a_clouded_visionA Clouded Vision

The Life of Andrew Barr: pioneer - inventor

1855 - 1939.

by Hugh Clift

ISBN 085905 320 2, (2003 new), 130 pp, A4 wire bound, illustrated, 375grams

$30.00* + POST

Andrew Barr was born in Scotland, the eldest of 14 children. The family immigrated to South Australia in 1874, where Andrew married Rosetta Gilbert in 1877.

He became a prosperous farmer and invented a "jumping scarifier" which took many prizes at agricultural shows and was widely used in South Australia. He also invented a stump jump cultivator in 1880, which won first prize in a competition in 1880. His greatest invention was the world's first disc plough, which he first used in 1885. He improved the prototype disc plough to the point where he was able to sign a contract for its manufacture in 1892, but before any disc ploughs could be built, the firm became bankrupt in Australia's worst economic depression, which had already forced Andrew off his farm. He became an agricultural labourer and in 1897 decided to try his luck in Western Australia.

He and his wife and the younger children travelled from Adelaide to Albany, and thence to Doodlakine, where his first crop of wheat failed, because of the prolonged drought of the 1890s. His two eldest sons (aged 19 and 17) and an adult companion had travelled overland across the Nullarbor with the family's goods and chattels on a horse-drawn dray, and after the birth of Rosetta's eleventh child, the family became the pioneers of the Bruce Rock district. Andrew and his eldest sons were sandalwooders, based at Nunagin Rock, until Rosetta's death there in 1901. Rosetta's well-kept grave is near the entrance to the Bruce Rock golf course.

The eldest son, Gilbert, had blazed the track from Mindebooka to Nunagin and remained a sandalwooder until 1904. Extracts from Gilbert and David Barr's letters from France during the First World War are included in the book and are particularly informative in an uncensored account of the First Battle of Bullecourt, where Australian infantry succeeded in breaking clean through the Hindeburg Line in 1917, but had to surrender or retreat because of total lack of artillery support and the total failure of the tanks.

In 1902, the family became the pioneers of the Mindebooka district and Andrew's inventive genius was employed in the patenting of a caterpillar-track all terrain vehicle in 1901 and a wing-flapping flying machine which he patented in June 1903 in Perth and in 1904 in London. On 2nd June 1903 Andrew demonstrated his clockwork model in flight at the Perth Military barracks. His figure-of-eight wing movement was the precursor of contemporary ornithopter models now being used in military research.

Andrew also patented an all-purpose agricultural digging machine in 1911 and a Mallee stump eradicator in 1921. He also claimed to have invented a solar engine in 1919, but no details are available. 

Andrew's homestead was destroyed by a willy-willy in 1933, and he and his second wife, Anna, lived with relatives in Walgoolan, then in Bendering, where he died. He was buried in the old Kondinin cemetery.