Gunner Bill's Gallery - Bute, South Australia


May 17, 2009

I was all ready to bag the town of Bute as not being worth the visit but then Enigma and I had a look around Gunner Bill's Gallery in Bute and I changed my mind. First though, let's back up a bit.

After spending our Saturday at the Cornish Festival in Moonta, Enigma and I were wondering how to spend our Sunday, the final day of our holiday? We knew there was a fair on at Kadina for the final day of the Cornish Festival but we had a sneaking suspicion we'd see pretty much all the same food vans we saw at the fair at Moonta so decided not to go.

I read in a tourist magazine a single paragraph about the town of Bute which mentioned that the town had an award winning fauna park and a Gallery/museum/craft shop. Thinking the fauna park might be a good animal photo opportunity and the Gallery could be interesting we decided to go. Bute was on the way home anyway (we passed through it on the trip to Port Broughton but it was dark then).

Bute is small so the fauna park was easy to find. Like any kind of park you usually find a gate to go in. This park didn't have one. You simply walk around the fenced off perimeter and view the animals within. A sign behind the fence informed us that this was Bob Brokate Park.

How it became an 'award winning' fauna park I'll never know? It's not that the animals don't look well kept or that the caged areas aren't appropriate for each animal, it's just that there is nothing special about it. As a park it's functional but that's about all.

Enigma and I deduced that it probably won an award for the best fauna park in Bute because it's no Gorge Wildlife park. However it's free and we did get one or two good photos of emus, wallabies and birds.

Bute is a very small town and you've got to love a town where some local has enhanced its entry statement with a spray painted shout out to the local football team (I'm assuming) across the middle of the road.

The statement you can see on the road in this photo on the right proclaims; "BCC A GRADE PREMIERS 5 IN A ROW". That's five in a row!

It's at this point I was thinking Bute wasn't really a town I'd go out of my way to see but after killing enough time waiting for Gunner Bill's Gallery and Craft to open at 11am Enigma and I finally got to go in and have a look around.

The Gallery and Craft aspect of Gunner Bill's is high quality with more craft than art but you could see this stuff in almost any rural, South Australian town. What changed my mind was the museum which, unlike most museums I've seen around South Australia focuses, in part, on the Australian Swag man. In particular one swag man known as Gunner Bill.

I didn't take in much about Gunner Bill but I did notice one photo of him receiving a food package as late as 1956 when he was still living the swag man's life style. I don't know a lot about the history of swag men but, at a guess, I would've thought the traditional Australian Swag man were few and far between by 1956. I could be wrong but I always thought they were from a much earlier era in Australian history.

The Gallery has a self published book featuring Swag man stories that I would've liked to have bought but unfortunately my budget wouldn't allow it.

Anyhow, if you have a particular interest in the history of the swag man then Bute is a good place to start your research or at least to learn about one, some what, famous local 'swaggie'. That aspect of Bute's history gives it a point of difference from other towns in the region.

Unfortunately my camera batteries were low by the time we got to the gallery so I was being very selective about taking photos however if you do happen visit Bute you'll find Gunner Bill's Gallery in the old Police Station just across the road from Bute Railway station.

7 comments:

  1. I don't know why it was an 'award winning' fauna park either, but the animals would be interesting anyway.

    Your blogs don't send notifications like MySpace do, you just have to check back, and remember which ones if you posted for more than one. Is there a feature for this to enable?

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  4. It is an award winning park as there are facilities for kids, parents, BBQ's and to just kick back and relax whilst watching the animals.
    The park was started in approx 1974 by the Bute Rural Youth, then the Lions Club when the Rural youth folded. The sign on the road related to the Bute Cricket Club!
    Next time talk to some locals and we'll only be too happy to enlighten you.

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    1. As I recall we were just passing through Bute and stayed for an hour or two. Didn't see any locals to really talk to other than at the gallery. Probably because it was Sunday morning - if we weren't travelling I wouldn't usually be out and about on a Sunday morning either.

      We couldn't see any of the facilities you mention near the wildlife park - seemed like all you could do was walk around the perimeter fence.

      I'm not that familiar with sports but you don't usually get that kind of blatant enthusiasm from cricket fans. Seemed like something a footy fan would do to me - but I stand corrected).

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    2. The gallery is run by locals. There is an undercover BBQ area at the park & Across the road. The playground at the fauna park (inc tractor) may be a little more to do with the areas economy. But there is a modern Playground across the road.
      I remember taking many people there including Exchange students & they loved it. In fact for some of them it was the closest they ever got to a Kangaroo while in Australia & to be able to see Albino ones was even betta in their natural setting with Emu's etc. I think its a great community project for locals & tourists and Bute should pride its self on having such a great place with a population of approx 300. Bute is to small to make it a money making tourist attraction.

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    3. The gallery only had one local during our visit on duty and we really didn't talk much because we were looking around the gallery.

      I've visited many wildlife parks in my travels. Whilst I'm not saying Bute's park is bad, I just don't see how it became award winning? Was the award for wildlife parks or community projects?

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