Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wagga Wagga Cattle Driving Bill :"A menace to life and limb"

In 1901 George Rudd of Wagga Wagga brought forward a petition to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales , for a law to be created that would control the movement of stock through the township.
The minutes of evidence from the proceedings of the committee make entertaining reading. The other great benefit of the minutes of evidence is the picture it gives of Wagga Wagga at the time, and I was personally suprised to read about buildings I never knew existed.
...I have seen many persons running into gateways out of danger..George Rudd.
There were two different  sale yards at the time : the Municipal Yards, and the Pastoral Hotel sale yards. Apparently it was common practice at the time for hotels to have sale yards right next door. Which also indicates not much thought was given to health and hygiene, as the Bungalow private hospital , according to the minutes of evidence, " immediately adjoins the Pastoral sale yards." There was no adequate drainage at the yards, and the movement of cattle through the streets caused other problems apart from personal injury- ripping up the road surface, and depositing large amounts of manure which then caused the potential health hazard of disease.
Charles Cook of Wagga, in response to the question "what are your objections to cattle being driven through the streets of Wagga in the daytime ? " replied, " I always considered it was a menace to life and limb, and that it was insanitary."  

The Municipal yards, situated "less than half a mile from the Post Office, were not as well patronised as the Pastoral yards. There was discussion of why the Pastoral yards were more popular :
"You say that people go to the Pastoral Yards, for the sake of being near a public house ?" ( James Gormly, to James Beveridge, Grazier)
Beveridge to Gormly : I say that the the people that are drinking go to the Pastoral Yards to look on.
Gormly to Beveridge: "I suppose the people who drive stock are generally a temperate class of people ?"
Beveridge to Gormly: I daresay they will take a dram now and then."

The stock route for cattle to get to the yards passed through Travers and Gurwood Street, and created havoc when passing the Gurwood Street School and other schools along the route. The students no doubt found the progress of the cattle noisy, distracting, exciting, smelly and dangerous. Can you imagine 200 head of cattle being driven along the wide and leafy spaces of Gurwood Street now ?!
The last word should go to the unflappable George Rudd. When asked by Chairman Gormly ,  " you have never had to dodge the cattle ? " , Rudd answered confidently, "No, but I am an expert amongst stock."

If you would like to read the minutes of evidence, you will be transported to another era, chaotic, exciting and full of local characters speaking in their own voice across the years. Come on into the library and ask at the information desk and they will be able to retrieve the document for you- it is part of the local studies collection , available to read in the library only. Just the thing to escape a dreary winter's afternoon!

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