Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dusty Diamantina and Old Cork Station

I have been trying to remember the words of this song I heard years ago. I could only recall Dusty Diamantina. When I asked some friends who listen to Western music, they couldn't recall any such song. The guitar strains
in this song are awesome and its beautifully sung. Does anyone remember this one?

THE DIAMANTINA DROVER
(Hugh MacDonald)

John Williamson

Also recorded by: The House Band; Patrick Street


The faces in the photograph have faded
And I can't believe he looks so much like me
For it's been ten years today
Since I left for Old Cork Station
Sayin' I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Well it seems like the sun comes up each mornin'
Sets me up and takes it all away
For the dreaming by the light
Of the camp fire at night
Ends with the burning by the day

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Sometimes I think I'll settle back in Sydney
But it's been so long it's hard to change my mind
For the cattle trail goes on and on
And the fences roll forever
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Googling around I found that Old Cork Station is in Queensland, Australia, and Diamantina is a river which flows through this land. Dray is a two-wheeled car that drovers used in this part. Also found this picture and a report on it. Read on.





It costs about $10 a hectare, is so big the boundary fences are checked with an ultra-light aircraft, has had a popular song written about it, and is worth about $2.5 million.
This is Cork Station, 120 km south-west of Winton in far north-west Queensland. 2310 sq km of downs and channel country with a 32 km frontage to the Diamantina River.
It achieved national prominence a few years ago with the popular Redgum song The Diamantina Drover.
The song referred to the vintage sandstone homestead Old Cork, one of the original properties in Western Queensland.
The present station manager, Arthur Wallis, and his wife Rosslyn, occasionally chuckle over the song when they hear it on the local radio station.
"Whoever wrote it had a bit of factual knowledge when he talked about the dray around Old Cork Station because there were three or four around here a long time ago," Mr Wallis said.
"But when it says the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina  -  well it does rain sometimes. We usually get ten and a half inches a year."
The chorus of the song about a burnt-out old drover  -  written by Hugh McDonald in 1982  -  says:
For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina,
The drover finds it hard to change his mind,
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork station,
And I won't be back 'til the droving's done.
The property was first settled in the 1870's and became the local mail distribution before the establishment of Winton  -  the mail came in on a pack - horse from Muttaburra.
The administrative centre of the property was shifted about the turn of the century because the old homestead was often cut off for up to a fortnight by floods.
The new homestead was brought in two or three pieces from Charters Towers by teamsters after the gold rush.
That complex now also includes separate cottages for a bookkeeper and overseer, three buildings for men's accommodation, shearers' quarters for 25 men, a shearing shed and work and machinery sheds.
The families of farm workers lived at Old Cork for many years and until 15 years ago it was used as a night camp when mustering.
Then the station cook often set lines and nets in the large permanent waterhole to give the stockmen a feed of yellowbelly and bream.
The property Cork remains in good order despite the current drought but the Old Cork homestead is in as much a state of disrepair as the old drover in the song.
Much of the timberwork in the old homestead is rotten, the sandstone walls have started to bow and crack, and vandals with shotguns have broken the louver windows and peppered the antbed plastered walls.
A cedar sideboard, beyond restoration, still sits in the old formal dining room, sharing it with the carcass of a dead wallaby, now reduced to a pile of white bones.
A squatter's chair with a greenhide seat still graces one of the verandas.
The kitchen still has its wood stove and a hutch but a 6 m-long table that had been a feature of the homestead for more than 100 years was stolen a few years ago.
Mr Wallis said there had been a recent plan to dismantle the homestead and rebuild it in Winton as a tourist attraction.
The present owner, Mr Dudley Dunn, of Sydney, agreed to the move but locals reconsidered and concluded that the homestead would lose too much of its significance if it was moved.
Mr Wallis said that very little else was known of the history of Old Cork. The property had changed hands a number of times and many station books and records had moved on with the previous owners.
He said the property now kept him and five other workers busy maintaining 144km of 2-metre high boundary fence and kilometers of internal fencing.
It carried about 2500 head of cattle, although its carrying capacity in good seasons was nearly three times that.
Mr Wallis recently trained as an ultra-light aircraft pilot to give him more manoeuvrability about the property.
"The aircraft is an asset on this sort of property," he said. "It saves a lot of time checking the fences and spotting cattle. And it costs only $8 an hour to run compared with $200 an hour for a helicopter."
He said the first time he flew the ultra-light his stomach muscles "tightened a bit" but he was re-assured that the aircraft had a safety parachute.
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