"............ where I met him down on the Lachlan years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows, Clancy of the Overflow"!
This chapter is mainly about John Clancy and his family living at various places - along Billabong or Goobang Creek, at Forbes and Booligal - on the Lachlan years ago, in fact about a century ago.
John Clancy and family (numbering six children) moved from Deniliquin to Billabong Creek, a few miles south of Parkes, in 1873. Along this creek there were a number of mining communities working the various leads.
The site of Forbes was a sheep-run, owned by T. Ranken until gold was discovered there in 1861. The Parkes goldfield was discovered in 1862, and along Billabong (or Coobang) Creek, the Welcome Lead (about four miles from Parkes on the left-hand side of Forbes road) was being worked in 1873. John Clancy was employed there as a butcher. His seventh child, William (my father) was born there on 2nd January 1874.
On 8th March 1874, McGuiggan and party discovered McGuiggan's Lead (about one mile west of Welcome), perhaps the most important discovery made on the Billabong Goldfield. Several other leads were then quickly discovered and within three months, the district population exceeded 10,000. The ground was being worked from a few feet to 200 feet. In 1874, gold won from McGuiggan's lead totalled 5,300 ozs, and in March 1875 a 40 oz nugget was discovered in an old claim.
McGuiggan's was a straggling township scattered among the holes along the Lead. By June 1874, it had 10,000 people, with 57 businesses along the main street, of which eight were hotels and one a brewery. in the main street, butchers were George Wylde, W. Little, W. Lowing, Joseph Ralph, D. McMillan and C. Goodall, and John Clancy may have worked for one of these. The premises were mostly bark huts or crudely undressed slabs, and homes were similar or tents.1
In March 1874, the people petitioned for a Post Office, and the Parkes-Forbes mail contractor was paid extra to go via McGuiggan's and London Leads. John Connolly, storekeeper, was appointed Postmaster on 1st December 1874, succeeded by F.H. Webb the following August. On 1st October, Henry Margules took over as Postmaster, and was also Registrar of Mines. In December, he sought appointment as Coroner. This was opposed by the Bench of Magistrates at Parkes on the grounds that the field was nearly exhausted and the population was greatly diminished. Hotels and other businesses were being moved to the rising township of Tichborne, and in March 1876 the Post Office was closed. Thus mining townships rise, have their day, and cease to be.2
In 1875, Parkes had three churches. The only other churches in the immediate vicinity were the Wesleyans at Currajong, the Congregational Church at Tichborne, and the Roman Catholic Church at McGuiggan's. The priest ministering there was Father Patrick R. Davern, who was described as having an enormous frame and a very red face.3
Registers of Baptisms for that period are missing, so there is no extant record of the baptism of William, nor of the next child born, Patrick Joseph, on 2nd July 1876. John's occupation is given as "school-teacher", and address as "McGuiggan's".4
Which brings into our story an interesting episode relating to education in the district. In 1874 the presence of 94 children at McGuiggan's prompted the, inhabitants to petition for a school there. In support of their application, they stated that a weatherboard building measuring 32 feet by 22 feet was available as a schoolhouse, and that a teacher, if unqualified, one John Clancy, should be appointed.
The Council of Education, wary of drifting populations, did not respond, and in August 1874 a fresh application was made when there were 274 children in the area, and Inspector Alipass inspected the diggings and recommended that a school be built. Two miners offered to sell the Council a building. The offer was turned down.
It would appear that the local residents, tired of the lack of response from the Council of Education, went ahead on their own, established the School, and appointed first Mr Sullivan, and later John Clancy as teacher. This could have been early in 1875.
On 8th December 1876, Inspector F. Huffins sent a memorandum to the Council of Education, to which there was an annexure from the residents of McGuiggan's applying for financial aid for the provisional school operating there (but the files containing the correspondence no longer has the annexure). Mr Huffins said the population was then smaller than it was the previous November, but there were sufficient children in McGuiggan's and Tichborne to give a large attendance for a Public School. He stated that as the majority of parents at McGuiggan's were Roman Catholics, it was not likely that a Public School would be applied for. He added:
"Since the mining population first settled in the locality, there has always been a private school (R.C.) there. Mr Sullivan (who is now teaching at two half-time schools at Cullen Bullen and Forestvale) had charge of the Roman Catholic School at McGuiggan's during the greater part of last year........ It appears to me that the object of the application is simply to have the private Roman Catholic School at McGuiggan's aided as a Provisional School......I fear it would prevent the establishment of a Public School."
He proceeded to state that within a radius of 1.25 miles of a central position between Tichborne and McGuiggan's there would be about 100 children of school age who could attend school - about 40 at McGuiggan's and about 70 or 80 at Tichborne. He said that only 47 children are named on the annexure to the application. Nearly all the Protestant children (21) named reside close to the Roman Catholic building at McGuiggan's. The residents should be advised to co-operate with Tichborne to establish a Public School.
From this communication from Mr Huffins, it appears clear that the people of McGuiggan's, tired of waiting for the Council to act, went ahead and established their school, which he called a Roman Catholic School, but which they wanted to be a Provisional School. As most of the parents were Roman Catholic, and as it would appear the teachers appointed were also Roman Catholic, it may well have been under the control of a local committee, wholly or predominantly Roman Catholic. But there were also some Protestant children attending.
It is a pity that the annexure is no longer part of the file in the Archives of the Department of Education. The list of parents and children would have made interesting reading. Of John Clancy's children, Jessie, John, Lily and Gerald would have been old enough to attend, and probably did. Probably when the first application for a School was made John was willing to undertake duties as teacher. Delay in commencing the school may have made him change his mind, and then when the school commenced Mr Sullivan undertook the duties of teacher, and when he left in the latter part of 1875, John Clancy consented to succeed him.
The Council of Education declined the application for aid to a Provisional School at McGuiggan's. Later in August 1876, the residents followed up their application with a memorial which read as follows:
"Gentlemen, We the undersigned members of the School Committee of McGuiggan's would beg respectfully to lay before you our position with reference to the local school. 1st That we have gone to considerable expense in procuring a suitable school-room. 2nd That we have succeeded in establishing a large attendance at the school. 3rd That the progress of the children has been most satisfactory. 4th That we consider that should we be compelled to dismiss our Teacher, who has spared no pains in the instruction of the children, it would be most unfair towards him as he has been led by us to expect aid from your Council, without which prospect he would never have taken charge of the school. 5th That should the school be closed the children would be virtually debarred from the benefits of Education as there is no school within reach of this place. In conclusion, we beg that you will authorise the continuance of the School pending the opening of the Public School. And your memorialists will ever pray. We are, Gentlemen, your humble servants Patrick Maloney Richard Maitland W. Maitland D. Bauer John Dillon D. O'Malley James McMurry Hon. Sec."
To this was attached:
"Memorandum from District Inspector to the Secretary McGuiggan's - Memorial from a School Committee relative to the temporary employment of a Mr Clancy as a teacher under the Council. I forward this Memorial to the Council, by a request, but I cannot recommend Mr Clancy's employment: 1. Because I know of no precedent that would justify such a course. 2. Mr Clancy has not the qualifications for the office of a teacher under the Council. 3. He declines to be trained as a Provisional School Teacher. I have ascertained from Mr Clancy that his intentions are as follows: 1. If the Council does not see fit to pay him to conduct the School which the memorialists prefer, he must give it up and open a Roman Catholic School. 2. That even if temporarily employed by the Council, he would, when the Public School is opened by the Council, consider himself at liberty to open a Private School. Orange 31-8-76 I.W. Allpass, Inspector of Schools."
Receipt of this application was noted in the Government Gazette (8-9-76). however, the Council supported the recommendation of the Inspector, and no payment was made by the Council towards this School.
