William Clem Sampson 1893-1986 & Olive Jane Wardle 1896-1993
Married on 27 Jun 1917 Mt. Bryan, South Australia.
William Clem Sampson
First child of George and Sarah Sampson
Born: 6 Nov 1894 Hampton, Burra, South Australia
Died: 23 Aug 1986 Esperance, Western Australia
Buried: Esperance Cemetery
Occupation: Wheelwright and dam earthmoving contractor
Olive Jane Wardle
Daughter of Ralph Wardle (1860-1920) & Maria “Thursa” Player (1868-1951)
Born: 20 Jan 1896 Hawker, South Australia.
Died: 14 Aug 1993 Esperance, Western Australia
Buried: Esperance Cemetery
Clem learned the trade of a wheelwright. He then worked for his father, George, who was engaged in tank/dam sinking contracting in eastern and north-eastern South Australia and the Broken Hill area of N.S.W. When his father was killed in 1920, Clem took over and continued contracting. In 1921-23 he was involved in a partnership, believed called Murdock, Willcocks and Sampson, to carry out a contract for part of the Chaffey Irrigation Scheme in the Renmark district of South Australia. This contract was to “Clear, Sub-soil, Gade and Channel 1,250 acres”. This was all done with horse teams. The Department of Agriculture and/or Department of Irrigation’s engineer’s name on this particular contract was a Mr Hugh Oldham from Western Australia, and Mr Richard Wilton was second in commmand. Upon completion of the Renmark contract the partnership ended and Clem and family returned to Burra and in partnership with Mr Ray Chambers, took over “Blue Bells” farm just out of Burra on the road to Hanson. At the same time he continued earthmoving in the east and north-east of South Australia.
In 1934 Clem went to the Kalgoorlie Goldfields area under contract to Mr G. Stanley Hawker of the “East Bungaree” Stud. At the time Mr Hawker had “Edudina Station”, north east from Kalgoorlie, and Clem was given a contract to sink a series of dams on this property. This, of course , involved making wing banks and constructing drains for each dam. To cope with the conditions, camels were used to construct the dams. Camels could live off the land and did not require the hauling and cost of chaff to feed them. The only feed purchased was for the horses used for mustering the camels. There were no crawler tractors available then.
The Edjudina contract proved a particularly tough one. Strata of what appeared to be a type of baked sandstone were encountered in this district, and great difficulty was experienced in coping with this material as it was almost too hard to plough with the equipment then available and plough shares had to be sharpened with regular monotony. The conditions resulting were extremely hard on beast and man. This also made it economically difficult because production was very poor whilst getting through these strata which took ages to shift. The financial position during that period always seemed to be hovering on the point of bankruptcy. In fact at one stage Mr Geoff Pennefather, the then manager of Edjudina Station, saved the day by supplying free meat to tide over what was a difficult patch. Another knock came when Clem’s brother, George Grenfell Sampson, who was working with him, developed pneumonia and typhoid and died.
When the Edjudina contract was finished, Clem and son Ron continued contracting in the Goldfields area. Then, as machinery became available, they started to develop, firstly by obtaining wheel type tractors, than a Caterpillar RD4 bulldozer, etc. The Caterpillar RD4 tractor and machinery was manpowered by the Allied Works Council during a fair period of World War II. Clem had the unique experience of seeing the transition from horses to camels, to wheel tractors and finally to crawler tractors.
After the war, son Albert was taken into the partnership by Clem ad Ron, which was renamed W.C. Sampson and Sons.
During 1946 more machinery was purchased, a workshop and office erected at 15 Oberthur Street, Kalgoorlie, and Woolibar Station, which has been let run down, was purchased. Over the next few years a great deal of work was done on Woolibar, such as fencing repairs, watering points, yards etc. and it was stocked with sheep. Woolibar was sold in the early 1950’s. More earthmoving work was being done for the mines in the Kalgoorlie and Boulder areas.
in 1950 Ron left the partnership and went contracting in the Narrogin and Kondinin areas in Western Australia. In 1951 Harold William Pearce, son-in-law of Clem, joined the partnership and farming began at the “6 Mile”, Esperance, in March of that year.
Clem was a councillor at the Kalgoorlie Road Board for one term. He went to live in Esperance about 1952. He was Chairman of the Esperance Road Board in 1953-54.
Clem devised a scheme to improve catchment and holding ability of dams in the Esperance area by removing sand and overlaying with clay, and he introduced “roaded catchments” to improve catchments in the area. He like many others, had an intense faith in Esperance and its possibilities. He was not long in Esperance before he was supervising the initial development of farms, to varying requirements, for absentee owners. He did this for many farmers – about 40-44 during the period he was involved in this activity.
The earthmoving operation based at Kalgoorlie was phased out and plant sold in June 1958 when the bottom dropped out of the wool market for the time, and Albert withdrew from the partnership and moved to Perth to live. Farming continued at Esperance until 1970.
W.C. Sampson: A tribute to a lifetime spent in water conservation
By Ken Shepherdson (from poster published circa 1977)
Presented here is a brief illustrated history of one man’s effort, not a full history rather just gleanings interspersed with facts. W.C. Sampson, generally known as Clem, was born in Burra, South Australia on November 6, 1893, and has lived the latter part of his life here in Esperance, Western Australia.
In the year 1909 at the age of sixteen, he was driving bullocks for his father at Langawirra Station 83 miles northeast of Broken Hill. His father was contract dam sinking for the proprietors of Langawirra.
Clem tells the story of how he felt he was somewhat of a martyr at being delegated to such a distant area away from home at his age,until he found that a cousin 18 months younger than he, was also a member of the entourage.
Clem enjoys the distinction of being the fourth generation of dam sinkers in his family line and now at the age of 84 still rejoices at the sight of a dam nearly full at the end of summer.
Something of his experience must have rubbed off onto him for in September 1935, when he transferred to Western Australia, he took with him his youngest son Ronald, then aged 15, who in turn, became the 5th generation of dam sinkers.
One of his memories is of a dam called “The Rat Hole”. Asked how it got its name, he tells how there was a plague of rats on the other side of Coburn and with flood rains it quickly filled with water and drowned rats.
Subsequently Clem managed the plant for his father until his father was killed in 1920. After winding up the estate he was fortunate enough to win a contract from the irrigation department known as Chaffey Irrigation Area.This was on the Murray River covering the areas adjacent to Renmark.
At one stage, Clem had 172 horses and 65 camels working in his teams and it is his pride that he never once ran out of feed. Considering the vast distances involved in the areas he covered, one would imagine that this was a very considerable achievement.
Further contracts entailed cleaning out Government Railway dams from Jamestown to Broken Hill for the South Australian Government.
Clem came to Western Australia in September 1935, under contract to the proprietors of Edjudina Station north east of Kalgoorlie.
He tells the story of his lead camel named “Growler”. All the other camels had been loaded into railway trucks but Growler refused to go up the ramp. Eventually they put him onto wooden skids and winched him up and in. Growler remained on the skids for three days, all the way from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie and never once stood up. They expected trouble unloading him but when the door opened he stood up and went straight down, much to the relief of all.
Clem worked extensively on dam sinking on station leases around the goldfields, on airfields at different airports during the war and on construction earthworks for the Lakewood firewood lines. It was during this period that the transition from bullocks, horses, camels and wheel tractors with scoops to dozers was completed. At one stage he had three dozers and two wheel tractors and scoops all operating.
His work in Esperance and surrounding districts is well known and needs no citation in this article. Many of the innovations in farm water conservation today, find there origin in the deep insight of this man into the varying techniques required for problem areas.
There will be very few people who will not join me in applauding this man’s life work.