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Skillogalee's History

Updated: Oct 12, 2023


(from Wikipedia) The name Skilly Hills is a slang derivation from nearby Skillogalee Creek, a watercourse that rises near Penwortham and flows southward, generally parallel to the Skilly Hills, to become a tributary of the Wakefield River.

The creek itself was named by a government survey party of 1840 (perhaps with a certain irony concerning their rations) after skillogalee (usually spelt skillygalee), a traditional thin broth, simple in composition, once typically consumed throughout the British Isles, especially in Ireland and Scotland, particularly by the working class, as well as by soldiers and seafarers.

By the 1860s the creek was often called Skilly Creek, there then being districts called Upper (later Higher) Skilly and Lower Skilly, with schools in each. Upper Skilly also became called the Skilly Hills, a name recorded in common usage by at least 1877.[2] The high rainfall in the Skilly Hills contributes to the Skillogalee Creek being one of the few permanently flowing watercourses in the region.[3]



SIR- The proclamation for the sale of twelve 640 acre-blocks of land on the Skillogalee Creek, has caused considerable alarm among certain stockholders of the province, which has resulted in a memorial to his Excellency, and to which I purpose presently more particularly to allude.

There is no subject of more general importance to the colonial public than the disposal of the Waste Lands ; the regulations of which, should advantage no particular colonial interest, or class of men ; ...

The object of the regulations now in force, appears to me to survey, on application, sections of land of from 80 to 640 acres area, according to the desire of the applicant, the whole before purchase can be made being subject to public competition ; and this system is said to give undue advantage to the capitalist...

In referenda to the memorial, I must confess I was surprised to see such formidable names to so weak a document. The first paragraph is a protest against the sale, for certain reasons to follow, and which are in substance to this effect :

" That Parliament having an eye on wealthy monopolists, limited the size of the largest blocks to 640 acres ; therefore, it is evident that they intended it should be sold in 80-acre sections. Which view is still more strongly borne out by the fact of that being the area pretty generally adopted."


South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA ), Monday 13 January 1851, page 3


December 23, 1850.— Started on board the Lady Young barge for Port Wakefield.

At last, the coal, the water, the hay, the stores, and the passengers were safely on board, and we started.

About 8 p.m., we anchored at Torrens Island, and took in a lady passenger and three children.

At 9 p.m., brought up at Snapper Point, to wait for the moon rising.

At 1 a.m. turned out, and lent a hand in getting the anchor up ; did so in one of the most lovely scenes that could be imagined.

The death-like stillness of the night — the calm but brilliant light of the moon, as it rippled and dimpled, darkened and brightened, scattered and contracted, on the moving waters of the flood-tide, and relieved by the black outline of the mangroves — produced a scene not earthly, but paradisiacal.

December 24, — At 5 a.m. the broad waters of the gulf were around us.

At 5 p.m., at the head of the Gulf— Port Wakefield, which is a very small creek of about 30 feet, in some few spots 60 feet wide, dry at low water, except in one or two holes.

The accommodation at the public-house is very good, the host and hostess very obliging, everything a shilling, and a Christmas dinner for nothing.

December 25.— Christmas Day; very hot; the Lady Young high and dry two miles from shore, and rather in a " fix" as to getting to Adelaide again; we must either wait 15 or 16 days for the barge, or go home via the Burra ;

Decided upon the latter course ; a cart runs once a-week from that place, the fare £1, distance 75 miles.

December 26.— Up and away at half-past 5 a.m., breakfasted at "Jimmy Dunn's," near Solly's head station, and within a very short distance from where the remains of the wife

of the maniac Fry were discovered.

Above 30 drays, with about 200 bullocks, were camped here.

At 10 a.m, started for the next stage, 12 or 14 miles away ; most of this lies through an intolerable pine scrub, sand, stumps, bush fires all around, and a burning sun ; the poor horses barely stood it.

At last we emerged from this inhospitable region, and arrived at Hoile's (the Port Henry Arms), Skillogalee Creek.

Met, as usual, a drunken mob of bullock-drivers, playing cards, drinking, swearing, and fighting. So little are they trusted, that the landlord or landlady hold the nobbler (glass) in one hand, while they take the money with the other!

They are the most debased set of animals in South Australia.

