"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Bill Ah Chow

The Man from Moscow Villa

"The horses were hired from Bill Ah Chow – one of the legends of the area – who mounted fire watch on Mount Nugong on danger days during the summer".

Recollections from Nunniong

Recollections - Nunniong Plateau, 1940

From Jim McKinty’s notes. Source: Mal McKinty

A Forests Commission crew was constructing an access road onto the Nunniong Plateau and was camped up in the mountains some 10 miles east of Ensay. The assessment crew set up camp on a nearby saddle.

About 10 men were on the road job. They had been at it for more than two years and this was their second camp site. The work entailed removing trees from the grade-line with explosives and/or snigging them with horses. The horses also dragged a heavy plough to break out the formation, dragged a grader to shape the surface and dragged the sections of culvert pipe to the drainage points. There was still plenty of work for the men – pick, crowbar, shovel, axe and saw as well as handling the horses and explosives.

The horses were hired from Bill Ah Chow – one of the legends of the area – who mounted fire watch on Mount Nugong on danger days during the summer.

Bill had a yard fenced with poles to hold the horses on the ridge. A three-foot diameter Silvertop log had been grooved along the upper surface to form a manger into which chaff was placed. It was a sight to see up to seven Clydesdales bumping each other to get to the chaff. The pony from the Mallee that Bill had bought at a sale knew nothing of horse etiquette and couldn’t reach the trough so learned to climb onto the log and walk its length to feed between the heads of the giants.

Above the corral Bill had diverted a creek into a flume made with curved lengths of bark stripped from felled trees. In a short distance the water fell seven feet back to the stream. This was where we filled our water buckets and billies and where we could stand and wash thoroughly. The water was incredibly cold.

Bill organised a cricket match at Ensay between the local team and the FCV road gang/assessors. He did not play but kept refreshments coming. We lost the game and, as a result, were hosts to a combined dinner that evening. More than 24 were seated in the hotel dining room with Bill at the head of the table. Although we were supposed to share the costs of the dinner, Bill picked up the tab. Toasts were proposed and drunk, speeches made, Sergeant Keogh recited poetry and others sang.


Bill Ah Chow on Nunniong
Jan 1940
Photo: J Mckinty, Source: M McKinty