‘Wilgena Hotel, Tarcoola’

Wilgena Hotel, Tarcoola
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  1. I spent my 18th birthday with a group of shearers at the pub – we had wet sheep out at Wilgena Station. ( Stockowners Shearing LTD. My first roustie shed – Bill Napier was the Manager and a bloody nice bloke.
    1974 from memory……. Jeff Hollywood

    • Hey Jeff thanks for the comment, it’s interesting the history and stories of the area, like yours, we wish the pub was open so we could have checked it out and had a chat with the likes of chaps like yourself!

      • G’day you blokes above. Nice to hear the name of the old place again. So she’s closed eh. What a bummer! I’ve always had it in the back of me mind to have a Coopers or whatever in there again one day. The 60s saw me dry tonguing into the shanty “on ocassions” when both scratching for the weight and then working on the snake. (The transcontinal line.) I wrote a bit of doggrell about the pub once but can’t lay a hand on it (tossed it I expect) but the last bit went:

        There was Dingo Jack Smith and young Fettler Fred, Bluey the Push, old Albert and Ted,
        Wheelbarrow Sam, Harry Halstead, Long Dutchy the cook – who could forget him!?
        We were nursing a thirst, “filling the well,” that Saturday night of which I now tell,
        We drank all the Coopers, Southwark and West, the spirits and anything else that was left.
        T’was time to remember, that I can tell, when we drank the bar dry at the Wigena Hotel.

        Cheers,

        Old Fossicker Jim.

      • Hey Old Fossicker Jim thanks for your comment I was hoping to fill the well at the hotel also and hopefully meet some of these Bush characters but was sad to see the pub closed. We love the outback and it’s characters, thanks for your piece!

      • Spot on Keally….. it was 1973 not ’74. Late June and an unusual wet winter in the Pastoral area.I have no idea in regard to your shearing shed experience but, back then, if the stationhands failed to fill the shed with sheep prior to the rain pouring down the fleece wool soaks the rain in like a sponge. Shearing a wet sheep can cause all sorts of health issues for the shearers – bending over and breathing in the moist, sweaty fumes for eight hours of pure Hell.
        The shearers have the opportunity to shear one sheep and then cast a vote to decide whether to proceed……. or go to the Tarcoola Pub and make sure that the Coopers Ale is still nice ‘n cold !!!! Test them again at 7.30am the next day. – cheers.

  2. Would Ted be Ted Tankey who had the Wilgena pub around that time. Cans were 2/5d each or 2/10d if Ted opened them at the bar. We reckon he made good money at 2.1/2d a hole !!

  3. I too spent my 18th Birthday in the Wilgena Hotel, well nearly! We drove down from Commonwealth Hill Station after tea only to find the pub shut! It was a typical hot February evening so we banged on the door until the publican, Ray Martello, came and opened the door. We asked why the pub was shut so early, Rays’ answer was that there was a complete power outage and he had NO COLD BEER ! We doubted this as all the lights booth in the street and in the pub were glowing brightly! We said that we would by a carton and some Rum & Coke, Ray obliged and we trundled off down the track a bit and proceeded to party! I can honestly tell you that it was the coldest beer that we had ever been served from Ray! We figure he just wanted the night off! I have many stories involving Ray and that pub, when I was back there a few years ago with some mates we sat down there had a beer outside, the pub was permanently shut, and laughed at a few of those stories. we then moved on to the Kingoonya Hotel were we had a meal and reminisced a bit more.

    • G’day Jim,
      I wonder if you can remember a fettler in Kingoonya called Danny? In 1974 I think…. and there were also two red haired twin sisters that I think worked in the pub. Ida, from Coondambo would sit on the front doorstep of the pub each night, and Mr, Willis was maybe a teacher………..not sure.
      Danny was associated with a young lady from Sydney, I believe – an exotic dancer! All the shearers from North Well, rousies included and the local copper ( a big bloke from memory ) were invited for a party at Danny’s railway house.
      I was just seventeen at the time, a green Catholic boy from Adelaide…. what an education that night was. Would not change the memories for quids!
      I even bought one of those Tee shirts from the Kingoonya pub – “were the Hell is Kingoonya”. Saw a Min-Min out the back of Carrierwerloo, fox shooting one night – another story!

      • Hi Jeff,
        I met many fettlers at Tarcoola and also at their camp at Gina siding when the railway line through to Alice Springs was being built. No sure if I met Danny, may have but don’t remember him! I do remember a little curly haired bloke nickname “Irish” I think his real name was John Peterson but not sure! I know we had plenty of drinks together at different locations and events around the area including at the Tarcoola Golf Club. The two teachers at Tarcoola at the time were Bob & Jan Willis and the Police Officer was Dave Pigeon. I remember competing in a Motorkahana with Dave in a barrel race (in cars) he ended up winning in his short wheelbase Toyota. I agree with you they were fantastic times, a lot of life making learnings with genuine people.

