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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - June 19, 2016


Next time you feel like complaining about the mail, or your internet service provider ...think about this...
The Sydney Gazette in April 1809 announced the establishment of an office on the north side of George Street:... at which parcels and letters addressed to the inhabitants of this colony out to be deposited previous to the distribution, which office shall be under the direction of Mr Isaac Nichols, assistant to the naval officer.

Nichols, a native of rural Wiltshire, was found guilty of stealing a donkey at the Warminster Assizes in 1790. A post office was set up in Hobart on the same day that Nichols opened the one in Sydney in 1809 and a regular overland mail run was established in October 1816 between Hobart and Launceston.

A government messenger left Hobart on a Sunday, walked the 193 km to Launceston and left on the return journey on the following Sunday. Twelve years later, in 1828, the Gazette reported that the Hobart-Launceston messenger had been provided with a horse for the journey.

Roland Hill in Britain devised the first adhesive postage stamp, the famous ‘Penny Black’, in 1840 but Australia created of the world's first prepaid mail. On 1 November 1838 James Raymond, who was at the time Colonial Postmaster General, introduced a system of pre-paid letters, which was the first of its kind in the world

Up until that time it was the custom to people receiving the mail to pay the postage, not the sender. People receiving mail from Isaac Nichols in 1809 had to pay one shilling to collect!

James Raymond's system, which pre-dated the postage stamp by two years, consisted of a prepaid letter in the form of a folded sheet of notepaper with an embossed seal. These were sold for one and a half pence each or one shilling and three pence per dozen. Later the price per dozen was discounted down to an amazingly low one shilling. The idea was still being used for international airmail into the 1980s in the form of the 'Aerogram'.
The same year that Raymond introduced the world's first pre paid letters a long-distance overland mail run was established between the fledgling settlement of Melbourne and the seat of colonial government in Sydney.

The famous American Pony Express, about which we have all heard so much - and about which so many romantic tales and stories have been told, and so many movies made - lasted for exactly 18 months and each rider rode for one day at a time and changed horses every 20 kilometres or so.

For three years, using the same horses and packhorses and riding for six days at a time, John Burke took the mail backwards and forwards over the trackless bushland between Yass and Melbourne.

It was not uncommon for the mail, which had taken six days to come from Melbourne to Yass, to be placed on a bullock dray, which would then take six weeks to complete the 280 km from Yass to Sydney.


Banjo Paterson

The Travelling Post Office
The roving breezes come and go, the reed beds sweep and sway,
The sleepy river murmurs low, and loiters on its way,
It is the land of lots o’ time along the Castlereagh.

The old man’s son had left the farm, he found it dull and slow,
He drifted to the great north-west where all the rovers go.
‘He’s gone so long,’ the old man said, ‘he’s dropped right out of mind,
But if you’d write a line to him I’d take it very kind;
He’s shearing here and fencing there, a kind of waif and stray,
He’s droving now with Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh.

The sheep are travelling for the grass, and travelling very slow;
They may be at Mundooran now, or past the Overflow,
Or tramping down the black soil flats across by Waddiwong,
But all those little country towns would send the letter wrong,
The mailman, if he’s extra tired, would pass them in his sleep,
It’s safest to address the note to “Care of Conroy’s sheep”,
For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray,
You write to “Care of Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh”.’

By rock and ridge and riverside the western mail has gone,
Across the great Blue Mountain Range to take that letter on.
A moment on the topmost grade while open fire doors glare,
She pauses like a living thing to breathe the mountain air,
Then launches down the other side across the plain away
To bear that note to ‘Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.

And now by coach and mailman’s bag it goes from town to town,
And Conroy’s Gap & Conroy’s Creek have marked it ‘further down’.
Beneath a sky of deepest blue where never cloud abides,
A speck upon the waste of plain the lonely mailman rides.
Where fierce hot winds have set the pine & myall boughs asweep
He hails the shearers passing by for news of Conroy’s sheep.
By big lagoons where wildfowl play and crested pigeons flock,
By campfires where the drovers ride around their restless stock,
And past the teamster toiling down to fetch the wool away
My letter chases Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh.


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