Turner Folly, Kangaroo Island


Recently, The Folly has been re-named as The Turner Folly, after John Turner, who was one of the first settlers on Kangaroo Island. Larry Turner is the 4th generation of Turners, and Bev his wife, are both entrepreneurs and the founders of Emu Ridge. They are very proud of Larry’s dad, Ralph Turner and Jed Sheridan, their nephew, who put in the new signs at the Folly. You will pass these signs while driving on the main road into Kingscote.
118 years ago their Uncle John Turner put in the first road-side drain pipe with a pick, shovel and a wheel barrow. Everyone thought this was a foolish idea! Hence where the word ‘folly’ comes from. He was an amazing man and a big part of Kangaroo Island’s history.

Definition of ‘Folly’: the state or quality of being foolish, lack of understanding and sense or a foolish action, practice, idea, etc.

Origin of the name ‘Turner’

Turner – usually a trade name for one who turns wood on a lathe. It can also be from the Old French ‘Tornier’ – “someone who takes part in a tournament”. In the Middle Ages, tournaments and hunting were the two recognized sports and these could only be enjoyed by the nobility and were usually between teams of knights.

Burkes General Armory lists 52 different lines of Turners, as well as their Coats of Arms, but unfortunately we have not been able to establish to which line we belong.

John Turner


Born: 26th March, 1846

Died: 24th October, 1931

John Turner was one of the first settlers on Kangaroo Island. When John and Alfred made their home on Sec. 124, Hd. Menzies in 1882, they could not see the sea, just a short distance away, because of the dense bush, but in time the view of Smiths Bay unfolded as the land was cleared.

John married Esther Hoskin in 1887. Esther was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. Hoskin of St. Peter’ Isl;land which is just off the coast from Ceduna on Eyre Peninsula. She was 29 years of age and John by this time was 41. The home to which he took his bride to was a timber framed house of 4 small rooms, each opening from the other, shared with his brother Alfred.

Little is known of Esther for she died in 1899, twelve years after their marriage. Her children were all young, Ruby, the last born, was still an infant at the time of her death. Photos of her show a woman with a sweet and gentle face, family stories tell of a gentle nature which may have found the conditions of those times rather harsh.

After the death of Esther, two of their children were cared for away from home. Ruby was in the care of Mrs. Florance at Cygnet Park and Bessie was sent to John’s sister, Eliza, at Hindmarsh. Sutton and Lil stayed home, the young Lil becoming housekeeper for the menfolk.

when he married, John had been on the property for five years. He and Alfred were now in partnership, the original one of the three brothers having been dissolved. In time the two brothers acquired more land and had a substantial holding.

In 1892 John Turner was made a Justice of the Peace.

John experimented with artificial manures, being among the first in  the area to do so. The results were gratifying, where crops had been dwindling and returns had gone down to five bushells an acre, a return of 25 bushells after an application of super and bone dust was exciting. The next year the results was even more dramatic when a crop of barley sown with two hundred weight of bone super per acre averaged 64 bushells.

the lifting of the government stipulation of one fifth of the holding to be under cultivation meant that more careful preparation of smaller areas of land could be carried out and with the use of artificial manures good yields were assured.


This improvement in the cropping meant improvements had been necessary in the machinery and John brought in a drill and binder, being the first in the district to use these implements.

As the name of his farm, “Sutton Apiary”, suggests he was interested in bees and kept them as a sideline, exporting Queen Bees to the mainland. An import John made though, was much larger, A hundred ewes in lamb, were brought from the mainland by boat to Smiths Bay where they were put into the water and swam ashore. It is recorded there was 90% lambing. Later a Lincoln ram was brought in to breed a Lincoln Cross which John claimed was hardier then Merinos, bigger framed with the extra weight in wool making up for the difference in quality.

In 1909 they received eleven pence per pound for their Merino wool, ten and a quarter pence for crossbred, seven and a quarter pence for Lincoln, seven pence for lambs and five pence for pieces.

A report of a visit to their farm in the Kangaroo Island Courier in November 1910 tells of the difficulty in clearing the scrub.

“It was not a matter of chopping it down once, nor a second or yet a third  time, that did away with this stubborn foe which, however had eventually to succumb to the attacks of more stubborn men. Finding that they could not get rid of the scrub in any other manner, they left pieces out every year so that they could get grass over it, then, in the summer they fired the grass, finding this the best and cheapest way of killing the foe out. Two fires in succession “polished the lot”. After killing the scrub they initiated a set program of grubbing portions of the land every year until eventually they had a cleared a paddock to go into”.


John kept a team of bullocks which was used for heavy work and dam scoping. There was excitement when a sample of malting barley sent to the Franco British Exhibition won a prize. For John, and brother George from whose crop the sample came because John’s was not quite up to expectations that year, this result brought great pleasure and publicity.

John enjoyed the interest of trying different crops and in 1912 he and Alfred shipped a ton of onions to Adelaide by the S.S. Karatta. A report in the “Courier” states ‘to the best of our knowledge the first parcel of onions exported from the Island’.

Other by-products were eggs, pigs, vegetables and wattle bark.

He also enjoyed going off on prospecting trips, an enthusiasm no doubt fostered by his time at the gold fields when a young man. It was a hobby that with so many unexplored creeks and gullies on the Island always held a beckoning promise but it seems there was never any very significant find.

John was interested in public affairs and became first Clerk of the District Council holding the position for fifteen years. He was also a councillor for several years being chairman for a short period.

He was chairman of the Kingscote Agriculture Bureau and helped organize the first Agriculture Show in Kingscote and was chairman of the Show Committee and afterwards President of the K.I. Agriculture and Horticulture Society.

He shared with George the honor of laying the foundation stone for the new Kingscote Nursing Home in November 1929. They had both contributed generously toward the building.

Before World War 1, George Jr, second son of brother George, was assisting on the farm and had entered into a lease with a right to purchase the property when war broke out. George Jr. enlisted and went overseas with the A.I.F. Harry Schaefer, husband of John’s niece, managed the property for the duration. During these years a new house was built. A solid limestone dwelling that faced the sea. The old stone room which had been a small store in the early days remained. The store had been patronized by men going outback snaring, gumming or prospecting, they would call for supplies before heading off into the bush. The huge spreading Moreton Bay Fig Tree that shelters the old room today has provided shelter for many years for children swinging from its branches, farm implements out of the weather, hen and chickens in a coop, its dense shade being welcome in a heatwave with the water bag of pre-refrigeration hanging within easy reach.


John was a teetotaler having joined the Order of Rechabites in 1867. For many years he took the Sunday evening Church of England service in the Wisanger School.

He retired to Kingscote during the first world war, and had a general store in Murray Street in the building that adjoins the end of the District Hall. His last years were spent with his daughter Ruby and her husband Will Neighbor and their family at Bay View in Chapman Terrace, Kingscote.

John Turner had a strong personality which could be quite stern, a stern-ness which mellowed in late years . He was a keen business man but would also give help and support if he felt it was warranted, quite a few had cause to be grateful for his goodwill.

In 1982 there is still a John Turner on the Smiths Bay property. He is a great nephew of John who settled here in 1882, and son of George Jnr. who brought the farm after World War 1. The name “Sutton Apiary” has been changed to “Renrut” and son Ian has completed the full circle of sheep breeding for once again British Breeds are on the property, this time with Border Leicester and Suffolk studs which have been developed in recent years.

There were 131 descendants of John and Esther in 1982.

The historical information was collected from the Turner Family History Book written by Fay Davidson in 1982.