Kangaroo Island and its capital as reviewed in 1908

The following is an article on Kingscote that appeared on the front page of The Register, Adelaide on February 22, 1908. It was supplied to The Islander by David Wilson of the Kangaroo Island Pioneers’ Association, who suggested it would make interesting reading:

Kangaroo Island – The Capital- Its Distinguishing Features

“Distance lends enchantment to the view” is an oft-quoted maxim, which, however, appropriate it may be in certain circumstances, does not apply to Kingscote. 

Seen from a few miles away, the local aspect is not sufficiently striking to arouse even lukewarm enthusiasm; but as the visitor approaches nearer and nearer to the 'toy' jetty his interest increases with each revolution of the propeller, and the portion of the town visible nestles so daintily and snugly on the gently receding and ascending hills and in the miniature valleys, that he feels at home long before he has set foot on shore.

While a closer acquaintance with the place reveals sundry unsightly features, it also enhances one's opinion of the picturequeness of the chief town on the island, and its admirable situation as a health resort.

Native ruggedness is the principal charm of the scenery in the immediate neighbourhood, and, for that matter, all over the country.

Although not exceptionally high, the cliffs, on the edge of which stand several attractive residences, instil an uncomfortable sense of that smallness of one's chances of life if one were to be hurled against them during a storm.

From the point just in front of the post office can be obtained a splendid birdseye view. Except for a number of comparatively insignificant indentations, the coast to the right follows a straight course, sou'-sou'-west to Western Cove.

A short distance beyond there it takes a fine sweep almost due east to Point Morrison. Further east Kangaroo Head and Christmas Cove loom out prominently on a clear day, and the outline of the mainland extending in a northerly direction beyond Cape Jevis is easily distinguished.

To the left of Kingscote, after having followed the serpentine winding shore for a mile, the vision alights upon the base of the spit—a strip of sand, which curves from the middle of the mouth of the Bay of Shoals around, like a huge white arm, with a sparse growth of dark hair upon it— to the north-north-east of the town. But for its existence the waters of Nepean Bay would often be infinitely more turbulent than they are. 

Photograph in three parts of the Ozone Hotel (a) ca.1910, (b)-(c) 1918 during and after destroyed by fire.

Photograph in three parts of the Ozone Hotel (a) ca.1910, (b)-(c) 1918 during and after destroyed by fire.

— In the Town — 

When the present township was surveyed in 1883, and most of the blocks were disposed of at public auction in the Adelaide Town Hall, a new name that of Queensdiffe was given to it

Several of the pioneer settlers, however, strenously agitated for the retention of the bid title, and won with flying colours. Kingscote has now been the recognised name for many years, and 'Kingscote,' no doubt is what it will remain.

The town has undergone a remarkable transformation during the past few years. Land which in 1904 could have been bought for a mere song has risen in value by leaps and bounds, with the result that some fortunate holders prior to the boom have reaped golden harvests.

The post and telegraph office occupies a commanding position on Beare's Point, and is in charge of Mr. R. Lamprey, who is aasisted by a young man.

The business, especially in the summer, is very brisk. Directly to the rear of the office is the police station. Here Mounted Constable Thorpe— than whom there is not a more courteous officer in the force, or a better raconteur on the island—holds sway.

A stroll of about 100 yards along the main road from the jetty passing, en route the obelisk erected to the memory of Capt. Matthew Flinders, brings the pedestrian to the Ozone Hotel— a palatial three story structure which faces the cliffs a few steps distant.

The proprietor (Mr. F. H. Winch) deserves to reap the regard of his enterprise. The outlook front the upper balcony of the hotel is exquisite, and is rendered the more pleasant by the sparkling and invigorating ozone which sweeps in upon the promenaders, occasionally with almost sufficient force to lift them from their feet.

The other hotel is presided over by Mrs. Anderson, and has been vastly improved during the last year or two. It an imposing two-story edifice, replete with every convenience.

Numerous fine business premises have been erected lately, and a large shop is in course of construction. The new dwellings are substantial, and in some instances highly ornate, and would be a credit to any city. The building material invariably used is limestone, which, when neatly faced and lined, presents a handsome appearance.

Besides the two previously referred to, the public buildings include the council chambers and institute hall combined, the model school (teacher, Miss Lindsay), and the Anglican and Methodist Churches.