These files indicate that John Clancy had been teaching for a considerable time, possibly from the latter part of 1875; school enrolment had been built up, despite a decline in the total population; he had given the Committee satisfaction and they wished to retain his services. He had never been trained for the position of teacher, but his education was sound enough to teach the three R's, at least, and it seems that he had no problems with his work. He even contemplated continuing it, if necessary, opening a private school. It is not surprising that he, a 45 year old man, had no desire to undergo a course of training. With a family of eight children, and probably only two of them working, this would have been impracticable.
After the request had been declined, it is unclear how long Clancy continued teaching. It may be that the Committee was dependent on some reimbursement from the Council to be able to pay a wage sufficient for him.
A souvenir prepared for the 80th Anniversary celebrations of the Tichborne School (which was established in 1880) records:
"Before 1880 there were three private schools on the McGuiggan and Tichborne Leads. One at Tichborne was taught by the late John Lynch and a mile further away on McGuiggan's one was taught by a Mrs Dudley and her two daughters. On the other side of the creek another was established by a Mrs Arnold."
This was after John ceased teaching. Most of the population at McGuiggan's had left by 1877.5
All over the country there were celebrations marking the Centenary of the birth of Daniel O'Connell. Parkes had a grand ball and banquet on Thursday, 5th August 1875. Next day, Tichborne had celebrations "on a very grand scale". That day was a half-holiday for Parkes, Tichborne and other centres. The Forbes Timeslamented that there were no O'Connell celebrations in Forbes - "perhaps there are no Irishmen in Forbes ...... Shades of Daniel! What are we coming to to forget like this!" The Irishmen on McGuiggan's did not forget. Nor did they allow St. Patrick's Day earlier in the year to pass unnoticed. There was a football match in the police paddock between McGuiggan's and Tichborne Clubs. It provided plenty of excitement, but the game as a game was sploit because people kept crowding on the playing area.6
John Clancy, listed as being at McGuiggan's in 1876-77, is listed as "butcher", Welcome Lead, Parkes" in 1878-79 Directories. Welcome Lead was still a productive mine, and John may have resumed his former occupation in that area. Directories were often a year or two behind with their information, and it is much more likely that John had moved to Forbes by 1879.
In 1875, Forbes had two churches - Church of England and Presbyterian; a Hospital, a steam mill and saw mills, and a school with an enrolment of 150. The town population was 1,200. Probably the move was to enable the children to receive better education, and the older members to obtain employment. Both Tom and Duncan were working, and probably John ("Jack") also. Young William commenced his schooling at Forbes.
In December 1879, the annual examination of the school was held. School enrolment was 170, and 140 were in attendance that day. The children, neat and tidy, were examined by the Head teacher, Mr N.H. Hunt, assisted by others. Miss Hordern was his assistant, and the infant classes were taught by Master J. McGlynn. Two days later, Rev. T.R. McMichael distributed prizes and the children sang some items, after which they dispersed for three weeks holiday. St. Joseph's School opened in February 1879 with 28 scholars, and ended the year with 150. The staff consisted of Mr O'Keefe and four sisters of St. Joseph.7
No details of John's employment for that period are available. One vivid memory of his son Gerald concerns the time when he was shearing, which could well have been about this time. The owner withheld about half the wages, saying that the sheep were ricked. Gerald felt this keenly as his father had very little money to take home, the kind of memory which would be retained by an eleven year old boy. From Forbes John took his family to Booligal, further down the Lachlan, and that was to be their home for the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Not that John was always in Booligal; work took him away, sometimes for long periods, but Booligal was home.
At the commencement of 1879, Duncan Clancy was working for J.B. Nicholes and A. Reymond, both of French origin, who began operating a sawmill in 1861 in Forbes, and a flour mill in 1870. Their cash book shows payments to D. Clancy of £24 in January 1879, and various other amounts to him up to 12th June 1882 when he received £35. The books did not often indicate what the payments were for, but occasionally against a person's name appeared words like wheat, logs, corn, cartage, suggesting that the payment was for the delivery of such items. Possibly Duncan Clancy did some carrying for them.8
Booligal, of all places, for like Nazareth of old it had no desirable reputation. "Poor little Booligal", a correspondent once wrote. And "Banjo" Paterson has immortalised the place in verse:
"Although our town hasn't got
The name of quite a lovely spot-
You see I live in Booligal.....
We prayed that both in life and death
Our fate in other line might fall,
O send us to our just reward
In Hay, or Hell, but gracious Lord
Deliver us from Booligal.
And the people here have an aweful down
Upon the district and the town -
Which worse than Hell itself they call;
In fact, the saying far and wide
Along the Riverina side
Is "Hay, Hell, and Booligal"."9
Indicative of the fact that there were people who spoke or wrote disparagingly about Booligal is this item from the local correspondent to the Riverina Grazier:
"Booligal is awake!!"
After recounting the farewell to a departing citizen, the item ends with these words:
"And if Booligal only wakes up when it is to bid
our friends good-bye, then may she sleep forever."10
R.B. Ronald makes this comment on the poem:
"The inhabitants of Booligal rather resent their village being immortalised in "Banjo" Paterson's famous poem, and ever try to show that the poet made an error of judgment."11
Doubtless there were people who resented Paterson's description. The poem was written during the time the Clancys were living in Booligal, and what they thought about it is not known. Before I ever knew where Booligal was, when I was a child growing up on the North Coast, I heard my father either recite the line or use the phrase "Hay, Hell, and Booligal". True he was somewhat embittered by his experience.
Booligal was home (or at least headquarters) for John Clancy for more years than any other place in his life-time. There his ninth child was born; there his wife died; there some of his children attended school; there his son "Jack" married (and a local girl at that). There his brother, Richard, had a store; through this place his other brother, Thomas, often passed in his droving career; there some of the children of his son, Tom, were born. The Clancys really put their roots down, sharing with the villagers the vagaries of the weather and the vicissitudes of the passing years.
Booligal began as a suitable crossing place over the Lachlan for stock being taken from further north to Victorian markets. But unlike towns at other crossing places, Booligal never fulfilled its early promise. For one thing, it lacked the river boat trade.
The Thom Brothers held Booligal run in 1849. James Tyson, who died a millionaire, owned large holdings in the area, including Tupra on which a John Clancy worked while the Clancys were at Booligal, but I do not know if he was our John Clancy or his son "Jack" or another person.
Booligal is distant about 49 miles from Hay. The road to it from Hay passed by Nine Mile Box, where another John Clancy (no relation) lived, then traversed One Tree Plain (which grows nothing but saltbush, a valuable drought-resistant plant and excellent fodder for stock), where water is provided by ground tanks or from an occasional well. Half way between the two towns was One Tree Hotel, a regular stopping place for teams and coaches. The single tree from which the Hotel took its name, was blown down in a storm on New Year's Eve, 1897. Twelve miles further north was Quandongs Hotel, also with a large tank for watering stock.
John Oxley and party on 5th July 1817 were the first white people to see the site where Booligal now stands. Edward Roset, probably in 1859, erected the first building, a hotel, on the site which in the following year was fixed "for a town to be called Booligal". By 1877, its population was over one hundred, and it had a school, post-office, three stores, two hotels, two butchers, a blacksmith's shop a resident Anglican clergyman (Rev. H. Dunlop) and some residences.12
Cobb and Co. coaches travelled through Booligal, carrying passengers to distant places, and in 1881 they were crammed with people hastening to the newly discovered goldfield at Mt Poole in the north-west corner. Robertson Wagner and Co. had coaches travelling between Booligal and Hay, each passenger being allowed to take 14 lbs of luggage.13
About 1879, Garrett Clancy established their store at Booligal. Doubtless it was Richard Clancy who induced his brother, John, to move from Forbes to Booligal. Probably the move was made early in 1880, and it may have been the chance of obtaining the position of pound-keeper that caused John to move. The Bench of Magistrates meeting on 13th May 1880, appointed "Mr John Clancy to be Keeper of the Public Pound at Booligal, vice James Finch resigned".14
John Clancy built two houses, one for himself and the other for his son, Tom, on the right hand side of the southern end of Lachlan Street, the main street 'of the village. The houses no longer exist, but a pepper tree growing near where the houses were still remains. Near this tree is the Hall.
