From Janet Lane on Waler Data Base @ FaceBook. Image: Leader (Melb.) 18th October, 1898
Please note there may be images of Aboriginal people of the past, who have passed on, which may be distressing for some.
“The best coach horses in the entire world” – a deserved compliment often given to the horses of Jules Gascard in W.A.
Jules was based in Victoria and traded in horses all his life, including sending the first shipment of horses to India from Port Augusta. He got into trading to WA too, particularly to Geraldton – and as mining was taking off inland from there in a huge way, saw the need for coaches – to carry miners in and out, their gear, and their ore back out. He became a sail-in-sail-out coach owner, spending most of his time in W.A.
Really hard to find a photo of Jules, but he is in several group photos over the years at Kidman’s horse sales at Kapunda (Image: The Australasian, 19th April, 1902. Front row, 2nd from right).
Jules was born in Switzerland in 1836. He came to Australia as a young man, married here, and made his living from the horse trade, both within Australia and export.
His sons also set up as horse traders as Gascard Brothers.
Jules spent most of his time in WA once he set up his coach lines and work horse breeding there. He died in Geraldton of a heart attack in 1899. A tremendous horse and camel man.
The incredibly tough terrain – much of it arid and treeless – and huge weight of a coach of people and supplies or ore – often over a ton – meant strong horses were needed. Jules was an expert and chose wisely. He bought the best. No cheap light sorts.
Images: Western Mail 28th January 1905; Western Mail, 4th July, 1913
In no time he built up an impressive coach line becoming known as The King of the Road along the Murchison. His coaches went from Geraldton to Cue for the Weld Range, Mullewa, Peak Hill, Nannine, Abbotts, Stake Well, Jack’s Well, Lawlers, Tuckanarra, Lake Way, Yalgee, and other places of the wide area. He was also breeding horses on Annean Station which he’d bought.
Other coach lines were also in the area such as Cobb & Co. A big demand for horses and Jules was the main supplier. He held big horse sales regularly at Geraldton and in mining areas.
Jules staged his coaches every 15 miles (change of horses) to keep the coaches moving at a fast rate. Some of his coach line managers and drivers became legendary themselves. Loads of stories.
After Jules’ death, Geraldton identity Bob Allen took over his business. Bob was also a top coachman. The coaches were not always vehicles of that name, but the vehicle of a coach service; often vehicles to suit the country and or loads carried were used such as wagonettes etc.
Hundreds of horses were kept along the coach routes – over 100 on the Geraldton-Cue run alone.
He also kept work camels – used from Geraldton to Cue when the going was too hard for horses to get through. He had big government contracts for mail. Jules’ camel teams took supplies to most of the big businesses in the towns of mining areas of the Murchison, Weld Range.
Images: Gascard’s ships of the desert loading for Peak Hill. Leader (Melb.) 18th October, 1898
Camel trading, Cue, Western Australia, ca. 1895. State Library W.A.
The Aboriginal people had mined various ores at Mt Weld for thousands of years, it was one of their primary mine sites – there were mine galleries, and many stone implements have been found. Daisy Bates visited and recorded a lot about it.
After colonisation, many tried their luck, taking up mining leases all over the place. They started with nothing and worked hard – it usually paid off – and there was a giant demand for working horses. These days Mt Weld mine is owned by Lynas Rare Earth.
Images left to right: The Lady Forrest Mine, near Cue. c. 1895. State Library W.A.
Entrance to one of the Mt Weld Aboriginal gallery and mine sites. Daisy Bates article in the Western Mail, April 3, 1903.
Mulga and mulla mulla growing in the Weld Range, Western Australia. 1965-85. State Library W.A.
The horses had to be tough in the goldfields country. People also took up pastoral leases on country where mining was going on, again tough horses needed for stock work, travel and wool carting. When the Mt Weld horses DNA was tested at the Texas A&M Uni a few years back it was found to be unique, quite different to the Central Australian Walers; to be expected of course and showing how isolation keeps these grand old strains intact.
At gatherings at all these mine sites – in those times substantial towns – bush racing was also popular, the entrants being local horses, not registered TB’s; Laverton, Peak Hill, Cue etc all held great bush race meetings.
It was a blessing to get some horses from Mt Weld a few years back thanks to Rob Forster – direct descendants of Jules Gascard’s mighty working coach horses and the mine and farm horses of the area – the best coach horses in the world! A rich, living West Australian legacy from the mining industry. Many men from the area joined up in WW1, most as Light Horsemen, and took their horse with them.
Thank you to all who care for the Mt Weld Walers, real Aussie horses indeed.