Death of Dargan’s Grey

© Chris Woodland

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The death of the famous Dargan’s Gray shocked the buckjumping show. The sad event took place as they approached Summerdale Station near Nyngan. The Referee reported that Dargan’s Grey died on 11 January aged 29 years. They added that his hide was to be preserved and stuffed, and that his four hoofs were to be mounted in gold. Perhaps this became a reality and the remains of the much-loved grey are today lying in someone’s forgotten collection somewhere.

The new year of 1909 sees them leaving the outback and continuing down the road, across the Blue Mountains, performing at all the major towns until they reached Parramatta, where they arrived in early March.

At Parramatta, the show took a spell after 7 years of hard work. The horses, except Bobs and Trouble, were turned out in a paddock near Sydney. The two champions were to go to Brisbane. This break in their travels could have been associated with the fact of ‘Mrs Martini’ recently becoming Mrs M J Ryan.

Following a five-month spell until August, the horses were in ‘the pink of condition’ when Martin’s Buckjumping Show resumed activities in August, beginning in the inner-city area of Newtown with a season of ten nights. Before they open it is announced that Martini’s father, William Breheney, had died in his residence, Araluen, 121 Windsor Street, Paddington. An announcement in the papers said that he was 78 years of age and was well known in the Araluen district. Like so many who had worked the Araluen goldfields the memory of that picturesque landscape remained with them throughout their lives.

As William Breheney had done, numerous others had named their homes, farms, stations and blocks of flats, as did councils name streets, after that southern valley in NSW. One wonders how many carried that name because it is where they had won their pot of gold. 1

In Newtown the audience saw that the well-honed show had not altered that much. Fun in the Stockyard, the outlaws Bobs and Trouble, still accompanied the bucking ponies – Midget and Bulls Wool – with donkeys, mules and jennets still drawcards, as were performers such as ‘Miss Mena Val, queen of the invisible thread and trick cyclist’.

The show was advertising that they were now travelling around the country by special train and that Mr Ryan was now manager of the show and that a Barry Sullivan had replaced Harry Kennedy as Advance Manager.

They appeared at Liverpool, then Robertson and onto Goulburn, enjoying the ‘special train’, which relieved them of the slow and tedious rigours of the road. The rattler took them through the countryside at a rate they would have had to adjust to, as it passed through much faster that their horse drawn vehicles had. It seemed a very short time before they had done their performances at Yass, Cootamundra, Gundagai and Albury and it was only the end of September. At that Murray River town the Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times made a typo in which they spelt Buck Jumpers as Duckjumpers!

The special train transports them to Gundagai – where it takes a rider:

… fully ten minutes to saddle ‘Bobs,’ and he only stayed a few seconds on the animal’s back.

They then steamed onto Wagga Wagga where they performed for three nights and donated £4/10/6 to the hospital, then returned to Albury.

It was now October and the Referee reported:

Now touring by special train.
Southern Line, En Route To Melbourne etc
The Two Absolute Champions
Bobs and Trouble.

At Rutherglen Ryan notified the Referee that Bobs was injured at Junee when trucking the horses. The supreme buckjumper had put his leg down a hole while going up the race. The champion did not panic, but just relaxed until Ryan got him in the correct position to extricate him from the awkward position. Fortunately the horse did not receive a serious injury and readers were assured that he would only have to rest for a fortnight. Ryan concluded that they were on their way to Melbourne, performing at all the principal towns along the way.

Martini’s Buckjumping Show opened on Melbourne Cup night and continued on at the Melbourne Cyclorama for the next three nights. The usual £5 was offered to anyone who could sit on Bobs for a minute with no successful takers. The show’s head rider, Billy Jonas, succeeded in riding the famous outlaw Kruger.

The ground was too small for the show to set up at Ballarat, so they went on to Castlemaine, Bendigo, Echuca and across the Murray to Moama, where they organised a band to play before opening that night. They then steamed up the Murray to Cobram, then north to Jerilderie and Narrandera.

  1. It is thought that the name Araluen came from the Aboriginal term for the water lilies that were common in the valley. []