The Road to Gumeracha

Anyone who is familiar with the Adelaide Hills knows what a beautiful drive up from the city and suburbs it is. For those who aren’t think rolling green hills everywhere, except in Summer when they’re brown, with plenty of big beautiful gum trees around. There are crops and vineyards, sheep, and cattle. It’s the country, and it’s what I grew up with!

I found an article in South Australia’s Register newspaper, from 20 January 1920, where the writer takes a trip from Athelstone through the hills to Gumeracha, and describes the journey. So I wanted to share a portion of that with you. To read the full article, click here.


An Entrancing Corridor

If an unlabelled moving picture of the Gorge road were thrown on the screen people would ask where it was. The route is an eye-opener in rugged beauty. For most of the 17 miles, from the time the gateway is entered at Athelstone, the track runs between massive, rock-ribbed, tree-spread cliffs which climb hundreds of feet, and seem to meet the blue sky. From the moment you get into contact with the great panorama, it is a wonderland of wild, decorative effects, carried out by Nature to big scale. The road has the appearance of a bold, tiny interloper, twisting in and out among the boulders with flimsy, and almost precarious, audacity. Looking up on one side you see the hills, mottled by shadows on a sunny afternoon, lean their grey bulk against a radiant back ground. On the other the jagged, broken rock offers, at times, a rather uncomfortable proximity, supplying a striking colour contrast with their red and dark blue and brown faces. Running along this 24-ft. thoroughfare, amid some of the most impressive open-air sculpture to be seen in Australia, you involuntarily duck now and then, in expectation of being hit by one of these giant fists. Then, right underneath, flows with placid grace, the little creek, framed in brilliant green rushes or tender fern. When the towering avenues disappear, as it were, into the wings of this magnificent stage, there come through the scattered gums glimpses of fruit gardens, designed as symmetrically as a draughtboard, or arranged in marvellous rows of potato and tomato plants, suggesting the faultless elegance of the top lines in a copy book. So you get on this excursion up the Gorge road, the blend of dainty, man-made utilities and the moving grandeur of God-made scenery.

the majestic gum trees

—An Exhilarating Experience—
The picturesqueness of this 17-mile journey has a unique balance. The approach through the graceful porch of Athelstone is by a road which is like a long key unlocking the hidden treasures. Once inside the traversing of the long corridor is a thrilling experience. The bends are easy to negotiate, with here and there just sufficient swerve to impart an exhilarating feeling. The hills mount in a precipitous stairway, to six or seven hundred feet, but the creek below is within 20 and 30 feet. The whole situation has features calculated to make the driver of a motor or other vehicle keep his wits awake – and judgment on the alert, but ordinary skill and common-sense are all that is needed for a safe passage. There were places which we skirted, at rather a giddy angle – a matter of some inches between a dry ride and a good ducking. This is easily the biggest thing in roads ever undertaken by the department.

more amazing hills on the way to Gumeracha

—Two Official Triumphs—
Millbrook and the Gorge road are two official triumphs. In a sense, each made the other, and this accomplishment of interdependence seems to be sustained in the fact that the track is carrying about seven miles of the pipes. The finest and longest scenic road in South Australia, and the greatest and most elegant reservoir are sister undertakings. It is a singularly happy circumstance. Each picturesque and utilitarian. The people of the metropolitan area want the water, and the producers of the hills need the road. This link with Gumeracha is almost better than a railway, or it will do for the present, at any rate. The market gardeners, Mr. Fleming told me, do not have to guide their horses when they use the gorge highway — they just drop the reins, and the horses and the grade do the rest. It is merely a case of round and round, and through the everlasting hills to the city.

— Long and Costly —
Of course, they have been six years building this road. The long war and short money are the explanations. There might have been still further delay, when things got better if Millbrook had not pushed the business on. Adelaide wanted the water. It meant that, for about seven miles, the laying of the pipes and the construction of the track, which was blasted out of the solid rock, had to go hand in hand. It will be 13 months or two years before the road is completed for its full length. The original estimate was £75.000, but the actual expenditure will be nearer £200.000. Everything is dearer. When the Gorge road was started, wages were 8/-a day; now they are 13/3, with a shilling camp allowance. The outlay on materials has also advanced considerably, but the work had to go on. So many as 400 men have been engaged at one time. The road is 3 ft. wider than intended in the first place, and five reinforced concrete bridges have had to be erected: These alone have cost more than £30,000. Each has been given a local name, by which they will be familiarly known. The structures combine beauty of line with unchallengeable strength.

