Memories and Celebrations

The Village of Conargo  

Chalmers, B. The Sunlit Plains Extended, pp. 122 – 126 

Conargo was part of Boyd's original vast run, which extended north of the Billabong Creek and took in those areas later known as Puckawidgee and Quiamong. When Tyson brothers bought Deniliquin at the Royal Bank liquidation sale in 1855 that part known as Conargo Point was included in the sale. It was on part of this property, later Quiamong, that the brothers William and John McKenzie applied for an area of 328 acres to be granted as a Pre-emptive right, for the purpose of forming a township. The Right was granted in September 1858, by which time the fledgling village consisted of an inn, store and blacksmith shop. The McKenzie's Conargo Inn, licensed in 1858, stood just to the west of the present store and on the east side of the road to Carrathool. In effect, the McKenzie brothers virtually owned the village, and also in 1858 purchased Quiamong from Tyson brothers. When the Pastoral Times commenced in May 1859 the McKenzie brothers advertised that they had also opened a stock and station agency for Kaye and Butchart, and owned an area of 50 square miles (32,000 acres — Quiamong) for the purpose of retaining stock. After having developed the nucleus of the village at Conargo the McKenzie brothers set their sights further afield.

In 1861, they sold Quiamong and William McKenzie moved back into Deniliquin. The Conargo Hotel was then leased to Frank Johnson, previously an overseer for the Tyson brothers. McKenzie sold the freehold to Thomas Robertson in 1865 and later that year John Taylor of Deniliquin purchased it. During Taylor's brief ownership it appears that John McDougall was licensee. In 1867, after adding several hundred acres to the original pre-emptive right, Taylor sold to Alexander Ross, who advertised in the Pastoral Times that "No deleterious drug so injurious to health admitted to this establishment." After McDougall the successive licensees were... August Werner, 1870-72; Hector Ross, 1872-73; Alexander Stevenson, 1873-74; James Winterbottom, 1874-75; Francis Griffiths, 1875-82; Wm. J. McKees, 1882-85, William Cadman, 1885-1901; Sarah Pitman, 1901-04; John Ball, 1904-07; Robert J. McKees, 1907-10; Joseph J. Wright, 1910-13; Hugh H. McManus, 1913-17, after which the license lapsed in favour of the Billabong Hotel.

The township of Conargo was surveyed in late 1859 (to the south of McKenzie's buildings) and officially proclaimed in the Government Gazette in January 1860. The streets were named after prominent district pioneers including McKenzie St., for the McKenzie brothers; Brougham St., for Patrick Brougham of Coree and Hartwood; Desailley St., for George Desailley — also of Coree; Dunn St., for Robert Dunn (or Dun) - Dun & Butchart held Conargo West (Boonoke) in 1859-60; and Taylor St., for John Taylor of Deniliquin.

Among the early allotment purchasers was John Taylor the well known Deniliquin speculator, businessman and hotelier. Taylor, always on the lookout for speculations or opportunities, in the Pastoral Times in July 1865, called for. .. "Tenders for a bridge, 150 feet long by 15 feet wide, over the Billabong, at Conargo. .." Another bridge at Conargo was not opened until June 1912, this time under the control of the Conargo Shire Council. The construction of the second bridge was tendered to R.A. White in December 1911 for the sum of 465 pds. The remains of this bridge can still be seen just upstream of the current bridge, built by Danckert Constructions Pty. Ltd. of Deniliquin at a tender price of 22, 166 pds. This tender was accepted by the Shire in December 1964 and the bridge was officially opened by the Assistant Commissioner for Roads, Mr. R.J. Thomas on 24th May 1966. Prior to this, in November 1963, with the bridge built in 1912 showing signs of fatigue, the Shire Engineer was directed to have a D.M.R. Bailey Bridge placed in position over the existing bridge whilst the new bridge was being considered.

On part of what became known as Taylor's subdivision Conargo's second hotel was built. The Pastoral Times of June 1864 stated that a license had been granted to James McKees (sic) for an inn, which was being erected some half mile downstream of McKenzie's township on the south bank of the Billabong. The new premises was named the Riverine, and it was opened in October 1864. In an advertisement in the Pastoral times dated October 1864 McKies advertised as follows... "Riverine Hotel, Conargo. James McKies informs the public and settlers that he has opened the above hotel, and by strict attention to the wanes of the public hopes to obtain his share of patronage. Good stables and yards; a bridge is in use to cross sheep, and his new bridge for heavy drays and stock will be ready by the middle of December next." The inn was still being advertised in the P. T. as late as March 1870 after which it faded into obscurity, although the McKees family were to be present at Conargo until a much later date. W.J. McKees was later the licensee of the Conargo Hotel from 1882-85, and Robert McKees was licensee from 1907-10.

