|A mob of sheep on Eddington Station, near Julia Creek, Queensland.|
Image: State Library of Queensland.
My late Grandmother Evelyn Wilder told me her memories of the rat plague on a sheep station near
in 1951: Julia Creek
“I went out west with Al in 1951 when he went back shearing. To Quambetook Station in the
district. I was going to cook for the shearers. I wasn’t feeling too good at the time,
because I was pregnant with our second child.
I remember getting there this first night in a hard-backed old
lorry. I heard this dreadful noise as I
got off the truck. I said, ‘what’s that
noise?’ Nobody answered me, but it was
rats. Hordes and hordes of rats - millions
of them. Somebody said there was a rat
plague. All I’d ever seen was plagues of
grasshoppers. What a shock I was in for! Those rats were about a foot long. Every step you took you had to kick them out
of the way. It was horrible. It was impossible for me to sleep at
night. I’d look over and see Al
sleeping, and the rats were on his face, chewing on him and he was sleeping
through the lot. I’d wake him up and
say, ‘the rats are chewing you’. He’d
say, ‘go to sleep’. I said, ‘I can’t
sleep, we’ve got a baby here, they’ll chew her’. I wasn’t game to sleep, you see. So I got to be a nervous wreck. Julia
The rats would chew through everything. They’d get in the pantry - it didn’t matter that it was locked up - they chewed through boards and everything to get to the stuff in the pantry. All night long you’d hear peas and other stuff dropping. You know, they used to get into the bread. They would get right inside of it and there’d be nothing left of it next day. You’d get up in the morning and there’d be no food in the pantry. Of course, I was supposed to cook for the men – prepare five meals a day, seven days a week. And there was no refrigeration on Quambetook in those days. The going was very tough with 120 degree heat. We had canvas water bags to cool off the water.
In the end we put a piece of tin up, so they couldn’t get into the pantry. We had a bit of peace after that. I’ve never seen rats like them. They used to shriek and squeal, it was indescribable. In the end, the baby got very sick. We had to get the Ambulance out and we went in to the hospital at
. After that I brought her home (to Townsville). She was on a diet for a long time of dry
toast and Vegemite. I think it was the
rats. I’ve never seen anything like that
and never want to again. They’d eat the
country out as they went along. The rats
were like a carpet, all the rats going along.” Julia
The Nothern Miner, 30 September 1950, p. 3.Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 21 January 1951, p. 1.
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 July 1950, p. 2.
Interview with Evelyn Wilder, private collection of Trisha Fielding.