construction of Gorge Road at Cudlee Creek, South Australia

construction of Gorge Road at Cudlee Creek, South Australia

— Rugged Corridor —
We motored over the entire distance, entering the rugged corridor at Athelstone, and finishing at the old Gumeracha Bridge after a journey which was a feast for the eye and a tonic for the body. We saw gums, red, and blue, and white, in all the glory of their own stately grouping, and passed masses of the young stuff the colour of saltbush. Alternating the heavy beauty of the towering cliffs was the ordered grace of nestling gardens, tucked shyly in the gullies, or scaling the lower slopes. The sun glistened on the young leaves, and painted birds sang and danced in their own fairyland. Then, on the homeward journey we skirted sparkling Millbrook whose waters played hide and seek among the hills, and spread about with the careless symmetry of a miniature harbour.

the rolling green hills on the way to Gumeracha

Sounds idyllic? It is.

In that last paragraph it says the trip to Gumeracha is “a feast for the eye and a tonic for the body”. And in my words I would say “good for the soul”. 


A Wife for Sale

Now there’s a title that I bet got your attention. I know it got mine when I was browsing through the old newspapers on Trove and saw the headline “A WIFE FOR SALE”.

On further searching, I found that there are actually quite a heap of articles titled “A Wife for Sale”. But today I’m going to share two with you.

In our modern day, western world society, the whole concept of “selling a wife” is horrifying, but these two articles might just give you a different view of it …

They both come from Queensland newspapers, but are reporting news from overseas.


ARTICLE 1 comes from the Brisbane Telegraph, Wednesday 31 July 1912, page 4 (click for a link to the original article) and is a mutally agreed sale between the husband and wife.


It was long a popular belief among the ignorant in England (says the “New York “Herald”) that if a man sold his wife at public auction such a sale had all the legality of a regular divorce. The latest case of the kind occurred in 1832.

John Thompson, a farmer, had been married for three years, and he and his wife agreed to separate. Thompson brought his wife into the town of Carlisle, and by the bellman announced he was about to sell her. At 12 o’clock Thompson placed his wife on a large oak chair with a rope or halter of straw about her neck. He then made (his announcement “Gentlemen, “I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Anne Thompson, otherwise Williams, whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. It is her wish as well as mine to part for ever. She has been to me only a born serpent I took her for my comfort, the good of my home, but she became my tormentor, a domestic curse, a night invasion, and a daily devil. I speak truth from my heart when I say— May God deliver us from troublesome wives and frolicksome women! Avoid them as you would a mad dog, a roaring lion, a loaded pistol, cholera morbus, Mount Etna, or any other pestilential thing in nature.

WOMANLY QUALITIES. Now I have shown you the dark side of my wife, and told of her faults and failings, I will introduce the bright and sunny side of her, and explain her qualifications and goodness. She can read novels and milk cows, she can laugh and weep with the same ease that you could take a glass of ale when thirsty. Indeed, gentlemen, she reminds me of what the poet says of women in general — Heaven gave to women the peculiar grace, To laugh, to weep, to cheat the human — race. “She can make butter and scold the maid; she can sing Moor’s melodies and plait her folds and caps; she cannot make rum, gin, or whisky, but she is a good judge of the quality of each from long experience in tasting them. I therefore offer her, with all her perfections and imperfections, for the sum of fifty shillings.”

The woman was finally sold to one Henry Mears for the sum of twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog. Man and wife parted in perfect good temper, Mears and the woman going one way, Thompson and the dog another.

So all ended happy, in an odd way. And that would certainly make for an interesting tid-bit on someone’s family tree.


ARTICLE 2 was recorded in the Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 20 November 1906, page 4  (click for a link to the original article). This is an interesting one with a lady offering herself up for sale.

A Wife for Sale.

