Our photo this week shows the Francis family enjoying a picnic in the nearly dry Winburndale Rivulet in 1920. It must have been in winter as everyone is rugged up, some with blankets. I notice that one is wearing a World War One Army greatcoat and all have their hats on. The Francis family lived in Bathurst.
THE Winburndale Rivulet begins at the junction of the Kirkconnell and Mitchells Creeks to the west of Sunny Corner and flows in a westerly direction until it meets the Macquarie River to the east of Killongbutta.
At this time the district was enduring a drought meaning that almost all rivers in the region had low water levels. The Winburndale had the same problem. The drought around Bathurst had placed a strain on the pumping plant at the waterworks that was so severe during the latter part of the drought.
Residents watering their vegetable and flour gardens added to the problem, but consumption of water had lessened by late March 1920.
Two big engines were operating at the pumping works and had been running 24 hours a day. Mr. Muston was the engineer in charge and less pumping meant that less labour was involved.
Picnics were a popular pastime, especially during the warmer months, though that did not stop people as they wore warmer clothes in winter. When the fish were biting picnic parties would pack their fishing rods. Many of the picnics were usually organised for the weekend.
Wicker luncheon baskets would be packed up with all sorts of goodies like Aberdeen sausage, potted lamb's tongue, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cheese, fresh bread and more. Often cake, biscuits, sweets and soft drinks were included.
At times when there was water in the river bathing and games would fill in their day. Sometimes, if there were children in the party then games were organised such as potato races, egg and spoon races and Siamese sack races.
Picnickers always had to be aware of snakes on picnic trips, especially looking out for the dreaded tiger and eastern brown snakes.
In November 1896, a young man named Ernest Whalan, son of a well-known resident of Oberon district was rabbiting and was fatally bitten by a snake. He was endeavouring to pull a rabbit from a log and was bitten on the hand. At first he thought the bite was from an insect but when medical assistance was called in it was too late and Whalan died from the effects of the poison.
Another picnic that went wrong took place on November 29, 1903, as recorded in the Bathurst Free Press. A drowning accident occurred on Sunday afternoon when a young girl named Fanny Flanagan, aged about 16, died the Macquarie River.
A number of young folk were out picnicking and Fanny, in company with four lads of similar ages, was boating. When in the centre of the river the boat, which was not watertight, commenced to fill and capsized. The lads made every effort to save the girl, who, after some little time, became exhausted, as did her would-be rescuers.
Dick Wilkins took off his clothes and swam to the spot but after repeated attempts to rescue the drowning girl, failed. Before any further assistance arrived, the girl sank, leaving the others almost exhausted clinging to the upturned boat.
They were, however, rescued by another boat just in time to save them. One of the party named Murphy was dragged out of the water in an unconscious state. The deceased's body was recovered a couple of hours later. At an enquiry, a verdict of accidental drowning was returned.
Late in 1919 the Bathurst City Council built an experimental weir across the Macquarie River near the showground. It consists of a series of steel rails driven vertically into the river bed about 15 feet at intervals of seven feet (2.1 metres). Railway sleepers are fastened horizontally to the rails, and sandbags, were placed in front of the woodwork. The fine sheet of water stretched half a mile and residents had already begun to use the place for swimming.