Sunday History Photo / NT

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 07:47
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Barrow Creek is a very small town, current population of 11, in the southern Northern Territory of Australia. It is located on the Stuart Highway, about 280 km north of Alice Springs, about half way from there to Tennant Creek. The main feature of the town is the roadhouse/hotel. A number of mining companies are currently exploring in the area, although none of the current residents are involved in the mining industry.
The Barrow Creek area is the traditional home of the Kaytetye Aboriginal people. Humans have lived in Australia, and perhaps this area, for at least 40,000 years.

With the arrival of Europeans in the latter part of the 19th century, settlers competed with the Kaytetye for land and resources. Cultural misunderstandings on land and property rights resulted in mutual killings.
John McDouall Stuart passed through the area in 1860. He named a creek near the current town after John Henry Barrow, a preacher, journalist and politician who was born in England in 1817 and migrated to South Australia in 1853. At the time of first European habitation of the site, he was Treasurer of South Australia.

Barrow Creek was chosen as a site for an Overland Telegraph morse repeater station by John Ross in September 1871. The station was officially opened on 16 August 1872 by Charles Todd. It was one of 15 such repeater stations on a network traversing Australia and linking to Europe, providing essential communication services. The Telegraph Station has been preserved and is now a monument to the troubles which beset the early days of the Territory.
In 1873, 5,000 sheep were overlanded from Adelaide by Alfred Giles for distribution to Telegraph Stations along the line. During 1877 and 1878 Alfred Giles and Arthur Giles overlanded stock for Dr W. J. Browne to the Katherine River. On the 1878 journey Frank Withall, a young Englishman, was included on the suggestion of Browne to gather some colonial experience. Alfred Giles later started Springvale, Delamere and the Newcastle Waters runs.

During the Second World War Barrow Creek was used by the Australian Army as a staging camp for convoys of troops and supplies, which was known as No. 5 Australian Personnel Staging Camp. It was the first overnight stop on the northern trip from Alice Springs to Birdum.

Barrow Creek has always had a problem with both quantity and quality of groundwater supplies. This problem was already recognized in the 1870s, and only 20 years after the Telegraph Station was built there is evidence of plans to shift it about 40 kilometres further north to the crossing at Taylor Creek because of better groundwater supplies. There is still a bore at that locality called New Barrow Bore. Today, the only good water at Barrow Creek is rainwater and that is limited due to the arid climate.
In February 1874 Mounted Constable Samuel Gason arrived at Barrow Creek and a police station was also opened. Eight days later a group of Kaytetye men attacked the station resulting in the death of two white men, Stapleton and Frank, and the wounding of Ernest Flint.
Some believe the attack was retaliation for the white men's treatment of Kaytetye women. Others say it occurred because the white men had fenced off a major waterhole and refused the Kaytetye access to water and rations during a time of drought. It is probable that both these issues were grievances for the Kaytetye.
On 22 February Gason cabled to Adelaide:
This Station has been attacked by natives at 8. Stapleton has been mortally wounded, one of the men, named John Franks, just died from wounds. Civilised Native Boy has had three spear wounds. Mr Flint, assistant operator one spear wound in leg, not serious. Full particulars in morning.

Samuel Gason was instructed to mount a police hunt for the killers resulting in several engagements in which up to ninety men, women and children died some fifty miles south of where the white men had been killed. No prisoners were taken. The area where they were slaughtered was later called Skull Creek for the number of bleaching native skulls left there. According to Alex Ross, who had been a member of Ernest Giles 1875–76 expedition in Central Australia, as interviewed by the anthropologist Ted Strehlow in 1932:
As for Skull Crk.,-well of course nobody ever knew if any one who was shot there had ever had any hand in the attack on BC. They were just blacks sitting in their camp, and the party was looking around for blacks to shoot. Quite possibly some guilty ones were among them.

