By Irma Walter, 2019.
Part 1: COMMUNICATIONS AT THE TIME OF FIRST SETTLEMENT
From the time of first settlement Western Australia experienced difficulty in meeting the demand for a regular delivery of mail. Isolated from other parts of Australia and eager to receive correspondence from the Home Country, the colony’s mail was dependent on irregular visits by sailing ships, sometimes waiting up to three months between mails.
Post Offices were opened at Fremantle on 4 December 1829 with Daniel Scott appointed as Postmaster, and in Perth James Purkis appointed to the position on 4 May 1830. Both men were unpaid. In January 1835 an Act was passed for the purpose of regulating the postage of letters in the Colony of Western Australia. It gave the Governor power to appoint Postal Officials where necessary and laid down the rates of postage and the rules and regulations which would govern the handling of mail. Charles McFaull was appointed Principal Postmaster in Perth, John Bateman in Fremantle and Sarah Lyttleton was appointed as the colony’s first Postmistress in Albany. A Postmaster was also to be appointed at Augusta.
Albany was the preferred drop-off point for mail transported by ships on passage between England and the Eastern colonies, due to Fremantle port being considered a hazardous ‘open roadstead’, where ships were dangerously exposed to nor-westerly winds. Off-loaded mail then needed to be transported from Albany to Perth, either overland or by an irregular shipping service – not an ideal situation for a Colonial Government needing to be in regular contact with the Colonial Office in England.
The gradual introduction of steamships revolutionised shipping, and in 1852 a mail service to Australia was introduced by the Royal Mail Steamship Navigation Company and the P&O Company steamers which continued to use Albany as their drop-off point for WA mail, about six days’ overland travel time from the seat of Government in Perth. Communications were slow, with Government despatches from England taking around eight weeks to reach King George’s Sound.
No wonder the settlers awaited the arrival of mails with great anticipation! GP Stevens, in a paper presented to the Western Australian Historical Society in 1933, spoke of the arrival at Perth of the Royal Mail coach from Albany in the 1870s, often in the middle of the night, heralded by ‘shrill blasts of the clarion’, on which guards Radley and Bonner delighted to exercise their lung power, from the time when the lumbering old vehicle entered the Causeway until it came to a stand in front of the Old Barracks, then used as the Post Office, on the north side of St. George’s-terrace where now stands the Treasury Building.
It was only after the discovery of gold that an increase in revenue allowed for improvements to Fremantle Harbour, with plans for its development drawn up by CY O’Connor, soon after his appointment as WA’s Engineer-in-Chief in 1891. Major works involved removing the rocky bar at the mouth of the Swan River, dredging of the shipping channel and the construction of an inner harbour. Work commenced on a breakwater in 1892.
During the period leading up to Federation in 1901, John Forrest lobbied the British Government for the mail to be brought around to Fremantle instead of Albany. At the time Forrest calculated an estimated travel time difference of only 12 hours, which he claimed could be reduced further as more powerful steamers came into service. In spite of opposition from some State Premiers and Albany residents, Forrest eventually won the argument and, following a trial period from August 1900, Fremantle became the permanent port of call for the P&O and Orient mail steamers from London.
Establishing an Overland Mail Service from Albany
When settlers first spread out from Fremantle and Perth to take up land, they had to rely on occasional ships or passing travellers to carry their mail. The problem of providing a mail service seemed insurmountable, considering the distances involved and the lack of available finance. The cash-strapped administration attempted to meet the demands of a scattered population, but a number of years passed before an adequate overland mail service could be provided, at least to the southern part of the State.
A route from Fremantle to Albany was necessary, in order to connect with passing ships. Following an overland excursion in 1836 by the Surveyor General, JS Roe, Esq., who reported finding fertile land suitable for farming down south, a decision was made ‘to establish a detachment of the 21st Regt., under the charge of Lieu. Armstrong, half-way between King George’s Sound and the Williams River, a distance of about 70 miles, where an establishment will be formed, and every protection will be given to parties settling in that neighbourhood.’
A military post was set up at Kojonup, with plans to commence a system of contracting out a mail run between Perth and Albany as soon as possible thereafter. However once the route was established, it was almost impossible for the mail contractors to guarantee a regular mail delivery. Rivers were a major impediment before bridges could be built and roads were little more than narrow tracks, often rendered boggy and impassable in winter.
The endless days and nights of travel proved a threatening and lonely environment to men unused to such circumstances. In 1840 it was reported that a man named Joseph Ketchley was found guilty in the Guildford Court and jailed for two months for refusing to follow the instruction of his master, mail contractor Joseph Harris, to continue transporting the mail overland to Albany for a wage of £3 per month.
In June 1841 an organised monthly mail from Albany via Kojonup and the Williams River was established and the following year a new service via Guildford was inaugurated. The difficulties must have been great, for the contract frequently changed hands. In 1843 Mr N Shaw obtained it for £140 per annum. Not much of a paying proposition, surely, for bush travelling with pack horses or a spring cart. James Martin won the contract in 1845 but failed to make it pay.
A New Track to Albany via Bunbury
In 1847 a new track between Bunbury and Kojonup was surveyed by Augustus Charles Gregory and the following year a Post Road had been cleared with the assistance of the military and advice from surveyor Thomas Watson. The route went from Bunbury along the Ferguson River, then headed in a south-easterly direction, crossing the Blackwood River before arriving at Kojonup. A branch of the same track headed north-east to Williams, for the benefit of sandalwood cutters needing to bring their produce to Bunbury for shipping to India.
Thomas Watson was contracted to carry the monthly mail on the new route between Albany and Perth, via Australind, Bunbury, the Vasse and Kojonup, a long and lonely journey by horseback or in a light spring cart with the capacity to carry one passenger. Frequent delays during winter were caused by flooded tracks and swollen rivers. Occasionally Watson was forced to return to Perth via York. In the winter of 1847 a search party was sent out to look for Watson and it was reported that:
Serious apprehensions having been entertained at Bunbury for Mr. Watson, who was more than three weeks over-due on his return with the Sound mail, Mr. Eliot, on the 16th instant, sent out a party, under Mr. Hester, to proceed to Kojenup [sic] in search of him. Happily they met Mr. Watson on the following night about 20 miles from Bunbury, and he arrived there on the 18th, much exhausted by the difficulties he had encountered. It appears that he was 17 days on his journey to the Sound, having been detained 5 days at the Gordon before he could cross that river, and had been 21 days in reaching Bunbury on his return. He describes the country as being much inundated, and the rivers running with almost resistless force. Mr. Watson had determined to return by the York road, but after crossing with great difficulty the Beaufort, found it impossible to cross the Arthur, and therefore recrossed the Beaufort, and returned to Kojenup, from whence, having obtained a party of soldiers, he proceeded along the road to the Blackwood, and ultimately, with their assistance, succeeded in crossing that river by means of ropes which had been conveyed across by one of the soldiers, an expert swimmer. All the bridges (but one) lately constructed over the small streams by Mr. Gregory have been washed away. The party who went in search of Mr. Watson described the road as being next to impassable.
Delays in the transport of mails from King George’s Sound caused by widespread flooding of the track continued, and in 1849 it was reported that the Albany mail bags had been lost on two occasions. In one instance the contractor, Private Jackson of the 99th Regiment, was too ill to make the journey, so he employed a seaman named Sims. On the return trip from Albany Sims placed the mail bags too close to his campfire, resulting in the loss of the mails. A month later, another mishap occurred when a soldier, ‘while swimming his horse across the Blackwood River, the animal made a plunge, broke the girths, and away went the saddle, mail bags, and all, floating down the stream; and thus ended the second King George’s Sound mail, which met with its untimely end on the 6th July.’
A More Direct Route to Albany, 1853
In 1852 Assistant Surveyor AC Gregory presented the Governor with a report on his recent survey of a track from Perth to Albany. Instead of routes via Bunbury or York, he recommended a shorter and more direct track, via Kelmscott, then across the Darling Range and the Hotham River and down south to Kojonup via Williamsburgh (Williams). He calculated that when compared to the route via Bunbury, this line would cut 57 miles off the journey, and the York option would be reduced by 40 miles, saving more than a day of travel time. The direct line to Albany by Williamsburgh would require bridges over the Canning, Hotham, Williams, Arthur and Beaufort rivers, whereas the Bunbury route required a bridge over the Blackwood, a more challenging undertaking.
In a petition presented to the Governor by W Pearce Clifton of Australind, settlers in the Wellington and Sussex districts expressed their objections to this plan, protesting that development in their own districts would be held back if their roads were neglected as a result of the proposed changes. They also voiced concern that delivery of their English mail would be delayed, due to it going directly up to Perth and then being brought down south at a later date. The Governor however saw the benefits of the new route, which would open up large tracts of land for farming, and promised that the South- West would not be neglected. Mail contractor George Maxwell supported the plan, saying that it was impracticable to travel the Bunbury to Kojonup route by cart. In1854 it was decided that mail from Albany for Bunbury would be brought over from Kojonup by a new service, thus overcoming the concerns of Sussex and Wellington residents over delays in the delivery of their English mail.
The new mail track from Perth to Albany along the ‘Gregory Line’ via Williamsburgh opened in 1853. During that year bridges were commenced over the King and Kalgan Rivers. Six bridges were constructed in a year on the Albany Road due to a massive effort by ticket-of-leave men and colonial prisoners. Except for the Gordon River, all were said to be above flood levels.
Reports on the new Albany mail service were generally favourable, though in June 1853 it was recorded that a bullock cart was being deployed in conveying mails from Albany to Perth, followed by the observation that ‘this eccentric mode of conveyance has not the redeeming qualification of being sure as well as slow, as the animals knocked up under the weight of their burden.’ Another report that year described an incident whereby another attempt to transport the Albany mail by bullock cart resulted in the driver and three passengers being left stranded near the Gordon River, due to the bullocks having absconded!
Travel times generally improved however, and it was reported that at the end of 1853 mail contractor Maxwell traversed the new route in the mail cart to Perth via Kojonup, Williamsburg, Crossman, Bannister and Kelmscott in four and a half days, saving 1½ days. In the summer of 1854 he accomplished the journey in 3½ days. At the end of that year Maxwell was replaced by contractor Robert Septimus Toovey. The Chippers then held the Albany mail contract for many years.
By1854 it was reported that all of the rivers between Perth and Albany had been bridged and a road had been marked out by Francis T Gregory and cleared through 180 miles of country as far as the Gordon River. A Perth Gazette article described the difficulties faced in provisioning the men and the horse teams involved, and praised their efforts in constructing the track within a short period:
This road was commenced in June last by two parties, not averaging together more than 70 working men; the ticket-of-leave party was under Mr. Henry Gregory, and the Colonial prisoners (generally sailors and Natives) under Mr. Vincent, yet with such questionable instruments in comparison with the magnitude of the work, the road was opened in the month of October, 14 months after its commencement, to the mail carrier, who now says he can travel the whole distance from Kojenup [sic] to Perth, a distance of 150 miles, in three and a half days without injury to his horses.
The route to Albany via this track was not without its difficulties, especially in winter, when wide tracts of land were under water. Over the following years there were varying reports of the quality and reliability of the mail service between Perth and Albany. An article published in 1856, entitled ‘Twins Born in the Bush’, reveals the difficulties facing passengers, especially the women:
One of the female passengers by the mail cart from Albany was suddenly taken ill during the journey, and it was discovered that she was in labour. She was removed from the cart and left with her husband in the bush, the mail cart proceeding on its journey. In due time the patient was safely delivered of twins. Luckily a house was distant only 14 miles from the place, and the mail carrier having informed the occupants of what had occurred, a cart was sent down to convey the husband, wife, and the two little strangers thus far on their journey. They all safely arrived at the Canning, and mother and children are doing well.
Thomas Scott, whose journals recorded his trip from Albany in the 1870s, found that the quality of service varied considerably, describing a stopover at a little roadside inn situated 31 miles north of Albany as follows:
To speak the truth of this place as a house of accommodation for travellers would scarcely be credited by those who have not had the pleasure of sour smiles and crusty answers from its not over-polite host. We put up here for the remainder of the day to give our horses a fresh start for the morning. 
After a week’s rest for the horses at Bunbury, which Mr Scott predicted ‘would never become a town of any importance’, they headed northwards along the Coast Road, stopping at John Fouracre’s little inn, 24 miles north of Bunbury, when he rated the accommodation as ‘not of the best, but what it afforded was right good cheer, widely contrasting with that of our first stopping place from Albany’. By comparison, their next stay at Pinjarra’s Queens Hotel proved far more to his liking, with Mr Scott declaring, ‘a better host than Mr Greenacre we could not have found.’
