Thomas Edward Neaylon

In January 1875 Thomas Neaylon bought the store at Bolla Bollana from Robert Whitbread and T.J.C. Hantke. Within a year most of his customers had gone. Unfortunately those that did come, disturbing his peace and reminiscences, had little money, if any at all. The Bollna Bollna Mining Company had not paid out the wages due to some of the miners. They had nothing left but to sue the company. Fourteen summonses were eventually taken out and on 14 March 1876 handed by W.J. Paull J.P. to Police Trooper Power of Sliding Rock for immediate service on the Bollna Bollna South Australian Mining and Smelting Company Limited.

Still Thomas Neaylon remained at his store, reminiscing and hoping against hope. Maybe it was the solitude of the site, hemmed in by those harsh red rock faces with their delicate and fragile vegetation, which kept him there. He would have had time to enjoy the magnificent changing of colours of his surroundings with the sun slowly disappearing every night behind those hills, giving a serenity probably unequalled anywhere. This would in turn be replaced by a star-studded sky and an almost total silence, only occasionally broken by the sound of a kangaroo or goat foraging in the nearby hills, or the eerie howling of a dingo in the far distance.

Nevertheless, nobody can live by scenery alone and during 1878 Thomas Neaylon was forced to look for additional income to keep his head above water. This he did by securing the contract for the fortnightly mail run between Beltana and Innamincka, and another run from Beltana to Government Gums, later renamed Farina. This forced him also to finally leave his peaceful retreat at Bolla Bollana and exchange it for the hustle and bustle of Beltana.

Two years later he too had become a victim of high transport cost, isolation, drought and lack of development in the Far North. On 4 January and again on 1 February 1881 Thomas Neaylon had to appear in the Adelaide Insolvency Court to face his creditors, like his predecessors, Whitbread and Hantke, had done a year earlier.

Unfortunately isolation at Bolla Bollana was still as big a problem as before, as was the lack of facilities, including that of a doctor. Charles O'Donnel, suffered unbearable pain in April 1892, as a result of an accident at the Daly and Stanley mines. In the end it drove him to take his own life by deliberately placing the muzzle of his gun to his mouth and pulling the trigger. Many decades had to pass yet before 'the mantle of safety' provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, would reach the Northern Flinders Ranges. Obviously some people found it very difficult to come to terms with the problems of isolation and distance. Very few could handle it for long. Most would drift back to the larger mining centres or towns, where there were at least some modern conveniences.

Thomas Neaylon, regardless of his economic setbacks, managed to get back on his feet again and by 1898 was the publican at Oodnadatta. He died at Mount Gason, on the Birdsville Track and named after Samuel Gason, in 1916 aged about seventy.

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