Tom Colin and Arnold is not the title of a new cocktail but are the names of three top blokes we encountered this week. ‘Encountered’ is a rather loose term since Tom died in 1962 and Colin in 1996 but Arnold, aged 94, is still going strong despite a quadruple bypass when he was 80. I’ll return to the story of these three gentleman later in this blog.
We took a detour away from the coastline this week and entered iron ore mining country – the domain of Rio Tinto. Evidence was all around that this area was being actively worked from the huge number of road trains and utes using the highways, the ships coming and going into Port Hedland and the accommodation on offer at some of the Caravan Parks we stayed in.
Not all our accommodation choices have worked out the way we’d originally intended. Thankfully decisions to move on have been unanimous. This week we had been looking forward to spending two nights in Karijini National Park and had filled up our fridge with food, topped up our water tanks for showering and drinking, emptied the toilet and charged up our phones! Solar energy supports all our lights and the motor to drop our bed down at night and gas bottles take care of the cooker and fridge. Jura, the name we have affectionately given to our motor home, is therefore self sufficient for a few days at a time provided we can live without air conditioning, laundry facilities and perhaps a swimming pool and playground! The campground we were going to use in Karijini was another one that was bereft of anyone else and as we entered the very dusty road in there were warning signs about wild dingoes and the need to keep doors shut. The flies were horrendous so we’d have kept the doors shut anyway but with the temperature in the 40s and no air conditioning we were soon sweating away like little piggies! The other very serious issue though was the storm warning we’d received and with the thunder getting louder and the occasional drop of rain falling on the van, we decided not to risk getting stranded in a site that nobody was manning and where nobody knew where we were. Instead we enjoyed what we could of the gorges, pools and stunning scenery, I had a really refreshing swim at Fortescue Falls and we moved on to Auski Roadhouse where we let the storm pass overhead!
So on to our three top blokes. First Tom Price. Thomas Moore Price was an American gentleman who arrived in the Karijini Ranges in the early 1960s to appraise deposits of ore. He was instrumental in convincing the mining companies to mine in the area. In September 1962 Thomas returned to America. He passed away from a heart attack at his desk, only two hours after being advised of the very rich ore deposit discovered. Tom Price, the local town, was named after him and includes the Tom Price Visitor’s Centre, Tom Price Skateboard Park, Tom Price Golf Course, Tom Price Fire Station, Tom Price Caravan Park, etc etc. At 747 metres above sea level, it is the highest town in Western Australia and is beautifully landscaped with lots of green grass and a great coffee shop.
Next up is Colin Matheson. For those who don’t know, my maiden name is Matheson and I have three brothers – one of whom is called Colin. We noticed on the map of Port Hedland an Oval going by the name Colin Matheson (spelt correctly) and decided to make enquiries into who this gentleman was at the local Visitor’s Centre. The lady behind the counter did her best to dig up some information but suggested our best bet was to go across the road and seek out Arnold Carter who would be in his office behind the Museum. We duly found Arnold, a former Mayor, still working as an Accountant, local historian and caretaker of the Koombana Exhibition. He gave us a wonderful detailed account of Colin Matheson who had been a postal officer, an inaugural member of the voluntary fire service and had two loves – football and railways. He set up the local football team in the early 60s and became something of a mouthpiece for the local community. Really interesting stuff but sadly there are no remaining Mathesons living locally.
I think my brother got the last laugh though – his nickname is Freefall Matheson after a number of climbing accidents (I believe). By the entrance to the Oval stands a statute – very appropriate don’t you think!