Roebourne pastoralist a custodian of stories
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.”
Pyramid Station manager Glenn Connell.
An old Leyland Motors truck sits in front of the shearing shed.
A well with equipment behind the homestead at Pyramid Station.