The History of Kangaroo Inn by Roger Andre
Contrary to popular belief, the Kangaroo Inn was not built until 1860.It does not feature on the 1859 survey of the Gillap Station homestead block on which it stands. However, midway between the soon-to-be site of the Kangaroo Inn and the Gillap homestead built c.1852 stood ‘Locke’s Eating House’, shown on the survey and probably a ramshackle affair.
The Kangaroo Inn, on the road from Mount Gambier to Guichen Bay (Robe Town) and also connected by a rough track to Penola, was built of local limestone. The spacing of the cookhouse purlins indicate a shingle roof originally. With the help of Gillap Station manager, Keith Taylor, Kangaroo Inn Area School teachers and students rediscovered and restored a lined well.
Well known publican, John McDonald, took out the first licence for the Kangaroo Inn, gazetted in January 1861.
The inn would have been used by general travellers, surveyors, station people, drovers and bullockies and Guichen Bay police journals record the inn as being one of the overnight stops for mounted constables escorting prisoners to the District Court sessions in Mount Gambier. The diary of William Milne, Commissioner of Public Works, edited by Peter Rymill, remarks on the ‘good dinner served in excellent style’ at the inn, ‘with coffee afterwards’, when Milne, Goyder, the Surveyor General, and Hanson, together with their unnamed driver, were on a tour of inspection of the South East. There is mention of John McDonald and his ‘pleasant looking wife’ (Ann).
Chinese goldseekers at the tail end of the landings at Robe are likely to have passed by in 1862 and 1863.
In December 1863 a stockman, William Phillips, who had been gored by a bullock, died at the inn, but the site of his nearby grave has long been lost.
Licencees who followed John McDonald were Aaron lane, 1868-1872, John McIntyre, 1872, John F. White, 1873-1875, and Richard Sargent, 1876-1878. Sargent was also appointed postmaster and from 1877 to 1878 the mail coach run between Robe and Millicent was re-routed via the Kangaroo Inn in response to a petition. July 1878 saw the coastal mail service through Beachport re-instated. The inn’s licence expired in 1878. George Kershaw attempted to renew the licence in 1882, proposing a new inn, but to no avail, the inn being considered in too close proximity to the drainers on Reedy Creek. Archibald Grant subsequently kept the Kangaroo Inn as an unlicensed accommodation house for three years. He opened the Kintore Hotel at Furner in 1890.
When the extensive Gillap pastoral lease was broken up, in 1888 long-time station manager, Neil McDonald (no relation to John McDonald), acquired the homestead block and converted the Kangaroo Inn’s stable block to a woolshed, also installing a sheep dip which can be found close by. He used the accommodation wing to house station overseers and others, but by 1906 it was observed to be ‘deserted’. Thereafter the old inn served as a camp for timber getters and rabbiters.
Until the 1940s, communal sheepyards existed near the inn. Known as the Kilmorie Yards they point to the inn possibly having been called Kilmorie at one time, although it never appears to have been gazetted as such
In 1978 vandals brought down the greater part of the wall of the stable block incorporating the shearing portholes and the 1983 bushfires wiped out two cherry trees, remnants of the original orchard. Kangaroo Inn ruins were entered on the State Heritage Register in 1988.
The Andre family, current owners of the site as descendants of Neil McDonald, commissioned W. & M.J. White of Naracoorte to stabilize the ruins in 2002-2003 in line with advice from Heritage Advisor, Richard Woods. Roger Andre, who had unveiled a plaque during the Australian Stock Horse Society’s Mail Coach Re-enactment run in 1990, obtained a State Heritage Fund grant towards the project.
Surveyor General’s Office, Thomas Evans, Survey of Section 2, January 1859, Field Book 52, pages 141 & 143.
William Milne, Notes on a journey to the south eastern district, January 1863, Peter Rymill, ed., P. Rymill, Coonawarra, S. Aust., 2010, p. 35.
Border Watch, 11 December 1863, p.2, 18 December 1863, p.3.
Alan Jones & Karen Cameron, Her Majesty’s south eastern mails, A. Jones, Unley, S. Aust., 1999, pp. 138-139.
The tourist’s road guide, W.K. Thomas & Co., Adelaide, 1906.
Mount Gambier Licensing Branch minutes, 1875 – 1890, State Records of SA, GRG 67/38.
‘Mount Gambier Licensing Bench annual meeting’, Border Watch, 5 March 1890, p.3.
Note – James Wilfred Andre of Ceres, diaries 1930-1945, use the spelling ‘Kilmorie’ for the yards at Kangaroo Inn.