Kanyaka Homestead South Australia

13 Oct

We left the tiny township of Hawker, the gateway to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, as the afternoon sun was beginning to wane.

We were heading to our overnight destination at Wilpena Pound, a massive geological phenomenon that has become a major tourist attraction.

We settled down for the hundred kilometre journey and were starting to feel the strain of over 700 kilometres of driving.

There was to be one last stop before our destination, I have to digress a little here and explain.

I had travelled this road over forty years ago in an army convoy, driving the road at that time, I saw off in the distance a set of very old crumbling brick buildings, military procedure didn’t allow me time to break convoy and investigate.

This time leisure was in my favour, so we turned off the main road and followed a dusty dirt road down to a dry creek bed, the crumbling remains of what was a piece of Australian history, slowly turning to dust, and silently telling a story of earlier hard days of pioneering in this dry stony arid part of the magnificent Flinders Ranges.

We arrived at Kanyaka homestead, a story that spans more than 150 years.

The area was inhabited by Aborigines for thousands of years before European settlement. The name of the station is taken from the Aboriginal word thought to mean Place of stone.

Kanyaka Station was established as a cattle station in February 1852 by Hugh Proby. He was born on 9 April 1826 at Stamford in Lincolnshire, England, the third son of Admiral Granville Leveson Proby (the third Earl of Carysfort of Ireland) and Isabella Howard. He emigrated on the ship Wellington, which arrived on 30 May 1851 at Port Adelaide, South Australia.

The Flinders Ranges is very dry country, so it is both tragic and ironic that on 30 August 1852, Proby drowned when he was swept from his horse crossing the swollen Willochra Creek while trying to herd a mob of cattle during a thunderstorm. He was buried the following day. Six years later in 1858 his grave was marked with an engraved slab shipped from Britain by his brothers and sisters; it was said to weigh one and a half tons and posed a significant challenge to transport it to the grave site.

Under subsequent owners, the station grew in size until it was one of the largest in the district with 70 families living and working there. Because of the difficulties of transport, the station had to be very self-sufficient and Kanyaka station grew to include a large homestead, cottages for workers, workshops, huts and sheds, mostly built from local stone due to limited supplies of workable local timber. The station switched from cattle to sheep, but had cows, pigs, and vegetable gardens to supply food for the residents. There was also a cemetery. Hugh Proby was not buried in the Kanyaka cemetery, as it had not yet been established at the time of his death.

Severe droughts resulted in massive losses of sheep and eventually the station was abandoned. Due to its stone construction, many of the buildings survive today as ruins.

We lingered amongst the ruins as the sun was starting to loose her shine, the buildings took on an ancient proudness, as if trying to show its former glory, the rooms , the chimneys, the walls all held unspoken secrets.

We left the old homestead and headed for our destination for the night.

Driving away from the Kanyaka homestead left one feeling as though we had actually stepped back in time, a time when man actually took on the harshness of nature and built a rapport, a mutual rapport based on survival and respect.

I leave you with memories of the old Australian Homestead, Kanyaka.

Catch you around the traps


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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

45 responses to “Kanyaka Homestead South Australia

  1. lscotthoughts

    October 22, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Wow, so much history in those buildings and such fun capturing them for us to view..when we see how we live now, it’s hard to imagine what had to be endured back then…thanks again for taking us along with you, Ian…

    • The Emu

      October 23, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Hi Lauren, those old walls would hold many storys I think.
      There were births deaths and marriages on that homestead back in those days.
      I find it easy to visualise life in those days, the homestead actually tells the story.

      • lscotthoughts

        October 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        It sure does tell the story..and you’re right, many lives beginning and ending…how we shouldn’t take for granted the conveniences we live with now…have a wonderful day, Ian! Sending smiles and hugs!

        • The Emu

          October 25, 2014 at 2:08 am

          Hi Lauren, that old homestead is well and truly over 150 years but to me when I was taking pictures,
          it came alive and was full of life, all rooms of stone and fireplaces in every room, the old stables and storerooms
          all came alive in my mind.
          A great piece of history and a reminder that not all lasts forever except the memories.
          Wishing you a great weekend.

