Halls Creek is one of the most isolated towns in W.A. Despite being on Highway One it is located on the edge of the Tanami Desert and is used
mainly as an overnight stop by travellers. The present town was established in 1948 and was officially opened on June 8th 1954 at a place originally
known as 9 Mile, as it was 9 miles or 15 kilometres from the old site. The new town contained the first school in the whole of the east Kimberley.
You can expect to pay double Perth prices in Halls Creek. These prices are hard to justify as 359km away in Kununurra prices are much more reasonable.
Many visitors pass through Halls Creek only staying overnight. Time enough to slake their thirst at the local pub and have a shower, but not long enough
to fully appreciate what the area has to offer. With Wolfe Creek Crater and the Bungle Bungles
only a few hours drive from town there is a lot to see. Other attractions include China Wall; an outcrop of quartz jutting out from a hillside, Caroline Pool;
where you may find the odd freshwater croc, Palm Springs and Sawpit Gorge; that are excellent swimming holes.
The hotel is very modern and up-market. The restaurant has a good selection of dishes and the prices are quite reasonable.
The area around Halls Creek is worth exploring and in recent years the town itself has had a number of major improvements.
Halls Creek still has the feel of a frontier town, a bit of the old west that is the finishing point for many 4 wheel drive expeditions coming up the Tanami Road
or the Canning Stock Route.
The town was named after Charles Hall (accompanied by Ned Heffernan, Julius Anderson) who discovered payable gold
in the area in 1885. Popular legend has it that the first find was a 28 ounce gold nugget which according to folk lore was found on Christmas Day -
this sadly is untrue. Hall presented only 10oz of small nuggets and finings when he arrived at back in Derby.
Hall had been encouraged in his search for gold by the West Australian Government which in September 1872 the had decided to spur the
search for gold by offering a reward. Traces had been reported from time to time and after the discovery of significant amounts of gold ore
in the Eastern States it was hoped similar finds would be made in W.A.
A reward of five thousand pounds was offered to anyone finding payable gold that produced 10,000 ounces within two years of the discovery.
Of course this gold had to pass through a customs point so that the Government could take the two shillings and sixpence levied as a gold tax.
The old town was originally gazetted as Hall's Creek in 1894 but the apostrophe was removed in 1944. The new townsite was gazetted in 1949.
Alexander Forrest had mounted an expedition across
the Kimberley region in 1879 and later commented on the similarity of the country he had passed over, to the gold field at
Pine Creek in the Northern Territory. On the strength of this Adam Johns and Phillip Saunders chartered the cutter 'Prospect' (an auspicious name)
and landed at Cossack in July 1881.
They found signs of gold at Nichol (Nickol) River and Roebourne and traces of copper at Whim Well
(Creek) but none of these discoveries were considered payable. They struck east toward the Kimberleys in April 1882 and found signs of gold in
several areas, the most promising of which was in the headwaters of the Ord River.
Johns became seriously ill and the expedition was abandoned before any large finds were made. When news of the gold reached the Government a
new expedition was planned in 1884, this time including an experienced geologist (Edward Hardman).
After Hardman's report was published several prospecting parties set out for the Kimberleys including one lead by Charles Hall. On the 14th of July
1885 they discovered the first payable gold near the head of the Elvire River. As soon as the discovery became known the first gold rush in W.A. was on in earnest.
As for the five thousand-pound reward; it was never paid. Halls Creek may have produced enough gold to satisfy the reward requirements but as a tax
had been levied on each ounce of gold produced much of it went across the border and never passed through the customs stations on the coast.
Charles Hall and Co. were involved in a bitter and protracted legal battle with the Government in an attempt to claim the reward. In the end despite
finding the first payable gold in W.A. he received only five hundred pounds. Phillip Saunders was eventually acknowledged as the first discoverer of
gold in the Kimberley and received a total of one thousand eight hundred pounds from the Government.
The hardships suffered by the miners in this barren unforgiving land can only be imagined. One tale which allows an insight into their suffering
comes from the memoirs of August Lucans and is quoted here from the book 'Kimberley Scenes' edited by Cathie Clement & Peter Bridge:
"Another trip I made was from Wyndham to the goldfields via the cattle station. On leaving the Ord River station, travelling up the Elvira River,
my boy, Captain, who was driving the spare horses, sang out to me, 'Boss what name that one'' and pointed to a big blackwood tree around which
a torn water bag and a big stick were tied to draw any passer-by's attention.
On the water bag canvas was written in charcoal, 'STOP! DYING! HUNGER!' We took the saddles and packs off and camped. Looking around we found
a small humpy made of grass. Searching this humpy we found a coffee tin, in which a small pocket book was crammed, also a gold watch, a small diamond
ring, a hair chain with gold pendants and about 12oz of gold.
In the pocket book was written, 'My name is Harry Shute, a native of Christchurch, New Zealand. I am 35 years of age. Whoever finds this please help
yourself to the contents of the tin, but send the watch chain to my mother in Christchurch, the ring to Miss Orr and the watch to my mate, Henry Dove.'
Shute had kept the diary for 30 days. His last entry was 'Mad at last'. The dingoes had scattered his bones all over the place. We collected and buried
them, and put a rough fence around the grave. [7 August 1887]"
How many other untold tales of tragedy were there on the Halls Creek gold fields? We will never know.
