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The Chookman of the Murray

Home > Berri > Fun for Children | Fun Things To Do | Outdoor | Places of Interest | Quirky
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published June 10th 2017
Beyond the Black Stump
Frank Turton is the "chookman". He sails all along the River Murray on his one-of-a-kind houseboat, carving wood and singing bush ballads - all with a chicken sitting on his head.

Frank Turton Chookman
Frank Turton, Chookman (©paula mcmanus)

I met local legend Frank a few months ago in Renmark. At the time, the Murray was running fast and high - too high for his normal houseboat mooring, so he was tied up at the main wharf in town, which is where I met him while out for a walk one evening.

He's a funny, charming and extremely friendly man. Curious visitors like myself were warmly greeted and invited on board to have a look around and meet the 'girls' - 4 fuzzy haired chooks, named Chook One, Chook Two, Chook Three and Chook Four.

Frank Turton Chookman
Frank Turton, Chookman (©paula mcmanus)

His hand-made houseboat, hilariously named "Willitsinkorwontit" is a sight to be seen - it's full of character and is a floating memory board of Frank's travels around Australia - all of it is quite an eclectic assortment of Australiana.

There's an old wood stove in the centre of the boat, a windmill, outback dunny, a TV that's in the shape of Australia, bras, undies and chandeliers hang from the onboard Hills Hoist clothesline, geraniums, sunflowers and vegetables grow on the side of the boat and his bed is inside an old water tank. And of course, there are the chooks. They travel with him always, give him eggs from time to time and even sleep in his bed with him.

Frank Turton Chookman
Frank Turton, Chookman (©paula mcmanus)

He loves his quirky houseboat and his roaming life but his real love is music - songwriting, singing and entertaining people.

A huge fan of country music, Frank said "I've always wanted to sing ever since I heard Johnny Cash sing in 1956". Frank made and proudly owns a guitar in the shape of Australia, which has been personally signed by Johnny Cash himself.

Frank Turton Chookman
Frank Turton, Chookman (©paula mcmanus)

Frank "Be Happy" Turton loves to be different. He makes music from household appliances and he and his girls travel around the country performing at country music festivals. In 1984, he made the Adelaide newspapers when he sailed a giant mallee root, The Black Stump, down the River to his gallery in Paringa. The Black Stump is the largest of 11 known black stumps in Australia and is estimated to have been the root system of a river red gum that was more than 600 years old. The stump weighs approximately 8 tonnes and is 8 metres in diameter. The mallee root can be seen at the front entrance to Frank's home and gallery, which is "always open except for when we are closed".

The Black Stump Paringa
The Black Stump, Paringa (©paula mcmanus)

When he's not cruising the Murray between Renmark and Paringa in his houseboat, you can find Frank singing his unique songs at the local pub or at the odd country music festival around the country. He writes most of his songs and they have the most wonderful titles based on his own personal experiences. Song titles such as "And The Rain Came Down", "Fishin' in the Creek" and "When the Papers Wet with Dew" - some funny, some sad, all very poetic and entertaining.

Does Frank get overwhelmed by the interest people take in him and his boat? Possibly yes, but you'd never know. He just takes it all in his stride and is a wonderful ambassador for tourism in the Riverland area. He makes people smile, which means that he's a roaring success.

Frank Turton Chookman
Frank Turton, Chookman (©paula mcmanus)

Good onya Frank! It was nice to meet you!

Frank's Black Stump Gallery can be found on Murtho Road in Paringa, just next to the supermarket. There is free on-street parking and entrance is by gold coin donation.

If you see his houseboat along the river and would love to stop a while and 'avachat', please do! You're more than welcome, but please drop a few bucks as a donation into the bucket on your way in or out.

Frank Turton Chookman
Frank Turton, Chookman (©paula mcmanus)

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Why? Meet the Chookman Frank - he loves his quirky houseboat and his roaming life but his real love is music - songwriting, singing and entertaining people
Where: Murtho Road, Paringa
Cost: gold coin donation
Your Comment
How original, Paula - loved your article! Frank sounds like a real treasure!
by Elaine (score: 3|7677) 1236 days ago
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