top of page

Victor Harbour Times (SA), Wednesday 6 March 1974, page 9

GENESIS IN YANKALILLA

by Jean Schmaal.

 

Some years before official settlement of South Australia there were European sealers on Kangaroo Island.

 

They were a wild, lawless lot ---

  • some of them escaped convicts from Van Diemen's Land

  • others were runaway sailors from ships which had called at the Island to pick up salt to preserve their seal-skins.

  • These men had the unpleasant habit from time to time of taking native women from the mainland, and their treatment of their captives was anything but kind.

Place of the Women's Tragedy
KI Aboriginal Memorial.jpg

Place of the Women's Tragedy

A legend has come down the years that some of these sealers came over to the mainland near Cape Jervis and stole three young native women, whom they took back with them.

  • Sometime after their landing on Kangaroo Island these women began to cast about for means of getting back to their own people.

  • Eventually they found a small boat belonging to the sailors; it would hold only two.

Sunrise-Backstairs-Passage.jpg

Victor Harbour Times (SA), Wednesday 5 June 1974, page 12

National Trust

Exploring the past in the Yunkalilla area with Mrs Jean Schmaal inlerested 40 members of the National Trust last Sunday.

The first and only stone home in the district in 1846, huilt from locally quarried stone was originally known as 'Manna House'.

Mr K V Willcocks, the present owner, showed members the building. Now known as 'Manor House[ the property was the first officially recorded land I grant in the Yankalilla area to Mr H. Kemmiss I in 1842.

Bungala. private residence. one time guest house and now under restoration was built in 1856.

Photographs of the Bungala Mill before and after the 1910 fire were seen and members told that the stone fence at the front of the house was constructed from the stone of the Primitive Methodist Church which stood on the- western boundary of the property around 1856.

The alabaster font dating back to the 1600's, I a gift from Salisbury Cathedral, England, was an item of great interest in the Christ Church.

Also seen were the beautiful stained glass windows and a memorial brass to the Milner Children: Grace Esther and Eustace, early pupils of the old church school who were drowned in 1837 when the 'Gothenburg' struck the Barrier Reef. 

The Christ Church Hall, formerly the Christ Church Day School built in 1871, as well as the Anglican Cemetery were visited. The party then proceeded along The Hay Flat road to visit the ruin of 'Appakaldree', a substantial 9 roomed house built by Mr. Robert Robertson and his stepson Mr Arthur Wise. Anyone knowing the meaning of the Gaelic name 'Appakaldree', is asked to contact Mrs. Schmaal.

In 1855 Mr Robert Norman, alter whom Normanville is named, built a small family chapel to be used as a mausoleum.

However, the story says that when his wife died in 1867 the vault and chapel were full of wine so she was buried in the family plot amongst the vines.

As two of the women had no children they took the boat and headed for the mainland, which they reached in safety.

  • The third woman was left behind because she had a baby and there was no room for the two of them in the boat.

  • Fretting for her own country and people, she tied her infant to her back and took to the dangerous shark-infested waters of Backstairs Passage, some say camouflaged among a school of dolphins.

  • No more was heard of her for some time, but one day the natives on the mainland found her body on the beach just about the high-water mark, her baby still tied to her back.

  • She had swum the Passage and then, in a state of complete exhaustion, had just sufficient strength left to crawl ashore before she died.

  • Her tribesmen who found her named the spot the Place of the Women's Tragedy, and indications are that their words Nganka-alya-illa which they used to describe the event, became corrupted later by white settlers into Yankalilla, as we know it today.

Yattagolinga was then, as now, a place of great beauty.

  • It was to be some years before official white settlement of the locality came about and the first step was made when Col. William Light crossed to Rapid Bay from Kangaroo Island in 1836.

  • One can only imagine the feelings of Light and the people on board the brig 'Rapid' when anchor was dropped in what we know today as Rapid Bay, then named Yattagolinga by the native people.

In the early 1840s he and his brother Henry were back in the district once more, the land by this time having been surveyed and opened for selection.

  • Field settled in Hay Flat in 1845, taking over several sections from Samuel Davenport at six pounds per section per annum, not far from Yankalilla, where he had 4,400 acres with an Occupation Licence for another 10 sq. miles at Waitpinga.

  • Not far distant from him lived his old sea-faring mate, Alfred Barker. Between them they grazed 1,000 head of cattle, some of which found its way to the whaling stations at Encounter Bay.

North side KI .jpeg
Hillside Yankalilla.png
"Hillside'

Observer (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 23 December 1916, page 30

HAY FLAT 60 YEARS AGO.