It became increasingly apparent that the mail system needed to be drastically overhauled. In 1879 an article published in the South Australian Chronicle, in which the writer offered this unflattering description of his travels in the West, came to the notice of the WA Government:
The coach carrying the English Mails between Perth and Albany is what you would scarcely expect to see in a civilized neighborhood. It resembles a very dilapidated vegetable cart and does the distance of 200 miles in the remarkably short time of 72 hours.
The Police Department Takes Over the Mail Service
Following an official report presented to the Legislative Council in August 1879 by MS Smith, Superintendent of Police, it was decided that in the following year the Southern and Eastern Districts mail services would be placed in the hands of the Police:
No. 503.—C.S.O. Government Notice. Colonial Secretary’s Office, Perth, 30th December, 1879.
HIS Excellency the Governor has been pleased to direct that from and after the 1st January next the conveyance of the Mails between Perth and the Eastern Districts, and between Perth and the Southern Districts, be conducted by the Police Department. The services will, as heretofore, be bi-weekly, and the Mails will be carried along the following routes, viz.:— 1st.—Between Perth and Northam, via Guildford, Lakes, and York, and vice versa. 2nd. — Between Perth and Northam, via Guildford, Baylup (near Toodyay), and Newcastle, and vice versa. — 3rd. — Between Perth and Vasse, via Narrogin [later re-named Armadale], Serpentine, Pinjarrah, Harvey, Australind, and Bunbury, and vice versa.
It will be the duty of the drivers to look after the Mail Coaches, Horses, Harness, and other articles issued for Mail Service at their respective Stations. The salary of each driver will be six shillings per diem, and each will be supplied with a suit of Uniform, Great Coat, and Waterproof Coat, Each driver will be sworn in as a Police Constable.
There will also be a Native Assistant, at the Stations named in the margin. (Pinjarrah, Harvey, Bunbury, Vasse) to assist in looking after the Mail Horses. The allowance for their maintenance will be £30 per annum, and each native will be supplied with a suit of clothing and a rug. 
The preparations for the new service intensified over the next few months, with reports that a far greater number of horses would be needed in the Southern section than first quoted, with six relays of horses instead of four being required for the Perth to Bunbury stage. The following account gives a view of the preparations in progress:
The Government are [sic] evidently alive to the necessity of being fully prepared for working the inland mail service, to be undertaken with the new year on the southern and eastern lines, by the police. Horse-breaking has, for the past fortnight, been the order of the day in Perth and the neighborhood, where four-in-hands, unicorns, and pairs have been dashing about from daylight to dusk. Some very serviceable animals appear to have been selected for the work. The pick, it is said, has not been confined to particular breeders and districts, but that horses from all quarters, between the Mission and the Vasse, have been selected for the work, and fair average prices paid for them. With the exception of the York Road, it is reported that the old mail drivers will be retained for the new service. These will wear a uniform when on duty, and a police cap, belted with a red ribbon, with Royal V.R. Mail in white letters thereon. Quite a display of its kind is expected with horses, vehicles, and drivers, on new years’ day. The eastern service will be through day mails each way. It is considered that by this arrangement commercial and corresponding facilities will be largely increased, and the number of passengers trebled.
In April 1880 two red and yellow Cobb and Co. style coaches arrived from the Eastern States for the commencement of the police mail service to Albany. The Albany route needed 36 horses and the service would run fortnightly instead of monthly. Changeovers took place at local police stations, and prisoners were given the task of grooming and feeding the horses, which needed to be well-fed for the work they were required to do.
The year 1888 ushered in a whole new era, when in August the mail was first carried by train, on a private railway line constructed between Albany and Beverley – apart from a 108-mile section of uncompleted rail line, where a mail coach still had to carry the mail for a few months, from Eticup to a point 55 miles south of Beverley. At Beverley station the train connected with the York line into Perth. This private railway line was officially opened in June 1889, providing a much quicker route for the inter-colonial and overseas mail dropped off at Albany port, as well as an unaccustomed degree of comfort for passengers.
The last mail coach about to leave Albany, outside the Post Office.
In July 1888 the last coach left Albany for Perth, witnessed by a small group of onlookers:
THE LAST OF THE OVER-LAND MAIL COACH.
The overland mail coach left on its last journey to Perth from Albany on Saturday afternoon. Up to 1879 the mails had been carried by private contract but in December of that year Sir Harry Ord, the then Governor of West Australia, instituted the system of the Government mail coach service horsed by the police. Mr. John Chipper drove the first mail coach, and was afterwards joined on the box by his brother Mr. Harry Chipper, and these two well-known and expert drivers have handled the ribbons ever since in “tooling” Her Majesty’s royal mail van over the road from the capital to the shores off Princess Royal Harbor. In the old days before 1879 Messrs. Chipper and Horton had carried on the mail contract for nearly 28 years, one partner being the father of the afterwards noted Jehus.
It is said that at first starting the mails the horses always gave trouble, and were “hitchy” in getting to work, but since the brother’s Chipper appeared on the scene the fortnightly mail service has been carried on with remarkable easiness and in good time. The old service was a monthly one only, and the coach lumbered on at a very slow rate, so that when the new arrangements were made nine years ago it was quite felt that marvellous progress was being made, and he would have been a bold man who would at that time have prophecied that the iron horse would run the one of flesh and blood off the track within a decade.
A curious coincidence is attached to the first and last trip of the overland mail. Mr. Howard, an Inspector of Police, was the first passenger carried by the coach from Perth to Albany, and his brother Mr. Ernest Howard was the only passenger carried on the last trip the whole distance, whilst we believe Sergt. Cunningham assisted in loading at Perth the first bag of mails that were carried and also helped to hoist in the last one that left Albany. There were not many spectators to attend the last despatch of the old coach, but the Commissioner of police and Mrs. Smith assisted at the ceremony; being present in a waggonette, and Mr. Otto took a photograph of the conveyance before its departure. And so another era passeth away, viz that of the coaching days.
The last mail coach for Albany, outside the Old Perth Post Office in St George’s Terrace, 24 July1888. The drivers were HC Chipper and brother John, and the passenger was Ernest Howard. The building later became the offices of the Agriculture Department. The site is now Council House.
In 1888, due mainly to costs, it was decided that the Police Department would no longer control the South-West mail services, which in future would be contracted out by the State to private individuals. This system lasted until March 1901, when the Commonwealth took over the service. By that time the bulk of the mail was being carried on the South-West railways, but was still distributed to outlying areas by mail contractors.
A Bunbury Mail Service
Bunbury’s first white settler, John Scott, arrived in the Leschenault area in 1838, accompanied by his wife Helen, their two sons and Daniel McGregor, his stepson. In the early years the few residents of Bunbury had great difficulty in receiving mail, which arrived spasmodically via occasional ships or private travellers. Henry Bull, appointed in March 1838 as the first Government Resident in the area, was soon employing Aboriginals as mail carriers, as evidenced in the following report:
On Tuesday week, the Lady Stirling quitted this bay for Port Leschenault, having Mr. and Mrs. Little on board, with their family. They sailed with a fair wind, and it is to be hoped got safely down during the day, the wind freshening during the afternoon to a perfect gale. An account of their safety, we trust, will shortly arrive, a native having been dispatched some days ago with letters for Mr. Bull, now Resident at the new settlement at Port Leschenault.
Henry Bull is said to have contracted young Daniel McGregor to carry mail on foot between Bunbury and Perth, though whether this was on a regular basis is not known. Mary McGregor-Craigie, a descendant of Daniel McGregor, states that family records show that Daniel was generally on good terms with the local Aboriginal tribes and that he sometimes camped with them during his journey, which took several days. He sought their assistance when crossing rivers with the mail bag, though he sometimes travelled by moonlight in order to avoid attention.
Bull also used natives when he and two soldiers were searching for the best line of road between Leschenault and Mandurah in 1839. It was not unknown for settlers in the area to occasionally walk to Fremantle along the coast. Another track further east went from Perth to Pinjarra where in 1841 Francis Corbet Singleton constructed a bridge over the Murray River.
The establishment of a settlement at Australind north of Bunbury in that year led to demands from Chief Commissioner Marshall Waller Clifton for a regular mail service. The Governor acquiesced, but since the sandy track down the coast was considered unsatisfactory, the new route to Australind and Bunbury via Pinjarra was considered the best means of travel. Within months, however, the new Murray River Bridge and road were damaged by floods, leading to renewed arguments over its suitability for a regular mail service.
Clifton was still in favour of a coastal route through limestone country, which was less prone to flooding. In 1842 he surveyed and cleared an alternative track, using the limited resources of the Western Australian Company. Instead of heading south from Mandurah along the coast, Clifton’s new route was further east, though rarely more than seven miles inland, travelling down the eastern side of what was later named Lake Clifton, then past Lake Preston and on to Australind. A plan was drawn up in 1842, entitled ‘Coast Road between Australind and Mouth of the Murray, as surveyed by Officers of the Australind Comp., and by Thomas Watson, 1842’. The plan, copied in January 1843 by Horace Samson of the WA Survey Office, shows the route, the mileage from Mandurah and details of the terrain.
The only requirement for this new track was the provision of a ferry service across the Mandurah Estuary, which Clifton said would be funded by means of subscriptions. His letter detailing the planned route was forwarded to the Perth Gazette by the Colonial Secretary Peter Brown, along with confirmation that the proposed new line of road was acceptable to the Administration:
Colonial Secretary, Colonial Secretary’s Office, Perth, November 7, 1842.
HIS Excellency the Governor has been pleased to direct the publication of a letter from the Chief Commissioner of the Western Australian Company, communicating the pleasing intelligence that a new line of road has been marked and cleared between Australind and Fremantle.
By His Excellency’s command, PETER BROWN, Colonial Secretary. Australind, October 28, 1842.
Sir, — Adverting to your letter of the 23rd June last, conveying the sentiments of His Excellency the Governor on the subject of the new line of road which I had suggested between this town and Fremantle, I request you will do me the favour to inform His Excellency that the new line of road recently marked between Pinjarra and the Harvey having proved impassable during the late winter, and the old road crossing the upper estuary of the Harvey presenting almost insurmountable obstacles to travellers, while the whole line was more or less flooded to a great extent, I felt it my duty (more especially in consequence of communication by sea having been interrupted by the loss of the Devonshire,) to co-operate with the inhabitants of this place in opening a road along the line I had originally suggested via Mandurah. By means of a subscription a road from Mandurah to the head of Lake Clifton was marked and cleared twelve feet wide, while at the same time I caused by means of a party of men in the Company’s employ, the road to be marked and thoroughly cleared from thence to the Stony Plain.
The route proved popular, taking approximately 32 hours of travel from Australind. The first ferry operator at Mandurah was Mrs Sarah Lyttleton, (formerly postmistress at Albany). She was also appointed as Mandurah postmistress and ran a boarding house for travellers. The ferry operated by means of an endless rope and windlass which drew the boat to and fro between the jetties on either side of the inlet. The ferry service was briefly discontinued in 1868, however following objections by locals, the boat was raised and repaired in 1869 by James Tuckey, who was appointed to take charge of it when needed. A bridge at Mandurah was finally built in 1894.
Called the ‘Great Southern Road’ in the early days, Clifton’s route later became known as the ‘Old Coast Road’. It was used regularly by travellers over a number of years, although from 1842 the mail was generally carried via Serpentine and Pinjarrah, then across what later became known as the ‘Old Bunbury Road’ to join the Coast Road near Lake Clifton, before heading south to Australind and Bunbury. There was a shortage of water for horses and travellers on this road, but following the arrival of convict labour in the 1850s, gangs of workers improved the road and sank wells approximately every 10 miles. The poor quality of the soil along the Coast Road led to settlers taking up blocks further inland, so the Coast Road’s importance declined by the 1860s.
‘The Old Coast Road, 1920. Also called the Notorious Ghost Road, given its sinister name following a sequence of tragedies in the Lake Clifton district.’ 
From early 1842 Thomas Edward Hester was contracted to carry mail once a fortnight between Perth and Bunbury, via Canning, Pinjarra, and Australind. Later that year it was Thomas Watson who held the Bunbury mail contract. He was also contracted to improve sections of the road in 1841- 42. In 1846 Watson was awarded the Mandurah ferry contract for seven years, along with a lease of ten acres.