A New York cable message to the London “Morning Leader” of October 2 says that a Chicago lady had broken loose from the social powers that be, and in the local newspapers advertised herself for sale to the highest bidder. The cable runs:- “It is a remarkable “agony” advertisement, and breathes a bitter spirit of rebellion against the modern conditions which often make her sex the slave of commercial greed. The frank and daring document reads as follows:- ‘For sale to the highest bidder, a young woman American slave, refined, honest, poetical, big-souled; splendid teeth, not beautiful, but ardent and artistic; sometime bubbling over witih merriment, sometimes sedate and studious, oppressed by the wrongs of her fellow-creatures. Can appreciate a good story and can tell a better; is deeply religious, but not pious; has a vivid imagination; possesses psychic powers; cannot sew a little bit, but can plan a dashing costume; doesn’t know plank steak from a porter-house, but can

get up a swell dinner; can’t make a loaf of bread, but can give character impersona-tions that can’t be beat; doesn’t go to church, but obeys every divine law. She’s a lovely typewriter, but typewriting is hell; has Axminster tastes, but ragcarpet opportunities. With versatile talents she longs for silk cîatihing, and buys cotton, while shallow-pated women laden with diamonds air themselves and lap-dogs in 5000 dollar automobiles; her brain is burn-ing with projects to benefit mankind, but her body is bound with galling iron chains, to the rack of mechanical toil. Instead of offering herself for sale privately she prefers a public auction; is not very old, but wasn’t born yesterday.’ Arrayed in a baby blue tea gown and diamond brooch, she received the Chicago journalists. ‘I’m offering my intellect and genius,’ she explained. ‘I don’t suppose I shall be respected by the conventional world, but I am through with drudgery and toil. The man who buys me will get a poor cook, but a good entertainer.'”

I would love to know what happened to her. Did she find a good husband and a happy home? Either way you have to admire her guts for wanting to change her life, and get out of slavery, not to mention her honesty in the description!

Just out of interest I did find numerous articles for “Husband for Sale” too, but I’ll save that for another time.


1 February 1895 – The Day Time Stood Still in South Australia

At midnight on 1 February 1895, clocks were stopped, and time stood still in South Australia so as to bring the State (or colony as it was then) into line with international standard times.

Actually this was an Australia-wide change as up to this time, each colony had followed their own time set at a local observatory in their capital city.

A long article in the  South Australian Register, Thursday 31 January 1895, starts off with the following:

To-night the process of marking that period which Hamlet calls ‘the very witching time of night’ will be exceptionally puzzling throughout the greater part of Australia. By the provisions of the Standard Time Act the Legislatures of five colonies have taken the liberty of declaring that an hour shall not be sixty minutes in duration, but something else, varying in different localities with the ‘ hour-zone’ in which those localities happen to lie. Thus, in South Australia the space from 11 o’clock till 12 p.m. of this 31st of January will be seventy four minutes twenty and two fifth seconds. In other words all clocks and watches, in order that they may indicate the correct time to-morrow, must be put back fourteen minutes twenty and two-fifth seconds.”

So as far as South Australia was concerned the clocks stopped at midnight for 14 minutes and 20 seconds, bringing it in line with the 135th meridian, and adopting Central Standard Time.

The article continues …

“In this colony we have to put our clocks back, and therefore we gain time; but in Victoria, as in New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, the people are to lose time and the Victorians in particular do not appear to relish the idea, although, of course, it is a nominal loss and nothing more … “

The eastern states actually only lost 5 minutes, bringing it in line with the 150th meridian.

“The main fact now to be borne in mind by commercial men and the general public is that the time of all the eastern colonies will henceforward be exactly one hour ahead of that of South Australia …”

So it is true to say that back in 1895, time in Adelaide, or more precisely South Australia, really did stay still!

General Post Office with the very prominent clock tower, King William Street, Adelaide, 1885 [State Library of South Australia, ref: B-43013]

The Origins of Christmas Traditions

Christmas. It’s the time of year where so many people have ‘traditions’.

Whether it be decorations, presents, carols, the gathering itself, christmas stockings, gingerbread houses or other Christmassy treats, or more … there’s usually an element of tradition to it. So let’s see where these traditions started!

I wouldn’t say that I’m really a traditionalist, but there are certain things that ‘make’ Christmas, Christmas for me. Things such as having a Christmas tree, sending out cards to friends, having a roast lunch, and my mum’s “polish sausage” which is actually a chocolate mint thing, rolled up like a sausage … sounds weird, but it is YUMMY!

While Christmas is long associated with Christianity, when you look back there’s a definite mix of Christian and non-Christian origins of traditions.

“Yuletide is the old or poetical, name for the Christmas season, and has been held as a sacred festival from time as a memorial – long before the advent of Christianity – by numerous nations of the earth. The births were celebrated, then, of Buddha by the Chinese, or Horus, son of Isis, by the Egyptians, and of Ceres, Bacchus and Hercules by the Greeks. Druids, various Indian tribes, the ancient Mexicans, Persians. Romans, and Scandinavians, all held some sort of religious celebrations during the period of winter solstice, occurring in the northern hemisphere towards the end of December.”

