By Jill Cross and Jenny Trigwell
Updated 21 March 2022
“Cattle bellowing, farmers swearing and trying to sort their cattle from their neighbours, the smell of freshly baked scones wafting from the kiosk. It is sale day and it’s been a long drive across country picking up other farmers’ cattle along the way. A big mob in the yards today. Farmers gather, talk about the weather, too much rain, too little, who will get the best price?”
Dardanup townsite was for many years the site of a large saleyard complex where cattle, sheep, horses and pigs were sold.
In 1916, George E Clarke, the Mayor of Bunbury, had extensive sale yards built at Dardanup where regular stock sales were held. The first sale was on 16 November 1916. These were the Dalgety yards at the end of Charlotte Street on the corner of Cleary Road. (Southern Times Tues 7 Nov 1916).
George Fee recorded in his diary: “…we were the first to put stock in there for sale. There was a very fair attendance.” Mrs Geroge Fee sold 13 cattle at £7/ 7s /6p per head, 2 cattle at £8/ 5s and one at £4. George and Robert Fee sold a cow and calf for £9/ 10s. Many others, including W Garvey sold cattle and sheep. There was a good yarding of horses but none sold at auction.
A butcher’s shop had been built in Charlotte St in 1908 for Morrissey Bros, a well-known butchering business owned by the three Morrissey brothers – George Henry, John Patrick, and Richard. Between 1908 and 1930, the Morrissey brothers had butcher’s shops in Bunbury, Dardanup and Greenbushes. In 1909 they bought land on Dowdells Line to expand operations, processing cattle, sheep and pigs. The slaughterhouse was situated in what is now (2022) Damiani’s paddock on the left side of Dowdells Line at the corner of Ferguson Road. They couldn’t buy enough cattle locally, so would buy a train load from the northwest each month. Brian Wells remembers the cattle being driven down the road to the Dowdells Line slaughterhouse.
The Dalgety yards were expanded in 1937 when tenders were called for a covered pig shed with concrete floor and 17 new cattle pens.
In 1948 Goldsborough Mort and Westralian Farmers were conducting sales in the Dalgety yards. By 1952 Goldsborough Mort had built yards on Lot 76, Cleary Rd and were conducting regular monthly sales at Dardanup.
There was a kiosk nearby that provided food on sale days. It was accessed through a white gate at the Charlotte St / Cleary Rd corner. It was a tiny building with a copper for boiling water, a small verandah on the front and a hatch that opened for serving.
Yards were also built on Frank Venn’s Dardanup Park property for Westralian Farmers and Elders Smith & Co.
The Dardanup saleyards were the biggest in Western Australia outside Midland. Sale days were important not only as a marketplace for a significant agricultural product but as a gathering place for farmers.
Des Gardiner remembered sales were held three times a month, on a Monday. Young Des would ride out with Aubrey Buckenara, on horseback using dogs and stock whips, as far as Elgin to pick up cattle for the sales. This would probably have been in the 1940s when Des’ father Mr J L Gardiner owned the butcher’s shop, previously Morrissey’s, in Charlotte St.
John Gardiner from Ferguson remembered driving cattle to Dardanup on horseback. His father would buy sheep at the sales and drive them back to their property, again on horseback, as there was no motorised transport. They kept 500-600 sheep, all shorn with hand shears. There was no power for electric equipment. (Memories of Dardanup, 2011). Tom Gibbs remembered when his Uncle Hal decided to sell his Jersey bull and on that particular trip the bull jumped Owen Gardiner’s fence and headed home.
Increasing animal welfare regulations and more efficient road transport of livestock led to the demise of local sale yards including Dardanup, Waterloo and Brunswick. The stock agents could not afford to upgrade all the local sale yards to the required standard, and made the decision to close all except for Boyanup which has now become a large regional sale yard.
The Country Womens Association In Dardanup
The Country Womens Association was started in 1922, with the motto: “Honour to God. Loyalty to the throne. Service to the country”. The aim was to improve conditions for country women and children. The branch provided a much-needed social outlet for the local women. The Association became a voice for women in what was then a male dominated society.
Women from Bunbury and many outlying areas formed the Bunbury CWA Branch, with the inaugural meeting held in May 1929. Mrs L Craig was the first President and continued in this role for four years.
