And More Again...

The settlement at the foot of the mountain dates back to the earliest settlement in the area, taking its name from a pastoral station that dates back to 1862 and, in turn takes its name from the battle in the Crimean War that preceded the siege of Sevastopol and included an assault by the Russian 10th Division on British, French and Ottoman troops on the allied right flank atop a feature known as Home Hill.

The township of Inkerman, which today has a store, a service station a caravan park, and not much else, presumably equates to the location of the original station homestead, though the presence of a school, which operated from 1915 to at least the end of 1974 suggests another one of those fettler camps referred to earlier. According to the Queensland State Archives the school closed in 1974, though I seem to recall an acquaintance on the Education Department District Relieving Team working there later than that.

The view from the top of Mount Inkerman is, by all accounts, quite spectacular, though we’ve never managed to find the time to detour and enjoy the vista.

From Inkerman the highway takes you through Iyah and Koolkuna, past the World War Two site at Charlie's Hill and on to Home Hill, a town that seems to owe its existence to the coincidence of an issue with cattle ticks and a sugar processing baron’s desire to avoid competition from a government-owned sugar mill.

Inkerman Station had been acquired by the North Australian Pastoral Company in 1878, had been plagued by cattle ticks through the 1890s, and in 1906 a public meeting in Ayr petitioned the Government to buy the property and subdivide it into farming lots to be irrigated by bore water drawn from the Burdekin aquifers. The Government came good with the money in 1910 and the Inkerman farm lots went quickly when offered for sale in 1911.

Entrepreneur John Drysdale, the big man in sugar on the northern side of the Burdekin acquired 1280 acres (518 ha) of Inkerman land, a purchase which he parlayed into government concessions to build a mill for the subdivided Inkerman farms, tapping the foreseeable cane supply from Inkerman allotments and protecting his other mills around Ayr from a rival co-operative or Government owned central mill.. Drysdale was, by all accounts, a fierce competitor, using long-term contracts and high payments to bind his growers to his mills. The last thing he wanted was a mill in the district.

Inkerman mill was completed in 1913 and crushed its first cane in 1914. Drysdale Brothers retained ownership of the surrounding tenant farms and unsold freehold land. A township located near a lagoon was surveyed in 1911, and, in one account,  named Holme Hill, with the name allegedly changed because the young man sent to paint the name on the railway station got it wrong and left out a letter. The link to the Battle of Inkerman noted earlier means it may have been Home Hill all along, but you never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

A drought in the town’s early years prompted a centralised source of electricity to run the pumps on the irrigation spears, and the result was a power house and electricity reticulation system constructed by the Inkerman Water Supply Board that operated at a loss until the it was connected to the Townsville Regional Electricity Board grid in 1953.

Heading out of Home Hill you pass the Kirknie Road turnoff, which takes you out to Kirknie station, taken up around the same time as Inkerman, past the Osborne State primary school, named for the secretary of the local branch of the Inkerman Farmers and Graziers Association, Lowell Osborne. The school opened in 1914 and has operated ever since.


© Ian Hughes 2013