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Wallaroo

The mines

Copper was discovered in 1859 on Walter Watson Hughes' sheep run 'Wallaroo' by James Boor, one of his shepherds. The Wallaroo mine as it was called developed quickly and, with copper selling for 115 pounds a ton, was very prosperous. Hughes established smelting works on the nearby coast and the town and port of Wallaroo was proclaimed in 1861. Up to 1889 the value of ores sold from the Wallaroo mines was nearly 2.25 million pounds. The Wallaroo Mine lies today on the outskirts of Kadina which was established as a town for housing the miners. In 1889 the Wallaroo and Moonta Mines merged and formed the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Company. The mines finally closed in 1923, but the town and port of Wallaroo continued, with diverging industries and exports. Kadina, originally a support centre for the Wallaroo mine is now a major administrative centre for the region of the northern Yorke Peninsula.

The town

Wallaroo was the name for Walter Watson Hughes' pastoral lease: the Wallaroo Sheep Run. It is coined from an Aboriginal word 'wadla-waru' meaning wallaby's urine.

When copper was discovered on Hughes' run in December 1859 the need for a town and a port was quickly acted upon. The town of Wallaroo was surveyed by the Government in late 1860 and allotments were auctioned early the following year. In November 1861 the smelters began operation. By 1862 the fast growing settlement contained timber cottages, some stone houses, hotels, churches and a police station. East Wallaroo was subdivided in late 1862 and the land sold to men working in the smelters. A horse-drawn tramway connected the town with Kadina in that year and to Moonta in 1866. A railway to Adelaide was opened in 1880.

Postal facilities were initially operated from the general store, but the Post and Telegraph Office was opened in 1865. When a new post office was built in 1910 the old post office was used by the police until 1975. The building now houses the National Trust Museum. A Customs House was built in 1862: Wallaroo had become a large port and exported directly overseas, hence the need for a customs building. The Australian colonies each operated their own Customs service which did not become a Commonwealth operation until after Federation in 1901. The Wallaroo Public School was built in 1877: before this a number of privately run schools provided education to the children of the town.

Bagged wheat was first shipped from Wallaroo during the 1870s and this method of shipment was not changed until bulk handling facilities were established in 1958. Until then large wheat stacks remained a presence in the town, especially after harvest. In July 1917 for instance the stacks contained 2,500,000 bags of grain.

The Corporation of the Town of Wallaroo was proclaimed in 1874; early meetings were held in the Institute building or at the Town Clerk's residence. A town hall was built in 1902 and destroyed by fire in 1917: only the external walls remained standing. It was re-built the following year and a memorial arch to commemorate the men from the town who lost their lives in World War I was erected in front of the Town Hall in 1923.

The Wallaroo Times and Mining Journal was first printed in February 1865 and by 1888 the paper was called the Kadina and Wallaroo Times and operated from Kadina. It is now known as the Yorke Peninsula Country Times.

The smelters

Wallaroo's smelting works were constructed in 1861 by the owners of the Wallaroo Mine to process the ore from there and from the Moonta Mine. The smelting works were at one time the largest smelter outside of Swansea in Wales. Initially using the reverberatory method of smelting, over time the smelter adopted newer processes and remained at the forefront of smelting techniques. Originally the mines had exported pure copper ore but following the opening of the smelters began exporting ingots of a partially refined copper. In the latter years of the smelters' history pure copper, as well as gold, silver and lead were smelted on site. The mines and smelters were finally closed in 1923, and the works were almost completely demolished to recoup as much money as possible for the shareholders. The original chimney for the works, known as the Hughes Stack, was retained as over the years it had become a mark for shipping. It is now heritage listed. Hundreds of miners and workers from the mines left Wallaroo. Many stayed, however, and found employment in the port and agricultural sectors.

The port

Since its establishment in 1860, Wallaroo has remained a viable port. It is a deepwater port where large ships can moor directly alongside the jetties, to be loaded directly from them and later from the bulk-handling conveyor belts.

Just as a number of other South Australian ports, Wallaroo began its existence as a landing beach for the export of wool from local pastoralists. However a few years after the first wool shipment, copper was discovered at Wallaroo in 1859, and shortly after at nearby Moonta. A landing stage was built to facilitate shipping of the copper and in 1861 the first jetty was constructed. The majority of the copper was shipped to Newcastle in New South Wales, and the return cargo was coal for the smelters. The jetty was extended to 1,000 feet in 1864 to accommodate the growing number of vessels trading through the port.

Cargoes were not entirely copper (outwards) and coal (inwards). The small coasting vessels brought in explosives for the mines, timber for jetties and the mines, coal, potatoes and later superphosphate for the farms. Outwards goods included flour, wool and hides. In 1880 another jetty was built, and extended again in 1902. This jetty accommodated the large sailing ships that loaded wheat: these vessels loaded between 29,000 and 30,000 bags at a time. Loading, and hence turn around time was quick at Wallaroo with its long jetty and narrow gauge rail line.

By the early 20th century steamers were increasingly active in the port and gulf - these carried copper ingots to Port Adelaide for trans-shipment. Later the Adelaide Steamship Company's vessels Moonta and Morialta were prominent in the gulfs. In the 1920s when the copper mines were closed Wallaroo fell back onto its other great export, wheat.

Post World War II saw further expansion that ensured Wallaroo's future. Another jetty had been built in 1926 and then in 1958 the conveyor belt for bulk handling was added and the first block of grain silos was built on the shore. The size of the grain carriers increased dramatically. The dredging of a channel assisted in allowing these huge vessels to come into port. 

In 1874 Wallaroo had been proud to proclaim itself the second port of South Australia, beaten only by Port Adelaide. A century later, its main trade changed from copper to wheat and it still ranks among the seven major ports controlled by Flinders Ports. During 2005/06, 0.463 million tonnes of cargo was handled at Wallaroo.

In December 2006, a new chapter for Wallaroo shipping opened when the passenger ferry connecting Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas began service. Operated by Sea SA the ferry service runs from Wallaroo to Lucky Bay (near Cowell) on Eyre Peninsula. It removes some 350 kilometres from the road trip from Adelaide to the towns of the Eyre Peninsula.

Reading:

Wiltshire, Rex Copper to gold: a history of Wallaroo: Wallaroo, South Australia, 1860-1923 Wallaroo, S. Aust.: Corporation of the Town of Wallaroo, [1983]

Hughes, Lloyd Clarence Wallaroo, 1874-1974 Wallaroo: Pub. by the Corporation of the Town of Wallaroo, 1974 

Fyfe, Dorothy M Maritime history of Wallaroo: an outline, 1802-1978 Wallaroo, S.A.: D.M Fyfe, 1979

2030 ft level Taylor's Shaft, Wallaroo Mines
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Captain Hancock
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Captain J. C. Wotton
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Caroline Carleton Memorial
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Felling an Old Chimney
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Fire-damaged Town Hall at Wallaroo
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Mine Managers
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Scatt'n the bal
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Smelter chimneys at Wallaroo
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South Australian exports
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Steamers and sailing ships at Wallaroo jetty
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Tiparra Light
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