A correspondent writes:—

An ancient landmark has recently passed away in the Yankalilla district in the shape of Capt. Field's old residence, Hillside.

The building suffered so severely in the recent gales that it had to be demolished.

It was a picturesque brick structure, half underground, on the side of a hill—hence its name, Hillside.

Capt. Field was living there in 1851.

His estate was grazing land, known as Hay Flat. He afterwards purchased Dairy Flat, formerly the property of Mr. J. B. Hade, and used for dairy farming.

On the range dividing the two flats stands the ruins of St. Paul s Church. It is 45 years since service was held in it.

Only, one wall is now standing.

The view from the hilltop is. incomparable in its extent. On the western side the Hay Valley is seen, with a vista of woodland steep, and the outlines of a distant range, terminating in the sea. 

To the east the view is even more extensive, stretching over a distance of many miles of bald hill country, chequered brown and green with the ploughed paddocks and pasture land.

In early days there was quite a society around, now deserted and neglected, Hay Flat—what with the Fields of Hillside, their neighbours, the Hacks, and. the Littles, who lived hear the waterfalls.

Their land now belongs to Mr. Putland.

Quite recently he picked up a dog's gravestone from among the rubble, at the bottom of a gully.

This memento of 60 years ago bore the inscription-"Twig's grave, 1856."

The road from Hay Flat comes out at Normanville, which was the property of Mr. Norman, who owned several sections on what was then known as Bungala Flat. He built a blacksmith's shop and a hotel, both of stone. He projected a fashionable watering place out of Normanville, and, like many early-day plans, his never came off.

Remains of his intentions may still be seen in the ruins of the Royal Hotel, a church -building (which he named St- James's), and a family mausoleum. Three graves in the corner of a paddock contain the dust of the Normans who died in Normanville.

  • Field built for himself the mansion of the district, this was 'Hillside', a solid two-storeyed house, built into the side of a hill, the lower rooms partly under ground, with fine verandahs and balconies on two sides and with kitchen rooms detached, with a covered way between.

  • It had a splendid outlook and there was a lovely flower garden and a flourishing orchard.

  • He was not to enjoy his Shangri-la-like holding for long however, for he died on 30 November, 1850, aged only 43. He lies in St. Stephen's Church of England cemetery at Willunga.

  • Soon afterwards the Barkers moved to the Burra, where they formed Baldina station, and in later years extended their interests to Comongin, Nickaville, and Burbank stations in Queensland.

  • Little remains of 'Hillside' these days to remind that it was the home of one of the district's earliest settlers. In Yankalilla, itself, other grand old homes were in the process of being built, though it was not till 1857 that T. Wilson laid out 23 sections as a township.

Yankalilla's Bungala House.jpeg

The first land grant in Yankalilla was made in 1842 to Henry Kemmis (B.A.) who came from Ireland on the good ship 'Dumphries' in October, 1839.

(Incidentally, the history of this family traces right back to the Norman Conquest).

Obviously Kemmis was a man of some substance, for with him came his family, 12 labourers and three female servants.

They also brought with them a wooden Manning house to use as temporary quarters, whilst the workmen got about their business of building something more substantial.

 

 

Victor Harbour Times (SA), Wednesday 10 April 1974, page 4

GENESIS IN YANKALILLA

By Jean Schmaal

The first detached portion of the old home was used by the family, whilst the house proper was under construction and on completion these rooms (at the rear of the building) became the servants' quarters.

'Manna'

Henry named his home Manna Farm, because of a manna-like substance which abounded on the nearby flat.

Natives frequently came from Encounter Bay and Cape Jervis to collect the food and the early settlers were not above adding it to their foodstuffs as a welcome change of diet.

'Manna'

Soon Henry had 30 acres sown to wheat and 1.000 sheep and 30 cattle grazed on his 90 acres of land.

He also experimented with the raising of alpacas but without much success.

But sadness was in store for Mary, the mother of the family, died on 28 September. 1848 and lies with two of her children Arthur and William in an unmarked grave on "Manna Farm."

 

Some three years later Henry remarried and eventually sold "Manna Farm" to Mr. J Heathcote and sailed for Tasmania where he started a school for young gentlemen.

From there he went to Warnambool Vic. where he founded yet another school and thence to Bathurst N.S.W. where, in conjunction with the Anglican Archbishop, he founded and was the first headmaster of "All Saints College" which celebrates its centenary this year - 1874-1974.

 

'Manna Farm.' thought to be Yankalilla's first stone home, which stands today as 'Manor Farm', though much altered from its original form.

