Old Dan Kemp

Dan’s tragic demise
November 1947

Dan and Jerry (Jeramiah) Kemp were brothers, both born in the 1870s and who took up land together on a block about 10 kilometers north-west of Tenindewa on what is now called Kemp Road. They had three siblings, Susan, who became Mrs. Patrick Butler and a brother in Joshua and the youngest sister was Maggie. Their father was Mr. Henry Kemp.
Neither Dan nor Jerry ever married.
That farm was sold on to Wally and Olive Weir in 1950 and then on to Glen and Aliza Thomas in 1990.

Henry Kemp and Patrick Butler were what were called Teamsters in old phraseology but in today’s terminology, “Haulage Contractors” who, in the case of the Kemp’s, with horses, drays and wagons lugged food, fodder, building materials and all manner of freight from the Port of Geraldton as far afield as Meekatharra and sometimes, beyond. With the coming of the rail, which got to Tenindewa in early 1894, they incrementally diversified out of haulage into agriculture and completely so by 1940. Horses were still the “tractors” of the day for most folk when the Kemps entered agriculture.

In the early days of agricultural pioneers everywhere, including Tenindewa, water was precious and pivotal to both man and beast, something the Kemps would have been most conscious of, especially because of their experiences in the Teamster game. Dan and Jerry were a most conservative pair in their approach to change to the point they still relied on horses, to some degree, right up to when the farm was sold in 1950.
On November the 5th in 1947 the Kemps were cleaning out a well which was “periodic maintenance” for all wells in order to keep the quality and volume of water in the well at it’s best. They were using an apparatus known as a “bucket and windless” to undertake this cleaning operation. This process entailed a bucket (approx. 10 gallons in the old measure) that was attached to a rope and lowered down by turning a handle on a windlass. The windlass would be positioned across and central to the well. By description this device was a wooden pole of about 25 cm in diameter which had a rope wrapped around it and attached to it and it was generally about 2 meters in length depending on the dimension of the well. A windlass assembly included a steel axel of roughly 2.5 cm inserted through the middle of a wooden pole. The steel axel was bent in crank handle shape at one or both ends which enabled the winding of the windlass. .
Windlasses were a permeant structure on most wells in order to wind water to the surface from the bucket was emptied into a adjacent horse or stock trough, The crank handle was turned one way or the other creating either the “winding in” of the rope, or the reverse, i.e. letting out the rope. Winding in resulted in the bucket rising, and winding out, lowering it.
Tragically, in 1947, with Dan at the bottom of the well (about 14 meters deep), and Jerry at the top attending to the winding task the rope broke, sending the full bucket (approx. 40kgs) of debris plummeting back down, striking and killing Dan.
Jeramiah rushed to his neighbors in Messrs. Byron and Franklin who assisted police in recovering the deceased.
Dr. Pope along with Constables McDougal and Wass gave evidence in Mullewa before the acting coroner in a Mr. Unmack. The finding was “accidental death” and to which acting coroner Unmack apportioned “no blame”.

Doreen Lindsey, nee Butler, herself born in 1933 and who’s grandmother was a sister to Dan and Jerry Kemp, was the author of of a book titled “To Sow the Barley” which illustrates much of the pioneering work of those first Europeans and their struggle to make a living in this unforgiving and fragile land that was Tenindewa. She tells in this book (page 4) that Dan had had a near death experience back in his Teamster days.
It relates;
“Patrick Butler, stayed behind on one trip as his wife was expecting a child, and Dan Kemp, Henry’s son took his team. Up around Cue he lost two horses overnight and then got himself lost looking for them. For eight days he was without food or water and chewed tobacco (as he smoked a pipe). He then followed some cockatoos and found a lake of water and noticed dust in the distance. He walked to it and was rescued by [the operators of] a camel team, it must have been winter at that time, but then, they reared them tough in those days” (Doreen Lindsey; To Sow the Barley)

The well that brought about Dan’s demise is still identifiable midway along and just a short distance south of Kemp Road.

This story is thanks to Kevin Weir and Doreen Lindsey. (and Trove)

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