There were two simple buildings on Gluepot before 1934. One was a hut near the Birdseye dam site, built by an early lessee, possibly Alfred Birdseye. The other was a hut near the Old Gluepot dams where Ken and Reg Finch stayed. Who built it and when is unclear. Ken described it as “a galvanised iron hut with a limestone chimney. It had a resident goanna that came out occasionally into the kitchen to eat the crumbs on the floor.” (Some posts are still in place.) At times the brothers rarely saw each other but knew that the other had visited the hut to replenish supplies. Ken also got lost in the mallee scrub on another occasion. His work-mate had returned from boundary riding and when Ken didn’t turn up after he was expected, he rang a bell at the hut, which Ken heard and followed back. The original house at Old Gluepot consisted of two rooms, a kitchen and bedroom, built for Gert and Horrie Truscott, resident manager for Reg Warnes. In 1936 two additional rooms, a second bedroom and sitting room, were added for them. Horrie dug and built the cellar. Isolation and loneliness were familiar to the Finch brothers and the Truscotts. Often Horrie was away all day and Gert would pack lunch for him. At mustering times and shearing (at Woolgangi) he could be away for 3 or 4 days at a time. Near the Old Gluepot house the Warnes built a hut to stay in when they came from Woolgangi. Les Warnes recalls playing cards there with his father and/or brother in the evenings. The hut remained in use after the Truscotts left. In 1957, after the present Rangers’ house was built, the hut was moved on a specially constructed trailer to its present site. At first it was part of the shearersï¿½ quarters but today it is used by researchers working on the Reserve. Peter and Betty Warnes lived in the newly built homestead until the lease was sold in 1961. They also felt the isolation – particularly following the murder of Neville Lord on a neighbouring station in November 1958. This led to the building of the airstrip. It was never used on a regular basis but occasionally was a landing for spotter aircraft used at shearing times when sheep had to be rounded up in the mallee vegetation. The homestead was not used as a permanent residence again until BirdLife Australia acquired the property and it became the home of the Volunteer Rangers. The Broads and Mattners, and sometimes their friends, stayed there while working on the lease or for weekends or school.
Providing water for people and sheep required considerable and constant effort for lessees. The average annual rainfall measured at the homestead is about 250mm but it is very irregular. Unofficial records since 1968 vary from 100mm to 575mm. Offical records of annual rainfall since 1999 vary from 148mm to 380mm. The first dams were constructed at Old Gluepot. They were shown on an 1890s map including ‘Gluepot Paddock’ but the majority of the dams were sunk during the early years of Reg Warnesï¿½ lease. The Truscotts used the Old Gluepot dams to water a vegetable garden and occasionally to supplement the rainwater collected from the house. Several bores were put down on Gluepot but unfortunately the water was too salty even for animal consumption. Harold Broad tested the bore at Old Gluepot in September 1965 and found it was 435 ft deep with very salty water at 135 ft. He sunk several other bores and found the same water quality. One of his employees, Bob Leaney, described the water from a bore near Sandy Dam as ‘drinkable if mixed with cider’! In late 1965 and 1966 Harold Broad built the 20,000-gallon concrete tanks now known as Grasswren, Whistler, Emu and Froggy’s tanks. Pumps and pipelines were installed to fill them from nearby dams and drinking troughs were provided for the sheep. Today the tanks provide water for elevated troughs near the bird hides as well as for fighting fires. The irregular rainfall meant that occasionally water had to be carted. Harold Broad recalls carting it from the Old Gluepot dams to Froggy’s tank and Gypsum dam. Wes Mattner carted water for 6 weeks in the first year after acquiring the lease. Later another drought was so severe that all the sheep had to be sold. Neville Taylor used a 3,300-gallon water tank to cart water. Dams had to be maintained constantly by deepening them and clearing the drains leading into them. Sometimes this led to equipment becoming bogged. At other times vehicles became bogged after heavy rainfall. Wes Mattner recalls a caterpillar tractor becoming bogged while clearing a dam. It remained there for 8 months. The dams and tanks with the additional supplies of water led to increases in the number of goats and kangaroos in the area. These animals competed with the sheep for food and broke through fences so considerable energy was put into culling them. Walter Finch recalls goats breaking through the netting fence on the northern boundary. He and his brother also shot many and ate the younger ones. Horrie Truscott shot goats for dog meat and when they visited Gluepot, Harold Broad’s children used to round them up. Wes Mattner remembers one shearing time when 3,000 goats were shot. The Taylors sent many goats to markets in Peterborough and Broken Hill.