At this time, the new Education Act became operative and the local School Committee informed the Department that Miss Bourke having left they were without a teacher. There were a large number of children, and they recommended that a married teacher be appointed. The letter was written by the Secretary, Mr C.H. Garrett, and signed by 13 persons including John Clancy and Samuel Giddins. Well might John show concern, for he had three children of school age - Lilias (9 years), William (6 years), and Patrick (almost 5), and that excludes Gerald, who though only 12 years old was already working. Mr F.A. Quinn arrived early in May, to find the school-room filthy, the forms and desks covered with the droppings of swallows which had built nests in the roof. He arranged for a woman to clean the room for 5/- and he sought reimburserhent, but the Department refused, adding, "teachers must make their own arrangements for cleaning".15
John Clancy, pound-keeper, was not always on hand to impound straying horses, cattle or sheep. Of necessity, he took other jobs, some of which took him away from Booligal. So the Bench of Magistrates on 16th February 1882 appointed his son, Thomas, as assistant pound-keeper, "in the absence of Mr John Clancy, Pound-Keeper". Thomas was a butcher, working for one of the local butchers, and being on hand could also attend to pound-keeping duties. But this may not have worked out satisfactorily for on 21st December, Joseph Ede Pearse, P.M., and C.H. Garrett, J.P., appointed another son, Duncan Richard Clancy, pound-keeper, "vice Mr John Clancy resigned". 16 As we shall see in the next chapter, both John and Duncan Clancy were droving in 1883, and that was not an occupation which could fit in with the position of pound-keeper. It is not known when Duncan relinquished the position, but he must quickly have realised that he could not be both drover and pound-keeper.
The Electoral Roll for 1882 show John Clancy, pound-keeper, Thomas butcher, Duncan drover. The Electorate (Bairanald) returned two members, one being John's brother-in-law, John Cramsie. Richard was listed as store-keeper. Thomas Gerald Clancy was living (when at home) in Victoria, but from time to time he passed through Booligal droving sheep, thus providing opportunities for occasional reunions. John's sons, Tom, Jack and Gerald, as well as Duncan, also did some droving, probably at first as members of teams with their father in charge. John Clancy and his sons also undertook a variety of other jobs, such as shearing, general station work, or whatever was available.
Jack Clancy had journeyed south, possibly with some older members of the family, and was in Melbourne on the day "Ned" Kelly was hanged (11th November 1880). Such was the publicity and excitement created by that event that it would be impossible for a fourteen year old boy to forget, and only natural for him to tell his family in after years, "I was there when it happened". He was also aware that the Judge who sentenced Kelly was Sir Redmond Barry, whom some of the Clancy clan regarded as a distant relative (purely on the fact that both he and their great-grandmother, Eleanor Barry, belonged to County Cork).17
The ninth and last child, Eleanor Anne, was born to John and Eliza Clancy on 31st March 1881. Some time after her birth, Eliza visited her mother, Janet Rankin, in Bendigo, taking young Pat with her.18
Mr Quinn continued to have troubles with the Department over housing arrangements and the school. The heat in the school one day was 110 degrees. There was no playshed, not even a verandah to shelter the children. The place was exposed and dry, and there was a great probability of children suffering from sunstroke. The number of children attending the school was 34, and one day it reached 37. "Had it not been for the blight which attacked almost all the children, the attendance would have been better". He requested two forms to be made by the local carpenter. He got by by borrowing a form from the Constable, and using an old box for seating.
The local carpenter was Mr J.P. Ledwich, who had moved to Booligal from Wanganella. He erected a tent at the school early in 1882 for £17:12:6. This tent had already been the subject of contention. The Inspector recommended that it be used for the school and that the existing school-room be converted into additions to the teacher's residence.
Local residents were furious. They wanted to know "the name of the person who recommended the sending of a school tent to Booligal when a school-house had already been built by the inhabitants of the above-named place at an expense say of £200. That the sending of such a tent was a direct insult to them". A notation by the Inspector on the letter reads, "a tent is equally suitable as a temporary provision at Booligal as at many other places from which no complaint is heard".
It was not long before the inadequacy of the tent was demonstrated by the rigours of nature, and the story is best told in Mr Quinn's own words. The letter is dated 30th March 1882, and is headed:
"As To Damage Booligal Public School to Tent in Violent Storm.
Tuesday morning set in extremely hot, with high wind, and much dust, what is commonly called in these parts a "Darling shower". After returning from dinner, it looking very threatening, I got two of the bigger boys to assist me driving the tent pegs right into the ground, and securing the ropes. When re-assembling it looked very black - distant thunder could be heard, and it was evident a storm was close upon us. At 25 past 2 when engaged with the junior division my attention was called by one of the older girls to the approaching clouds of dust. I closed the windows and doors, and for some three minutes it was like night. The squall then broke with hurricane force and heavy rain, at which time I felt anxious about the school building itself. The rain was driven between the weatherboards, from one end of the school to the other, and this with the noise of rain upon the roof and thunder greatly alarmed many of the little ones, who commenced crying piteously.
Shortly after the squall broke the whole of the tent pegs on the north side were drawn and it was evident it would be blown down -the pegs to which the main ropes at the west end were fastened were drawn, and the flapping of the canvas occasioned some damage to it - about this time the verandah of the Parsonage, 'just opposite the School, was carried away bodily."
He proceeded to write that the school-room was swamped and the children were wet through. Thereupon he decided to send them home.
The Inspector visited Booligal, and sent in his report to the effect that the canvas was torn to fragments, there was a quagmire around the doors, and the school is being held in the old school-room:
"The residents refusing to send their children to be taught in the tent ...... The tent is placed on the edge of a plain without a tree for 20 miles one way, and 50 miles the other, and exposed to every gale ...... The last gale levelled the tent, and carried the closet away some 50 yards."
The tent was repaired by Mr Ledwich for £5:6:0. Other repairs done by him were to the verandah, the building and the W.C., for £124:19:9.19
To complete the saga of the tent, I quote the Editorial of the Riverina Grazier of 31st January 1883:
"BOOLIGAL PUBLIC SCHOOL.
Our new Minister for Public Instruction has shown commendable zeal since his accession to office and power by striking out in new directions ...... It is to be hoped ..... that he will not neglect the claims of inland towns, where accommodation is most unsatisfactory ..... At Booligal this is particularly the case. The inhabitants of that township and district have not received the consideration they are in every way entitled to ..... Some eighteen months ago representations were made to the Department .... and promises were made, that proper accommodation would be provided, but only a tent was sent up to be used as a school ..... The ground all around the school is low, and in wet weather children have to wade a considerable distance through mud. There is no shelter from inclement weather, and no shade from the sun. The closets are badly out of repair. The parents of the forty children have a strong case, and we trust our representatives -Messrs Wilkinson and Cramsie - will see there is no more procrastination."
There were other issues besides the conditions of schools and grounds that affected the lives of teachers and children, and consequently their relations to each other and the community. Teachers in small communities found it necessary to avoid getting involved in local cliques, and their attention was drawn to regulations cautioning them against involvement in activities that could militate against their work as teachers.
