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'Back to Clare' - 1928

Northern Argus (Clare, SA : 1869 - 1954), Friday 24 February 1928, page 7




A public meeting to consider the proposal of a 'Back to Clare' week was held at the Clare Town Hall on Friday evening of last week.

There was a good attendance, presided over by the Mayor (Mr. J. Bails), J.P. (illustrated at left).


In his opening remarks the Mayor said 'A Back to Clare' movement had been spoken of for some time past, a suggestion with respect to it having appeared in 'The Northern Argus' some few months ago.

After giving the matter consideration the Corporation had decided to call a public meeting.

The Clare Corporation was inaugurated on September 1st, 1868, and therefore would celebrate its 60th anniversary this year, and it was thought the present year would be a fitting time in which to hold the celebration.

The first meeting of the Corporation was held in Smith's Hotel, and later meetings at the Institute, and afterwards at the old town hall.

The movement at this time he felt sure would appeal to all.


Almost every town in the state of any size and importance had held 'back to' movements. He referred to movements at Port Lincoln and Kadina which had been very successful.


He had been at Kadina when the 'back to' movement was on and everything had been splendidly arranged.

  • He had since obtained information on the matter kindly supplied by the Town Clerk of Kadina.

  • The object of their meeting was to launch the movement, and in the first place to nominate an executive.

  • They could afterwards appoint subcommittees and thus distribute the work.

  • They wanted to make the affair a success, and must take it in hand in good time.  

  • A suggestion bad been made that the movement be held in show week, but that would rest with the meeting to decide.


The preparation for the event would entail an enormous amount of work, and he was pleased to be in a position to state that Mr. S. H. Ayers (illustrated at below left) had kindly consented to act as secretary (applause.)


The business people and townspeople generally would be called upon to give the movement a start, and he expected they would make a big success, of benefit to the town.

Apologies for non-attendance were received from the Rev. C. W. E. Swan, Messrs. P. H. Knappstein, T. P. Gillen, and J. W. Ohlmeyer.

Mr. A. E. Smith proposed that

a 'Back to Clare' week be held in 1928.

Mr. R. H. Tilbrook seconded and the proposition was carried unanimously.

A discussion then took place as to when the movement should be held.


Mr. J. C. Dux (president of the Clare A. & H. Society) said that he would like to see it held during show week.

It would fill in one day, and show how productive the district was.

He proposed that the movement be held in show week.


Mr. R. R. Carmichael suggested that the opening day of the movement be on a Saturday.

  • Mr. C. Pink asked If there was my likelihood of the show being held on a Saturday, to which Mr. Dux replied that it had never been mooted.

  • Mr. J. D. Gilchrist asked if daily programmes were to be provided, to which Mr. Sails replied that each day would have its own programme.

  • Mr. A. C. Jeffrey seconded the proposition that the movement be held in Show week. It should get a good 'kick-off' on Show day.

  • Dr. A. A. Smith thought the movement should be held later on, about the third week in November, when the district would be at its best, and added attractions would be bowls and tennis.

  • He proposed an amendment that the opening day be Saturday, November 17.

  • Mr. J. Victorsen seconded.
    Show week would be a busy time in any ease, and bowls and tennis would be great attractions.

  • Mr. H. W. Moss supported the amendment.

  • Mr. Dux said that at that time country people would be haymaking and reaping, and if they had started harvesting would not attend.

  • Mr. E. Victorsen said October was a busy time with gardeners, and there would be more likelihood be risky to hold the event in October.

  • Mr. A. J. Bowley thought it would be risky to hold a week in October.

  • The Rev. A. H. Rentier, Messrs. R. H. Tilbrook and W. H. Whitney expressed opinion in favor of November.

  • On being put ' to the meeting it was carried that the opening day be Saturday, November 17.

  • Mr. S H. Ayers be appointed secretary. Mr. P. T. Brebner seconded, and the proposition was carried unanimously.

