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A Pioneering Spirit, the story that began with Philip Ponds
Title : A Pioneering Spirit, the story that began with Philip Ponds A Pioneering Spirit, the story that began with Philip Ponds
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Creator : Jackson, Elizabeth
Place Of Creation : United Kingdom
Date of creation : 10.7.2008
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Liz Jackson. A Pioneering Spirit. The Story that began with Philip's Ponds. A Hiern family History.

ISBN 918-0-9557380-0-5

Extracts from my book of Oct. 2007

Having been posted to Woomera, the Rocket range on the edge of the desert, some three hundred miles north of Adelaide in South Australia for my first teaching appointment in 1961, I was persuaded by my mother to visit a great aunt, my maternal grandmother's sister on the journey there. Great aunt Grace lived in Crystal Brook about 150 miles north of Adelaide.

She was a friendly old lady, and in the course of conversation finding out that we were working at Woomera she said 'You do know don't you that the entry gate into Woomera is at Philip's Ponds. The area was named after your great-great uncle Philip Hiern'. Out came the family bible with stories of its being recovered from the bottom of the sea, and a tragic drowning incident happening, and at the end of our visit we just wanted to find out more.

So began an incredible journey tracing my mother's family history.

My great, great grandfather the Revd Henry Hiern had been vicar of Stoke Rivers near Barnstaple in Devon for eighteen years after inheriting the living from his father the Revd Charles Hiern in 1834. Charles himself had been vicar at Stoke Rivers for forty two years.

However, at the age of sixty one, the Revd Henry accompanied by his wife Grace and ten of their surviving twelve children, decided to emigrate to South Australia. He and Grace had had nine sons, two daughters and lastly a stillborn baby girl. Being a Latin scholar, Henry named the ninth son Nonus et Undecimus, which when translated, roughly means ninth of eleven.

It was the age of steam and the family sailed second class to South Australia on one of the early steam ships, the Cleopatra, leaving in September 1852 and arriving in early December of the same year.

On arrival the Captain of the Cleopatra maintained that it was the responsibility of the Revd Henry to get his family ashore, a difficult task when the ship was anchored out at sea. After much dissent, a means of disembarkation was arranged for the family and their luggage, with the captain of the water boat that came out to refill the steam ship. Unfortunately on this journey the captain of the water boat took on too many passengers and too much luggage. Nearing the shore a crosswind caused the boat to capsize.

The Revd Henry and his ten year old son Dennis drowned.

The inquest that followed attributed the blame to Captain Davies of the water boat, but also said that the captain of the Cleopatra must bear some of the responsibility.

Grace was now left in a strange country with her children, but Henry's estate made it possible for Grace with her nine children, seven of them boys, to follow their dream and take up a lease on a farm at Gumeracha in the Adelaide hills. Here they lived for nearly ten years and although her eldest son Henry Parminter, an enterprising young man had tried hard to keep the farm going, Grace became bankrupt.

As the other sons came of age they one by one left the farm, going north to the area beyond Port Augusta. Here the government was encouraging settlers to open up the area. With Grace bankrupt, Henry Parminter Hiern, now married, went to live in Tasmania. Only the youngest son Nonus or Nonny as he was known stayed with Grace.

One son, James, had only stayed on the farm at Gumeracha for four years then with the consent of his mother had left to join Mr. E. C. Randell who had a run at Mannum. James remained with Mr Randell for four years learning bushcraft and the business of stock raising and then in 1860 when he was twenty one he left and began his own life in the north.

James, in 1909, in the twilight years of his life, was interviewed for a series of articles for the Denial Bay Starter a Ceduna Paper, and these rambling articles gave me a wealth of information about his early life in the north, and some insight, too, into what happened to the rest of the family.

'In the year 1860 I agreed with a squatter named Jas. Thompson to accompany him on a run he had in this part of South Australia called Weitra. This station lies between Venus Bay and Streaky Bay on the west coast'. James was accompanied by an elder brother Charles.

Having got to Port Augusta he writes that he continues on a trek across Eyre Peninsula with two others shepherding 2500 sheep. '...the shepherd and sheep took the lead and I (James) drove the dray. It was one of the best seasons that the Gawler ranges had ever had, an abundance of grass and herbage with water everywhere, so I had no difficulty in following them up, since there was no other track but those of sheep, for I made the first wheel track between the Gulf and Streaky Bay....'

He goes on to say about a later incident in his life:
'..our only neighbour, who lived twenty miles distant, came to pay us a visit at this time. We were short of furniture, but I did my best to make him comfortable and at home. I gave him a keg of blasting powder to sit on, but I could not persuade him to sit on that, too dangerous he thought it to be, though I had always used that seat when I smoked my daily pipe. I afterwards realised that I had been a bit careless, anyway I gave him a bucket to sit on. Mr McTurk Gibson was his name, part owner in the Mary Vale run fifteen miles from streaky Bay.'