Close to the Riverine, and also on Taylor's subdivision, Cobb & Co. erected a large set of brick stables. In the early 1880's the stables were altered to allow part of the building to be used for social occasions. The building was demolished in 1956. This would account for the fact that there was no Public Hall built at Conargo until the old hall, formerly an airforce hut from the Deniliquin aerodrome, was moved to its site just south of the present hall, after the Second World War. Meanwhile a third hotel, named the Billabong was licensed to David Rogers (son in law of Wm. McKenzie) in March 1867. This was on the site of the present Conargo Billabong Hotel as we know it today. Previous to this in the 1860's Rogers had taken over McKenzie's original store and was also postmaster and a horse dealer as well. In 1868 the Billabong Hotel was leased to Robert Pyke, but in 1885 the license reverted to Rogers and four years later Flora Pottinger (nee Rogers) sold her half share to her brother Ronald Rogers. Licensees of the Billabong Hotel have been: - David Rogers, 1867-69; Robert Pyke, 1869-70; Ronald J. Rogers, 1889-91; James White, 1900-07; Harry Lloyd, 1913-14; Albert V. Baldwin, 1914-17; Hugh H. McManus, 1917-20; Frederick Pottinger, 1920-22; Robert G. McMaster, 1922-28; Sidney G. Taylor, 1936-41; Wm. J. Pattison, 1941-46; Thomas Fitzgerald, 1946; Thomas Kanake, 1946-47; Henry F. Hurst, 1947; John 1.  Murphy, 1950-51; Charles A. Murphy, 1951-52; Eileen V. Cook, 1952-54; Harry Craven, 1954-55; Lionel A. Masters; Neville K. Lodge, 1956-80; Geoff N. Bolden, 1980-95; D. Jennings, 1995-2001; T. Cartwright, 2001- 06; The freehold of the Billabong Hotel was purchased by D.&C. Gibbing in 2001, and Andrew Gibbon has officially held the license since January 2006. In June 2007, the freehold and license for the Billabong Hotel was offered on site by public auction, where both were purchased by Craig Ryan of Newcastle.

To clarify the situation of the two hotels in Conargo at the time (which were situated just 100 metres apart) the Pastoral Times in February 1917 printed the following article... "For 50 years Conargo has supported two hotels. Recently the two became the property of one owner (Ronald J. Rogers) with the intention of closing the Conargo Hotel, then owned by T. Collins (H.H. McManus, licensee), to secure a license for the other — the Billabong. The Licensing Board considered Conargo too small for two licenses." Rodgers had chosen to retain the Billabong Hotel simply because it was in a better state of repair than the original Conargo Inn. This announcement marked the end for the original Conargo Inn and a renaissance for the Billabong Hotel. Today, known the world over as a famous Australian watering hole, long may she serve the community of Conargo and district.

When William McKenzie, the "father of Conargo" died in August 1892 the Pastoral Times, under the heading "The last of the Deniliquin Pioneers," reported... "It is with very sincere regret that we have to record the death of Mr. William McKenzie. His name has been so long identified and associated with Deniliquin, that those who who do not know him must have been unknown themselves... Two years ago... his life was despaired, and in order to provide for the welfare of his business he admitted his manager Mr. Harry Lloyd (later to become a famous stock and station agent in his own right) into partnership… Few people were more widely respected (than McKenzie), and it is safe to say that all had a kindly word, and a sympathetic feeling for the genial old gentleman who... has passed the greater portion of the last fifty years in and about Deniliquin… At the Town Hall the Union Jack was hoisted at half mast as soon as the news of his death was received… The funeral took place yesterday afternoon, and the cortege was the longest ever witnessed in Deniliquin…" So ended the life of a true pioneer, William McKenzie, the last one of the "five before 45" — as they were dubbed by the historian Bushby, referring to the five earliest white men in the Deniliquin district before 1845. He had inherited that title after overlanding cattle from the Monaro to the Gwynne brothers Werai station, after which he took up the management of the station before moving to Conargo in the late 1850's.

