Interim works begin on Kiley Homestead

The old station, photographed by air.

Forestry Corp says interim works have begun to start protecting the historic Kiley Homestead in Adjungbilly, thanks to ‘engagement from the community’. 

The local landmark – once the subject of several Banjo Patterson poems – has been overgrown with weeds and fallen into disrepair, but spraying and fencing work is currently underway, with more extensive works to come.

Dean Anderson, Snowy Mountains Regional Manager for Forestry Corp, said a heritage expert has been engaged to recommend a plan for the site.

“We’re doing some maintenance and we’ve got a heritage expert lined up for March to come and write a report for us about what we should be doing with the site,” he said.

“We’ve had some engagement with some locals, who are concerned about the state of disrepair. We took that on board. 

“As you can imagine, we’ve been prioritising fire stuff, but now others are on board and we’ve got some extra numbers, so we’re doing a bit of spraying and a bit of fencing to get something in the interim while we work out what needs to be done.”

Mr Anderson said Forestry Corp – which acquired the homestead as part of the 9086-hectare property ‘Red Hill Station in 1986 – is ‘keen to have the place reviewed’ so that an overall goal can be sketched out.

The homestead is significant largely for its connection to Banjo Patterson and the Kiley family, starting with William Kiley in 1848. William was the younger brother of the convict Patrick Kiley sent from County Cork, Ireland to Australia in 1819 for larceny. William named his second son after his brother, and it was the junior Patrick Kiley who went on to become friends with Banjo Patterson.

The homestead was built from locally-quarried basalt and featured in Patterson’s poem ‘On Kiley’s run’, which speaks of the beauty of the land and the warmth of the Kiley’s hospitality. Patrick Kiley was also known for paying his Indigenous and white workers the same wage and providing warm hospitality to anyone passing by.

Patterson’s 1890 poem ‘Kiley’s Run’ begins:

We lived the good old station life

On Kiley’s Run,

With little thought of care or strife.

Old Kiley seldom used to roam,

He liked to make the Run his home,

The swagman never turned away

With empty hand at close of day

From Kiley’s Run.

The poem also describes the downfall of the station after it was sold on to an Englishman, who ran it purely for profit.

I cannot guess what fate will bring

To Kiley’s Run —

For chances come and changes ring —

I scarcely think ’twill always be

Locked up to suit an absentee;

And if he lets it out in farms

His tenants soon will carry arms

On Kiley’s Run.

Patterson’s despair at the state of the old homestead is further emphasized in ‘Under the Shadow of Kiley’s Hill’, published in The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895).

This is the place where they all were bred;

Some of the rafters are standing still;

Now they are scattered and lost and dead, Every one from the old nest fled, Out of the shadow of Kiley’s Hill. Better it is that they ne’er came back — Changes and chances are quickly rung; Now the old homestead is gone to rack, Green is the grass on the well-worn track Down by the gate where the roses clung. Gone is the garden they kept with care; Left to decay at its own sweet will, Fruit trees and flower-beds eaten bare, Cattle and sheep where the roses were, Under the shadow of Kiley’s Hill. 

The property was purchased for $4.99 million in 1986 by what was then known as the NSW Forestry Commission (now Forestry Corporation), and a community group formed that same year to lobby for the site’s protection. 

Adjungbilly residents are currently supporting the improvement of the site. They’re asking for anyone with photographs of the homestead and other buildings to contact them, to assist with the heritage efforts.

Photographs can be sent to: Rachel Graham at [email protected]