One teacher, who after a good start, became involved in strained relationships, was Miss Marion O'Connor, who succeeded Mr Quinn in 1883. For some reason, two eleven year old girls, Lilian Roset and Maud O'Reilly, made statements in 1884 that Miss O'Connor had spoken adversely concerning Miss Wragge, who for the previous three years had been employed by Mr and Mrs Garrett as a governess. Mrs Garrett went to Melbourne in March, and was away for awhile. One day Miss O'Connor sent Sam Giddins to Garrett's store to purchase some items. Garrett accepted the money and handed over the goods. But about this moment he learned who they were for, so he took back the goods and returned the money. By this time he had heard what Miss O'Connor was alleged to have said.
When Mrs Garrett returned her daughter told her what Maud O'Reilly had said about Miss Wragge and the Garrett girls. Lily Clancy was standing just outside the door, and told Mrs Garrett that Maud O'Reilly had told her she was not going to be a witness for Mr Garrett nor would she tell on Miss O'Connor. Mr Garrett laid charges against Miss O'Connor. The Assistant Inspector, Mr Stewart Wright, visited the town to investigate the charge.
Mothers attended and gave evidence. Among them were Mesdames Clancy, Ledwich, Giddins and others. Each stated they were satisfied with Miss O'Connor's conduct, and had never heard her speak disparagingly of anyone. Many of the children were asked to give evidence, each one of them signing a statement giving name, period at school, and whether they had heard Miss O'Connor make the alleged statements about Miss Wragge. The statement of William Clancy is typical of all of them:
"William Clancy, pupil at the school aged 10 years and 6 months. I have been three years at this school and never heard Miss O'Connor make any remarks about Miss Wragge." (Signed) William Clancy.
Others who signed statements included Sam Giddins (12 years), Jane Giddins (10), Lillie Clancy (13), Patrick Clancy (8), George Giddins (6).
Having heard all the evidence, Mr Wright made his report in which he said he believed this was a proverbial case of making a molehill into a mountain. "I consider the case very trivial, emanating from petty local jealousies." Miss O'Connor remained as teacher until 1888, the longest period any teacher had stayed till that time. Pat Clancy remembered her as a beautiful young lady with fair hair, and he had a high regard for her.
Early in 1884, tenders were called for repairs to the school. Two tenders were received. One was from D.R. Clancy for £400, and he stated he could do the work in five months. He named as his sureties Thomas Clancy, drover, and George Adams, Gentleman, both of Booligal. The other tender was from J.P. Ledwich for £345:10:0, and his sureties were William Kelly, publican, and Edward Watkin, hawker, both of Booligal. 20 It is to be noted that Duncan Clancy's tender was received just after he had been appointed pound-keeper, indicating that he was working in Booligal at that time. It may have been his failure to get the job that caused him to take up droving again.
While all the fuss was going on about Miss O'Connor, Eliza Clancy was a very sick lady. After the birth of Anne, it was discovered that she had cancer. On one occasion her son, Thomas, took her to Hay in a bullock dray so that she could receive treatment, as Booligal had no resident doctor. Up to 1884,' Dr Thomas Lang, the first to minister to the sick and injured in the Hay district, had been living near Booligal on his selection, "Woorandara", and he practised in Booligal. When he died early in 1884, his obituary stated "he had been living quietly. on his selection, living on its proceeds, and his practise". He could well have treated Mrs Clancy for a time prior to his own death.21
Booligal's real "doctor" for many years was Mrs Samuel Giddins. She attended many a mother, near and far, when they gave birth to their children. She attended Eliza Clancy when Anne was born. But not only as midwife were her services availed of, for she was skilful in dealing with many ailments. In her frequent absences from home, her daughter, Jane (later Mrs Jack Clancy), acted as "mother" to her brothers and sisters. Naturally, she endevoured to give Eliza all possible aid in her last, painful illness.22
More and more Jessie and Lily Clancy were called upon to attend to duties in the home, to feed and clothe the family, and to care for baby Anne. When the end came, the following death notice was inserted in the newspaper on 25th June 1884:
" Clancy - On 20th instant at her residence, Booligal, after a long and painful illness, Eliza the 'beloved wife of John Clancy.
John Ledwich (nephew by marriage) was undertaker, and the body was laid to rest in the old Cemetery on the south bank of the Lachlan about one mile south of the village. 23 A new Cemetery now exists, and the old one is in a very delapidated state - the fence has fallen down, and stock wander at will. One broken headstone (to Mr and Mrs Roset) lies on the ground, and a timber railing around another grave is all that is left to mark the graves in the Cemetery.
Eliza had a strong sense of heritage, and fed the minds of her children with stories of their Scottish ancestors, stories which her daughters especially retained, and which were the basis of their proud claim to relationship through great-grandmother Elizabeth MacDonald with the famous Flora MacDonald and Mary McKillip (Mother Mary of the Cross). 'Eliza told of the sufferings of Roman Catholics in Scotland in the early days of the Reformation, and of the struggle of many Highland families to maintain their faith in the face of persecution almost down to her mother's' time. Many times I have heard these daughters, my aunts, recount these stories - and for them there was bad Queen "Bess" and good Queen Mary, and there was brave Flora MacDonald coming to the aid of Bonnie Prince Charlie as he made his futile bid for the throne. These stories came from their mother and grandmother.
Eliza, like other members of the Rankin family, loved music. Whatever else her home may have lacked (and doubtless it lacked much she would liked to have had), there was a piano, and her children were taught to appreciate music, to acquire some ability with musical instruments, and to sing.
The old songs of Ireland and Scotland were treasured, and were often sung in her home. This appreciation of, and practise in, music continued on beyond the time' of her death. Anne (only three when her mother died) became quite an accomplished pianist, and frequently played at concerts and dances at Booligal and neighbouring places, and later at Dorrigo. Her older sisters saw to it that she learned music. Tom could play instruments, and earlier had been a member of the Town Band in Forbes. Jack had a fine baritone voice, and frequently sang to his children. Gerald (better known as "Garry") loved to recite and was very familiar with the Australian ballads which became popular in his youth. He also played the piano. William both recited and sang, and in later years was a member of the Masonic Choir in Beilingen. Pat played both flute and violin, and was much in demand in those days to play at the western country dances.
John Clancy had a volatile temper, and there were occasions when he would return from work to the home in Booligal to find members of the family happily singing around the piano. Perhaps something in his work or relations with other people had displeased him, and he was in no mood to share in the merriment of the home. And if he could not be part of it, then no one else in the home would be. His temper would flare up, the music would cease, and the various persons disperse. One can understand this happening more frequently after his bereavement, the second time he was bereft of a wife. He might well have wanted to express himself in the words of the Scottish bard, "How can ye chant ye little bird, And I sae weary fu' o' care".
More than one Clancy had a quick temper, and one of the sayings of Jessie was, "The Clancy men would get in a temper and break your head, and then put a plaster over it" (her way of saying how sudden was the explosion, how quickly it would be over, and how anxious the desire to make amends).24
It will be recalled that it was only two months after the death of Eliza that John's sister, Catherine, died at Conargo, and he made the journey over there to be present at the funeral. Not very long after the death of Eliza, John Ledwich went back to Wanganella. And Richard P. Clancy left for Melbourne preparatory to going to Ireland early in 1885. He had apparently moved before 17th December 1884, when probate was granted to George Johnstone in connection with the late Catherine D'Ornay's will, "leave being reserved to Richard P. Clancy to come in and prove that the Testator died on 26th August 1884".25
John and his children (of the Clancy connections) alone remained in Booligal, and John was not always home. Brother Tom called occasionally on his droving trips. It is not known whether any other members of the Clancy or Rankin families (except John Cramsie as their Parliamentary representative) ever visited them at Booligal.
