Family history sparks Nick’s pilgrimage

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A family connection has seen Nick Trethowan travel to Frew Ponds today to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Overland Telegraph Line.

Nick’s great, great grandfather John Lewis was there on 22 August 1872 at the connection of the Overland Telegraph Line having played a unique role in its completion.

John ran the ‘pony express’, the mail delivery service of the day, ferrying telegrams between the two ends of the Overland Telegraph Line as it was being built.

With a team of three men, John would collect correspondence at one end of the line, strap a mailbag of telegrams to his chest and set off on horseback.

“The first trip they did was more than 400 kilometres between Tennant Creek and Daly Waters and it took them about two weeks,” Nick said.

“Once he and the team arrived, they’d deliver the mail, load up with telegrams again and head back the way they had just come.

“As the Telegraph line progressed more and more his trips got shorter and shorter until the lines were connected at Frew Ponds on August 22, 1872.”

Nick said he was proud of his family connection to the Overland Telegraph Line and wanted to travel to Frew Ponds to get a sense of the place.

“I really wanted to be able to experience the country and try and get a sense for what it would have been like building this amazing line,” he said.

“The people who built this would have been hard as nails, would never have given up and would have had to have worked their arses off.”

After the completion of the line, John did a brief stint as a miner before starting a successful and lucrative transport and logistics business between Pine Creek and Darwin.

Nick said he still couldn’t believe how the project ever got finished and that the impact the Overland Telegraph Line had on Australia was unprecedented.

“This was an absolute game changer,” he said.

“From it taking six months to get a message to London and back again suddenly it was taking eight hours.

“It wasn’t a step, it wasn’t a leap, it was a quantum leap.”

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