Adelaide Hills - Towns, People, and Things We Ought to Know

Source:  SA History Newspaper Articles

The reader is advised that these "Chronicle" articles were first published in 1932-1937 primarily as light reading / entertainment and cannot in any way be considered to be scholarly. You are advised to independently check the veracity of the content, as no sources have been cited.

Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this text may contain names and images of deceased people.  Readers should also be aware that certain words, terms or descriptions may be culturally insensitive and would almost certainly be considered inappropriate today, but may have reflected the author’s/creator’s attitude or that of the period in which they were written.

#40  - Mount Barker (part 1 of 2)

#41  -  Mount Barker (part 2 of 2)

#57  -  Meadows (part 1 of 2)

#58  -  Meadows (part 2 of 2)

#59  -  Echunga (part 1 of 2)

#60  -  Echunga (part 2 of 2)

#61  -  Aldgate, Stirling, Crafers and Mt Lofty

#62  -  Aldgate, Stirling, Mylor, Scotts Creek

#63  -  Hahndorf  (Ambleside)

#64  -  Balhannah

#65  -  Woodside

#66  -  Lobethal (Tweedvale)

Towns, People, and Things We Ought To Know  -   No 58 Meadows

By Our Special Representative, No. LVIII  -  Extract From Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954) dated 17 August 1933

Story of the Meadows  -  Conducting Business by Poetry

Many strange early-day customs are dealt with in this week's article on Meadows, from bushrangers in the hills to the marketing of pigs.  Those were the days when cats were shot for killing rabbits, when poetry was mixed with business, and things were run very differently from the prosaic days of 1933.   

Last week I dealt chiefly with the Meadows district in the days when there was no town — when legitimate pastoralists, land jobbers, and speculators were fighting each other to get possession of some of this choice country.  The present article will show Meadows in the early days of settlement, when the shops and other conveniences of civilisation came, and the place began to take on an aspect of a small urban centre.

The municipal history of Meadows goes back over seventy years, back to those benighted times when there were no coaches, and travellers made their journeys to and from the city perched precariously on the backless seat of a spring dray.  As there was no road before 1864 these drays just climbed over the hills the best way they could, and when the grade got too steep — well, the passengers slid more or less gracefully to the ground, in obedience to the in exorable law of gravitation.  But, of course, that was a kind of payment for the privilege of being allowed to ride.  For the general custom, when a long, steep patch was reached, was for the patrons of the dray to get out and walk.  They paid their fares in Adelaide, and when it came to the worst grades, and the hardest hills, they had to '"hoof it" up those heights with the perspiration pouring down their faces, or the rain turning the steep faces of the gullies into unexpected toboggans, down which the voyagers slid with a reckless disregard for the sanctity of their vestments.  It wasn't their fault.  They couldn't help it.

You see, even our hills have become staid and respectable with the passage of the years.  You can climb about them now with a reasonable amount of safety.  You tell yourself that they are in the state of Nature that they always were — but you are deceiving yourself.  At the time I am writing about they were covered with all kinds of boulders, and the smallest were the worst.  You only had to slip on one, and you went clattering down the descent with an utter lack of dignity, carrying a stream of rattling quartz with you which might at any minute attempt to dash out your brains, while you clutched frantically at every bush you passed in the hope of arresting your downward course.

You don't believe it?  Very well, let me give you the actual experience of a party of police who were stealing secretly, and with the upmost caution, on the camp of a gang of cattle thieves in these very tiers of which we write.

Raid on a Rustlers' Camp

Reports had reached Adelaide that various stockowners between Mount Lofty and Meadows were losing cattle, and that it was believed that the gang responsible had its headquarters in a certain gully some miles east of Mount Lofty.  At this particular period the Tiers were thickly timbered, and had an evil reputation as the haunt of various wild spirits who had made their way overland from the convict settlements of the east.  Some were legitimately employed in sawing timber to supply the city with its wood, but others again were little less than bush rangers. 