To cater for a growing population at Conargo a Provincial School was established on land owned by James McKees in 1878. Residents who were active in opening the school included three publicans; David Rogers, Francis Griffith and Henry Foster, as well as storekeeper John Clancy and others. In 1880, with the number of students rising above 20, the school was given Public School status. A school was built of brick and capable of accommodating up to 24 students by the residents of the village. In 1881 McKees offered to sell the land on which the school was situated but the Education Department informed him that it had purchased its own land in the village for the purpose. This consisted of a two acre allotment plus a temporary reservation of an adjoining 20 acres. After several years of litigation between McKees and the Department over unpaid lease money, the Department opened a new school upon its own land in December 1885, at a cost of 165 pds. By 1889 however the school had closed due to a drop in numbers, to an average of just eight pupils, and did not re-open until 1892 when 18 pupils were in attendance. In October 1897, the teacher resigned causing the school to again close, after which it became a refuge for swagmen. Some years later Ted Mahon, the owner of the Conargo Store, offered to build a school which could share half of its time with the one at Nisbet's Tholobin, and a teacher was appointed on a half time basis in October 1902. In 1903 the school again achieved Provisional School status, but by April 1909 the school was again closed and the school furniture removed to the George Street School in Deniliquin.

After this time, the school became a subsidised school, meaning parents were responsible for organising the children's education, with the Department contributing a subsidy towards each pupil per annum. The school retained this status until 1913 by which time attendances had again climbed to a floating enrolment of some 20 pupils. In March 1925, the Department relinquished the lease of Mahon's building and another premises was obtained from Morago, for use as a classroom. During the floods of July 1931, the teacher, Robert Henderson, sent a telegram to the District Inspector informing him that "the township and school were flooded and people were living in tents on high ground." Rainfall records for Deniliquin during early 1931 show that, after almost 2 inches of rain in March, a further 10 inches of rainfall was recorded for the three month period from April to June inclusive. The same flood also created major problems downstream at Wanganella. At the Conargo Shire Council meeting held in August it was resolved that "the Engineers action in purchasing tents for the purpose of housing residents of Conargo whose homes were inundated by floodwaters, and also for the purchase of 2,500 sandbags for banking and repair purposes be approved."

In 1933 some thirty students were attending the school, and in 1934 the Department sold the school reserve to R.G. McMaster of the Billabong Hotel, retaining just three acres of the original twenty for a school site. McMaster had been leasing much of the school reserve since 1904. In October 1934, a fence around the school was erected by Mr. Rose because "the grounds were continuously invaded by teamsters and cattle in order to get to water." In 1938 Percy Parslow was appointed as teacher, a position he held until enlisting in March 1943, with the proviso that his position would be retained upon his return from service. At the Conargo Shire Council meeting in March 1945, the Education Department informed the Shire by letter that the Conargo School had re-opened, and in the interim three teachers were engaged until Parslow returned to teach after the war; until the school closed at the end of 1947. The school building was later removed to Mayrung after the Mayrung Hall, which had been used as a school since 1914, was destroyed by fire in April 1951. The Conargo school was re-opened in 1959. In April of that year Neville Lodge, publican of the Billabong Hotel, forwarded to Council a copy of a letter sent to the Education Department asking for a new school at Conargo. Council supported the application which subsequently bore fruit, and in August 1960 the Conargo P.&C. wrote to Council "asking if loam can be spread around the Conargo Hall where school is held." This arrangement was apparently shortlived, as the previous June the District Surveyor had written to council "giving approval to the closing of road for the Conargo School site." A new school building was subsequently built and occupied at the beginning of the 1961 school year.