A letter signed ‘Vasse-ite’ in 1842 complained about the lack of a mail service to the Vasse district, with mail being re-directed by the Bunbury Resident Magistrate via natives (if available), who were engaged to go to Leschenault once a fortnight to pick up the mail bag and carry it to the Vasse, which had no postmaster. In 1843 a mail service was established between Bunbury and Vasse (Busselton) once a week, with Herring contracted at £35 per annum.
On 11 July 1842 Mr Clifton wrote complaining that the postman was drunk when he arrived at Australind, forcing him to take the mail bags away from him. The mails had apparently come unsealed, and Mr Clifton opened the Bunbury bag, which was only tied with pack thread. In it he found the British newspapers destined for Australind. When the postman sobered up, Clifton took him on to Bunbury by boat.
In 1843 Thomas Hester was again contracted to provide a weekly mail service between Perth and Pinjarrah at a rate of £80 per annum, while JH Knight was the successful tenderer for the weekly service from Pinjarrah to Bunbury via Australind, at £95 per annum. In 1845 Hamilton Wright was appointed mail contractor between Pinjarra and the Vasse, via Australind and Bunbury.
Concern was expressed over the cost to the budget of the weekly mail service to the district, with insufficient business being carried on in Bunbury to cover costs. The Governor also questioned the viability of the Australind settlement, after being informed that there were only five houses there, and little commercial enterprise was being conducted. By 1847 the service had been reduced to a monthly mail delivery, delivered on the way to Kojonup and Albany, via Gregory’s new Post Road from Bunbury:
His Excellency the Governor directs it to be notified for general information that the tender of Thomas Watson to convey eleven monthly mails, commencing from the 5th of next month, from Fremantle to Albany via Mandurah, Australind, Bunbury, the Vasse, and Kojonup; also a branch mail between Mandurah and Pinjarrah has been accepted.
By His Excellency’s command,
G. F. MOORE.
As a way of reducing costs, Clifton suggested to Governor Fitzgerald that native prisoners be given the option of delivering mail on foot, rather than being incarcerated at the dreaded Rottnest Island prison where they were forced to work as slave labour. Clifton’s journals reveal that trusted Aboriginals had occasionally been employed to carry mail in the past:
Penny, Denmar & another native started for Perth today. I sent by Penny a beautiful plan of the town for the Governor’s acceptance. (3 Aug 1841)
Denmar the Native arrived with the letter bags from Perth. (18 Aug 1841)
Sent letter bag down by Dingy to postmaster at Bunbury. Sent Denmar the Native up to Pinjarra with letters. (23 Aug 1841)
It was agreed that Clifton’s suggestion should be given a trial between Fremantle and Bunbury. The plan was described as follows:
Accordingly, four native prisoners have been selected, as an experiment, to convey a weekly mail between Fremantle and Bunbury, and on Monday last they departed to take up their stations.
His Excellency has been induced to adopt a suggestion, emanating in the first place we believe from Mr. Clifton, and subsequently modified, that one or two natives should start with a mail from Perth or Fremantle to Mr. Sutton’s, at Mandurah, where they were to be met by a corresponding party with the bag for Fremantle and Perth. For this service, clothing, rations, pipes and tobacco, are to be supplied the carriers by Government. If this plan be not found to answer, ponies are guaranteed for this particular service by Messrs. Peel and Clifton. The first party, consisting of two natives, — prisoners, who are to have a pardon if they perform the duty well and truly for the space of a twelvemonth, — started on Monday, dressed out in forage-caps, and a sword-belt and sword, and looking highly pleased with their novel attire. Each will carry six loaves of bread.
There were many who considered this a farcical plan which would jeopardise the safety of their correspondence, which sometimes carried money, since no proper banking system had yet been established. In the main, however, the plan worked satisfactorily for a few years, despite predictions that the runners would surely deviate from the task whenever they wanted to participate in tribal festivities or gatherings. Marshall Waller Clifton, as the initiator of the scheme, defended the native postmen, stating:
The natives have performed their task with undeviating correctness; on no one occasion have they failed in departing and arriving at the appointed time, and the only day on which any interruption to this regular communication took place, was when one of the natives was ill, and the other not on the spot.
Initially Clifton and Thomas Peel of Rockingham had agreed that provision of ponies would be considered if the native mailmen could not sustain the journey over a long period. However in 1849, when a respected Aboriginal known as ‘Peter’ complained that he could no longer fulfil his role due to leg troubles, Clifton reneged on his offer, his reason being that natives were incapable of treating a horse well and would ‘ride them to death’. Poor Peter soon found himself back as a prisoner in a road gang from which he had absconded, before being tracked down by E Hester’s native constable Eundine.
The man pictured is believed to be ‘Peter’, an Aboriginal employed as a postman, running between Pinjarrah and Bunbury via Australind. (Photo No. 3555, courtesy of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society)
Algernon Clifton, when reminiscing about his family’s long association with the local Aboriginal people in 1930, revealed an appreciation of their skills, tempered with an understanding of the negative influence of the white man’s culture over their lives. He spoke highly of Peter in particular:
These natives were very useful to the settlers. There were always a number of both men and women employed in reaping, haymaking, etc., in those times when all the crops were cut by scythe or sickle. They were most useful as stockmen in the days when all the country was un-fenced, many being bold and fearless riders and all most wonderful trackers. Their eyesight was far keener than any whiteman’s, so much so that the individual footprints of any one of their party could be recognised by them and the discovery of a strange footprint would cause consternation and alarm in the camp. It is a sad commentary on our civilisation that our taking possession of their country has been the cause of the whole race gradually dying out, the last native belonging to this district having died some years ago. The main contributing causes were the whiteman’s diseases, which had never been in Australia before, the misguided kindness of the Government in supplying cheap blankets to the old, which led to their giving up the “Booka” which was rain-proof, for the blanket, which became sodden with water and brought on pneumonia and kindred complaints, and the whiteman’s strong drink, which completely demoralised them. I do remember one notable exception, a fine old man known as “Governor Peter”, who never adopted the whiteman’s garb and who had the greatest contempt for drink. I have seen his eyes flash and his nostrils distend like those of a frightened horse when speaking of it. Taking them all in all, I have kindly recollections of many of them who were faithful servants to me and my family, and who have long since passed over to the Great Unknown.
On one occasion, the good record of the Aboriginal postmen was blemished when several of them, probably due to ceremonial commitments elsewhere, decided to abdicate their roles one night, quitting the garden shed which kindly Governor Fitzgerald had allowed them to occupy in the grounds of Government House and taking with them the Governor’s fowls and his young Aboriginal servant boy. The breakout occurred in November 1849, following a period of general unrest among the local tribes. There was little understanding of the men’s tribal obligations or appreciation of their previous good work record, when the incident was reported as follows:
The native postmen employed on the Fremantle and Guildford lines, who have hitherto behaved in the most satisfactory manner, suddenly decamped on Tuesday night, the 13th instant, or early the following morning, and up to the present day have not been apprehended. Considering the great extent of country continually traversed by the native postmen, and the constant opportunities offered for their absconding, it is a matter of as much surprise as satisfaction that they have not done so before, and we trust that their recapture will be so speedy, and their punishment so marked, as to show others the inutility of attempting the same course, and the folly of subjecting themselves to a period of constant labour, instead of a life (to those whose wandering habits render a journey not such a very great hardship) of comparative ease.
The route between Australind and Bunbury was made easier with the construction of the first bridge over the Brunswick River in 1845 by William Forrest, then the Collie River Bridge built by locals in 1848, under the leadership of W Pearce Clifton, son of Marshall Waller Clifton. Prior to this the Collie was forded by going out into the Estuary and round the mouth of the river, where in summer time the water was not very deep, but in winter it was sometimes nearly up to the horses’ backs, and with big waves it was often impossible to cross it.
In 1851 a complaint from Marshall Waller Clifton of Australind about the unsatisfactory mail service resulted in a lengthy discussion in the Legislative Council. Clifton voiced his concerns over the irregular service provided by Watson to and from King George’s Sound. By this stage Clifton also wanted the native postmen to be replaced, due to the increased weight of the mail, which included British newspapers coming up to Bunbury from Albany. The Governor once again expressed his concern over the failure of postal charges to cover the costs of mail delivery and the provision of postmasters/mistresses in certain areas, including Australind. He pointed out that there were few commercial men in the Southern Districts who required a regular mail service and that many of the settlers were illiterate. In May 1852 it was announced that the native mail carriers would be relieved of their heavy burden.
Following the development of the more direct route carrying the mail to Albany in 1853, along what later became known as the Albany Highway, the South-West mail system continued separately under various mail contractors, carrying passengers along the main route via Pinjarra and Australind, with regular stopping places where horses were changed and meals were provided. Accommodation was available at some stops at properties such as John McLarty’s ‘Blythewood’ south of Pinjarra, at the Fouracre property at Peppermint Grove, and Ephraim Clarke’s ‘Hampden’, before arriving at Australind and Bunbury.
Clarke family at ‘Hampden’ on the Old Coast Road.
Ongoing Road Problems
Further south of Pinjarra, there were no reliable roads to serve the settlers along the foot-hills of the Darling Ranges. Out of necessity they were forced to use their own resources to clear tracks and build bridges in order to access their own land. Properly constructed roads were desperately needed. Their situation became more parlous with the Great Flood of 1862, which ‘cut the roads to pieces’, and did extensive damage to existing bridges and their approaches. In 1863 the Governor responded to farmers’ demands for a better road and issued a proclamation of an official road southwards from Pinjarra to Bunbury by way of Waterloo, which cleared the way for the employment of convicts at the expense of the British Treasury.
Map showing the Old Coast Road (1842) and the Bunbury-Pinjarra Road (1863).
By the end of 1863 a party of 12-15 convicts had completed three miles of road at the Waterloo end. Another party executed repairs to the Pinjarra and Harvey bridges, previously damaged in the floods, before commencing work about four miles north of the Harvey Bridge, raising the level of the road and building culverts and ditches for better drainage. However there were never enough convicts allocated to the Bunbury area to carry out all the public works required. The following article gives an indication of the progress made on the Pinjarra to Bunbury road by1866:
The total strength of the Bunbury Depot was 63 men, classed as follows:
Probation prisoners … 47
Reconvicted … 4
Ticket-of-leave men … 12
The present force being thus distributed:
Bunbury Depot … 31
Blackwood road party … 9
Ferguson … 12
Harvey … 11
(These numbers including constables, cooks, men in hospital, &c.)
As far as the Blackwood party’s work has extended about 27 miles from Bunbury – great improvements have been made on this important route; but we regret to hear it stated that the party will shortly be moved out of the district to the River Warren.
That which is called the “Harvey party” is now stationed near the Collie, having completed a splendid road from the Harvey along the foot of the hills through the W. A. Company’s land to the Collie, which river will be bridged near the townsite of Waterloo. From thence it is said the line will be carried on to meet the Dardanup road, on which the Ferguson party is still employed – thus connecting it with the upper bridge across the Preston. The Dardanup road, as far as completed, is of great benefit to settlers in that locality, but a large amount of cartage is still requisite to complete it. Between the Upper Preston bridge and Bunbury the “depot party” is employed hardening the road, and an additional party is expected shortly to be employed in the same work. When this main line of road is completed, it will be of great service to the settlers on the Company’s land along the foot of the hills, as well as to those on the Brunswick, and will doubtless ultimately be the main road between the Southern Districts and the capital.
The existing track between the Harvey River and the Wellesley River was known as the Ommanney Road. It was part of the eastern boundary of the Western Australian Company’s land, marked out by Henry Mortlock Ommanney in 1841, when employed as a Government surveyor. The boundary extended from the Collie River along the foot-hills of the Darling Ranges, northwards to the Harvey.
Part of its history remains today in that section of the highway which passes through Brunswick, which is still called ‘Ommaney Road’. The route to Perth via Brunswick and Pinjarra became known as the Bunbury Road, and eventually became the main road between Perth and Bunbury. (In 1941 it was officially re-named the South Western Highway.)
The construction of the telegraph line to Bunbury in 1872 followed this line of road, which by then was much improved. When compared with the Old Coast Road, which was comprised of heavy sand for much of its length, this road was better suited for travel by carts, having by then been macadamised for much of its length.
