Kangaroo Island Macgillivray Post Office

Old MacGillivray Post Office


This image was the Official Opening of our Original Shop the Old MacGillivray Post Office in August 1991 by Don Burke and we featured on Burkes Backyard, our first television experience. Prior to this we had a caravan as our shop, and before that we had a sign at the distillery if we weren’t there sending people to our house and sold things out of a small china cabinet in our lounge room.

While filming a documentary at “ Emu Ridge” Bev and Larry Turner invited Don to officially open the Post Office, their new Emu Ridge Souvenir and memorabilia store, a step up from the little caravan they had in the beginning. Don cutting a length of binder twine with a leaf sickle to mark the occasion.

This link will take you to our slideshow.

The old Macgillivray Post Office our original shop and our first workshop built from hebel blocks in the background

MacGillivray Post Office Mail

For the information of the settlers and others Mr H.A. Weber (postmaster at MacGillivray) points out that the mail leaves Kingscote for MacGillivray on Sunday morning at 8 o’ clock and return by 6 p.m. the same day; they reach MacGillivray at 10.20 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m. delivered by horse.

Reverting to the original purpose of this investigation, I learned that the Hundred of MacGillivray was named, not after a pioneer settler on the island, but in hoor of veteran parliamentarian, Ivor MacGillivray, one of the first Labor men to be elected to the State Parliament of South Australia- he represented Port Adelaide in the Assembly from 1893 to 1918 and only missed two days of the sittings in those 25 years, this due to absence on Government Business.

Fauldings purchased the “Emu Ridge” farm originally “Windy Ridge” in 1923 and sold it in 1952 the same year the post office was closed. Bev spoke to Mrs Kent the last post mistress to work in the post office. She had said the last few years of operation when surveys were being performed to see if it was still viable to keep open she would let the neighbourhood know and they would all send out letters at that time to prove it was still worth being open.

In a press report that the former MacGillivray Post Office building, built in 1909, and now described as an old iron shed, is being used to house a craft and souvenir display to attract tourists and as the headquarters of the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery.

Larry Turner a shearer by trade and a man of the land was 31 when he turned back the clock one hundred years on Kangaroo Island to distil eucalyptus oil the way his pioneering forebears did, Larry says “they were producing eucalyptus oil here in the 1980s; at one stage there were 48 different skills registered here” His Emu Ridge property in the hundred of MacGillivray was once owned by Faulding’s, who produced about 25 tons of oil a year before production eventually ceased.
Larry’s talented wife, Bev, makes natural souvenirs which also attract tourists back to the old MacGillivray Post Office.

Fresh growth from the Kangaroo Island Narrow leaf Mallee is cut, the leaves are boiled in water in a sealed vessel, the oil escapes as a vapour and finally collected in a system of cooling pipes. The Kangaroo Island eucalyptus oil is said to be unique, with a subtle woody aroma added to the distinctive smell of the oil. It is finding a ready market in health and craft shops through South Australia, with scores of uses.

The original Post Office route on Kangaroo Island in the 1800’s and early 1900’s

Some details of early post offices and postmasters for Kangaroo Island are as follows.

  • Hog Bay opening approved by Colonial Secretary on 30 April 1860. J. Bristow was first postmaster 1861-1870 then J. Adams 1870-1876; W. Sealy 1877 and Thomas Simpson from 1878-1902. J. Bristow and J. Adams are the same person as Mrs Janet Bristow remarried after the death of her first husband

  • Kingscote opening was approved by Colonial Secretary on 17 April 1862. The office closed in 1866 and reopened in 1871 when A. Reeves was post master from 1871-1876; G. Paris was post master in 1877 and A. Reeves again from 1877-1884 when the post office moved to Queenscliffe (present day the town of Kingscote). I’m hoping State Records can come up with the postmaster/s from 1862 to 1866. The first Post Office in the Nepean Bay area was in Kingscote at what is now Reeves Point in 1862 and it moved to Queenscliffe in 1883 to what is now the town of Kingscote, this is another story.

  • Cygnet River opened in 1870. Postmaster included G. Woolard 1870-1876 (George?); J. W. Davis 1876; J.N. Daw 1877-1893 and J.W. Daw 1894-1902

  • Cape Jervis opened in 1873 and closed in 1969. I have a list of seven postmasters between 1873 & 1917

  • Cape Borda opened in 1876 and closed in 1966. I have a list of 14 ladies and gentlemen who were postmaster between 1876 & 1906.

  • Eleanor River opened 1 July 1880 and closed 31 January 1883. Postmaster W. Thompson

  • Cape Willoughby opened in 1880. There were 33 Postmasters mostly being the wife of the head lightkeeper

  • Wisanger opened 1 December 1882. Postmaster from 1883 to 1902 was Henry Partridge. On 21 July 1904, the post office moved 1½ miles further from Kingscote

  • Queenscliffe opened 1 September 1883 name of town and post office changed to Kingscote in 1903. Postmaster G.J. Paris 1883-1884; A Munt 1885-1887; R. McClure 1888-1895; H.S. Rumball 1895-1902

  • Karatta opened 1 November 1884 and closed 1 April 1886. Postmaster H.Y.A. Harper (Hugh?)