  • Mr. Ayers expresed his thanks for the honor conferred on him, and would do his utmost to carry out the duties satisfactorily.

After discussion and proposition and amendment, the amendment was carried that the executive consist of

  • the Mayor, Councillors of Clare Corporation, and Town Clerk,

  • the chairman and clerk of the Clare District Council, and the

  • Chairman and Clerk of the Hutt and Hill Rivers District Council, and

  • Mr, S. H. Ayers.

Sub-committees will be appointed later. Members of the. executive are requested to note that their first meeting will be held on Monday, March 5. 

Opening Date
Bails_john Clare Mayor.jpg

Mr. S. H. Ayers, of Clare was recently elected secretary of the Clare Racing Club.

Mr. Ayers is also a member of the Amateur Turf Club committee. He acted as honorary totalisator steward at Cheltenham on Saturday.

He is a son-in-law of Sir Sidney Kidman, and is a life member of the Port Adelaide and Amateur Turf Clubs.

Mayor Mr. John Bails
Sidney H. Ayers

Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), Saturday 25 August 1928, page 18



I.—By the Rev. R. Kelly.


  "Early Clare" relates to events prior to the close of 1870 


There is not a choicer strip of country in South Australia than that which extends from Auburn to Bungaree, say, 25 miles north and south.

  • It was an unerring instinct that led men like the Fishers, the Hawkers, E. B. Gleeson, and John Hope to settle in such a charming district.

  • It used to be held by a certain class as almost a crime on the part of others that they "'picked out the eyes of the country,"

  • but when the whole country was open to them and inviting occupation, was it likely that men of enterprise who bad come to this new land, prepared to endure the hardships of pioneering,

  • would select the least suitable spots for their pastoral and other experiments?


"Bungaree, on the Hutt River, and Hill River, with the stream of that name coursing across its wide spaces, were the very sites that would appeal to men of the intelligence of those early residents already named.

  • Water has always been an important consideration with those who have endeavoured to push out Into new fields. 

  • As far back as the days of Abraham, this fact has been noted by historians, and in countries like South Africa and Australia, where the supply is uncertain, a permanent stream is of immense value.

  • If the waterways of the Clare district did not, quite come up to this description, they were near enough to it to satisfy the newcomers. 


E. B. Gleeson and John Hope, a pair of stalwart Irishmen, inside their headquarters in Clare itself,

  • the first naming his home "Inchiquin," after "Lord Inchiquin,"

  • while Mr. Hope chose "Wolta Wolta," a native name, for bis lovely home nestling between the hills on the immediate west of the township.

  • Both of these gentlemen had large pastoral holdings farther afield.


Visitors to Clare, who have previously known little or nothing of its topography. have been surprised to find so far "north" such beauty of scenery and such prolific vegetation.

  • The view northward with the 'Never Never" Ranges in the far distance, is a picture the imagination delights to dwell upon,

  • the prospect from the western hills, especially when the plains were covered with dense mallee, was as it were were looking across a wide stretch of sea to the ranges beyond, and

  • the magnificent expanse eastward, as viewed from the Hill River "gap," before the great wine plantations had somewhat obscured it, was something to dream about.

  • Many a time, in childhood, have I tried to take in the scene—boundless it seemed to be— with its' marvellous blue and green tints. It was an impression that preserved one s mind from narrowness and, moreover, was indelible.


Below: the Views west from Brooks Lookout, Boconnoc Park​

Early Days Recalled - 1
Beauty and Interest
Events prior to the close of 1870
Mayor Gleeson of Inchiquin.jpg
Beauty and Interest.

Coming to local detail there were, and are still, opportunities for walks and, drives such as are rarely found in or around our country townships.

  • The botanist can enjoy a paradise, and the geologist an interesting field for his enquiry.

  • There is no coal mine to blacken the sky and no gold or copper to tempt the despoiler of the landscape.

