Roy Glashan's Library
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AIDAN DE BRUNE

A STROLL AROUND AUSTRALIA
TEN THOUSAND MILES

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2017

As published in
The Moora Herald and Midland Districts Advocate,
West Australia, 8 & 15 June 1923

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-08-25
Produced by Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Illustration

A photograph of Aidan de Brune taken in 1921



INTRODUCTION

THE much-travelled journalist-novelist Aidan de Brune, an Australian of French-Canadian extraction, began his epic hike from the offices of The Mail newspaper in Pitt Street, Sydney, on 20th September 1921. He planned to walk round Australia via Brisbane, Cairns, Port Darwin. Wyndham, Geraldton, Fremantle, Albany, Port Augusta, Adelaide and Melbourne.

On 28 October 1921 the Queensland newspaper The Chronicle & North Coast Advertiser characterised de Brune, now known as "the amateur tramp," as follows:


The man who has undertaken this big task is a bright-eyed, tanned, and wiry individual, whom one would at first glance take for a real "sundowner."

He is a French Canadian, and was brought up in the Transvaal. His association with the Boers enabled him to perform good work for the British Army during the last Boer War. He was only 16 years of age at the time, and is still on the right side of forty.


THE Australian press published more or less regular progress reports about de Brune's undertaking. The following appeared in The Northern Standard, Darwin, on 5 October 1923:


TRAVELLING towards us at the average rate of between 15 to 20 miles a day is a compact storage packet of dynamic force known as Aiden de Brune. This extraordinary human machine has covered thousands of miles in his walk round Australia, and is now on the home stretch, somewhere along the coast of the Great Australian Bight, approaching South Australia's western border.

When de Brune set out he attracted no notice. A few hundred miles further on he was regarded as a homeless tramp, because he looked like one. In Queensland folks began to take notice of him, and considered him a crank who would end up dead beat in some back country town. When he reached the Northern Territory border bushmen wanted to know where he was bound for and if he needed any help. When he got well in after covering a couple of thousand miles, they asked why he walked when he could steal a horse, and offered to steal one, or several for him, or give him a few if he would prefer them as a present.

When they found that all he needed was friendship, a drink of tea and a bit of beef and damper now and again, they reasoned with him and tried to induce him to settle down on good food and water with them...

They had discovered that he could extract from a shanty piano music that nobody knew was in it; could sing a good song, tell a good story, squeeze sweet sounds out of a concertina, give some very excellent advice to those in travail, and generally act like a being from a better world.

In Darwin he tried to make peace between two rival unions, and only realised the impossibility of it when he discovered that the disturbing element was the Commonwealth Government, and that factional strife had been deliberately fomented to break industrial unionism in the interest of moneyed combines.

But he earned the good will of both sides as an honest hearted trier.

I had just come into Darwin with my wife out of the Gulf of Carpentaria, where we had been wafted about by sundry cyclonic disturbances when I got a wire from the "Daily Mail" asking me to look out for Aidan de Brune walking round Australia.

I expected to see a superman come striding in with a gun on his hip, dominating everybody he met with the magnificence of his physique, and then I forgot all about him.

In a month or so a little man, who was positively droll, came stepping along the sleepers into Darwin, followed by a number of aboriginals who wanted to know what tribe he belonged to. However they soon found out Aiden de Brune was a proper white man, and a high grade at that.

De Brune is under 5ft 6in., weighs under 9 stone, and has a face that looks weak. But he also has a will that is steel.

He has arrived at a station hut with a half-eaten 'goanna in his belt, and left it with a few johnny cakes, and the undying friendship of the lonely stockman.

When you see him you want to get away from him. When you speak to him you don't want him to go away from you. He is a man and a gentleman up and down, and a library of information. He is a sport among sportsmen and a man of whom the Australian Journalists' Association should be proud, for he has not spared himself to get copy.

Aiden de Brune has not finished his walk but should he never move another yard further, he will have put up a record that few, if any, will ever attempt to equal.


Aidan de Brune's own account of his walk is given below.

Roy Glashan, 25 August 2017



A STROLL AROUND AUSTRALIA

By AIDAN DE BRUNE

As published in
The Moora Herald and Midland Districts Advocate,
West Australia, 8 & 24 June 1923

TO leave Sydney on foot, to walk ten thousand miles (more or less) around Australia, calling at all the ports en route on the four coasts, and to return to Sydney, was the task set me on 20th September, 1921.

