Monday, December 19, 2011

Cobb and Co and the Paroo People.

Cobb and Co Coach crossing the flooded Paroo River.

In researching the history of the outback and my families place in it I stumbled on photos of family members standing in front of a Cobb and Co Stage coach at Wannaring. NSW. On the back of the photo is the writing of Eldred Barton addressed to Margaret Valentine Cotter and he refers the everyone as the "Paroo People"

Cobb and Co coach full gallop being chased by a dust storm

For my overseas readers the Paroo is one of the last free flowing rivers left in Australia and is a very significant river along with the Darling, as a place of Aboriginal history, Pastoral history and is very high in environmental significance. ( google it).

The Stage coaches of Australia were developed by Americans Freeman Cobb and George Mowton in answer to American company "Adams Express" desire to set up an international freight service here. Adams Express had profited greatly from the American gold rush and saw similar opportunities in moving freight here.

However, George Mowton returned to America as he felt the plan would not work- the country was too harsh. Cobb persisted and saw the need to move passengers as just important as freight.

Coach outside a hotel.

Whilst coaches had been used for many years in Australia they were crude and uncomfortable, often falling apart, or making passengers ill. The Cob and Co Coach was developed in answer to the need of covering vast distances over harsh terrain. The original coaches were built in America by Abbot- Downing coaches and used a simple leather strap system to suspend the the body and provide comfort for the passengers. They were a proven design and they worked. They were known as "Concord" coaches as this was the town where they were built.

However "comfort" is very subjective. Here is a quote from a passenger in 1870:-

“The coach starts ... with the passengers and mails over a road on which travelling in the daytime is wretched enough, but in the night is excruciating. The road has received very little attention in the way of making from anybody, and is just what a track over stony ground, cut up for a score of years, would be. For twenty or thirty miles it consists of sand and rocks intermingled, over which the coach is driven as fast as the horses can drag it. The result is a continuous series of jolts, which must be felt to be appreciated, and which in weak persons would likely cause internal injuries. During this period of suffering, if the wind follows the coach, there is a constant atmosphere of dust. The driver has shortcuts and paths of his own through the forest, and the passenger on the box seat is constantly engaged in a mental calculation of the odds in favour of running foul of innumerable stumps which he sees flying past, or dashing headlong against the trees through which he can see no road until in the midst of them. The leader of the team however, follows the twists and turns of the bush road with amazing accuracy and though we graze the very bark of the trees, still on we go, frequently at full gallop, and the driver is quite unconscious of doing anything wonderful”

Pulled by a team of 4-6 horses they carried their passengers, mail and luggage across the vast interiors of QLD, NSW and Victoria. As Cobb & Co developed so too did the Staging Posts- a place where the horses were changed and repairs made as needed. These too developed where passengers could receive a meal, drink and accommodation as required.

Cobb and Co Coach fully loaded ( dare I say "Overloaded"??)

To ensure the fastest time, a driver would use a bugle or a horn to announce the coaches imminent arrival. This gave the blacksmith and the stables time to prepare the exchange horse. Each drivers "call" was different and so the team of horses could be readied specifically for that driver and his coach. It was simple and brilliant. Horses were exchanged every 10 to 30 miles depending on terrain. The Cobb and Co coaches redefined travel for Australia from the 1850's through to the 1920's where cars, trucks and buses began to take over. In 1856 Mr Cobb returned to American having made a small fortune and changing the history of our nation.

The Cobb & Co Coach arrives for the Paroo people! Woman far right is Elen Fischer Cotter, and on her right Mrs Goodie ( Family photo circa 1910 at Wanaaring)

For me, I see in the family photos that the arrival of Cobb and Co coach was a great social event with everyone turning out to see it. I look at the people and see tough men and women. There are stories of a woman driver who would drive and if the coach was not full she would take her 13 children with her! Once she saw Bushrangers about to rob her coach and she beat them off ( not surprising if she has 13 kids... bush rangers would be a piece of cake!)