In relation to the Conargo Store, the following article appeared in the Pastoral Times on New Year's Eve 1910... Fire at Conargo. Mr. Mahon's Store and House Destroyed. "A fire which resulted in the destruction of Mr. E. Mahon's store and dwelling at Conargo occurred on Thursday afternoon. About 5 p.m. smoke was seen issuing from the back portion of the premises near the kitchen and the fire spread so rapidly that within a few minutes the whole of the weatherboard buildings were enveloped in flames. Soon after the alarm was given there were a number of men on the scene who went to work willingly to prevent the fire from spreading, and while they could not save the buildings from destruction, they succeeded in carrying a fair quantity of goods from the store to a place of safety. The store was stocked with all descriptions of groceries, clothing, etc., and on account of Christmas and New Year trade, Mr. Mahon had an unusually heavy amount of stock on hand. As the day was exceedingly hot, and there was very little water available for use when the fire broke out, all efforts to extinguish the flames were unavailing, and the fire demolished the whole structure and the greater part of the contents within an hour after it was first discovered... It appears that Mrs. Mahon and a girl were in the front part of the premises when the fire was first noticed. Mr. Mahon was away at his farm, several miles from Conargo. Mr. Mann was in the front store delivering some goods when the alarm was raised, and he and Mr. Lowe, coach driver, were about the first who took part in the attempt to save the buildings and goods. They were joined by a number of others... From the surrounding stations men came in response from calls on the telephone, but before they could arrive the place was doomed. The store and buildings comprised ten rooms, all of weatherboard, which were totally destroyed. The back store and blacksmith's shop, detached from the main buildings, were the only structures remaining when the fire had run its course. Mr. Mahon is a heavy loser by this fire... The damage is partly covered by the Phoenix Company's office, but Mr. Mahon estimates that the damage exceeds the insurance by 400-500 pds."

In the Pastoral Times on 27th June 1914 reference was made to the opening of "a new church at Conargo." The report stated that... "On Sunday morning last the Rev. W. Tulloch, of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Deniliquin, opened a new church which has been built for public worship at Conargo. A large congregation of over fifty people attended and were much pleased with the service throughout... The building is a very neat weatherboard structure, fire proof lined, and situated on a piece of land presented by Mr. Percy Landale of Quiamong. The landholders around Conargo donated handsomely to the building, viz, Mr. P. Landale, 50 pds; Messrs. Otway and Leigh Falkiner, 50 pds each; Mrs. Falkiner Snr., 30 The Conargo Church, built in 1914 pds; Mr. Shaw (Puckawidgee), 25 pds. Donations were also contributed by Messrs. Ralph Falkiner, J.H. Patterson Jnr. (Hartwood), and Mrs McBean and Mrs. Percy Landale presented a dozen chairs... The residents of Conargo are presenting the desk and Mrs. Otway Falkiner is donating books... Only to the energy and perseverance of the Rev. Mr. Tulloch I'm afraid we would seldom, if ever, have a service in Conargo. On his visits out here he usually has to drive a distance of 22 miles and hold three services in the day, viz: Conargo, 11 a.m., Tholobin, 3 p.m., and Deniliquin in the evening."

In the early years at Conargo the water supply was often a problem when the creek ran dry. At the Council meeting held in December 1914, with the country again in the grip of severe drought, a petition was received from "29 residents of Conargo, asking Council to erect a dam on the Billabong Creek at Conargo as they were in a bad way for water." Council resolved instead that the Engineer be directed to report on the cost of a bore, and what land was available for a P. W.P. (Public Watering Place). In April 1915 Council granted Edward Mahon "permission for him to put down a bore, mill and troughing on his 110 acre lease, to be applied for as a P.W.P." This would later become known as the Conargo P. W.P. In relation to water for the Billabong Creek however, at the Council meeting held in October 1919, it was resolved that the President write to the Commissioner for Water Conservation "pointing out the serious condition of water supply at the townships of Conargo, Wanganella and Jerilderie, and also stock routes and pastoral properties through the inadequate flow of water through the Yanko Cutting; and asking that urgent steps be taken to alleviate the problem." In July 1920 the President reported having joined a deputation to the Minister with regard to the Billabong and subsidiary creeks water supply, wherein the minister promised he would recommend to Cabinet that the Murrumbidgee Dam be built and that the Government should pay half the cost of construction and maintenance. A Trust would shortly be formed comprising two landholders and one Government representative. This marked the beginnings of the Yanco, Billabong and Colombo Creeks' Water Trust. Ironically, it was perhaps due to the success of this Trust that the Conargo P. W.P. was eventually deemed obsolete. In December 1932 council resolved to call for tenders for the sale of "the mill, tanks and all other appurtenances with the exception of the bore casing at the Conargo P.W.P." Five tenders were received, with the successful tenderer being R.A. McMaster, for the sum of 50 pds 2/6d. McMaster may have never intended to dismantle the infrastructure at the P. W.P. however, as by April 1933 he had successfully applied to Council "to use the old bore at the Conargo P. W.P. and allow the mill and tanks to remain on the ground as he needed the water in the adjacent paddock."  

