Countdown: Blog 141: Guest blog from James Hook

Today’s blog is the first instalment of a guest post written by James Hook from Lazy Ballerina and DJ’s Growers.  A fascinating insight into the early days of McLaren Vale settlement… her e is part I with parts II and III to follow in the coming days…

Thankyou James.
1841. Settlement.

The Oliver’s Taranga Wine business has its origins 170 years ago.

70 years before the motor car.

McLaren Vale was a different place back then, in fact calling the area a ‘place’ was not the right term… Frontier was a better description. When William and Elizabeth Oliver travelled to South Australia from Scotland and settled in 1841, they had to create a living from scratch.

You can imagine this slight couple weaving up a dirt track, with a horse and cart towing a scraped together collection of farming tools. The husband turns to his wife and says, ‘See I have got us some prime land, we will farm here, this is good ground.’

Maybe she rolled her eyes at him.

She might have had good reason, life was hard, in those days the McLaren Vale was a wild place with huge gum trees and thick wattle scrub. The trees went for wood, the wattle cut own for bark and oil. They called their lower farm Taranga, from Taranga or Tarangk, a native word, meaning middle place.

South Australia was a bush colony, the original settlers, like the Oliver family were entering a valley with no support or services. They had to make on their own. There were no roads, no shops, no sign post and no fences.

It was the days before easy transport when people rode everywhere on horseback or by trap.

Originally the region was surveyed in 1839 by a party led by John McLaren. McLaren was appointed as Senior Surveyor was given the task of surveying the southern districts of Adelaide. McLaren divided up the south of Adelaide into three districts – B, C and D to be released to the settlers in stages. Section C included all the land south of the Onkaparinga River to Willunga Hill as was released from 1840.

The survey team led by John McLaren and included Governor Gawler’s Aid de Camp, Mr Hawker. McLaren was appointed as Senior Surveyor was given the task of surveying the southern districts of Adelaide. He was the only man in his party with a horse and Mr Hawker and the rest of the party walked. Mr Hawker was entrusted with the explosives the party carried. Together they battled to clear a cut track that became the first road from Adelaide to Victor Harbor.

When they crossed the horseshoe bend in the Onkaparinga at Noarlunga, they found themselves confronted with large river red gum trees.

The trees were too large to dig out, so they tried to use explosives. The fuses were bad and they cut the stumps 3 foot above the ground. They were named Hawker’s stumps.

McLaren called the wide valley that he came to south of the Onkaparinga – the McLaren Vale, meaning the McLaren Vale.

No historian is sure if he named the valley after himself, or whether it named after David McLaren, who was appointed as the head of the South Australia Company in the Motherland at the time. McLaren Wharf at Port Adelaide was named after Mr David McLaren. David McLaren was in a way the head of a company that employed John McLaren to do his work.