Old Settlement is for Group Settlers

It’s for Group Settlers 

SOME years ago I had the opportunity of travelling to New Zealand. It was a joyful occasion seeing a land of amazing beauty, enjoying wonderful food and hospitality and having the opportunity of talking to farmers and business people in towns just like Margaret River.

On one particular morning I was in a town up in the mountains when I noticed a small museum advertising their current exhibition which had been put together to honour the early women settlers of that region.

Being a woman myself who lived in a country town I was naturally drawn to go in. I stood there and read of the hopes, the joys and the tragedies that unfolded high on those mountain ledges where the women struggled to make a home for their families while their husbands panned for gold in the fjords below. I learned of the high price that many had paid to build that nation. It wasn’t the cost of war, it wasn’t a natural disaster, it was the cost of ordinary people struggling to come to grips with a land they did not know.

My thoughts obviously turned to Margaret River. In my time here I have had the very great privilege and joy of being able to talk with many of the men and women who well remember the stories and the lives that unfolded in the Group Settlement days.

This town was built on the hopes, joys and struggles of the group settlers. No money can ever buy what they have given to us. This is a gift that belongs to the people of Margaret River. We should be honoured to preserve it and share it with all who pass this way. 

The old Group Settlement site is a poignant reminder of the ‘human story’ which is as much a part of Margaret River as the natural beauty and the many tourist attractions and activities. We must not let it go.

Cheryl Robinson, Forest Grove

Moooving on

TRISH and the Udders would like to say goodbye and thank you to all her loyal customers and friends for their love and support over the years. She has decided after a decade not to renew her lease due to an increase of rent and overheads.  

But never fear, we will be mooooving onwards and upwards in some form or other.  Trish would like to express her utmost gratitude to all who have entered her world of the Udders.  Thank you to my husband, who has been there for me over the past decade and particularly over recent trying times, and children.

You won’t be forgotten. Love you all loads, miss you already and farewell for now.

 Trish and the Udders

Win-win situation

THE other day whilst paying a licence fee I had an idea that might solve a couple of current problems. Leave the Old Settlement alone and put the proposed regional wine interpretive centre in the enormous, opulent and underutilised foyer of the new shire offices.

The monies raised from leasing this area could be spent on sealing some rural roads and introducing a couple of bulk kerbside rubbish collections per year.

Hetty Bogerd, Margaret River

Show off our history   

THE Old Settlement site vested for the purposes of acquainting the community and visitors alike with the history of the area, is to be redeveloped. As a ‘histor­ical precinct’ it will never live up to its intended purpose if it does not record and present a complete, comprehensive and accurate history. To do this it will have to include: 

• An indigenous history. The Isaac’s submission to the Western Australian Aboriginal Land Inquiry, July 1984, would be a good starting point. Families like the Hills, Ronans, Hansens and Webbs would have valuable information on the Wardandi people.

• Reference to the whaling industry. This is relevant when you refer to the history of the Isaacs, Harris and Lowe families.

• An exploration history since European involvement.

• A settlement history.

• A timber industry history – in particular the MC Davies story with Margaret River being the northernmost collection point supplying timber to his mills by rail. This involved an active timber workers settlement and attendant infrastructure on the north bank of the river.

 • The first serious attempt in 1901 to promote tourism in the area with a focus on the caves.

• Group Settlement history following WWI – note Margaret River was not a Group Settlement but provided a hub for the Group Settlements in the hinterland.

• The dairying history – supplying butter and later a cheese factory.

• Soldier Settlement history following WWII – tobacco, beef cattle and sheep.

• History of viticulture – should include the research conducted by Mr V Monti in the 1950s.

• Contemporary tourism – establishing the Margaret River ‘brand’.

The early history of Margaret River pivots on the surveying and construction of the Karridale Coach Road in 1894, now Bussell Hwy. This enabled travellers to move from Augusta/Karridale to Busselton in one day with a stop at the Margaret to change horses. This location became known as ‘the changes’. To distinguish between the Caves Road location and the Karridale Coach Road location the terms Upper and Lower Margaret were used. It is important to note that the Upper Margaret connected with Augusta/Karridale by rail 30 years before it connected with Busselton by rail.

The history now seems to be viewed in a very parochial way. In past times the inter-connectedness of the local histories was much more obvious. This was largely the result of a much smaller population and the fact that families were interconnected. A good example is the Dawson family who lived on the Broadwater, Busselton. They had five daughters and two sons. 

Of the girls one married a Higgins and moved to the Lower Margaret in 1889 constructing their home and coaching business as the first buildings on the Upper Margaret in 1894. This is the Old Settlement Site.

One married a Seymour and moved to Dunsborough, one a Curtis and moved to Wonnerup, one married a Brennan and moved to Augusta, another married a Rodgers and moved to the Karridale mills. One son married a Cross and moved to Yallingup and the other son married a Roberts from Darradup and lived at the Vasse. To obtain employment and also to assist extended families there was constant movement, interaction and networking which meant that the histories were interwoven.

In my opinion, the purpose set for the Old Settlement site has never been well served and the best intentions of good people have been constantly frustrated. Now there is an opportunity to address this in a professional and appropriate way. It will require strong leadership from the shire. It may well include a commercial aspect but that should not subvert the original intent. There are experts in history and historical presentation that could be called in to assist just as you would employ an architect in the project. Two very good examples of what can be done exist on the river at Harvey and in the old buildings at Greenough.

Tom Higgins, Hamelin Bay

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