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Published December 12th 2015
Counting the Cairns on the Plains
It was a beautiful spring day in mid-November when I travelled north towards the Adelaide Plains township of Mallala. Following on from a recent article about the lost towns of the Adelaide Plains, I had decided to do a follow up story on a number of lost icons of the Adelaide Plains.
However it was less than 7 days later when my joy at uncovering more of the secrets of the Adelaide Plains was shattered by the ferocity of the Pinery fire, a fire that changed lives. I reflected on the appropriateness of writing an article about an area that has suffered severe damage, and concluded that it would be in the best interests of the Adelaide Plains community if the article helped people remember the past, or alternatively attracted a few more visitors to the area to spend a few dollars at local stores or to make a donation to the SA Pinery fire appeal.
From its original discovery in 1840, the Adelaide Plains grew quickly with small villages popping up as settlers came to South Australia and looked to establish lives immediately north of Adelaide. Buildings of significance were constructed, icons were formed, legacies arose yet memories began to fade. To ensure that these icons and memories weren't lost forever, a series of 13 cairns and monuments have been placed through the district of Mallala.
Starting just south of Mallala is the Mallala Cemetery and the Mallala War Cemetery. The cairn in the southwestern corner of the cemetery tells us that long before these 'modern' cemeteries were founded, this site was the original home of the Feltwell School and Chapel which opened in 1870 and was closed less than a decade later.
To the northeast of Mallala, and alongside the rail line, is the former village of Shannon which once was home to a Methodist Church. The cairn marks the site of the Church which remained in use until 1966. A bit further north is the former Grace Plains Church and Cemetery, both sitting alongside the Moquet Lee Reserve consisting of tennis courts and playing fields. Mr Jim Nairn donated the land to the community in memory of his son who was captured in the World War One battle of Mouquet in 1916.
World War Two also had a significant impact on the Adelaide Plains with the former Mallala Aerodrome playing host to the RAAF No. 6 Flying Training School from 1941 to 1945. After the war, the RAAF base was scaled down with the northern section of the base being converted in to a Migrant Camp. By 1960, all facilities had been closed, and the site became known as the Mallala Raceway.
1857 saw the construction of the first large homestead and property in the district by Phillip Butler. Known as Mallala Station or Butler Station, the property consisted of a homestead, store, post office, school and a well. Several subdivisions later, and the town of Mallala has grown, and a much smaller portion of land remains for what is still affectionately known as Butler Station.
The village of Redbanks was originally spread over many kilometres with the Redbanks Brick Kiln being to the north near the Light River. Established in 1911, the kiln lasted for just over twenty years before it became another casualty of the Great Depression. To the east of the kiln was the former Redbanks Post Office which opened in 1868, but closed several years later due to constant flooding.
Further south near the current settlement of Redbanks is the site of the former Wesley Methodist Church and School which served the community intermittently from 1867 to 1937. Korunye School, which was originally known as Paddy's Bridge School, operated from 1900-1966 before closing and becoming a well maintained private residence.
Over the road, the Korunye Recreational Park was established in 1936 with a football oval, cricket pitch and tennis courts and was formally opened by Australian cricket great Clarrie Grimmett. The Park was a great attractor for the community until the 1960's when it was sold to a neighbouring farmer.
The Mallala and Districts Historical Society arranged for the construction of the 13 cairns and monuments during 2005 in conjunction with the local Council. A brochure linking these historic locations is available from the Council offices or selected visitor information centres, while further details on the cairns are available from the Historical Society's website.