2013, People, Stories and Articles

Archie Black, Borerunner, Anthony Lagoon Station, The Barkly, N.T.

“A great climate; a great country.”

On July 22 1961, an eighteen year old Scotsman arrived in Australia, with the intention of taking a working holiday on the way to Rhodesia to see his uncles who had taken up land in a new country. Archie Black had left Cambelltown on the West Coast of Scotland far behind, and fifty one years later a distinctive yet “understandable” Scottish accent is one of the few reminders that Archie is anything but a dinki-di Aussie.

In 2012 Archie was carrying out the role of bore runner at Anthony Lagoon Station, NT. In response to the comment that fifty bores is a lot of bores to service and maintain, he replies “I suppose it is….. I enjoy it.”

When Archie arrived in Australia, he had no contacts and started as a jackeroo at “Old Canowie,” a Shorthorn cattle stud in South Australia. Prior experience on his families’ sheep and cattle farm would have helped Archie in some way to adjust to the dramatically different lifestyle of an Australian cattle station.

A year later he travelled further North and spent four years at “Welltown Stud” near Goondiwindi. Following this, he shifted to Rockhampton Downs, NT; an Australian Agricultural Co Station, which in turn became the setting for the making of many memories. With no cattle yards, no helicopters and no motorbikes, bronco branding was the usual method of handling the cattle, which were then taken to Frewena, a depot on the Tablelands Highway. Drovers took delivery of the cattle at Frewena and walked them overland to various markets. Archie smiles, “A good life when you’re young and fit.”

It was certainly a life very different from today and Archie continues, “The one social activity was the annual Brunette Races, and for station work we always camped out. The majority of the camp were indigenous stockmen and the only time we came into the homestead complex was to collect fresh horses.”

One night, camping out in the vast isolation of the Outback, Archie was listening to shortwave radio as he often did, and as was usual in 1966, telegrams were being broadcast, bringing messages from the other side of the world. Lying in his swag Archie received the sad and tragic news of his older brothers’ death in a bulldozer accident. Archie quietly adds, “The manager Jack Jones came out next day to bring the news, but I already knew.”

In ensuing years, Archie continued to accumulate skills and experience at several Northern cattle stations. Among them were Corona Station between Longreach and Winton, Truno Station, Central QLD, Ismarelda, South of Croydon and Kings Plains Station in Cape York.

When the time seemed right, Archie and his wife Jenny purchased land near Rockhampton; Archie’s plan was to semi retire. He quickly discovered “it wasn’t my scene,” and then commenced casual work in research with the CSIRO at “Belmont.” Then in 2006 he received a phone call from Dave Roberts, manager of Anthony Lagoon Station, inviting him to “come back to the Barkly.” Archie soon settled into the Borerunners job and with his distinctive Scottish lilt expressess satisfaction with the work. “I see something different every day, and I enjoy the bird life.” Smiling, Archie continues “As borerunner, I can get away from the local politics.” Immediately, he clarifies the remark by expressing his appreciation for the young people at the station, “I’m happy to give them a few pointers and they keep me on my toes.”

Memories of “a good childhood….. marching off to the Presbyterian church dressed in our kilts, trout fishing, catching Scottish rabbits;” these are reminders of the vastly different life that Archie has experienced since his historic arrival Down Under. He’s adamant after fifty one years that “Christmas still doesn’t feel like Christmas,” and wearing a kilt is reserved for special occasions; one such event being the wedding of one of his twin daughters.

For Archie, initial exposure to the Australian heat was “hard to take.” At Corona, by 9am the young Scot would have drunk the entire contents of his waterbag hung around the neck of his horse. Archie laughs. “The hardened old ringers would last all day; taking little sips to see them through.” Speaking as though it was yesterday, he adds, “You get to a bore and all you want to do is drink til you‘re full up. Of course it’s the worst thing you can do; you just want more!” A half century of acclimatisation has passed, and Archie now openly admits, “I don’t like the cold.” The Scottish accent lends emphasis and authenticity to his final reflection. Quietly and precisely he affirms “It’s a great climate…… it’s a great country.”

Image captions:

1) A good life when you’re young and fit

2) An early morning start for borerunner Archie Black