Roe­bourne pas­toral­ist a cus­to­dian of sto­ries

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Our re­gion is fa­mous for its vast mines, end­less trains and big ships, but it wasn’t al­ways that way.

The Pil­bara of to­day was built on the back of pas­toral­ists, and it is in this in­dus­try Roe­bourne finds its roots.

Roe­bourne was gazetted 150 years ago as the first town of the North West — a hub for pas­toral­ists at the likes of Sher­lock, Mt Wel­come, Cooya Pooya and Pyra­mid sta­tions, all of which had been es­tab­lished by set­tlers in the months and years pre­ced­ing the dec­la­ra­tion.

Glenn Con­nell is one man at the helm of that his­tory.

The red dust runs through his veins and he is one of the longer serv­ing pas­toral­ists in the re­gion.

Since 2001, he has been on Pyra­mid Sta­tion, and his fam­ily roots in the re­gion go back even fur­ther.

Mr Con­nell said he was in­spired to start col­lect­ing arte­facts and sto­ries af­ter see­ing a lot of the re­gion’s his­tory de­mol­ished, ig­nored or thrown away.

“We had a man­ager years ago who just wasn’t into his­tory so we knocked down a few old build­ings and such,” he said.

“There was noth­ing wrong with them and noth­ing ever got built there so it was just sad to see stuff like that go.

“I gained an in­ter­est once I was on the sta­tion — if I’d have had a pas­sion ear­lier when I was young it would be an un­real mu­seum I’d have now.

“It was once I re­ally started get- ting on the land … where you find some of the stuff is pretty in­cred­i­ble.”

Mr Con­nell has cre­ated a mu­seum in his homestead of all the bits and pieces he has found while out on the land.

One such item found dur­ing muster is a large wagon wheel, which now sits at the en­trance of Pyra­mid Sta­tion. “The big wagon wheel on the way … in — the way we used to muster sheep we’d get to a cer­tain val­ley and I’d have to leave the lead and drive over a hill be­cause there’s a river there and ev­ery­thing so you have to get over this hill and wait for the lead to

come out,” he said. “Did that for years with sheep and cat­tle, but one of th­ese years I came over the hill and I must’ve went a cou­ple of feet left or right more through the spinifex and ran over that mas­sive wagon wheel. “It took three blokes to lift it up. “I have an old shep­herd’s hook, too, that must be from the late 1860s by the looks of it.” It isn’t just phys­i­cal his­tory which Mr Con­nell col­lects.

Give him the chance to talk, and you soon find his mind is a ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of sto­ries gath­ered from the early set­tlers’ days, of­ten re­lat­ing back to the sta­tion he calls home. “Ev­ery­one knows about Burke and Wills and so on, but no one knows any­thing about FT Gre­gory, the first ex­plorer who came around here,” he said.

“A bloke gave me ex­tracts of his jour­nal and it was an in­cred­i­ble story.

“I was sit­ting here read­ing it at one stage and they had been up through and nearly per­ished that night and ev­ery­thing.

“That night they camped at the base of black hill … then in the morn­ing, they crossed the Ge­orge River on the way back, which is right here.

“That is where all th­ese names come from.

“All the spots around here all the way down to Ash­bur­ton … when he came up, Black­hill and Pyra­mid Hill were the only two things on the map, they were named by Cap­tain King from a sail­ing ship.”

Mr Con­nell said he would like to see the pas­toral his­tory of the area more widely ac­knowl­edged, and he be­lieved Roe­bourne’s 150th an­niver­sary was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to get the word out.

“The his­tory thing, there’s never been enough of it pushed,” he said.

“I’ve been up here since ’74, watch­ing Kar­ratha grow, grow, grow and there’s just noth­ing there,” he said.

“You can’t cel­e­brate (Roe­bourne’s 150th) and not men­tion any­thing about the pas­toral in­dus­try.

“I’d like to see that hap­pen.”

Pic­tures: Tom Zaun­mayr

Pyra­mid Sta­tion man­ager Glenn Con­nell.

Pyra­mid Sta­tion.

An old Ley­land Mo­tors truck sits in front of the shear­ing shed.

A well with equip­ment be­hind the homestead at Pyra­mid Sta­tion.

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