Platypus rug comes home

ON DISPALY: President of the Alstonville Plateau Historical Society John Sim checks out the old platypus rug on display at Crawford House.
ON DISPALY: President of the Alstonville Plateau Historical Society John Sim checks out the old platypus rug on display at Crawford House.

A RUG, made up of skins from 80 unfortunate platypus, is on display at Crawford House Museum in Alstonville. The platypus rug is a feature of an exhibition called Platypus, Pioneer, Progress: A Story of Changing Attitudes.

The skins were collected by Charles Bulwinkel who moved to the Alstonville area in 1880s, acquiring 360 acres. He became manager of the sugar mill at Rous.

"In those days platypus were considered a nuisance," president of the Alstonville Historical Society John Sim told The Echo, "because when cows went to the creek for a drink, they could stand in a platypus burrow and break a leg."

Yes, attitudes have changed. Alstonville people still see platypus in the local creeks but hunting them is not a popular option now.

The platypus that unwilling donated their skins to the rug were hunted by Charles (and perhaps his sons) in Duck and Bully's (now called Macguires) creeks. When Charles died in 1918 the skins passed onto his daughter Greta who had them made into a rug around 1930. The rug itself, now kept under protective glass, was made with a striking diamond pattern; the darker fur of the platypus's back contrasting with the gold stomach fur.

The Bulwinkel family has multiplied and dispersed over the generations but came from far afield to attend the exhibition opening on Tuesday.

"It's a defacto Bulwinkel family reunion," Mr Sim said. "Members of the family have come from Brisbane, Toowoomba, Armidale and Sydney."

The rug is on loan till October 26 from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. The museum acquired the rug in 2004 at auction, according to the museum's Carey Ward. Carey supervised loaning and transporting the rug to Crawford House and attended Tuesday's opening.

"I like that we're bringing something that belongs here back to the area," Mr Ward said. "North Coast people can enjoy this special item of local significance. And unlike possum rugs, platypus rugs are quite rare."

Platypus, Pioneer, Progress: A Story of Changing Attitudes runs at Crawford House Museum, 10 Wardell Road, Alstonville, till October 26. The exhibition is open Fridays, 10am-4pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4pm. Or by appointment. (Phone John Sim on 6687 8469.)

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