In 1876, with mail contracts due for renewal, members of the Legislative Council queried the necessity of maintaining two roads linking Perth and Bunbury. Settlers who lived along the Bunbury Road campaigned for the main mail service to be carried along their road, rather than the old route via Australind. It was considered that mail delivered on horseback would provide an adequate service for the few settlers on the Coast Road. The Coast Road residents, however, were reluctant to give up their regular mail cart delivery, having for years depended on the service for transporting produce such as butter to market.
The new mail contracts from January 1877 remained in place until 1879, when it was decided that from 1880 the Police Department should take control of the mail service. The planned South-West route passed twice a week from Perth through Canning, Narrogin (now known as Armadale), Serpentine, Pinjarra, Harvey, Brunswick, Australind and Bunbury, then via Ludlow and Lockeville to Vasse (Busselton). A contractor would take mail from Pinjarra across to Fouracres and Australind once a week. The Police Department continued this service up until 1888, when mail deliveries were placed back in the hands of private contractors, mainly due to the costs involved.
Despite the care and dedication of the drivers, the condition of the roads in the South-West inevitably led to accidents, which passengers accepted as par for the course. As Algernon Clifton later recalled:
The travellers by mail coach had varied experiences. I remember on one occasion when only a pair were driven, the buggy got bogged in a swamp near the spot where that atrocious act was committed a few months ago at the instigation of the Main Roads Board, the victim being a giant that had stood sentinel for thousands of years, holding back the encroachment of the sand on one side from the clay country on the other. The passengers on this occasion were a lady and a small child. The driver was forced to leave them sitting in the vehicle while he proceeded to Australind, riding on one of the horses bare-backed, where he borrowed a sturdy plough horse which brought them safely to Australind after a cold and weary wait in the dark with goonacks and frogs croaking round them on a cold July evening. On another occasion one of the wheels collapsed midway between Brunswick and Australind, and again the driver, Mr. McKearnon [sic, McKernan], had to proceed to Australind, this time on foot, where he secured a wheel off an old spring cart which he trundled back with him and managed to fit on to his buggy. Although nearly a foot larger in diameter, it carried the coach safely to Bunbury.
The following event took place in 1880:
An accident which might have been attended with very serious results happened to the mail from Bunbury to Pinjarrah on Thursday evening last. The driver of the mail coach (P.C. Cornish), stopping to light his lamps, allowed his reins to drop over the dash board; while he was getting out to pick them up, the horses started off full speed, and he was unable to overtake them. A passenger named Wells who was in the coach, jumped out, in the hope of stopping the horses, but he also was left in the lurch.
There were two lady passengers still in the coach, and one of them very courageously attempted to stop the runaway horses by putting down the break [sic, brake]. This, however, the lady was unable to accomplish, and finding the horses did not stop, she unfortunately threw herself out, and in falling broke her arm, just below the shoulder. Her companion seeing her jump out, incontinently followed her example, but was more fortunate than her fellow passenger, as she escaped without sustaining any bodily injury. Mr. Wells followed up the horses as quietly as he could, and, overtaking them in some heavy sand, got into the van, and putting down the break, succeeded, after some little time in arresting them. Miss Little, the young lady who fractured her arm, came through to Perth by the mail, and had the injured limb attended to at the Colonial Hospital. We hear that, although still suffering considerably from the result of the accident, she is progressing favourably.
Great credit is due to Mr. Wells for his activity in overtaking and arresting the horses, for, had it not been for his action in the matter, the coach would probably have been smashed. As it was, strange to say, nothing whatever was damaged. We have already pointed out that, with horses fed as the present mail horses are, the drivers cannot be too careful with them; and had P.C. Cornish tied up his reins, or given them to a passenger to hold, this accident would not have happened.
P.C. Cornish was one of those men co-opted into the Police Force as a condition of employment, imposed on those working as drivers during the period from 1880 – 1888, when the service was run by the WA Police Department. The public generally regarded the mail and passenger services to have improved under police administration, but hazards still existed for drivers, as the following article by a Vasse correspondent shows:
Still the rain comes down. Since my last it has been almost continuous, and now the Vasse and its immediate vicinity appear one vast waste of water, dotted with innumerable islets. There is more wet than has been known since the memorable year 1862. The new road from Bunbury is under water for at least one half the entire distance; the brooks, instead of confining themselves to their courses, run with the rapidity of a mill race as far as the eye can reach on either side. The driver of the mail cart must have achieved no ordinary feat in bringing the mail van safely to Busselton last night. P.C. King, the driver, must know every tree by sight, as the road for miles together is covered with water, and at the Ludlow river the water is level with the hand-rail of the bridge. At this place the driver had to swim his horses for upwards of half a mile, fearing every moment the current would take both van and horses down the stream, into the river.
The regular visits by the mailmen were eagerly anticipated by settlers on these lonely stretches of road, sharing the latest news over a cup of tea or a meal. There were instances of public displays of appreciation of mailmen who went beyond the requirements of their contracts in the service they performed over a number of years. In 1895 a number of residents of Australind presented Thomas Milligan with a gold watch and chain for going beyond the line of duty:
It is a matter for congratulation when we find public servants discharging their duties in a way that calls forth public approbation. Such a case comes under notice in connection with the mail services from Bunbury to Hampden, via the coast road. This mail is carried once a week by Mr. Thomas Milligan, who has won the good opinion of all by his punctual, civil and obliging manners. Thanks to the courtesy of the mail carrier, the residents of Australind and vicinity have, during the past year been receiving an extra mail, which has been carried gratis. 
A few years later the efforts of Mr Milligan were again recognised when he was awarded a handsome silver medal by the Rodgers family of Cook’s Park, commemorating his years of service to the district.
The South-West mail service had a chequered history, undertaken variously by private contractors, Aboriginals, the Police Department and later by Government employees. Many stories have been told of the dangers and discomforts faced by the drivers and their passengers, who took up the challenge of travelling in the early days along narrow unformed roads. An interview in 1936 with Tom Delaporte, at the time recognised as Bunbury’s oldest citizen, best describes the trials faced by some of these old mailmen, some of whom carried the mail on foot:
…He knew the days when he made his own candles or went in darkness; made walls of mud and wattle and thatched a roof of rushes or went homeless, and curtained his windows with calico because glass was an unknown luxury. Now this magnificent old man, over 6ft. tall, straight as an old oak and without a surplus ounce of girth, turns a switch and hears the news of the world actually happening. Yet he can remember his parents’ recollections of the days of this colony when the mails were carried to Albany and the Vasse by foot. He remembers the names of those old wilderness trail marathon walkers—Tom Wright did the Busselton stretch and Tom Jackson trudged to Albany and more than once nearly met death at natives’ hands.
Old Tom Delaporte actually walked with Wright. Wright was gaunt, old and bent-backed from the mail packs, but Delaporte, in the pride of early manhood, could not stay the old man’s pace. Delaporte reckons Wright covered 70 miles in daylight on foot. That sounds incredible but the old man sticks to his guns about it. Maybe he could, for the more one hears of the pioneers the more one realises that there were supermen and women abroad in those more than century old days.
Tom Delaporte was born in 1850, his parents having come out among the 1842 band in the Trusty. He knew Bunbury when its inhabitants numbered less than three score unless the Yankee whalers were in the bay. Sometimes 20 big sailers were anchored out. Humpback and right whales roamed the coastline in this season and the stink of boiling blubber from the whaling camps floated over the baby settlement and brought the natives about in scores. Aged six, Delaporte followed Morgan’s bullock waggon, loaded with grog, out to the first meeting of the Bunbury Race Club 80 years ago. The scene but not the site of the old course has changed since. Delaporte’s brothers dragged him to school but as soon as they let him go he made for home. He had no slate work but he went through the school of life pretty thoroughly. Driving McKernon’s [sic] mail coach with four good horses pulling 15 people and their baggage through mud and sand, he was able in later years to decipher the addresses of thousands of letters from all parts of the world coming to the early tin miners at Greenbushes… 
Confirmation of Delaporte’s story of early mailmen traversing long distances on foot can be found in the record of a Legislative Council enquiry in 1853, when Private Thomas Jackson of the 99th Regiment was called to give advice on the best route for the Albany mail service. During his testimony he described the tribulations he faced when transporting mails between Bunbury and Albany:
The evidence of a private in the 99th, named Jackson, may be given as typical. Jackson stated he had for fifteen months carried the mails between Bunbury and Albany in five days, resting three days, and then returning; he had also carried the mails between Bunbury and Albany in five days, resting three days and then returning: he had also carried the mails between Kojonup and Bunbury for two years and six months, a journey taking three days. For Albany he was provided with three horses, but lost one; his wages were £30 per annum, two horses and a saddle, but he had to find tether ropes and horseshoes himself. For the Kojonup mail he had the same pay, but had to find his horse, which he had lost, so had to walk for the rest of the year. Crossing numerous rivers, he found in the dry season the water rarely came above his saddle girths; in winter, however, swimming the rivers was a hazardous venture, once having lost the mail bags and his companion being nearly drowned. The Blackwood River in bad times was so troublesome that the mails were a month behind time. The average weight of mail to be carried over was 20lb.: it would be impossible to cross with 2cwt; a cart would be useless in wet weather owing to the very heavy, sandy roads.
We pay tribute to these heroes of the road, covering countless miles under what we would consider today to be atrocious working conditions, determined to get the mail through at all costs. Nor should we forget the efforts of the Aboriginals who travelled on foot over long distances, carrying the whiteman’s mail, with little understanding of its purpose. We also acknowledge the stalwart efforts of the highly-valued horses, which travelled up to 30 miles a day, either as pack horses or pulling heavy carts through sand, mud and water. Viewed from the standpoint of a modern-day traveller, one can only sympathise with the plight of the long-suffering passengers, who were frequently called upon to ease the horses’ load by alighting from the mail carts and walking over sections of the roads, as reported in 1889:
Very grave complaints are made continually about the wretched state of the Bunbury end of the Vasse-Bunbury road. On several successive trips the mail van has stuck or breakages have occurred, and passengers have had to flounder almost knee deep in the mud. This state of things calls loudly for improvement. Dr. Sampson who was a passenger the other day, says that so bad was the road that one of the female passengers stuck so fast in the mud that her shoe was pulled from her foot in trying to get out. 
As the standard of roads gradually improved, the means of transport did also, ranging from men on foot in the early days, then on horseback or in open carts, before various models of coaches were introduced, some no more than covered springless carts. Even the later Cobb and Co. models proved to be less than comfortable over some terrains, as evidenced in 1889 when a Bunbury writer expressed an opinion that ‘Cobb’s coach is not in high favour down this way, being considered a most uncomfortable conveyance, except over sandy country.’
Following the closure of the main road mail services between Perth and Bunbury in 1893 due to the opening of the railway, lesser contracts continued for many years, carrying mail on branch lines between smaller centres and making deliveries to isolated homesteads, either on horseback, in light carts, and later, by motor transport. In the more remote parts of our State, this service continues today, with the friendly face of the mail contractor a welcome sight to many in the outback.
Part 2: MAIL COACH STOPOVERS IN THE SOUTH WEST
Perth to Bunbury via Australind
Cockburn – In 1853 William Hymus was granted a publican’s licence for a ‘house of entertainment’ situated 15 miles from Fremantle, on the Southern Road. At the time it was said that there was a need for more accommodation in the 60 miles between Mandurah and Bunbury.
Mandurah – In 1842 the ferry at Mandurah was ‘in the charge of Mrs Lyttleton, late of Perth, who has acquired land of Mr. Peel, and will here establish a boarding house, which is one day’s stage from Fremantle.’ The venture was short-lived, due to few travellers passing through from the failed Australind settlement. Sarah Littleton’s publican’s license was transferred to Thomas Watson, who in 1844 advertised facilities at a wayside house called the ‘Thatched Cottage’, for travellers on the ‘Great Southern Road’, with good stabling for horses. In 1846 Watson applied for a 7-year lease of 10 acres of land, attached to the ferry service. His wife was post-mistress at Mandurah. They left the colony for South Australia in 1850. John Sutton operated the Mandurah ferry in 1843 and had a wayside inn in 1847.
Peppermint Grove – In 1854 Thomas Hardey (or Hardy) managed a new station formed half-way between Mandurah and Bunbury near Peppermint Grove.:
Mr Hardy, of Rosamel farm, is moving to a station he has formed at the 32-mile, on the great southern road, which will prove an excellent stopping place between Bunbury and Mandurah. He will have always on hand plenty of provender for horses. 
