A Tribute to Ted Fogarty

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 1

Following the recent passing of Merv Wortley Senior of Ruby Plains Station, Halls Creek, WA, we received more sad news from Allan Fogarty of Lucy Creek Station, NT.

Allan’s Dad, Ted Fogarty had died at age 94.

Born at Vesty’s Delamere Station near Katherine, NT, Ted left school at 13 and criss-crossed the country, droving, ringing and working in a range of jobs which included digging desert wells.

His yearning and determination to have his own place was realised in the early 1960’s and Lucy Creek was his ‘stopping place’ for 35 years.

From a lifetime of stock experiences, Ted’s accumulation of stories was large and his memory for the details of places and events acute. He was a gifted story teller and Lyle and Helen felt privileged to have met Ted during their annual business trips to the Outback. As a tribute to Ted we are sharing the article about him from Helen Kent’s coffee table book,”Stories of Australian Country People“, for all to read.

Our sincere sympathy and condolences go to all the Fogarty family and the many people and friends who knew and appreciated Ted Fogarty.

You do the work

Ted Fogarty

Lucy Creek Station, Northern Territory

(Lyle and Helen interviewed Ted during 2013)

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 2
Aerial view of Lucy’s Creek Station, Northern Territory
A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 3

Deserts, rivers, droughts and floods shape and sharpen a life and Ted Fogarty has lived a long life, intimately connected to all four of these influences. Ninety years ago he was born at Vesty’s Delamere Station: “ … out from Katherine you know?”

Ted’s Dad was a stockman and worked all around that country – Maraki, Burnside, Wave Hill and then at ‘the Hodgson’ (Hodgson Downs) where he was head stockman for about eight years. He was also a brumby runner and on one occasion took 1,100 horses to Hendry, 100 miles south of Alice Springs; to supply the Indian mount. It proved to be a disappointing venture. “They only took about 25 horses,” Ted tells. “There were three other blokes there, bagmen and they said to my Dad, “you give us the horses and we’ll take them to Adelaide and sell them for ya.” They did a good job, took them straight through, past Ernabella, all the way down there. They’d have been flat out getting water. Did a good job … and the old fella didn’t see them or hear from them again!”

Ted Fogarty 1940

As he grew up, Ted came to realise that his Dad “… had a big fault. He liked the booze a bit, old Ted” and there is a fateful day that Ted remembers very clearly. “We were at Springvale homestead; the Five Mile on the Katherine River and all us kids went down to have a swim. Dad came down too and he started crossing the river. When the water hit his heart, he dropped dead. It was a terrible shock for us kids.”

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 4
Ted Fogarty Snr. at Hodgson Downs in 1930

Ted had a brother Dave, four years older than him and his admiration for his big brother is transparent. “Dave had a crook leg … had an accident when he was nine years old. His leg was just bone from the instep to the knee … no muscle, but he could go like a rocket; could run faster than me with my two good legs. He was a wild man in the bush … didn’t know how to go slow.”

“At 16 Dave was doing the mail run, with packhorses, from Katherine to Wave Hill, to Victoria River Downs, to Timber Creek and back. It was a 600-mile round trek. Dave would come to a river in the wet season and she’d be flooded. He’d unpack, make a boat out of his packs, swim the mail across, re-pack and away he’d go. Sometimes he’d cross at night, in the early hours of the morning and the “alligators” (crocodiles) were fairly friendly those days. He’d ask me, ‘You coming up for the mail?’ I said, “No way in the bloody world!”

After the death of their Dad, Dave took to droving. “When he went on that first droving trip he was too young to put his name on the waybill. He had to get an older fella to take responsibility and they went for three trips one year and another three trips the next year. After that he worked for Charlie Schultz at Humbert River.”

Ted continues to reveal vivid memories. “When we were at Buffalo Springs, Dave was riding and his horse stumbled on an ant hill. Dave was thrown and hit his back on the back of the saddle. Broke his pelvis. We wired through to Timber Creek and the police were coming down the Victoria River on the other side, to meet us. Me and two aboriginal blokes, we made a boat out of two 44 gallon drums, with saplings tied on with wire twisters. We swam Dave over alright, put him in the motor car to Timber Creek and then me and those fellas had to take the boat back. As well as “alligators,” there were jelly fish in the water and I thought, “they won’t hurt me.” The other fellas were in front, I was swimming behind and I had no clothes on. One jelly fish floated past over a very tender spot of mine. I was straight up on those forty-fours and the whole boat collapsed! One drum went that way and those bloody fellas had a drum … I had nothing! I took off for the river bank … Marjorie Jackson couldn’t of caught me!”