The old pub was built in 1926 by Joe Kilgariff, uncle of Northern Territorian senator Bernie Kilgariff, and it still has the original old bar, underground cellar and tin ceilings. There is accommodation outside and rooms inside and a caravan park. On the wall in the kitchen of the building is a cartoon of two Australian comic icons, Bluey and Curley, drawn by the artist John Gurney when he passed through during the Second World War. The hotel is a popular stop for travellers along the highway and contains a tremendous collection of memorabilia and items of interest which have been gathered over the years. The current publican of 25 years, Lesley Pilton, initiated what he terms the "Barrow Creek Bank" - travellers post on the wall a signed banknote of their native country, "to be used in a later journey in case they need a beer
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Reply By: dad1340 - Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 09:01

Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 09:01
Again, another excellent piece on Australia's history. An informative and interesting read. Well done.


AnswerID: 605510

Reply By: Member - MIKE.G - Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 12:27

Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 12:27
Thanks Doug, another great look at history and you have brought back fond memories of a true Aussie that used to live there.
I used to go through Barrow Creek regularly in the late 70’s and was asked by a former work colleague, to stop in to see if Tom Roberts still lived in the Telegraph house. Tom was the last linesman working out of Barrow Creek and was given life tenure in the house, out of respect for the job he had done. His run was from Aileron in the south to Tennant Creek to the north, using mainly camels.
Tom was not a heavy drinker but could be found at the bar twice a day with a “white can” (Carlton Draught) and a handle glass, sitting in the corner of the then saloon part of the pub. It took a few trips to get him to talk but when he realised I had a message from friends in Adelaide, and the offer of a white can, this got his tongue wagging. He had many stories and he told about one day while sitting in his usual spot having a beer, a group of locals raided the pub, looking for take away grog and the then proprietor, his wife and three young daughters were in fear of their lives. The women were being held hostage so the manager grabbed his shotgun and proceeded to chase the culprits from the hotel. I asked Tom what he did while the shooting was going on. His answer was that he quietly grabbed glass and can and sat on the floor "until all the noise had stopped."
His wife lived in north Queensland but this arrangement worked well for them and he would see her “once or twice a year”
Look for his hat if you go into the pub, it’s still nailed to the wall above the bar.
AnswerID: 605518

Reply By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 12:29

Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 12:29
Thanks Doug another good read, always look forward to your Sunday contribution.

Can I ask about Andrea?
What does the plague 'say' other than Doug Tilley, Orange , Australian?
AnswerID: 605519

Reply By: Echucan Bob - Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 16:04

Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 at 16:04
On 27 September 2008 we were driving north on the Stuart to rendezvous with friends at Tennant Creek, and then travel on to Kununurra.

It was a Saturday, and Hawthorn were playing red hot favourites, Geelong, in the AFL Grand Final. As we approached Barrow Creek at half time we realised that Hawthorn were in with a chance and the game might be worth watching.

We entered the bar at the BC Hotel and could see a TV but were quickly told this was the blackfellas bar and we would have to go to the whitefellas bar, which we did, and watched the rest of the match. I remember well the heroics of Cyril Ryoli, Stewart Dew, Luke Hodge etc

We went on to have a great trip from the coast at the top of the Ning Bing track at Kununurra, El Questro, south via the Bungles, Balgo, the Lake Mackay Track to Kiwirrkurra, then back to Alice Springs, across the Simpson on the Colson, then home.

So Barrow Creek elicits fond memories. Thanks for the article Doug.

AnswerID: 605524

Reply By: wombat100 - Monday, Oct 31, 2016 at 14:05

Monday, Oct 31, 2016 at 14:05
Barrow Creek also has a bit of 'history' on the Peter Falconio story !!
AnswerID: 605560

Reply By: Shaker - Tuesday, Nov 01, 2016 at 18:27

Tuesday, Nov 01, 2016 at 18:27
It's interesting that you mention the lack of water, there is a magnificent brand new toilet block, built by the government who then realised that there was no ...... water!
So there it sits unused, fenced off & overgrown. At least, that's how it was a couple of years ago.

AnswerID: 605616

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