The old servants' quarters remain typically pioneer, with their low-roofed design 'Manna Farm' taken up by Henry Kemmis in 1842.

 

Manna Farrm Yankallilla B-27719.jpeg

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Friday 12 September 1902, page 8

 

YANKALILLA.

September 6.-Mr. R. M. Robertson, pro-prietor of Appakaldree and Tonquililla sheep runs, died suddenly of heart disease, on Thursday.

Mr. Robertson was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and came to Australia in 1851 in the ship Marco Polo.

He landed in Victoria, but soon afterwards he settled in the Yankalilla district, and engaged in pastoral pursuits.

He was remarkably successful, and owned a large area of the most valuable land in the State.

For ten years he was chairman of tne local district council, and a justice of the peace for about 20 years.

After residing at Tonquililla for 18 years, he carne to "Appakaldree" about 23 years ago, and had ever taken a great interest in all matters for the benefit of the district.

He won and held the respect and admiration of his neighbors by his quiet, unostentatious demeanor, his upright conscientious conduct, and his ready sympathy and kindly help to those who came to him in their difficulties.

Mr. Robertson was a prominent member_ of the Free Presbyterian Church, at which he was a regular attendant, being also a member of the committee and treasurer. 

He leaves a widow, two daughters, and one son. The funeral took place to-day. and was attended by a large gathering of inhabitants of this and neighboring towns. The Rev. W. R. Buttrose conducted the burial service.

This 1887 photograph shows Kemmis in front of 'Manna Farm' which he visited en route to the United Kingdom.

Kemmiss Hill, between Yankalilla and Myponga. perpetuates the name of this early pioneer family.

Septimane Herbert was another of the originals. He bought land and settled in 1842.

He built on the shoulders of the hills on the north side ot the River Bungala watercourse; from this place, above a ti-tree swamp, he could see the sea.

He put a few acres under crop, built three stone rooms (which were afterwards added to) and early in 1843 brought his wife and three sons to their new home.

 

He named his home 'Wissanger' after Wis Wissanger Manor in Gloucester and here a splendid garden with peppermint and blue gum in flower was visited every spring by thousands of nectar-eating birds which came to the district.

The garden was to have another use. too, for as was custom among many early settlers, their dead were laid to rest in many a peaceful garden setting.

 

Wissanger School 1890.jpg

The grandmother of the family, Sarah Norman, passed away in 1850, and their being no local cemetery, she was buried in the garden with a low brick wall around the grave.

Her name was engraved on a flat slate which was laid atop. Years later (by which time there was a local graveyard the coffin (in which the old lady had been originally buried) was disinterred, and put close beside her daughter,s grave; and the red-gum coffin in which she had been buried 35 years before was as sound as new.

There were two other burials in the old family garden; one the wife of a workman, and the other a girl who died there. They rest in unmarked graves.

A few crumbling walls are all that remain of that early home, but its idyllic setting still remains above the Yankalilla Area School.

The third early-comer was a man named Worthington, a London barrister, a widower, who came to the Colony with a son and daughter.

Worthington took up his land close to a nearby spring of good, clear water.

He seems to have been one of those unfortunate "left-footed" folk for whom nothing turns out right.

 

The story is told that he brought a carriage and pair of horses from England with him, and set out for Yankalilla (then pretty much the end of the world) with nary a bridge nor a road upon which to travel.

He got as far as Sturt Creek and there his conveyance capsized, and he was obliged to return to Adelaide and finish the trip by bullock wagon. Little remains to show where he built his home.

He failed to make good in the district and later returned to England. But what is thought to be the spring on his section is still there, never drying out, and for long years prior to the establishment of the Myponga Reservoir, ever a reliable source of water for stock, and about it some sturdy old fruit trees still survive.

00878-Wool-Appakaldree-Stn.jpg
'Appakaldree'

Above: Load of Wool from Appakaldree Station.

One old home nearly in ruin near Normanville, which is more likely to catch the eye of the traveller than any other is 'Appakaldree.'

But the story of what was once a commanding impressive home goes back many years before this building came into being.

HMS Buffalo & Brig Rapid 1836.jpg

The story begins with the landing of the "Buffalo" in 1836. One of the passengers was Mr. John Wise of Edinburgh, Scotland.

For a while John lived at Mt. Barker, but in 1852 he came to this district. Unfortunately, only two years later he was killed when thrown from a horse, leaving a widow and 2 young sons.

 

Later Mrs. Wise remarried, this time Robert Mclndoe Robertson, the original grantee of "Tonguillilla" (today's Tunkalilla) Station, situated in wild, remote and practically inaccessible country.

