Travelling northwards along the Southern Ports Highway from Robe to Kingston, is a little place called Noolook. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Which would be a pity, as I found it to be a fascinating place when I stopped by there this week.
Surrounded by plantation pine trees now, back in the 1870’s it had black wattle plantations. The bark was ground into powder for use in tanning leather, and this activity was a good supplement to farm incomes in the district. Noolook was one of two mills for this purpose, and although the original one burnt down in 1906, it was rebuilt and remained in operation until 1960.
As stated on the plaque, this was also the site of the Mail Coach Run and Post Office. Back in the 1800’s, horses of course were the main forms of transport although railways were beginning to be built around the 1870’s. The most successful coaches were those of Cobb and Co. In fact, stories about Cobb and Co have become part of Australian folklore. Here’s an excerpt from their site:
Staging posts were set up along each route where teams of horses were swapped and tired horses stabled, rested and fed. As a coach approached the changing station the driver sounded a horn or bugle to let the groom know the coach was arriving. Every driver had his own call, so the groom knew which team of horses to have ready. This system meant that changeovers could occur as quickly as possible and the coach could continue on its way.
Mail runs had been the chief source of income for the business from the 1870’s and it was not until after the Great War that Cobb & Co.’s mail business also began to suffer. The government decided to award mail runs to returned servicemen instead of large businesses like Cobb & Co., and it was the loss of this income that lead to the demise of the business in 1929.