Family History
Bush Characters
COOMBS, John George (aka Jack) 1852-1930

The Murray Pioneer, 9 July 1914
Mr Jack Coombs lately visiting Renmark, has a long record as a coach driver, and is almost certainly the oldest surviving pioneer mailman of the old river stage from Blanchetown to Wentworth.

"Yes", said the old villain to a representative of "The Pioneer", "it's a long, long drive and no mistake. Forty years of it! Forty years handling the ribbons, on all sorts of roads, with all sorts of teams, in all sorts of weather".
"The eyes go first", said Mr Coombs; and no wonder, after staring into the dark so much. When they begin to fail, it's time to hand the reins over; time to step down from the box; time to say goodbye to the road and the coach".

"I commenced driving in 1870 and was employed by Mr W Crick. My stage - the 150 mile run between Blanchetown and Wentworth - occupied 24 hours."

"When the flood came down the Darling and Murray, there was an inland sea from the Anabranch bridge to Wentworth - a distance of nearly 12 miles - and I had to deliver the mails per boat. It was a long pull, and I soon chucked the job".


"I have picked up exhausted men in the bush, dying from want of water. In 1875 I came across one in the Ral Ral scrub. He would certainly have perished had I not found him, and in '78 I discovered another chap laying right across the track at the old Thurk boundary. He was 20 miles from water and in a bad state".

Mr Coombs, whose brothers William and George are well known in Renmark was born at Thebarton in 1852 and 2 years later came up river with his parents, who reached the province from England in 1838. They went to work at Chowilla Station, which was then owned by "Bully" Chambers. From Chowilla they moved to Lake Victoria, where John McKinley held sway.

"During my forty years driving I never had what could be called a bad smash. One night, however, at a place called Wattle Flat, between Normanville and Noarlunga, a mare, working in the pole, got down and in her struggles pulled the coach over an embankment, and we were all sent flying. Charlie Tucker the MP was on the box with me when the coach toppled over, but no one was hurt."

"I have picked up exhausted men in the bush, dying from want of water. In 1875 I came across one in the Ral Ral scrub. He would certainly have perished had I not found him, and in '78 I discovered another chap laying right across the track at the old Thurk boundary. He was 20 miles from water and in a bad state".

Mr Coombs, whose brothers William and George are well known in Renmark was born at Thebarton in 1852 and 2 years later came up river with his parents, who reached the province from England in 1838. They went to work at Chowilla Station, which was then owned by "Bully" Chambers. From Chowilla they moved to Lake Victoria, where John McKinley held sway.

In 1877 Mr Coombs was presented with a silver watch by the inhabitants of Blanchetown as a token of esteem and in recognition of his service as a mailman.


"Joe Goldsworthy, Harry Pegler and Charlie Lambert each had a go at the mail contracting in those days and I drove for them all. In 1879 I put the first coach through the Ral Ral scrub, or Stoney Pinch track as it is so often called, and drove the 150 miles between Morgan and Wentworth for 3 years without a break. We only ran one coach a week, and I was the only driver employed on that road".

"In 1882 I left the Murray and drove on the overland stage line between Meningie and Kingston until May 1886. After that I ws employed by Hill & Co on the Crystal Brook - Clare road until 1912, when the lamps failed".

"During my forty years driving I never had what could be called a bad smash. One night, however, at a place called Wattle Flat, between Normanville and Noarlunga, a mare, working in the pole, got down and in her struggles pulled the coach over an embankment, and we were all sent flying. Charlie Tucker the MP was on the box with me when the coach toppled over, but no one was hurt."