Peppermint Grove – The Fouracre property, at Peppermint Grove Farm, was situated 34 miles from Mandurah. John Fouracre arrived in WA in 1852. He won a Government contract in 1858 to clear the Bunbury Road from the 35-mile post to Australind for £20. He held pastoral leases in the Wellington District from the 1860s and a publican’s license from 1866.  The property served as a wayside inn and change station for horses on the Old Coast Road from 1872:
I, JOHN FOURACRE, married, Farmer, now residing at Peppermint Grove, near the 34 mile post on the Perth Road, in the district of Wellington do hereby give notice that it is my intention to apply at the next Licensing Meeting to be holden for this district, for a Publican’s General License, for the sale of fermented and spirituous liquors, in the house and appurtenances thereunto belonging, situated at Peppermint Grove, containing two sitting rooms and three bed rooms, my own property and now occupied by me, and licensed under the sign of the “Traveller’s Rest,” and which I intend to keep as an inn or way-side Public House. I have held a Publican’s License for seven years. Given under my hand this 18th day of November, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-two. JOHN FOURACRE.
In 1882 John Fouracre’s tender for attending to the mail service horses at Pinjarra was accepted by the Police Department. [The remains of the Fouracre building, destroyed by fire by the man who murdered Miss Leah Fouracre in 1907, can still be seen near the turn-off to Lake Clifton on the Forrest Highway.]
Fouracre property ruins, 1949.
Hampden – In 1849 Ephraim Clarke took advantage of a Government offer to anyone willing to set up a ‘house of accommodation’ on a 10-acre block at a price of £1 per acre, together with the added incentive of a 4000-acre pastoral lease free of charge for one year. He established the house on the Coast Road, 20 miles from Bunbury at Location 70 on the Perth-Mandurah route, which he named ‘Hampden’
Australind – The following article tells the history of the Clifton family’s long connection to the Australind post office:
Last of the Line Retires After 100 Years – Romance of Australind Post Office
For the past 102 years the rural post office at Australind has been conducted by a Miss Clifton. The last of the line, Miss Laura Clifton, after holding the position of post mistress since 1918, retired on January 3. The post office was first conducted in the dining-room by her aunt, Miss Eleanor Katherine Clifton, in 1845. It was not until 50 years had passed that a special room for postal work was erected. In 1863 Miss Christina Eleanor Clifton, sister of Miss L. Clifton, assumed responsibilities. After 50 years’ service she wished to retire but had to carry on for five more years before she was relieved. By a strange coincidence Miss C. Clifton died the same day that Miss L. Clifton assumed office, in 1918.
This unusual little story was told by a gracious, silver-haired old lady in her old-world home, sitting in the drawing room of the original two-storey home built by her uncle, Pearce Clifton, in 1844. She pointed out a well-preserved D’Almaine piano now 90 years old, and said how excited her elder sister had been when it arrived from England. She recalled that in the early days of her childhood, mail was brought by horseback, and later four-horse coaches brought mail twice a week from Perth along the Old Coast Road. Australind received its mail before Bunbury in those days. The thirteenth child of a large family, only she and an elder brother, Algy Clifton (aged 90 years) are still living. Marshal Walter Clifton, Miss Clifton’s grandfather, came to Australind in 1841.
The Route South via Pinjarra
Armadale – In 1856 Thomas Saw was the first licensee of the ‘Old Narrogin Inn’ at what later was re-named Armadale, the place where the Bunbury and Albany Roads parted company. It was described as ‘originally a small white cottage of five rooms, constructed of split jarrah laths with pug walls. This clay had rushes two inches in length mixed with the clay, and it was plastered with this clay both outside and inside of the building, and roofed in with rushes from the river shore.’ ‘Ye Olde Narrogin Inne’ soon became the first staging post from Perth for the mail cart, in place of the Barracks at Kelmscott. Fresh horses were provided from ‘Paradise Farm’, two miles further along the Albany Road. Thomas Saw improved the building with single handmade-brick walls and a shingle roof, improvements that were necessary following new licensing laws passed on 21 June 1856 which imposed stricter requirements on licensees for accommodation and stabling.
Old Narrogin Inn at Armadale, replaced in 1939.
Serpentine – In 1874 there was a stopover for changing horses at Foster’s stables, located opposite Edward Cockram’s ‘Jarrahdale Inn’. The stables were usually under the control of a boy.
North Dandalup – Around 1845 William Pollard set about building a home from stone and mud gathered on the property, roofed with hand split shingles. Once established, ‘Mundup’ became the last coaching stage to Pinjarra, where it was met there by the coach from Bunbury. At this point, mail, luggage and passengers were exchanged, and each coach returned the following day to their respective starting points. Many of the early travellers had happy memories of the hospitality extended to them at ‘Mundup’ during their short stops while the horses were changed. Weary travellers enjoyed the kindly reception given them at the old homestead where they rested.
‘Mundup’, home of William Pollard, first settler of North Dandalup, by DL Cummings, 1939.
Pinjarra – John McLarty ran a wayside inn and stables at his home at ‘Blythewood’ on the Murray River south of Pinjarra. The previous stopping place was at Serpentine, and the next stop southwards was at Fouracre’s on the Coast Road. In 1870 James Rummer Greenacre offered accommodation at the ‘Queen’s Hotel’, Pinjarrah. ‘Butterworth’s Hotel’ at Pinjarra was also a coach stopover place.
Cookernup – Until the 1890s the mail coach stopped to change horses at this shingled roof building on the corner of Logue Brook Road and the South West Highway. Mrs Sutcliffe was Post Mistress, April 1897, followed by Mrs Annie Maria Townsend in March 1898. It also served as the Police Station.
Post Office and Police Station at Cookernup.
Harvey – A coaching station was located at the corner of the Bunbury Road (later the South-West Highway) and Weir Road at Harvey. Between 1883 and 1893 the mail was delivered by horse and coach to Adams’ house, a slab cottage occupied by Mrs William Adams, grandmother of Mrs WJ Martin of Harvey. John Mylan had charge of the horses at the Harvey for many years. [see this website for more history of the Harvey Post Office.]
Harvey’s first Post Office at corner of Weir Road, run by Mrs Adams.
Brunswick – John Crampton was appointed Postmaster in February 1875. In 1880 he applied for a publican’s license for an eating, boarding and lodging house license, as well as a license to sell beer and wine at his property ‘Viewbank’, located at the Upper Brunswick Bridge, opposite the old Brunswick School. The house was ideally located for travellers as the first stopover on the way from Bunbury. The changeover of horses on the mail coach route between Perth and the South West took place here. It was said that Mr. Crampton took charge of the local mail, which he kept in a box in his bedroom. The coach service continued up until the South West railway was opened on 19 September, 1893. Luke Crampton, son of John, was appointed postmaster at the new Brunswick Post Office in 1896. In the 1890s Thomas Marriott had a horse-changing station at ‘Rivervale’ in Brunswick.
Bunbury – Balbarrup Route
Picton – The Old Picton Inn, near Bunbury, was run by James Thompson Lawrence, also a mail contractor. The Inn was first licensed in 1873.
Boyanup – Thomas and Charlotte Simmons at Boyanup had stables and accommodation for passengers.
Donnybrook – Henry Trigwell, a retired sergeant, acquired land on the Preston River in 1862 and built a ‘large house’ there. In 1872 he advertised his intention to apply for a Publican’s Roadside General License to operate at the ‘Anchor and Hope Inn’ premises, stating that he had already held a Publican’s (roadside) General License for three years. From around 1880 his son John Trigwell was licensee, having taken over from his father. The license was relinquished by John’s widow in 1903, and the property was then run as a family farm.
Mullalyup – The inn was built around 1860 by John Coverley. John Bovell, a former policeman, purchased the ‘Blackwood Inn’ at Mullalyup c1888. In 1893 a traveller described the ‘Blackwood Inn’ in glowing terms: ‘The rose-covered verandah, the vine-embowered windows, the shining array of bright pewter, the spotless floors, and everything so utterly unlike a bush inn in Australia converted my travelling companion into an irresponsible mass of inertness.’
Balingup – John James Hutton and his brother ran a horse-changing station for the Bunbury to Bridgetown mail service, on a 140-acre property leased from Brown and Dowden, who held a large lease in Balingup known as ‘Brooklands’. In 1885 John Hutton, who was also the Balingup post-master during 1885, decided to branch out on his own, taking over the lease of the ‘Capel Inn’. When Brown and Dowden sold the Balingup properties to Dowden’s son-in-law Charles S Brockman in 1886, Edmund Moore, who was a coach driver on the Bridgetown run, took over the lease of the 140-acre section, where he became licensee of a coaching inn at Balingup. Mrs. Moore was appointed Post Mistress in December 1885. Edmund Moore purchased the property in 1896. It was known as the ‘Nelson Arms Hotel’, or more commonly, ‘Balingup House’.
Local farmer Hugh John Thomas is also recorded as carrying mail from Balingup to Nannup in the 1890s, using pack-horses. His wife’s diary described him travelling to Nannup and then on another 50 miles to a farmer, a journey taking three days. Since there was no bridge over the Blackwood at that time , Thomas crossed the river at a ford, but often had to swim the horses across in the winter, with parcels wrapped in water-proof bags and the mail bags over his shoulders.
Balbarrup – John Giblett moved to this remote part of the South-West from Serpentine in 1861, establishing one of the largest cattle stations in the district, comprising around 40,000 acres. Known as ‘Giblett’s Station’, it was the terminus of John McKernan’s mail contract, with a Post Office attached. He held the contract between 1886 and 1888 from Bunbury to Balbarrup, weekly in a spring vehicle. His contract was renewed in 1889.
In 1865 a J Giblett (possibly John Giblett’s daughter Jemima) was appointed as Balbarrup Postmistress, followed by another Miss Giblett in 1886. Later a Mrs Giblett held the position. The mail was said to be initially kept under a staircase at the Balbarrup Homestead, before a small wooden extension to the building served the purpose. Later a separate Post Office was built.
Post Office at Balbarrup Homestead. Photographer EL Mitchell, undated. 
Bunbury/ Busselton/ Margaret River/Karridale routes
Bunbury – The mail coach dropped off passengers and mail at the corner of Victoria and Stephen Streets, near the front of the old St Paul’s Church (later Pro-Cathedral).
The mail coach leaving for Perth from outside St Paul’s Church, Bunbury, undated. Photographer J. Manning.
A boarding house and stables associated with the coaching days were said to be situated at Lot 2-3 Stirling Street, then known as White Road, an ideal location on the route between Bunbury and Australind. (The house is still standing today (2019), but the stables no longer exist.)
Minninup – John Scott (jnr) at Minninup held the mail for the district from July 1868. His daughter Ellen took over in February 1880 until June 1882, when the Post Office was moved to Capel.
Capel – In the 1870s WJ Roberts’ property, ‘Tren Creek’, near Capel was a collection point for mail.
From 1880, when the Police Department took over the mail service, the Capel Inn, situated half-way between Bunbury and Busselton, became the main coaching station on this route. The original structure was built by Charles Properjohn in1880. He was awarded a contract as a stopover place with the Royal Mail service, for the tending and foraging of horses. However, with a very small local population, the inn did not prosper. Following Properjohn’s bankruptcy in 1882, Thomas Larkin acquired the property and took over the contract with the Southern Mail. Other licensees included John Hutton from 1885, followed by Jeremiah Stapleton, then Aubrey E Moore from 1910.
Ludlow – William Moriarty, a bricklayer at the Capel River, ran the Post Office at this stopping place on the Bunbury to Busselton route from 13 August 1870. A daughter-in-law Mrs Mary Moriarty took over on 1 January 1890, followed by another daughter-in-law, Mrs Bridget Moriarty, from 1 February 1896.
Margaret River – Thomas Higgins married Elizabeth Dawson at Busselton in 1889, first settling at the ‘Old Bridge’, Margaret River, where they leased ‘Old Bridge House’, which they opened up for roadside accommodation and was a stopping place for the four-horse coaches which ran between Busselton and Margaret. Thomas Higgins applied for a boarding house license in 1889, but his application was refused, on the grounds that his building was not suitable. In 1894 they moved to ‘New Bridge’ and set up ‘Bridgefield’ as a staging post. In the days when Karridale was a flourishing centre, Mr. Higgins’ house was the stopping place for the four-horse coaches that ran between Busselton and Margaret, and was generally accepted as the half-way point between Busselton and Augusta. Hundreds of travellers found rest and refreshment there, and when many years ago, the farm became the local post office, it was recognised as the centre of the district.
