Ruby Plains

At the age of 17, Merv Wortley took on the job of Head Stockman at Ruby Plains. He’d come to Ruby Plains in January 1986 from far away in the Channel Country, being brought up around Windorah. The country and culture around Halls Creek, Western Australia, was very different from the one he was used to, and at the end of 1986, he was having second thoughts and considering going back to South West Queensland. His previous boss, Geoff Schrader (Sandringham Station) advised him “You’ve started something, go back and finish it.” The finishing is still in progress and he is still there. He completed his stint as Head Stockman at Ruby in 1990, was given the responsibility of out-station manager at Sturt Creek (the adjoining Kidman station), and at the end of 1998 returned to Ruby Plains as manager. Kimberley people often say that the Kimberleys gets into your blood, and for Merv, it seems that he has a good dose.

Ruby Plains is situated on the Tanami Highway, 56 Kms south of Halls Creek in Western Australia. Ruby Plains and Sturt Creek are the Kidman and Cos’ only Kimberley cattle stations. When asked what he likes about Ruby Plains, Merv replies, “more reliable rain!” While discussing with Merv the different ways of mustering cattle on large cattle stations, he concedes that while there’s lots of ways of getting the job done, his preference is horses, with minimal use of helicopters.

As we drive through the hills along the Tanami on our way out to Ruby Plains it’s understandable why the word “Plains” is in the name. The change in the country is quite dramatic, and coming over the last hill the Homestead complex lies on the edge of the plain.

Our visit to Ruby Plains in ’07 coincided with some unseasonal rain which moved right across the top end in June, and we were grateful for the shelter in one of the sheds, and the bonus of a relatively drivable surface on the Tanami, which allowed us to get back onto the bitumen without a bogging incident.

Jenny came to Western Australia in 1976 as a kid, and to Mabel Downs near Halls Creek at the end of 1978. We met Jenny in 1991, at Mabel Downs, 150 kms North of Halls Creek along the Great North Highway. Her Dad, Harry Riggs, along with wife Lorna, were managing Mabel at the time, and it was one of the places where we spent several weeks doing saddle repairs in our first year of travel. Jenny loves WA and is quick to comment “It’s more like home!”

Merv and Jenny have three great kids – the twins, Wes and Rope, and their little red headed daughter, aptly named Pepper.

We’ve been visiting Ruby Plains since 1993 and as we come over that last hill and see Ruby Plains at the edge of the Plain, we look forward to seeing everyone – Jenny and the children, having a good yarn with Merv, and catching up with Merv Snr (See Merv Wortley Snr’s Story) We’re always made to feel welcome, and the candlelit breakfasts are one of the memorable features of our visits to Ruby Plains.

Comments from Merv Wortley – Good quality reliable gear for Stations and Station people and once you own a Kent Saddle it would last your lifetime. Merv and Jenny with Rope, Pepper and Wes. Ruby Plains Homestead.