Joe Atkinson was born in Branxholme in 1910. His father was Matt Atkinson, a horse breaker and the Shire Ranger. His Mother was Lavina Smith.

Matt’s parents (Joe’s grandparents), Joseph Atkinson came out as a child from England in 1854. He later married Ann Turner and they took up a farm north of Branxholme at Sleatbank. Due to a debilitating accident Joseph Atkinson sold his farm and moved into Branxholme to live.

Joe married Zola Deveraux in 1928. They had the following children – Alexander, Sis, Margaret, Jessie and Peter.

Joe attended the local primary school and this is where his recollection starts:

“When I was a young lad W. Gunning was the Headmaster of Branxholme State School. He was a cruel man who loved to strap – he hit girls and all.

Bob Houston was the local minister of the Presbyterian Church; he used to drive a buggy with a nice pair of horses around town. Bob Houston wasn’t married and lived with his sister. Harry Paterson captained the first Branxholme Football Team; he was a ganger in the railways. Bob Phillips was also a railway ganger. He had three sons.

Arthur Templeton had the shop near the primary school. He used to grow vegetables for himself at Basset Pastoral Station. He did odd job at Bassett’s.

Mr Andrew Bell was the Post Master.

Harry Edwards had the Boarding house, just off of Joe Price’s shop. Harry was a sheep shearer.

In those days, Sam Costello lived in MacFarlane’s house. He managed Morgiana Pastoral Station. He had two daughters and one son. His son was tragically killed in a hurdle race, the boy was just eighteen. One daughter, Sheila, married Charlie Hanks. The other daughter, Hazel, married Joe MacFarlane.

Jack Coutts lived east of the creek, he was a carpenter. He had a son Hughan who rode a motorbike.

At that time Bob Frazer and Harold Grey were local farmers.

Hugh Deveraux and his wife Mary lived the other side of the Pound Yard on Byaduk Road - the house that Kevin and Sis Lather used to live in. Mary Deveraux went quite mad with grief after losing her only child at the tender age of 17. She was a beautiful girl. Hugh suffered badly from asthma. Zola stayed with Hugh and Mary for a long time after Zola’s father disappeared up ‘North’.

Marion Gough lived at the ‘old pub’ down on Creek Street. The old pub was owned by the Gough’s. Marion married Jack McLean; she lived to be 100 years old. She died early this year (2007).

Charlie Dahltz lived next door and was a beautiful haystack builder and he was very strong. He originally came from Germany. Albert Dahltz was his son.

Bill Duncan – the Blacksmith – was a great cricketer and played against the English team that came out. Bill bowled out the great English cricketer Jack Hobbs - for a duck. He also trained a few racehorses.

Bill Best lived next to the Duncan’s. Bill Best had a few blocks of land there.

Doc McGee was a very clever man and well liked around town.

Fred Osborne worked in the shearing sheds. He married Norma Hickmer. The Hickmer’s had a store there.

Joe Price was the local Baker, his son, Arthur, took over after Joe’s death. Price’s also owned the general store next door.

Bill Annett was a rabbit catcher. He lived were the old Post Office used to be, opposite the primary school. The Storer’s lived out on a property out near Morvan Pastoral Station. Bill Storer would ride his horse all the way into Branxholme to go to Church.

Simon and Norman Black owned ‘Brae Park’, a large property a few miles south of Branxholme. John Black owned ‘Balure’, which was a bit further south still.

Mr. Kiddle owned ‘Arrandoovong’ just to the north of Branxholme. Whiting’s brought Bassett Pastoral Station in 1937.

Moon’s where farmers that lived west of Branxholme on land sold off from the Morvan pastoral run. They were a large family.

George Hanks lived in the east side of the township. His grandson still lives there today. The McLean’s lived in a big double story bluestone homestead and their property ‘Treasland’ was out towards Carey’s Range, North West of the township.

Also on properties just north westerly of the town lived the McGugan’s on ‘Archdale’ and the Barber’s on ‘Elstree’”.


When Joe was at school in Branxholme Primary eighty students were enrolled. He didn’t stay long. After he learnt the rudiments of counting, reading and writing he left school to help his father Matt breaking and training horses.

Matt procured a job for Joe working as a stockman over a day’s ride north at the Sleatbank Pastoral Station. He used to ride home some weekends for part of a day and then ride back to Sleatbank to start work the on Monday.

Marrying Zola initially made little difference, Joe still had to ride back and forth to Sleatbank every second weekend while Zola helped out Matt (her father-in-law) - milking cows, horse breaking, assisting in buying and selling horses at sale yards or droving around the district.

Being the young small wirery type, Joe was called upon quite a few times to ride as a jockey. In his own words, “ - there was a lot of walking involved, leading the race horse to each meetings, a lot of lost races and no money after for some tucker or a beer. I learnt very quickly how to entertain a pub crowd, standing on my head while drinking a beer with no hands for a bet, or singing for my supper - among other things.”

Joe worked on a few of the grand old ‘squatter runs’ and got to know quite a few (and could relate many tales) of the old landowners of the Western Districts.

He moved back to Branxholme permanently in the 1940 to work as a stockman for the Whiting’s, which had just purchased the Basset Pastoral Station. Joe worked there up until recently when he finally retired as a stockman at the age of 94 in 2004, an incredible 64 years.

Joe worked for four generations of Whiting’s on ‘Bassett’ during the rest of his working life. They held him in such high regard that the Whiting family sponsored his induction into the Longreach Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

Joe passed away quite suddenly on 31st May 2008. He was 98 years old. You can read his Obituary in The Hamilton Spectator (Saturday June 7th 2008 page 10.

Article supplied by Alan Atkinson