Tuesday 19 June 2018

Lucy and Narada: The Mount Panorama Dingoes

This story about Lucy and Narada is based on articles submitted to Merigal Magazine by naturalist Ian McArtney. He was manager of the Sir Joseph Banks Nature Park, once located at Mount Panorama, Bathurst in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.


Lucy lived with the McArtney family in their home travelling each day to work with Ian. Narada lived at the Reserve.  On New Year’s Day 1982, the dingo compound gates were destroyed when a tree fell across the fence and allowing Narada to escape.  He did not turn up again until the next day.

He was well and had killed a large 1.5 metres long goanna within the Reserve.  The same goanna had bitten Ian a month earlier. He needed 33 stitches in his left arm from the bite. Maybe Narada was getting revenge for Ian.

Until the fence was repaired Ian took Narada home each day.  Narada loved it and did not want to go back to work each morning with Lucy and Ian.

Meanwhile, Lucy was getting into a fair share of mischief. She chewed toys, books and killed the odd pet rabbit, guinea pig, possum. Ian realised this was part of being a Dingo along with the occasional "escape".  Her behaviour pattern was to do a lap of the block, sniff a few posts and turds, have a pee, and be back whingeing at the door, sometimes before she was even missed.

Both Lucy and Narada were much loved by the McArtney family and considered themselves lucky to share their lives with the two dingoes.

As well as travelling to work each day with Ian, Lucy was well known in the district for her public appearances around the Bathurst district attending school, street fairs etc.

Ian loved his beautiful Lucy, admitting he had never had anything to do with any animal like her.  She was cautious with strangers and a bit of a snapper to boorish adults, aggressive kids, or certain others for reasons known only to herself.  She was not always well-behaved, but always an instinctive killer of small prey.  She would give him the slip at the Nature Park and go off to kill a wallaby or a small kangaroo before giving herself up. She knew full well he did not like her killing and had an amazing ability to apologise, showing how sorry she was for her crimes; but seemed to convey she couldn’t help but to chase and kill roos.  After all, that's what Dingoes are all about, aren't they?

Narada had perfect manners and was affectionate to the extreme.  He put Lucy to shame in that area, but he was no watch dog. He usually disappeared under the house when strangers appeared.

Early one evening, Ian received a phone call from the local police advising a kangaroo was trapped in the spillway sump at Ben Chifley Dam 15 kilometres from Bathurst.  It was late in the evening so there was not much could be done until next morning.  Setting out to see if there was anything he could do he took Lucy with him as always.

The trapped animal was a Black Swamp Wallaby. It had fallen or jumped down 12 metres onto a cement floor with sheer cement walls on three sides.  Fortunately, due to dry conditions there was no water falling into the sump.  But, between the wallaby and freedom, there was a pool over 15 metres long and six metres wide, holding one and a half metres of water in depth then a long, cement slope of 90 metres (dry) leading to the main spillway pool.  It was 35 metres from one end to the other and full of very cold, deep water, not to mention heaps of water-weed and tangled fishing line.

Ian and Lucy jumped in.  Lucy was not impressed with the cold water, so Ian dragged her. They swam the first pool, climbed the long, cement slope, then Ian waded, and Lucy swam, the remaining 15 metres of cold and somewhat stagnant water to where the wallaby was stranded.

Lucy arrived first but did not attempt to hurt it.  The wallaby, on seeing a dingo, perhaps his most feared enemy next to man, panicked, and tried to climb the wall from where he had fallen, then bounded into the stagnant water with both Lucy and Ian in hot pursuit.

He soon discovered wallabies don't swim very well, and within a few yards it was floundering, but managed to scramble onto the slope with a little help from Ian, and a bite on the butt from Lucy.  Then down the dry slope to the main pool we all went.

Still in a state of panic, the wallaby jumped in, but almost immediately began to sink.  Being close enough to grab, Ian set out to swim the final 35 metres, swimming with one arm, and supporting the wallaby with the other.  By this time, he was freezing, and tiring from struggling with the tangles of waterweed and fishing line.  But Lucy was doing it with ease, just swimming in circles around him.

With about 18 metres to go, Ian thought he may have to release the wallaby.  But, there, was all that was needed, Lucy's tail.  He grabbed on. Lucy easily towed both the wallaby and Ian the final few metres to the edge.

Ian did not claim Lucy saved his life.  He could have made it himself, but his beautiful Dingo, certainly made a difficult job very much easier.

Back on dry land, an examination found the wallaby was almost dead from cold, starvation, and exhaustion. Its claws and toe nails had been worn away in its attempts to climb the walls.  However, it recovered and became part of a colony of Black Swamp Wallabies at the nature park.