In any case, all were rough, powerful fellows who could, and would if the occasion demanded, put up a stubborn fight against the representatives of authority. Moreover most of those tiersmen, if they were not actually engaged in stealing cattle, were at least not adverse to eating the purloined meat, and the thieves saw to it that they were well supplied. Incidentally, there is reason to believe that many an honest citizen of Adelaide unconsciously consumed this stolen meat, for it found its way to market in the capital, and many of the early butchers could have told some interesting tales about it— but didn't.

However, a strong squad of police was mustered, and given instructions to search the suspected gully.  On account of the bad reputation of the cattle thieves, they were told to exercise the utmost caution in approaching the haunt of the gang.  So they set off over the hills on their mission.  When they reached the hill overlooking the suspected valley at night, they stood for some time looking down.  There, sure enough were the fires of the rustlers — the fierce, indispensable fires in which the hides were burnt the moment the slaughtered beast was skinned.  Two or three officers were detached from the squad, and ordered to descend the hill very silently to observe the "duffers" at work at close quarters.

But, as I told you just now, those boulder-strewn descents were as treacherous as a Crown Prosecutor's questions.  No sooner had the men began to move down than first one, and then another, trod on a stone, and went sliding and slipping down the hill side, absolutely helpless to stay their descent.  They rolled and tumbled, and took a mass of clattering debris with them to such purpose that when they reached the bottom the thieves had disappeared.  But there was evidence enough of their illegal industry.  They were subsequently arrested.

First Main Road

I told you that story to show you I was not exaggerating the difficulty of negotiating these hills in the days before the roads went through.  It was in 1864 that the first main road was constructed to Meadows.  The route was via Happy Valley and Clarendon.  The laborers who built it were paid 4/- a day.  Some of the bridges were erected by a man named Prewett, and still stand.  You may, if you know where to look, see his name on them.

When I say they built a road in '64 I do not want you to get an erroneous impression.  I don't want you to imagine the smooth bitumen surfaces we know in 1933.  I do not want you even to think of macadam.  The first road was not metalled at all.  It merely comprised cuttings through certain hills and scrub, cut from the contiguous bush, laid over the sandy patches.  When the builders were in timber country they merely cut down the trees, and left the stumps in the road.  In short it was little better than a blazed track.  But our grandfathers, and our great grandfathers, thought it a wonderful step forward on the march of Progress, as undoubtedly it was, even though they knocked the skin off their bullocks against the stumps, and smashed their drays in trying to dodge the obstacles.  Incidentally, Meadows hasn't got bitumen yet.  But they will have it this year.  It has reached Kangarilla, seven miles away, and men are working on the stretch to Meadows.

Driving the Pigs to Market

How many people, I wonder, have seen pigs being driven along the road to market?  Very few, I'll bet — and I'll tell you why.  It is illegal to drive pigs along the roads.  But it wasn't always so . In the early days of Meadows pigs were a profitable proposition, according to the standards of those days, when people did not expect to become rich overnight.  Practically the only market was Adelaide.  The drover would set out in the early morning with his mob of pigs, just as the drovers do today with their flocks of sheep, bound for the capital.  But he would have more excitement on the way than any man who has only handled mutton.

"Pigs is pigs," observed a humorous writer on one historic occasion.  And so they are — that is to say, there is more good-natured devilment in a pig than in any other four-footed thing the Creator ever made.  You all know that story of Paddy being encountered on the road driving his pigs towards home, when he was supposed to be taking them to the fair.  Being questioned on the point, he whispered gleefully — "Whist, th' divils think I want to take thim home, so they're goin' th' other way."

That is no great exaggeration — and it shows that Paddy knew the idiosyncrasies of the pig.  Well, these Meadows pigs were like that.  So, I suppose, were all the other pigs in South Australia — but I didn't get their histories.  I was told that it took days to get those porkers to the city, and the man who could do the job without arriving there looking like a cross between a corpse and a bad case of delirium tremens was accounted a wonder.