Tom Clancy, aged 25 years, married in 1884, his bride being Mary Muir, of Forbes. They probably met during the years the Clancys lived at Forbes. They lived next door to John Clancy and family in Booligal, and there their first four children were born.26
The year 1881 was very wet, but by summer 1882 the Lachlan was a chain of waterholes, unfit for domestic use, and stock were dying in every direction. Tom Collins in Such is Life describes the drought year of 1883:
"83 was a bad year. The scanty growth of the '82 spring had been eaten off nearly as fast as it grew, and afterwards the millions of stock had to live - like the Melbourne unemployed of later years - on the glorious sunshine. Then when the winter came, it brought nothing but frost; and the last state of the country was worse than the first. The mile-wide stock-route from Wilcannia to Hay was strewn with carcasses of travelling sheep along the whole two hundred and fifty miles I remember noticing once, in passing along the fifty mile stretch of that route which bisects the One Tree Plain, that, taking no account of the sheep, I never was out of sight of dying cattle and horses - let alone the dead ones."
The year 1884 opened with extremely hot weather and dust-storms. The Hay correspondent wrote:
"There is real distress in the north, north-west and north-east of the town On one such station not 15,000 sheep remain out of 130,000. The stock routes are closed."
In May a dust-storm around Booligal lasted from 9.00 am till late at night.27
Booligal residents received the ministrations of the churches - mainly Church of England and Roman Catholic. In 1861, the Rev. J.W. Eisdell was ordained and appointed to conduct services in the back country, including Booligal. In 1872, the Rev. William Weston was appointed first Wesleyan Minister to Hay, and immediately he began preaching at Booligal, Oxley, Tubbo station and other places. Although the Giddins were Anglicans, their daughter, Jane, was baptised by him. By 1875, the Rev. S. Hamilton was preaching at a number of properties owned by Presbyterians, and Gunbar became a Presbyterian centre of worship, but Booligal did not.28
It is not known when the Roman Catholic Church first celebrated Mass in Booligal, but during the time the Clancys were there it was being celebrated at least monthly. The priest from Hay visited there until 1889, when the parish was divided, and henceforth Booligal was included in the Hillston parish. The 9th March 1890 was a great day for Roman Catholics in Booligal, indeed for the community in general. The foundation stone of a new Roman Catholic Church was laid by Father H. Treacey of Hay, "in the presence of nearly all the residents", which would include the Clancy sisters, and some brothers if they were in the village at that time. The sum of £100 was collected for the building fund, a creditable effort. This building was in Lachlan street, a little further south than the Clancy's home.29
Heavy rain fell in 1885, and the road from Stolls to Jumping Sandhills (on the way to Mossgiel) was under water. In that area nine miles of country was covered with water, and the Willandra Crossing was 2.5 miles wide. Pat Clancy recalled this time, and said that when he visited a friend in the country, the whole countryside was covered with water. Early in 1886 the Hay-Booligal road was reported to be almost impassable.
During the year 1886, Booligal showed signs of development, a fact reported on by its correspondent in rather patronising tones:
"Booligal has at last woke up, and started a progress committee. It is time. A friend down from that place says that if the rain keeps up much longer, rescue parties will have to be formed to fish Booligians out of the mud in the street, the "indicators" being the floating hat or bonnet as the case may be."
And a little later in the year, reference is made to progress in some of the small townships, finishing with these words:
"Even Booligal is on the move - poor little Booligal, one of the oldest of our villages, and the furthest behind."
A year later a successful Sporting Club meeting, and then an item giving some indication of local excitement:
"We have a "centennial child". A son to the wife of Constable Bates of Booligal at noon on 26th January."30
As a variation to reports about recurrent droughts and floods came stories of destruction by rabbits which reached plague proportions in 1890. Hundreds of thousands were killed by poisoning and in rabbit "drives", and still they wrought havoc to the pastures. After the rabbits came grasshoppers in hordes. They cleaned up every growing thing in the Chinese gardens at Booligal, and made bare the countryside.
Miss O'Connor was succeeded by Mr Charles H. Pick as teacher, and he remained a number of years. When he arrived, the residence needed improvements and Thomas Clancy tendered to do the job for £ 67, but the successful tenderer was L. Causey and Sons of Hay, whose tender was for £40:10:0. Arbor Day celebrations were a feature of the school programme. In 1889, in the absence of Mr Pick for her confinement, Mrs Garrett taught sewing at the school. 31 Not long afterwards the Garretts moved away from Booligal. The old school was replaced with a new building in 1900, but the Clancys had left school well before this time.
The peak of Booligal's population was reached in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The 1891 Census showed that it had 30 dwellings, and a population of 70 males (including 16 Chinese) and 76 females.32
In the 1890's, the Clancys are mentioned on a number of occasions as taking some part in a number of past-times held in and around Booligal. On Thursday, 6th December 1894, a Plain and Fancy Dress Ball was held at "Bank" station, in aid of the reduction of the debt on the Catholic Church. Some thirty couples attended. Gerald and Pat Clancy and a Mr Rose provided music on violin and piano. At about 1.00 am supper was served, "the good things provided by the Misses Clancy who are entitled to the greatest praise for the way in which they looked after the comfort of the visitors". Among those in fancy dress were - Miss J. Clancy "Hospital Nurse", Miss Jane Giddins "Moonshine" Miss L. Clancy "Night", Miss Anne and Mr Pat Clancy "Irish Girl and Boy".33
The year 1895 began for the Clancys by attending Mass at which Father Treacey celebrated for the last time before paying a visit to the old country. Mass was usually celebrated at Booligal on a Sunday morning, but occasionally on a week-day in the morning.
The Bishop from Wilcannia, Dr Dunne, visited Booligal, en route from Hillston to Hay (where he had confirmation services) in April 1896. No details of his visit to Booligal are given, so it is not known whether he had a confirmation service there, but this is likely. Anne Clancy was then 15 years, and would have been her first opportunity to have been confirmed.34
Regular social functions were Balls, in aid of Roman Catholic Church funds, Church of England funds, or other community needs, and from time to time, members of the Clancy family are mentioned in reports. At a Ball in October 1897 in aid of the Roman Catholic Church, Miss Clancy (being the senior lady in the family Jessie is thus referred to) wore a buttercup evening dress, Lily Clancy wore a pink crepon evening dress with chiffon trimmings, and Anne wore a cream crepon dress with lace trimmings. Miss Giddins (Jane, no doubt) wore a white hailstone muslin dress, and Mrs Giddins wore a cream cashmere dress. So much food was left from this function that a repeat function was held next day from 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm for the children, who needed no second asking.
By this.date, both Churches in the village were badly in need of improvements. Four months had passed since a service had been held in the Anglican Church, but by Christmas timber was on the ground for a new Church. The Catholic Church was so much in need of repair that the last service for the year was held in Wineberg's Hall.
From time to time, the community gathered to farewell one of its citizens. When Mr J. Miller was farewelled in 1896, a stepdance was performed by Mr Beazley, accompanied by Gerald Clancy on the piano. Mr Spiller (organist at the Church of England) assisted by Anne Clancy acted as accompanist for solo items.
On St. Patrick's Day of that year there was a dance at which the telegraph operator was farewelled. He had been relieving Mr J.H. Hear, who had been on holidays. Gerald and Pat Clancy provided the music for the dancing. (Many years later Mr Hear was Postmaster at Bellingen, where and when I joined the postal service.)
One of the Clancys (initial not given, but it could have been Jack) was Steward at the first Race Meeting held at One Tree on 16th January 1897. He was always interested in horse racing, but told his family that he gave it away when it became "crooked". In June 1897, Booligal, like other places throughout the Empire, had celebrations to mark the record reign of Queen Victoria, and the Clancys made up part of the crowd who gathered in the Hall for a Musical and Dramatic Entertainment. For the first time ever, the Hall was decorated with scenery painted by Messrs Silk and Hayward.