  • Once or twice rumours of gold discoveries have been heard and a few miles out, a reputed copper "show" was timidly worked,

  • but the absence of mineral wealth has come to be taken as a.wise limitation on the the part of Providence, in view of the riches of the surface soil.


You have everything, and from the first it was seen that in Clare and its surroundings there was enough to justify the prophecy, that it would one day blossom into a beautiful garden.

  • "It has come to be, as foreseen and if there is sometimes a failure in the shape of markets, or the want of them, it is not the fault of Nature, for she has been sufficiently generous.

  • In former years a considerable quantity of wheat was grown in the district, and flour mills existed at Clare. Penwortham, Watervale and Auburn. Of most of these (flour mills) hardly a stone remains.

  • This may seem like decline, but the wheat grower has turned his attention to the plains, and railways have earned his produce in other directions,

  • leaving the students of intense culture to provide other necessities of life from the smaller and superseded areas. 

Founder and Population.

 The real founder of Clare was Mr. Gleeeon. who not only named it after his native county, but christened its suburbs Donnybrook and Armagh, for reasons no doubt dear to his heart.

  • The population of early Clare, say, from the middle (eighteen) fifties onward was quite a representative one.

  • Of English folk there was a fair proportion and among the farmers , on Stanley Flat there might be heard some round dialect from the midlands.

  • Spring Farm supplied a fine west country contingent in the devout Cornish people, who migrated from the Burra about the time when the famous mine drew exhaustion point.

  • Scotchmen were fairly numerous In the White Hut and Hill Town region the Highland clans, foregather, and so important an element were they that they secured from Scotland a pastor, the Rev. Macdougall to minister to them in their own vernacular.

  • Irish people settled in large numbers, especially about Sevenhills and Armagh.

  • There was a good sprinkling of Germans,

  • and in the vicinity of Mintaro, but still looking to Clare as their business centre a large colony of Polish folk found homes.

  • Like the Gaelic colonists,, they were provided with a priest of their own race, Father Rogalski, who was a member of the staff of Sevenliills College, a convenient meeting place for flock.

  • On one Good Friday, I, as a lad, listened to him in the college chapel addressing his own folk,  and though the language was strange, the action and the tones of voice conveyed much, and the memory of it all has lingered to this day.


At that time a trip to Adelaide seemed a fairly big undertaking. The journey was a rough one until the traveller touched the railway at Kapunda or Tarlee.

Clare was an important outpost. 

It marked the northern boundary in the itinerary of the fine body of commercial travellers who, with buggy and pair, did the round month by month.

  • The next township northward was Melrose, a hundred miles away. 

  • On the intervening "areas" survey work was going on, and the names of Mr. J. W. Jones and Mr. O'Reilly are suggested in this connection.

  • Port Pirie was a swamp, the Barrier Ranges a desolate region, where swagmen perished of thirst,

  • the Wallaroo mines had just been discovered, and the mule teams that carried ore from the Burra to Port Wakefield had not long disappeared.


In 1862 Mr. Gleeson and other horsemen went out toward Bungaree to meet a party who were bringing in relics of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition,

  • and about that period there was a day when, in the dinner hour,

  • the school children went down the long main street to sec Mr. J. M. Stuart and his band of explorers,

  • who were camped on a vacant spot neatly opposite the present Victorsen stores.

Trains of Vehicles.

Clare was on the great highway of traffic to the far north, and I well remember the long trains of vehicles that passed through carrying the material for the overland telegraph.

  • On account of its situation, Clare was the entrepot for the many sheep stations that spread out for hundred of miles into the interior.

  • About the beginning of the 'sixties the electric telegraph line was laid between the Burra and Clare, 

  • and it was a memorable day where Mr. J. M. Belcher, of the former town, came over to introduce the new invention to the residents.

  • Instruments were fixed in a room at the old Shamrock and Thistle Hotel,

  • and the present writer was among a curious crowd of youngsters who pushed their way in to get a sight of the scientific marvel.

  • In those days we depended for news of the outside world on a monthly mail.