The Easter weekend at Bathurst became a legend in its own time.  The Mount Panorama Motor Cycle Races the same year attracted some 26,000 visitors, and, as usual, there was the handful of rat-bags who seemed hell bent on making things difficult for the many genuine bikers.  Ian had Lucy with him day and night, on lead, doing fence patrol, and generally keeping an eye out for vandalism.

Lucy was the star.  When Ian had occasion speak to particular lads for entering the park illegally to collect fire wood (not a serious offence), Lucy showed just enough aggression to warn offenders she COULD mean business.

Lucy also made many friends.  Dozens of bikers wanted to have their photo taken with a real live Dingo.  "Where did you get her mate?" "How can I get one?" "My dad has one." (Ian later learned the young man was the son of Harry Sara, who had Lucy’s mother, Burdekin Lady fostered through the Society) and many, many more questions all dingo people hear hundreds of times.  Lucy also got to meet a couple of other dingoes along with their owners.

About 12.30am, about to go home and with Lucy on the front seat of the truck, they got stuck in a confrontation between gangs of mostly drunken youths holding impromptu Drag Races, and who resented his somewhat official vehicle and appearance.  As a result, he received a barrage of beer bottles, cans and rocks, and one "brave" young warrior attempted to punch him through the closed window of the truck, only to be met by a mouthful of white and very sharp dingo teeth.

Believing discretion was the better part of valour at this point, he discreetly put his foot on the accelerator and left the crowd under a hail of missiles.  It was probably the most violent weekend Bathurst has ever suffered.  No police confrontations, but violence among the few misfits, and running into about $16,000 damages to the park buildings, toilet blocks etc.

Ian was most relieved to have Lucy by his side, even if only as a psychological weapon.  She commanded the respect of even the toughest biker.

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Tuesday 12 June 2018

Little Aussie Battler

Wooleston Blue Jack
While working on stations, Berenice’s husband, Bern had a keen interest in working dogs as a pure breed and arrived in Bargo in 1951 with four working dogs, two pure bred Border Collies, and two Border Collie-Kelpie crosses. Not long after settling in they acquired a couple of working cattle dogs.

Visiting a local show with their two cattle dogs, the show dog fraternity laughed at them. This was also the first the Walters had seen "show" cattle dogs. Seeing some very dark, almost black, heavily built dogs, they wondered what they were. 

They were much larger and heavier than their own working cattle dogs - and yet they resembled them. Charlie Worth, a well-known exhibitor at the time, told them they were Australian Cattle Dogs and that there were two types of Cattle Dogs, the smaller lighter built blue workers, and these "show" dogs. Bern made his mind up right there and then they would beat them at their own game with dogs bred exclusively from working stock.

Berenice once recounted a comment she overheard from the public at the 1954 Royal Easter Show. Looking at the Cattle Dogs in the pavilion an observer said, "I didn't know you could show street dogs (referring to the Australian Cattle Dogs) at the Royal!”

Their champion cattle dog, Wooleston Jack, and his progeny helped change that. They were beautiful dogs who played an important part in bringing respectability to this little Aussie battler developed from the cream of British heelers.

Thursday 7 June 2018

History we are not taught

As I write Berenice Walters’ biography I am finding it an interesting study on how people’s attitudes and personalities change throughout their life. 

Not only did she go from a shy, insecure young woman to one of strength and forthrightness when it involved her beloved Dingo, but her story is also one of changing attitudes to the Australian Aboriginal people.

An example of how her attitude, based on society’s thinking changed to one based on learning, is demonstrated at first in a letter to her mother and later a paper she wrote following her research on the history of the dingo.

The letter is dated 12th March 1957. She is telling her mother about a group of aborigines staying with them while doing boomerang throwing demonstrations and selling crafts at the local show.

As was the way in the 1950s, she refers to them as ‘darks’ and is critical of them for not pushing themselves with their craft work.

Nearly two decades later, while researching the history of the Dingo, a new respect for the Aboriginal people and the treatment meted out by the white settlers grew with earnest.

Her research included studying the original diaries of governors and explorers. The horror of the thoughtlessness of the Europeans was the driving force behind many of her papers. In one she wrote:

I felt unutterable shame on learning of the atrocities to which the Aborigines were subjected; the poisoning of their flour and water, the callousness in dispossessing them of their land, their life blood; the wanton murder of whole tribes that had no weapons to compare with guns; and the ignorance, self-righteousness and greed of the Europeans generally which blinded them to the needs of the former owners.

A one stage she commented on the need to have this history included in school curriculums. I agree with her views totally.

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