During the gold rush there were many unique characters drawn to the area. The most famous of these was probably
Russian Jack. (see 'Tall Tales and True').
Miners had been in the area for about eight months before the first serious trouble with Aboriginal people began. A man named Fred Marriott reputedly
kidnapped an Aboriginal woman and held her captive (for his own gratification) at his camp. A spear was thrown at him at a place then named Spear
Gully and a week or so later Marriott was speared to death and two of his companions were wounded. Reprisals followed and at least four Aborigines
were killed and many more wounded. From that point things deteriorated and the killings continued for many years.
Aborigines used two types of spears, one made solely of wood that was used to hunt game such as kangaroos and the other with a sharp flint head which
tended to shatter when striking bone. The latter weapon seems to have been developed specifically as an anti-personnel weapon.
The 'new' hospital, that opened in 1954, was not quite up to standard and soon was in need of an upgrade. Building supplies and workers were organised
but the workers arrived and the building material did not. A series of mishaps and miscommunication left the hospital without power and lights for 9 weeks
and the renovations took 12 months to complete.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
(who has also been called Ivan Fredericks, Jas Fredk Kirkoss and John Frederick Kirkoss) is a local icon and a very inaccurate statue of him sits outside
the local council offices. He was said to have wheeled a sick friend from the Halls Creek goldfield over 300km to the nearest doctor at Wyndham in a wheel barrow. Sadly
this is the stuff of folklore and although Russian Jack did help many miners, history does not bear out the trip to Wyndham.
The story of Darcy
Before the advent of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, life in the outback was very precarious and a fall from a horse
could cost you your life. In the early hours of 28th July 1917, a buggy clattered into the isolated Kimberley town of Halls Creek carrying a young stockman
named Jimmy Darcy who had been thrown from his horse while mustering on Ruby Plains Station the day before and was in agonising pain.
Halls Creek's only link with the outside world was a single telegraph line to Derby and from there to Perth. Sending a telegram back then
was not a simple matter with a number of repeater stations along the 2283 miles of line that stretched from Halls Creek to Perth. The message had to be
copied down and re-sent by a series of operators and the same for any returning message. This caused frustrating delays and was hardly suitable for relaying
messages during an actual operation.
Darcy's brothers had been in Wyndham and when they were told of their brother's injuries they rode 80 hours to get to Halls Creek and be by his side.
The Halls Creek postmaster, F.W. Tuckett, was known to his few neighbours as "W.B.L.", that stood for "Whole Blooming Lot", as well as proficient in duties
as a telegraphist was resident magistrate, registrar of births, deaths and marriages, commissioner of roads, warden and protector of Aborigines and was the
only man with any medical knowledge. He gave the stockman his only injection of morphine and called Derby by Morse. Derby's doctor was away on a lugger
and was not expected back for weeks. In desperation, Tuckett raised Perth and asked the G.P.O. to bring
Dr. Holland to the telegraph-room. With an operator
transmitting his questions and translating replies, Dr Holland questioned Tuckett. From Tuckett's description of Darcy's symptoms he diagnosed a ruptured
urethra with consequent stoppage of the bladder. Unless an operation was performed quickly, he said, the stockman would die.
Although he had no anaesthetic, no disinfectant other than Condy's crystals and no surgical instruments, Tuckett decided to operate.
Willing assistants sharpened and boiled razors and penknives, scrubbed an office table and placed it near the telegraph set.
Tuckett keyed his set: "Ready"
The Morse sounder in the little post-office started to click out Dr. Holland's distant first instructions. Tuckett listened and made his first incision with a razor.
After carefully following telegraphed instructions, he completed the operation at about 4 p.m., almost 36 hours after Darcy had been thrown from his horse.
Two more operations were necessary but Darcy was getting weaker by the day.
Dr. Holland boarded the first available ship for Derby and six days later set out for Halls Creek. He took just a day and a half to reach Fitzroy Crossing.
A phone line connected the two towns and Holland raised Tuckett to see how Darcy was going. He even spoke to the stockman and told him he was on his way.
From Fitzroy Crossing the road became little more than a track. The car used to carry the doctor broke down several times and it took 6 days to get to Halls Creek.
Dr. Holland arrived just one day too late, Darcy had died the day before the Doctor arrived.
Tragically, the young stockman had not died of his injury or the effects of Tuckett's surgery. Before he fell from his horse he had not fully recovered from a
bout of malaria and as he lay in Halls Creek, the fever returned with fatal virility.
Dr. Holland performed an autopsy and reported that the operation had been faultless.
Darcy's funeral service was a simple one, read from a book called 'The Bushman's Companion' written by Rev.
Darcy's grave can still be seen in the small cemetery behind Halls Creek Lodge. The ruins of the old post office where the operation took place, still stand
only a few hundred yards from the grave.
On its own Darcy's story is just one of many similar instances of people suffering and dying in the remote and unforgiving outback, but Darcy's plight was
widely reported by the news papers and is credited with being the inspiration for the creation of the Flying Doctor Service by John Flynn.
Flynn arranged for two nurses (Sisters Madigan and Rogasch) to be stationed at Halls Creek in 1918 under the auspices of the
Australian Inland Mission. The 'temporary' hospital that they operated from was a small run down structure built in the 1880s and originally used as a
mechanics institute. This 'temporary' hospital was to remain in service for at least the next 30 years.