Old Dan Kemp

Dan’s tragic demise

Dan and Jerry Kemp were brothers, both born in the 1870s and who took up land together on a block 10 kilometers north-west of Tenindewa on what is now called Kemp Road. They had three siblings, Susan, who became Mrs. Patrick Butler, Joshua and Maggie. Their father was Mr. Henry Kemp.
Neither Dan nor Jerry married.
That farm was subsequently 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 but in today’s terminology “Haulage Contractors” who with horses and drays and wagons lugged food, fodder, building materials and all manner of freight from the Port of Geraldton as far afield inland as Meekatharra and 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 days when the Kemps entered agriculture

In the early days of agricultural pioneers everywhere and 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 Haulage game. Dan and Jerry were a most conservative pair in their approach to change to the point they were still in horses, at least to some degree, right up to when the farm was sold in 1950.
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 at the best possible level. They were using what was known as a “bucket and windless” to undertake this cleaning operation. This process entailed a bucket that was attached to a rope and lowered down by turning a handle on a windlass which would be positioned across and central to the well. A windlass was a wooden pole of about 25 cm which had the rope wrapped around it and attached to it. A windlass assembly included a steel axel of roughly 2.5 cm inserted through the middle of a wooden pole which was about 25cm diameter. The steel axel was bent in crank handle shape at one or both ends which enabled the turning of the windlass. .
This assembly was a permeant structure on wells in order to wind the water via a bucked tied to the rope to the top and often it was then emptied into a adjacent horse or stock trough, The crank handle was turned one way or the other so that winding in the rope, or the reverse, letting out the rope. Winding in resulted in the bucket rising, and winding out, lowering it.
Tragically sometime in 1947, with Dan at the bottom of the well (about 14 meters deep), and Jerry at the top attending to the winding the rope broke, sending the full bucket of debris plummeting back down, striking and killing Dan.
Jerry sold the farm shortly after this tragic event.

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 that Dan had had a near death experience back in his Teamster days.
“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 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 thanks to Kevin Weir and Doreen Lindsey.

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