Morning Glory Clouds of the Gulf of Carpentaria

History of Escott Station, North Queensland


 
In the year of 1864, a man named Nat Buchanan walked the first cattle to this area from Bowen Downs, near Bowen in Queensland. 1869 saw the English, Scottish, Australian Pastoral Co. in ownership of the land (ESCOTT derived its name from this ownership). Within a few years the Gulf Plague claimed the life of the manager and eventually the rest of the crew walked off the place. In the late 1800's Arthur Reid/National Bank, then running dairy cattle, sold to Paddy Scholes and Frankie Walden Jnr. who sold to Ted Gleeson and Mal Baker. In 1969, however, Ted and Grace were to sell the property to, again, English, Scottish Australia who put the Stolk family in management.

During a time in the 1970s when the cattle industry was not viable, Bruce Douglas and Bob Silcock made a living from fishing the Gulf waters with a small fleet of vessels. A barge named "Leanne", a boat named "Kahlua" and another vessel "Genevieve" formed "Territorial Fisheries".

In 1975 Gordon and Jenny Tait began the first joy flights out of Escott, opening up a new frontier and fanning the flame of tourism. The place was at the time run by Len Stolk and family and it is due to the diligence and imagination of all these people that Escott Barramundi Lodge eventuated. Apart from the concept of a cattle station being open to tourists, another obvious attraction is now , more than ever, the abundance of magnificent trees. I believe Grace Gleeson (wife of Ted) and later Jenny Tait are to thank for this legacy which lends to the splendour of our oasis today. By 1978 Escott was bought by partners, Len Stolk, Bruce Douglas, Bob Silcock, Don McMillan and Jeff Daniels - the latter becoming the sole owner in 1990. The lodge was opened in 1979. Escott was managed by David Hansen and Family until 1998, and then by Paul Poole and Amanda Wilkinson until the end of the 2000 season.

Several leases co-existed and changed hands back and forth over the years, but today Escott operates on only a couple of leases. The entire place was quite huge in the early days, stretching from the Albert River almost to the NT border and up to the Gulf. Wollogorang, during early settlement, was on the border of SA before NT existed.

The homestead on one of the original leases, "Old Marless" (which encompassed aprrox. 90% of the station - the remainder being Escott) was situated in a paddock some 40km from the lodge and owned by brothers Fred, Eddie and Frank Walden. Built around 1884, it was destroying in the 1930s by fire. The Walden families subsequently moved to Escott and were here in 1942 when the American Liberator Bomber went down at Moonlight Creek (then a part of Escott).  A record about this episode was available online at Savannah Aviation's site but has been removed.

The monument in the caravan park was erected by Marcelle, the wife of Roy Walden (son of Frank Snr and Nellie) in his memory. The Waldens lived here in a homestead on the banks of the Nicholson River, under a huge Tamarind tree which still grows today near where the Lodge laundry stands. This homestead was partially destroyed by a cyclone in 1976, and was demolished in 1981. The existing homestead was built for Ted and Grace Gleeson in the mid 1960s by Peterson Bros. The monument beside the horse yard is in respect of Mr Wray Finlay, a retired musterer, head stockman and in general a good friend to all.

The largest Barramundi recorded caught on Escott is 29kg, in 1984 - caught before the maximum length law was enacted in 1992.

Snakes are abundant here, as they are in any place in the wild - our main sightings being of Olive Pythons. These are one of the reasons we do not house chickens. Pythons love ot eat all manner of caged birds. We used to have quite a collection - sad!

The Johnson River crocodile is abundant in these waters but is no real threat to humans. His kin, the "Saltie" is also around in all waters on the property, including fresh water, and must be treated with due respect and considerably caution. The saltwater croc has a rather broad snout, the Johnson has a pointed snout and does not grow to such a large size. The Johnson is usually harmless, but can inflict a nasty bite if antagonized.

The "Five Mile" waters feed from the Gregory River, which heads on "Norfolk", back of Camoweal. The Nicholson and Gregory junction at Doomadgee turnoff. As the crow flies, the distance to the Gulf waters is about 40km. There are thousands of kms of fencing and graded roads on this 256,000 hectare (2,560 sq km) property. The workers (ringers) muster at least twice a year, mainly by chopper but backed by horses and a bullcatcher truck. Running approx. 9000 head, mainly Brahman Cross cattle are raised here and generally trucked off to sister stations before going to market. Milking cows are not used as milk is only allowed for private consumption. The sign in the main bar - Y7Q - is Escott's cattle brand.

The combined staff of the cattle station and tourist lodged is usually around 15. Most of the workers spend from Easter to December in these parts before moving away during the wet season - December to March.

Rodeo is a favourite sport in these parts - the Escott Rodeo was usually held towards the end of September. The last Escott rodeo was held in about 1997.

Adapted from a signed article written between 1991 and 1998. The signature is illegible.

Map of Escott Lodge, Burktown

Wreck of the "Little Eva", a WWII B24

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