Its a sad thing that there is not more done to preserve Australian folk-lore. If you look at the wells Fargo site in the USA they are very proud of their stage coach history. I have to say that nowadays its fashionable to "bash " the USA however there are many great things they have done for us and our history

My family photo. Sent by Eldred Barton for Ms Margaret Cotter. The women to the left is Elen Fischer Cotter. (Circa 1910 at Wanaaring to be confirmed)

Below is a song that now makes sense to me after looking at the photos. I hope it makes sense to you.

Cobb and Co. Lionel Long

There's a hustle and a bustle in the old hotel tonight
The bar is over-bursting and the lights are gaining bright
They're waiting for the horses who have been through the night
And they're waiting for the coach of Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co, Cobb & Co
And they're waiting for the coach of Cobb & Co

There's Billy Jones the jackeroo still breathless from his ride
He bought a brand new sulky and he's standin' just outside
He's waiting for the pretty girl who's gonna be his bride
And she's coming on the coach of Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co, Cobb & Co
And she's coming on the coach of Cobb & Co

Now the horses hooves are drumming in the distance they're a coming
A far off land is booming, just a plain
The breakneck speed they're driving, pretty soon they'll be arriving
There'll be lots of cheer when old friends meet again

There's Dan the old prospecter and he's got a bag of gold
He made a lucky strike, about two thousand pounds I'm told
He's off to see the city lights before he gets too old
And he's leaving on the coach of Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co, Cobb & Co
And he's leaving on the coach of Cobb & Co

Jim Burke is mighty worried 'cause the drinks are running dry
Unless he gets some money soon he'll kiss his farm goodbye
His written to the bank and now he's waiting their reply
And he hopes it's on the coach of Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co, Cobb & Co
And he hopes it's on the coach of Cobb & Co

The driver's whips are cracking and the horses hooves are dragging
As across the red and dusty trail they race
There's a distant light a burning and the passengers are yearning
For the comfort of a warm and kindly place

And someone shouts they're coming and the door is open wide
There's a rattle and a clatter and the coach is there outside
With horses hot and steamy from their long and dusty ride
There's the coach that bears the name of Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co, Cobb & Co
With the coach that bears the name of Cobb & Co..

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dust Bowl Dance

The Cotter boys circa 1906

The young man stands on the edge of his porch,
The days were short and the father was gone,
There was no one in the town and no one in the field,
This dusty barren land had given all it could yield.

I've been kicked off my land at the age of sixteen,
And I have no idea where else my heart could have been,
I placed all my trust at the foot of this hill,
And now I am sure my heart can never be still,
So collect your courage and collect your horse,
And pray you never feel this same kind of remorse.

Me on my stock horse.

Seal my heart and break my pride,
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide,
Align my heart, my body, my mind,
To face what I've done and do my time.

Well you are my accuser, now look in my face,
Your opression reeks of your greed and disgrace,
So one man has and another has not,
How can you love what it is you have got,
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store.

Jim Cotter 1907

There will come a time I will look in your eye,
You will pray to the God that you always denied,
The I'll go out back and I'll get my gun,
I'll say, "You haven't met me, I am the only son".

Seal my heart and break my pride,
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide,
Align my heart, my body, my mind,
To face what I've done and do my time.

Clearing land by hand 1907

Seal my heart and break my pride,
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide,
Align my heart, my body, my mind,
To face what I've done and do my time.

Well yes sir, yes sir, yes it was me,
I know what I've done, cause I know what I've seen,
I went out back and I got my gun,
I said, "You haven't met me, I am the only son".

Song. Mumford and Son

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ankle update

They are not going to fuse it (YAY!). However, on the 14th of December they are going to open up the ankle, remove what's left of the cartilage, then clean the damage out, take the cartilage away and grow it in a dish for 6 weeks.

They then put it back in the ankle. The upshot is an 80% chance of success and ankle movement without pain. The down side is 12 months before I can put weight on it. They will replace the hip in June whilst I am recovering from the ankle.

So there is a HUGE shift in my future coming up.

Perhaps its the drop kick I need. So- here's to sitting still for that time! Ouf!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yoma Sabina. The Lurcher

The Lurcher!