Initially embraced by the more mature women, it became apparent within the Association, that younger members should be encouraged to join the CWA.
Instigated by Mrs L Craig, the Dardanup-Bunbury Younger Set was formed on 25 September 1934 at a gathering at the Dardanup Agricultural Hall. Miss D Hayward was elected President and Miss D Brett was voted in as Secretary/ Treasurer.
The decision to form a separate Dardanup Branch of the CWA was made at a gathering on 11 June 1937. This decision was officially conveyed to the Bunbury branch during the monthly meeting the next day.
The Dardanup-Bunbury Younger Set then became a sub-branch of Dardanup. They were very active in organising dances and concerts, which were much appreciated by the young men of the region, and no doubt some lasting relationships ensued.
Initially meetings were held in the Dardanup Agricultural Hall, while the members enthusiastically worked towards the goal of their own building. A meeting room, that could provide a suitable rest area for the women and children while accompanying their menfolk who attended the regular livestock sales held in the town, and sometimes the social gatherings at the front bar of the Dardanup Hotel afterwards.
An old Wellington Mill timber house was purchased, transported, and rebuilt for the sum of £100. Inside, the building comprised a front verandah with leadlight front door adorned with the CWA emblem; a large meeting room; a dressing room; kitchen with wood burning stove and checked curtains; then a latticed-in back verandah. Walls were lined with plaster and finished with jarrah trims. The meeting room had a cosy fireplace and was furnished in shades of blue.
State CWA President Mrs W E Hearman officially opened the building on the 25 June 1938, with approximately 150 people attending from local and adjoining districts. Mr Hayward and Mr Bunn (the contractor) were thanked for their assistance and painstaking work. The visitors then went on to the Agricultural Hall for a musical programme, some more addresses and afternoon tea. The Dardanup Branch also celebrated its first birthday – a lot was achieved in a short space of time!
Electricity became available in Dardanup townsite in 1951 and the building was connected. However, connection to the town water supply never eventuated, and a rainwater tank was the only source available.
The debt for the building was repaid with funds raised from many events – monthly card evenings, the annual CWA Ball, cake and produce stalls, garden parties. Hugely successful annual bazaars were held, with stalls, activities, and afternoon tea. The lucky dip and toffee apples proved to be major attractions with the children.
In addition to the camaraderie, social fun activities, skill learning opportunities, and a valuable support network, the fundraising continued to be of great importance across the years of operation. The building debt was soon cleared and there were donations to the war effort including comfort parcels for soldiers; Save the Children Fund sponsorship; and donations to many other worthy causes.
During World War II, the CWA building was used as an air observatory for spotting foreign planes. Mass immunisation clinics for children were also carried out there. When artificial insemination for cattle commenced, the premises where used in relation to with that service for some time.
Other community groups used the CWA hall, including the local Red Cross Branch and the Junior Farmers.
With more women in the workforce, the Dardanup CWA found it harder to attract new members and numbers dwindled. In the 1980’s there were just 10 members and when faced with a potential renovation cost of $10,000, sadly the building was demolished. Some of the floorboards were used for the restoration of the original Dardanup State School building. CWA meetings were then held in the renovated old school building, now called the Don Hewison Centre. The Dardanup Branch ceased to operate in 1996.
The Dardanup Branch’s first President, Frances Craig, was also State President of the CWA from 1939-1944 and Vice President of the Associated Country Women of the World in 1947. Mrs Craig was responsible for starting the Save the Children Fund in Western Australia and there is a memorial in Kings Park recording this.
- Memories of Dardanup, Dardanup Oral History Workshop, 2011.
- News and Notes, Southern Times Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 – 1916), Tuesday, 7 November 1916
- Dardanup Matters – CWA Branch, The South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954) , Sat 7 Aug 1937, Page 4
- Market Day – Elgin-Boyanup District Scenes – 1937 – South Western Times Illustrated Annual
- CWA Photos from Gwen Wells and Kay Brett
- Aerial view of Dardanup taken by Frank Craig in 1944 from Shire of Dardanup offices.
* Mrs Alfred Gardiner (née Daisy Buswell) died suddenly aged 44 on 29 March 1944