Nadan Singh –  Walcha NSW For 23 Years

Nadan Singh – Walcha NSW for 23 years

© Len Kenna and Crystal Jordan 2021

Nadan Singh was born in c. 1872 at Hardaspura Village, Tehsil Barnala, Punjab, India and migrated to New South Wales, Australia in 1894. He lived and worked as a Hawker, using a horse and wagon, in the country town of Walcha and the surrounding District.  He travelled between Walcha, Ingelba and Armidale. Ingelba is 28.2 kilometres southwest of Walcha and Armidale is 64 kilometres northwest of Walcha.

Walcha was proclaimed a town when it was gazetted on the 5 April 1878 and is situated at the south-eastern edge of the Northern Tablelands, New South Wales.  It is 425 kilometres by road from Sydney, with a population today of about 1460 people. The Apsley River passes through the town and falls over the Apsley Falls then joins the Macleay River. Originally the river caused flooding in the town before a levee bank was built which saved the town from flooding. The Main North railway line is 20 kilometres west at a separate village named, Walcha Road, which serves as the railhead because the line could not be built to the town as there is a very steep climb over the Great Dividing Range.

Ingelba was a small district that was close to a gold mining area, it had a flour mill situated on the Ingelba Creek that was operated by a water wheel and a small shop.

Map Showing Igelba, Walcha and Armidale, New South Wales. Courtesy Google Maps.

When Nadan arrived in Walcha in 1894 it was a very small town with only a few buildings for example, the Court House built in 1878, a Hotel, a Store, a Church of England which was possibly the first building in the area which was built in 1862 before Walcha was proclaimed a town, as was the cottage used as a Policeman’s residence.

Nadan’s business was that of a skin and hide Hawker and Dealer, he sold skins such as possum or sheep skins which were a well sort after item for example in 1903 a bale of skins and hides was advertised in the Armidale Chronicle at £24.10s per bale.  To work as a Hawker he had to obtain a Hawker’s License at the Walcha Police Court in December each year. He was the only Sikh found to date being issued a Hawker’s License in Walcha, however other Indians were issued Licences they were: Meelah, Chadue Khan, Charlie Agee, Monte Lahman, Munshee Khan, Billy Chadju Khan Nehala, Fatta Dean, Nawab Khan and Fattah Khan. On Tuesday 26 September 1899 Goolam Ghaz, another Hawker, took Nadan to the Walcha Police Court to recover money owed to him for money he lent and goods he supplied to Nadan. Nadan admitted the debt and promised to pay Goolam. Nabob Khan was a witness in the case.

On the 8 September 1904 Nadan Singh lodged an application with the local Land Office for a lease of 10 acres of land for use as grazing and agriculture and to build a store. His application for the lease No: 4472 was granted 1 November 1905 to 31 December 1919. His annual rent on the lease was £2 ($4).

In April 1905 Nadan registered his own Horse Brand No: 90925 (NH-), (N) for Nadan and (H) for horse. His address at that time was Walcha Road, Walcha. (Government Gazette NSW No: 195, p. 2469. 1905.)

After being granted a land lease Nadan carried on his hawking business while he established his store and farm.  Often Indians employed or went into business with another hawker or countryman and they alternated their time of storekeeping and hawking. Once his store was established Nadan gave up hawking and carried on his business as a Storekeeper at Walcha. However it has been mentioned in two character references that he also operated a store at Ingelba. He was looked upon by the police as a law abiding citizen and was well respected by his customers as a very honest man.

No informaton can be found about Nadan Singh around the Walcha District and any history of him has long been forgotten by the locals. One of the reasons for this is that many local newpapers have been destroyed by fires that went through that district in past years and many of the older residents have died.

William Robert Hyde Scott’s Blacksmith and Wheelwright Business at Walcha, this is where Nadan Singh would have had repairs and maintenance done on his Hawker’s Wagon. William Scott also gave a character reference to Nadan in 1917 when he returned to India. Photo: Courtesy of Walcha Museum.
Nadan Singh May 1917. Courtesy of National Archives.

In May 1917 Nadan decided to return to India for the first time since he arrived in Australia. and travelled from Walcha to Sydney where he stayed at a boarding house at 195 Elizabeth Street, Redfern. Before leaving Australia, Nadan made arrangements for his re-entry into Australia, this was necessary because of the introduction of the “Immigration Restriction Act 1901,” better known as the “White Australia Policy.”  He was required to apply for a three-year Certificate of Exemption to the Dictation Test (C.E.D.T.). Nadan applied for his C.E.D.T. at Redfern on 16 May 1917, and he was described as 45 years of age, 5ft. 8 and a half inches tall when he wore boots, medium build, dark complexion, dark hair, brown eyes and had distinguishing marks of an earring hole in each ear.

Nadan was literate and could sign his own name on documents.  He stated on his application that he had lived in the Walcha District for 23 years.  He also obtained six portrait photographs taken at The Commonwealth Studios, the Grand Opera Buildings, 337 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, opposite Central Railway Station and two character references, they were from Mr. William Robert Hyde Scott, a Justice of the Peace and Blacksmith, Walcha, who had known Nadan for about 10 years and had found him honest and straightforward and Mr. Cornelius Seckold, a Justice of the Peace and Saddler, who had known Nadan for about fifteen years during his residence in the Walcha District. 

Nadan’s application was approved, and he was granted C.E.D.T Book No: 214/No:60, dated 6 June 1917 and he left Australia for India and disappeared from the Records after he left Australia.

When Nadan returned to his ancestral home in Hardaspura in 1917 he purchased 5 acres of agricultural land with money he had earned in Australia. Unfortunately he neglected to have the title of the land registered into his name and when he died in 1935 his family could not inherit his land.

Cornelius Seckold owned the Saddlery in Walcha. He wrote a character reference for Nadan in 1917. Courtesy of Walcha Museum.

Bibliography:

  1. “The Walcha Police Court.” The Walcha Witness and Vernon County Record NSW 30 Sep. 1899, p. 2.
  2. Hawker’s Licences, The Walcha News and Southern New England Advocate NSW.
  3. “Stock Act 1901 Stock Brands,” Government Gazette NSW Issue No: 195 Supplement p. 2469.  Fri. 14 April
  4. 1905. Special; Leases granted Gov. Gaz. NSW. Sat. 25 Nov. 1905, Issue No 609, Supplement p. 7899.
  5. Mr. W. R. H. Scott and Mr. C. Seckold, Justices of the Peace, Character Referees for Nadan Singh CEDT 1917, NAA.
  6. Sergeant Finlay McRae Steele, Service No. 3990 who began duty Walcha Police Station in 1907 report 1917, NAA.
  7. Nation Archives Australia.
  8. Vic Galvin, Walcha.