TALES OF THE WALLERAWANG --- MUDGEE COACH
Maurice Joseph Hennessey, “Old Ned” in an article of the Sportsman Newspaper on December 17, 1904, provided sufficient information for the compilation of the following coaching tale. On this occasion he was referring to a journey to Mudgee in the days of “Old King Cobb.”
The Wolverene, a large coach, with 40 passengers was to take a trip to Mudgee, through Wallerawang. Waiting for the Wolverene at Wallerawang were number of passengers who had booked at Bathurst for Mudgee.
Unfortunately, the Wolverene could not take all the extra passengers so a special buggy was placed on to take the overflow. The large coach was to be driven by Bob McGroder.
The buggy, taking the extra passenger, started a few minutes before the “big craft”.
Bob followed, but doing down Pullens Pinch. He found the load he had on the Wolverene was too heavy for the brakes to act and he was unable to steady the coach with its load of 70 passengers plus their luggage. The buggy carrying the extra passengers was just out in front when McGroder called out to Joe Jenkins, the driver, to pull to one side as quick as he could. Jenkins immediately responded.
At the same time Bob let his team go full steam down The Pinch. The road was not too wide, and the small buggy was standing as far off the centre of the road as possible. The big coach dashed past at the rate of a “steam engine” just clearing the buggy without touching. Bob, was as cool as a proverbial cucumber when he landed his passengers and their luggage etc. safely at the foot of Pullens Pinch.
In looking to see whether any damage had been done to the coach he found a main bolt was missing. When explaining this to the disembarked passengers one of them noticed a discarded wheelbarrow lying upside down on the road shoulder.
A bolt was cut out of the barrow and fitted into the under carriage of the coach.
The journey then continued but no great distance was travelled until McGroder’s arm began to ache. He lost control of the coach horses and went down Crown Ridge like greased lightning.
Only one shoe remained intact on the five horses. Going down Cherry Tree Hill at any pace was dangerous, especially near “The Well”. So McGroder got a rope, fastened it to the coach and then persuaded ten of the passengers to hang onto it to act as a drag to help the brake. This acted splendidly.
William Lowe, who was also a stage coach driver on the Wallerawang run to Mudgee has recorded that this journey was done in two laps by four drivers. Cunningham Creek, Ilford, was the half-way. Here the coaches from each end met, and fresh drivers ‘went up’ for the return.
The horses did 15 mile stages and the average speed was ten miles per hour. Night and day with unfailing regularity Cobb and Co. ran, weather and roads despite conditions.
On this run there were Monkey Hill, the Frying Pan, the Cockatoo Pinch where the coaches went down on their heads. At the top of these steep declines, an employee was engaged to ensure there always a supply of cut logs. These were tied behind the coach to act as ballast to slow the coach.
In those days, a man had to be a dare-devil to drive a Cobb and Co. coach and the passengers possessive of steel nerves to withstand the journey.
It is under stood that Pullens Pinch is named after William Toft Pullen (1834-1917) who built and ran a quartz crushing plant at Hill End.
He then moved onto the Clarence River where he erected a sawmill at Woolgoolga, a shop at Cowper, followed by the establishment of a river boat service carrying passengers and freight between Grafton and Yamba. His daughter, Emily as a widow lived for several years not far from my residence in Maclean.
Roy Cameron OAM