(Photo Courtesy Stella Crosley)

With back burning operations occurring in the national park, Dave and I thought we would walk the fire trails before the fires reached our favorite spots. A beautiful warm day, with a light breeze, it was not too long before we spotted Lewins Honeyeater, Whip Bird and Eastern Spinebill. Last week I observed the Glossy Black Cockatoos feeding further down Wool Wash creek.

The Warratahs were in full bloom and they looked superb, as too were numerous other flowers. Butterflies were in abundance and we noted this one we had not seen before, looked it up and I thought "what a funny name for a butterfly" I posted it.

After a 2 hour walk talking about motorbikes, bushwalking, birds, we returned home hot, sweaty, and tired but all the better for it. I hope the birds and animals will be ok with the fires that will soon appear.

Later that afternoon we went for a motorbike ride. Heaps of fun and quite eerie with the fires burning alongside the track.

NOTE:- Full apology to SOSSA. I was booked to be on the boat today, and got the date mixed up with next Sunday. My own stupid fault. Worse still the boat sits in harbour and waits... So, to Lindsay Smith and the 12 or so people waiting for me .... I am utterly sorry.. I will gut fish, swab the decks, turn the sausages at the next meeting to make amends. Its the least I can do.

Birds seen- Crimson Rosella, Australian Magpie, Lewins Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebil, Whip Bird, Laughing Kookaburra, Galah, Noisy Miner, Red Wattlebird, Currawong.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

First long ride

I previously posted about my family history, and realised that one of the newspapers is doing the same and using some of the photos I had posted. This history will be published in "The Land" newspaper next month , so I thought it best to withdraw the post from my blog until after the article is published.

So, here is my first ride:-

Getting ready.

On Sunday, with the weather typically warm, sunny and with blue skies I chose to ride the bike to Mountain Lagoon. Its a particularly favorite spot of mine and it is a ride that, not to long ago, I did on my mountain bike.

The ride takes me through, and across Wheeny Creek before winding its way up into the mountains along a dirt road/firetrail.

I must confess that I had more confidence on the tar road as I have not done much dirt riding for many, many years.

Daves bike and my bike.

The bike performed really well for a 250, with a lot more power than the ones I rode as a kid. It was not too long before I was at the lagoon, with purple swamp hens enjoying the waters edge.

On the way back I spotted a dingo which was quite exciting and rare. The ride requires a degree of caution as the road is narrow with blind spots and hairpin bends, the risk of being hit by a 4wd is there.

The Lagoon

Later, I rode the firetrails which are quite rough and had to cross a fallen log. I had forgotten how to do that and got stuck halfway across before recalling what I had to do. Second time around was sucessful both ways.Then I rode through a creek and nealry swampped myself with mud....

After I returned I was really quite sore but satisfied with the way it went. The bike will now need its first service after 120km of travel.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thurloo Downs

Left to Right. Jim Cotter, Plummer Cotter,the owner of Thurloo Downs/Elsinora Station Mr Killen?,and Frank Cotter.

I have recently discovered and am researching my families pastoral history here in Australia and our links with the Darling River. My great grandfather, Plummer Cotter and his wife Mary, had three children born in a town called Wilcannia. For my overseas friends, the Darling River is one of the great rivers of the world and would be similar to the mighty Mississippi.

Darling River at Wilcannia in drought 2006

Wilcannia Is situated north of the Menindee Lakes and was Australias third largest port. Paddle steamers worked the Murray-Darling river, and with the boom in the wool trade, mining etc, Wilcannia thrived. Today Wilcannia is a shell of its former glory. Many of its old buildings remain,sadly many have become burnt out.

Darling River at Wilcannia with paddle steamer "Tolarno" circa 1906

The town itself is on the Barrier Highway east of Broken Hill. Many travellers refuse to stop in this town. There has been a history of riots and violence.
The three children were Margaret Valentine Cotter, James Cotter and Frank Cotter. Frank is my grandfather.

Plummer managed a station called Glenlyon. (Note- we call large farms "stations" here in Australia).

