Hergott Springs to Birdsville - The Mail run

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With the introduction of camels for India and Afghanistan in the 1830's it came as no surprise that by 1850 several enterprising Afghan cameleers had become successful businessmen.

One such company established in Marree or Hergott Springs as it was then called was the Camel Troop Carrying Company Ltd which unsuccessfully petitioned the government for financial aid in October 1858

Tracks north opened from the 1850's onward and the establishment of pastoral leases came the need for communications and supplies from the south. The community of Birdsville had long been supplied from the north out of Alice Springs

Lake Harry station then Kopperamanna, New Well or Apatoongoonie Hut and Well to give its correct title Mulka, Mungerannie, May Hills and so many other leases required a reliable service from the south.

Several brave men took on the role of the first mailmen of the track. One of the first known was to be John Neaylon who is mentioned as delivering mail to the post office at Kopperamanna as early as 1879

The first mail officially acknowledged service was pioneered by Jack Hester in 1884 followed by a mail-passenger service opened in 1886 by August Helling using packhorses and buggy.

In 1890 it was suspected that Mr Helling, or his driver, was also involved in Sly-grog selling, although this was never proved. This practice was quite common. Eating houses which operated at Clayton, Blazes Well, New Well, Mungerannie and Mulka were all suspected of illegally supplying alcohol.

Very few cases have been proven and even fewer convictions made.

The Birdsville Mail run would include the following pastoral leases, Lake Harry, Clayton, Dulkaninna, Cannuwaukaninna, Mona Downs Tidnacoordooninna, Etadunna, Kopperamanna, Killalpaninna, New Well, Mulka, Oorawillanie, Mungerannie, Blazes Well, Apatoongoonie, Cowarie, Kalamurina, Mitta Mitta, Mount Gason, (named after police trooper and later publican Samuel Gason) Minnie Downs, Karratunga, Alton Downs, Mays Hills, Clifton Hills, Pandie Pandie, Andrewilla, Diamantina and Birdsville.

In 1888 the driver for the Maree to Birdsville mail run under Hellings was Ted Steers.

From 1900 until 1920 the mail and supplies were carried north along the then named Birdsville Track by mail coaches and horses under contract to Frank Booth. Several took on the contract with the use of cars and early trucks of the times including model T Fords.

In 1936 a local business owner from Yunta in Sth Australia took up the mail contract to deliver mail and supplies to Birdsville with stops along the track.

It was due to a bad breakdown on the track that Harry was to introduce wireless radio systems to his many trucks which plied the lonely track.

One such mail run driver was Tom Kruse who was hired by Harry Ding in 1932, he would begin his first run up the track on January 1st 1936.

Harry employed several men on this Birdsville run including Dave and Monty Scobie, Ken and Allan Crombie, Fred Teague, Tommy Robinson and Max Bowden.

Monty Scobie

Tom Kruse bought the Maree to Birdsville section of Harry's sprawling business in 1947. Tom took over the Birdsville mail contract for 396 pounds a year. In early 1951 Tom stopped doing regular trips along the track. He had started an earthmoving and dam sinking business in the pastoral north.

Tom held the mail contract for 15 years, hiring several drivers over the years and sold it in 1963.

The mail today is delivered by air with the contract held by Westwing Aviation who continue to call in at the largest pastoral leases along the track. Supplies are now hauled from Port Augusta to Birdsville by Track Freight Trucking, surprisingly owned by yet another Tom.

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Phil G. | Mungerannie Hotel