The horses having strayed, we were detained about three hours.

At last they came — "Demon" and "Wasp ;" the former, true to his name, tried more than once to upset us in Skillogalee Creek; which creek is situated in the nearest range, except the Hummocks, to the Port (Wakefield).

Wakefield River in flood

Here, for the first time, you meet with gum trees, a little surface water, and a garden or two.

Passed by a hut and garden belonging to a shepherd (Thomas Adams) who had married a native girl (Kudnarto).

Soon arrived at the village of Watervale, very prettily situated ; two public-houses; mobs of drunken bullock-drivers; large gardens; and cottages generally covered with bark, a favourite covering in the north.

From thence, up the Hutt River to Penwortham, Mr Horrocks's station.


In the early 1840s, pioneering explorer John Horrocks settled in Penwortham, a town he named after his hometown in England.

From this base, he ventured further north into the Flinders Ranges, employing Afghan camels to assist in his search for land suitable for settlement.

During one of these expeditions, Horrocks and his party faced numerous challenges, including illness, injuries, and harsh weather conditions.

Skillogalee Creek

As their provisions dwindled, they were forced to subsist on a thin porridge or gruel called “skillogalee” or “skilly,” which they likely made from grass seeds and water. The term “skillogalee” has Celtic origins, and the dish was commonly served to prisoners in Ireland during that period.

Upon his return to Penwortham, Horrocks named a nearby creek Skillogalee in remembrance of the hardships his party endured on their journey.

Death in 1862: On the 21st June, at Skillogalee Creek, Mr. John Green, aged 47 years. Arrived in the colony with the late John Horrocks, Esq., in 1839, and was highly respected by a large circle of friends. He was the beneficiary of John Horrocks' estate.

Wakefield Murder:

"John Mansforth, known as ‘The Sergeant’, was a shepherd on a farm by Skillogalee Creek.

He was brutally murdered after a drunken argument at the nearby Port Henry Arms hotel.

The Port Henry Arms was a watering hole for bullock drivers carting copper ore from Burra to ships at Port Henry (now Port Wakefield) as well as for a mix of gnarly

characters such as miners, farmers, shepherds, hut keepers and troopers."

After the Murder case, John Hoiles transferred his General Liquor Licence to William Brewer, for The Travellers' Home, (former Port Henry Arms)

on Section 345, at Skillagolee Creek, in the Wakefield.

John Hoiles, the licenced Victualler was then listed as insolvent.

Kudnarto and Thomas Adams

Kudnarto was a Padnaindi woman of the Kaurna nation. She was born in the northern pangkarra [1] [2] where the Padnaindi yerta [1] [3] had a connection to land.

Kudnarto was born here circa 1831. Nine -years later colonial administrator and explorer John Eyre would 'discover' this water body and named it Crystal Brook. [1]

Kaurna genealogies published by the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute suggests that a large number of Kaurna people alive today are descendants of Kudnarto [4], including her 4th Great Grandson, outstanding AFL player Michael O'Loughlin. [5]

Tom Adams, husband of Kudnarto

Her literacy in the English language at a young age suggests she most likely she had been one of the Indigenous children taken from her family to attend the Poonindie Native Institution to receive an education, a strategy implemented through an 1841 Ordinance by the South Australian Protector of Aborigines, Michael Moorehouse,

to ensure that European culture would prevail in an isolated setting.

She was living at Ferguson's Station as a house girl in 1844, aged 13, and joined by Tom, her future husband in 1845/6 as a shepherd for Peter Ferguson. [1]

Prior to their marriage, when the engagement was announced on 23 June 1847, Tom gave her the name Mary Ann Adams.

She was married to him in Adelaide on 27 Jan 1848 [6] [7] [8] [9],

after which he applied on her behalf for a block of land that was granted to her in Kaurna Country at Skillogalee Creek, where she lived until she tragically died of natural causes on 11 Feb 1855 at the early age of 23.

Saturday, August 2.

Wakefield Murder

James Yates was brought on remand, charged with the wilful murder of John Mansforth [Mensforth], at Skillagolee Creek.

