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Old photos help piece together the story of a Murrumbateman long gone

Judith Davidson17 July 2021
Pacific Boring Company sinking the village bore at Murrumbateman in 1952

The Pacific Boring Company sinking the village bore at Murrumbateman in 1952, with Joshua Armstrong and probably Stanley Ablamowicz. Photo: Yass and District Historical Society.

Ten folders of photographs and negatives donated to the Yass and District Historical Society archives have helped reveal details of generosity, hard work and a Murrumbateman long gone.

According to an attached note, Roy and Heather Taylor were the kind donors of the photographs and negatives. These photos were from the days of cameras and rolls of film which had to be developed. The exposed roll of film would often be left with a Kodak agent who then sent them away.

Even in the 1960s, it might take a week to get your photos and negatives back.

JJ Skehan, chemist and Kodak dealer of Yass, forwarded some of the packets, while some were handled by John Brown of Murrumbateman: Reasonable Prices, Reliable Goods, Ready Service.

All the photos were connected to the Murrumbateman family of Joshua and Evelyn Armstrong, who owned ‘Dundoos’.


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Stanley Ablamowicz, a decorated World War II Polish air force pilot and a trained engineer, had arrived in Australia in 1947. In Sydney, he met Sir Walter Merriman, who encouraged him to go to the Yass district.

Subsequently, Stanley established the Pacific Boring Company.

According to the extensive collection of Pacific Boring Company log books held by the Yass Archives, Stanley went on to control seven separate drilling rigs which operated throughout southern NSW between 1947 and 1970, including sinking 56 bores on Merriman properties, projects for the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra, and even the Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

However, the vast majority of his clients were landowners and pastoralists desperate to secure a reliable water supply to see them through the reoccurring droughts which were so much a part of farming life.

The inscription on the back of one of the photos has the date January 1952 and reads: “JC Armstrong and bore worker (new Australian), and Pacific Boring Company’s machinery putting down a bore on H White’s village bore.”

The second photo is inscribed: “Pacific Boring Company drilling for water on ‘Dundoos’, 5 March 1957 (struck water at 48 feet), Rod Pohl and JC Armstrong.”

Fortunately, an interview with Bob Wilson from ‘Mountain View’ at Jeir was able to add to the story.


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Bob’s family had been burnt out in the bushfires of 1944 and Joshua Armstrong had loaned them a cottage on ‘Dundoos’ for 18 months while they got back on their feet. Bob explained that the village bore was put down on his uncle Harold White’s place at Murrumbateman, by Joshua Armstrong , to provide the few rough houses – he thought about six – in the village at the time with a reliable water supply.

Further checking of the log books for Pacific Boring Company held by the Yass Archives confirmed that working up to 14 hours a day, Plant 3 had sunk a bore on Portion No.10 at Murrumbateman, starting early January 1952.

On 17 January, water was struck at 60 feet with an output of 90 gallons per hour. On 19 January, a further test at 73 feet confirmed a flow of 90 gallons per hour with a static level of 22 feet from the top.

There is so much more to tell here but the photos, log books and descriptions of drilling operations gleaned from these records – plus Bob Wilson’s recollections – add up to paint a powerful picture of Murrumbateman from another time.

These are the stories the archives’ volunteers love piecing together. If you happen to have more pieces of the ‘jigsaw, please contact the archives at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you.

Judith Davidson is the publicity officer for the Yass and District Historical Society.

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