Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

The Greenough district

Mesdames Maley & Farrelly

Maley, Mrs H. K. & Mrs M. Farrelly 1928, 'The Greenough district', Early Days, vol. 1, part 2: 34-37.

Compiled by Mrs. H. K. Maley and Mrs. M, Farrelly
(Read before the Society, August 26, 1927)


The Greenough Flats, about 12 miles from Geraldton, are justly celebrated throughout the State. There are the Front Flats and the Back Flats; the former are 14,000 acres in extent and the latter 40,000. Both were settled very early in the history of the State and were considered the pick of the agricultural lands, being remarkably rich and fertile. Sir George Grey (then Lieutenant Grey) on the occasion of his memorable journey down our coast, saw the Greenough Flats from one of the hills in the district and said: “There is the district that is destined to be the granary of Western Australia.” Grey made that remark before ever a grain of wheat had been planted there.

Greenough owes its name to the fact that George Bellas Greenough was president of the Royal Geographical Society of England in 1837 when it equipped Grey’s expedition.

In 1846 the Gregorys (three brothers) were sent out to explore Western Australia for arable and pastoral lands for settlement. They were forced from their route to the east—to turn in a north-west direction. In this way they reached Arrowsmith and discovered the rich coal mining country there. This discovery of coal resulted in an expedition being despatched for further examination. Lieut. Helpman was sent in the schooner Champion to Champion Bay. He travelled in a cart up the Greenough and following Gregory’s tracks, arrived at the Arrowsmith coal fields. In 1848 A. C. Gregory was again sent north to explore the country—this time the Gascoyne. On his way south again he discovered that there were thousands of acres of pastoral and agricultural land in the Murchison and Champion Bay districts.

The Pioneers

In the early days many fine settlers were attracted to the district, the Logans and Hamersleys applying for land as early as 1854. Later came such well known families as Duncans, Clinches, Connolly, Anderson, Waldeck, Maleys and Pearson, the last having been sent out from England in charge of machinery for erection at Geraldine mine in 1849.


One of the oldest settlers of Greenough was Mr. F. W. Waldeck, who was born on February 3, 1807, and came out as a missionary with the Rev. Dr. Giustiniani, who was instructed to organise a mission among natives. They arrived here in 1834; the Rev. Dr. Giustiniani was recalled and Mr. Waldeck set up business in Perth where he remained for twenty-four years and was a zealous worker in the cause of Methodism. In 1859 he went to Greenough to commence farming, which occupation he followed till his death in 1895. Although not a qualified medical practitioner, he rendered favourable assistance to settlers far and near and endeared himself to all with whom he came in touch. Mrs. Waldeck survived Her husband by ten years. They left 135 descendants. Their marriage was the first celebrated in Guildford.

Other families who have done good pioneering in the Greenough district are the Logues and the Clinches. Major Logue came, with his parents, from the north of Ireland and settled in Greenough district in 1852, bringing sheep and cattle on their overland trip. Eventually Major Logue settled at “Ellendale.” He married Ellen Shaw, a member of an old family, and his three daughters are still living in the old home. Some quaint old chairs made from the quondong tree and still in use at the old home were made by Major Logue in 1856. These were the first chairs made in the district, and were fashioned by Mr. Logue at night time. He had a native boy holding a fat lamp for him and when the boy saw the chair finished he thought it was an evil spirit and dropped the lamp and fled.

Another influential and progressive member of an old pioneering family was Mr. John Stephen Maley. He was an engineer by trade and was associated with Mr. Solomon Cook, with the early river steamers on the Swan, to which Mr. Cook affixed the "puffing billy” type of engine. From Perth Mr. Maley went to Greenough and took up land which was then the wheat centre of the State and there erected a flour mill.

Particular interest attached to this mill because, as far as this State was concerned, it was the first mill in which silk dressing machinery was used. He had stones as well for grinding and these were used to supply his family with the pure 100 per cent. flour. In 1872 Mr. Maley and Mr. Crowther, a merchant of Geraldton, ship-


ped to London by the barque “Iby,” 50 tons of silk dressed flour, which was spoken of very highly in the Old Country.

Mr. Maley married Miss Elizabeth Waldeck, of Greenough, and left a family of fourteen. It is interesting to note that his mother lived to the ripe old age of ninety-nine and three-quarters.

In the very early days many military pensioners were settled at Greenough. To encourage them to stay they were given forty-acre blocks. One wonders in view of some of the difficulties with which present-day farmers have to contend on a thousand acres, hpw these pensioners contrived to live and bring up large families, especially as there existed practically no market for their produce. It seems they grew enough wheat and vegetables to keep body and soul together and just carried on.

Red Rust and Flood

Greenough as an agricultural district received a tremendous setback in 1869 when it experienced a succession of red rust years, and also the heavy floods which occurred at different times.

In connection with red rust, one writer says that this was in some ways a blessing in disguise, for just at this time the town of Geraldton was literally threatened with extinction by the drifting sandhills. Already some portions of the town were covered— streets and even houses disappearing.

Mr. Maitland Brown, another great man, who was Government Resident at the time, conceived the idea of employing the distressed farmers and their teams, in a battle against the forces of Nature. The men were employed in collecting and sowing the seeds of native trees and shrubs and covering them with brushwood. Many hundreds of these seeds germinated and the green wooded background of Geraldton to-day, and the very existence of the town itself, are monuments to the wisdom of the policy recommended by Mr. Brown.

The greatest flood at Greenough occurred on February 6, 1888. Boats had to be sent from Geraldton and the whole country for miles was like a murky sea. Four people were drowned and at an early stage some of the families had to take refuge on the adjacent sand


hills. The countiy was submerged for a length of about 30 miles and a width of many miles and months elapsed before many parts of the land were dry again. About 90 farmers had to seek relief and over £2,000 was raised and distributed amongst them.

Early Aviation

The mother of Captain Sir Ross Smith, who won the Commonwealth prize for £10,000 for being the first to fly to Australia from England, was a Macpherson of Glentromie. His feat brings to mind a youth named Walters who invented an aeroplane long before that famous aviator’s time. Walters, who was employed by the late Mr. J. S. Maley, was of a mechanical turn of mind and thought he could invent a flying machine, which gave him visions of patent rights and a near cut to fortune. , He was allowed the use of J. S. Maley’s workshop in his spare time to give his designs practical shape.

When the machine was ready a holiday was proclaimed at Greenough, and people came from far and near to see Walters’s first flight. He fastened his apparatus and climbed up a ladder to the top of a high haystack and flapped his wings several times like a rooster on a fence getting ready to crow. At last he made a spring. Instead of going up he tumbled down, head over heels, and when his friends got him out of the machine he was dazed and bruised. Mr. Maley congratulated Walters on the nearness to perfection of the machine and said, “When you went to make the ascent I noticed the defects. You want a beak to cut the wind and a tail to steer your course.” Walters shook his head' and said: “Let some one else have a go at it: I’ve had enough of flying.”

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