Royal Reels: Gambling


A single red 2d KGV stamp postmarked TOOLEYBUC/ 14 JE 35/ N. (S.W) with the Type 2A configuration (dates found 1914-77) caught my eye and my imagination, for I found that it was occasionally divided into two names, TOOLEY BUC, and I wondered who Tooley was, a pioneer or an explorer (Figure 1).

I soon found a picture of a crossing over the Murray River in 1873 at the State Library of Victoria showing a covered dray on a wooden bridge in a very rustic scene with the extensive Tooleybuc Hotel on the river bank in the background, and I was hooked (Figure 2).

The earliest archived newspaper account that I found was seen in The Argus (Melbourne) on 29 January 1876, page 5, and the heading read ‘The Riverine Trade. Down The Murray. Balranald Jan. 18. This long article was Part III of a Special Correspondent’s account about his travel, by boat. ‘They had discharged their cargo at Swan Hill, Victoria, and at 15 miles below that town they passed Beveridge Island (which was in dispute between Victoria and New South Wales, and Victoria won, an island of swamps, and scarcely worth contesting), we passed the Beveridge Station and homestead, took on an extra passenger’. “The next stopping place was Tooley woolshed. The home station is distant 10 or 12 miles back from the river, the next stop, a few miles lower down was Hastings’s selection where we stayed to land a passenger and to replenish our firewood…and after passing Pyangil Station (Victoria side), owned by two brothers named Macredie, whose house was prettily situated by the river side ….we arrived between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon at Tooley Buc, where we were destined to make an unpleasantly long stay. Tooley Buc is on the New South Wales side of the river, and is on the mail road between Swan Hill and Balranald, being equidistant between the two places. There is no township there, unless a long public house and a small and comical looking wooden chapel, which … appeared to be unused, can be held to constitute one, but there is a good deal of settlement to the neighbourhood. A store and post-office are attached to the public house. Tooley Buc is a crossing place for sheep and cattle. About a week or 10 days before our arrival the large punt there was accidentally sunk whilst a flock of 300 sheep was crossing. The punt was just pulled out into the stream when the sheep running to the side capsized it, and down to the bottom of the river went the punt, only one end sticking out of the water. A few of the sheep were drowned.”

A Captain Maltby undertook to raise the punt and it took from Wednesday to Saturday to get the punt onto the other bank of the Murray river…. “From Swan-hill to Balranald the distance by land is between 60 and 70 miles, by the rivers, over 170. From Tooley Buc to Balranald, the distance by land is 35 miles, by water 120 miles.” This was followed by a description of other problems with navigation of the Murray river.

My impression was that the Special Correspondent was a very reliable observer, and that the name Tooley Buc (now known as Tooleybuc, has little or nothing to do with the indigenous aboriginal tribes, but with a Mr. Tooley who had a large sheep breeding station on the New South Wales side of the Murray, and that Piangil was close by on the other bank in Victoria.

A description of the Tooleybuc site and the bridge were found at a Government of N.S.W. site, as follows: “Tooleybuc lies on the extreme west fringe of the saltbush plain, a semi-arid or arid area created by sediments from the Murray-Darling flood waters. The saltbush provided useful fodder and the Murray frontage in this area … was largely taken up by 1847. Tooleybuc was on the Puon Buon run, part of the 1840s pastoral empire of Ben Boyd, the whaling entrepreneur of Twofold Bay. In the 1850s Puon Buon was owned by William Degraves and then Christopher Bagot; in the 1860s the Trust and Agency Co. ran 32,000 sheep there, and in the late nineteenth century, J. Lawrence … ran 50,000 sheep. The high stocking (of sheep) was encouraged by the almost permanent lakes at Puon Buon. The development of the township of Tooleybuc was assisted by the sub-division of the huge station, just before the First World War. The Tooleybuc area became the scene of intensive agriculture, with fruit-growing the principal crop”.

“The river steamers were fundamental to the wool-trade in the nineteenth century, so was easy communication across the river. A vehicular punt was in operation by the 1870s, with a riverside hotel (the Tooley Buc) on the New South Wales side. Finally in 1925, in response to pressure from the fruit-growers, the present lift-span bridge was erected by the Department of Public Works, just upstream from the old privately-owned punt”. This 1925 Tooleybuc bridge is seen in Figure 3.

A recent description of Tooleybuc states that it is 919 km SW of Sydney and 381 km NW of Melbourne. It lies in the western Riverina district of N.S.W. on the Murray River across from Piangil, Victoria, and on the mail road between Swan Hill and Balranald, being nearly equidistant between the two places. It is set amid irrigated farms growing citrus fruit and vines and north of the township wheat is grown and sheep are grazing. In the 2006 census it had a population of 180. A map showing the adjacent Tooleybuc N.S.W. and Piangil, Victoria (both red arrows), the two towns, Swan Hill, Victoria in the south, and Balranald, N.S.W. in the north (both green arrows), and the Murray River, shown as the thin black line, running diagonally from the bottom to the top of the map (black arrows), is seen in Figure 4.

I thank Di Herbert for information about the Tooleybuc locale but the above Special Correspondent’s article suggests that the township was named after Mr. Tooley’s property, and not as she thought: “It was a common statement around the district that ‘Tooleybuc’ was an indigenous word meaning “red hills near water.” Perhaps my interpretation of the ‘Buc’ suffix refers to a ram is more contentious, but one dictionary found on Google stated that ‘Buc’ was Armenian for a ‘young sheep! ‘Tooley’ suggests Irish, and certainly not Armenian!

Categories: Places, Postmarks