Sheep in the main street of Wilcannia circa 1900

The most significant piece of this history is the property called Thurloo Downs. Now a 1.3 million acre holding owned by Mr Peter Hughes. Plummer and his sons managed this property which included Elsinora Station until 1907. Set further north, between Wanaaring and Tibooburra in the States north west. The Paroo River features in my family history too, and it flows into the Darling river. I have recently discovered that Urisino was also incorporated with Thurloo and Elsinora. A huge area of land

Left to right Mr Killen?, Plummer Cotter, Frank Cotter

You can enlarge the historical photos and see the men and their work. My family worked for the Killens, Sir Sam Wilson, and the McGraths. I shall post more soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This is the new bike. A Honda CRF250XB. I shall ride it where I used to ride the mountain bike. I guess its what they call "retail therapy" and being stubborn, is my way of Keeping moving!

First ride is planned for Sunday

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pastoral History

In the outback we crossed flooded roads...

...and travelled straight, rough tracks for hours and hours.... set up camp...

...and enjoy a walk with my family....

To defrost beer...

...and enjoy a fire...

As the moon becomes a ghostly galion tossed upon cloudy seas.......

Before returning through flood waters home.

Birds of significance. Brolga

( A walk in the footsteps of my grandfather...)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mad world

Down it comes!

I think Gulia Gillards carbon tax is working. Even before its got up in parliament, the weather seems to be in fear and retreat. ha ha.....

Ten days ago the bush had become power dry and a bush fire erupted in Leura, which is not too far from here. I got my house prepared for the fire season, (see previous posts), taking a day off to clean gutters and get the fire pump serviced. Then, within days, the temperature plummeted, and last week it rained and stormed. (See last weeks post on the Pelagic trip).

The snowman!

A few days ago we had a wind storm so violent it picked up our 13 foot trampoline and hurled it across the yard damaging the clothesline. It was lifted high enough to fly over some small shrubs and trees. Today we pulled the thing part and loaded it ready for the tip.

Then last night, the temperature dropped suddenly, the evening went white, then it hailed. Enough for Dave to make a snow man and for Nip to run around like a lunatic eating snow and ice. Both boys enjoying the weird weather! Nip ate the snowman. (Parts of it had turned yellow....Nip. woof!)

I like this set up and the retro van.

Again I went out to do the firetrail bird survey and again it was cold, windy and wet. The only bird was an Eastern Yellow Robin. All others were silent as they hunkered down in the wind and rain.

As I walked with Dave, I got to thinking about my mobility and the operation in about 12 weeks. I was really looking forward to getting the Fj Cruiser and setting it up like the one above but it looks as if production has been delayed, which is frustrating. So I got to thinking about other forms of transport. I decided not to buy a quad bike, as I thought, a few months back. The statistics of accident are startlingly high. Fatalities are also way above average. The college of surgeons here want the government to legislate to reduce the top speed and to provide roll over protection. I don't think it would suit me for that reason.

So, I decided to buy this. A Honda CRF250x. Similar to the Motocrosser but with electric start, and a wider ratio gearbox, it will be easier and more forgiving to ride. I am not sure how my hip will go but I am going to give it a try..Having ridden bikes all my life I will enjoy even one ride! It will motivate me to get well too and get out and enjoy the bush. Being registered should not cause drama when I ride along the roads in the National Parks. It arrives in a week. The best part is I got a $3000.00 discount for the last 2011 model and that makes it super cheap.

I am going to see if I can get a small rack to put my birding, camping equipment incl a small stove for a hot cup of coffee on the trail!

Birds seen today. Red Wattlebird, Eastern Yellow Robin.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Some blogger friends are posting about photo shop and I was thinking about some of the shots I like and how, what, where I took them.

This shot is one I really like. I took this at dawn, whilst sleeping in my swag, on a beach at Green Cape. Green Cape is a national park and is way down the South Coast of NSW. I must have looked like I was something that had been washed up!

It was raining yet I was pretty toasty inside the swag. The camera? An old Nokia phone. The photo reminds me of the smell of the sea, the calm water of the bay, the contrast with the boom of the waves breaking on the rocks on the horizon where the sun meets the ocean.