A day and evening function was held in October 1897 at "The Gums", a sandhill covered with good sized trees, needle and hopwood. There were races, tug-of-war, cricket, rounders, twos-and-threes, in fact plenty of fun and activity. And plenty of food, cordials, blues, nuts and fruit. After a 5.00 pm meal, the horses were harnessed and away went the company to "Ravensfield" woolshed which had been especially floored for the occasion. Forty couples danced to music provided by Misses Gulson, Mesner and Mr G. Clancy (pianists) and Messrs J. Gibson and P. Clancy (violinists). The Clancy sisters were present. And so home about daylight to get a little sleep before continuing with the daily chores.
Then there was the Annual picnic on 9th November, held in the bend of the river about two miles away. William Clancy and T. Weaver went to no end of trouble to prepare their wagons, which they lent to transport 150 children to the site. Again races, sports, eats. The correspondent to the newspaper adds:
"Great tribute is due to the Misses Clancy, Miss Giddins, Miss Weaver, and Miss Dyball, whose efforts in seeing to the wants of all present were untiring."
These selected items indicate something or the variety of past-times engaged in by the people of Booligal, and reveal how they could rely on Jessie and Lily Clancy to take a lead in preparing food, and other Clancys to provide music.
Then there was cricket, not much played in the extremely hot weather, but indulged in in autumn and the colder months. On Easter Monday 1898, Booligal and Booligal station played a match, in which Pat Clancy made 1 and 3 not out. Later in the month, Booligal played a Fancy Dress Cricket Match against a country team. We do not know how Pat dressed for it, but he got an inglorious "duck".
At the commencement of the next summer, a match was played between Booligal and the District, Booligal winning by an innings, but William Clancy's "duck" was no help. Reports of these and other matches show that the Clancys were really not contenders for test honours.35
In 1891, Jack Clancy was listed on the Electoral Roll as "teamster", and a little later William was also listed as "teamster". Of course, both men were working for years before they were eligible to vote, but apart from assisting older members in droving we do not know what they were doing. Teams played a most important part - bringing vital food supplies to residents and taking away primary produce such as wool and wheat to wharves along navigable rivers, and (later) to railway stations. H. Douglas Harris has written an interesting book "Teamsters of the Black Soil Plains" which refers to the Hay and Booligal areas (and other places), but it deals with a period subsequent to that in which the Clancys operated. In a letter to me he wrote that he had heard of the Clancys of Booligal, but did not know about their work.36
In the earliest period the teamsters' vehicles, drays and wagons, were drawn by bullocks, and many are the tales of the loads they shifted, of wagons stuck on the black soil plains, of difficulties experienced in crossing streams and creek-beds, and of the lurid language of bullockies. C.J.Dennis caps them all with the story of the bullock-team stuck in a "glue-pot" until 83 year old Dan McGee took the whip, and of his success. He calls such men:
"Heroes of an ancient order; men who punched across the border;
Vanished giants of the sixties; puncher-princes of the track."37
No evidence exists that Jack and William Clancy drove bullock teams in the Booligal district, but William certainly did (and so did some of his brothers) on the Dorrigo years later. It is much more likely that they drove horse-teams, for (like their father and brothers) they were lovers of horses.
Hay was the terminus of the railway after 1882, the supply point for hundreds of miles around. Supplies were taken to the Lachlan, and beyond to the Darling, and wool brought back. The Clancys made such trips, and shared experiences common to the lot of such men - being bogged on the black-soil plains, helping another teamster out of a bog or make a crossing over a stream, nursing their horses over long dry stretches, sharing the bush cameraderie around a camp fire at one of the Public Watering Places which were strategically placed along all main routes.
Teamsters encountered financial problems. Who decided how much a teamster would get for carrying merchandise or wool? In 1886, there was a dispute between teamsters and station owners over the rate of cartage, and in September the Oxley correspondent reported:
"The teamsters appear to have got the better of the dispute .... The teams are now engaged at, I am informed, a fair rate."38
To maintain teams, or to do droving, or even be mobile, one must have horses. Which means somewhere to graze them, either on one's own land, or on agistment, or running on the Booligal Common, just north of the town, where for a small fee one could graze horses, cattle, sheep or goats. In the late 1880's and 1890's the rates were 5/- per quarter for horses, 4/- for cattle, 6d for sheep, 6d for goats, these rates being for each animal. In bad seasons more animals would be grazed on the Common, but in April-June 1897 there was no grass on the Common.
For the quarter ending July 1887, J. Clancy (probably the father) had one horse and four goats on the Common, the goats being for the family milk supply. Thomas Clancy grazed one horse. The following quarter J. Clancy had one horse, and Miss Clancy had two goats on the Common. Quarter by quarter, one or another (and usually more than one member) of the Clancys had animals on the Common. Gerald had two horses in April 1888, and J. Clancy six horses in 1889. This suggests that at that time he had a team. William Clancy only appears once, with one horse for the quarter ending January 1895. The number of goats in the name of the Clancys kept increasing, and went up to 20 in 1896.39 Probably Miss Clancy was supplying Booligal residents with milk. For one quarter, she had one sheep on the Common. Had she taken a pet lamb from her brother's farm at "Glendon" and reared it? Quite likely.'
Many Booligal men were engaged for part of the year shearing, some going from shed to shed making this their only occupation, others shearing only in local sheds or doing other labouring work at shearing time. John Clancy and his brother Thomas Gerald both did shearing, and so did some of John's sons.
In the late 1880's, shearers organised into unions to better the conditions of their employment. This led to conflicts with station owners who endeavoured to continue using non-union labour. Booligal figured in a confrontation between union and non-union labour. One Friday evening, late in August 1894, 19 free labourers arrived by train at Hay, en route to "Alma" station. Escorted by police, they proceeded to One Tree Hotel, where they stopped the night. Meanwhile, 200 mounted unionists from Mossgiel spent the night at Booligal, and met the free labourers next morning near Quandongs Hotel. They agreed with Constable Gallagher's request not to interfere with the men till they reached Booligal. The unionists accompanied the coaches back to Booligal, where they asked the passengers to join the union, saying that if they did they would be taken to the camp that night. If they did not want to go immediately, the unionists would order tea, supper and beds for them at the hotel. They also promised to give them pens in preference to the men who had been holding out for three months. All but two elected to join, and the remaining two agreed on Sunday morning. Gallagher described the men as a fine lot, about 350 or 400 of them. A unionist shearer who accompanied the coach said, "The sight of 200 mounted men marching towards the coach was one of the greatest military sights seen in the bush". One can imagine how this incident enlivened sleepy little Booligal. Some sided with the free labourers, but by this time public sentiment was very much on the side of the unionists. The Clancys out of their own experiences would share that public sentiment.
The incident was recounted in an original poem which appeared the following month in the Riverina Grazier, and is worth quoting in full:
"THE CHARGE OF THE TWO HUNDRED"
(With apologies to the late Poet Laureate)
Harold N. MacKenzie
No fatigue! No fatigue!
No fatigue! Onward -
Teeth clenched on purpose bent
Rode the Two Hundred
"Forward the cavalcade",
"Charge for the coach", he said,
On the "One Tree Plain"
Rode the Two Hundred.
"Who says that we're afraid?"
Shouted brave Jim McQuade.
"Curse the Non-Unionists!"
Roared he and thundered.
"We're not to turn and fly!
We're but to do and die:
Over the "One Tree Plain"
Rode the Two Hundred.
Coaches to the right of them!
Coaches to the left of them!
Coaches in front of them!
Through the mud floundered.
"Hands up!" the leader yelled,
Each "scab" his breath he held.
"Here are the jaws of death;
Yonder's the mouth of - - - -"
Roared the Two Hundred.
Coats off and arms so bare -
No one had turned a hair.