  • To send a letter to England cost sixpence, and the weekly newspaper from the city was a literary luxury for which young and old looked with the greatest interest.


From its earliest history Clare had among its people those who placed importance on the cultivation of the mind, and endeavoured to keep abreast of the doings of the larger world.

  • In 1867, there was formed a "mutual improvement society" with some 60 members.  

  • It had a prosperous' run, and on special, occasions crowded the town ball, a favourite elocutionist being Mr. E. Lipsett, who came from the Burra to assist.

  • The Mechanics' Institute was established about that time, with Mrs. Chandler as librarian.

  • This lady was' one of the first to "open" a day school. Other teachers were Mrs. and Miss Hawker.

  • The last named died a few months ago at a very advanced age. Her name was closely identified with the history of Clare from its beginning.

  • Of the first generation in the teaching profession were Messrs. W. Moyses, T. Stephens, R. Graham,. R. Willshire. A. Motley, L. W. Stanton, and Miss Steele. 

  • The Misses Lipsett came a little later,

  • Mrs. Hope for several years conducted a Sunday school in her home at Wolta Wolta.


Newspaper Enterprise.

A decided step forward was taken when about 1869 Messrs. Clode & Tilbrook brought out The Northern Argus, a weekly broadsheet, which had as one of its earliest editors Mr. C. L. Walshe.

  • The present writer followed him in the office, and was succeeded by his father, the late Mr. W. Kelly, who occupied the position for many years.

  • An opposition paper, under the late Hon. E, Ward, had a short run, but the local constituency was not large enough to support two  enterprises of the kind.

  • The  printer of the second journal, Mr. Alfred Waddy, kept on the business for some -time, and eventually withdrew for the same reason.

One literary venture of about that date was the publication of a book by Mr. P. Eiffe, of Armagh. 

  • It was entitled "The Three L's—Lawyers, Landjobbers. and Lovers." It dealt with political affairs of the time, and especially with problems of land settlement.

  • The book interested some and confused others.

  • Whether it was a success financially I cannot say, but the author put much time and thought into it, and earned a fair reward.


Several preachers and politicians have come out of the district, among the latter may be mentioned the Hon. T. Pascoe and the late Hon. P. P. Gillen.

These names belong to early Clare, though the public activities associated with them arc connected with a later period.

(To be continued.) 

Founder and Population
Clare was an important outpost
Trains of Vehicles
Newspaper Enterprise
Death of burke and wills.jpg
Clare Library, Old North Rd, Clare, SA 03.jpg

Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), Saturday 1 September 1928, page 51



II.-—By die Rev. R. Kelly.



Distinguished visitors came to the beautiful northern village from time to time.

Among them were three of our early Governors.

In 1857 (left) Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell was welcomed by the residents, and hospitably entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Gleeson at Inchiquin.

  • I distinctly remember seeing the arch that was erected at the southern entrance to the township.

  • It stood between the site of! the present bridge and Toovey's Corner, and was an artistic structure with a wealth of floral decoration.

  • Subsequently Sir Dominic Daly came on, a visit and was received in a similar loyal and hearty fashion.

  • Later on, Sir James Fergusson, on April 19, 1809, passed through on his way to visit the meat preserving works at Booyoolie, a station that was managed by Mr. H. B. Hughes.

  • The triumphal arch was in evidence, as in both the previous instances, and an open air address was given by His Excellency in reply to a public welcome.

  • A number of viceregal visits have been made since those days, but "early Clare" relates to events prior to the close of the seventh decade of the century, the Franco-Prussian war standing as a good historical landmark of this terminal point.

Bishops and Others.

After three Governors may be mentioned three bishops who came on the business that pertained to their high calling.

  • The Rev. Dr. Augustus Short, who for  35 years guided the destinies of the Anglican Church in South Australia, made a tour of the north, going as far as Arkaba, taking Clare on his return, and covering in the trip more than 700 miles.

