Fast Facts
Type of thing Business


Place used Willunga environs, Willunga to Aldinga, Adelaide and Encounter Bay



Off goes John Hart’s team up the hill as cheerfully as if bad roads were unknown. To human beings who have not only ears to be deafened but bones to be dislocated, it is frightful. Southern Argus 21 December 1867 p3

The first Europeans travelling to the Willunga area followed the long established trails of the Aboriginal people. In 1839, John McLaren’s surveyors, using information from aboriginal guides, had recorded the track. Until the bridge [at Old Noarlunga] was built in 1840 it was the route south for everybody: surveyed long before by Kaurna and Ramindjeri walkers, shown on foot to the sealers and settlers, and then followed perilously by bullock drays. 1

Alf Martin recalled the bullock drays that were used to transport passengers between Willunga and Adelaide, except in the winter time, when roads were impassable. At these times people would walk to Adelaide…Bullock drays had no springs, and this method of travel was uncomfortable and tedious. The bullock teams, however, were very reliable for hauling loads up and down the hills… The trip from Adelaide to McLaren Vale by bullock wagon usually took a week...it was always a necessity for bullock wagons to travel in convoy so that they could haul each other out of inevitable difficulties. 2 When they reached Willunga, The Bush Inn was the ‘haven of rest’ for the bullock drays. It was the half-way house to Encounter Bay in the early days of the colony. 3

Local historian, May de Caux, recorded a journey from Adelaide to Willunga made by the Williams family, who lived in the Willunga area in the 1850s: After spending one night at the Commercial Inn in Waymouth Street the family left in a bullock dray for Willunga. It was not until late in the evening that the family reached Tapleys Hill, where the night was spent. Next day the journey was continued, and after travelling for several days through dense virgin scrub, they reached their destination. 4

With many creeks to be negotiated on the road from the Onkaparinga River to the town, it is not surprising that the first major construction of the first Willunga District Road Board in 1850 was a bridge. Building roads and developing embankments and cuttings created gentler gradients that horse teams could negotiate and then came the glorious days of the coaches… Light draught horses were first used, but improved roads brought lighter horses...The Willunga coach service was established by Mr Rounsvell in the 1850s and later transferred to Cobb & Co. In the 1880s Hill &Co purchased the business… the drivers… were noted for the extraordinary skill in handling their teams, but also for their good humour, patience and consideration for passengers. 5 Coaches took four hours to do the journey from Adelaide, with four changes of horses.

Coach travel could be wild and sometimes dangerous. Among press reports can be found Andy O’Brien’s hectic drive down Tapleys Hill and, in 1868, the coach tipping over in West Terrace. The death of Mary Ann Bastian following her fall from a runaway coach in the main street in 1889 must have been a wretched day in the town.

William Du Rieu was the first coach driver for 12 years, employed by Mr Rounsevell and Cobb and Co. William Kelton drove from 1888 to 1892 or 83 and lived in Du Rieu’s house. Other drivers included Andy O’Brien, Jack Alexander, Jack Robinson, Dick Carter, Bill Mahoney, Sampson Hall, Jack Connolly, Mr Grant and Mr Hill. Charles Shilton drove the Willunga-Adelaide coach for 14 years from 1880. The last driver, Walter Branson, had the distinction of driving the final coach to Willunga when the Adelaide-Willunga Railway opened and buses and trains superseded coaches from 1915.

Sources

  • Idylls of the South Southern Argus 21 December 1867 p3
  • 1. The Southern Kaurna Placenames Project; Kaurna Warra Pintyandi https://www.adelaide.edu.au/kwp/placenames/research-publ/4-03-03-01_TarniyandinggaPedlerCk.pdf Retrieved 12 March 2017
  • 2. ‘McLaren Vale… from the beginning. Recollections by Alf Martin’ p106 & 107 Willunga National Trust - papers and documents available at the Willunga Courthouse 42-4-14
  • 3. Willunga National Trust - papers and documents available at the Willunga Courthouse 42-1-15
  • 4 ‘McLaren Vale… from the beginning. Recollections by Alf Martin’ p106 & 107 Willunga National Trust - papers and documents available at the Willunga Courthouse 42-4-14
  • 5 ‘McLaren Vale… from the beginning. Recollections by Alf Martin’ p107 & 108 Willunga National Trust - papers and documents available at the Willunga Courthouse 42-4-14
  • Lawrie T ‘From Soil and Seed Pioneering Churches of Christ’ Chapter 7 http://lawriefamily.info/final-years.html Retrieved 12 March 2017
  • ‘Early Willunga District Bridges’ 23-2-26 National Trust - papers and documents available at the Willunga Courthouse.
Hailstone's Bullock team in High Street, Willunga, 1916
Hailstone's Bullock team in High Street, Willunga, 1916
Willunga mail coach, 1885
Willunga mail coach, 1885
Mail coach at Willunga Post Office, 1915.
Mail coach at Willunga Post Office, 1915.


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