The name, a native one, is thought to mean "Place of a bad smell." and possibly has bearing on a dead whale washed up on a nearby beach. (to be contd.)

Robert Mclndoe Robertson original grantee of 'Tonguils'.png

Victor Harbour Times (SA : 1932 - 1986), Thursday 18 April 1974, page 6

GENESIS IN YANKALILLA

By Jean Schmaal

Left: Illustrated: Robert Mclndoe Robertson/ original grantee of 'Tonguilla'.

Mrs. Robertson was to know heartbreak again, for her younger son (Willy) died of typhoid when he was only 14.

He is buried in the od St. Paul's Church of England cemetery near Hay Flat.

 

To begin with 'Tonguillilla' ran cattle and the beasts frequently got away into the wild, rugged and uncleared country.

It was the devil's own job to bring them in again and, once mustered, they had to be driven to Adelaide by drovers.

They were a wild lot and because of this had to be taken by way of all the back roads down to the old cattle market in the city, close by where the Newmarket Hotel stands today.

 

Rough were the animals and rough was the going ; it took a fortnight to get them down, sell them and then come home again.

Later the changeover to sheep was made on 'Tonguillilla' and then the wool was taken to Adelaide by bullock wagon by Mr. Harry Berry, a well known local bullocky.

 

After shearing the sheep were swum across a small creek and put out on Tunk Head to graze. This was the time when all the land was un-fenced and a great deal of trouble was experienced with the wild dogs.

The sheep had to be shepherded by day and folded by night.

The young son. Arthur, who was then only 8 years. old, did the shepherding work.

He had a little hut in which to sleep. This was a large box or small house, long enough tor a man to lie down and wide enough tor him to turn in, standing on four legs to keep it out of the water when it rained and with a roof like a small house. 

It was comfortable enough it one had plenty of blankets.

Shepherd's Watchbox.png

In later years Arthur some times told how frightened he was when the wild dogs started howling once night fell; sometimes fires were lit to keep them away.

 

The 'Tonguillilla' homestead had an enormous fireplace at one end of the kitchen. Into it great logs were placed for fuel and as these died down meat was cooked in a camp oven, coals beneath and more coals heaped on the top.

Into one end of the fireplace a bread oven was built.

When Mrs. Robertson wanted to go shopping she had to saddle up a horse and holding her baby before her as she travelled through the rough scrub, go way down to the Second Valley store, putting her shopping into saddlebags on either side of her horse. 

In later years the family left this isolated place and some time afterwards built the fine stone home on the Hay Flat road; they gave it the Gaelic name of Appakaldree.

This was a substantial 9-roomed house and it, too, had a beautiful garden. There was always a man to tend to the garden and domestic help was kept in the house.

However, as happened to many another grand old home, the passing of the years saw many changes when the family grew up and went its separate ways.

The massive home eventually passed from the family and is now in a state of near-ruin, though evidence of the once flourishing garden is still obvious.


Apakaldree_House_Hay_Flat_Road.jpg

Mr. Arthur Wise, by the way, was the last burial in the old St. Paul's cemetery at Hay Flat when a horse-drawn hearse carried him to his last resting place in about 1924.

 

Not far from the lovely Ingallatta Falls on the Hay Flat road stand the tumbling walls of the home where the Little family settled over a century ago.

When they came they brought with them a tiny pine tree and also a small mulberry tree which they planted. Both grew and flourished.

The mulberry tree, unfortunately, has gone, but the pine still stands, tall and strong, a silent reminder of that early family.

 

Mr. Little in the 1860's started tobacco growing just east of the falls. The crop was good, temporary curing sheds 'were erected and fires used for drying out the leaf.

The experiment went well until a fire got out of control and burned down the curing shed.

Not far away in 'Rose Cottage' lived the Putland family and Mr. Walter Putland (now in his 80 s) well remembers how it was when he was 10 years old.

On one occasion his father drove young Walter and a Mr. Pengilly to Adelaide in a horse-drawn van.

On arrival at the old market on North Terrace, 1,000 lambs at 30 pence each were purchased, half for Father Putland and half for Mr. Pengilly.

The lambs were brought down North Terrace and then rounded into West Terrace, with the help of two good sheep dogs, and then the homeward trek began.

 

By the end of the first day the little party made the old Flagstaff Hotel and after the sheep had been penned in yards provided for the purpose at the rear of the inn, the man and the youngster turned in for the night.

Up at the crack of dawn next morning, they were soon on the road once more with their flock. The second night saw them at Noarlunga.

