Outback Oddities #1

camel carrying pianola 2

The first camels were brought to Australia in 1840, but a total of only seven prior to 1860, when 24 were brought to be used in the Burke and Wills Expedition. Nearly all the camels brought here have been dromedaries, ie. the single-humped kind.

There were used by exploring parties, and, as remote areas started to be settled by non-indigenous people, for transporting goods before the advent of trains and trucks. As you can imagine, a heavily loaded camel does not travel at 100 miles an hour, and hence a lengthy trip could take many days. The camels would have to be unloaded each evening, and then reloaded the following morning to resume the trip.

And when the load included a piano, this was no easy matter! Imagine the scene: the camel is comfortably sitting down on its haunches after a pleasant night’s sleep, when three or four blokes manoeuvre the piano crate over next to it, tie it onto the camel, and then start making noises in camel talk which mean “Come on, get up, you lazy brute. It’s time to go.” “Easier said than done” thinks the camel. I’m glad I wasn’t born a camel!

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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4 Responses to Outback Oddities #1

  1. Sue Emeleus says:

    Hi Rob, I often think of my good friend Frankenstein and hope he’s having a lovely day. No pianos or anything! Love, S

    On 14 August 2017 at 10:39, Bobby Dazzler’s Blog wrote:

    > dazzlerplus posted: ” The first camels were brought to Australia in 1840, > but a total of only seven prior to 1860, when 24 were brought to be used in > the Burke and Wills Expedition. Nearly all the camels brought here have > been dromedaries, ie. the single-humped kind. There ” >

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Hi Sue, good to hear from you. The last time I was at Comeroo (earlier this year), the property was up for sale. I think Bruce and Christine are planning to move to a town, so Frankenstein (a camel who lives on Comeroo Station, NW of Bourke, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him) might find himself having to make a few adjustments. Cheers, Rob

  2. Richard Kessling says:

    That’s not a piano Rob, it proclaims itself to be a pianola.

    Now, back in the seventies, I purchased an old pianola to give to my wife, for her twenty first birthday. The instrument came with a library of rolls of diverse genres, from jelly roll to rolling out the barrel.

    The thing, the pianola that is, weighed ‘a ton’. It took a bit of work to get it going sufficiently to be an enjoyable party piece but then it took me about a further ten years to restore it to full working and delightfully magnificent functionality. That the frame was iron was one thing; that all the pipes that funneled the air, from the air pump pedals, to move the roll, the keys and hammers were lead.I ascribe my mad hatterishness to working those myriad pipes back to functionality

    There were pianolas made with timber frames, so i imagine (and hope for the camel’s sake) that the CompleteKnockDown was such, and that as such, the frame would have warped and the piano(la) would have been rendered effectively dissonant.

    So it goes.

    I wonder Rob, whether anyone you know might know, what and where was the first pianola, used in performance, or in private party, in Alice? Not a trick question; just intrigued.

    Cheers

    Richard

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Well, Richard, there’s yet another facet of your brilliant career that I didn’t know about! I would hazard a guess that being a pianola restorer puts you in fairly select company.
      My research suggests that workable pianolas started to appear in about 1900, and the railway didn’t reach Alice until 1929, so there’s plenty of scope for the pianola in the picture being bound for Alice. However, a highly sanitised version of the picture I found occurs at http://www.pianola.org/history/history_pianoplayers.cfm, where it’s mentioned that the pianola concerned is “600 miles from Melbourne”, and I’m not sure where that would put it.
      Being a bit of an ivory tickler myself, I’ve discovered over the years that Outback pianos are almost invariably so badly out of tune as to be not worth playing, due it would seem to a chronic dearth of piano tuners in those parts. One wonders whether the instrument in the picture finally reached its destination and provided musical pleasure for many (as I’m sure your one did/does).

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