105. GILES, Archie.       

"I think he is the most outstanding half-caste in Australia, respected and loved by all who know him"

Blakeley, F. Dream Millions. 15.


Archibald Giles, outback pioneer pastoralist, was the lessee of Redbank Station when the first C.A.G.E. Expedition passed through on the way west to Illbilla in July 1930. Fred Blakeley had met Giles some 22 years earlier when he and the O'Neill brothers travelled through Anna Creek station in northern South Australia where Giles was manager of an out station. It was not an auspicious introduction, Blakeley and mates were travelling north to Darwin by bicycles when their dog, Jethro, a mongrel breed with a fair dash of dingo killed several of Giles sheep. As Blakeley writes in 'Hard Liberty', his account of the journey, Giles was not unduly upset by the slaughter, simply remarking, "They'll make good mutton", but with a gentle warning ,"keep that muzzle on Jethro till you get off the run". Giles commented on the dogs wonderful endurance and invited the travellers to stay a day or two. Perhaps wisely, Blakeley and mates chose to move on.

Blakeley's account gives the impression of Giles as a tolerant man and the few other available descriptions portray him as a genial and practical giant. In 'Dream Millions' Blakeley writes that Giles was about 70 years old in 1930 and well versed in matters Aboriginal, "He could speak several tribal languages, and knew the sign-languages ~He understood all the hand-signs and smoke signals". And so it would seem, before the expedition continued west, Giles gave the men some sound advice, "good luck, leave the girls alone, and don't camp on waterholes and you won't have any trouble with the natives".

Apart from renewing a friendship, Blakeley had another purpose in looking up Giles, he had permission from Carrington, the Government Resident, to employ an aboriginal as guide and camp hand to the expedition. At the time most of Giles men were busy moving drought affected stock to distant waterholes and the only man available was Micky, about 45 years of age and partially blinded by sandy blight, but a fortunate enough choice, as Blakeley noted, probably the best value member of the team, true enough considering his willing capacity for hard work at no more than his weekly keep.

Pastoral records of the Northern Territory indicate that Giles and his partner, McNamara took up leases and grazing licences in the MacDonnell Ranges as early as 1913 and in 1930 Redbank station was the furthest west property on the northern side of the MacDonnell's, as Blakeley writes, "From here on we were going into the unknown, as far as wheeled traffic was concerned". Evidently Giles had been lessee of Redbank for at least four years as most records note that he had already endured that many years of the most crippling drought that Central Australia had experienced in white memory, But Giles was philosophical, confident that the few hundred cattle he had saved would soon breed up.

R. G. Kimber, writing in the 'Alice Springs News', 19/11/2003, mentions that in 1928 Giles lost five camels to the depredations of Aboriginals, no doubt forced into the better watered country of the MacDonnell Ranges by the drought, apparently Giles, Paddy Tucker and Harry Tilmouth, under the leadership of Fred Raggatt, set out on a punitive expedition to bring the perpetrators to book. This was shortly before the infamous Conniston massacre where officially 31 Aboriginals were killed in reprisal for the murder of Fred Brooks, oral history has the number as high as several hundred. It is hard to imagine an amicable tolerant fellow like Archie Giles being involved in punitive expeditions, perhaps it was just a matter of locating the culprits, but there is no record of any Aboriginals being killed by Raggatt and Giles.

Giles had some involvement in the later stages of the first C.A.G.E. expedition when Pittendrigh and Hamre went missing for three weeks after force landing the Golden Quest II north of Haast's Bluff. Charles Eaton, the leader of the Air Force search party had contacted Giles on 09/01/31 by dropping a message to him, requesting he search in the vicinity of Haast's Bluff and Dashwood Creek for the missing men. The Air force located the men later that morning. Giles packed supplies and set out immediately and located the missing fliers two days later, "Pittendrigh swears that Giles's roar of greeting was the most thunderously welcome sound he has ever heard".

As usual when dealing with larger than life characters, a few inaccuracies have crept into the record. It is now commonly written that Archibald Giles was the son of Ernest Giles, the explorer, and it's interesting to note how the change of a single word can alter history. Fred Blakeley writes that Giles was, "the son of an explorer", yet both Idriess and Coote, perhaps deliberately, have changed this to read, 'the son of the explorer', a subtle shift, now interpreted as the son of Ernest Giles. There were several men named Giles, noted for their pastoral and exploration work throughout South Australia and the Northern Territory and their endeavours were considerably more successful than Ernest Giles, the explorer who crossed half Australia twice, Ernest Giles never fathered any children. Also, it is sometimes recorded that Giles central Australian property was named Anna Creek, when in fact it was Redbank Station. Anna Creek is the very large cattle station in northern South Australia where Fred Blakeley first met Giles in 1908.    

And it seems the ever optimistic Archie Giles survived the drought, with monsoonal rain flooding central Australia in October 1930. Land records show Giles having pastoral interests as late as 1947 and one would like to think he prospered after surviving four years of devastating drought.


R.Ross. 1999-2006

Fred Blakeley, Dream Millions. 13-18,121,122. E. H. Coote, Hell's Airport. 74,75. Idriess, Ion. L. Lasseter's Last Ride. 10,11,182. Kimber, R. G. Alice Springs News. 19/11/2003.  National Archives Australia, Title, Royal Australian Air Force, Search for Messrs. Pittendrigh & Hamre. Series Number, A9376. Control Symbol, 55. Barcode, 1102440. Pg. 10,11.