Arthur Wise, father of Mrs. A. Kennedy, who built 'Appakaldree'. where they put up for the night at Dungey's Hotel (long since out of business), the sheep again being yarded at the rear of the hotel.

The third day's end saw them I come up over Loud's Hill (beyond Willunga) and headed for the property of Mr. John Hunt near Myponga and here they stopped.

Next day, bright and early, they set out for home at Hay Flat, four days on the road by foot, for a job which now takes just over an hour.

 

The roads were unsealed and being only metalled there was a good deal of loose dust to rise as the sheep travelled, so much so that by nightfall young Wally had his mouth so dry and his face so dust-coated it was only with difficulty that he could swallow.

Later, when the lambs were fattened, some of them were taken back to market by the horse-drawn van which could convey only from 20 to 30 at a time.

Most of the remainder were disposed of locally.

 

Perhaps the best known of all the old mansions is 'Bungala', situated in Yankalilla itself on the main road toVictor Harbour.

This magnificent home was built about 1856 by Mr. Eli Butterworth who owned the 'Bungala' flour mill adjacent to the property.

His brother John erected a similar substantial stone building at Normanville about the same time.

'Bungala'
bungala-house-2022.jpg

In later years the place became a much sought-after guest-house, only to fall into a sad state of disrepair until recently when it once more became a private guest house.

Mr. Graham is buried in the Church of England cemetery in a massive vault, complete with family crest prominently displayed in specially designed iron railings and also incorporated in vault fittings.

 

This story of some of the old homes of Yankalilla and Normanville cannot be concluded without reference to the old Church of St. James at Normanville.

This building dates from the1850's and has walls 21 inches thick.

Robert Norman, the founder of Normanville, built this place of worship and named it St. James.

Regular church services were held soon after its erection by Mr. C.W. Scott, Clerk of the Local Court at Normanville, who was a devout churchman.

 

When Bishop Short held services in the building in 1860 there were 24 communicants and 14 baptisms.

Kate Norman (Robert's niece) was married in St. James to Mr. W.J. Lilly by the Rev. Edmeades, Methodist minister. After Mr. Scott left the  district in the late 1870's J regular services were discontinued and the building, which had never been consecrated (some say because of a nearby winery)  was used as a hall and passed through many hands.

A later postmaster at Normanville held a boys' club in it some time and once it sheltered the rocket apparatus which was used in case of shipwreck. Later still it became a guest house.

To-day it is a private home known as 'The Gums.'

 

To conclude this somewhat nostalgic story of other years and other people a brief reference to early postal days brings in the story of 'The Briary.'

It seems that the first post office at Yankalilla was established in the grounds of 'The Briary' in a small building specially built by its owner, Mr. R.J.  Hibbert, for use as a post office.

This was little more than a brick room and people waited outside until their names were called through a small aperture when their eagerly awaited mail was passed out.

 

It is thought that the building was constructed either in the late 1850s or early 1860s. 'The Briary' stood, until as late as 1970 when it was demolished, at the rear of the home of Mrs. P. Law, Yankalilia

So it was in the beginning. Much of the past has given place to the present, as it must, but what remains of these and most pioneer homes bear silent tribute to the forebears of the district, many of whom sleep in the old churchyards; other rest, unmarked, in the beloved grounds of their own one-time homes.

The Briary Yankalilla.png

Above: 'The Briary', thought to be built in the early 1860's.

In those days Yankalilla had 500 inhabitants, there was a steam flour mill in the town and an hotel as well as a store. 

At Normanville, by this time, there was also an hotel and a flour mill. The Butterworth brothers owned a wheat ship, the 'Centaur', which plied between Normanville and Melbourne with cargo and occasionally passengers.

Later Mr. F. ! Graham married Miss Ann Butterworth (Eli's daughter) and they took over 'Bungala ', making many alterations.

 

After his first wife's death Graham married a Miss Mayfield. Graham was a keen student of meteorology and was always quick to make use of modern inventions.


He is said to have been one of the first to use gas and an inter-communication system in his home. Stories are also told of a wind-blown land yacht which he constructed to take him down to Normanville when a ship came in.

Over the years 'Bun-gala ' became the showplace of the district with wonderfully laid out gardens, hundreds of roses, a hot -house, tennis court, livery stables and all manner of pets and wild life which thrived in the trees and shrubs about the house.

One large room had a rounded ceiling covered in copper; there was also a special darkroom for developing film.

In the grounds stood what was thought to be the crow's nest of the 'Eclair' (wrecked in 1875).

Mr. Graham took great pride in two small cannon which he owned; for special occasions such as the Queen's birthday, these were fired to mark the celebration.

bottom of page