Meet the man who pi­o­neered the buf­falo ex­port in­dus­try

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - Gary Richards

Al­ben Per­rett pi­o­neered the buf­falo in­dus­try in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

He was the first in Aus­tralia to ex­port buf­falo meats over­seas.

This story has been writ­ten by Al­ben’s grand­son, Gary Richards.

AL­BEN Per­rett bought Mt Bundy Sta­tion in 1951 with a part­ner Hon­our Burcher, who he later bought out.

Al­ben, with his Abo­rig­i­nal work­ers, would shoot 2000 buf­falo a year for hides only, salt and dry, then send to Africa and Turkey.

Al­ben and mate Bill Banks set off in 1951, in a Willys Jeep and trailer to buy cat­tle at Mt Isa.

When they ar­rived the cat­tle buy­ing didn’t work out, Al­ben said to Bill “we are half way to Dar­win, I have never shot a buf­falo”.

They ar­rived in Dar­win a few days later, they camped op­po­site the Dar­win Ho­tel, after a good look around they ven­tured to Ade­laide River,

met up with Bill Wy­att, who took them out to Mt Bundy shoot­ing buf­falo.

Bill Wy­att of­fered the prop­erty to Al­ben, in­clud­ing a butcher shop in Dar­win, where the fire sta­tion is to­day.

This was later con­demned, then Al­ben built the Dar­win Meat Sup­ply out of the buf­falo hide money.

Al­ben, an­noyed with the waste of buf­falo meat, com­menced build­ing his own abat­toir at Deep Wa­ter, 22 miles east of Mt Bundy in 1961.

Al­ben ac­quired most of his bon­ers from Gympie and the Wide Bay ar­eas. Wages were $1.20 per hour.

When the abat­toir was in pro­duc­tion, most of the buf­falo meats were ex­ported to Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong.

Al­ben re­ceived help from Sir Charles Ader­man, the Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries in his projects to com­mence an abat­toir and ex­port buf­falo meats.

At the same time Al­ben owned the Dar­win Meat Sup­ply, the largest butcher shop in Dar­win: 12 butch­ers,

a nor­mal week was 80 bod­ies of beef, 60 lamb, 30 pigs, four veal­ers, wages for a butcher was $1.20 per hour.

The buf­falo had to be shot and trans­ported back to the abat­toir in a cer­tain time limit.

Jim McGuie, Al­ben’s son-in-law, and ex-pro­fes­sional deer shooter from NZ, would shoot 42 buf­falo a day. They were trans­ported three at a time and had to be hand winched on one at a time.

Al­ben had a bet with Jim how many 303 bul­lets it took to shoot 100 buf­falo.

Jim shot 99 buf­falo with one shot each and two bul­lets on num­ber 100.

This was all done with open sight 303s.

They tried also live catch­ing — this was very dan­ger­ous as a bull buf­fallo could lift and roll a ve­hi­cle over.

Dur­ing the early years Al­ben and his daugh­ters would shoot croc­o­diles for skins. All this was sea­sonal as in the wet there was no ac­cess.

Break­downs caused many prob­lems: they had to rely on the army or air force men on days off to fix or weld

ma­chin­ery. They were re­paid with shoot­ing a buf­falo for meat or catch­ing a barra.

Al­ben said in those days you could catch barra in your hands.

Al­ben’s right-hand-man was Robin, an Abo­rig­i­nal. He trav­elled with Al­ben ev­ery­where.

Bar­ra­mundi was al­ways plen­ti­ful, you could live off the land.

Al­ben then leased two graz­ing li­cences: Can­non Hill and Jim Jim.

They later be­came Kakadoo Na­tional Park and 1964 they where given back to the govern­ment.

One day the work­ers put bam­boo spikes in a small chan­nel. When the tide low­ered they had 200 barra — they fed many peo­ple with them. Al­ben salted a lot of fil­lets and bought some back to Queens­land.

Mt Bundy Sta­tion was very his­tor­i­cal dur­ing World War II.

There was 90,000 sol­diers sta­tioned there. This was a naval base dur­ing the war for in­ter­cept­ing and trans­mit­ting Ja­panese mes­sages.

They had an air strip, hospi­tal, large head­quar­ters, huge vegetable gar­dens and fruit trees, even a dance hall.

There were many rem­nants left from the war: ve­hi­cles, guns, am­mu­ni­tion, bog run­ners, and tools.

I have many fond mem­o­ries: Year 1 at the Ade­laide River Pri­mary school 1960 and the war ceme­tery — one of the nicest well kept ceme­ter­ies in Aus­tralia. I can re­mem­ber

mus­ter­ing cat­tle as a five-year-old, find­ing sev­eral large live am­mu­ni­tion dumps, live bombs, live anti-air­craft bul­lets — ev­ery­where they mus­tered cat­tle. We where al­ways care­ful.

