Keith Devenish, 2023
Pingrup is a small town in the Great Southern of Western Australia about 100 kilometers east of Katanning where sheep, wool and grain are produced. The town itself is 295 metres above sea level and was started after the Pingrup Railway Siding was officially opened in 1923. Pingrup’s average rainfall is 364mm with the wettest year being 1955 after 550mm was recorded and driest year being 1972 when only 176mm was recorded.
It seems likely that the area around Lake Pingrup was named as early as 1873 after explorers or shepherds heard the aboriginal name that sounded like Bingerup, which meant ‘the place of digging’. Perhaps the digging related to looking for yams. ‘Ping’ also means swamp or lake, and ‘up’ means place.
Much of the Pingrup district is part of an ancient drainage river system which is the headwaters for the Lockhart River catchment leading to the Avon River basin. The salt lake chains occur as remnants of this ancient drainage systems that now only results in surface flow in extremely wet years because the fall of the land is only about five meters in every 200 kilometers. Hence most of the rainfall collects in lakes and evaporates away leaving the salt behind. Pingrup is also home to several pink lakes.
There were three main European settlement periods in Pingrup when the majority of new pioneers took up virgin bush and cleared the land to start a farm:
The first settlement group was from 1911 to 1913 with the advent of cheap land and a likelihood of a railway line being built to Pingrup. Unfortunately, the railway didn’t eventuate and due to difficult times, droughts and World War One, most of the 50 or so, early settlers left the district.
The second big settlement was from 1921 to 1928 when the railway line was built and goods started to be transported out from Katanning by train every Thursday. Shops started to open up and a town started, but then along came the Great Depression in the 1930s which, once again, forced many settlers to leave their land.
The third large settlement was from 1963 to 1968 when new-land farmers were allocated larger blocks of virgin bush east of Pingrup. Once again, the district prospered for a while until drought, followed by low grain and wool prices, plus wheat quotas, meant many new-land farmers sold up and left in the 1970s.