Originally the holders of Pastoral Leases were required to stock with a minimum number of sheep per square mile. The first lessee in 1877 had to have 10 sheep per square mile. By 1936 the minimum stocking rate was 5 sheep per square mile with maximum rates of stocking established by the Pastoral Board for particular holdings. These limits varied from year to year and in the late 1970’s were set at 4,000 sheep for Gluepot, but they were seldom, if ever, reached. Wes Mattner maintained that ï¿½Gluepot was one of the best wool blocks in Australiaï¿½. It was mainly valuable for wethers.
Fire has had some impact on Gluepot but major fires have been rare in the past 50 years. Controlled burning was sometimes used, particularly in late summer, to enable more stock to be grazed on the regrowth that occurred after rains but permission for this has not been available since the 1980s. Pastoralists appreciated lightning strikes that caused fires. A major bushfire, in 1950, was accidentally started by timber cutters and burnt about 80% of Gluepot and then eastwards into New South Wales. The lack of fire in the old growth mallee now makes the area a significant habitat for birds. The current Management Plan for the Reserve has fire management as a prominent feature. Fires in the area late in 2006 were started by lightning and mainly burnt the southern section of the Birdseye (restricted access) Block. It was a slow burn covering about 7,000 hectares (or 13%) of the Reserve. It had only a small impact on visitor areas.
Birds and biodiversity
Some of the pastoralists were not very interested in the bird-life of their leases. But over time they became very aware of “the nature part of it”. Wes Mattner’s observation was that when mallee fowl began building mounds significant rain would fall within a month or six weeks. In wet years there were “lakes of water” around the dams and huge populations of wood ducks with up to 15 young. Neville Taylor felt that bird numbers increased over the years. Scientific research on the Reserve in the last decade has been carried out by students and experts on a variety of topics. Over 190 species of birds have been seen on the Reserve. The number of nationally threatened species that attracted the original interest of BirdLife Australia was six. To date 18 such species have been identified. Regular banding has been carried out and surveys for The New Atlas of Australia Birds made Gluepot ï¿½The most atlassed site away from major cities in Australia.ï¿½ Volunteers and visitors continue these surveys as well as the monitoring of Malleefowl activity. Other research into the vegetation, mammals, reptiles, bats and archaeology has added significantly to knowledge of the biodiversity of the area.
In 2006 Marian McDuie produced a 16 min. DVD, Gluepot ï¿½ a world leader in conservation and land management, highlighting the achievements of BirdLife Australia. click here for info on how to order
(including information obtained since the publication of Gluepot Remembered.)
Links with Loveday Internment Camp
During the Second World War the Loveday Internment Camp was established to house German, Italian and Japanese people in Australia. Some of these prisoners were taken out to work as timber-cutters. Gluepot was one area where they worked.
Visits of Cubs
In the mid 1960s, during the Broads occupation of the lease, cub scout packs from Waikerie visited Gluepot on at least two occasions. Their leaders, Audrey Morley, Pat Crabb and Anne Rix, were assisted on these camps by John Morley and Tony Rix. The 24 boys, aged 8 to 12 years, and their leaders, camped in tents. The leaders also had access to the unoccupied homestead. Joe Mack came to talk to the boys and led them on walks which deepened their awareness of the mallee environment. His appreciation of the natural history of the area and his passion for conservation inspired members of the group.
At Woolacott, Old Gluepot and Birdseye dam sites there are metal structures erected in the early years of BirdLife Australiaï¿½s ownership of the area. They are just under two metres high and consist of four legs holding pieces of metal mesh about the size of a table. The structures were installed in order to catch foxes. Goats, which were still plentiful, were shot and placed on the tables to attract foxes that in turn could be shot. John English worked with Mick Punturero, a goat shooter and fox baiter, on this project.
Don Gobbett would be pleased to hear of other early experiences of Gluepot and may be contacted through the Rangers.