The lastnamed, which is still in the hands of the masons and painters, is an eminently pleasing acquisition to the architecture of the town;

The Bank of Australasia has a branch, of which Mr. F. C. Addison is the manager, and the Koh-i-noor Goldmining Company, has its head office in the town. Mr. A. R. Campbell is the secretary.

That indispensable accessory of modern times, a newspaper, is published each Saturday. It bears the euphonious title Kangaroo Island Courier, and is efficiently edited by the proprietor. Mr. C. J Wallace, well known in Port Augusta and Port Lincoln. 

Water tank construction at Kingscote in approximately 1937.

Water tank construction at Kingscote in approximately 1937.

— The Water Problem —

Although Kingscote is within a stone's throw of millions of gallons of water, the scarcity of the precious fluid is the paramount difficulty which faces the residents.

'If we could only strike good drinkable water.' they say, 'we would be satisfied.' And having uttered that expression they are trying to ascertain if Mother Earth will beneficently favour them with a portion of the bountiful supply contained in her bosom.

Some months ago the council began boring operations on a triangular reserve near to the police-station, but so far they have proved unsuccessful.

When a depth of 200 ft. had been reached at a cost of £100, the council decided to suspend work pending the receipt from Mr. G. Stewart, superintendent surveyor, in the Engineer-in-chief's department, who had been furnished with samples of the core from the bore, relative to the prospects of meeting with water and and the adviseableness or otherwise of going down further.

At present the townsfolk depend upon tanks for their domestic supplies, and water their horses and cattle at the well at old Kingscote, a mile distant.

They also use the water from this ancient place for laundry work. It has been mooted that should the Government resolve to ask Parliament to sanction the construction of the proposed railway through the island a double object could be achieved by damming back certain of the tributaries of the Cygnet River about 10 miles from the town.

The water thus conserved could be pumped into Kingscote, and also be utilized for the railway engines, which require first-class liquid. 

A large crowd attend the opening of a new jetty at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, on 28 November 1910, by the Governor of South Australia, Sir Day Hort Bosanquet.

A large crowd attend the opening of a new jetty at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, on 28 November 1910, by the Governor of South Australia, Sir Day Hort Bosanquet.

— A New Jetty — 

The older residents of Kingscote and the adjacent country, have been long suffering in the matter or harbour facilities. Times out of number they have sought to secure the erection of a suitable jetty in place of the existing flimsy structure, but it was not until last year that their efforts proved successful.

Now they are anxiously looking forward to the consummation of the scheme. The piles and requisite equipment for the construction of the jetty are ready at Port Adelaide, and the work will be proceeded with immediately after the report of the officer who was delegated by the Engineer-in-Chief to enquire concerning the best locality for the structure shall have been furnished.

An idea of the unstable character of the present jetty may be obtained when it is known that on calm days it vibrates considerably, and rough weather causes it to oscillate in an alarming degree.

A similar effect is also produced by the bumping of the steamer during berthing operations. A suggestion has been made in connection with the projected undertaking, that the jetty should be built a few yards to the north of the old one, which it will exceed in length, and that the space between for about 50 yards from the shore should be filled in with earth.

The adoption of this plan, it is contended, would provide adequate room for the simultaneous accommodation of four or five vessels.

To finish the work off properly it is considered that the present useless cattle yards should be dismantled, and the surrounding ground cut away. If that were done there would then be ample room for the temporary stacking of machinery and produce and its manipulation, and the vicinity materially improved from the aesthetic point of view.

A couple of weeks ago a large tubular buoy was dropped and anchored about a chain from the sea-end of the jetty, and directly in a line with it. so that in the event of their grounding near by (a common mishap at one-time) vessels may fasten their ropes and pulleys to it and thus haul themselves into deeper water. The cost of the buoy and the attachments was over £100.

Old and new Jetties, Kingscote, reproduced in the "Observer", 14th April, 1923.

Old and new Jetties, Kingscote, reproduced in the "Observer", 14th April, 1923.

— The Kingscote Council — 

Shakespeare says that 'comparisons are odorous.' In some respects they may be; nevertheless, only by such means are we able to effectively gauge and comprehend, among other things, the relative growth of a community; the extent of the development of industries, and the rate of the accumulation of wealth.