  • At St. Barnabas's Church, Clare, he records in his diary, there was a congregation of 45, including the Bungaree party that accompanied him. It was the day of small things.

  • I remember also the visit of Bishop Geoghegan, of the Roman Catholic Church, and a confirmation held by him in the old chapel.

  • The third "bishop," though it was not until some time after that the title was conferred upon him, was the Rev. William Taylor, of California, who held a mission in the sixties, and again in the early part of 1870.

  • He was a remarkable man, and made a great impression.


If I were to name three visiting politicians, two of them would be the

members for the district.

  • Sir George S. Kingston and Mr. H. E. Bright.

  • At election time they came on tour and were well received, holding the position for several years.

  • Sir John Colton and Sir William; Morgan, in their pre-knighthood days,  came occasionally, but .strictly on the business of the great commercial interests] they represented.


Of visiting lecturers there were many during the period now under review—

  • the Rev. James Henderson, who discoursed ably on "The Fall of Jerusalem," and "The Oddities Genius,"

  • of the Rev. John Davidson on "Walter Scott,"

  • Charles Simeon Hare on "Books."

  • Mr. John. Williams, of Barossa, a gifted Welshman, who was employed by G. F. Angas to travel the country and deliver addresses on temperance,

  • and the Rev. John Watsford, whose favourite subject was "Courtship and Marriage"—these three stand out prominently in one's memory.


There was a Mr. Daniel Crosby who created some stir by his lectures in the Town Hall on "Henry VIII." and other historical topics.

  • He introduced "hymns" of his own composing, relating to his themes, and had them sung to well-known tunes.

  • The era of "Penny Readings" was at that time nearing its close, as hardly. exciting enough for the new generation,

  • and the entertainment of that kind provided by the visit of the Rev. L. W. Stanton, of Kooringa, while not a failure, was a sign of the passing of an obsolescent institution.

  • This gentleman, who rejoiced in' his high-churchmanship at a time when it was anything but popular to do so, was the father of a much esteemed school inspector of later days.

  • All sorts of travelling troupes came to the place, and in tent or hall provided material of the  less solid kind for eager  appetites.

  • This was inevitable, though they did not always secure the blessing of tradesfolk in those days when the credit system was universal.

Some Magistrates. 

Of visiting Magistrates special, mention must be made of (left) Mr. Marshall MacDermott and Mr. John Varley.

  • The former, who resided at Kooringa, came periodically, and at first presided in the original Courthouse, which, many years later, was turned into a casualty hospital.

  • Mr. E. B. Gleeson dealt with cases in the intervals, and Mr. Varley for some years dealt out justice in the. building now used as a post office.

  • Before the settlement of local lawyers much of the Court business was attended to by Mr, Huggins and Mr. Benham, who came from the southward.

  • Only in specially, important cases was a city man sent for, and the appearance of Mr. S. J. Way on one occasion was an event to be talked of.

  • As Clare grew in importance it attracted gentlemen of the legal profession as residents, first among these being Mr, Erasmus Gower and Mr. T. H. Hosier, who fought many a battle in the local Courts.

  • Mr. Hosier, who was a man of magnificent physique, unfortunately died early.

  • Then came on the scene the late Mr. T. R. Bright, a son of a former member for the district.

  • He spent many years in Clare, and in his office were trained several young men who afterwards distinguished themselves in their profession.


The Doctors.

Of medical men, the first of whom I have any recollection, and then only by repute, was . Dr. Bokolowski, who resided for two or three miles out in the Spring Gully direction.

  • He could not have made a long stay there, and I should say, was more of a farmer than a medical practitioner.

  • Memory is somewhat hazy at this point, but not so in the case of Dr. Charles Houlton Webb, who for many years held the leading practice in the district.

  • He built what was then regarded as quite a fine house, a mile from the township on the Hill River road, where he held a considerable acreage of beautiful timbered country.

  • The old building with its quaint architecture, reminiscent of the home land, has long since been demolished.

