St Ambrose Church
Town of Windmills
following information was obtained from the Gilgandra
Aboriginal Lands Council. The Lands Council can be
contacted on (02) 6847 1477, Warren Road, Gilgandra.
Aboriginal population are now scattered through the
township in housing provided primarily by the Gilgandra
LALC, the Department of Housing or the Aboriginal Housing
Corporation. The remaining families are housed
through private rental, which we are now trying to address
through extra funding to alleviate overcrowding and high
to this, families lived on the northern side of the
Castlereagh River or on the south/west side in the
area known as "The Pines" and at Balladoran
which is situated south/west of Gilgandra.
On 15 December 2000 the Aboriginal people of Gilgandra and
other local residents and families celebrated the return
of "The Pines" to local Aboriginal people.
"The Pines" holds great significance to
Aboriginal people as the land where our families lived for
many generations, a town the west established, until we
were compelled to leave "The Pines" with the
advent of the 1960s programme called Housing for
Aborigines. Its return is possible through a
longstanding relationship between the Aboriginal people of
"The Pines" and a dairying, grazing family of
Gilgandra, the Hargraves.
Tenure History of "The Pines"
Part of "The Pines" was subject to the first
grant of non-indigenous interest in the Castlereagh area
when it became part of the Bobarah Run gazetted on 31
October 1849 in land "beyond the settled
districts". The estimated grazing capacity of
the 16,000 acres of the Run was for 400 cattle and 2,000
sheep. The other part of "The Pines" was
later included in the Castlereagh Run gazetted in 1874.
Many of the runs simply permitted graziers to pasture
stock for a modest annual rental. They also
frequently included the following clauses:
we do further reserve to the Aboriginal inhabitants of Our
Said Colony, such free access to the said run and parcel
of Land hereby demise, or any part thereof, and to the
trees or water thereon as will enable them to procure the
animals, birds, fish and other food on which they subsist."
these Runs brought graziers and settlers to the district
the Aboriginal people continued to practice their
traditional law and custom. RH Mathews documents
that in 1893 there was a great gathering of the local
Aboriginal people of the Castlereagh with the people of
the Macquarie, the Bogan and the Barwon Rivers for a great
the town of Gilgandra grew, the Aboriginal people camped
permanently amongst the scrubby indigenous pines, which
grew in the sandy soil near the Castlereagh River.
Our families lived there in shacks and houses they built
themselves, often out of material salvaged from the tip,
which came to be located at the edge of "The
Pines". The railway line was built along its
eastern boundary and the Gilgandra showground and
racecourse were carved out of "The Pines" during
camp endured throughout the 1900s with the men frequently
away doing fencing, rail splitting, rabbiting and other
work on various properties which developed in the area.
The camp was never managed as a mission or Aboriginal
reserve. It was the place where the Aboriginal
people of Gilgandra lived, raising children, coming and
going as work in the district required.
in the 1920s, the Hargraves family developed a dairy farm
on five plots of land between the railway line and
"The Pines". In 1962 the Hargraves
brothers acquired a permissive occupancy over part of
"The Pines" entitling them to graze cattle there
although the sandy soils did not support good pastures.
Men from "The Pines" also worked with the
Hargraves, managing the herd and doing the dairy run.
By 1968 the last of our families were moved off "The
Pines" into fibro houses that had been built closer
last of the Hargraves brothers stills maintains the
permissive occupancy over "The Pines".
The Native Title Claim
In the 1990s the local Shire Council proposed to
harvest the trees, which gave "The Pines" its
name, to create a sawmill to provide employment in the
town. It filed a nonclaimant application to discover
if any Aboriginal people were connected to the land.
To try to prevent the felling of "The Pines",
and with the assistance of the NSW Aboriginal Land
Council's Native Title Unit, in 1994 a native title claim
was filed on behalf of the families of the Wiradjuri,
Kamilaroi and Wongaibon/Nyaampur people who had lived so
long at "The Pines".