James continued to live in the north, but the land was not always so lush. He spent much of his long life buying land leases and sinking wells, the latter often without success, whilst trying to find water to open up parts of the country north west of Port Augusta. A Hiern Well does bear his name near Tarcoola though, and there is a Hiern Tank (water) nearer Port Augusta.

James was one of the first pioneers of Murat Bay an area of Ceduna, on the Great Australian Bight, west of Port Augusta. About 1899 when he was sixty he ran the first shop in Murat Bay it being known as 'Jimmy Hines' shop. Incredibly dockets and family letters still exist today from his shop. James died in 1920 aged eighty one years. Even in his final letters he writes of his concern for the lack of water in the area.

Quoting from an article in Pioneer Families: 'James Hiern was a man of exceptional merit'.

Philip, the fifth son of Henry and Grace Hiern who in history also has a reputation 'of being an intrepid bushman', accompanied G.B. Richardson in 1869 when Richardson named an area, '50 miles of country around some good natural waterholes and called it Philip's Ponds after him'. There are very many well documented stories written of Philip's exploits in the north of South Australia droving cattle and sheep.

The first security entry gate for Woomera was sited at Philip Ponds in 1947. Lennie Beadell in his book Still in the bush describes how a Hiern Hill was so important to the surveying of the Woomera site.

Another brother was John and he was to manage a station at Mt Eba in the Gawler Ranges while Charles the elder brother was to manage Gum flat on Eyre Peninsula and later he was to go to Lake Everard.

Both of the girls Julia Anna and Hannah also went north. They held positions as governesses on stations. All the children were well educated, Henry had seen to that. In 1862 Julia Anna married the squatter Jas.Thompson and they had three children.

In 1863 Hannah married the Scotsman, Thomas McTurk Gibson. He was a big bulky man with glaring red hair and had come to South Australia as a lad. They had five children but sadly only two girls survived into adulthood.

Thomas McTurk Gibson was well known in the area, and he bought and sold many land leases in the country around Streaky Bay and Port Augusta, including those of Maryvale and Nanyarrie. One lease of great importance that he was responsible for establishing in 1864 was Yudnappinna Homestead and run. Fourteen years later in 1878 he sold it on to W.R. Mortlock.

Thomas McTurk Gibson put his brother in law, my great grandfather Maurice Katon Hiern, in as manager of Yudnappinna. When Yudnappina was sold, Maurice went on to manage Kolinda station for ten years, then he was at the Pines near Woomera and Andamooka near the opal fields and then went to Monalena. After forty years in the outback he died on Monalena station, and is buried in the bush as his obituary in the newspaper of the day relates. The early log cabin homestead from Yudnapinna has now been relocated to the Homestead Park Museum in Port Augusta.

Thomas McTurk Gibson became the first Mayor of Port Augusta in 1875. A year earlier, he had been responsible for the subdivision of part of Port Augusta. An area on the southerly corner between the border of Commercial Road and the seashore of the channel entrance, there was a small area that he had cut into small blocks, and had called Hannahville after his wife Hannah Hiern. Many of the street names in that area have family associations, besides a Gibson street there are Maude and Mary streets for their children, a Pilton street, Pilton being a village on the outskirts of Barnstaple in Devon where the Revd Henry was born, and a Julia street named for her sister. Church and Chapel streets can also be found in the area called Hannahville, as can a Thompson street.

From early in the history of Port Augusta, there has been a Hannahville Hotel with its wide verandahs fronting onto the corner of Gibson Street and George Street. In the early years it contained 16 rooms, an underground tank and cellar as well as stabling and outhouses.

When Thomas McTurk Gibson died at the age of fifty his widow took their two daughters, Mary and Maude back to Devon, England.

The first telegraph station at Port Augusta had been opened in August 1866. Just after he was elected Mayor in 1875, Thomas McTurk Gibson planted the first pole of another telegraph line which lent further distinction to this small but thriving sea port. This telegraph line was an extension from Port Augusta to Eucla, via Port Lincoln, Fowlers Bay and the Great Australian Bight country.

The next stage of work for the construction of the telegraph line, to connect with Western Australia, was completed in 1877, and so Port Augusta became the central town joining the Australian colonies east and west, and north and south by overland telegraph line thus bringing Australia into more rapid communication with the rest of the world.

The climate and land in the north of South Australia is so different from Devon, England. Those sons and daughters who went north weathered, along with many others the harsh conditions of a dry, red and dusty land on the edge of the desert, often enduring century or more temperatures and experiencing long harsh periods of drought.

Such men and women were pastoral pioneers.

Place : Woomera, Port Augusta, Ceduna
Further reading :

Jackson, E. J. (Elizabeth Joan) A pioneering spirit: the story that began with Philip's Ponds [Hemel Hempstead, Herts.]: Elizabeth Joan Jackson, 2007



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