  2. natswans

    October 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Great post those walls look amazing and built last.
    Thank you Emu for sharing your wonderful journey

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 1:25 am

      Good afternoon Sheila, those stone walls are a work of art.
      They will be standing for another 100 or so years I think.
      Pleased you enjoyed my journey and story.

  3. giselzitrone

    October 19, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Danke lieber Emu wünsche dir einen schönen Sonntag lieber Gruß von mir und Freundschaft.Gislinde

    • The Emu

      October 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Thank you Dear Gislinde, wishing you a beautiful week ahead.
      Hoping you are keeping well my friend and send you a big Australian hug.

  4. Sue Dreamwalker

    October 18, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Emu.. this is a fascinating place.. What History those buildings could tell, And I can almost envision it in its hay-day when it was bursting with life. The animals, and veggie gardens..
    And that Stone to build the houses and station.. I would imagine that was all quarried locally.. Love to see how they built with stone.. And loved that stone wall..

    I have an interest in Dry stone walling, as my Dad used to work in a Limestone Quarry when I was very small, perhaps until I was around 10.. He was the munitions man, he drilled the face of the quarry hung on a rope ladder in those days… and drilling long holes into the Quarry face and put in the explosives..

    He also in his spare time did a bit of dry stone walling for local farmers to repair damaged walls.. When I was younger I would go with him, and I would help him fill the middle bit with scraps of smaller stone.. 🙂

    I so loved your photo’s Thank you Ian.. and thank you for bringing old memories back to smile at..
    Hugs Sue xox

    • The Emu

      October 19, 2014 at 7:21 am

      Thanks for that great comment Sue, walls and old buildings like that always inspire my imagination, having read a lot of our earlier pioneering days the images come to life. The buildings were all constructed from the rock strewn grounds and the creek bed, land was cleared and vegetables grown, everything was self sufficient, reminds me a little of an old medeival village layout, I could imagine the whole layout as if I was there.
      With you and your fathers background in stone walling, I know you appreciate the work these people would have put in to create this fantastic old homestead.
      I think the terminology in Australia for your fathers job is called a Powder Monkey, he drills the holes and sets the charges, they are still employed in the Australian mines to this day.

      • Sue Dreamwalker

        October 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm

        Yes Ian that was his job.. Another bit of information for you.. Was that the Quarry was in a valley not far from our Village.. So my mother would take us a walk when we were very young to the top of the hills on one side of the valley which the village was on.. We would picnic in the Summer.. My Mother and Dad pre-arranged a time when Dad knew he would be on the Quarry face.. He was like a spec! by the way to the naked eye.. She would take a Mirror and Dad would also have a mirror or something reflective, and they would flash it across the Valley in the sunlight…
        I can still visualise that special day… And Dad coming home as pleased as punch that we had seen him at his work…. I bet also if I were to walk the farmers fields I would still see some of his stone walling in tact. He Loved the outdoors.:-)

        • The Emu

          October 22, 2014 at 2:44 am

          What a beautiful story Sue, you really painted a very vivid picture with those words.
          The sharing of the light across the distance, acknowledging their love.
          You must have had a beautiful loving upbringing Sue.
          Your father sounds like a great man and craftsman, I am sure his walls would still be standing today.
          Thank you for sharing that beautiful insight into your family background Sue.

  5. Mélanie

    October 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Ian, if I had another life, I’d be an… explorer and I’d travel the world with my beloved “archaeologist Indy Jones”, who’s in fact a rocket & satellite scientist! 🙂 cheers and have a super weekend, young man! 🙂

    • The Emu

      October 19, 2014 at 6:15 am

      With a qualified husband like yours Melanie, your whole world must be one long adventure.
      I love travelling and exploring, particularly off the beaten track, finances limit my roaming but my mind is free to roam at any time.

