1885 View Hill
In Search of Black Pat Durack's Store (1885)
The public premiere on August 9th 2020 of a new digital video documenting two history field trips made jointly by the Kununurra & Wyndham Historical Societies in 2018. Hope you have time (41 mins) to watch what was some almost "Lost Kimberley & NT History" we found on the ground!
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The film was first shown at one of the last talks given at the Kimberley Society before the society was wound up at the end of 2019. The Kimberley Society talk on October 2nd 2019 was given jointly by Brad Durack's talk about his Great Grandfather, Patrick Mantinea "Black Pat" Durack, along with a film presented by Andrew Barker of KHS, about the two field trips made to View Hill in 2018.
[Remember to go 'Full Screen' (Click 4 cornered gadget lower RHS :^) for best view - Also it may start at lower resolution - Select HD 1920x1080 for best quality from settings gadget]
Brad started off proceedings with how the talk came about–in the months after the field trips–a one and a half hour first time phone call to Cathie Clement, co-author of 'Kimberley Scenes', a book mainly covering the Halls Creek Gold Rush that includes information about Black Pat Durack. Brad then gave some background on the research into his Great Grandfather, Patrick 'Mantinea' Durack and what resulted from it.
Referred to as 'Black Pat' to distinguish him as one of the black haired 'Pat' Duracks, he was the son of Darby Durack and Margaret Kilfoyle. Margaret was 12 years older than her brother, Tom Kilfoyle, who was Black Pat's uncle and had been with him on the long trek droving cattle to the East Kimberley between 1883 and 1885. Leaving them near Victoria River to ride for Port Darwin, with Thomas Hayes (his uncle's partner), where Black Pat intended to purchase stores for the new Ord settlers and for the Halls Creek gold rush, about to set in. In September 1885 after the '46 tons' of stores were put ashore at View Hill, near the mouth of the Ord River in Cambridge Gulf, captain Borstel had said that Black Pat had looked 'broken hearted'.
The location - Google Earth images showing the location of the Field Trips and to show the significance of View Hill, Cambridge Gulf, being at the mouth of the Ord River, which became the focus of the early settlers on the Ord, in the year before the establishment of Wyndham some 35 km further south from the View Hill Range. The chart overlay on Google Earth is from the 1888-89 Royal Navy survey of Cambridge Gulf by Captain Foley Vereker on HMS Myrmidon - Notice that the original shape of Barnes Island is visible as a darker section in the now massive mangrove island that Barnes Island has become - AB 16 XI 2019.
Brad read part of a 1930s obituary on Black Pat from the West Australian then discussed how Mary Durack, had first written about Black Pat having had access to his manuscript, when just nineteen years old, then discussed what Mary had written about Cambridge Gulf. Brad described the remoteness and inaccessibility of View Hill, as a hard place, with little room between the hills and the mangroves, coupled with massive tides to show the difficulties of the first two trips he had made by boat before the more successful third field trip.
Andrew Barker, President of the Kununurra Historical Society (KHS) then presented a 35 minute film he had edited about the third field trip by boat on August 4th & 5th 2018, which was a joint field trip made by Brad and Andrew from KHS along with Chris McLachlan and Phil Sproull of the Wyndham Historical Society (WHS). With a window of opportunity of just a few weeks in the year, when the tides are lowest and the extensive saltmarsh is dry enough a fourth joint KHS-WHS field trip by two vehicles was made on September 4th & 5th 2018, which was also covered in the film.
The film included snippets about Philip Parker King's first survey that named Cambridge Gulf, View Hill and many other features and it was edited at Kununurra in the two weeks before the Kimberley Society talk, which, serendipitously was exactly 200 years ago in those weeks of 1819. Soon after arrival at Coghlan's Landing, View Hill, a find of what sounded like 'rocks' when tapped together were taken back to the Kununurra Museum. These later proved to be magnetic and are evidently remnants of the 200 gallon iron ships tanks put ashore in 1884 by WH Osmand's luxury steam yacht, the 'Cushie Doo', with stores for Osmand & Panton's Ord River Station.
A six kilometre round trip walk from Coghlan's was made by Brad and Andrew to the site of a boab tree (in images above and below) that Brad had been to the week before, with his 'cousin' Mary Durack, Granddaughter of Black Pat's brother, Jerry Brice Durack. The week before Mary had found Surveyor Nyulasy's 'Stone Slab', a metre high slab of rock which he had marked with “N” and a colonial government pheon in April 1885, six months before Black Pat's arrival. This was about 50 metres from the boab tree.
Not long after arrival Andrew had found a now almost illegible 'PM Durack' marked on one of the trunks that they'd not seen the week before. In the photograph Andrew is tracing out the position of the 'R' with the 'ACK' of 'PM DURACK' visible to the right. The boab had several trunks and the ground around it was found to be adorned with pieces of glass from 1885-1886 activity.
A larger inscription was noticed blazed on one of the other boab trunks and photographed with nothing discernible at the time of this or on the later overland field trip, but studying photographs at a later date revealed more. Another “PM DURACK” then under that “LANDED VIEW HILL” with an illegible date, likely 27/9/85/ [?] and another “LEFT” with another illegible date [likely May or June 1886]. In Black Pat's manuscript he says he carved his name, the date he landed and the name of the ship on a large boab near the site of his store.
Further research Andrew did on the ship revealed she was a US timber carrying Barquentine, the 'Lorinda Borstel', which had brought a load of Karri timber from Hamelin Bay, near Augusta, for the new wharf at Port Darwin. She was chartered for View Hill by Black Pat and Darwin store-keepers, Adcock & Brown, who were travelling further to open up a store at Derby. The 'Lorinda Borstel' had been named after the wife of the captain, Henry Borstel, and from Port Darwin passenger lists we know she was also on the voyage.
Soon after having noticed the larger inscription it became apparent that two of the boab trunks had been cut off a metre or so off the ground, one smoothly and the other with two new branches growing out. These tied in with Black Pat's manuscript when he mentions having made two boab canoes, the first to move his goods a ton at a time in the boab canoe, likely about three kilometres from near Coghlan's landing. In the late afternoon Andrew and Brad headed off to get back to Coghlan's Landing before sunset to share the news of their successful finds with the others camped there. Having arrived at highest tide midday the day before they left on the same the following day for the 30+ km voyage back to Wyndham.
After waiting about 4 weeks for the saltmarsh to dry out more and for the lowest tide times another joint KHS-WHS field trip was made by 'road' across the amazing and beautiful saltmarsh country, successfully driving in all the way to Black Pat's boab. This field trip was shown in the film with another overnight camp allowing more time to analyse the site and to capture the tree inscriptions in different light. The film showing the successful search for Black Pat's store was followed up at the Kimberley Society with Brad and Andrew answering questions.
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[Image stills taken from the film - Showing the extensive salmarsh traversed to get to Black Pat's boab and the only incident - "Hard to Pick" as said in the film - IE The saltmarsh may look alright to drive on but can take you by surprise!]