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Samuel McCaughey: Father of irrigationThe Duracks - Kings in grass castles

Undaunted by distance and hardship, the Duracks forged a pastoral empire in the Kimberley that made theirs a household name in Australia. The family's legend has reverberated through the years thanks in no small part to the evocative writings of one of their own, Dame Mary Durack.

Story and photos John Dunn

They come in their thousands to Argyle Downs Homestead Museum every year to learn about the Durack family and to better appreciate its place in the nation's history. Numbers passed 20,000 in 2002 and there will be more this year. These are very impressive figures, particularly considering how far people must travel to get there.

The homestead museum sits secluded among the bloodwoods, nutwoods and cabbage gums where the red and stony hills of the Carr-Boyd Range roll down to the magnificent blue waters of Lake Argyle near the northern tip of Western Australia. Cities are far away. Darwin, the closest, is almost 900 kilometres to the north-east, Perth some 3000km to the south. Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are almost a continent away. The original Duracks covered such distances when they helped open up the north-west and develop its cattle industry during the 1880s.

Great distances underline the reasons why the Duracks hold such fascination, not only for Australians, but also for countless overseas visitors who marvel at the sheer scope and size of the ventures they undertook. Later members of the family went on to excel in literature, art, agriculture and sport. Story end

Full story Issue 31 Oct/Nov 2003

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