Walcha history: Getting the mail through

Delivering the mail: A photo from the early 1900s of four of Walcha’s early mail contractors outside the post office in Derby Street.
Delivering the mail: A photo from the early 1900s of four of Walcha’s early mail contractors outside the post office in Derby Street.

Harry Hoole, who had the Yarrowitch contract, is on the left hand side of this photo. Next is Jack Quinn with the Nowendoc contract, then Martin Smedley with the Glen Morrison contract and Alex Wall with the Moona Plains contract.

In 1849, there was a once a week mail service on horseback between Tamworth and Walcha. This changed in 1851 when James Starr was awarded a contract, worth £49 per annum, to carry the mail once a week on horseback between Bendemeer and Walcha.

Early days

Walcha’s John Carroll was one of the early users of a coach to deliver mail in the local district when awarded a contract in 1881 to conduct the service between Walcha, Salisbury Plains and Uralla.

This contract lapsed in August 1882 when all mail to and from the local district came by rail to Walcha Road Station and was taken from there to Walcha, originally by George Martin and later by George Bowden.

Mail from Walcha post office to the local district continued to be delivered by horseback for many years with Sam Brazel’s 1890s contract for a twice-weekly service on the run between Walcha and Yarrowitch, via Ohio, Europambela, Waterloo, Tiara and Tia, being typical.

Brazel’s contract was for three years at £80 per annum.

Easy pickings for bushrangers

Bushrangers at times saw horseback mailmen and their varied baggage as easy prey.

One example is given in the following report from the Armidale Express of October 9 1869: “On Monday last the mail, which leaves Walcha for Uralla at 7am, got stuck up near Bald Knob about 11 miles from Walcha. Every letter was opened by the robber and all cheques, notes and valuables taken out.

“At the present time we have no clue as to the fellow’s identity. He is described as a short man with dark whiskers and was riding a chestnut horse with white feet while leading a bay horse. He was very poorly dressed.”

Record-breaking term

The Walcha News of October 20, 1933 wrote of the Bowden family’s record-breaking term as a mail contractor saying: “Fifty years ago the late G.M. Bowden secured the contract for the conveyance of mails from Walcha Road, about two years after the railway was opened.

“This was accomplished by a coaching service that was recognised as being the best in the north.

“His son, Mr Charles Bowden became the contractor when the motor service was introduced in 1912 and has continued the delivery of the mails to and from Walcha Road ever since without a break.”