Mildura Weekly : Friday January 30 Vol 9 No 12 2015
14 NEWS MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 2015 ANECDOTAL evidence suggests he was a teacher who came out to Australia by early sailing ship from the United Kingdom to work on station country between Mildura and Eus- ton, and drowned in the Murray River near Colig- nan at the age of 58. That was in 1872, and Donald Mackenzie, from Ross-shire in Scotland, was buried where he had lived and worked - near the original NSW homestead site of Tapulin Station, on a high red loam sandhill known as ‘The Mulberries,’ overlooking the spot on the mighty Murray River where he had lost his life. Long-time residents of south-west NSW recall hearing the story when they were youngsters, and say there were at least four graves along that stretch of river, but most were van- dalised about 1970, and now almost certainly lost for ever. From what is remem- bered, Donald Mackenzie came out from Scotland to tutor station children in the then isolated region of NSW, but tragically, a simple swim in the Mur- ray River brought him un- done. Station folk must have thought highly of the man who taught their kids to read and write...even 142 years after his death the marble headstone is im- pressive, the centrepiece of a large plot surrounded by an iron grill set into con- crete ‘kerbing.’ Sadly, a lot of the loose and intricately-moulded solid wrought iron upright bars were pilfered over the years...28 in total...but two local bushmen with a keen sense of history have rectified that situation, completing a grave resto- ration and site clean-up in the hope of preventing further degradation. Craig Alderton from Mildura and Alan Erskine from Colignan mounted their restoration operation several weeks ago, replac- ing the missing uprights, thanks to assistance from Gregg and Sons Steel of Buronga, who supplied the new bars at cost. Craig and Alan ended up having a couple of lengthy working bees, tak- ing a generator and welder by boat, and again later by four-wheel drive, to the re- mote bush site to weld the remaining steel uprights in place, carry out repair work on the concrete, replacing a missing sec- tion with part of a railway sleeper, and using shovels and a rake to restore the site to its former glory. Craig, who knows the area well, said he had been considering the facelift for some time, recently discussing it over a beer with Alan, who had the same idea after recalling the great work that NSW riverside land-holder Paul Cohrs had carried out over several years on grave res- torations between Lake Victoria and Cal Lal. There are dozens of grave sites near that stretch of the Murray River, many forgotten and neglected until Paul started his restoration project. The number of graves is an indication of the region’s isolation, and the fact that medical help was a long way away if someone was sick or injured, or had an accident. Many suffered a similar fate to Tapulin’s Donald Mackenzie, falling to the temptation of cool- ing off in the inviting, but often treacherous, Murray River. Few of the early set- tlers knew how to swim. • Continued Page 18 It’s quite literally a grave situation that’s finally been rectified. This is a bush grave with history, one of many dating back to early settlement, with most neglected for years. Some have even been lost for ever, vandalised, headstones missing, or erosion taking over. But there’s good news for one grave that dates back almost 150 years, the last resting place of... The Scottish bush tutor who drowned BEFORE AFTER • RESTORED: The ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots tell the story of the Murray River grave site, on the NSW side of the river opposite Colignan. The large, single-plot graveyard was overgrown with weeds and fallen tree branches, with 28 of the steel uprights missing. The site has now been cleaned up, with the uprights replaced. • Craig Alderton, left, and Alan Erskine toast the end of the job, and Scotsman Donald... with a wee dram of whiskey, of course. • LEFT: The old, and new, uprights. They have been welded into position to stop further vandalism. HE may be a mystery man to us, but the Mac- kenzie name is right up there with the best of the clans in Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands. And this is obvi- ously where Donald Mackenzie was born and raised, the area centred on famous Castle Leod, a fortress confirmed as ‘headquarters’ of the Mackenzie clan by Mary, Queen of Scots. It is still the seat of the chief of Clan Mackenzie. As far as we know, Donald didn’t leave any written records locally of his time growing up in Scotland before he migrated to Australia, but there’s no doubt he would have been able to tell some stories. Leod castle was granted to John of Kil- lin, 10th Chief of Clan MacKenzie (1485-1561) after he fought at the Battle of Flodden. It’s a formidable structure, with some walls up to 2m (8ft) thick, and in- corporating other de- fensive measures that include iron grilles on lower windows, numer- ous splayed ‘gun loops’ and arrow-slit windows. • Continued Page 18 Home of the Mackenzie clan Monday–Friday: 7:00am–5:00pm Saturday: 8:00am–12:00pm Sunday: Closed TIMBER BUILDING MATERIALS HARDWARE FLOORING CLADDING TRUSS & FRAME WINDOWS DOORS DOOR FURNITURE KITCHENS PLUMBING TOOLS FASTENERS REINFORCING DECKING ROOFING DAHLSENS MILDURA 973–1029 Benetook Avenue 3502 Ph: (03) 5023 1111 email@example.com d DAHLSENS MILDURA YOUR LOCAL BUILDING SUPPLIES TEAM. Here to help you build. From Foundation to Fit Out. Stay at the Silver Haven Motor Inn From $80 for two people per room per night Call 08 8087 2218 Visit www.silverhaven.com.au Looking for Accommodation in BROKEN HILL?
Friday January 23 Vol 9 No 11 2015
Friday February 6 2015 Vol 9 No 13