The bugbear of the journey was the creek at Kangarilla.  Once the pork got in there it was like getting into a pickling cask — there was no getting it out.  But it was not the difficulty of getting these playful pets to market that worried the authorities.  Illimitable patience and a copious flow of language could accomplish that.  The trouble was the industrious snouts of the bacon made the road look as though a 40-furrow steam plough has passed over it.

Eventually the Government got tired of patching up the highways and the byways every time a mob of prime feds passed over it, and decreed that hence forth the Berkshires and the Yorkshires and all the other sleek gentry of the counties should go to their death like gentlemen — in a carriage.  That is why you see pigs going to market in a cart, but never in a mob being driven along the roads.

Rabbits Preferred to Cats

If a man told you today that he had shot his cats because they killed the rabbits in the fields you'd probably hand him the address of the nearest mental specialist, and accord posthumous honors to the felines.  But in the early days of Meadows — and other places — they preferred bunnies to pussies.  There was at one time, as I have reminded you before, a law on the statute book decreeing a close season for rabbits, and policemen used to receive reminders in the due season to see that the law was observed.  Owing to our playful habit of passing legislation and then forgetting all about it, it would not surprise me to discover that piece of foolishness was still law.  I know we commit an illegal act about once every day in trying to observe some other law.  That is the sort of practical joke we pay our politicians £360 a year and perks to perpetrate.

But to return to the cats.  Mr. John Bottrill, one of the early settlers in this district, actually shot his cats because they killed the rabbits.  This John Bottrill was a typical case of the settlers of the period.  He lived in a slab hut which he built of timber cut on the property, and there he locked up his wife and children while he went about his daily tasks.  That was to keep them safe, for Billjim and Mrs. Billjim those days evinced an overpowering curiosity in regard to the whites, and were not above clearing the huts of provisions if an opportunity occurred.  The blacks used to cheer Mrs. Bottrill up during these periods of imprisonment by peering through the cracks of the timbers, and telling her they had killed her husband.

Those days settlers had to cut their own tracks through the bush, and Bottrill sen., opened one over Dashwood's Hill.  Many of these old tracks made by the pioneers still exist.  The road to Adelaide crossed the Onkaparinga, and to get their teams across the settlers used to fell trees, lop off the branches, and roll the trunks into the bed of the creek to make a crossing.  That was when the river was in a meditative mood.  But when it came down turbulent and angry there was nothing for it but to camp on the banks, sometimes for a week, until the waggons could cross.  Sometimes the more venturesome spirits would swim their bullocks across, dray and all. Pedestrians used to be taken over the river in normal times by a man in an old boat which he had hollowed out of a tree.  The cost of transit was 6d.

Spuds in Hindley Street

From the earliest times Meadows has been noted for its potatoes.  It still is.  But nowadays they go to market in a respectable way, are handled by an agent, and the grower has nothing more to do about them until he gets his return from the agent telling him how much he is to the bad on the sale, and requesting a remittance.  In the dark ages, however, he did his own retailing.  He grew his crop, harvested it, then took it to the city and hawked it about like a greengrocer.

I was told of one case where a load of potatoes was held up in Hindley street until a suspicious housewife had cooked her dinner.  Then, being satisfied with the quality of the spuds, she paid for them.  You see, Hindley street at that time was almost exclusively a little patch of Ireland.  It was there that the emigrants from Cork, from Kerry, and Munster, and Tipperary, foregathered at their front doors to discuss the wrongs of the little emerald patch over the seas — and they reckoned they knew all about potatoes.  However, the grower lost nothing by his long wait, because, on the satisfactory report of the cook, every Irish housewife in the street got after those spuds, and he sold the load without moving from the spot where he was waiting.

Barley's Mill

Meadows those days also grew wheat.  It doesn't grow much now.  How long ago it is since it gave up being a grain centre will be apparent from the fol lowing story.  I was talking to a young sheep farmer of Meadows.  I happened to mention the old mill.

