An important piece of Port Elliot and Goolwa history has been rediscovered following the return of a bugle, believed to be over 150 years old, that was stolen from the Goolwa Museum while on loan from the Royal Geographic Society South Australia (RGSSA).
The Bugle, engraved with "Eli Hillman Pt Elliot 29th March 1873" was used on the first horse drawn steel railway in Australia circa 1854, which ran between Port Elliot and Goolwa, and is of national significance.
Eli Hillman is believed to be the first conductor of the horse drawn train between the towns and used the bugle in this role. On Tuesday 9 April an email was forwarded to the RGSSA stating: "We have a bugle we picked up a few years ago at auction. As you can see - Eli Hillman Port Elliott is on this from 1873. Is this of any significance to your Society? "
Alexandrina Councillor and member of the RGSSA Council Bronwyn Lewis, answered immediately noting if it wasn't of interest to the Society then it would definitely be of interest to the National Trust in Port Elliot.
The group email then heard from Rod Shearing, Immediate past President of the RGSSA who confirmed the bugle did in fact belong to the Society and was noted as stolen while on loan in 2002. It's current owner Mark Taylor from Sydney, had bought the bugle in an auction about 10 years ago. Recently, his five year-old daughter Summer had developed an affinity for the bugle and begun playing it around the house. The constant racket prompted Mark to track down its original owners.
Mr Taylor and Cr Lewis began communication and the bugle was transferred to Cr Lewis' cousin who was able to return it while visiting Chiton in the school holidays.
"It was just a great story," said Councilor Lewis. "Mark's daughter Summer was a keen player of bugle and I think he got a bit fed up hearing it."
"I had no idea about the history surrounding the bugle and watching it unfold in front of me was amazing."
The bugle will be on display in the Port Elliot Chamber on Monday May 20 between 12-2 pm before it is returned to the Royal Geographic Society based in the State Library.