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.