  4. Hi Jim and Jeff. You are nearly right with Ray’s name – it was Martlow and he was my Dad. I lived in the hotel with Dad and Mum from 1970 – 1974 when Mum and I moved back to Adelaide. Dad owned the hotel until he died in 1988 when it was left to my brother. Dad had leased it for a few years before then and my brother eventually sold it – not sure when. Even though I was only a child when there, I have many, many memories of Tarcoola. We were there when the Indian Pacific derailed and every one was stuck in town while they fixed the track – even I remember that party!!! It’s sad to see your pics of the old place now – brings back memories…..

    • Hey Geri, it’s cousin Col 🙂 how you been girl? Glad you corrected the spelling of Uncle Ray’s surname (and yours then too) ‘cos I was scrolling through and going to do it.

  5. A long time ago Geri! That must have been your dear old Dad that was belting a golf ball down the main street in front of the pub when we pulled up from Wilgena Station. I think the bar room floor was still dirt…….. am I right? AHHHHHH the memories, and the Sturt Desert Peas out on the road to Coober Pedy. But, one had to get back home, after Cut-out, in a 1969 HT premier over the Pimba Plains.
    Corrugations, roos, galahs, wedgies and by the time you got back to Port Augusta, we would say “nearly home”. I’m giving 60 a nudge now, but I wouldn’t change a thing for quids!

  6. I used to live right next door in the late 80s early 90s when my dad was the local policeman. I remember the day it was painted red. We went out for the day the pub was brown, then came over the hill from the old town in the north west to see this great big red building.

    Awesome town, awesome place, wish I could let my kids grow up there…

    • Hi brenton… if u dont mind me asking what was your dads name.. i had dealings with the local constabulary in 79 when working at mulgathing station. I cant quite remember his name but everyone in the area was wary of getting on the wrong side of this cop.. stood about 6 ft plus.. blondish hair.. dry/nil sense of humor.. believed in giving a good kick up the bum instead of laying charges… i had a sore bum most of the time i was in tarcoola…
      Rick

  7. I worked at mulgathing station in 1979..working as the station cowboy at the age of 17 absolutely gave me the irrits ! So the weekly trip to the tarcoola hotel was always a fun time.. i think it was run by don and phil gregan… great people! Great times!

  8. Jeff , i wonder if the overseer was Luke, and the cook Bob Snook, wow what a cook that guy was, a leaner shearer with a pup named Flossy, and might have even had Arty Hobbs and Roy Ahearn still peeling the fleeces off then, both in their sixties by then …
    I merember they got poor young Trevor to bust up the dags off the sheep to get the wool LOL , that might have been at Coola actually, memories fade a little and it seems like another lifetime ago, yea was some top times in the sheds you never forget.

  9. I wonder, can anyone remember the old style dance, at what I think was the Institute Hall in 1975 – wooden floors and all the local people turned up for a bit of a shin-dig!
    Garry ? from Mount Compass …. a shearer from Wilgena, with a chin that could never be broken, cause it was so big, was prancing around like a butterfly.

    About 6’2″ and a half, dancing like Fred Astaire with any one who agreed. He was in heaven….. I can see his face as I write this. Great big bastard, gentle as a lamb – wonder what he’s doing now?

    I, had a couple of beers for courage and eventually asked a local girl for a dance. She was an indigenous lady and was really lovely. What a bloody good night to attend for a young bloke, away from home and out in the bush! All teenagers should do a stint in the Regional towns to ground them! What a magic joint out there in the RED soil country.

    By the way, I think I kissed her…….. – Cheers!

  10. My old dad lived in Tarcoola as a boy in the 1930’s or early 40’s. He has some great memories of life there and talks about them often – especially when the old steam trains used to come through. He also talks of Mulgathing Station. I am taking him on a road trip up to Merna Mora station (where he also lived as a lad) in June and then over to Pimba, Woomera and Roxby (as he has not seen Roxby before). i would really like to take him to Tarcoola again (he is now 90) but I am unsure what the road from Glendambo and Kingoonya is like. I guess if it is unsealed, the conditions vary depending on the weather. Unfortunately I do not have a 4WD. Any suggestions or tips would be appreciated.