Ted continued with school in Katherine ’til he was about 13 years. “A bloke from Cloncurry who used to mix it up with Dad came through. He had a place out of Fitzroy Crossing and I thought, “ ‘I can read and write, I’m right!’ I wanted to earn a bit of money and I begged Mum to go with him. It was the worst thing I ever done. In Katherine, he’d buy you all the lollies in the world. He was a different man on the run. When he got you out there, you couldn’t do anything right. You couldn’t explain to him; he reckoned you were too cheeky. I was on a little pony and he’s yelling, ‘Keep up, keep up!’ and he’s on a big fast horse. He’d get wild with me and he’s into me with the whip, flogging me around the flat. If I’d see him coming I’d head for a leaning tree and he’d be trying to whip me from one side of the tree to the other! It was survival of the fittest.”

“At the end, we took a mob of 800 spayed cows from Go Go Station to Wyndham. I was 131⁄2 and I was the horse tailer. When we got to Wyndham he wanted me to take the horses back to the station; 250 miles through wild country over the Pentecost Ranges. I was dead scared and I wouldn’t go. I was s’posed to be getting a pound a week and he wouldn’t pay me the money. Dave was in town so I borrowed £20 off him and hopped on a boat to Darwin. That fella, he hopped on a plane and followed me over. He ended up paying me what he owed me and wanted me to keep working for him. He promised me all sorts of things: I’d be a station owner, there’d be young girls waiting … he painted the biggest picture! I thought “I don’t care if there’s angels, I’m not goin’ back there!” That was the last time I saw him … never saw him again.”

Ted returned to his Mum in Cloncurry and chose a safer work option; droving from Lawn Hill to the Diamontina with his uncle, Dave Patterson, who’d lived in the ‘Curry all his life. Ted shifted with his Mum and sister to Charters Towers, discovering that the money for an under-17-year-old “ … was really shithouse.” There was a job going at Woodhouse Station and Ted arrived a fortnight or so before the muster. The manager, Charlie Schultz’s father, refused to pay Ted anything “ … to just stop there.” Ted persisted. “There was a mob of horses there, half broken in … real buckjumpers. Charlie Schultz was there getting a few for Humbert River so I gave him a hand and I was actually paid the enormous amount of 17/6d.”

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 5

“Me and a young fella mated up at Woodhouse and we decided we’d pull out and go to Townsville. We had no money and I asked him, “How’re we gunna get from here to Townsville?” His mate was keen. ‘I’ll show you how to get there … we’ll jump the rattler!’ So, we jumped the rattler and rode it to Townsville.” The thrill of the train ride to Townsville was short-lived and Ted soon wanted to get back to the Northern Territory where he was sure he could earn £3 a week. He wired big brother Dave, who had a taxi service in Darwin, to tell him he was coming, but on arrival Dave’d had a brush with the law, sold his taxi service and had taken off back to Humbert River.

Ted was on his own and doggedly negotiated with station managers for the wages he believed he deserved. He ended up at ‘the Hodgson’, Hodgson Downs Station, stayed five years, earned the manager’s position and finished up on £9 a week.

Ted Fogarty in 1952

All along Ted had maintained a strong yearning ‘to work on me own’ and having finished work at the Hodgson he was also keen to have a look at Alice Springs country. He met with George Fraser of Kenmore Park Station, who offered the aspiring young stockman a job. It seemed good to Ted; however that option ended suddenly when Kenmore Park was sold. “Never mind” old George said, “I’ve got a block over here on the Territory side. We’ll go halves; you do the work and we’re in partnership.”

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 6

“You do the work alright” proved to be the truth. Ted and an aboriginal worker set to with shovels to dig a 140ft well. “We worked our guts out. That fella was a big lump of a fella … strong. He could wind that windlass straight up 140ft without having a spell.” Ted’s son, Allan indicates that his Dad would have been pretty fit but Ted had to have a spell halfway. An eight gallon bucket was used to shift the dirt, as well as the two workers and Ted describes how “ … you’d have to hang onto the windlass and hang on to the bucket and if you made a slip … !”

And what about lighting? There’s a chuckle. “No lights down there … nothing. No. In the dark, yeah. One old miner fella came and he looked down the hole and he reckoned, “I wouldn’t go down that for a thousand quid.’ I asked him, “Why?” and he said, ‘it’s gunna fall in on you fellas if you’re not careful.’ ” Ted manages a laugh “I’d never dug a well in me bloody life!”

At another time and place Ted was cleaning out a well and had a bloke giving him a hand. “You’ve got that chisel lookin’ thing and you hit it into the rock and you put your dynamite in, connect your fuses together and light it up and then the other bloke, he’d winch you out of there … otherwise the fumes would kill ya!

This fella was winching me out of there and there’s the two pipes coming down the side of the well to pump the water out while you’re mucking around doin’ the charges. And this fella, when he was winching me out he panicked and one end of the windlass fell off the bloody thing and he couldn’t wind it anymore. I’m a fair way up and hanging onto these pipes on the side of the well when this bloody dynamite took off … and there’s rocks whistlin’ around me ears everywhere. This fella come back and he’s looking down the shaft … and he‘s calling, ‘Hey, Ted?’ and I’m yellin’, “Hey you mongrel, get me out of here! – You’ll go down next, right?”