Back to top
following information has been extracted from “Back to
Gilgandra, September 1937”, originally compiled by Mr J
Nelson, A. Schemaker and H. Campbell and arranged and
reprinted by Betty Bartley in 2001.
present township of Gilgandra undoubtedly owes its origin
to the fact that in the Castlereagh River, behind the
current main street, there existed a hole of permanent
water, reasonably long and deep.
The word Gilgandra means “long water hole”.
village of Gilgandra was proclaimed on 8th
December 1888 and a sale of Town Lots was held by the
Crown at Coonamble on 23rd October 1889.
first wheat was grown in the 1860s, only about an
acre was grown. Wheat
on a commercial scale was later grown by John Collison,
Peter O’Neil, James Barling and Bonifous.
The earliest wheat growers used a wooden plough,
with a forked stick for harrows, reaping hooks and flail
and lastly cleaned the wheat with the wind.
Shire of Gilgandra was constituted under the Local
Government Act, 1906, and the first meeting of elected
Councillors was held on 8th December 1906.
first Show was held on the 15th May 1912
on the Racecourse. 2,500
people attended, gate takings totalled 65 pounds and there
were 800 exhibitors.
The number of exhibitors far exceeded the
expectations of the committee and the quality of exhibits
was very high. There
is probably no other Show in the West which started with
first Post Office was established on 1st
January 1867, the first postmaster being Mr James
Christian who received a salary of 12 pounds per annum.
A telegraph office was opened in Gilgandra in
August 1882, and amalgamated with the Post Office on 1st
November 1882. The
telephone exchange at Gilgandra was opened on 24th
first newspaper was established in December 1904 by
Alfred Porter and Thomas Crouch and was named “The
Castlereagh” and was produced as a four-page weekly on
May 11 1906 P.J. MacManus and J. Foley formerly of the
“Orange Leader’ staff assumed control of “The
August 1910 it was apparent there was a need for another
newspaper to serve the interest of the men on the land
politically and business men formed a company known as
“The Castlereagh Liberal”.
However, the venture was not successful and the
plant and goodwill was sold to Mr Perkins, who later
altered the paper from a bi-weekly to a weekly and changed
the name to the “Gilgandra Weekly”.
The application to establish a school in Gilgandra
was approved in October 1881. The first teacher was
Mr W. C. Kensett. The school opened on 10th October
and it was conducted in a cottage. The attendance
increased fairly rapidly, for the first month 54 children
were enrolled. In 1887 a new school building was
erected. In 1898 a classroom was added to cope with
growing attendance. An entirely new school building
was erected in 1914, at a cost of 2687 pounds and
additions were made in 1918 and 1929.
history of saw milling dates back to the beginning
of settlement in the district. For some years the
timber produced was cut by pit-saw method, but from 1890
onward the power driven plant came into use. In the
past the district was noted as a prolific producer of
timber, chiefly Cypress and Ironbark, and was once
considered as one of the principal individual Cypress
producing areas of the State. The continual
production for such a long period was of inestimable
benefit in the settlement of the district, as the industry
provided constant employment to a considerable number of
men for an extended period. Until landholders
realised the great value of Cypress, it was at times
ruthlessly destroyed, justified in cases to make room for
the year 1880 a Police Station was established in
Curban, but as Curban declined in importance and
settlements at Gilgandra progressed, the Police Station
was moved to Gilgandra. This building was later
demolished. In 1931 it was established in a room at
the Court House in Myrtle Street. The present Police
Station building was erected in Myrtle Street in 1934 and
police entered into occupation of the premises in December
of that year.
first court case was held on 29th June 1884.
The Court House was first situated in Court Street.
