Alfred Giles

Alfred Giles (NT)

Alfred Giles was born in 1846. He was the son of Christopher Giles who had arrived in South Australia on the Calcutta. in 1840. After Alfred had completed his education he worked at several different jobs. In 1869 he worked on a number of stations in northern South Australia, held by his future wife's father, Henry Lorenzo Sprigg. On 4 July 1870 he joined a party led by John Ross to travel across the country over which the Overland Telegraph Line was to be built. The object being to find a way through the MacDonnell Ranges. In 1871 he was officer-in-charge of stock on a section of the Telegraph line during its construction. That year Giles was the first to cross Leichhardt's Bar, on the Roper River in the Northern Territory, since Leichhardt had crossed it in 1845.

When the line was completed Giles became involved in supplying the telegraph stations with meat. On his first trip he successfully drove 7,000 sheep and some horses from South Australia to the northern stations taking just over a year to complete the job.

Giles later worked on the newly discovered goldfields in the Northern Territory, but in 1874 Charles Todd requested him to overland another 5,000 sheep. On arrival in Adelaide Giles organised his plant and proceeded to Beltana Station and Mount Margaret. On this trip he met Dr Harris Browne, brother of Dr W.J. Browne who had taken up leases in the Katherine area, including Springvale and Bonrook. In 1879 Giles would overland more sheep for W.J. Browne.

This particular trip, according to Ernestine Hill was 'the greatest cavalcade of droving ever seen in Australia'. It included 300 horses, 2,000 cattle, 12,000 sheep, 12 bulls and 90 brood mares. They left Adelaide on 12 November 1879 with four wagons, four drays, two express wagons, 40 men with portable troughs and a year's supply of fodder. When they arrived at Charlotte Waters it was time to shear the sheep, resulting in 200 bales of wool which were sent back by camel to Port Augusta. It took another three months to reach Katherine.

Alfred Giles married Mary Sprigg in February 1880. Springvale Station had many visitors, eventhough it was fairly isolated, (13 kilometres from Katherine) especially before the railway line came anywhere near it. In September 1879 the Forrest Brothers from Western Australia called in. In October 1882 Adam Johns, former mine manager at Pine Creek visited on his way to find new gold deposits. On 20 June 1883 the station was visited by Harry and Emily Caroline Creaghe, explorers.

Giles did a fair amount of exploring himself. In 1879 he discovered some caves but did not name them until 1891 when they were visited by the Governor of South Australia Earl Kintore. It was during this visit that he named them in honour of his guest.

While at Springvale, Giles had many problems with the sheep. The climate was just too hot and humid for them and by 1887 Dr Browne intended to sell the 563 square mile station. In 1895 Giles bought Bonrook Station near Pine Creek from Browne and later had the mail contract between Pine Creek and Katherine.

Although he remained in the Territory for 50 years, Giles showed little understanding of the Aborigines and their traditions and customs. While at Springfield station, he wrote in 1887, 'Moral laws they have none, their festive dances and corroborees are of the most lewd and disgusting character, their songs, rites and ceremonies utterly revolting and fiendish, the possibility of the existence of chastity among their women is preposterous. He later wrote a book about his experiences in the Northern Territory which he named 'Exploring in the Seventies'. Alfred Giles died on 20 March 1931 aged 84.

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