Royal Reels: Gambling


This meteorological return O.H.M.S. stampless entire was addressed to The Commonwealth Meteorologist in Melbourne and it has the circular Type 2A cancel BURRINJUCK/ 30 NO 26/ N.S.W which was in use from 1913-64.   The only other postmark was the Type 3E(i) from 1967-79, when the post office was closed.   There is a purple handstamp for BURRINJUCK DAM/ 30 NOV 1926 (Figure 1)

The second O.H.M.S. entire is addressed to the Engineer in Charge, Burrinjuck, Burrinjuck Dam, N.S.W. and it was sent from the Central Weather Bureau, Melbourne.  The green 1d KGV head stamp was perfined ‘OS’ and it was cancelled by a roller cancel MELBOURNE/ 25 NO–6-P/ 1926 with the slogan COMMONWEALTH LOAN/ NOW OPEN/ APPLY AT ONCE.  The reverse requested that some data required clarification (Figure 2).

Hopson & Tobin state that Burrinjuck was originally named Barren Jack and this statement is confirmed in the legend of the following picture taken during the construction phase of the Burrinjuck Dam in 1910, with a follow up construction in October 1912 (Figures 3 & 4).

Located 34 km southwest of Yass and 339 km south west of Sydney, Burrinjuck Dam (also known as Lake Burrinjuck) is a major dam on the Murrumbidgee River below its junction with the Goodradigbee and Yass Rivers.  The Dam was built as part of the grand scheme to provide regular water to the dry lands of the Riverina. The scheme aimed to provide water to lands now known as the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

The scheme was largely the result of the labours of an Irish emigrant, Samuel McCaughey, who arrived in Australia in 1856.  By the 1860s McCaughey was buying up land in the Riverina.  In 1899 he purchased property on the banks of the Murrumbidgee near Yanco.  In order to conserve water he built a dam and a number of channels which allowed him to increase the land’s productivity.  By 1906 the NSW government had established a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and was hearing from people eager to establish dams along the Murrumbidgee.  

As a result of this initiative a dam was planned at Barren Jack (the term supposedly meant ‘steep mountain’ in the language of the local Wiradjuri Aboriginal language) near Yass.  The dam was built, the new towns of Leeton and Griffith /NASApp/cs/NSWGriffith.shtmlwere developed in anticipation of extensive irrigation in the Riverina, and by 1912 the dam was beginning to fill. The dam wall was not completed until 1957.

Today Lake Burrinjuck covers 5,500 hectares, has a shoreline of 645 kilometres, holds 2.5 times the water in Sydney Harbour (another reference states that the holding capacity is 1,025,000 million megalitres, almost half the volume of water in Sydney Harbour) and supplies 1.2 megalitres of water to the Riverina area, thus ensuring the continuing prosperity of the towns in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.  The height of the wall is 97.8 metres (taller than the highest sail on the Sydney Opera House) and the length of the wall crest is 233 metres, with the width at the base of the wall 58 metres, and the weight of the concrete is approximately 950,000 tonnes (Figure 5).

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