Durham Downs Station, Channel Country, QLD

A tribute to John and Jasleen Ferguson

Durham Downs, north west of Thargomindah, in the Channel Country of far South West QLD, is owned by S Kidman & Co. The Channels are a fascinating and unique part of the country.

Getting to any cattle station in this part of Australia is a challenge. In some sections, roads are rocky and rough! It’s a relief to get to a station, stop the truck, and be thankful for a safe arrival!

The station complex sits on top of a rocky knob – seemingly an overreaction to the threat of flooding from the nearby channels. However, during a big flood, the station placement is surely a wise historical decision. The gardens and magnificent trees surrounding the main house and kitchen/dining room are a tribute to the nutrient rich soil beneath all the rocks, and also to the dedication of John’s wife, Jasleen. Durham Downs is well known for it’s flood plain country which provides an abundance of lush feed when the Cooper channels overflow their banks. The fat Durham bullocks are a sight to see. The spectacular contrasts of the Channel Country are its main attraction.

John, ‘Fergie’ and Jasleen Ferguson came to Durham Downs on 01/02/73, and finished up there at the end of 2007. During those 35 years they raised their family, and grew to love Durham Downs.

When we asked ‘Fergie’ what he liked best about life on Durham Downs he answered, very briefly “Friendship, home, environment, good cattle, fat bullocks!”

Jasleen, who is camera shy, remembers the good times, in particular the parties as the children grew – when neighbours would come and a good time was had by all. Her love for Durham is evidenced by the beauty of the garden, and the care and pride taken in framing historical records of the life of Sir Sydney Kidman, the company, and the station. These can be viewed at the kitchen where we’ve spent great times in a friendly atmosphere. In the earlier years of our travels we spent more extended periods of time at Durham, repairing saddles and other gear.

When we think of ‘Fergie’ there’s a strong association with the fire drum, the gathering point at the end of most days – specially in Winter. Fergie and the workers gathered around the fire drum for warmth, drinks, and talk. It’s tucked away behind a shed near the stables and horse yards, close to Fergie’s race horses. He is passionate about his race horses; and breeding, training and racing are a big part of his life.

In our view, Fergie is one of those unassuming people who make a huge impression because he is so unpretentious!

Helen recalls an early visit to Durham – making a trip to the staff laundry to do some washing. “Going through the customary procedure of familiarising myself with the workings of the machine, I could see someone walking from the direction of the kitchen, carrying a couple of buckets, and assumed, “Yes, the gardener!” He came into the laundry, greeted me in a very friendly way, and we spoke about the cantankerous nature of washing machines. “Friendly gardener” I thought, only to find out later I’d been conversing with the manager! “Another time we pulled our truck into the shed to do some repairs. Fergie had been working under a station truck outside on the dirt, and insisting on helping, crawled under ours, emerging with a contented smile on his face; covered from head to toe with a mixture of oil and bulldust!

Kent Saddlery have counted it a privilege to visit Durham Downs, and get to know John and Jasleen Ferguson. We know they are respected and appreciated by many friends in the area, and they’ll be greatly missed.

We hope that their years lived beyond Durham will be productive and enjoyable. No doubt Fergie will pursue his racing interests, from their Cambooya “retirement block”, and they will look back to the years spent at Durham with satisfaction – the place of many rewarding experiences, and a place which they have helped to develop.