While hunting down references about the life of Noble Liddle – after whom Nobles Rocks is named – I came across a fascinating article written by Bill Crowe in 1937, reminiscing about the old days of cattle mustering near Nelson and the pioneers of the Discovery Bay coast.
As well as Noble and his family getting a few mentions, there are several other names from the district that I still recognise today. Are any of these people your ancestors?
Portland Guardian, Thursday 7 January 1937
Some South-Western Victorian Pioneer Families.
By Old Bill Crowe.
Of the early residents of Portland, Drik Drik, Bridgewater and Dartmoor districts, I recall many pleasant and retain many memories related to the pioneers who have passed. Just allow me to skip a few of the earlier years and start about the year 1880, which is 56 years ago. What a happy hunting ground Bridgewater was. The John Kennedys on the Cape ; the James Kennedys, the Wilsons, The Wadmores, the Doyles, the Terills, the Whites, the Blacks, Devlins, Vances, Liddles, Emersons, Hedditchs, Kittsons, Kennys, Newtons and the Wilsons of Lower Bridgewater ; and the Lightbody’s, Thomsons, Kittsons, Wrights, Keys, Atchisons, and many others nearly all gone. They were all once strong and happy families. Everyone knew the Kenny singers, Bob in particular, and I’ve never heard anything better than “On the Bridge” and “Killarney” 56 years ago. Then came the small families and large. How did they make ends meet? They didn’t. If today is any comparison, the purchasing power of £1 then did the work of £5 now. It must have done the family and fed the cattle. Cattle – that was the secret always. Cattle were worth something, and some bartered hay and wood in return for rations. Along the coast they trekked – the Malseeds, Johnsons, Bilstons, Whites, Swains, Hanns, Wheelers, Buckles, Skipworths and others, but their many properties are deserted now. The need of a change drove a few up to the ranges later known as Drik Drik, where the Lightbodys, Kittsons, Holmes, Hedditchs and Minogues were amongst the first to settle. Their means of livelihood were the same as at Bridgewater, cattle being the chief means of revenue. The Spencers, Cowlands, Egans, McKees, Kerrs, Donalds, McLennons, Pratts, and many others settled near Dartmoor; some of them not long after it was discovered by Major Mitchell. Donald McCrae was one of the first to own or rather lease what afterwards was managed by the Egans, and later by H. McKee.
While Nelson was somewhat isolated, old Andrew Brown was king there for a long time, for he owned the punt. You had to be civil or stay in South Australia. Sandy McFarlane (one of the early settlers, but of course not a pioneer); McIntyre, Leake, Lang, McCrae and others all gave the coast a trial before McFarlane and John McEachern came to Nelson. John McIntyre Brown, now over 80, was still living early in 1936. He is about the oldest of Nelson’s pioneers, yet alive. In those early days the country was a picture, the coast being divided by post and rail fences from the river to the sea. McFarlanes leased the western end, and H. D. Kain the southern and eastern parts, which were on charge of R. H. McKee and Billy Joyce. All this country, in addition to the lessees’ own stock, carried all the settlers’ cattle. Both McKee and the McFarlanes were neighborly and kind, and the cost of rearing cattle then was small. They were branded and earmarked, turned out of the gate, and only seen again at mustering time. What hundreds of fine bullock teams there were – Joe Liddle’s, John Holmes’, Wheeler’s, Johnson’s, Hodge’s. Mark and Jim Kerr’s, Spencer’s, Cowland’s, & dozens of others. I believe Mr. H. Cowland, of Greenwald, is the only real early day teamster still living at Drik Drik. What a contrast today too, in the mode of travel. One can get down to Portland and back in a few hours. The rising generation should sing, “‘God bless Major Mitchell, Henry Ford and the Country Roads Board,” who have made this all this possible. What huge happy families once romped and played about Drik Drik. Many alas, are silent to-day – The Jones’, Minogues, McPhees, Holmes’, Mullens, Kennedys, Clarks, Lightbodys, McLeans, Sinels,Tunnocks, Condons, McGuinness’, Eggelstons, McDonalds, McLeans, Emersons, Kerrs, and so on. Many of their descendants are still in the locality. What joy it was, in the early eighties, when we heard McKee hailing us to the muster, me only a tiny mite. But I could ride; so could Tommy Mullen. We both attended a big muster in 1884. Sam Malseed, then a big fat boy, was there. I was the youngest, but I remember most of those that took part and not many had scraped faces then : H. H. and R. J. Holmes, D. Mullen, Ben Jackson, Jim Kerr, H. Cowland, R. H. McFarlane, Adam McFarlane, Angus McLean (senior and junior), Joe Liddle, Noble Liddle, J. J. Kennedy on the good old “Mullah,” which that same clay capsized Jack in a wombat’s hole ; E. J. Jones, J. Malseed junior, Jack Johnson, Charlie Hodge, Mark Kerr, J. Hedditch, E. Swain, John Emerson and old Malcolm McPhee among others I cannot now recall. Now thousands of wild long-horned cattle greeted one wherever one looked. What a day for the horses! All round the Hurdle Flats, round the back of Jackson’s, up and down the hummocks, away near the Bully Ranges, each and all chasing whatever cattle they found nearer to the mustering yards, which were then close to the Lakes. McKee was General, with W. Egan and one of the stockmen handy to assist him. How the mob mulled and bellowed ; BJ, WM, OJ, and MF brands all intermingled. But the main brand, the Spade on the station cattle, were all Herefords. McFarlane’s were mostly shorthorns; the rest all well bred. McPhee had the only colored cattle. Into the mob the stockmen rode, knee to saddle, the whip flying, the reins loose, and almost every horse knew the art of cutting out, particularly a grey and a piebald of McFarlane’s. Some were run through the yards, Sandy McFarlane, gaunt, grim and grey, directing operations, and as each got his own stock off they went. McKee, Billy Egan, Noble Liddle and Billy Joyce, each with hundreds of cattle, held them somehow, and the next night they camped in Jones’ lane. They were hardy men in those days.