Looking Back: Buckajo estate closes dairy to tackle rabbits

Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless files on people and places. One is the history of Buckajo from 1906 to 1930 by WR Spindler and researched by Stephen Blackley.

Rabbiters were needed on the Ebsworth Estate. This is a Bega Valley rabbiter's hut in the early 1900s.

Rabbiters were needed on the Ebsworth Estate. This is a Bega Valley rabbiter's hut in the early 1900s.

BUCKAJO is situated in a natural basin of hills, surrounded two-thirds of the way by Buckajo/Bemboka River, commencing in the north-west where the river comes around from Moran’s Crossing, extending right around the whole area to the south-east, and then bounded from the north-east to the south-east by a range of hills.

It is a natural rural area, well suited to dairy farming; good soil, well sheltered and adequately watered by a natural watercourse.

In 1906 a lot of Buckajo was part of the very large Ebsworth Estate. Philip Spindler and his wife, Caroline, came there soon after they married as Philip had been appointed as manager of the northern end of the Ebsworth property. The southern area, which was much clearer country, was managed by John Hukins.

Philip began by working a large dairy on the property, assisted by his brother, Harry, a hired hand, and his wife. However, time proved that this was not a satisfactory proposition, due to the place being fast overcome with rabbits and scrub. The rabbits came in millions, and the scrub afforded them plenty of shelter. About this time Ebsworth Senior gave the estate over to his son, Guy, who had not long come home from college.

Guy arranged to let the dairy herd out on agistment for a couple of years, and so closed the dairy for that period. Times were not so good on the Monaro, and he had no trouble renting the top part of the estate out to sheep. So came a few thousand sheep to Buckajo, tended by a Mr Bulgaries as shepherd. During their stay they had just been shorn in August when there was a violent hailstorm, followed by a very cold night, and four to five hundred sheep were lost.

Closing the dairy gave Guy the opportunity to employ Philip and his helpers to start clearing scrub, and erecting miles of rabbit-proof fencing. Rabbiters came also, and soon havoc was played with these pests. By poisoning and digging out burrows, by the end of two years there was not much evidence of them, and so the dairy opened up again.

Guy Ebsworth married a Miss Mort from Bodalla. They did not stay long at Buckajo before dividing to sell the estate.