  11. What a beaut’ thing to do for your old Dad Nick…. I imagine he would have stories in his memory banks that we would be hard to believe. I wish to Christ my old Dad was still here, so I could shout him real holiday in the Pastoral region of SA.
    Mulgathing, was part of Gina and Commonwealth Hill, if my memory is correct – We were told at the School of Wool, at Marleston, by the likes of Greg Castle, Wally McGovern, Mick Young and Bill Irvine that Commonwealth Hill was the largest Sheep Station in SA. Mind you, this was in 1974!
    Hellfire Nick, I drove up to Tarcoola in a HT with Colin Loffler and Bluey, to Wilgena in June ’75 – nearly destroyed my vehicle across the Pimba Plains after a big rain. Bloody good fun, fish tailing in the red mud but from memory, it took 10 – 12 hours from Adelaide and a whole lot of extra fuel.
    April might be a more appropriate month, if that is an option – or you may need to go and visit a vehicle hire place…… I reckon your Dad would be worth it – You only get one Dad Nick……, when he’s gone, there will be no other opportunity – you’ll feel like me and regret it for the rest of your life.

    Good Luck to you and Dad mate,

    regards Jeff

  12. Hey Jeff. Thanks for the reply. Sounds like you had a ball in 75 although I do feel sorry for the HT! Yeh I am so lucky my dad is in pretty good nick still and has an awesome memory. He knows Commonwealth Hill and Anna Creek, Rawlinna etc. He can recount growing up with the Aborigines and when he went hunting with them – its a different era now. He can still recount practically all the old sidings from Kalgoorlie through to Port Augusta – and he lived a short while at most of them. I am trying to do what I canwith him whilst he can. Sorry you did not get a chance with your dad but I hope you have some great memories mate. May have to hire a vehicle I think…
    Thanks Jeff. Hope the HT is still going 🙂

  13. Pick me up on your way through Nick. I’ll drive , and you and Dad can drink Coopers Sparkling Ale and do what Dad’s and sons do on an outback adventure! Cheers

  14. He he. Sounds good bloke. I’d drive back and u and the old man could have a couple on the way home. Pity the Wilgena pub has not been reopened. Wow – I bet that place could tell a story or two. Love to see the Kingoonya pub too. That’s still open I believe. We may make it there yet. Were u a shearer up that way mate or what was your connection to the area?

  15. Just a trainee Wool classer from Adelaide Nick – a young bloke who loved the red soil country. But I did learn to shear in between runs…… as rousey’s do. Worked at Wilgena in Tarcoola, North Well in Kingoonya and Wirraminna as a teenager, learning how to behave, shut ya mouth and do as you bloody well told or look out! I learnt quickly.

    Had my B—‘s blackened several times, during the 3 man lift, on the board, and a haircut for pulling the hind leg of the fleece back, whilst the shearer was going down the last side – they don’t like that much – it puts pressure on the skin and the shearers cut them usually!

    Probably, the best way in life to learn respect for your elders as a young fella – I now have the best manners, the best memories and treat older people with the respect they deserve.
    The sheds, teach you heaps and you meet characters which you only have the luck to meet once in a lifetime. If only, I could turn the hands of time around, back to those days!!!

    Stockowners, back in the 70’s, had some of the best shearers, including GUNS, that the state had to offer and just magic wool classers / experts / pressers – John Murch, Bob Rainer, Bill Bagley, Darcy Rice, Luke Doecke, Malcolm Doecke, Lindsay Breeding and of course Ross Pitman…. the Vietnam Vet….Wool presser with arms like the village blacksmith. I have never seen anyone work a Kurts Press like Ross – Kapunda boy…. and a fine man!

    I could go on, but I won’t

    Cheers Bud.

  16. Hey Joe,

    I know this Fabbo site is particularly for Tarcoola and the local district, but are you willing to bend the rules to include a story about Carrierwerloo Station. North West of Port Augusta – where “Sunday, TOO FAR AWAY” was filmed? I’ll just say : a cricket ate my eardrum whilst out fox shooting one night…………

  17. Well,
    12th. of February 1975, Carrierwerloo Shearing shed…. wasn’t very hot in SA in Feb. – NOT!
    One of my favourite sheds, I have to say. Went out fox shooting with Ross Pitman and his beautiful wife Carol…. Carol was the Cook…. she was like a film star – so everyone loved her. Ross had a 22 / 250 rifle, that had a muzzle blast that felt like some big buxom women slapping you in the face when he fired the rifle. I tolerated that, because I was holding the spotlight.
    But then, in the darkness, a cricket flew into my then shoulder length hair. He found his way into my left ear and started boring his way through what ever was in the ear…. in an effort to get out the other side!
    If you ever want to torture someone, drop a cricket in their ear!
    Some smart ass suggested ….. hair bleach will fix it!!~~ It went hot in my ear and made the little bastard even more determined to burrow through my head.
    By now, I had shaken my skull to the point of vomiting and had no balance to stay upright. This is when the fun part started.

