A Deadly Magpie

Who would have thought that I would stumble across a one in a million story about a Cooke’s Plains Overseer and his deadly pet Magpie, while photographing the historic proposed town of Bedford – near what we now know as Cooke’s Plains in late May 2017.

Uncovering the forgotten broken headstone of Robert Anderson of Bedford, lying partly buried under soil, Onion Weed and old Veldt Grass, the image was added to my weekend Blog – not knowing that it would be seen by the long lost Great Grand Daughter, Rosemary Baxter of Adelaide, holidaying in Murray Bridge.


Sitting by chance opposite Kathleen and Harry Kromwyk of Tailem Bend on Murray Bridge’s  Captain Proud Paddle Boat chatting about, of course, Tailem Bend rail history – Kathleen shared my post with her new found friend, Rosemary.

Rosemary couldn’t contain her excitement, explaining to Kathleen, that she had finally found the resting place of her late Great Grandfather, Robert Anderson.

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What emerged was a fascinating story of a McFarlane Overseer, Great Grandpa Robert Anderson and his friendly, yet deadly, pet Magpie that unintentionally took his life.

Grandpa Anderson

Rosemary explained that her late Great Grandpa Anderson had been working for the McFarlane family as an Overseer for some time before he came across an abandoned baby Magpie.

Taking the little fella under his wing he reared his captivating tiny mate for many years until his Australian iconic bird grew to be full size.

Spending most of his waking days with his magpie on his shoulder Great Grandpas Magpie began to speak, mimicking nearly everything that was muttered – especially the commands given to the Station horses.

“Whoo Bessie, back up Bessie, wait Bessie” Great Grandpa Andersons little mate could say it all – and more, much more.

One freezing Mallee morning, after hooking up Bessie, Great Grandpa Anderson took off for a long round trip to the local store to collect stores for the Homestead, it was a long tiring routine trip and on his return he was regularly forced to unload in the dark.

Backing the heavily aliened horse and cart up to the foot of the Homesteads sunken cellar exhausted and cold, he commanded “Whoo Bessie, Back up Bessie” and without any warning his feathered mate decided to repeat the instructions “Whoo Bessie, Back up Bessie.”

Well Great Grandpa’s little mate could have not picked a worse time to mimic his long time friend, with that a confused Bessie abruptly stopped and then quickly began to continue backwards tipping the load, the cart and all aboard into the cellar.

Hitting his head hard Great Grandpa woke with most of the load about him, so without any time to waste he quickly unhooked Bessie and left the mess for the morning.

That night Great Grandpa Anderson slept like a log before waking suddenly, complaining to his wife of a thumping headache and without any forewarning he was dead from a massive bleed on the brain.

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Lost, then found, but never forgotten Great Grandpa Robert Andersons resting place can be found at the old Bedford Cemetery near what we now know as Cooke’s Plains.

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