The Ward family has a proud 100-year history of growing cattle in the desert.
Story By John Denman
Henry Ward is perched on the verandah of the homestead on Western Australia’s Glen-Ayle station, a hand on his ever-present walking stick. A look of contentment flickers over features chiselled by years of sun and wind. It’s a long way down the track from his beginnings on this land in 1948, and the country around him has never been an easy ride. But Henry is of pioneering stock and proud of it.
In the Wiluna district of central Western Australia, there would be few people who’ve not heard of the Ward family. Well established in the pastoral industry there since the early 1900s, the family has owned some of the better country around the district. But 60 years ago, Henry decided he wanted more than the family station “Millrose” could offer.
“I just wanted me own bit of dirt and some horses of me own,” he says. “I came out here with an Aboriginal bloke called Tommy Ningibong and looked the place over. We ended up having Christmas dinner out in the scrub that year.”
So he took up a lease and cut a track into his new holding, 290 kilometres from Wiluna, on the western edge of the Little Sandy Desert. The track only went as far as neighbouring Earaheedy Station. “We cleared the new track through a feature known as Sydney Heads Pass using an old Auburn motor car dragging a big log behind it,” he says. In 1949, he stocked the property with 250 mixed cattle brought up from Millrose.
In those days it was just Henry and four Aboriginal men on the place. “Of course it was all done with horses then – I reckon it’s still the best way to handle cattle; they just go together. You just can’t get good horsemen anymore.” (Up until 1955 the cattle were walked to the railhead at Wiluna; it closed in 1957.)
This story excerpt is from Issue #58
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2008