In March 1925 the Pastoral Times reported on the establishment of a new association at Conargo thus... "Saturday last marked a step in the advancement of Conargo, when a meeting of residents and ratepayers was held to form a Progress Association. It was unanimously decided to form an association, the Conargo people realising that in order to secure improvements beneficial to all it was necessary to form a representative body to work with that end in view. The election of officers resulted as follows: President, Mr. E. Mahon; vice presidents, Messrs. G. McMaster and F. Barber; secretary, Mr. W. Sullivan... During the evening several important matters relating to the Shire elections, Pastures Protection Board and local roads were discussed... " The Association continued on for some years, but like so many organisations it eventually lost relevance as the population declined, however a similar role today is undertaken by a progressive Recreation Reserve and Hall Committee.  

The Conargo-Steam Plains Mail Run and the Conargo School Bus  

The Sunlit Plains Extended, Bradley A. Chalmers pg. 421 

The name Rose is synonymous with Conargo, and has been associated with the village for almost a century. In June 1912 J.M. Rose successfully applied for a special lease of 15 acres in the village of Conargo, and two years later applied for "Council's consent to enclose Desailly and Brougham Streets in the township of Conargo" to which there were no objections. In December 1921, a Council land transfer records the sale of six acres of land in the Parish of Conargo from the Executors of R. Wallace to J.M. Rose.

Bill Rose had worked earlier on at Wanganella Estate and then at Quiamong. He joined the air force during the war and according to his son Beirne, interviewed for the Conargo Shire oral history collection... "he never went overseas he only went away — he was down in Victoria. He came home after the war and they wanted a bus run started. He put a quote in for the bus. I think the Blighty bus run started first, it got the Government backing first, but the Conargo Shire backed Dad, and he started in the last term of 1948 with a real old bus.. ." Council minutes confirm that in August 1948 that the tender of Mr. W. (Bill) Rose for the sum of 3pds 3s per day was accepted for the Conargo-Deniliquin service, to be started as soon as possible. The Department of Education advised Council in November 1948 that a subsidy for this service of 2pds 3s per day would be paid by the Department from the date of commencement. Bill Rose's first bus was a Bedford, purchased second hand from the Harden — Wagga district. It was later sold to F.S. Falkiner & Sons and used as a mobile camper for irrigators and others to camp in when they were out on the job. A second bus, purchased in 1955 from Rochester to replace the first, was also a Bedford. During the day Bill Rose would drive the bus from Conargo to Deniliquin and after delivering the students to school worked at Mac's Motors as a mechanic. In the afternoon he would knock off work and drive the return bus journey to Conargo. After a bout of illness Laurie Rose (a son of Bill) took over the run during which time the bus was sometimes driven by Beirne Rose. After about 12 months Keith Purtill purchased the run. Beirne Rose takes up the story... "I was working at Boonoke part time... and I got notice to come to the office as I was wanted on the phone... Keith was there (on the telephone) and he said "I've bought the Conargo bus. .. on one condition, and that is provided I bought you too. You stay with it." I said "that would do." I drove it for 27 years for Keith and gave it away and retired in 2002... "

"I had the mail run. I took that over from Dad... There was a mail run started off from Conargo. It was known as the Conargo-Steam Plains run, and went across to Willurah. Vic Phillips started it off when it was first bought out for tender. He must have had it for about five years and then Dad took it over from him. Dad had the tender (and I drove for him) for five years and then I took the tender from him, and had it right up until the end of June last year (June 2005)... I was on that for 47 years... I took on the mail run in 1958. When we started the mail run it was a two day a week run. Bread from the bakers in Deniliquin used to come out in wheat bags, in hessian bags. Steam Plains would get one bag of bread, and I think Willurah would have got two on a Friday. Others, like the smaller landholders around might have got half a dozen loaves. Then electricity went through, where people could buy a decent fridge, and they would come in to town and buy their bread and they didn't need it (a delivery). The properties like Steam Plains and Willurah had terrific (numbers) of staff compared to what they have got now." What were the drop off points on the mail run? "Murray Plains it was then (now Myrnong), then Moonyanko and Amaroo. Then back to the Black Sandhill, a back station of Boonoke that was on the main road to Steam Plains. Euroka was on the main (Moonbria) road, and then out to Oakville —Bill Bull, then across the paddocks to Lloyd Bull (Waringah), and across paddocks to Charlie Driver (Barrabool) and then across to Steam Plains and Willurah; which was about 14 gates and no track, and then back to Conargo and the other Boonoke back station which was known as Rouse's.