"What old mill?" he asked.  "Why, the Meadows mill, of course."   "Never heard of it," said he.

Yet we were standing within a hundred yards of the site of the former grindery, which gave up the ghost some 63 years ago.  It was a vital thing in the life of the young community in the days when William Burley established it to handle the crops of the district.  The Meadows mill was in full swing in 1866, when the photograph here given was taken.  It subsequently became a sawmill under a new proprietor named Vicary and turned out a lot of sleepers for the railways, and timbers for the buildings in the city.  Meadows was an ideal place for timber.  There were thick forests, and sawpits flourished over the face of the country.  The old mill boiler is still there.

Poetry and Business

The fifty-sixties were the days of romance of love-sick swains and sighing maidens, of valentines, and faintings, and poetry.  Despite its simplicity, life was full of humbug and affectation. Y ou know the sort — the young lady who went to a party, and couldn't eat a morsel, because she desired to be deemed in love, and then went home, let out her stays with a happy sigh of relief, and sat down to a good square meal.  And the young man who stewed poetry by the ream, and scattered it about by the square yard in the form of quotations, because he wanted to be known as a man of learning and refinement — which he wasn't.  Poetry was especially strong those days.  Few really cared about it, but it was fashionable, particularly verse-making.  Men had the bug so badly that they used it even in their business dealings.

Here is one sample which was shown to me regarding an order for peas and a proposed sale of wheat.

Dear friend and brother of the plough,
I know that thou art busy now.
So just let me know, when you're at ease,
Whether I am to have those peas?
And while you write in terms quite neat,
Just tell me if you'll have that wheat?

“I've got plenty more if you want it," said the man who showed me this curious letter.  "No, thanks!" replied I; "I'll just take this one as a horrible example of the unbridled cruelty of the period."

Some Old-time Residents

Possibly one of the most interesting buildings in Meadows is the little country store reproduced on this page.  It isn't much to look at, perhaps, but it is part of the history of the town.  In addition to being the first store, it was the first post office, then a private school under a master called Pryor, and later the first public school, before the Government erected a building of their own.

The first school in Meadows, as far as memory goes, was a private affair, run by a master named Davey.  Pryor was the next, and then J. S. Jones, who took over on behalf of the Government, Jones, in his grey belltopper and long coat, was typical of the dominies of the day.  The old gentleman was teaching there in 1866 and earlier, but I can give you no more definite date.

Other old residents of the sixties or before were Decimus Woodgate (who surveyed Meadows township), William Burley (founder of the mill), George Vicary (who turned the mill into a saw pit), Peter Murrie (who was a storekeeper, and died at Georgetown a few years ago), William Ellis (a storekeeper, who used to walk to Macclesfield for stores and yeast for his bread), H. Catt (1st), Walters, Goble, and Coleman (successive keepers of the sole hotel), W. Beally and W. Glbbs (early boot makers, the latter tanning his own leather), Jesse Catt (butcher), David Simpson (blacksmith, to whom John Lewis apprenticed himself, when he ran away from home), and "Yankee" Rogers, Dick George Allen, Spinkston, Dan Kingsland, George Cox, B. Ellis, Struson, and Chilton (coach drivers).   Other early settlers were James Brown, Robert Cragie, George Dashwood, John Hall, George Marshall, M. Potter, W. Perkins, Stamford, and McHarg.  Their period was about 1842.

Then there were these others following, some of whom were contemporary with those I have just mentioned, while others were later, but for whom no certain dates can be given: — John and Samuel Stuckey (the well-known pastoralists), George Ellis, W. and G. Hall, Hogben, Hollands, J. Wheeler, John Hill, Earl, Scown, White, Bakewell, Treloar, Potter, Seamon, Bevis, Hickmott, Michaelmore, Crouch, J. and W. Carter, Bindloss, Moore, Lang, C. Nottage, Bishop, Jamison, Purling, Pearson, Attivill, Brooks, Watson, Masters, and Townshend.  The C. Nottage mentioned was district clerk for 50 years of the Kondoparinga District Council.  He was succeeded by his son (F. Nottage), who has carried on for 20 years, and is still going strong.