The following description of Christmas traditions was reported in the West Australian newspaper, 24 December 1929, with a few additions (with links) added in as needed.


Evergreen decorations have been used since ancient times when the great feast of Saturn was held in December and the people decorated the temples with such green things as they could find. The Christian custom is the same transferred to Him who was born in Bethlehem on the first Christmas Day. The holly or holy-tree is called Christ’s thorn in Germany and Scandinavia, from its use in church decorations and its habit of putting forth scarlet berries at Christmas time.

The custom of Christmas-trees laden with gifts comes from Germany and has origin in obscure Scandinavian and Egyptian legends. The Christmas tree was introduced into England by the Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria, in 1840.

The Christmas box was a small gratuity given to servants, retainers, etc., on Boxing-Day (the day after Christmas Day). In the early days of Christianity boxes were placed, in churches for promiscuous charities, and opened on Christmas Day. The contents were distributed next day by the priests, and called ‘the dole of the Christmas box,’ or the ‘box money.’ It was customary for the heads of houses to give small sums of money to their subordinates ‘to put into the box’ before mass on Christmas Day. Somewhat later, apprentices in England carried a box round to their masters’ customers for small gratuities. The custom died out gradually after 1830.

Christian carols are sung in commemoration of the song of the angels to the shepherds of the nativity. In olden days the bishops with the clergy used to sing carols and play games on Christmas Day. The earliest Christmas hymn, Corde natus ex parentis, ‘Of the Father’s Love Begotten,’ still sung in the Church of England, was written by a Spanish Christian poet, born at Saragossa in the 4th century. The popular German Christmas songs date from the 11th century, and Christmas carols generally from the 13th century. The hymn Adeste fideles. ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’ was composed as late as the 17th century, by John Reading.

The custom of the Christmas stocking comes from Belgium.
[ed. The more common theory is that is started with Saint Nicholas from Turkey, who threw bags of gold coins down the chimney of a wealthy businessman who had gone broke. You can read all about that here]

Santa Claus hails from Holland.
[ed. Again St Nicholas who was born in 280AD at Myra, near current-day Turkey, seems to be the origin of this legend and tradition, you can read more about that here].

French children range their shoes on the hearth-stone on Christmas Eve for the Christ-child to fill with toys or sweets.

In Denmark and Sweden the Christmas box or gift is known as julklapp. The delivery of the julklapp is peculiar. Small presents are wrapped first in fringed tissue paper, then done up in common brown paper, and sometimes wrapped in strips of cloth until round like a ball, covered with a thin layer of dough and browned in the oven, finally pinned up in a napkin, tied in white wrapping paper and tied with pink string. Other gifts are enclosed in labelled bundles of hay, rolls of cotton or wool, with inner wrappings variously as sorted. Julklapps are delivered early on Christmas morning after a loud knock at the bedroom door, by hurling the packages on to the sleeper’s chest. Later in the day they may be landed in someone’s lap after a sharp tap at door or window. In short, the julklapps’ may come from any and every direction when least expected, and surprise and excitement is thus kept up from early morn until late at night on Christmas Day.

The Polish custom is for the children of a household to search for their Christmas gifts which have previously been hidden in all manner of places about the home.

Christmas cards, which have gone through the post annually in millions for many years, and their popularity shows no sign of waning are only a modern institution. The first genuine Christmas card ever entrusted to the care of the Post Office was sent in 1844 by W. E. Dobson, R.A., who has a friend from whom he has received certain courtesies for which he desired to show appreciation. The time was Christmas, so he made a sketch symbolising the spirit of the festive season and posted it to his friend. It was done on a piece of Bristol-board about twice the size of the modern letter-card, and from this small beginning rapidly sprang the custom responsible for the development of a vast industry for the manufacture and distribution of Christmas cards. [Extract from The West Australian, 21 December 1923, pg 6] [ed. there is also reports of the first Christmas card appearing in 1843, which you can read about here].

Christmas pudding (sometimes known as plum pudding) is a type of pudding traditionally served as part of the Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland and in other countries where it has been brought by British emigrants. It has its origins in Christian medieval England.  It was not until the 1830s that the mix of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas. More information on this here.


What are your Christmas traditions?