Hark! 'Tis their leader there
Giving 'em "rats", whilst
Coach drivers wondered.
Then from their mouths there broke
Cheers and tobacco smoke
"Scabs" before Union
Quailed as their leader spoke,
Shatter'd and sunder 'd;
Then they drove back and joined
The Two Hundred.
Men shall this Union fade?
Oh! The firm stand it made;
While squatters all wondered.
What a bold stroke it made
'Gainst the Wet Sheep Brigade,
Noble Two Hundred." 40
It was during this same month of August that a young woman named Letitia Bassett, employed by Mrs Massie, licensee at Adelaide Camp, a few miles down from Booligal, gave birth to a baby. The baby was either born dead or died soon after birth. Mrs Ciddins was sent for, and she took the tiny body back to her home where Dr Watt saw it. An inquest was held the following month at which Miss Bassett was acquitted. In the course of her evidence Mrs Ciddins said she was the only nurse in Booligal, and she had nursed people for the past twenty years.41
The activities of John Clancy from the death of his wife in 1884 until 1893 are not very well known. He was droving for part of the time, but this was not a constant occupation, and the rest of the time was taken up with a variety of jobs on the land, shearing being one of them. He did other kinds of work on stations, and on occasion he compared adversely riding around on those saltbush plains to riding around the lovely green acres of Copsewood in Ireland. Not that he failed to adapt to the Australian life. As his son Gerald said, "He was born an Irishman, but he was as Australian as a gum tree". He also said, "Dad was an Irishman, and a wild one", and we have already noted some expressions of his Irish "paddy".
After he was widowed he felt that he was not tied quite so much to the Booligal home, so he went further afield to work and stayed away for longer periods. At one stage, he was working on "Overflow" station, which is about 55 miles north of Condobolin in the Albert district. In its heyday, this station consisted of 290,663 acres, and for many years was owned by Mr R.S. Kinnear. In 1894, it had 48 paddocks, 12 yards, 2 wells, 89 tanks or dams, 120 acres under cultivation. Returns for that year show stock as being 570 rams, 27,000 ewes, 36,800 wethers, 18,500 weaners, a total of 82,870 sheep. The wool clip totalled 1,339 bales. In addition, the station carried 430 cattle and 182 horses.
It is not known just when John was working on "Overflow", but it was several years before that. When his son, Gerald, was in hospital in 1961 (he being then 93 years of age), he was interviewed by a reporter, and though he is in error about one date and one or two other facts, he was quite positive about his father working on "Overflow".
"I'm positive Dad was "Clancy of the Overflow" because he told me so himself. It was in 1895. There was a bit of controversy after the poem was published and I asked Dad to settle it. He told me that Mr Paterson had written the poem about him six years earlier. It was quite an honour. Dad and Banjo Paterson were firm friends. They knocked around a bit on the Bendigo diggings in '41." (The year should be '51, and this is an obvious error, for Paterson was only born in 1864.)
Another brother, Pat, said Paterson used to visit "Ulonga" station near Booligal, and that is where his father got to know him. They met through their common love of horses. Whether they did, indeed, know one another is not the important thing. What is important is whether John Clancy worked on "Overflow".42
Mr J.D. Gillespie recounted to the Freeman's Journal in 1907 that he had a conversation with Thomas Clancy in Rockhampton in 1898. He asked Clancy if he was anything to "Clancy of the Overflow". "Well", he replied, "I am supposed to be that party". Gillespie said that he was naturally interested, so he followed up with further questions, which led to Clancy saying that he had penned a little thing in reply to the "Banjo's". He recited the verses which Gillespie took down in shorthand. Gillespie kept these verses by until he saw Paterson's verses in a recent Issue of the Freeman's Journal. Thereupon he sent the verses and the paper published them together with the account of the interview I have just mentioned. The poem of Thomas Clancy, entitled "The Men of Overflow", will be given in the next Chapter. In it he refers to his decision "to travel, and leave the Overflow".
In 1910 when Thomas was interviewed by a reporter from The Advocate he showed the reporter Mr Gillespie's account of his interview, which the reporter incorporated into his article. After which he added:
"It is only right to add that there is some doubt about the identity of "Clancy of the Overflow". Mr T.G. Clancy was never on the Overflow, but he was on the next station. His brother was on the Overflow, but one or two allusions in "Banjo's" poem point to Mr T.G. Clancy as the person meant."43
Unfortunately, the neighbouring station is not named. The brother referred to is John.
Mr James W. Boultbee, Superintendent of Public Watering Places and Artesian Boring, Mines Department, Sydney, gave Thomas Clancy a reference, dated 8th June 1899. It refers back to his droving days:
"I have known Mr T.G. Clancy for nearly twenty years and when I was engaged in Pastoral work he was following droving. He was well known in the Albert District as an exceptionally careful and successful drover, handling exceedingly large mobs of stock on difficult roads with great success. Anyone requiring the services of a capable steady man in this line of work could not go wrong in employing him."44
Thomas Clancy was well known in the Deniliquin district prior to 1879, but by that date it appears he was becoming well known in the Albert district also, not only as a drover, but as an employee on a station near the Overflow.
In 1939, during my period of residence at Condobolin, I visited the Overflow, and met the owner, Mr N.G. Rae, and his wife. (Incidentally, Mr Rae died at Frankston, Victoria, on 26th December 1977, aged 91 years. His son is now on the property.) In the Rae family, there is the tradition that a Clancy worked on the Overflow, which supports the knowledge in the Clancy family that John Clancy worked there.45
Clement Semmier states that, in answer to a query from George Robertson, Paterson noted on Robertson's letter, ""Overflow" is not intended to refer to any particular run. It is just used as a typical name." He also mentioned that as to the origin of the poem, Paterson wrote later:
.... a lawyer's letter which I had to write
to a gentleman in the bush who had not paid his
debts. I got an answer from a friend of his who
wrote the exact words, "Clancy's gone to,
Queensland droving and we don't know where he are"."46
Be that as it may, the fact remains that John Clancy did work on "Overflow", and his brother was on a neighbburing station. They both did droving for many years and so did some of John's sons. Thomas often went to Queensland droving, and by the time the poem was written John's older sons had also done droving trips to Queensland.
The most probable period for John to have worked on "Overflow" was somewhere from 1886 to 1888. Paterson travelled the western areas whenever he got the opportunity, and got to know many places and people. He knew the name of "Overflow" station, and he must have heard the name Clancy in connection with droving, and may well have heard of a Clancy working on "Overflow". when he came to write the poem in 1889, without being conscious of a particular person, no doubt it seemed that the name of both person and place seemed appropriate, and so he gave us "Clancy of the Overflow". The poem was published in the Christmas issue 1889 of The Bulletin, and immediately it became popular and was recited constantly by many western people, including the Clancys. Thomas C. Clancy carried the poem around, on a sheet of paper, written in his wife's ("Nellie") handwriting. Gerald Clancy, aged 93, in Townsville Hospital, recited it through "without missing a comma", and asserted quite categorically "He was my Dad". All his brothers and sisters would agree with him. Richard also, as an old man in Brisbane Hospital, recited the poem for the benefit of staff and patients.
There is another connection between Paterson and the Clancys. lt was this same A.B. Paterson who drew up and witnessed the Will of Thomas Gerald Clancy on 14th March 1899, nine years after the poem was written. Whether Thomas did know Paterson before, or whether he thought it a good idea to get the man who wrote the poem to draw up his Will, we do not know.
Paterson was attracted to the name "Clancy" as a type of drover, and he used it in other poems. Behind the name as a type, however, there were a group of real flesh and blood men named Clancy who were drovers, and who belonged to our family.
