packhorse_and_waterholePackhorse & Waterhole

by Gordon Buchanan

ISBN 0 85905 237 0, (1984 reprint of 1933 edition with new material), Soft Cover, 130pp, 180grams

$22.00 + POST

Packhorse & Waterhole is the classic of Northern Territory pastoral exploration.  Bluey Buchanan, old ‘Paraway’, was one of Australia’s greatest bushmen.

This is the story of a man who paved the way and made the tracks easy for others to follow. His life story is told by his son who went with him on his later expeditions.

The book documents Nat Buchanan’s life and his great droving and exploration trips in the vast, remote northern areas of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, between 1859 and 1896.

The author joined his father as an 18 year old in 1882 and accompanied him on many of his now famous inland ventures.  Their part in pioneering the notorious Murranji track, and the stocking and establishment of many great cattle stations, stretching from the Barkly Tableland, across the Northern Territory to the Kimberley are among the great stories unfolded by the writer.  At the time of writing Packhorse & Waterhole, Gordon Buchanan was the only survivor of the six men who pioneered the famous Murranji stock route.

Buchanan describes the hard work, the difficulties, the skills and the danger involved in droving stock over vast distances, quite often with long dry stages.

Characters and colourful personalities of the era are introduced.  Men such as the Gordon Brothers, the Farquharsons, Tom Cahill, the MacDonalds of Fossil Downs, ‘Greenhide’ Sam Croker and many others.  Buchanan offers high praise for the women who accompanied their men into the outback and suffered the fear and anxiety awaiting their return after long periods away from home.

The book includes a chapter describing Alexander Forrest’s valuable exploration journey across the North West of Australia in 1879.  This journey had an immense influence on the men who followed to develop and stock this vast area of the continent.  Other chapters record the inevitable clashes between the whites and the blacks - the tragedies, the killings, the reprisals, the good and the bad on both sides.  Stories of such notorious blacks as Major and Pigeon are included.

Nat made an incredible trip as a seventy year old to explore and cross the unknown country between Tennant Creek and west to Sturt Creek.  He hoped to discover a new shorter stock route from Queensland to Western Australia.  His only companion was a reluctant Aborigine, 'Camel Jack', who at one critical stage was handcuffed to his camel’s packsaddle.