It was summer time when I left Sydney, and summer stayed with me until I reached the Queensland border, over 2,000 miles away My route lay up the east coast through Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes and Tenterfield to the Queensland border, some 492 miles. This country is some of the most fertile in New South Wales and carries a large population.

Around thhe Queensland border the orchardist owns sway. Here are large and magnificent orchards surrounding the go-ahead towns, where, on market days, one meets prosperous farmers and merchants, everyone intent on the progress and prosperity of the district and town.

The country changed after a while, and I climbed up on the Darling Downs. Have I entered a new but still prosperous, district? Wheat and sheep hold this country, and still fine towns were passed.

Passing through Toowoomba and Maryborough, both big towns, with fine streets and shops, I came to a land new and full of interest—the land of the sugar cane.

Here huge fields of cane in various stages of growth met the eye. Tramways were everywhere and led to fine mills. Cane- cutters' camps dotted the fields, and everywhere was activity. About the mills towns had grown up with clubs for the workers and well-equipped stores.

Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, is not a large town for the size of the state it rules over. But this is the policy of Queensland. Decentralisation is the rule in the Northern State, and, in consequence, the country is covered with a network of railways running from one large town to another.

Through Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville I walked ever north until I came to Cairns, the end of my first long lead.

At Cairns I turned westward and started my second coast. My route lay along the famous Barron Valley, with its magnificent waterfall, to Mareeba. There I turned towards Alma-den and again to Forscyth.

Over the ridge to Georgetown was the next stretch of country. Here were no railways, but the roads were good. As a mining town Georgetown is almost dead. Houses have been pulled down and abandoned. One queer thing I noted. Georgetown at one time had a local newspaper, but with the downfall of mining the paper lapsed, and when I visited Georgetown the printing press was standing out in the street.

On to Croydon, another mining town, with, alas, the few mines operating in the hands of tributers and half the town dismantled.

Here I again found a railway and followed it to Normanton, a small port on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Normanton was once a big town exporting an immense quantity of gold, won at the Croydon gold mines.

My next port of call was Burketown, a small agricultural port on the Gulf, and noteworthy to me as the last Queensland town I was to visit.

Two hundreds of miles westward from Burketown I began to climb on to the Barclay Tableland. Lawn Hill Station was the last place I passed in Queensland, and then I came to Herbertvale Station on the Queensland-Northern Territory border.

I enterered the territory ten miles southwards of Herbertvale through the gate on the rabbit-proof fence. Twelve miles on I saluted my first Territorian at Gallipoli, a sub-station of the huge Alexandra Station, containing some 14,000 square miles of country.

Then on to Brunette Downs Station, a still larger cattle run across large plains of fine grass.

The Barclay Tablelands I consider some of the finest grazing lands in Australia. On them I have travelled plains 20 to 30 miles across and never anything but grass. Miles and miles of it, some of the finest grazing in Australia. One wonders if these plains have an ending.

Then a dark line appears on the horizon. Later it resolves into a belt of gidyea trees, with cuolebar trees standing before it. These belts of trees are never more than a few hundred yards across. And then out on to another plain, appearing almost illimitable in extent.

Overhead a fierce tropical sun beats down on this shadeless plain, and throughout the day dances the mirage.

Scenes of water, vast lakes, with villages, stations and people, the mirage dances the whole day long, How many men have seen these beautiful illusions and taken them for realities? How many men have wandered from the track and finally laid down under some tree to face the inevitable end? One has to set one's face sternly to the one path and disregarded the tempting vision.

Seventy miles past Brunette Downs Station I reached my first territory township. It consisted of but three houses: a store, a police station (the first I had passed in the territory) and an outstation of Brunette Downs.

Then on. Another long spell and I came to the edge of the Tableland and Newcastle Waters and, crossing late at night, reached the station, content to have passed over one of the most perilous zones of my journey.

Again I turned northwards, following the telegraph line to the Katherine River, passing on the way Mataranka Station—a Federal Government enterprise—and Maranboy, my second township in the Territory. Four miles past Katherine township I came to the most northern railway in Australia— the section of the future north-south railway from Emungalen to Darwin.

Ten days' rest in Darwin prepared me for my long trek to Derby. First, I had to come back to Emungalen—a distance of about 19 miles. Then I branched westwards along the Katherine River to King's River.