Kudnarto : a Witness to the Wakefield Murder

"Marianne Adams, (Kudnarto) wife of Thomas Adams, laborer, Skillagolee Creek, an aboriginal woman, decently dressed, and with a fine head of flowing hair,

stated that she was married to a white man; had been brought up in Mr.Moorehouse's school ; did not know what an oath meant ; never said her prayers ; did not know what prayers meant ;

was out with Mr Slater's sheep, and found the body in the bush ; noticed it first from seeing the Sergeant's dog, and thought the old man was asleep till she saw his blood ; gave notice of the fact at Mr Titcume's house, and directed several persons to the place ;

had seen the prisoner the night before, when he came to her house and was accommodated for the night by her husband;

he had a bundle with him be swore at it as he opened it, and during the night she several times heard him restless and swearing ; he walked in and out of the house, then lay down again, and by and by walked out again ; he looked very cross when he came.

His Worship - What was he cross about ?

The Witness - He look cross about the Sergeant; he plenty kill him, you know."

Agars Family

Arriving in Adelaide on May 4, 1852, it appears that the Agars family went to Skillogalee Creek to gain employment in farming.

On November 29, 1853 they purchased Section 3059 in the Hundred of Upper Wakefield for 127 pounds, also leasing more sections in the area.

Read more: Agars Reunion

Thomases arrived in 1849

Mrs. Eliza Thomas, who died recently, at Dulwich, aged 81 yeas, was colonist of 68 years, having arrived with her parents from Cornwall in March 1849.

Shortly afterwards the family settled on land which had been selected by the eldest son at Skillogalee Creek.

The parents did not survive very long, and at the time of the gold rush in Victoria, the eldest brother went thither, leaving in charge of the farm, his two sisters and youngest brother, who successfully combined dairying with the other operations, and milked as many as 40 cows.

In 1857 the deceased married Mr. John Thomas, of the same district, who predeceased her by nearly 14 years.

The dairying work was contained, and proved to be highly profitable, thanks largely to the Burra and Wallaroo Mines.

In 1882 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas moved to Wallaroo, where they remained in business until 1876, when owing to Mrs. Thomas's ill health, they sold out and selected land in the Hundred of Cameron.

Skillogalee winery

The Winery's history records that Skillogalee operated a wine tasting room, cellar door, and restaurant from a historic stone cottage built in 1851 by a Cornish miner named John Trestrail.

He settled in the area with his wife Anne, and together they had 18 children, 13 of whom survived childhood.

They ran the property, known as Trevarrick Farm, as a mixed home farm. Interestingly, John was a religious man who did not approve of drinking!

The property remained in the Trestrail family until the early 1900s, after which it was used for growing stone fruit and cultivating grapevines for dried fruit, such as currants and sultanas.

In the 1950s and 60s, the property served as a grazing land until Spencer and Margaret George purchased it in 1969.

Over the next two or three years, they planted wine grapes, including early varieties of Riesling, Shiraz, Grenache, and Crouchen (previously known as Clare Riesling).

In the early 1980s, most of the Grenache and all the Crouchen were grafted to Traminer and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Additionally, small areas were planted with new Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.

In 1991 Dave Palmer, formerly an economic consultant in Canberra, and his wife, Diana, bought the Clare Valley Skillogalee vineyard following a

succession of unusual circumstances.

He also told of kangaroos eating grapes, but only when they (the grapes of course) are ripe.

Skillogalee owner Dave Palmer swore to this tale when making a quick return visit to his former city. They are refurbishing and expanding the vine-yard and producing the fine wines for which the label is known.

"Everyone now is looking for something else besides just a cellar door and we’re very proud of the fact that we were the first winery restaurant in the Clare Valley and for eight years there was no other winery restaurants. We had the scene to ourselves for a while!

Many people have great memories of lunch on the veranda at Skillogalee or under the old olive tree."

The Clausen family took over the custodianship of Skillogalee in July 2021 from Dave and Diana Palmer.

"We’re also immensely gratified that Simon has decided to take on all the elements of the business, which we think fit together very well. Simon is embracing them all and when he bought Skilly he told us he was so pleased to be the next custodian of the Skillogalee legend. That’s fabulous. "

Today, the Skillogalee winery and vineyard derive their name from this creek, which flows through the eastern, lower end of their property.

Their winery and vineyard have been producing award-winning wines for over fifty years under the Skillogalee name – or just Skilly, as it is often affectionately called.

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