Some of the Rivulet Maria

An article in The Port Macquarie News on 25 February 1911, titled Some of the Rivulet Maria [Notes by one who strolled] talks about three men who took up land on the Maria – James Clarke, F. Herbert and W. Hall.

Tiring of the dull monotony of the sluggish Macleay, its numerous cliques, contentions, and castes, the writer pushed out beyond the ken of their pall. Being in a humour to agree with all nature and its wonders, he directed his way first towards Crescent Heads. The way was long and wet, and the mosquitos were much more than abominable.

Just here note the remark that the Macleay skeeters easily annex the needle for pungency, bitterness and lasting sting. In fact their bueinsss is transacted with such energy and completeness that instead of a mosquito one would imagine it was a red hot boring machine at work. But this is an unpardonable digression’ still, to one who knows and felt the particular skeeters, it is very pertinent…

…Pushing down the right bank of the Maria River, I came to Mr James Clarke’s fine holding, consisting of 540 acres C.P. and 314 S.L., whilst his son also holds 500 acres, the whole area being worked in conjunction. Mr Clarke prides himself on being the pioneer dairyman of the Maria. Eight years ago he took up his holding, and immediately he had a house erected and a few acres cleared, and at once commenced dairying. In the initial stage he only milked 20 cows, but as he cleared and fenced his land he added to his herd, and at the present time is milking 60 cows. He is a great believer in paspalum. The land, or rather his, in its natural state he said would only carry one beast to four acres, but under paspalum it was capable of feeding two beasts to the acre. At the present time there are 15 acres of splendid paspalum on the farm, and it grows with such prolific abundance that it is not to be wondered at that it makes Mr Clarke’s heart rejoice. The pigs are run in the paspalum paddock, and they appear to thrive on it wonderfully. Moreover, its roots intermingle with the earth with such an inextricable and tenancious tangle that even the best rooting pig known could not uproot them. The dairying output at the farm is 46 large cans per week, but as the paspalum area is extended this will be increased. Mr Clarke’s daughter teaches the subsidised school on the premises, the average attendance being eight scholars daily. Under departmental orders a new school building is being erected, but Mr Clarke fails to see why he should be compelled to foot the bill, especially since the present State Government has been boasting of its policy of absolutely free education.

One of the largest dairymen on the Maria, or for that matter on the Hastings or Macleay, is Mr F. Herbert. This gentleman prosecutes the industry with characteristic energy and business ability. He has three farms, and milks an aggregate of over 100 cows. He has two “L.K.G.” milking machines in operation, and conducts everything on a large and successful scale.

Mr W. Hall, lower down the river, also has a splendidly improved farm, which testifies in every way that he has not neglected work a day during the 20 years he has occupied it. Although only a dairyman of six years’ experience, Mr Hall has adopted that industry in preference to maize growing. “There is nothing in maize,” he said “Why, last year I made more from honey (he has 44 or 45 hives of bees) than I ever did in a year from maize. Maize-growing is too uncertain, so I gave it best.” Prior to settling on the land Mr Hall saw some stirring times in Queensland as a drover, shearer, overlander and miner. He worked in the famous Durham mine on the Etheridge, which according to the prospectus was to mine gold for the lucky shareholders. But it didn’t. It turned out the wildest of scratching wild casts. But that was not the fault of the mine. Whilst the manager and higher officials were continually away enjoying drag picnics and indulging in carouses, miners took cards and whisky below instead of tools; and all hands, with the exception of the shareholders, had a jolly good time. There is no school near Mr Hall’s farm, so he is compelled to employ a governess. Later on, when other families settle in the district it is hoped to establish a subsidised school.

The cattle in favor on the Maria are mostly a mixed lot, with Durham’s predominating. Notwithstanding that no serious attempt has been made to cultivate any certain pure strain, the results are fairly satisfactory.

Just at present all the roads on the Maria are in a state of flood, and the writer, who walked, was often up to his knees in water. Most of the land was swamped, and is likely to remain in that state for months.