We left Kununurra at 7:48am and took the drive to Lake Argyle to determine how long we need on Monday to be there in plenty of time to begin the lake cruise at 8:00am. The drive took us 50 minutes, but Monday will take longer as it will not be very light so we will drive more slowly.
We passed the entrance of the Lake Argyle Caravan Park and all the vans waiting to get in – hope they had a booking. The park covers and area of more than 5 hectares and has over 100 shady sites. There are even more without shade, and I wouldn’t like to be in one of them. However, the scenery would be magnificent.
It is a bit pricey during the dry season, and although it has a restaurant onsite, there is nowhere to buy fresh food and veges so you would have
to travel the 70 kilometres to Kununurra to do your shopping. If you have just come across the border and have had to give up all your produce it would be an expensive day all round.
According to Wikicamps they are short staffed like everywhere else up here, so a lot of the cleaning is not being done to any standard, and maintenance is outstanding on several items also.
It looked fairly jampacked to us and you would end up being close to your neighbours whether you wanted to be or not. At least the people who have stayed there loved the music each night (another reason for me to stay away, I think).
We checked in at the Lake Argyle Cruise office to see where we could park the car while we are cruising. All that is now in hand so some of the anxiety about a new trip has been taken care of for Russ and me.
We went up to the top lookout, then drove along the Ord River Dam wall. Checked out the water outlet pipes in full roar and took photos too numerous to mention – in the 400 range, and still to be processed.
Work began on the Ord River Dam on 10 April 1969 to supply irrigation water for the agricultural properties in the area.
The Intake Tower structure is 57.9 metres high, and the span of the access bridge is 51.9 metres long. It has two outlet tunnels with a combined length of 615.4 metres, and the diameter of each tunnel is 4.42 metres.
The controlled discharge of water is up to 42 metres per second for each of the three 1.98 metre Howell Bunger type regulating valves. It is an amazing construction.
On the way back we stopped off at the Lake Argyle Homestead which was fascinating. We enjoyed Peter’s Billabong ice-cream for morning tea, and we were back at the van in time to watch the Collingwood versus Port Adelaide clash at the MCG.
Another nail biter with a ripper finish. Jeannie has said she is going to invest in a defibrillator to cope with her heart attack that she is sure will happen soon if they keep playing like this.
Lake Argyle Homestead – The original site of this pioneer homestead, Argyle Downs Station, was established in 1886 when Patrick (Patsy) Durack sent his sons Michael Patrick and John Wallace from Queensland to set up the station. Patsy arrived in 1887 to help his sons and his wife Mary arrived in 1889 after a financial disaster left his Queensland interests in ruin.
Mary died at Argyle Downs Station from malaria on 24 January 1893.
Grieving over the loss of his wife, Patsy built a new homestead for his family in 1894, from handcrafted limestone blocks with crushed termite mounds as mortar, and wide verandahs paved with flat riverbed stones.
Patsy Durack died on 24 January 1898, exactly five years after his beloved wife.
The site of the original Argyle Downs Station now lies beneath the waters of Lake Argyle. Retrieved stone by stone and numbered for reassembly and remained in storage in Kununurra awaiting funding. A grant for $98,330 was received from the Federal Government and $30,000 from the WA Government.
The homestead has been reconstructed with faithful attention to historic detail 16 kilometres from the original site, and is located on a hilltop above the shores of Lake Argyle.
The walls are at least a metre thick and there are doors on all rooms which allows a cross flow of breeze from wherever it may be blowing. It was noticeable cooler inside the homestead than standing out on the lawn, even if you managed to get a patch of shade.
Like most homestead construction the front and back door are in line with each other, and the rooms radiate off each side of the hallway. Each of the rooms (There are only a total of 6 all up) has a doorway to a wide verandah, and in the homestead when it was used as the family home there were curtains hung across the interior doorways, no doors.
In 1979, the Western Australian State’s anniversary year, the rebuilt homestead was transformed into a museum of pioneer history as a memorial to the vision and courage of the families who first settled the vast Kimberley region. The key to the front door was presented to Dame Mary Durack, granddaughter of Patsy and Mary.
The Argyle Homestead Museum is managed by the Kununurra Visitor Centre with caretakers in residence from April to September.
Generations of the Duracks were born around Magerareagh, originally Galway in Western Ireland, until 1899 when it was moved within the boundary of Clare. It is told that the Duracks fought beside Brian Boru, High King of all Ireland, against the invading Danes.
It is quoted in the history of County Clare as amongst names existing before the fourteenth century and was known as “O’Duracks”.
When Henry VIII set about the conquest of the Irish nobility by granting confiscated monastic property to his supporters, created earls and granted further estates, the O’Duracks, for their stubborn refusal to bend the knees to a Protestant overlord, were stripped of all privileges, even the O’ prefix to their name.