    You see, Ross had a 2 door, yellow and black Falcon XB 351 Manual, 2 door GT. Hellfire, in to Port Augusta hospital he said – 60mile an hour in first gear, on the dirt, I swear…
    I was watching the speedo as he was rushing me into PA. When we arrived at the hospital, every man and his dog had a crack at drowning the cricket – olive oil and other chemicals that I cannot remember. Then, the Matron came out….. Big girl….looked a bit like Neil Kerley. Had a set of tweesers in her hand, the length you would not believe.

    Well Sweet Jesus! She reached into my ear, and tore a leg off of that little bastard. How did he respond…. he dug deeper!

    Anyway, the big Matron finally got hold of the critter and gave him to me for a Viking burial.

    I’m as deaf as a post in that ear to this day, but you know what? I had the best time of my life in the Shearing Sheds, learning from the experienced old blokes that had lived the life and were prepared to teach the youngsters.

    Cheers Jeff

  18. I was just wondering,

    Am I the only bloke, that regularly visits this great site, from South Australia, that has seen a Min Min light whilst adventuring out the back, West of Port Augusta on the Nonning dirt Road ??
    …….. Three teenagers in an HT Panel van – Kym Lowcock was the owner of the old white van. An alternative style man – Hippy, if you like. Nearly ended my life several times whilst driving on the unsealed roads. He used to break up the incense stuff on those sticks and mix it with his Port Royal tobacco, when he rolled a smoke in the huts at night time.

    Can’t remember the other young fella’s name….. little dark haired bloke – hopeless as a rouseabout and no value in a Team Environment.

    Kym has gone to heaven now…….So he cannot support my story. I can still see the vision in my mind’s eye to this day! Frightened the hellfire out of the 3 of us young fella’s.

    I used to see Kym in the Adelaide CBD, whilst working as a Telecom Liney, in later years – he ended up a homeless youth! What a damn waste of a young bloke whom I think went down the wrong path!

    I admired him, not his driving……. but he was a big strong lad, played Neil Diamond’s : Johnathon’s Living Seagull all the time… not just a hippy…. also a surfie! RIP mate.

    • By the way,

      My old Dad was a firearms dealer who worked for Super Elliott’s in Rundle Street, Adelaide for nearly 30 years. There was not much that Dad didn’t know about the Gun business back in the 1960 – 1980’s. He was a hero to me, probably because I was the youngest boy of three. The older blokes got it tough….. By the time I came along, Dear old Dad had gotten used to having 3 boys under 4 years old.

      One night, out the back of Carriewerloo Station, I shot a fox at quite a distance with my Mauser .22. This was my 18th. present from old Dad – fully restored and re-blued by Dad’s specialty contacts in the game at the time.

      We turned the spotlight on and walked out to grab the fox and I soon realised that I had only winged the little bugger.
      The fox turned on me…. and tried to take my leg off – as you would expect! I was caught by surprise and responded by trying to defend myself by giving him a tap on the head with the barrel of my vintage . 22 rimfire German Mauser. – The old Walnut stock cracked in half in an instant. Hellfire, I thought. Dear old Dad will string me up from the nearest tree, if he finds out.

      He did find out. But he was not cross… he was pissed off because I did not tell him the truth when it happened! He carefully repaired the Walnut stock of my magic German rifle and I still have it to this day – A lesson for young players I think !

      Mausers and Brno .22’s ( particularly model 1’s ) are the best engineered rifles on the market! My humble opinion only Joe!

  19. Just a story about a man that had an enormous effect on ME, and young blokes – Shed hands, young learner shearers and anyone else that was young enough to listen. This bloke was not only a shearing Contractor, but also a clean shearer in his own right, the BOSS OF THE BOARD, in any shed……. also known as the Expert – in shearing shed terms, and a fabulous Mentor to all the young, green, skinny little blokes starting off, picking up fleeces from the board, and throwing them on the skirting tables. Sometimes, over 1,000 a day… depending on how many shearers you were picking up for. – narrow gear years !

    Sweet Jesus…… was that an art form – yes! You had blokes that were good, and you had blokes that should have been lawyers! Didn’t take long to pick the lawyers!

    This man, was a shearing contractor in the Mid North of South Australia…. around the Clare Valley area – Yacka, Bungaree, Mintaro, Narioota,
    Kadlunga and Kangaroo Island.