  • The doctor, who lad a large family, erected a roomy and comfortable house on the hill near the Presbyterian Church, where he spent the remainder of his days.

  • He had interests in the Farrell's Flat district, where his older sons followed pastoral  and agricultural pursuits.

  • He was a true "old identity" of Clare, having., seen many of the folk introduced into the world, as well as skilfully easing their passage Out of it when their departure became inevitable.

  • Dr. A. E. Davies was the first who came along to divide the responsibility of medical practice with Dr. Webb.

  • He afterwards took the late Dr. Bain into partnership, and when he retired, he left the last named gentleman with a growing clientele and the confidence of the public.

  • Dr. Bain lived many years, and was a public benefactor, interesting himself in everything that made for the welfare of the town, and spending his money freely for the. advancement of its enterprises. 


The status of most of the "professions" was improved within.the last half-century.

  • In architecture, for example, much more attention is paid to the construction of  public buildings.

  • The original Clare Town Hall was not built on the lines that find favour to-day.

  • Its designer (Mr. Bobert Rickman Page) had. an eye for utility rather than for aesthetics, and while. his plan provided conveniences that were very welcome, he did not attempt to compete with the great architects of the world in the matter of outward form.

  • It may be mentioned here that he also drew plans for the Clare Hotel, a structure that threw all the others of its class into the shade.

  • Page, as I remember him, was a man of versatile gifts (he painted scenery for the town hall platform), and of rather eccentric character.

  • I believe he would have taken a contract for anything in the field of art. He had confidence in his own powers, and had in him some of the stuff out of which .successful colonists are made.

Well-known Citizens.

In the official world one recalls Sir. Andrew Young, one of the early mayors. 

  • T. W. Powell, his father-in-law, who for many years was clerk of the Court;

  • Jr. Thomas Ownsworth and Mr. Henry March, bailiffs, and Mr. William Lennon, he first town clerk, and one of the best known and most respected citizens.

  • Mr. Lennon's history was not an ordinary one. In the second Parliament of South Australia, he sat in the Assembly as a member for "Burra and Clare," with Messrs. Wiliam Dale and George W. Cole, as colleagues.

  • I learn from Mr. Blacket's History" that this Parliament was opened on April 27, 1860, and that Mr. G. C. Hawker, of Buugaree, was elected  Speaker.

  • On this occasion Sir George Kingston, a former member, was defeated, but later on represented Stanley. under the rearrangement of electoral districts.

  • Mr. Lennon was a man of strong personality and genial disposition, and rendered fine service to the town for a long period.

  • In business he was an auctioneer, and many a time did he liven the proceedings by the savour of his ready Irish wit.


In the police force of the first decades the names of. Kewson and Irwin occur, and then Lance-Cpl. Lawrence, Catchlove. Neynoe, and Ayliffe.

  • Messrs. Corcoran, W. Smith, R. Eade, Dempsey, and Saunders came later.


In the post office, I think, Mr. George Bell was the first resident master, then Mr. Belcher and Mr. John Bastard, who fulfilled a long term of service. .

  • Mr, J. Smith, whose association with the town dated from the late sixties, was for years clerk of the district council, and then Town clerk.

  • His introduction to Clare happened under sensational circumstances, he had just arrived from England, and was on his way to the far north, when be was murderously attacked in his room at Smith's Hotel, by a Russian, who for the offence, received a life sentence.

  • Sympathy went out to him, and on his recovery ho found suitable employment in the district, which became his permanent home.

  • It was through the timely assistance, of Mr. Henry Catt that his' life was saved, and his bit of rescue work was suitably acknowledged in due course by the young mans friends in England.

Early Days in Clare - 2
Bishops and Others
Some Magistrates. 
The Doctors.
Well-known Citizens
R.G. MacDonnel B-22103-37.jpeg
Bishop Short.png
Marshall MacDermott  PRG-458-1-2-19.jpeg
Dr J D Bain (1838-1903).jpg
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