In the case of the District Council of Kingscote, a splendid conception of the progress which has been made is afforded by comparing the balance sheet for 1896-7 with that issued last year.

A more striking example of the truth, of the adage 'Figures are more eloquent than words' could not be desired. The receipts in 1896-7 amounted to £152, and the expenditure to £90.

The balance of £62 spent, in renting the council chamber, cattle discs, and sundries. The rates and Government subsidy produced £78, and £98 was devoted to roadmaking.

The clerk's salary was £16. The receipts in 1906-7 were £441 or £289 more than a decade previously. The rates and Government subsidy yielded £178, and depasturing fees and dog licences £71.

The principal items on the other side were road making, &c., £233; clerk's salary, £20. The balance defrayed tbe outlay on lamps (the town is lit with acetylene gas), printing contributions to institutions, legal expenses, and wages.

The boundaries of the council embrace the Hundreds of Menzies, Cassini, Haines, and MacGillivray, and the reminder of the country west to Cape Borda. It will thus be, perceived that, in addition to doing a tremendous amount of pioneering, it has to keep in repair scores of miles of roads.

The thoroughfares within the town limits have been improved out of all recognition in the last few months; and active steps are being taken to perfect the sanitary arrangements so far as the comparatively meagre funds of the council will permit.

As the "Local Board of Health" the council would heartily welcome the advent of a resident qualified medical man; but that perhaps is too much to hope for at present. Schemes for the beatification of the town have been advanced at different times, but lack of the necessary capital, has kept them back. 

The Steamers Governor Musgrave (left) and Karatta (at jetty) at Kingscote on the morning of 28 November 1910. The Governor Musgrave had travelled overnight from Port Adelaide with the Governor of South Australia, Sir Day Hort Bosanquet, who opened the new Kingscote Jetty that morning. The ship was captained by Captain Pearson.

The Steamers Governor Musgrave (left) and Karatta (at jetty) at Kingscote on the morning of 28 November 1910. The Governor Musgrave had travelled overnight from Port Adelaide with the Governor of South Australia, Sir Day Hort Bosanquet, who opened the new Kingscote Jetty that morning. The ship was captained by Captain Pearson.

— Kingscote's Days — 

Twice a week Kingscote has an exceedingly busy and populous aspect. The occasions are Wednesday and Saturday evenings. when the mails arrive from the mainland.

Especially on the week-end nights the two main streets are often crowded with pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and at the principal corner drivers require to exercise much care to avoid running over the groups of persons gathered here and there, discussing all manner of questions.

A goodly sprinkling' of the visitors are from 20, 30, and 40 miles back, and after they have collected their letters, papers, and household commodities and transacted other essential business, they think nothing of setting out on their return journey, though the hour may be ever so late.

Generally they begin to straggle into the town shortly afternoon, and by early evening their horses can be seen, tethered in every direction.

As the steamer gradually draws nigh they join the local residents at the shore-end of the jetty, and apparently derive infinite pleasure through watching the landing of cargo and passengers.

Nearly everybody is well dressed and seemingly thoroughly satisfied with his or her prospects in life. Strangers, intent up on a short holiday, usually pass along the ricketty jetty, unheeded— not that the islanders, wish to slight them or are inhospitable— experience teaches that they are exactly the reverse— but they are diffident.

Selectors or resident business men, however, are greeted with a jovial "Good day; glad to see you back," or "Hope, you had a fine trip, and left them all well over there."

An hour and a half after the berthing of the steamer the crowd move towards the post office, where they frequently are perforce compelled to wait for over an hour before the mail matter is ready for distribution.

This is not the fault of the postal officials— they do their best— but is due chiefly to the fact that bags have to be made up for other parts of the island, so that the carriers can depart at the earliest moment for their sometimes far-distant outposts.

While awaiting the sorting of the mail matter, the expectant gathering splits into small sections, some of which press around the delivery windows, like ants at a honey jar; others stand about the point, and others again, comprising mainly the lads and lassies and curious visitors from the metropolis, wander down the jetty, along the beach or the cliffs; or through the wooded lanes and roads.

As the night deepens the strollers again concentrate in the business centre, whence, after a while, they wend their way homeward. Council day— once a month, on a Monday— is another important attraction to many, who find it a convenient occasion on which to pay their periodical visits to town.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1908, February 22). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56979846

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