ABC...draw and explore...Farrell Flat.
After a short hiatus dealing with preparations for my exhibition, assessments for Maryanne and the dreaded lurgy we have risen from the depths of winter in Adelaide to get back into our ABC…Draw and Explore… expeditions.
Believe it or not, we are only up to ‘F’ and perhaps found this letter one of the hardest to choose. Trying to keep to our ‘try something new and go to places not visited before’ mantra we had to leave the more obvious suburbs alone (Findon, Fairview Park etc.) and look farther afield. We couldn’t find many places beginning with F in relatively close proximity but eventually landed on Farrell Flat, a small township between Mintaro and Burra in the Mid North.
After a pleasant 2 hour drive we turned off the main road into an extremely quiet township of a population around 150 which had obviously seen busier times when the Peterborough Railway and grain silos were still operating. The old railway station is now a home and the silos and weighing station are empty reminders of a bygone era.
No coffee shop, corner shop, supermarket, bakery – nothing. There was an interesting information board and a very clean new-looking toilet block – funny how these things seem to be more important the older you get!
Walking down the main street we headed toward the old pub and on entering side-stepped the Harley Davidson Bike and took a stool at the front bar. This small room was chocker block with memorabilia and eclectic collections, old and new. The publican very kindly made us a black coffee and we spent some time chatting about how he came to be ‘in a place like this’. Turns out he was a retired chef from Darwin (originally from Freemantle in Western Australia) who happened upon the pub a few years back and took the opportunity to set up home in Farrell Flat.
We had noticed a logo/sign on the front of the pub and on a bottle of red on the bar depicting two elephants. On asking about the significance of the elephants he proceeded to tell the story of the Farrell Flat baby elephant. Back in the day when circuses travelled by rail, a circus train stopped at the town to set up their big top and entertain the locals. On opening the elephant car they were amazed to see that their main attraction had given birth – this says a lot about the way circus animals were treated back. Anyway, the circus set up on the oval, did their thing and when they packed up they left the baby elephant behind. The elephant basically had the run of the town and as the local population had no idea how to care for the animal it died a short time later and was buried in a field just outside of the town. Sometime later the SA Museum exhumed the skeletal remains and took the skull back down to Adelaide. Other than seeing some photos in a book on the history of the township at the pub and the publican’s story, googling has shed no further light on this sad, disturbing story.
After our chat we paid for the coffee and bought one of the Farrell Flat Hotel Reds before heading back to Minarto for lunch and a leisurely walk around this historic town known for its slate. Mintaro Slate is used in many of Australia's most distinguished, contemporary and historic buildings. As early as 1861 and again in 1924 Mintaro was described as superior to any slate previously known. Mintaro township and the quarry have been acknowledged with a state heritage listing and it is believed to be the oldest continuous operated quarry in South Australia, possible Australia.
Who would have thought that our ‘F’ trip would have been so interesting?