  • Salt Lagoon opened in 1890 and closed in 1922. Post masters included J.H. Trethewey 1891-1900 and Ethel M.D. Trethewey 1900-1902. From 1902 to 1920, George Gobell [senior] ran the Salt Lagoon General & Post Office [Reference Trove: Fire at Salt Lagoon-destruction of Post Office ] On 16th Jan 1911: The Salt Lagoon general store & post office was burnt down. The cause thought to have been from a candle burning left burning [using sealing wax on letters].After 1920 to 1922 The Salt Lagoon General Store and Post Office was run by George Gobell [junior] – Geoffrey Chapman.

  • Penneshaw name change from Hog Bay w.e.f. 18 October 1904. Postmaster E.C. Trethewey 1910

  • MacGillivray opened in 1909 and closed in 1952

  • Emu Bay opened in 1911 and closed in 1955

Source: Walker, Martin, Post, Telegraph & Post Offices of S.A. & N.T. 2004


MacGillivray in the country of Carnarvon was proclaimed on December 20 1906. It was named after Ivor Macgillivray MP who came from  Port Adelaide. The MacGillivray Post Office, is 17KM south of Kingscote and was opened in April 1909, and closed on November 29th, 1952.

Ivor MacGillivray

Ivor MacGillivray (24 May 1840 – 16 January 1939)
MacGillivray: Scottish – born SA Politician.


Ivor MacGillivray, MP (1893-1918) was born in Lossiemouth, Scotland in 1840. From the age of 11 he worked on a farm for five shillings a month and lodgings, after four years of this he went on work as a seaman working between the coast of China and Australia, in the Black Sea and Mediterranean. At 19, he left the ship in Melbourne, and spent two years at the Bendigo gold rushes, before leaving for the gold rushes in Otago, New Zealand, where he spent a further twelve years till 1875. He returned to Melbourne, briefly went back to England, and worked as a prospector in Western Australia and South Australia before settling in Adelaide. He worked as a coal lumper at Port Adelaide for 20 years, and was chairman of the Working Men’s Association for 16 years and Trustee for 30 years. He was one of the local leaders of the 1890 Australian maritime dispute.

MacGillivray was elected to the House of Assembly at the 1893 state election. He was expelled from the Labor Party in the 1917. Labor split over his support for conscription in World War I. His son had been killed in the Gallipoli Campaign. MacGillivray recontested Port Adelaide for the splinter National Party, but was defeated by John Stanley Verran.

He retired following the loss of his parliamentary seat in 1918. MacGillivray died at the Adelaide Hospital in 1939, aged 98, following a fall in his home resulting in a broken thigh. He was buried at Cheltenham Cemetery.

Many tributes were paid to his hard work and conscientious efforts during a long term of public Service.

The distillation of Eucalyptus oil from the foliage of the Kl Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) began in the 1890s. Many small ‘rustic’ stills operated on the island, largely to supplement their incomes from other sources, and by the 1920s they were shipping around 80 tons of oil (about 60% pure) to Adelaide per 6annum. Companies such as F.H. Faulding & Company and AM. Bickford & Sons purchased the oil for refining and bottling. Fauldings operated their own distillery, firstly near Retties Bluff and later at Emu Ridge. The industry was based on cutting eucalypt re-growth ‘from the v.::d’ on a three-year cycle; it declined as more land was cleared of its native vegetation cover for grazing and cropping enterprises.
Most of the distilleries were pretty basic and because of this, few of the structures dating from the early era of the industry remain. In 1982, Ted Buick of Kingscote described the operation of his distillery. The eucalypt foliage was compressed into a large metal vat about two metres deep and wide which was a quarter filled with water. The lid of the vat is then securely clamped on and the furnace below lit. To quote Ted Buick, ‘It 5takes about four hours for the water to boil and another four hours for the steam to extract all the oil from the leaves. The oil-laden steam is piped off the top of the vat, passes through two cooling tanks and is finally 2deposited in a holding pit.’ (Geo 1982). This former distillery is on a Burgess family property. The plant was probably last operated by Doug Burgess, grandson of Edward Burgess (1876-1948), son of pioneer settler Alfred Burgess. Edward (Ted) Burgess was born on Kangaroo Island in 1876; he married Wilhelmina Tilka, daughter of Martin Tilka, at the School-room Cygnet River in 1902. Martin Tilka also set us a rose distilling plant but his sons thought there was more money in eucalyptus. Grandfather Burgess set up his first still in 1905, after he had returned to Cassini Bay from the Bendigo goldfields. As the William Holmes Hamilton family partnership at Dover Farm was dissolved in 1904, it seems likely that it was Edward Burgess who purchased the land and built this distillery.
Kangaroo Island Sketchbook, 1975 p.44
Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1886
Birth, Death and Marriage Records , Genealogy & Heraldry Society of South Australia
Geo Vol. 4 No.3 September-November 1982 pp.29-3065

References Wikipedia