In spite of the danger and back-breaking work of well-digging, Ted kept at it. “Old George, he picked another spot about eight mile out in the desert; exactly the same sort of country … red soil. A fella came past one day on a camel. He looked down the hole and he said ‘You won’t get no water here.’ “Why?” I asked and he said ‘This is bloody desert country; no bloody water here, only sand hills here!’ ”

Ted remembers the time and place very clearly. “I was down to about 40ft I s’pose and he convinced me. Next day we packed up and shifted to a place back about eight mile where that fella had said ‘There’s limestone there, you might get water there.’ It was nine days since we’d left that 140ft hole and when we got back there, it had filled to within nine foot of the top. If it had fell in the dark time, it would’ve alright … if it’d fell in the day time, we’d ’ve been buried there! Yeah.

Anyway we found that next place, and went down about 80ft and got a little bit of water … enough for a bird! When old George come, the first thing he said was ‘Well fancy puttin’ a bloody well here!’ That’s when we had a row. I asked the aboriginal fella, “How much did he give you?” ‘Five pounds;’ was the reply. Then he asked me, ‘How much did he give you?’ “Nothin’,” I said, “he reckons we’re in partnership!”
He paid me nothin’; not a brass razoo.

“So, then I worked for Rex Low for two-and-a-half years; then put in for Mulga Park. Bought a bore plant and started putting bores down there. Built a house and started off.”

Ted and Dave had kept a close relationship over the years and Ted always wanted to include his older brother in his plans. “I realised then that Mulga Park was a bit too small for Dave and me. Dave had got married and I’d got married too. I wanted a manager’s job somewhere. I had a friend in Elders GM who knew a fella called Laurie Rourke and after a while he came out and had a look at Lucy Creek. He was very impressed. Brian, the Elders fella said to Laurie, ‘If you buy this place, who’s going to manage it?’ “Laurie had the money and we agreed that he’d take half and Dave and me would take half. It was 1962 and there was a drought at Mulga Park. Previously, we’d brought cattle from Bradshaw to Mulga Park, so we shifted the cattle to Lucy Creek. We left on the 1st of March and arrived here on the 5th of November … nine months … it was a dry trip too. There was no money much so I mustered around and got 400 horses and took them back up. I got to Newcastle Waters and Victoria River Downs had 180 horses there. The bloke who’d brought them from Queensland didn’t want to take them through the Murranji so they asked me would I take them?” Ted’s determination kicked in once more and he was able to raise the first offer of 10/- shillings a head to £2. 10s a head to clinch the deal.

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 7

“Dave agreed with me that Lucy Creek was a good place and he shifted to the station with his wife and stayed for about two years. It was pretty primitive then; just that old shed down there,” says Ted, waving a hand in that direction. However, things didn’t go as planned. “Dave had a disagreement with Laurie and he didn’t want to stop here,” Ted explains. “We agreed that Dave take my half of Mulga Park and I’d take his quarter share of Lucy Creek and righto, that’s how we split up. Dave went that way and I stopped here. Stopped here for 35 years.

“In the 1970’s when the cattle market crashed, everything went flop and Laurie … he didn’t make anything out of Lucy Creek. Everything he made he had to pay in tax. He wanted to sell out. I said, “I’ll buy you out for $200,000 cash. ‘Righto,’ he said, ‘you’re on.’ If it’d been another year he’d have said ‘No!’ ”

Ted is aware that he bought in at a fortunate time and he’s since been able to purchase Lilla Creek, Amisi, Palmer Valley and Ebenezer stations. “I had all good boys, all good workers”, he comments. “Got them all a place each, Yeah. All those places were run down and these blokes got in and built yards, improved the places out of sight. You’ve gotta have good yards and good fences if you want to do the mustering. If ya don’t, you put the cattle in and they’re gone in the morning.”

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 8
Carcory Ruins Birdsville – Photo by Lorraine Kath

Little has been said of Ted’s wife Kath, the mother of their daughter Colleen and ‘all the good boys;’ Ted, Steve, Allan and David. At the time when Ted met Kath, she was a nurse at the Finke (Apatula) and her mother owned the store and pub. “Kath went away for training and when she came back,” Ted laughs, “I was hanging around like a bloody dead shark!” Ted and Kath separated in the 1980’s and remained as great friends until her passing in 2009.

In 2013, Ted has retired to Alice Springs with his partner Sheila and he’s content. “I reckon I’ve earned me retirement. I’ve had a good time, working for myself and I’m still good mates with my family. That’s the main thing.”

A Tribute to Ted Fogarty 9

Over 35 stories…

For more great stories like this one of Ted be sure to check out Helen Kent’s coffee table book, “Stories of Australian Country People”.

This beautiful book showcases stories and photos of country people from throughout the Kimberley, Pilbara, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

A great gift for a loved one…

Or treat yourself by adding some memorable Australian country stories and photos to your book collection!