Here I passed through some of the finest agricultural land in Australia. Let my readers look at a map and draw a line south from Darwin along the railway from Emungalen and then to Wave Hill Station. Turn your pencil westwards to Hall's Creek and then along the Margaret and Fitzroy rivers to Derby. The country enclosed will be some of the finest plantation land in the world and will one day furnish our country with all the rubber, indigo, tobacco, tea, coffee and cocoa it needs.

My route lay through Vestey Bros.'series of stationd— Manmbaldo, Willeroo and Delemere. Then I passed on to Bovril Estates Ltd and came to Wickham Downs Station on the Victoria River.

Turning at an angle I came up through Jasper Gorge—one of the wonders of Australia—to Timber Creek Police Station, and three miles on to Victoria River Depot, a lonely store on the banks of the lordly river. Here I met Mr. Matt. Wilson, one of the best known identities of the northlands, and found him a kindly host.

Again on an angle I passed through the country owned by Messrs. Connor, Doherty and Durack, by Auvergne, Newry and Argyle stations to the Ord River in Western Australia.

It was at Old Newry, some miles past the present Newry Station, that I passed out of the Northern Territory into Western Australia.

I had then walked 4,229 miles, made up of 492 miles in New South Wales, 2,218 miles in Queensland and 1,519 miles in the Northern Territory. I had still to walk three-quarters of the way around Western Australia, through South Australia and Victoria and half way through New South Wales to Sydney, my final destination.

From Argyll Station I went along the banks of the Ord River to Ivanhoe Station, commonly known as "The Stud," and then branching slightly away to Wyndham. To show how well-watered and difficult this country is, I may add I covered 627 miles between Darwin and Wyndham, whereas the journey by sea is about 300 miles.

From Wyndham to Turkey Creek, where I met Mr. Jim Cunningham, reputed to be the heaviest postmaster in the State. Thence to Hall's Creek, one of the most northern and oldest mining centres in W A., and down the banks of the Margaret and Fitzroy rivers to their junction at Fitzroy Crossing.

Fitzroy Crossing is an unique township. It consists of three houses. First, one comes to the police station, a mile and a half on to the hotel, turn at an angle and travel two miles to the post office. From there it is about a mile and a half back to the police station.

Following the north banks of the Fitzroy River through stations only a couple of days apart I came eventually to Derby and there ended my second coast of Australia.

Southwards was the next point of the compass. The route lay along the dreaded Madman's Track to Broome, where I enjoyed my second Christmas of the journey.

Then down to La Grange Telegraph Station, a few miles north of the famous Ninety-mile Beach.

Frazier Downs was the next point of call, and a long stage led to Colangatie outstation, and then to Anna Plains Station. Leaving that station, I turned on to the stock route that lay along the beach, and one day turned on to the seashore to enjoy a swim from off the centre of this wonderful stretch of sand.

The next house I arrived at was Pardon Station, and then on to the lonely telegraph station at Condon, once the shipping point for Marble Bar, but deserted when the Marble Bar-Port Hedland railway was opened.

DeGray Station was now only 18 miles, away. From there I went to Shelley Station and then on to Poondino, on the railway.

I had now travelled 1700 miles since I had seen a railway. Twenty miles on I reached Port Hedland.

My next objective was Roebourne, which I reached after an easy walk From there I travelled down to Onslow, a town soon to be moved to Beedon, a few miles up the coast.

From Onslow I touched trouble. The season above Carnarvon bad been abnormal and for miles I waded through water.

Carnarvon to Geraldton was my last stretch of the wildlands. From Carnarvon to the Murchison River was bad for sand, and for a few miles past the river.

Twenty-four miles from Murchison House Station I struck the railway at Ajana—and civilisation.

At Geraldton I met with a warm reception. Then down the railway to Mingenew and Three Springs to Moora, where I was welcomed as one from a far, far, perilous journey.

From Moora I am travelling to Perth and Fremantle. Then to Albany along the south coast to Esperance, Eucla, Port Augusta to Adelaide, Melbourne and back to Sydney, my starting point.

Everywhere I have been received cordially and every assistance has been given me on my wearisome way. When I arrive home I shall have very pleasant memories of the many friends I have made on this ten thousand miles trip on foot.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.