Stormy weather and a dedication

Horgan memorial window
Sts John and Paul
 Catholic Church, Tarlee, S.A.
A downpour of 52 mm of rain in an hour accompanied by loud thunder and lightning reminded me of one of my mother’s sayings. She explained thunder to her small children as  “God moving his furniture around upstairs”.

No furniture was moved in the recent storm but we awoke the next morning to see many of the wooden sleepers in our pathway had been floated from their gravel bed. Minor damage indeed compared to the damage done to farmer’s crops throughout the years by storms or rain at inopportune times.

On investigating the condition of farming near Tarlee for Honora Horgan and her sons in the time shortly after husband John’s death in 1883, I found this report of conditions at the completion of harvest in 1885.

The correspondent was answering these 7 questions posed by a circular from The Adelaide Observer.
Harvest Returns
1. What is the name and the extent of the country you report upon?
2. What is the area of land reaped this year, and how much more than last year?
3. What is the general estimate of the average yield of wheat per acre in your district ?
4. What area is under hay, and what is your estimate of the yield thereof ?
5. Have the wheat crops been injured? Cause of injury ? Extent of injury ?
6. Is your district below or above Goyder's line of rainfall ? How much land is under fallow in your district?
7. General remarks, stating whether your land was scarified, ploughed, or mullenized, and how sown.
 The correspondent's responses 

1. Tarlee East to Taylor's Range, Tarlee West to the Alma Range, Tarlee North to Macaw Creek, Tarlee South four miles. [ed. Honora’s farm was 5.5 miles south, close enough for these figures to provide a picture of farming in the district]
2. About the same as last year.
3 From 7 to 8 bushels.
4. About sufficient for local requirements; 20 cwt. to the acre.
5. Yes, Frosts, redrust, takeall and the severe storms. June too wet, July too dry. Five bushels per acre.
6. Below. More fallow than usual.
7. About one-third fallow, one-third ploughed, the remainder scarified twice. None mullenized. Seed sower and by the hand. The red rust worst in the rich land in the hills, paddocks that promised up to 25 bushels going from 8 to 16 bushels. New Zealand oats yielded up to 27 bushels, and to 2 tons per acre for bay.1
Severe storms and crop diseases, indeed not an encouraging report for the struggling family. Life was certainly not easy for our ancestors.

Goyder's line of rainfall In 1870 a Land Bill was introduced into parliament to limit the subdivision of land deemed suitable for crops.2  Goyder had carried out a survey of South Australia in 1865 and established a 'line' above which less than 10 inches of rain in a year could be expected. The land north of this line was deemed suitable for pastoral use only, not to be cropped.

Take-all is a fungal disease of the roots of wheat and other cereals..3

Mullenized: Wikipedia provides this explanation
Mullenizing involved dragging a heavy roller over roughly cleared ground to crush young shoots; the field was then burnt, and a spiked log was run over the ground, and a crop of wheat sown. The next season, the stubble and any mallee regrowth was again burnt, and eventually the mallee died, though stumps remained underground.4

Detail of dedication at base of
Horgan memorial window

Even though life was difficult, Honora and her family contributed in many ways to their community. The newly built Catholic Church in Tarlee had been opened in 1877 and they attended Mass there regularly.

Some years after John's 1883 death, Honora donated a beautiful stained glass window to the church. It is dedicated to her husband's memory and that of her parents, Andrew and Catherine O'Leary.

1. 1885 'HARVEST RETURNS.', Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904), 14 February, p. 10. , viewed 02 Mar 2017,
2. 1870 'The Advertiser FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 1870.', The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889), 3 June, p. 2. , viewed 02 Mar 2017,
3. Soil Quality viewed 2 March 2017
4. Stump-jump plough viewed 2 March 2017



    Thank you, Chris


Post a comment

Thanks for visiting, I welcome your comments. All comments are moderated before publication.

Popular posts from this blog

Zero, nought, nothing

Chocolate and Carrots

Honey Sponge Roll