Al­ben’s son-in-law Bill Ross con­trolled all the stock camps, cat­tle man­age­ment, fi­nances of Mt Bundy and the Dar­win Meat Sup­ply and Abat­toir.

Al­ben’s other son-in-law,

John Richards, drove the ex­port meat truck to Dar­win, then man­aged the Dar­win Meat Sup­ply and mus­tard all cat­tle and was the only cat­tle buyer.

In 1967 Mt Bundy and Dar­win Meat Sup­ply was sold to WR Grace, an Amer­i­can com­pany. The prop­erty is now all cut up into small farms.

Dur­ing these years Al­ben, a true horse and cat­tle­man, be­came the largest land owner in the Kilki­van shire, 60,000 acres and 6000 head

of cat­tle. His son Jack ran this prop­erty with his fam­ily.

Al­ben had a stroke in 1965. This left him paral­ysed down the left side.

His wife Beatrice Per­rett died in 1971 aged 69.

Al­ben died in 1993 aged 91.


THE sta­tion dates back to 1913, pre­vi­ous own­ers where Fred Hardy and Bill Wy­att.

The Hardy brothers moved to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory from Vic­to­ria some­time around

1905, work­ing as cat­tle­men, buf­falo shoot­ers and horse breed­ers.

They also had a sis­ter, Mary, who mar­ried Ted Wil­lis, a fet­tler on the rail­ways at Pine Creek.

Hu­bert Hardy, bet­ter known as Fred Hardy, first worked for Bill Lau­rie, owner of Humpty Doo and Mar­rakai Sta­tions be­fore start­ing his own sta­tion – Mount Bundy – in 1907.

He was keen on horse rac­ing, al­ways rid­ing his own

horses, many of them win­ners at bush meet­ings and ma­jor events in the Top End in­clud­ing a win on Sali­don at the Pine Creek Cup.

Fred lost more than 300 cat­tle and 15 horses to floods dur­ing the 1916 wet sea­son, when the high­est recorded rain­fall fell in the Top End at the time, caus­ing wide­spread flood­ing.

In 1928, Fred caught six buf­falo calves for Vestey’s for trial ex­port to the Philip­pines to be raised as beasts of


Cap­tur­ing the young buffs proved a dan­ger­ous task as one of the calves’ mother kept at­tack­ing Fred’s horse caus­ing him to hit a tree.

He had no ri­fle with him at the time and had to sig­nal to one of the Abo­rig­i­nal rid­ers for his gun to shoot the cow.

The calves were thrown and tied be­fore be­ing loaded onto a truck and taken back to the homestead.

There, they were tied to a tree where they qui­etened down within a cou­ple of days.

Within four days the buf­falo calves were so quiet that Fred was able to lead one with a rope onto the ship, An­to­nio, with the oth­ers fol­low­ing.

Fred also caught young buf­faloes like this for Taronga Zoo in Syd­ney and a zoo in Mel­bourne.

In 1937, at 67 years and after 30 years on Mount Bundy, Fred sold the sta­tion to Wy­att and Gre­gory and moved to Perth in Western Aus­tralia to re­tire. But Fred soon got home­sick for the Ter­ri­tory and re­turned a year later and bought Good­par­lor Sta­tion

from Tom Cole in Au­gust, 1938. Fred, then aged 68, as well as work­ing the sta­tion, once again in­dulged his pas­sion of rac­ing horses.

In Jan­uary 1940, he was work­ing on his truck when it rolled over him and broke his leg.

Sta­tion hands at­tempted to drive him into Pine Creek in his truck but they couldn’t get past the Mary River which was in flood.

They built a raft to float him across and one of the men walked to Pine Creek for help, re­turn­ing with an­other truck.

After be­ing driven into Pine Creek, 180 miles along rough and boggy track, he then had to en­dure a hair-rais­ing flight in Roy Ed­wards’ Moth air­craft through buf­fet­ing winds and tor­ren­tial rain be­fore ar­riv­ing safely in Dar­win.

By Septem­ber, and at 70 years of age, Fred was back rac­ing horses again. Trag­i­cally, he was killed when his horse Bully fell dur­ing a race at Ade­laide River.

He died from se­vere head in­juries from be­ing kicked by his horse when they fell.


PART­NER­SHIP: Al­ben Per­rett and his right-hand-man Robin, shoot­ing croc­o­diles.

Pi­o­neer buf­falo catcher and ex­porter Al­ben Per­rett.

The Dar­win Meat Sup­ply build­ing.

Work­ers on Mt Bundy Sta­tion.

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