I suppose it took us three hours (to complete the run) when we first started off, and we got it down to two. We cut an hour off it because cars went faster and they altered them a bit." Did you run the mail run and bus run together or were they separate? "The times worked in for them. The mail run, that was a hard one. .. we left Conargo about 12 0'clock and had to be back in town to pick the bus up at half past three. I think there was only once that I didn't make it back, I broke down or got bogged.

It was virtually run by the clock all the time, with the bus run both ways and the mail run. And it was all on time; set times, you had to get there and get back... "

The roads would have changed an enormous amount in that time? "Oh yes. On the Steam Plains Road there was very little bitumen from Conargo out there when we started off. I remember my first day around on the mail run I took a cousin as gate opener to have a look around. We were going down on to Mabins Well Road off the Carrathool Road onto the bend. There was no bitumen and it had been raining. We slid off and got bogged. First day out. I thought this is nice. We pushed around and got out of it. And after that the road slowly got bitumened out to the Barrabool turn-off and the Mabins Well Road. I think the best mud car that I had was the old FB Holden — the old 1960 model Holden. It seemed to have enough weight in it to really sit down, but you could really put the foot into it and make it go." Floods; "In 1956 there was a big flood that went through. I was working at Boonoke at that stage and they sent me out in the old Dodge 4x4 — it was an old army vehicle — to Rouse's back station to pick Mrs. Rouse up, and an old rabbiter... and bring them back to Conargo. We were the last ones to cross the bridge in 1956 before it was washed away. You couldn't see the road, it was all under water and you just had to guess where the road was. Coming up on to the bridge the water washed around this big gum tree and had washed a big hole. We dropped into it and I thought this is it. Anyway, it came out the other side and across the bridge and that was the last one across.

Dust; I couldn't tell you what year... we were coming back from Willurah and the dust was that thick I had to pull up — I couldn't see a thing — I pulled up and gradually I started to snake along and next thing I hit a white post, I was hardly moving but I knocked this white post out. You couldn't see for dust. Fire; There's been a few fires through here. The big one in 1987... I took one fire unit out and went out the Willurah Road and an old chap coming back in pulled us up and he said there is no use going out there. He said it's too fast. He said get back onto the Steam Plains Road, and my god I have never seen anything so fast. And you could see this little vehicle in front of it, coming across and it was Johnny Walmsley. He was out in the paddocks in his Subaru, and he was flat out keeping in front of it. There was no hope of us doing anything — it had jumped the road in front of us and disappeared up towards Jerilderie. We went along behind it and got the edges of it. I've seen several fires, but that was the worst... " For his devoted service to the Conargo community over a period of almost 50 years, Beirne Rose was awarded the Conargo Shire Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award for 2007.  


The Sunlit Plains Extended, Bradley A. Chalmers pg. 268 

The first recorded flood on the Murray — Edward river system on the southern boundary of the shire occurred in 1843. Henry Lewes' account of "heavy rains" during that period is confirmed by the memoirs of Henry Wyse, which state in relation to ... "In 1843 the big flood occurred, and it was then that the greatest troubles were experienced with trouble with the natives the many tribes of blacks by whom the settlers were surrounded... " Lewes' account of the wet year of 1851 is also confirmed ... "Just at sunset we lost our track by another eyewitness, this time Mereweather, who stated in his diary for June of that year in a most dismal swamp, from which I thought we would never emerge. After much difficulty we arrived at the Sandhills public house (the Wanderer Inn — on the site of the North Deniliquin School) at Deniliquin, having waded our horses for 35 miles.. ." On his next trip to Deniliquin from Moulamein in September 1851 Mereweather stated... "September 27. Had another ride to get to Deniliquin, 40 miles (probably from Murgha). The river was so flooded we had to keep out six miles in the back plains... " Again, on November 12th Mereweather recorded that. .. "After a solitary ride of 52 miles arrived again at Moolamon (sic). During my absence many persons have drowned in the swollen rivers. At Deniliquin a sawyer's wife has lost her life, and at Yarra Creek, the chief superintendant of the Royal Bank station (Augustus Morris) ... who was in a dog cart drawn by two fine horses, rashly drove at the usual place of crossing, although warned not to. The horses became entangled in the boughs of a floating tree and Mr. Burnett got out to disentangle the horses. In the struggle he was drowned. The horses, which were noble animals, perished with him...

