Friday, August 14

Catherine Gregson - First Woman to Drive around Australia


When I was in Alice Springs recently on my amazing Ghan adventure, I learned about Catherine Gregson who is recorded as the first woman to drive around Australia.  I knew definitely that I wasn't the first, but perhaps I would be one of the few that has done it solo.

I can't find much about Catherine other than an article on Trove which has a rather large number of errors in its translation.  

I have endeavoured to write it without the errors. 

"FIRST WOMEN TO DRIVE ROUND AUSTRALIA.
12,500 Miles in Six Months.
The first journey by car round Australia ever undertaken by a woman driver entered on its final stage on Thursday when Miss Catherine Gregson a 23-year-old Tamworth girl, left Melbourne for Sydney.

Miss Grefson is accompanied by her mother, Mrs G. Gregson, of Wayfield, Looberah, New South Wales, and Miss Sybil Sale, of Hobart, Tasmania.

Mrs. and Miss Gregson left Sydney on May 9 and during the six months of their tour they have covered approximately 12,500 miles.
Motoring inland from Sydney the overlanders proceeded by way of Broken Hill to Central Australia, where they were joined on arrival at Alice Springs by Miss Sale.
"SAND MATS."
They found the use of "sand mats" essential in the wide, dry water-courses of Hugh and Finke Rivers, but did not again have occasion to use them throughout their journey, although numerous unbridged rivers had to be crossed on the long run through North-West Australia.
"Many people who go to Central Australia," said Miss Sale, "did so expecting to see the particular type of scenery to which they were accustomed in the south.  The scenery there, however, was remarkable for the magnificence its vivid colour effects in blue, red, purple, and orange."
The party motored to the famous Palm Valley, and Miss Gregson is the first woman to penetrate this wonderful fastness at the wheel of a car.  Later, she further proved her skill as an overland motorist by reaching within a few miles of the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria down the difficult and frequented Roper River track.

BUFFALO HUNTING
During a leisurely stay in Darwin the Misses Gregson and Sale took part in Buffalo hunting and crocodile shooting.
After leaving Darwin the overlanders motored through the picturesque Jasper Gorge, and the valley of the Victoria River to Wave Hill, following the main track through the Kimberleys back to the cost at Derby.  From here they proceeded along the cost to Broome and Port Hedland and
again motored inland to Marble Bar.  A long detour was made from here to Roebourne, whence a return was made to the main inland route at Roy Hill Station and the journey continued to Perth.
The 1750 miles stage to Adelaide, including the crossing of the vast Nullabor Plain, was completed without incident. 
Miss Gregson remarked that the 210 miles stage to the Madura homestead, after leaving Balladonia for Eucla, on the Great Australian Bight, was the longest distance between habitation any-where on the route round the continent.
USE OF A COMPASS
"Before we left the safety of the cities," explained Miss Gregson, "almost everyone warned us against undertaking such a journey as we were setting out on.  However, we encountered no serious difficulty or danger whatever, nor did we at any time feel that we were lost when the track in parts was not easy to follow.  We carried a compass, but it served mostly to prove that the moon each night rose in the wrong part of the sky."

The total cost of petrol and oil worked out at about £85."


I wish my petrol costs had been about that!  I did plan to keep record of my petrol expenses, but in the end I didn't as it would have scared me!

Miss Gregson did the trip with two other women joining her at various places.  I did it alone.

I actually drove around 35,000 kms though much of that was back and forth and I did stay in one place for nearly two months and another place for four weeks, and did lots of short run trips to various places.


The ruins of the jetty at Eucla

What's left of the old Telegraph Station at Eucla.
Still, for Catherine to do this in 1937 was an amazing feat, which I only learned about because I visited the Women's Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.

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