Like the previous post sometimes the worst camera can take an interesting shot.

It was all gone within a few minutes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pelagic trip

Wollongong Harbour at about 6am. No, I am not using a blue filter!

With the weather forecast being "light occasional showers, south south easterly moderate winds and a one metre swell. Maximum temp 19, I thought it would be a near perfect day to go out and watch the scientists from SOSSA do their research.

The ocean a few minutes later.

I left home e at 4am for the 2 hour drive to Wollongong. As I approached the coast the weather set in and the rain and wind became heavier and stronger.
As dawn approached, the ocean, clouds, rain and land took on an eerie blue colour.

The calm shelter of the harbour.

Still undaunted I unloaded my kit and got into wet weather gear. Slowly others arrived and before too long we were aboard. Then the weather went "pear shaped."
As we sat idling the motors aboard the "Sandra K" The palms along the walkways began to blow sideways, the weather map beside the captains chair was show dreadful weather patterns.

Crested Tern

Still undaunted I stood on the deck as my boots filled with water, my pockets in my water proof filled with water and the rain began to run down the back of my neck, shoulders and into the back of my trousers.

The Sandra K. Sitting quietly

All whilst still in the shelter of harbour! 3o minutes later another trawler pulled in and our expedition leader and captain of the Sandra K decided discretion was the better part of valor, and we pulled the pin.

Sadly no Albatross this time, but I will say I got to talk to some of the SOSSA members, and a hot coffee and crumpet back at Lindsay's place was most welcome!

Crumpet and honey ( not my picture)

I was not disappointed with the weather. It brings its own type of beauty and reminded me so much of Shetland where it can be sunny one minute and a gale the next

Campbells Albatross. April 2011 trip

I am looking forward to the next trip on the 25th October. That afternoon with a hot shower and two jumpers and a roast, I thawed out!.

If you want to view some stunning photos of Pelagic trips and the beauty of the sea birds visit Well worth a look.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mountain Bikes

There is nothing better than a mountain bike, and there is nothing better than a wheelie! (Dave is a lunatic! and the camera chord is annoying!!))

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Birding and a good laugh!

Lewins Honey Eater.(not my photo)

Sunday I did my usual 2-3 hour walk over the same ground I have for the past three weeks. I am surveying the area over the 4 weeks prior to the burn off.

Eastern Whipbird.(not my photo)

The day was warm, dry and a very warm westerly was blowing. I noted the ground has dried out substantially since last week and most of the regulars were in the canopy, or on the ground.

White-browed Scrub Wren.(not my photo)

I was delighted to spot the Eastern Whipbird, on previous occasions I have listed it by its call. Also spotted was the tiny White-browed Scrubwren. This tiny little bird forages in the ground litter, is quite plain, and only centimetres long.

Crimson Rosellas (click on photo and zoom in)

I returned home to find the Crimson Rosellas eating the flowers from my weeping cherry tree. I thought the contrast in colours was great.

Anyhow, I finished the walk and stumbled on this editorial in the Weekend Australian.. Sadly,(even though I am a few months off 50), it made me laugh a great deal!! (bird list is at the bottom), read on:-

YOU know you've turned 50 when: that person in the hat cannot possibly be a pilot.

Your voice starts to have a tone, perhaps only slight, but there none the less, of pompous authority.

Restaurants are suddenly very noisy.

You assess a good night's sleep according to how many times you got up.

You lust after the cars/guitars/clothes of your youth.

Today's sporting stars seem to lack the elan, the bravado, the derring-do of those of your day.

You start to say "in my day" - without any deprecating old man impression.

You remember school/university/first jobs with deep affection - no matter how much you hated it at the time.

You fall asleep during movies.

You start thinking of getting a home on one level.

When discussing politics you say things such as "the best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity".

You find yourself telling a story you know you've told before, but you don't know if it was to these people. You continue. They let you.

Something you always hated starts to seem OK. Gardening. Musical theatre. Port. British detective dramas made by BBC Manchester.

Comfort over fashion. Every time.