In April 1929 it was shifted down to its present site in
Volunteer Fire Brigade was
established on December 6th 1911 under the control of the
Board of Commissioners NSW. A manual horse drawn
fire engine was first installed. On January 16th
1912 the first fire was attended, a shop in Miller Street.
proposal for construction of a line of railway from Dubbo
to Coonamble was included in the Government Railway policy
of 1886 but no action was taken until the matter was
referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public
Works in 1899. Sir Wm. Lynne turned the first sod at
Dubbo in 1901. The first passenger train, conveying
17 passengers, ran from Coonamble to Dubbo on the 29th
July 1902. Conveyance of goods traffic commenced in
August 1902. To illustrate the extent of development
in the area served by the line the following figures are
1903:Passenger jouneys 7,590; goods (tonnage) 19, 469;
wool (bales) 20, 821
1936: Passenger journeys 23, 997; goods (tonnage) 62, 167;
wool (bales) 47, 436
In 1903 the tri-weekly mixed service from Dubbo to
Coonamble took 6 hours 30 minutes.
Back to top
1915 Coo-ee March
In 1915 thirty five men from Gilgandra district set
off to Sydney to enlist in the army. At each town
along their journey the men cried "COO-EE",
which is the bushman's call for help, to encourage others
to join them. By the time they reached Sydney the
numbers had swelled to 263 recruits. For further
information about the Coo-ee March and the 1987
Re-enactment March please click
Back to top
In 1900 Jimmy Govenor, part aboriginal, his white wife
Ellen and their small son came to Breelong where Jimmy
worked for John and Sarah Mawbey, local Breelong farmers.
Jimmy's brother, Joe, two cousins and Jacky Underwood
joined the 'Blacks camp'. A multitude of
incidents causing resentment to fester broke out when
there was a disagreement over poorly cut fence posts.
Mawbeys had just moved into their new home but on this
night they had visitors with ten women and children to
accommodate, so the men slept in their old home, the Inn.
Joe and Jacky set off to the Mawbey's house for revenge
and that night five Mawbey family members plus their
teacher were brutally axed, four dying of horrific wounds.
murderers set off as fugitives on the run becoming
bushrangers of the worst kind, outsmarting police and
leaving a trail of murders, maimings, armed hold ups and
district was thrown into panic and terror, women and
children were grouped into homes and guarded while men
joined the search parties.
250 and 500 police and trackers and 2000 civilians were
searching for the Govenors who were finally captured by
civilians. Jimmy Govenor was shot and Jacky, the
last of the bushrangers, was hanged in Dubbo Jail on 22
Back to top
Ambrose Church is important not only to those who profess
the Church of England faith, but it is just as important
to those of other denominations for it represents the
pride of the Gilgandra district - the best and greatest
service to the British Empire of any town in the Dominions
during the Great War. That is why the memorial
church of St Ambrose means so much to the people of the
district - it is proof that the town of Gilgandra had the
greatest war record. But although the church in
Gilgandra was higher in war service, the record which has
won our town such distinction could not have been achieved
without the co-operative war service of other
denominations. So that what we see today in the
shape of architectural beauty is a subject for universal
Parish of St Ambrose Bournemouth, England, desired, under
certain conditions, to make a peace thanksgiving of 1250
pounds to some town in the Dominion. The town had to
have a war record, and the grounds for choice were church
records and war records. For some time the town of
Moosejaw, Canada, was considered the most eligible, having
put in a fine record of service. Hearing of the
competitor when in London, on his way to Australia from
the seat of war, Bishop Long nominated Gilgandra and asked
the authorities not to give their decision until
Gilgandra's war record was placed before them.
When that was done it was the end of Moosejaw and all
other competitors. And so thanks to Bishop Long's
intervention, Gilgandra received this wonderful
distinction which carries with it a great amount of pride.
came the decision to build a beautiful church, and to call
it St Ambrose, which was a condition of the gift. St
Ambrose church is located in Wamboin St, Gilgandra.
Back to top
is known as the "Town of Windmills" as the town
once had a skyline dotted with windmills. As there
was no reticulated town water supply until 1966, most
residents supplied their own water needs from individual
windmills, drawing water from the sub-artesian basin.
By the late 1950s there were over 300 windmills pumping
water. There are still a large number of windmill's
to be found in the backyards of residential premises in
Back to top