Mary Walsh married Alexander James McKinnon on 8th July 1902 at Clare in SA.
After the birth of their first child, a daughter Kathleen they moved to Charlotte
Mary ran the store there while Alexander ran the Government Bore, which supplied
water to the camel trains going through from Marree to Alice Springs.
One day she was terrorised by an Afghan wanting tobacco in the store. A Mr Keenan noticed
that the camel team had been outside the store for a long time, so sent someone over to
see what was wrong, the Afgan was chased off by one of the natives.
Her second child, a son Alexander William was to be the first white child born at
Soon after this they left Charlotte Waters and Mary went with her husband, while he
was droving and stock dealing, living in huts and tents near water holes, sometimes
for months at a time. Alexander built a bread oven so bread could be made each day
for themselves and the natives. They had goats for their milk, tendered by the natives.
Mary sewed for all her children, making aprons from the calico flour bags, trimming
them with different coloured ribbon.
A neighbours wife died in childbirth and the father brought the baby over to Mary.
She herself had a new baby so breast-fed them both (see "The Man from Oodnadatta"
by Jean Whitla).
Mary had a strong Catholic belief and although the children were all baptised by the
Inland Missioner (see "The Man from Oodnadatta" by R.B. Plowman) she had
them all Baptised again as Catholic when they eventually moved to Oodnadatta.
The following is an exert from "Everylady's Journal" of July 6th 1923.
The story of the Oodnadatta family as related from the Australian Inland Missioner,
called "Does the road wind up the hill off the way? Yes, to the very end"
This family had been in the habit of camping on different sights for the sake of
obtaining water. When one supply gave out they moved to another.
At this time they were camped by a waterhole at the foot of some rocky hills, about
thirty miles out from Oodnadatta. Their main building consisted of a large shed made
of saplings and leafy boughs. In addition there were several tents and in these lived the
man and some blacks as assistants, for the father of this large family was in charge of a
distant portion of a station, owned by an absentee.
Their life was indeed a hard one and to make matters worse the man developed cancer
in the cheek. He came to Oodnadatta for treatment and our Sister in charge of the Inland
Mission cared for him, but at length she persuaded him to go south to Adelaide
for further treatment and medical care.
Just about this time a severe form of influenza broke out in Oodnadatta. The infection
came - like most things - on the fortnightly train. The Sister battled bravely against it
practically single handed until the Board of Health sent up two nurses from Adelaide
to relieve the strain. The Sister was also stricken down with it for a few days. But
after a short rest she went back on duty. Shortly afterwards a pathetic note was brought
into the township from the mother out at the waterhole saying that she and several of
the children were down with influenza. The note, which was sent to a storkeeper,
asked that some medicine might be sent out to them.
The AIM nurse was consulted and next morning a car belonging to a Station owner
happened to be in the district and was loaded with supplies. In charge of the chauffeur
and with a bushman to act as guide, and bearing the AIM nurse with her medicines and
her swag, the car started on it's rough trip. For about 15 miles the running was fair,
then sand hills were encountered: later on the nature of the country changed and the
car ran into a long stretch of gibbers - smooth round stones of various sizes, some no
bigger than eggs and some more like a football - and over this rough country the car
lunged and bumped on its errand of mercy, and at last pulled up at a place where the
point of a hill ran down to the bank of a creek. The passengers walked on round the
point and came on the camp.
The nurse at once investigated the cases and found that nearly all the family were
running temperatures. One boy was very ill and the mother was in a pitiful state from
sickness and worry. She gladly handed over control to the nurse and agreed it would
be best for all the family to be moved to Oodnadatta.
It was too late to start that day so arrangements were made for the driver and his guide
to return to the township and the nurse to stay and look after the camp for the night.
Next day the whole party at the camp were to start out as early as possible in the
waggonette and a relief party would start out from the town to meet them. After the men
departed, the nurse made her patients as comfortable as possible and began sorting their
clothing and packing it for the journey. She also packed a hamper of food for they has to
start out prepared to spend a night on the road.
Her own camp-stretcher was spread out under the sky, but she got little rest because of
the continued demands for her assistance and the night was bitterly cold.
Next morning as swags had to be made up, the children dressed and other things
attended to, then the waggonette, which had seen much service was loaded up with
equipment and the ten travellers. Almost at once a big sandy creek bed had to be
crossed. The heavily laden vehicle lumbered down the bank along the bed of the creek
and the horses were about to start up the opposite bank when snap went the back axle
and the journey was over.
There was nothing to do, but to return to camp and await relief.
In Oodnadatta preparation had been made. The car was again lent and at length arrived
at the camp much to the relief and joy of the nurse and patients.
It was decided that the car with the nurse, missioner and sickest members of the family
would start off at once for the town, while other members in charge of a half caste
man, were to walk towards the town until someone should come to meet them. The car with
its load of patients at length reached the township and the influenza cases were
handed over to the Board of Health nurses. Then once again the car started out and by
about 8p.m. all the family was safely in. When the car went back for the last time to
meet the party walking in, the driver was touched by the scene he saw. It was dark and
the party with several little children in it, weak and ill had walked till they could walk
Then they camped on a rise at the side of the track, and each had a little fire going by
which to sit. The fires also acted as beacons.
The end of the story... The AIM Sister nursed the woman through her illness and
saved her life.
Her baby was born shortly after but died two days later, She called him John.
All the other children recovered. Just after the crisis was passed and the mother was
very low word came through that the father had died in the south.
The local people of Oodnadatta got up a subscription and the whole family was sent
south to live. Mary and the children moved back to Kadina with her Mother and
Father who she had not seen for many years. Mary eventually moved to Adelaide and
died in 1964.
On the waggonette were the family treasurers, including a chest containing opals,
personal papers and belongings which had to be left behind, and was never recovered.
Much more of the family's history could be told....If only we could trace it...
Sent to the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame in Alice Springs and the Longreach Hall of
Fame at Longreach, Queensland in May 2000