Windmill men take a spin in tilt at jobs
Mr A. J. Campbell, the well known naturalist of Victoria, writes: “We are to hold the annual session of the Australian Ornithologists Union in Brisbane during October and then visit Whitsunday Passage for field work. I shall, I hope, after that event, be able to go further north. I shall bring my lantern ` Wattle Blossom’ slides and we can have an evening at Townsville on our national flower. Powlathanga Lake, near Charters Towers, an almost permanent water, is now dry. The Charters Towers sports, who generally find good sport at this lake, will regret the absence of the ducks. About a fortnight ago, a half caste girl named May Blackman, who has been employed in the household of Inspector Quinn for a number of years past, left the house during the night and though inquiries have been made, no trace of her has been found. It is thought probable that someone is harbouring the girl and if so they are rendering themselves liable to a considerable penalty under the Aborigines Protection Act. sheep and cattle. With these qualifications we left Townsville in high hopes of securing employment.
In three months in that city I had only one day’s work, so I decided it was time to make a move.
I may as well mention here that we intended travelling on pushbikes.
We mapped out a route that would take us through a great number of stations, that depend on windmills, pumping from artesian bores and waterholes to water their stock.
Taking all things into consideration we assured ourselves we would find sufficient work, such as overhauling and repairing windmills, cars and trucks, to keep us in food and the bikes in good repair, besides having money in pocket when we arrived back.
A sad disillusion awaited us.
[ In the next 10 weeks the men rode 1735 miles ( 2790km) through western Queensland, each carrying a 100 pounds ( 45kg) swag.
Their sole job was one day mustering sheep for an Aramac selector, for 10 shillings each and a leg of mutton. Their savings ran dry on April 2, in Charleville. Then they survived on charity and “police rations” – a six shillings a week order for meat, bread and groceries.
Jerry sold a soldering iron for four shillings to get his decrepit boots fixed. A swagman shouted them a meal in Taroom and a grazier at Avon Downs gave them beef, flour and a tin of jam for fixing a broken- down Ford. Nearing home, a driver gave them two shillings for pushing his car out of a bog near Bowen]
On Tuesday, May 16, at Giru, we packed our bikes for the last time, and prepared to get over the 30 miles to Townsville.
Pools of water lay all along the road and the bikes were already plastered with mud.
We were splashed with mud and water from head to foot
Two dirtier ragamuffins I guess it would be hard to find.
Five hours riding brought us to Stewart’s Creek and when we hit the asphalt road I heaved a sigh of relief.
That night I was able lo get into decent and clean clothes and feel presentable once more.
Many people helped us on our way and had a kind word for us. Although we landed back broke, as far as money was concerned, we were certainly the richer by experience. Townsville Daily Bulletin, July 18, 1932
An unidentified man at the Garbutt Paddock swagmen's camp, Townsville, 1932.