Green Bros of Wilcannia and Bourke
Bert Green had no formal education and left home at 12-years-of age, but during the next 12 years he gained experience in many fields including driving steam engines.
He began his business with the Wilcannia-Paroo mail run, acquired in 1916, and immediately changed from horses to motor car by purchasing a Model T Ford buckboard.
He usually carried boxes of motor spirit in the back, another box for the mail bags, and a bicycle for emergencies.
On one trip, the Ford broke the crankshaft, so he cycled to a station and sent a message to Wilcannia. He had a new engine bought up by carrier and installed it by the roadside.
He met another great entrepreneur Sid (later Sir Sidney) Kidman, who had once operated this same mail run with horses before going on to become a stock dealer and a partner in a large coaching enterprise. Sid gave Bert some shrewd advice.
“It’s good to have one mail run,” he advised, “But if you want to get on, get hold of a lot of mail contracts. You will never do any good with just one”.
Perhaps Bert Green was mindful of this advice when, in 1921, he and his brother, Martin, bought the Morrison Bros’ business, which had all the other mail contracts out of Wilcannia. Together, he and Martin ran the expanded business with a fleet of Dodge and REO vehicles.
The advantage of owning mail runs in those days was the goodwill of carrying station freight along the routes. Outward freight was stores for the towns, beer for the pubs, kerosene and petrol in boxes or 44-gallon drums, wool packs, and wire and chaff for the stations, while the return trips were loads of wool.
Mail contracts were let by tender every four years and there were no guarantees of renewal. Competition for freight meant that contracts were secured for small amounts.
My dad (Frank Green), one of Bert’s sons, told me that contracts were usually submitted for the lowest legal tender price of one shilling (1/-).
By the 1920s, there were four Green brothers operating mail runs. Besides Bert, Lindsay ran a mail and transport business from Bourke to Hungerford, and Martin drove the bi-weekly mail to Menindee from Wilcannia. Earlier, Sam ran coaches from Wilcannia to Mossgiel and later to Tilpa, while their half-brother, Rowley Blake, ran the first Bourke to Wanaaring motor mail with a Reo.
Bert Green successfully bridged the transition from horses to motors. By the early 1930s, he operated a Leyland Cub fitted with a Gardner marine engine and two diesel Leyland Terriers (TE9s). The TE9s were the largest trucks operating in Australia at the time. The older truck carried a record 16-ton load of 101 wool bales plus five packs of skins from Avenue Station.
The business employed many mechanics and drivers including Bert’s sons, Lionel, Frank, and Harry. The TE9s were well suited to the winding and often stony outback tracks, and the rarely maintained main roads, which were developing the bone-shattering pneumatic tyre corrugations. Their top speed was 25mph which was about as fast as the bush roads would allow. The 10-inch tyres on the front wheels, were large by the standard of the day, and were often difficult to hold in the steep gutters or bull dust of outback tracks.
Wool is a bulky, top-heavy load, and the big trucks rolled on three occasions, but always in slow motion. On one occasion, Lionel (as co-driver) was sleeping on top of the load.
These trucks were in the vanguard of livestock transport, fitted with sheep-decks in the early 1930s. In the 1938 drought, they were used for moving sheep from outlying districts to the Bourke Meatworks. Often the trucks would take sheep to their destination after incoming drovers reached a dry or impassable section of stock route. The newer Leyland had three decks and could carry 310 sheep.
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