Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today it's time for some local ingenuity Down Under as reported by Janice Cooper.

The Tumbling Tommy was a significant object for European settlement history in my place, the Alpha-Jericho area in central-western Queensland, to provide sufficient water supplies for the pastoralists’ cattle and sheep, and for town dwellers. It was a ‘bottomless kind’ of scoop, invented by Sir Samuel McCaughey, a pastoralist in New South Wales.

First mentioned in local newspapers in 1882 and being offered for local sale, the scoop was described in action:

This tank is being made with the McCandrey [sic] scoops, of which four are at work. They are drawn each by two horses, and driven by one man, who from his seat directs all the movements of the gear. The machines look something like buckboard buggies. They are driven quickly, scoop up ¾-yard of earth in one second, carry it to the embankments, and discharge it – the horses being kept moving all the time. These scoops are evidently a great improvement upon the ordinary style, and must soon supersede the other kinds. [Western Champion, 29 September 1882.]

A 'tank' is a shallow excavation to hold water for sheep and cattle, in contrast to the dams dug deeper and with steeper banks.

Excavating tanks and dams was important for the early pastoralists in this semi-arid region with highly variable rainfall and high evaporation rates. Across the district, the rainfall averages range from 524 millimetres to 565 millimetres annually. From 1886, when underground water was first pumped from a nearby bore (Back Creek), sub-artesian water supplemented the limited surface supply of water available in the area.

The Surbiton dam

The McCaughey scoop was just one of the varieties used and operated in a variety of ways. On Surbiton Station, a large team of draft horses dragged a scoop to construct a dam in the late 1880s. [State Library of Queensland, Negative 170665]

However Tumbling Tommies became sufficiently distinct among scoops to warrant separate entries in both the Queensland Pastoral Employers’ Association’s Scale of wages (1891) and Queensland Labourers Union’s Regulations for minimum rates (1892). The pastoralists recommended paying 30/- per week, including Rations to Scoop Drivers (McCaughey and Other Scoops) while the labourers sought a wage of 40/- per week, plus board and accommodation for drivers of Tumbling Tommies/McCaughey’s Scoops. [Western Champion, 28 July 1891, 29 December 1891]

The McCaughey scoop continued to be used into the twentieth century, and was important in supplying water for town residents as shown in a grainy photograph illustrating its use in the construction of a dam in 1910 for the residents of Jericho. [‘Saltbush’, The Queenslander, 9 January 1911.] The Tumbling Tommy was a piece of equipment invented to serve a rural need and it proved to be successful in its time.

The Tumbling Tommy

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