      • Mélanie

        October 24, 2014 at 5:05 am

        our mind, our thoughts and our imagination are and will always be FREE… 🙂 we’re ‘born to be wild…'(Steppen Wolf – Easy rider) 😉

        • The Emu

          October 25, 2014 at 2:29 am

          Many years ago, after my Vietnam days, I had dreams of living an Easy Rider life.
          Carefree on my laid back chopper, and riding wherever the winds took me.
          Alas when the words I Do, were uttered in that church one Sunday, only my dreams went riding with the winds.

  6. suzjones

    October 16, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Wow. Stepping back in time is awesome.

    • The Emu

      October 17, 2014 at 9:32 am

      I love the past Sue, so much to see and do, working on my next trip which is to the highlands of Papua New Guinea,
      tracking down my Tribal Goson from over forty years ago, seems the TV wants to make a documentary of it.
      Dont know if you read my old post called My Tribal Godson.
      Cheers and have a beaut weekend.

      • suzjones

        October 17, 2014 at 8:45 pm

        I don’t recall reading that. Sounds awesome about the TV doco though.

        • The Emu

          October 19, 2014 at 6:00 am

          If its not too boring for my long term followers, I would like to reblog it again, with an update.
          Interesting story that hasn’t finished yet.
          Cheers Sue

  7. giselzitrone

    October 14, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Schöne Bilder lieber Emu und der Text ist auch sehr gut schön beschrieben,ich wünsche dir einen guten Mittwoch liebe Grüße und Freundschaft.Gislinde

    • The Emu

      October 17, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Danke liebe Gislinde, froh, dass du die Bilder und Geschichten zu schätzen wissen.
      Sorry für die Verzögerung bei der Beantwortung, Freitag Abend hier und ich wünsche Ihnen ein schönes Wochenende.

  8. cat

    October 14, 2014 at 4:29 am

    Man … your last comment on my last post … was really something … thank you for making me smile, Ian … Love, cat.

    • The Emu

      October 14, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Forgot to mention smelly bodies, and rattling bones locked in a bony embrace for all eternity.
      Showers still not compulsory.

      • cat

        October 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm

        … that’s alright by me … 🙂

  9. auntyuta

    October 14, 2014 at 4:28 am

    Alison Painter
    30 August 1852 Hugh Proby

    On the side of a dirt road north of Quorn under the shade of a tree is the lonely grave of Hugh Proby who died on 30 August 1852. In 1851 Proby had taken three leases, two of which totalling 101 square miles were the start of Kanyaka. On the 30 August 1852 he had ridden after a mob of cattle which had broken away during a severe thunderstorm. On his way back he found the Willochra Creek was flooding and he was cut off; he attempted to cross, but it was running fast and deep and he drowned. He was buried two miles away and the gravestone reads:

    Sacred to the memory of
    Hugh Proby
    Third son of the Earl of Carysfort
    who was drowned while crossing
    the Willochra Creek
    August 30th 1852 aged 24 years

    Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know
    not when the time is Mark XIII
    This tablet was placed over this grave by his brothers

    and sisters in the year 1858

    Newspaper Cuttings Book Volume 3, The Willochran, 1 April 1954, SLSA.

    Tags: Proby Hugh

    • auntyuta

      October 14, 2014 at 4:33 am

      Hi Ian, I was curious to find out a bit more about where the gravestone is and found the above!
      I like your pictures, especially the ones with a blue sky – It must be such an eerie feeling to see all these old buildings. Very interesting history about it too. I am glad you could stop there and fill us in about the history of the place. Thanks for that. 🙂

      • The Emu

        October 17, 2014 at 9:05 am

        The Kanyaka homestead did take on a silent gravelike feeling, particularly with the setting sun.
        The dry creek bed and whispering ghost gums in the afternoons still breeze, gave a feeling of a deserted cemetery, like stepping back in time, but you could sense a feeling of a vibrant working homestead in its heyday.