It was to an incident, probably also during the flood of 1851, that an article in the Ballarat Courier of 14th December 1870 refers... "Mr. V. Smith has freely offered to the colony a new and cheap method of bridging our rivers by means of wire ropes. A model is at present being prepared, and will be submitted to the public in a few days. Twenty years ago Mr. Smith, by means of Manilla rope and stringybark applied on a similar principal, crossed upwards of 10,000 sheep over the Tuppal, near Deniliquin, during a flood. The expense of these bridges will be about a tenth part of those at present in use throughout the colony, and can with suitable approaches be erected above any high water level... " A further report of extensive flooding in the saltbush country in the early 1850's (before records were kept) was reported in the Hay Riverine Grazier in November 1893, when Harold Mackenzie, a travelling correspondent recalled that. .. "Mr. James Tyson can remember in the year 1853, riding from the Murrumbidgee to the Billabong through sheets of nothing but running water.. ."

Whilst floods were first reported in the Pastoral Times as early as June 1859, the flood of 1867, after two years of drought, was the first to directly affect Deniliquin — where it rose to a height of 30 ft. 6in. during October. This flood period also saw the new bridge over the Billabong at Conargo washed away. The Pastoral Times reported that. .. "From the Twelve-Mile stables on the Hay road (north of Pretty Pine) to Deniliquin is a perfect sea of water, the average depth of which is from three to four feet... " Two more dry years were to follow before the greatest flood recorded in the Deniliquin district since the beginning of white settlement occurred in 1870. By the end of June neighbouring Warbreccan station had measured the district average of 16 inches in just six months. By September the river had peaked some 6 inches below the 1867 mark, but on November 5th it rose 6 inches in 24 hours to reach the incredible level of 31 ft. 9 in. on the Deniliquin gauge. Even with the later advent of levee banks, which contribute to a hydraulic affect which allows for peak heights to be greater than beforehand (although the overall volume is less), this peak height at Deniliquin has never been eclipsed. It was reported at the time that huge redgum logs that entered the Murray from the Goulburn system actually floated upstream above the Barmah choke before entering the Edward system, such was the height and huge volume of water in the whole system.

In 1889, a year in which over 26 inches of rain were recorded in Deniliquin, the river peaked at 29 ft. 10 in., and this height was not bettered until the major floods of 1917. According to Bushby... "The flood of 1917 was the most memorable in recent times. It was said to be more severe at Deniliquin than any flood before or since that time. It consisted of six high rivers between June and October. The first of these was 29 ft. 2 in., with other rises around 28 ft. 3 in. until 3rd October, when it reached a peak of 31 ft. 7 in. This was the second highest river since the white man's occupation, being beaten only by the flood of 1870. .. The river gauge now used at Deniliquin (1980) was installed in June 1922 and all previous flood levels were adjusted to this gauge. Another high river occurred in 1931, with a peak of 29 ft. 7 h in., but the 1956 flood was the closest challenge to the 1870 "father of floods." In 1956 the Edward River achieved a height of 30 ft. 9 in. at Deniliquin.. ." (peaking on July 17th). The river had also flooded the previous year, where hundreds of volunteers battled to save the town due to the inadequate levee system. With 19.40 inches of rain measured at Deniliquin in 1955, followed by a near record 28.69 inches in 1956, this period is recognised as one of the wettest in the district's recorded history.

The next major wet period commenced in 1973 and did not abate until late 1975. With a rainfall total in 1973 of 3 1.02 inches, followed by 802 mm (31.57 inches) in 1974, and 583.9 mm. (22.98 inches) in 1975 — after records began to be measured in mm. in January 1974, in the three year period an unbelievable total of 85.57 inches of rain had been recorded. Although in 1973 and 1974 the river ran high in Deniliquin for long periods it was not until late 1975 that the highest peak for this period was recorded — 29 ft. 9 in. Whilst the peak of this flood was one foot below that of 1956, the sheer volume of rainfall recorded during that period is regarded as having created the wettest period in the history of the district since white occupation began. For the highest ever annual rainfall of 31.02 inches in 1973 to be bettered the following year at 31.57 inches was unprecedented, and this incredibly wet period placed great pressure on roads within the Shire.