Karridale – The timber mill and town were under the ownership of MC Davies’ Karri and Jarrah Company, with its mail coaches under contract to the Company from the Postmaster General’s Department, and its drivers in the employ of the Company. There was little accommodation available for visitors in the settlement. In 1898 ‘A Traveller’ complained that Davies kept strict control over activities at Karridale, with no alcohol sold there, and the mail coach driver forced to work on Sundays over the past three years. He described the trip as follows:
Three times a week the coach starts from Busselton for Karridale, a distance of 50 miles from post office to post office, with two stages of horses, four in each team. One stage from Busselton to Mayril does 30 miles. The next team of horses does 20 miles. Passengers are huddled up in a van without a cover, winter or summer, rain or sunshine for 50 long miles.
Karridale mail coach – driver unknown.
Part 3: SOUTH WEST MAIL CONTRACTORS AND DRIVERS
Mail coach and horses.
Early mail contractors in WA came from diverse backgrounds. Many carried the mail themselves, covering endlessly repetitive miles through difficult terrain on horseback or in carts. Some were settlers needing to supplement their incomes, while others were business people such as hoteliers, who viewed the mail and passenger service as a sideline to their business. Some contractors employed drivers, sometimes their own family members, often quite young. At one stage drivers were employed by the Police Department, becoming de facto police constables.
Some of the drivers became well-known personalities, heroes of the road, praised for their driving skills and reliability of service. Their work environment was not without its dangers, with the chance of accident or even loss of life the reality they faced on every trip.
The following list has been compiled from various sources, concentrating on the South West areas of the State, from the early days up until Federation, when the Commonwealth Government took control of the mail service.
1841 and 1842
HE Johnston carried mail on fast horses between Albany and Perth via Kojonup, while Joseph Harris was contracted to carry mail from Albany to Guildford. Harris briefly employed Joseph Ketchley, who probably travelled by horse. Harris took him to Court for refusing to continue in the job after 3 months.
1841 and 1842
Thomas Watson took mail to Australind and Bunbury. By 1844 he was a farmer and innkeeper at Mandurah, where his wife was post-mistress. They left for South Australia in 1850.
Mid-1842 and 1843
Thomas Hester was appointed mail contractor to Bunbury. Thomas Edward Hester, one of the earliest pioneers of Western Australia, came from Warwick in England by the sailing ship Lotus, landing at Fremantle on 13 October 1829. Initially Captain Hester was in charge of a small detachment of imperial troops stationed at the seaport, to guard settlers against the molestation of natives. He was subsequently granted £1,000 by the British Government for his past services on the Continent and in India.
1845 to March 1846
Hamilton Wright was contracted to carry mail from Pinjarra to Australind and Bunbury.
George Hancock, between Perth and Albany.
Edward Barron, between Perth and Pinjarrah.
John Herring, between Bunbury and Busselton. In 1847 he was appointed first postmaster at Vasse.
Thomas Watson again had the run from Fremantle to Bunbury via Mandurah and Australind.
May 1847 and 1848
Thomas Watson’s contract was extended to Albany via Mandurah, Australind, Bunbury, then to Vasse and Kojonup. In December 1848 Thomas Watson was contracted to take mail monthly to Albany in a spring cart, with room for one passenger. In 1849 when Watson was ill he employed Sims to do the work.
October 1848 and 1849
Four Aboriginal prisoners carried mail to Australind and Bunbury. In December 1848 their task extended to the Vasse.
Soldiers were employed to do the Albany run, while Aborigines continued the mail run to Bunbury.
Ephraim Clarke had the Fremantle to Bunbury contract by horseback, continuing until 1855.
Robert Lockhart won the Bunbury to Vasse contract. Robert Lockhart was of Scottish descent, coming to Australind with his sister Mrs Agnes McGregor on the Trusty in 1842. ‘In the early days Mr. Lockhart held the then extremely onerous position of mail contractor between Busselton and Bunbury, the mails at that time being carried on foot between the two places.’
George Maxwell, mail contractor, travelled on the new more direct route, Kojonup to Perth, in 4½ days.
The new mail track from Perth to Albany along the ‘Gregory Line’ via Williamsburg was opened in 1853.
Private Thomas Jackson of the 99th Regt. carried mail on the Albany route for 15 months, during which time he was forced to carry the mail on foot for four months, due to having lost his horse.
George Maxwell was contractor for Kojonup to Perth. The Albany to Kojonup contractor was Nathaniel Newstead, a former soldier.
Robert Lockhart was contracted to carry mail from Bunbury to the Vasse. He later ran a general store in Busselton.
Mail between Albany and Kojonup to be carried by Nathaniel Newstead, and between Kojonup and Perth, by George Maxwell, the present contractor. (Maxwell was replaced by RS Toovey during the year.)
E Clarke was contractor for the Fremantle to Bunbury Mails.
R Lockhart to carry the mails from Bunbury to the Vasse.
Albany monthly mail-Perth to Kojonup, Froggott (Froggett?), £20 per trip.
Kojonup to Albany, Nathaniel Newstead, £8 per trip.
Bunbury and Vasse, weekly, R Lockhart, £48.
Kojonup and Bunbury, monthly, Richard Norrish, £5 per trip.
[Richard Norrish enlisted with the 96th Regiment and was sent to Tasmania and then Western Australia. After injuring his back, he was discharged and took up a selection at Warkalup, near Kojonup, where he and his wife suffered a great deal of privation and difficulty, but reared a family of nine. From 1852 to 1855, Richard Norrish held a contract for the carriage of mail from Albany to Bunbury, which he fulfilled sometimes by cart and sometimes on horseback. Once when the cart was out of action with a broken axle, he carried the new part as well as the mail in front of his saddle to the scene of the breakdown. Another time he carried a setting of duck eggs on horseback from Bunbury to his farm and obtained a fine clutch of ducks. By the end of 1852 he had fowls, ducks, geese, turkeys, cows and pigs, in addition to the mail horse, but no sheep. When Richard lost the mail contract in 1855 to Nathaniel Newstead, another former soldier, his son Tom carted supplies for the prisoners employed on the construction of the Perth to Albany Road, in order to supplement the family income.]
Robert S Toovey was contract mailman for the Perth – Albany route, with monthly 261 mile runs for £228 per annum. In 1855 he was the driver between Perth and Kojonup when the police escort, Thomas Knibbs, was shot by a prisoner who was being transferred to Perth. Today a memorial plaque in his honour stands at Bannister on the Albany Highway.
In 1857 Toovey’s contract for the Albany mail was £25 per month. In 1858 he had the contract for Vasse to Bunbury via Canning and Pinjarra, £400.
In 1860 Toovey was contracted for Perth to Albany once a month, for the sum of £228, with extra Express Mails to be carried during the year 1860 at £22 per trip.
In 1863 mail contractor RS Toovey was paid to do roadworks and repairs to bridges on the Albany Road.
Thomas Chipper won the Albany contract, renewed in 1856 and again in 1858, Kojonup to Albany £384 per annum. In 1857 his contract was for the Albany to Perth run, changing his horses at his property near Kojonup.At some stage young Bedingfeld was one of his drivers.
SM and W Clarke – £26 per Conveyance of Mails from Fremantle via Mandurah and Australind to Bunbury. [According to an EM Clarke interview on 20 March 1907, his brothers conveyed the mail on horseback, and at one stage McAtee also carried the Bunbury mail in a small two-wheeled cart. Clarke also spoke highly of Aboriginal mailman Peter.]
Between May and November William Syred was carrying the mail to Australind. Later Samuel Henry Syred was contract mailman to Pinjarra.
In January 1859 MW Clifton wrote of a new mail contractor to Australind.
Thomas Chipper had the Albany to Perth run.
John Gregg won the contract carrying mail weekly between Perth and the Vasse, via Canning, Serpentine, Pinjarra, Australind and Bunbury. An extra £7/7/0 would be paid for extra express trips. Gregg was sacked for being drunk in 1860.
RS Toovey to convey a Mail between Perth and Albany, once a month, during the year 1860, for the sum of £228.
1860 – 1868(?)
George Haysom, who built the Coach and Horse’s Hotel (later known as the Cremorne or Westralia Hotel) in Murray-street, Perth, was the proprietor of the line of coaches running between Perth and Albany. When his nephew Charles Haysom grew to manhood he drove the coach between Perth and Kojonup for many years.
1860 – 1861
Mail contractors Toovey, Haysom and Chipper were all paid to execute repairs to the Albany road.
The following is the result of tenders for conveyance of mails during the ensuing year:
George Haysom, Albany mail contract, for £30 per month, with the same sum per trip for express mails. The journey to be performed in five days instead of seven, as hitherto.
RC Barron, Southern Mails, for £290, including express mails.
The contract for conveying the Vasse mail was taken from RC Barron, and transferred to R Toovey, who undertook to complete it to the end of the year.
Chipper’s contract renewed for three years. [James Jones Sale, Albany-born sea captain, later claimed to have been one of the early coach drivers on Chipper’s run between Albany and Perth, before he joined the American whaling fleet, and later piloted the ship Adur, which landed supplies for John Forrest’s 1870 expedition to Adelaide.]
John Blechynden (jnr) of ‘Bridgedale’ was appointed postmaster at Geegelup (Bridgetown).
H Yelverton, to convey a Mail twice a week between Busselton and Quindalup, for £50 per annum.
JT Lawrence, to convey a Mail from Bunbury to Blackwood (Giblett’s Station) once a fortnight on horseback, for £80 per annum.
SW & JF Lazenby, to convey a Mail from Perth to Pinjarrah, twice a week, on horseback, for three years, for £237 10s. per annum. Also to convey a Mail from Pinjarrah to Vasse, twice a week, on horseback, for three years, for £356 10s. per annum.
He was declared bankrupt in 1871, and died in an accidental fall from a horse that year. William H Foster was the driver on this route for nearly 15 years. He was the son of the innkeeper of the ‘Narrogin Inn’ in Armadale, also named William Foster, who was murdered one night in 1874 by a disgruntled former convict named John Gill, alias William Goodall.
W Hardman, Perth to Southern Districts, contract 3 years, £500. William Hardman was advertising a service to Bunbury in a covered conveyance. Passengers were said to be ‘much pleased with the comfort of the conveyance’. The following winter he advertised that this service was shut down, due to the state of the track, offering instead the availability of horses for hire. He was badly injured in 1865 when his cart rolled over.
J McLarty, Pinjarrah to Mandurah, 3 years, £15.
James Dawson, Busselton to Quindalup, 3 years, £30.
Jesse Gardiner, Bunbury to Dardanup, 1 year, £38.
James Thompson Lawrence, Bunbury to Blackwood, 3 years, £80. JT Lawrence of the ‘Picton Inn’ carried the mails between Dardanup, Bridgetown and Busselton and Bunbury on horseback. Over the years he employed his sons, with George Lawrence (b.1846) riding once a week on horseback from Bunbury to Balbarrup, near Manjimup. Alfred Lawrence (b.1857) carried the mails as a lad of 13 years, between Bunbury and Busselton (Vasse) and Bunbury and Bridgetown, and another son David Lawrence (b.1862) later carried the mail. By 1883 James Thompson Lawrence of Picton was using a wheeled vehicle for the purpose.
Thomas Chipper. ‘The contract for the conveyance of the mails between Perth and Albany for the next three years, has been taken lately by Mr. Thos. Chipper, who engages to do the distance in seventy hours, for £1,400 per annum; the contract is terminable by the Government upon giving three months’ notice and paying £300 to the contractor. Should a fortnightly mail from England be established during the term the contractor is to receive no increase of payment. The shortening of the time of transit enables the Post Office to dispatch both the English and Colonial mails 24 hours later than by the contract just concluded, and of course the incoming mails will be due the same number of hours earlier.’
In 1877 Chipper was advertising a monthly carriage of mail and passengers from Perth to Albany on Saturdays (arriving there on the following Thursday), while Thomas H Horton was advertising a similar service, leaving from Perth on Thursdays. At one time Chipper sub-contracted out a section of the route up to the 131 mile peg to Horton, but in 1879 took him to court for money owed.
John Blechynden commenced a mail service with passengers, once a month, charges for passengers from Bridgetown to Bunbury and vice versa, 15s. each. Returning by the same conveyance, 25s. per trip. [The Blechynden family’s connection with the mail service continued. In 1909 Alfred Blechynden was advertising a change to his timetable after seven years of service delivering mail from Bridgetown to the Warren and Balbarrup districts.]
