Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Blast from Past; A Little-Known Story about a Highway Gatekeeper

Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Blast from Past; A Little-Known Story about a Highway Gatekeeper

Article excerpt

HEWAN Gibson fondly remembers a kind chap named Murphy, who manned the gate on the Cunningham Highway while the Warwick man was growing up at Gore in the 1930s.

Now retired, Mr Gibson has revived the old story of Murphy to share a slice of Southern Downs history with the next generation.

THE worldwide depression of the early '30s caused a lot of unemployment in Australia.

In those early days there was no safety net, so if you lost your job you starved or as a lot of men did, took to the roads and lived off the land, snaring possums and bears for their skins and hopefully finding the odd job such as splitting wood, and so the legend of the Australian Swaggie was born.

As a child, I saw lots come to our door and mother would give them some tea, sugar, flour, salt and a bit of mutton to help them on their weary way.

Murphy was such a man, but he was lucky as he found a gate on the recently constructed Darling Downs Rabbit Board fence and claimed it as his own.

He built a camp beside the gate and opened it night and day for motorists who usually gave him three pence (two cents in today's currency) for the service.

The gate was on the now Cunningham Highway between Karara and Inglewood where the road goes over Herries Range, which is just the high point on the road.

Murphy was a little man of indeterminate age, probably early 40s but looked older, with a shy smile and a little hand that shot out to retrieve his three pence.

He soon got to know everyone in the district and would address everyone by name, he was a fund of information, my father would say to him "Who's in town today Murph?" and he would rattle off all the people who passed that morning.

Like a lot of men in those days Murphy had a failing, he was an alcoholic, but he shunned the local drinking houses and went straight to the big smoke. …

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