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History of Megalong - 2

Megalong Cricket Team
There were many more people living in Megalong during this period than today and the men were fond of sport – particularly cricket. There were sometimes two cricket teams, one known as the “All Blacks”, made up of mainly aboriginal people. These teams would travel by horseback twenty miles or more at weekends to meet other teams, the whole weekend would be spent travelling to and from a game. Because of the abundance of wild life that existed at that time shooting was another very popular sport.

Aboriginals in Megalong
Any story of Megalong would not be complete without some reference to the Aboriginals. Aboriginal tribes that lived their nomadic existence in this area moved from the Burragorang-Camden area, along the Cox’s River through the valley to the headwaters in the Lithgow-Wallerawang area. This was done on a seasonal basis, spending winter months in the warmer area of Burragorang and the summer on the higher mountain area of Wallerawang. This would mean that Megalong would be a spring and autumn venue for them, a popular locality because of the abundance of wild life and fresh water.

It could be said that if the early explorers had followed the trail of the tribes they could have found a way to the west of the great cliffs of the Blue Mountains by following the ridges and valleys from Burragorang, via the Blackdog track and Medlow Gap at the end of Narrow Neck Mountain and on to Megalong, Hartley, Bowenfells and Wallerawang. This was. one route that the early stockmen used to bring in their cattle herds.

The last of the aboriginals to live in Megalong claimed to be from the Gun-dun-gorra tribe. They were “Werriberri” (Billy Russell), chief of the tribe, old and young Billy Lynch (father and son), and Fanny Lynch. Although they all passed on from life soon after the turn of this century, their names were held in high esteem by the settlers who remembered them. All that remains to remind us of these early people are the aboriginal names given to some of the localities and a few stone implements that have been found in the area.

Megalong and the Mail
During July 1892, representation was made for the establishment of a post office in Megalong Valley. About 160 miners and 30 settlers in the valley received an average of 40 letters a day. The postmaster at Katoomba reported that the Megalong settlement via Nellie’s Glen was six miles from his office and 120 men were employed at the mines and the mining company intended employing another hundred. An inspector who visited Megalong Valley in September, 1892, reported that most miners and their families were living in temporary dwellings. On his recommendation, tenders were called for a mail service between Katoomba and the top camp at Megalong. James Duff of Katoomba secured the mail contract. Mrs Elizabeth James was appointed to take charge of the post office, which was established at her Megalong store on the 1st December, 1892.

On 8th July, 1896, Mrs James resigned and was succeeded by Mrs Margaret England, whose house was adjacent to the main road on the opposite side of Megalong Creek and only a couple of hundred yards from the school house. By then there were only seven men working at the mine. The arrangement continued until Mrs England’s resignation on 13th November, 1913, when Mrs Jane O’Reilly took charge. Jane O’Reilly was mother of the well known Bernard O’Reilly and her eldest son was the manager of the silver mines at Yerranderie, twenty miles south of Megalong. Her husband, Peter O’Reilly was at the time a prospector for the mining small company in Megalong.

Following the resignation of Mrs O’Reilly, the office was transferred to the home of James Anderson, a farmer living close by, on 19th February, 1917. James Anderson’s daughter Enid looked after the post office during that time. She later married Jack Duncan of “Ballymore” and in 1976 is still living in the valley.

A public telephone was installed during 1915 but there were no private telephone lines connected to the post office.
James Anderson complained in 1918 that the allowance of 14 pounds per annum was insufficient and tendered his resignation. At this time the department was considering reducing the status of the office to that of receiving office for mails, as the annual revenue was only about 15 pounds. By March 1919 an agreement was reached where by the office was opened Monday to Friday from 9 am to 11 am and 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 12.30 pm and 4 pm to 4.30 pm. One telephone subscriber’s service had been connected to the office on 15th August, 1918. This was in the name of J. Ward of “Euroka” property.

John Kirby succeeded James Anderson as postmaster on 1st December, 1919. The post office was moved to his premises. Mrs Mary Kirby was assistant. On the 1st December, 1948 John Kirby’s son, John Thomas Kirby was appointed post master which his sister Mary Kirby carried on with until the closure of the Megalong Post Office on 31st July, 1967.

From about 1896, for some time, it is interesting to know, the Royal Mail was delivered daily except Sunday, by packhorse from Katoomba, via Nellie’s Glen, Chaplow Creek, Mount Sandy to a post office at Cullenben Bong near Hampton.

The mailmen to follow on after Jim Duff were George Duff in 1900, John England 1901, and Peter O’Reilly 1913 to 1915. This was referred to as the “Pony Mail” because the mailman travelled on horseback.

Prospectors investigated coal and shale mining localities in the valley from time to time and about 1932 a coal mine operation got underway for a short period close to Megalong Road, approximately three miles from Blackheath. There are few records of this operation but it is known to have produced coal mainly for the local fuel market.