Philip McGowan, was a mail contractor of Boyanup. His wife Margaret McGowan was tragically murdered by an Aboriginal in 1871.
Thomas Chipper was advertising extra accommodation on his conveyances to Albany. He also offered a service supplying horses to people using their own vehicles, at stations varying from 30-40 miles apart.
Andrew Cornish, service from Pinjarra to Mandurah and vice versa, once a week, on horseback, for three years, at £13 per annum.
JT Lawrence, from Bunbury to Dardanup, and vice versa, twice a week, on horseback, for three years, at £30 per annum. Also from Bunbury to Balbarrup via Bridgetown, and vice versa, once a fortnight on horseback, for three years, at £59 per annum.
W Hughes, from Vasse to Quindalup, and vice versa, twice a week, on horseback, for three years, at £28 per annum.
J Higgins, from Vasse to Lower Blackwood, and vice versa, once a fortnight, on horseback, for two years, at £18 per annum.
Mrs Emma Ougden, widow of James Ougden (hotelier), won the Perth, Pinjarra and Vasse contract, via Canning, Serpentine, Pinjarra, Australind, Bunbury, Minninup, Ludlow, and Lockeville, and vice versa, twice a week, in a spring vehicle, for three years, at £800 per annum. Her husband James Ougden, was mail coach driver Perth to Bunbury and proprietor of the Shamrock Hotel in Perth.
George Rich had the Bunbury to the Vasse contract for 5½ years. He employed John Robinson who drove the first Cobb & Co. style coach in the South West. Perth was reached in two days by mail coach when G Rich was the contractor. Another driver John McKernan was sacked in 1877 when he applied for the same contract as Rich, his employer. McKernan later won contracts for other routes south of Bunbury:
‘When Richard Sholl was Postmaster-General for Western Australia, the mail from Perth to Bunbury was carried in a four-horse coach, driven by John McKernan. The coach was fitted to seat eight or ten passengers, and in addition to carrying letters, carried flour, sugar, possum and other skins, kangaroo tails for soup making, and even kangaroo carcasses, from North Harvey (now Yarloop) to Bunbury.’
John Ford was a driver employed by Chipper on the Albany run when he gave evidence at the trial of John Gill, murderer of William Foster at Narrogin Inn (at Armadale).
1875 – 1877
Thomas H Horton, a mail contractor of the Horse and Groom Hotel, was advertising an overland mail service once a month, between Perth and Albany. He later settled in York.
Robert Lockhart, stepson of Gavin Forrest, was contracted to carry mail from Busselton to Quindalup on horseback.
Joseph Cooper rode once a week between Mandurah and Pinjarra, and his son Fred Cooper drove the coach between Pinjarra and Mandurah in 1895. Joseph W Cooper held this contract for a number of years. On his retirement he was presented with a gold watch and chain, a token of appreciation for the many kindnesses he had shown towards his friends along the route.
From 1880, mainly due to security concerns, the Police Department was put in charge of the service. The drivers they employed were obliged to enlist as police constables. P.C. Andrew Cornish was one of those contracted by the Police Department, as driver for the Vasse.
Thomas Chipper continued to run the Royal Mail coach service to Albany up until 1888. In the late 1870s he employed John Delaney as coach driver. Delaney later became a mail contractor around the Kojonup area.
In 1880 Chipper advertised the sale by auction of his property of 1500 acres at Loc.7, Kojonup, along with runs of 46,000 acres, also 50 horses:
Glen Lossie’ near Kojonup revives many old-time memories. Originally it was the home of the Chipper family, when the (brothers Tom and Dick and those celebrated jehus, Harry and Johnnie Chipper, drove her Majesty’s mails during the fifties, the sixties, and the seventies, between Perth and Albany, once each way every fortnight, When the trip occupied 72 hours to accomplish, with relays of horses every 15 miles. Travellers by mail coach of those days will have pleasant memories of the hospitality and attention that was so bountifully bestowed upon them by Mrs. Thomas Chipper, in all weathers and at all hours of the day and night. Mrs. Chipper’s warm welcome to all and sundry, coupled with her tasty home-made bread and coffee during the early frosty mornings remain in the minds and upon the palates of many old-time colonists who are now distributed over various portions of the Commonwealth.
The Chippers earned a reputation as among the best coach drivers in Western Australia. The following extract came from an interview with George Withers in 1950:
When the Government decided to carry this mail by Cobb Coach, the two drivers Chipper, Harry and John, would start simultaneously from Albany and Perth and exchange mails half way and return to their respective homes. The departure each week was spectacular. Harry would drive his team of four round the block from Barrack-street to William-street, along the Terrace and back to the Post Office, via Hay-street, blowing his bugle on the way. There were always passengers and many friends to see them off. Harry had a reputation as one of the best coach drivers in Australia; John was not quite so good. The journey was one of endurance, for there was little rest for the drivers until their trip was completed.
P.C. King arrested William Jones, expiree, for using obscene language on the mail coach – fined £1 in Busselton Court.
James Cryer, expiree, was charged by P.C. Wansborough, with stealing one pocket handkerchief from the Royal Mail Coach, Bunbury, on 27th ult., the property of P.C. J McKernan – 14 days’ hard labour. Property recovered.
P.C. Andrew Cornish drove the coach between Bunbury and Pinjarra. He had a varied career. In 1861 he was advertising as licensee of the Queen’s Hotel in Dandalup and was a Bunbury butcher before holding this mail contract.At the time of his sudden death in 1914 at the age of 64, he was employed by the GPO in clearing post boxes around Perth. His wife was the daughter of Thomas Edwin Spencer of Bunbury.
The Government accepted the tender of Abraham W Moulton to convey a mail once a week, for three years on horseback, between Bridgetown and Jayes, for £25 a year. He was the father-in-law of John McKernan, coach driver.
The family of William Alexander McDaniell (snr), a Busselton bootmaker, held several mail contracts, including Busselton to Karridale. In 1884 William was contracted to carry mail between Vasse, the Warren and the Lower Blackwood for £59 per annum. His early contracts were on horseback, until the increasing weight of the mail required him to purchase a wagonette in 1888. He was advertising as:
W.A. McDANIELL, Currier, Tanner and BOOTMAKER of Busselton. Orders neatly executed with despatch. Contractor for the Quindalup and Augusta mails.
Several members of the McDaniell family were mailmen, including Edward and Albert and George. WA McDaniell (snr) died suddenly in February 1895, but the family continued the mail and passenger service. The following advertisement appeared in 1898:
BUSSELTON TO KARRIDALE M. C. DAVIES’ KARRI and JARRAH CO.’S MAIL COACHES. (Under contract with the Postmaster General.)
On and after 1 January 1898. LEAVE BUSSELTON— Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. LEAVE KARRIDALE— Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Special conveyances can be arranged for at any time by letter, telegram, or interview. Good horses, comfortable vehicles and quick travelling.
GEORGE McDANIELL, Busselton, Agent. M. C. DAVIES, Karri and Jarrah Co., Karridale.
George Thomas McDaniell passed away in 1902 at the age of 35.
In December 1895 an account appeared of a fatal accident involving school inspector James Buchan Maclagan, aged 31, a passenger in the buckboard buggy driven by William, one of the McDaniell sons. They had stopped to feed the horses, and Mr Maclagan had climbed back into the buggy to retrieve his lunch, but his flapping macintosh was said to have caused the horses to bolt. On failing to stop the buggy, Mr Maclagan jumped out, but hit his head on a tree, breaking his neck. The driver found his body a mile up the road.
William Alexander McDaniell (jnr), was again the driver in 1899 when another accident occurred on the journey from the Vasse to Karridale, when he and Mr GH Cook were thrown out, leaving Mr Cook with a broken leg. He died in 1899 at the age of 34, following an accident which occurred when driving the Karridale mail coach, resulting in a broken leg and severe internal injuries. His funeral was said to be one of the largest ever witnessed in Busselton.
1885 – 1893
James King drove the coach on the Pinjarra to Bunbury route, up until changes in May 1893, when the railway was opened. He also held the Pinjarra to Vasse contract:
‘When the “travelling post office” started from Albany to Perth, Edward Withers, father of the present Mayor of Bunbury, was one of the “coachies” and was later transferred to the Bunbury-Pinjarra run. Before that, Mr. Withers was on the Busselton-Bunbury run. He retired from coach driving in 1890. A man named White then became the “coachie” and he continued on the run until the railway line from Perth to Bunbury was completed in 1893.’
John McKernan was allocated the Blackwood route to Balbarrup, using a spring cart, the contract terminating in 1888. WA McDaniell had the contract for the Vasse and Quindalup mails, twice a month, and the Vasse to Lower Blackwood on horseback twice a month, terminating in 1887, as well as Quindalup to Cape Hamelin, on horseback, weekly, terminating in 1888.
John McKernan, photo courtesy of McKernan family.
John McKernan again secured the contract for the next three years, carrying mail and passengers between Bunbury and Bridgetown. He married the daughter of a Bridgetown mail contractor AW Moulton in 1889. John McKernan took over Edward McLarty’s route between Bunbury and the Vasse, as well as his Bridgetown and Donnybrook run. Tom Delaporte was one of his drivers.
John McKernan’s Coach Service, 1895. 
Fred Tyler was driver on the Bunbury to Vasse section (for McKernan?), but soon quit and re-joined the Police Force. He was replaced by John Robinson, who retained the job for four years.
Hyman Israel Lipschitz, (expiree), had the contract for the conveyance of a mail on horseback, once a week, for one year, between Australind and Hampden, via Parkfield, Springfield, Runnymede, Myalup, and Long Swamp, at £20 per annum.
Thomas Wren replaced WH Foster as driver on the Perth to Pinjarra route, in the employment of E McLarty.
J Milligan, contracted at £23 per annum, from Australind to Hampden, via Rosamel, Parkfield, Spring Hill, Runnymede, Myalup, and the homesteads of Messrs MB Smith, Alfred Crampton, and C Crampton, on the Harvey Plains, and of Messrs Piggott and Perrin on Long Swamp, once a week on horseback.
AR & J Adam, between Pinjarrah and Mandurah, for 3 years, spring vehicle weekly, at £36 per annum.
WA McDaniell, on horseback, twice a week, between Vasse and Lockeville, 3 years, at £14 10s per annum, also between Vasse and Quindalup via Newton, twice a week, horseback, 3 years, at £19 10s per annum, and between Vasse and Augusta via Newton and Quindalup, weekly, on horse-back, 3 years, at £49 10s. per annum.
John McKernan, between Bunbury and Balbarrup, 3 years, spring vehicle, weekly, at £150 per annum.
James W Muir, of ‘Ferndale’, weekly, on horseback, 3 years, between Balbarrup and Deeside, at £24 per annum.
1889 – 1890
Prosser held the contract for the Bunbury to the Greenbushes tin mines run, as well as the Balbarrup to the Warren District run.
Mick White took over from Ted Withers, who gave up the mail run because the road was too boggy. Mick White was the last coach driver to Bunbury. He went to work on the new railway as guard in 1893.
GH Fowler carried the mail between the Preston Post Office and the residence of Mr J Charles, on the Preston River, for two years, £15 5s per annum.
Edmund Moore, Balingup to Warren, and vice versa, for three years, £96 per annum.
[Edmund Moore, the licensee of the ‘Nelson Arms’ at Balingup from 1886, was coach driver on the Bridgetown run, and had previous experience driving the mail coach on the Perth to Albany route. His Balingup property was a change-over place for horses on the Blackwood mail route.]
D Rogers (Rodgers?), £21-10s. per annum, Australind to ‘Hampden’ and vice versa, weekly, for one year.
R Tonkin, £15 per annum, Serpentine to Mr AR Richardson’s (Lowlands), and vice versa, calling at various homesteads en route on both sides of river bi-weekly, one year.
WA McDaniell held several contracts at this time – £18 10s. per, annum, Vasse to Quindalup via Newtown, and vice versa, bi-weekly, three years. £45 per annum, Vasse to Augusta, via Newtown and Quindalup, and vice versa, weekly, three years. £12 10s. per annum, Vasse to Lockeville, and vice versa, biweekly, one year. £37 10s. per annum, Vasse to Lower Blackwood, and vice versa, weekly, two years.
JW Muir, £26 per annum, Balbarrup to Deeside via Warren Road, by Thomas Giblett’s and Walter Blechynden’s, and vice versa, weekly, three years.