        • auntyuta

          October 17, 2014 at 7:41 pm

          Yea, amazing to think back to what it was in its heyday! 🙂

          • The Emu

            October 19, 2014 at 5:58 am

            I think our Australian history would have been a great time to live in, albeit harsh.
            People cared for and respected each other, old values were treasured and the simple things in life were appreciated.

          • auntyuta

            October 19, 2014 at 6:38 am

            I just published the story about Lola Wright. She is 88 now. But I think she represents all these old Australian values. Just wonderful! 🙂

          • The Emu

            October 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm

            Thanks Uta, I see it in my email and will enjoy reading her story.
            At her age I am sure there is a lot of history recorded in her words.

    • The Emu

      October 17, 2014 at 9:02 am

      Thanks for that Uta, the damn thing about this, is that I googled it when I got home and missed it in the travels.
      We had to go past Quorn onto Hawker and Wilpena Pound, I missed any directions leading to it also.
      I would have liked to have incorporated it into the part of my blog about Kanyaka homestead.
      Pays to do your homework before you travel, then again, the fun is in discovery even if some great points are missed.
      Apparently that headstone weighed a ton and was a lot of trouble in transporting it.

      • auntyuta

        October 17, 2014 at 7:38 pm

        This in only too right: The fun is in discovery! 🙂

        • The Emu

          October 19, 2014 at 5:56 am

          The fun is in discovery Uta, thats why I get pleasure out of driving.
          You are not limited to an itinerary or timetable.

  10. gpcox

    October 13, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Those walls were build for endurance, weren’t they?

    • The Emu

      October 14, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Those walls were certainly made to last, they were built out of the rocks that the homestead rests on.
      Building them would have been a feat on its own, a testament to the endurance and fortitude of our forefathers.

  11. Colline

    October 13, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    That must have been an amazing place to live in at its heyday. What a pity it had to be abandoned.

    • The Emu

      October 14, 2014 at 12:12 am

      In its heyday it would have had a great colonial atmosphere Colline.
      Unfortunately the creeks would run dry and the earth would turn to dust
      This is what bought about its demise as a cattle/sheep station,
      still a great testament to Australia’s forefathers.

  12. Eddie Two Hawks

    October 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    This is yet another in your wonderful series of great articles Ian. These photographs are supper and give a person a clear idea on just what life must be and had been like in this dry country.
    Thank you very much for taking us back in time and bringing us back again. enjoy a great day, Eddie

    • The Emu

      October 14, 2014 at 12:02 am

      Thanks Eddie, it really is great to get positive feedbacks on my posts, but not only that, but feedback that shows my storys are enjoyed, hope you like my latest episode.

  13. prenin

    October 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Australia is a harsh place to try and tame Ian! 🙂

    It shows how bad it can get when the basics for survival are not met! 😦

    Thanks for these pictures and the story my friend! 🙂

    God Bless!


    • The Emu

      October 14, 2014 at 12:00 am

      Back in the old days Prenin, Australia was a harsh place to exist in.
      Now its tamed to a certain degree but the middle of Australia is still a force to be reckoned with.
      Hope you have no more problems with your Bovver boys mate.

      • prenin

        October 14, 2014 at 12:10 am

        They came back today as I mentioned on another of your comments! 😦

        The crazy thing is that they can kill you and walk away with just two years in jail, but if you lay a finger on them it’s classed as assault and child abuse even though these ‘kids’ are taller than me!!!

        The worst part is that the Police manpower is stretched to the limit, so Police response is missing.

        They had two hours to respond and nobody showed up by the time the teenagers left.

        We don’t even have a 24 hour Police station as the Middleton one has been shut at night for the past 23 years and there are just two Police Officers on duty for the whole of Middleton at night.

        During the day we are supposed to have eight officers on duty, but most of the time they are either doing paperwork, or in court so the usual Police presence is limited to two.

        No wonder the teenagers think they can – and do – get away with murder… 😦

        God Bless my friend! 🙂



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