You raise your optimum weight by 5kg.

You fall asleep reading the paper.

You feel unreasonably proud of being across a new technology: "There's this great app on the iPad!"

The city at night seems threatening. Footpads and ruffians lurk at every corner.

This seems like an excellent topic.

The first time you hear about a new recreational drug is on the ABC news.

You can't pronounce the name of the biggest pop star in the world.

Pop music seems vapid. Pornographic. Angry. Violent.

When you get out of bed, everything hurts.

You have a health issue that remains undiagnosed, chronic, and every few months you resolve to do something about it.

There are periods of your life you no longer remember.

You can't remember anyone's name any more.

You have no new friends.

You really must sort out the photos/clean the garage/turn that kid's bedroom into a study

Why not go on a cruise?

You can't believe you once smoked.

You try to tell young people things. No really, I know you won't listen, but if I knew this then, I think by 60 you stop that.

You've been to a 60th.

I presented these ideas on my radio show and, it being talk radio, a medium favoured by the mature, many shared accurate insights. You know you've turned 50 when:

The sharp and pungent music of your youth is now broadcast easy listening style in your supermarket - Ross.

You're drawn to golf courses - Nathalie.

You look in the mirror and see your mother - Virginia.

Quite interested in conversations about knee and hip replacements - Murray.

Waking up to Macca is a highlight of the weekend - Mark.

Before accepting an invitation to go out, you check the TV guide - Annette.

You look at your twin sister and think, God she's looking old - Amanda.

At school reunions you confuse teachers and students - Maurice.

Your back goes out more often than you do - Geoff.

Young men in shops start calling you "sir" instead of "mate".

In the shower you only wash down to your knees - Wal.

When the hairdresser inquires "Eyebrows, sir?"

Wombatisation - Ella.

When a man has to choose over or under, as in belt and navel - Gary.

When people stop telling you you're a hypochondriac - Peter.

You find yourself teaching previous students' offspring - Sally.

The only thing you put up your nose is Vicks inhaler - Mick.

You think Nirvana is new music - Carole.

Getting in or out of a chair requires vocalisation - Rob.

You feel you have wisdom that others need to hear - Kath.

When the young fellow at a drive-in bottle shop offers to carry your purchases to the car - Malcolm.

The twinkle in your eye is only the sun on your bifocals - Kamal.

You'd swap your broad mind for a narrow waist - Warwick.

If you are a woman you turn invisible - Mercedes.

You start to shout at the radio - Sue.

Everyone starts talking about their dogs - Del.

I'm not even sure politics would count. The now Prime Minister (as at the moment of writing, possibly at the time you're reading) is 50 on September 29.

And that's me. As if you hadn't figured that out.

Birds seen:- Red Wattlebird, Striated Thornbill, Grey fantail, Yellow Robin, Red-browed Finch, Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler, Lewins Honeyeater, Common Bronzewing, White Browed Scrub Wren.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday morning

Egg and bacon flowers

With the morning cold and crisp I thought it was a good time to go for a walk and explore more of the range in the national park. There was a blustery south westerly blowing which made the tree canopy dance around like the ocean, so I was not too confident of seeing many birds. When the canopy moves rapidly in the gusts the birds are much harder to spot.

However I did see our regulars and a new on for spring -a white cheeked honey eater. Again, another lovely bird which is quite curious.

White-cheeked Honeyeater. (Photo courtesy of Bird Forum)

The egg and bacon flowers were out in full bloom, and the air was filled with the sounds of Golden whistlers, Eastern Whipbird, and Grey Fantails.
After walking for 2 hours I startled a swamp wallaby which was asleep under a tree, or should I say it startled me.

Stinky swamp wallaby

Overall a nice way to spend a few hours before returning home. The fire brigade may burn off the area this week. I will be curious to see what effect this will have on nesting birds.

Birds seen:- Red Wattlebird, Golden Whistler, Yellow Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow faced Honeyeater, Grey fantail, Eastern Whipbird,Common Bronzewing, Laughing Kookaburra, Superb Fairywren, White cheeked Honeyeater.