J. McKernan, £110 per annum, railway terminus Boyanup to Bridgetown, via Preston, Balingup, and Greenbushes, bi-weekly, and thence to Balbarrup, weekly, and vice versa, one year, £110.
J. May, £21 5s. per annum, Bridgetown to Jayes, and vice versa, weekly, three years.
Railways opened – Bunbury to Boyanup railway on 12 March 1891, East Perth to Pinjarra 2 May 1893 and Pinjarra to Picton 22 August 1893.
William Miller, £105 per annum, from Balingup to Warren (Brockman’s), via Brooklands, Ferndale, the Junction, Dudenalup, Tanganerup, and Lower Blackwood Bridge, and vice versa, once a week.
E McLarty, £436 per annum, contract from the Post-office at Bunbury to the Post Office at the Vasse, and vice versa, three times a week, in a spring vehicle. He held the Busselton – Bunbury contract with a spring cart. McLarty’s mail vans and horses were sold by auction in May 1893, after five years of service in the South West. John Robinson was the Busselton coach driver for E McLarty up until this time. In 1888 McLarty had coaches built at GW Floyd’s Steam Works in Bunbury.
James Fowler, £12 per annum, from Joseph Chapman’s homestead, on the Upper Ferguson, to the Post-office at Dardanup, calling at the various homesteads en route, and vice versa, once a week.
James Bell, £54 10s. per annum, from the Post-office at Fremantle to the Post-office at Rockingham, and vice versa, once a week, in a spring vehicle.
ECB Locke, £18 per annum, from the Post-office at Lockeville to the Main Road, and vice versa, three times a week.
R Tonkin, £26 per annum, from the Post-office at Serpentine to AR Richardson’s (Lowlands), and vice versa, calling at the various homesteads en route, on both sides of the river, twice a week, on horseback.
WA McDaniell – £43 10s. per annum, from the Vasse Post-office to Lower Blackwood, and vice versa, once a week, on horseback.
John McKernan, proprietor of the mail coach running between Donnybrook and Bridgetown, secured the contract from the Government for the conveyance of mails from Bunbury to the Vasse, commencing on 1 July, the date of the termination of Mr McLarty’s contract for the service.
Nathaniel Bishop, £107 per annum, Balingup to Warren (Brockman’s), via Brookland, Ferndale, The Junction, Dudenalup, Tanganerup, and Lower Blackwood Bridge, and vice versa, once a week, on horseback.
ECB Locke, £45 per annum, Post office, Lockeville, to the main road and vice versa, via homesteads, six times a week, on horseback.
R Tonkin, £26 per annum, Post-office, Serpentine, to AR Richardson (Lowlands) and vice versa, calling at the various homesteads en route.
R Tonkin, £31 4s. per annum, Post office, Serpentine, to the railway station and vice versa, four times a week.
Geo. T McDaniell, £69 10s. per annum, Vasse post-office, Darradup, via Lower Blackwood, and vice versa, once a week, on horseback.
The Abbey family of Busselton was closely involved with the South West mail service. Charles T Abbey drove the mail coach as a young man between Busselton and Cape Leeuwin, retiring from the service in 1913. John Abbey of the Vasse, son of Thomas and Emma, was also a mailman. In 1911 it was reported that he was injured when thrown from his sulky delivering mail around the Newtown area.
Christopher John Abbey was also a mail coach driver and considered to be one of the best in the State. He was honoured with a social evening when retiring in 1913, after 8 or 9 years of carrying mail and passengers on the Busselton-Margaret River route. Albert V (‘Nugget’) Abbey (b.1875), son of David, was also a driver of the Royal Mail coach between Busselton and Karridale. He passed away in 1935, some years after returning from war service.
Charles T Abbey left for Beverley in 1916, where he again held a mail contract for many years, followed by his son Roy.
1901 – Under Federation, the Commonwealth of Australia took control of all postal services on 1 March 1901, within the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG
 Perth Gazette, 31 January 1835.
 Perth Gazette, 28 August 1852.
 GP Stevens, The East-West Telegraph, 1875-7, published in Early Days, the Western Australian Historical Society, Vol.2, Part 13, p.17.
 Western Mail, 9 April 1892.
 Perth Gazette, 7 May 1836.
 Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 16 January 1841.
 West Australian, 1 Feb 1941.
 Perth Gazette, 5 Aug 1848.
 AC Gregory’s map, State Records of WA, Cons.3869, Roads 125, 1847.
 Inquirer, 25 Aug 1847.
 Inquirer, 22 August 1849.
 Perth Gazette, 9 November 1852.
 West Australian, 5 July 1946.
 Perth Gazette, 27 May 1853.
 Inquirer, 22 February 1854.
 Albany Advertiser, 16 Nov 1936.
 Inquirer, 20 Feb 1856.
 Paul Hasluck, Travels in Western Australia, 1870-74, Extracts From the Journal of Thomas Scott, published in Early Days, The Western Australian Historical Society, Vol. 2, Part 15, p.24.
 Ibid., p.25.
 West Australian Times, 26 August 1879.
 Police Gazette, WA, December 1879, p.213.
 Ibid, p.214.
 Victorian Express, 31 December 1879.
 Victorian Express, 24 December 1879.
 Inquirer and Commercial News 13 February 1889.
 Western Mail, 5 January 1933.
 Albany Mail and King George’s Sound Advertiser, 1 August 1888.
 State Library of Western Australia, Image No. BA597/17.
 Perth Gazette, 14 July 1838.
 Mary McGregor-Craigie, Journey to WA – Part Seven, Bunbury Mail, 7 November 2018.
 Anthony J. Barker & Maxine Laurie, Excellent Connections Bunbury 1836-1990, City of Bunbury, South West Printing and Publishing Co., Bunbury WA. p.10.
 Inquirer, 25 August 1841.
 Note: The Devonshire was wrecked on Garden Island on 30 May 1842, on route to Bunbury.
 Perth Gazette, 17 September 1842.
 Perth Gazette, 13 August 1842.
 WC Smart, Mandurah and Pinjarra, History of Thomas Peel and the Peel Estate, 1829-1865, published Perth, WA.
 Inquirer, 31 March 1869.
 Shire of Harvey Centennial Book, 1995, p.87.
 The Peel-Preston Lakelands, The National Trust of WA, Eleda Duplicating, Sorrento, 1973, p.35.
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 Inquirer, 26 October 1846.
 Inquirer, 22 March 1843.
 Bunbury Herald, 13 September 1919.
 Perth Gazette, 8 March 1845.
 Perth Gazette, 1 May 1847.
 Phyllis Barnes, JMR Cameron and Andrew Gill (Eds.), The Australind Journals Of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840-1861, Hesperian Press, Victoria Park, WA, pp.62-63.
 Ibid, p.65.
 Ibid, p.67.
 Inquirer, 11 October 1848.
 Inquirer, 14 February 1849.
 Inquirer, 11 July 1849.
 Interview with Algernon Clifton, Sunday Times, 9 March 1930.
 Inquirer, 21 November 1849.
 Interview with Algernon Clifton, Sunday Times, 9 March 1930.
 Perth Gazette, 21 Nov 1851.
 Perth Gazette, 7 May 1852.
 Harvey History Online.
 AC Staples, They Made Their Destiny – History of Settlement, Shire of Harvey 1829-1929, Harvey, 1929, p.205.
 AC Staples, They Made Their Destiny – History of Settlement , Shire of Harvey 1829-1929, Harvey, 1929, p.200.
 Perth Gazette, 27 Nov 1863.
 Inquirer, 9 December 1863.
 Map, 1 Jan 1847, Item Roads 124, Cons. 3869, Road between Wellington and Williams Districts (between Ommanney Road & Williamsburgh, by F.T. Gregory (3648KB) at https://archive.sro.wa.gov.au/
 Map, 1 Jan 1841, Item 103, Cons. 3844, Collie to Harvey by HM Omanney, Bunbury, Sheet 1 [Tally No. 005213]. (2364 KB) at https://archive.sro.wa.gov.au/
 Western Australian Times, 10 November 1876.
 Herald, 27 September 1879.
 Sunday Times, 9 March 1930.
 West Australian, 10 February 1880.
 West Australian, 29 August 1882.
 Bunbury Herald, 12 Jan 1895.
 Southern Times, 14 January 1899.
 Western Mail, 7 December 1936.
 Daily News, 4 July 1924.
 Western Mail, 19 Oct 1889.
 Inquirer, 5 May 1880.
 Perth Gazette, 13 August 1842.
 Inquirer, 24 October 1846.
 Perth Gazette, 12 July 1850.
 The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, pre 1829 – 1888 Volumes I – IV, http://www.friendsofbattyelibrary.org.au/BD%20WA.htm
 Perth Gazette, 31 March 1854.
 Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, pre 1829 – 1888 Volumes I – IV, http://www.friendsofbattyelibrary.org.au/BD%20WA.htm
 Fremantle Herald, 23 November 1872.
 WA State Records, Item No. 1884/0052, Cons. 430.
 State Library of Western Australia, Call Number BA1983/119
 AC Staples, They Made Their Destiny –History of Settlement in the Shire of Harvey, 1829 -1929, Shire of Harvey, Harvey, 1979, p.127.
 Blackwood Times, 12 September 1947.
 West Australian, 24 October 1936.
City of Armadale Municipal Inventory Review, 2008, updated 2015, p. 28.
 Western Mail, 29 November 1928.
 WA Times, 20 November 1874.
 Western Mail, 20 July 1939.
 Sunday Times, 9 March 1930.
 EG Davis, ‘Mail Coaches’, Harvey History Online website.
 EG Davis, ‘Brunswick’, Harvey History Online website.
 Western Mail, 30 October 1896.
 Herald, 15 November 1872.
 AC Frost, Green Gold – A History of Donnybrook, 1842-1974, Donnybrook/Balingup Shire Council, 1976, p.17.
 Herald, 23 November 1872.
 Western Mail, 20 Feb 1930.
 AC Frost, Balya-Balinga, A History of Balingup, WA, Donnybrook – Balingup Shire Council, 1979, pp.123-124.
 West Australian, 11 December, 1893.
 South Western Advertiser, 31 January 1952.
 AC Frost, Balya-Balinga, A History of Balingup, WA, Donnybrook – Balingup Shire Council, 1979, p. 79
 Western Australia, Garden of the Colony, Bunbury, Busselton and Bridgetown, 1895, p.29.
 Western Mail, 24 August 1939.
 Western Mail, 5 January 1933.
 Bunbury Historical Society, Photo No. P99/26, donor J. Paisley.
 Diana Chase and Valerie Krantz, Just a Horse Ride Away, The History of Capel Shire and Its People, Shire of Capel, Capel, WA, 1995, p.75.
 Western Mail, 22 June 1889.
 South Western News, 20 February 1925.
 West Australian, 4 November 1898.
 Bunbury Historical Society, No. P80/332.
 Western Mail, 8 August 1946.
 Merle Bignell, First The Spring, The History of Kojonup, Western Australia, UWA Press, 1971, p.41.
 Blackwood Times, 17 October 1947.
 South Western News, 4 August 1905.
 Great Southern Herald, 4 September 1937.
 Merle Bignell, First The Spring, The History of Kojonup, Western Australia, UWA Press, 1971, p.89.
 Bunbury Herald, 20 March 1907.
 Inquirer, 28 February 1860.
 Sunday Times, 12 February 1933.
 Inquirer, 30 August 1865.
 Perth Gazette, 31 December 1869.
 Herald, 14 April 1877.
 WA Times, 15 April 1879.
 Perth Gazette, 20 May 1870.
 Blackwood Times, 10 December 1909.
 Inquirer, 12 July 1871.
 EG Davis, Harvey History Online website.
 South Western Advertiser, 21 November 1913.
 Great Southern Herald, 26 November 1939.
 West Australian, 7 August 1880.
 Note: Jehus = fast coach drivers.
 Western Mail, 20 April 1917.
 Western Mail, 29 June 1950.
 Inquirer, 17 March 1880.
 Daily News, 5 May 1914.
 Southern Times, 10 December 1895.
 West Australian, 12 January 1899.
 Blackwood Times, 22 Aug 1952.
 Western Australia: The Garden Colony: Bunbury, Busselton, Bridgetown, &c, Harris & Besley, Perth, 1895.
 Government Gazette, WA Record, 20 December 1888, p.8.
 Inquirer, 11 July 1888.
 WA Record, 19 December 1889.
 Western Mail, 8 December 1888.
 Inquirer, 2 June 1893.
 Southern Advertiser, 10 June 1888.