    He would come to our rooms at night time and speak with Clarity, on how young blokes should act / behave, whilst in a Regional Town.
    I can still to this day, hear him saying…….. DON’T WALK AROUND WITH YOUR D*** HANGING OUT OF YOUR SHORTS! – You are only visitors here – so behave and treat the local people with respect!

    I will take that advice to my grave – God Bless him.

    His name…… Eugene Fahey……… What a man! Only a little bloke…… but a giant in my eyes to this day! … but Hellfire… when he spoke………..you listened!

    And I am only one bloke speaking about him. He Lived in Edwardstown, but belonged to the Mid North of South Australia with his dog….Muttly….. and his light brown HT Holden Kingswood, and Mutt had his own spot…. on a wool bag on the passenger side floor of the car. – God I miss those times !!!!

    RIP Ewy

  20. Well Joe,

    My gorgeous old 85 year old Mum died last week. She had been in a home for the last four years – not the full quid….. if you know what I mean. I was Mum’s Fave boy, without a doubt. She thought going to the Wool School, at Marleston, was a magic thing – Trade School career and out in the SA bush, where I was comfortable.

    She was a darling Mum. Used to drive me up to Palmer, in her FB Holden, just out of Mannum…… in the Murray. I would walk, shooting foxes, whilst MUM, would tag along behind, picking mushrooms and flowers and just enjoying the whole deal. I , will always remember my sweet Mum….

    VALE’ gorgeous lady, and Fare Thee Well – Fay Maxine Hansen – The Danish Viking connection to the Hollywood family bloodline! Gone now – but never forgotten.

  21. 48 . 1 in Tarcoola today Joe – bet you wish you were there changing an axle on your 4 x 4, with Mum in the background encouraging you – HA!. See Ya cobber…

  22. Hey Joe,
    I want to tell you a Yarn about a prank at a shed called Wirraminna, about halfway to Kingoonya from Pimba. We three trainee Wool classers, Jeffrey, Andrew, and Brenton were rooming together in an old stone hut with open fire and light strings which came down from the ceiling – to turn lights on / off. Andrew, used to turn in early each night and snore like hell.
    He also, got up for a ‘Snakes Hiss” regularly, about an hour after he started snoring. Brenton and I were a aware of his movements after watching his habits. I ,one bight , collected a number of bindi eye / three cornered jack burrs, waited till he passed out and then laid the trap….. after moving his thongs of course. Well, all hell broke loose about an hour later.
    Not a sound from anyone but Andrew….. other 2 blokes were laying Doggo – Ha ! He has never forgiven me.. to this day !
    Cheers Mate – Jeff

      • I’m in the Clare Valley, Cutting number 1 sons lawns – he has not yet bought a lawn mower after purchasing his first home. What a shame, dear old Dad to the rescue !!!! Young Bo, is working up at Hallett on the Windfarms and loving it. See Ya Joe.

      • Bentley’s Hotel in the main street…. just on your right side as you enter town. Now, mandatory to have a pint of Coopers Sparkling Ale and relax whilst in my beautiful Clare. You should also visit Mintaro whilst in the valley – an Historic Heritage listed town and have another pint at the Magpie and Stump Hotel. Last, but not least, the Jesuit Church at Sevenhill – the one will the Crypt beneath the ground level. Joe – one of the most reverent places you will ever see cobber ! Good luck to you and your family pal.

        Kindest Regards – Hollywood

  23. Hi, I was overseer on Commonwealth Hill early 80’s. Tarcoola was our nearest water hole, only 88 km away!
    Cant remember the publicans name but he had an idiot son who was quite annoying! We cashed our cheques there.
    Local copper was Dave Pidgeon, top bloke. I remember one night where Dave told 3 station hands to leave the pub and they made comments about him hiding behind a uniform. So he took his shirt off and punched hell out of the 3 of them !
    Sean Lloyd

  24. Some great stories.Our family grew up in this area, raised on Northwell / Wilgena with a family history back to the 1800s in this area.I stumbled onto this site when the urge for a great pastie and the best I could remember was from a fantastic bloke I remember as Bob Snook he was the Shearer’s cook on Northwell for as long as I can remember.Growing up here as a kids we all looked forward to shearing time and Bobs treats, unlike Dad and Mum who were just bloody exhausted afterwards.

    • Micheal G’day, North Well was my first rousey shed in 1974 – green as buggery I was! But, learned , very quickly ….. or else!! Bob Snook AHHHHH.. A Stockowners Legend and no doubt the best cook in the land. I am not a Pasty man but he also was renowned for crumbed saltbush mutton, gravy and mashed spuds… with no lumps – HA! the simple uncomplicated life.

      Cheers mate Jeff

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