Harry Ding delivered vital supplies and people along the Birdsville Track several years before the legendary Tom Kruse took over the run and made it famous.

Story John Dunn  Photo George William Collection SLSA

It’s exactly a century ago this year that the late Harry Ding, a back country but enterprising 27-year-old, bought the garage and general store at tiny Yunta in SA’s far north-east and began a career that pioneered road transport in the state’s isolated inland.

The sale included a couple of local mail runs, which led Ding to soon buy the most famous mail run of them all – the service running along the Birdsville Track from Marree.

Tom Kruse became a national legend as he drove a Leyland Badger through the desert sands, over and around the dunes, across the jarring claypans and, believe it or not, floodwaters, for years. He brought mail to isolated sheep stations, workers to the shearing sheds and homesteads, and supplies of all sorts, from food to fuel.

But it was Ding who owned the Badger and was the man behind the transformation of the service from camels and horse teams to the motor vehicle and, with it, the use of radio communications, which became so vital, even life-saving at times.

This story excerpt is from Issue #155

Outback Magazine: June/July 2024