For thousands of years the Duracks had tilled their fields and pastured their stock on the green banks of the Shannon at Ogoneloe.
One of the Durack descendants, Michael, married Bridget Dillon in 1831, and took up a farm on the Clare side of the Lough Derg, which land had been of the original family holding of Ogoneloe.
The bitter blight of 1845 struck deep at the roots of the Irish life. Never before were there so many people starving in the midst of plenty since cattle and other produce must be sold to meet the crippling rents and ‘famine rates’ that was ‘squeezed’ out of the tenants. Emigration was on everyone’s lips.
In 1848, Michael’s brother, Darby Durack married Margaret Kilfoyle, scraped together enough money for emigration and set sail on the ‘Duke of Roxborough’ from Plymouth in 1849 to ‘the colony’.
On August 28 Darby, with his wife and infant daughter, Bridget (born on the ship), faced their first inland journey in the new colony with mingled
sensations of relief and apprehension, and found a home with James and Caroline Chisholm at Kippilaw estate, 12 kilometres west of Goulburn, NSW (recently sold in 2014 for $6.2 million and now an Airbnb). Darby would end up fathering thirteen children.
By the end of 1852 Michael Durack also faced the fact that he and his family must emigrate or starve but they had virtually nothing with which to make even a small down payment on their fare.
Eldest son, Patrick (known as Patsy) as a seventeen-year-old, aided a rich Lordship and was rewarded with a sovereign which produced enough money from their rewards off their farm to emigrate them all to Australia.
By 1853, Michael and his wife ‘Mammie’ Amy and their seven children arrived in Australia and were proudly greeted by Darby, now a father of three children. They were able to become part of the Chisholm’s Kippilaw Estate workforce.
Michael and young Patsy were returning to the homestead after collecting a dray load of wood, when a kangaroo startled the blinkered horse. Michael was hit by a piece of timber and fell across the track, while the dray lurched backwards and jolted over him with its crushing load. Michael died instantly.
He left a widow and eight children, and left Patsy (now 18 years old), with the cares of the world on his shoulders, a child one day and a man the next.
Patsy quickly organized his family and with his Uncle Darby’s disapproval set out for the gold fields, where 18 months later he had made £1,000. He returned to Goulburn and eventually, with Darby, obtained land on Dixon’s Creek in the country of Argyle and settled into farming.
Patsy Durack, at the age of 28, married a pretty, spirited Irish girl named Mary Costello in the spring of 1862, despite the fact she was a Protestant. And much to Patsy’s delight other branches of the Durack family had now come from Ireland, some to settle in the Bathurst district, others to go into a hotel business in Sydney.
In 1867 he took up a pioneering cattle property on Cooper’s Creek in southwest Queensland, establishing a homestead at a waterhole he
named Thylungra. By 1877 his cattle empire had increased from 100 to about 30,000 head of cattle. Always mindful of the risks of drought, as well as the needs of his expanding family, both immediate and extended, he continued to seek more dependable land.
In 1870 Alexander Forrest led a party of eight men to explore the remote north. He named the lands he found the Kimberley. An initial condition of the lease of this new territory was that the land had to be stocked within two years, later extended to three years.
Patsy was excited by these reports of the newly released Kimberley land and the rush for leases forced him to apply for land unseen. He and his younger brother, Stumpy Michael, set off in 1882 on an expedition of his holdings.
The Duracks were not alone in driving cattle across northern Australia to stock the recently released Kimberley land. At times they crossed the tracks of the renowned bushman, Nat Buchanan, who had been the first to bring cattle in the Kimberley region, stocking the Ord River Station in 1883.
The Duracks also had contact with brothers, Charles and William McDonald. The McDonald brothers left NSW with a herd of cattle on a journey of 5,600 kilometres to the West Kimberley area where they established Fossil Downs Station in 1886. This cattle drive remains the longest cattle drive recorded in history.
The family tree, updated in 2019, contains the names of over 750 descendants of the brothers, Michael and Darby Durack.
As we entered the boundary fence of the museum, we gravitated to a tree on the corner fence post where we could hear a bowerbird.
There is a sign on the fence near the tree which introduces a Great Bowerbird named Patsy, who is considered to be the bowerbird in residence at the museum.
The sign goes on to educate all by saying:
“I collect a variety of white, green and silver objects to put in my nest, and when I am calling for a mate, I have a lilac crest on the back of my neck.
This nest is my bower. It is not a nest but a display area for luring my partner. If you upset it in any way, my potential partner will not visit me and I won’t be happy.
I really don’t like people chasing me up and down the hedge. If you wish to take a photo of me, please sit on the grass and wait patiently for me to appear.
Enjoy your visit to the museum and many thanks. (Signed) Patsy
We didn’t have to sit on the grass as Patsy very kindly appeared in the tree for Russ to take his photo.