How did the Clancys react to the use of their name in this poem. We have noted that Gerald said his father regarded it as quite an honour. But John Clancy is also described as a "wild Irishman" with a fiery temper. Apparently, someone once made some disparaging remark and he reacted strongly to the suggestion that his mate was such an illiterate fellow as to write "with a thumb-nail dipped in tar" and to use incorrect grammar. John had been educated, he had been a teacher; how dare the poet associate him with such illiterate people! Other Clancys have always been interested in the poem, and displayed personal identity with "Clancy of the Overflow". Duncan was the one Clancy of whom it could truly be written "he has gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are", for I have found it difficult to locate him in the 1890's.
The name and the theme of the poem was borrowed and used by others. It is well known that the metre and the ideas of the poem were used by Paterson and Lawson in their "rhyming-match" in the Bulletin in 1892. A not-so-well known poem was written by Mrs Anne Morgan of Omeo in praise of the horsemen of northern Gippsland:
'There were men who could teach clancy how to ride'.
In her praise of these horsemen, she is quite ready to scoff at Paterson's Clancy, the Clancy who is referred to in "The Man from Snowy River":
'Talk of clancy of the Overflow, I'd like to see him stay
Till a horse had bucked his brand to Holy Smoke;
And his droving mate once told me as it was alway Clancy's way
To leave the saddle when the girth-strap broke.'47
Fortunately, these lines never found their way up to Booligal, for most certainly there would have been an outburst of his Irish temper at this denigration of his horsemanship.
The last decade of the nineteenth century was a difficult one with a financial crisis adversely affecting everyone, followed by successive years of below average rain culminating with the disastrous 1902 drought, making life intolerable for the man on the land, and bringing heart-break and ruin to many, including William Clancy.
On a very hot December day in 1895, Mr J.E. Pearse, Police Magistrate from Hay, on official duty in Booligal, became very ill and died a few days later. Not many days after this Mrs Baldwin, wife of a boundary rider on Merungle station, died from heat exhaustion. Paterson's poem "Hay, Hell, and Booligal" was reprinted in the Riverina Grazier on 1st May 1896, and was quickly learned and recited by many.
The year 1894 was very wet, with over 20 inches of rain; then followed a succession of years with less than average rainfalls. A reporter writing in the Melbourne Age in 1897 on "The Great Drought of the Riverina" (little did he realise this was only the beginning) reported:
"From Echuca to Booligal a straight line running due north for 175 miles the situation may be tersely summed up in one word - desolation all dust and desolation, dying stock and disheartened settlers there is this year a modicum of truth in the expression, -Hay, Hell, and Booligal 48
On Monday, 31st January 1898, Messrs Clancy (probably Gerald) and Braid were riding along the fence that divided "Merungle" and "Booligal" stations when they found an old man, William Learner, exhausted for want of water. Mr Braid took him to Mr George Eades selection, and although every care was given him he died that night. He was reported to have been two days without water, and the temperature was 110 degrees in the shade.49
In June 1898, Booligal gave strong support for Federation by voting 59 for with only 3 against. The following year in a second poll the vote was 62 for to 3. Late in the year there were hot winds and clouds of dust, and around Gunbar myriads of caterpillars and grasshoppers. The Riverina Grazier was receiving "doleful accounts of drought from all parts, particularly beyond Booligal and Gunbar".50
In February 1899, Jack Clancy married Jane Giddins, according to the rites of the Church of England. A few years earlier, Jane's sister, Lizzie, married Jim Selby. The wedding breakfast was held in a tent. The two younger Clancy boys, William and Patrick, curious to witness the celebrations crept in partly under the canvas, where they remained undetected until the speaker stepped back on to Pat's hand. Whereupon he let-out a howl, and shouted, "Get off my - - - - hand".
For some time, Jim Selby had the coach mail run to Hay, and later went to Scarborough on the South Coast, where he was a carpenter in the mine. Jane Clancy paid the Selbys a visit, and there her firstborn, Claude, was born on 17th November 1899 Her second child, Patrick, was born in Booligal on 14th March 1901.51
In September 1902, Jack Clancy applied for an occupatial license of 640 acres in the parish of Burgess, part of Block III. 52 Despite dry conditions, he had ideas of following his brother, William, as a farmer in that area. Whether he was unsuccessful in his application or whether he changed his mind, we do not know. But, the drought having now lasted several years, a little later he took his stock to the Mitta Mitta in Victoria in an endeavour to save them. He took his wife (and her mother) and the two children also. Not knowing the connection between Mrs Giddins and Jane, some people in that area thought the Clancys were moneyed people able to afford taking a nurse with them. Once more Mrs Giddins acted as midwife when Pauline was born on 9th January 1903.
About a year later Jack Clancy returned, and ran a pig-farm on "Moon Moon" (owned by Steve Nolan) some miles up the Lachlan River from Booligal. Jack used to boil up the wheat to feed the pigs, and his wife made her first pocket money from the sale of butter which she made on the farm. The two elder boys (as Pat recalls) in those days of intense heat would try and walk in the shadow of their father because the sun was so hot and the sandy soil burned their feet. When the drought broke in 1904, this was Pat's first recollection of seeing rain, previous falls being too light to leave any lasting impression.53
Jack Clancy became fed up with the dry country, and expressed a desire to go to a place that was wet. Either at his suggestion, or as a result of mutual discussions, Gerald went to the North Coast to look for land where they could settle. He brought back a glowing report, which will be given in a later Chapter. Shortly after his return their fourth child, Reginald, was born on 21st July 1904.
Duncan was the one male member of the family who did not marry. It is believed that he had been unfortunate in love, and this may have had something to do with his wandering life. His sister, Jessie, said that he was "out beyond the sunset, hanging on a nail". He did not seem to have a permanent abode after he left Booligal, at least not until he went to northern Queensland a number of years later. It is believed that he was for some time in the neighbourhood of Tibboburra. An elector must have a domicile, and because he had none his name does not appear on any New South Wales Electoral Roll after it was removed from the Booligal Roll in 1891. Any western road with sheep on it was familiar territory to him, and the camp at night, wherever it was, was his domicile. There was a period, possibly early in the twentieth century, when he was in the employ of the Queensland Government, boundary riding along the New South Wales fence, somewhere in the vicinity of Thargomindah.54
The three Clancy sisters continued to live at Booligal, except for those occasions when they were on their brother, William's, farm. There is a tradition that Jessie Clancy was engaged to be married to Charles Fitzwilliam. Either on the eve of the wedding, or a short time before, he was sleeping in a tent, and the hurricane lantern was accidentally knocked over, the tent caught alight and he was burned to death. The Electoral Roll for 1887-88 lists two Charles Fitzwilliams (possibly father and son), one at Booligal the other at "Corrong". The next Roll has only one Charles Fitzwilliam. 55 However, I have not been able to find any information concerning the fate of the second man. If the story is true, this must have been Jessie's one and only love, for she never married.
Neither did her sister, Lilias. No reason is known unless Jessie's comment is correct, "She was waiting for a man on horseback to appear, and while she waited the men on foot passed her by", meaning she did not regard possible suitors as good enough. Maybe, another manifestation of Irish pride.
Anne's day of romance was still in the future. She had grown into a fine looking woman, and, as the years passed by, she revealed herself as gracious, cultured and a very good pianist.
During the years 1903 and 1905, seven Clancys (apart from Duncan and Tom, who had moved earlier from Booligal to Forbes), plus Jack's wife and children left Booligal to make their homes east of the Great Dividing Range. Whatever its drawbacks Booligal had been their home for twenty-five years, years in which each member packed a lifetime of experiences. They had known bereavement, they had suffered adversity, they had shared the mixed bag of experiences of this village of no great reputation, but the long years of drought culminating in the disastrous year 1902 was the climax that influenced them to bid Booligal good-bye, and seek greener pastures.