Rev. William Longbottom

I suppose one of the most picturesque figures of early day church men was the Rev. William Longbottom, the first Wesleyan parson in South Australia.  I am rather surprised that in my quest for material for these articles I have not rubbed shoulders with him before, for I have passed from town to town through much country where he carried on his good work.  It was not until I got to Meadows that his name came up.  He used to ride over from Willunga to conduct service in the home of the settlers about the little township, until such time as they erected the first church, a slab building without any pretension to architecture, at Mt. Ephraim.  I have not the remotest idea where this mountain called after the second son of Joseph, is located, beyond the vague feeling that it is somewhere about Meadows.

The story of the Reverend William is unusual.  Mr. Longbottom had no intention of working in South Australia.  He had no idea of coming here at all. It was in the middle of 1838 that the little Wesleyan community in Perth wanted a leader, and they sent to Hobart for one.  Mr. Longbottom was chosen.

Early in June of the year mentioned he with his wife and family set out for Western Australia in a tiny vessel called the Fanny.  Those were the days of strong denominationalism.  Adelaide also had a small Wesleyan community without a pastor.  So they used to meet, first in a small reed hut on the banks of the Torrens, and later in a tiny church they erected near the site of the present Theatre Royal in Hindley street, where, under the guidance of a local preacher, they prayed that Providence would provide them with a minister.  Not one of them, I'll warrant, dreamt in what an extraordinary manner that prayer would be answered.

The Longbottom family, as I said, started from Hobart for Western Australia.  Off Kangaroo Island a succession of gales developed.  The little vessel was driven ashore in a storm off the Coorong, and the captain had to swim to land with a line.  Passengers and crew were landed safely in the sandhills.  There they were taken care of by the natives, those same blacks who, two years later, committed the most cold-blooded massacre in the history of the State — the murder of the shipwrecked passengers and crew of the brig Maria.  Why the natives should have cared for one lot of castaways and slaughtered another within the space of two years, need not be discussed here.

The Longbottoms lived some time with the blacks before they were taken to Encounter Bay, where they were joined by the stranded crew of another shipwrecked vessel, and got a ship to Port Adelaide.  Here again they were the subjects of adventure, for their vessel went aground at the mouth of the river, and broke its back.  By this time, I suppose, the pastor and his wife had had enough of the sea.  At all events, the tiny Wesleyan community welcomed them with open arms, and offered Mr. Longbottom the care of the pastorate.  That is how the Methodist ministry began in South Australia. 

I suppose I ought to make mention of the fine church, dedicated to St. George, which the Anglican community erected in Meadows in 1870.  Here is housed an old Bible and prayer book which were under water in a wreck for several months.  That sounds like an interesting story, I know, but as no one could tell me the particulars I cannot pass the information on.

Sledges Still Used by Farmers

In one of my Clarendon articles I mentioned my bewilderment as to how the settlers negotiated these steep hills when there were no roads.  Meadows let me into the secret.  They used sledges — and they still do!  That, I suppose, will be news to most people.  It was to me.  A lot of carting is done by these wheelless vehicles which, drawn either by horses or by bullocks, will go up a steep hill where a dray would be impossible.  They are still widely employed in this part of the country in taking loads up and down these miniature Mount Everests.


  • This church is so built that people enter the top story from ground level. Meadows Primitive Methodist Chapel, 1866
  • Meadows public school in 1867. The master, Mr. J. S. Jones, in grey belltopper.
  • Mr. and Mrs. John Bottrill
  • Barley's Mill, 1866.
  • This little country store was the first store, first post office, private school, and first public school.