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Year: 2004






04_cotterill_jack_1

Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2004.


In 1952 Jack and his wife Elsie Cotterill with their two sons, Jim and John, emigrated from England to Adelaide. Jack found a job working for the South Australian Railways as an engineer which he did for a couple of years.

Jack wanted to see more of the country and eventually took up a job in central Australia working for Len Tuit as a diesel mechanic. By the mid 1950s he started conducting his own tours to Palm Valley and West McDonnells.

Developing a keen interest in tourism by 1958 he began a flying tour to Ayers Rock (now Uluru) with Connellan Airways and built a lodge there with his partners, the Underdown family, who also owned and operated the Alice Springs Hotel. Jack Cotterill called the new business Alice Springs Tours Ltd. The idea was that Jack would maintain the tour vehicles and the Underdowns would accommodate guests in Alice Springs. Jack and his family lived in their BP service station in Alice Springs.

In 1960, Jack's friend, Arthur Liddle, the then owner of Angas Downs station, took Jack and his son Jim to Tempe Downs station to inspect a spectacular natural formation called Kings Canyon. There was no road into the canyon and they had to cut through native scrubland but Jack was impressed and immediately saw potential to create another major tourism attraction. The group spent two days following the creek beds, tracks and gullies to find their way in. Some serious work had to be done if Kings Canyon was to be developed. The Cotterill family moved to a block on Angus Downs leased to them by the Liddle family which they named Wallara Ranch with the express purpose of opening up the canyon to tourism. Road access was top priority.

Jack and Jim had an old Dodge weapons carrier behind which they built a drag from two pieces of railway sleeper welded together in an A shape. They used this to literally cut and push their own road into the scrub for the 65 miles from Yowa Bore into the base of the climb at the canyon ridge. Wallara then consisted of a dining room and an accommodation block that could house 20 people. The first year 600 people visited this spectacular attraction. Today, in excess of 100,000 tourists a year visit. From the Alice tours to Kings Canyon took three days one to get there, one into the canyon and back, and the other one to get back to Alice Springs. Jack used a variety of vehicles over the years including Volkswagon Kombis. His first bus was a new AA120 International 12 seater and his second was a home made 20 seater made by welding two old ASW 160 chassis together. His son Jim drove the chassis to Adelaide where Bertie Bond built a bus body on it. They conducted many tours throughout central Australia over the years becoming a household name in the region.

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