The end of an era

Whyalla will be witness to an historical event in the coming months.

Middleback Station, Roopena Station, Tregalana Station and Katunga Station will see the last of its days as the iconic pastoral lands are to be no more.

The stations, owned and run by the Nicolson family, are in their last few months of operation before being handed over to the Australian Defence Force as part of the Cultana army base expansion.

Four generations of Nicolsons have worked on the station land surrounding Whyalla since George Andrew Nicolson bought Roopena Station in 1919.

By 1940 the Nicolson family land consisted of Roopena, Middleback, Tregalana, Nonowie, Mount Young and Mount Laura stations, bringing the total holdings at 560 square miles.

In 1950, 2000 acres just north of the now Nicolson Avenue was bought by the South Australian Government with a condition that the area around the Mount Laura Homestead be turned into a park.

This area is now known as Civic Park.

In 1954 further expansion of land was required for Whyalla.

Mr Nicolson gave up more acres but held on to 90 acres including the race track and the land in front of the Mount Laura Homestead, which is the Whyalla "Eco-city" site.

Mount Laura Homestead Museum warden Phil Fisher said the 'Nicolson Clan' has been a part of that land for close to 100 years.

The land is also historically significant to the Barngarla Aboriginal people, being used many years ago as a passing through area for the tribe on their way to the Gawler Ranges.

"Because there was no steady source of water, they would pass through here and move on," Mr Fisher said.

One of the current generation of Nicolson land holders, Andrew Nicolson, has been busy going through the shut down process of these stations.

The process is a massive undertaking consisting of the final shearing of sheep, the selling of equipment and the dismantling of buildings such as holding sheds.

Andrew, along with several other Nicolson family members and extra farm hands that have been called in, are in the final few months of living on this family land, a process that is proving to be both sad and difficult.

The final shearing of the historical Middleback Station took place in early March, with Katunga taking place in mid-April.

Altogether around 16,000 sheep were shorn in the final shearing run.

The sheep are currently in the process of being sold to nearby stations, mainly at auctions held in Jamestown.

To mark the occasion of the final sheep shearing, the family and station workers recreated a photo taken in 1920.

The original photo was of Andrew's great grandfather George Andrew Nicolson and his shearing team at the time.

"We took one right down to the same carton with the whole family," Andrew said.

The sale of the equipment is still yet to happen due to the stations still being operational until July 31 this year.

Andrew and his cousin Lachlan Nicolson have had to bring on extra hands to help with the additional labour that has been created by the shut down.

When asked what the Nicolson family will be doing next, Andrew was contemplative.

Andrew is hoping for a scenery change and looking to possibly move to the Adelaide Hills for greener pastures.

He said he may take a break from living in Whyalla for a while after he settles up his family's business.

"It will be sad to look out onto land that you once used to work on," he said.

LAST MUSTER: The Middleback Station owners and mustering team gather for one last hoorah. Pictured in no particular order are Lucy Nicolson, Andrew Nicolson, Andrew Nicolson, Brodie Sawyer, Mick Foster, Don Nicolson, Lockey Nicolson, Jarred Droppers from Mount Gambier, Robert McDonald from Port Augusta, Andrew Moore from New Zealand, Jade Whittingham, Hine-Maree Terekia, Linda Roach from Kangaroo Island, Nina Thurbon and Luke Thurbon from Streaky Bay, Stephan Mudge from Poochera, Scott Irlam from Bordertown, Mitchel Schmidt from Laura, Jared Phillips from Cummins, Ryan Featonby from Clare, Andy Longbottom from Streaky Bay and Robert Harrowfield from Adelaide.

LAST MUSTER: The Middleback Station owners and mustering team gather for one last hoorah. Pictured in no particular order are Lucy Nicolson, Andrew Nicolson, Andrew Nicolson, Brodie Sawyer, Mick Foster, Don Nicolson, Lockey Nicolson, Jarred Droppers from Mount Gambier, Robert McDonald from Port Augusta, Andrew Moore from New Zealand, Jade Whittingham, Hine-Maree Terekia, Linda Roach from Kangaroo Island, Nina Thurbon and Luke Thurbon from Streaky Bay, Stephan Mudge from Poochera, Scott Irlam from Bordertown, Mitchel Schmidt from Laura, Jared Phillips from Cummins, Ryan Featonby from Clare, Andy Longbottom from Streaky Bay and Robert Harrowfield from Adelaide.