Ghosts of stockmen past

Host: Anthony Lagoon Station
Written by Georgia Clark – AACo Graduate Program 2016.

The tales of old run rampant in stockcamps around the country, with each one stretching further from the truth the more it’s told. From the good old days of rough mustering and bronc branding, to endless nights spent watching cattle as they camped out on the flat.

Every station has these stories and they are passed down through the stockcamps as folklore or almost a gospel. To be revered and respected – and for young jackaroos and jillaroos aspiring to one day be as rough, tough, and talented as these old ringers from the campfire yarns.

Anthony Lagoon is no different, with rumours and legends of old drovers deeply ingrained from the years the Barkly Stock Route was a major highway for cattle.

As a rookie at a station and a newbie to The Territory, I have missed out many of these stories until my first weeks out with the stock camp. I heard people on the station talking about ‘the grave’ and the old gaol and police station – naively I assumed these were all in town!

Until one day we were fencing and we came across this old plot – a window into the way of life from years ago.

6.1 Anthony Lagoon Station is rich with history and stories of stockmen past copyAnthony Lagoon Station is rich with history and stories of stockmen past.

Anthony Lagoon Station was established in 1881 as a section of a pastoral lease, and was run as an outstation of Brunette Downs. Between 1878 and 1881, Ernest Favenc discovered and named our permanent waterhole Anthony Lagoon. Many settlers, travellers, and pastoralists passed through Anthony Lagoon and it quickly became an important stopping point and meeting place along the central and coastal stock routes.

The Anthony Lagoon Station Precinct was formed in 1889 and police officers were on site to keep the peace in this area of high stock/droving traffic and on the new stations that were being settled in this remote region of the Territory.

In the 1880’s and 1890’s diseases spread via ticks (a little, very annoying, parasite!) were seriously affecting the cattle industry. Anthony Lagoon played an important role in reducing the incidence of these diseases when the first-ever government cattle dip was constructed at Anthony Lagoon Station in 1906. The dip was located near our police station and was operated by the police officers. A countless number of cattle have be processed through this dip and it is recognised as one of the most influential and important features that stopped a major threat to the Territory’s beef cattle industry.

While the Police Station became increasingly important to the Barkly region, the Anthony Lagoon Station was still running as an out-station. Eventually it was taken on as a single lease and has been passed through many hands, management and lease changes until it now sits with Australian Agricultural Company (AACo). AACo began in 1824 as a land development company that had large numbers of sheep in the southern parts of Australia, and interestingly, in 1935 Anthony Lagoon Station stocked approximately 600 head of sheep, and they were potentially the only sheep mob ever known to be grazing on or north of the Barkly Tablelands. They were a government experimental flock that were trialled on Anthony’s – an important piece of history since it is now illegal for sheep to enter the Northern Territory!

6.2 Anthony Lagoon's heritage police station and gaol - we are pretty sure it's haunted! copyAnthony Lagoon’s heritage police station and gaol – we are pretty sure it’s haunted!

Anthony Lagoon Station holds many memories for a great many people – from stockmen to drovers, policemen, and travellers. Mr Graham Troy was working at the Police Station in 1970, not long before it was closed. He recently send the station a number of beautifully restored stones he found in the area whilst working here. They hold so much history and will now be on display for any visitors to the area.

Mr Troy explains “I was working on the Police Station called Anthony Lagoon back in 1970, sometime around May to July. While walking around 200 yards east of the police station the sun glinted on this piece of stone and I picked it up for my collection which I have had ever since. The black tracker who was on the police station showed a lot of interest in the stone and now after 44 years I believe it is time for the stone to be returned to its home place forever.”

It is such a beautiful sentiment and makes it clear that the yarns, stories, and tall tales we spin whilst sitting out at camp, hold the history of the station in their words.

Thank you for having me over the last week and I hope you have enjoyed hearing all about the life and times of Anthony Lagoon Station. I have absolutely loved sharing the stories of these terrific people and the important role they play in providing delicious, sustainable beef from our paddock to your plate.
Please feel free to send us any questions you may have, I will do my best to find an answer! And please don’t forget, I would love to say hello at the next campdraft or rodeo!

– The Rookie Graduate