Peer (Pir) Mohammed: camel entrepreneur between continents

 

Tall Tales but True – a series courtesy the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.

 

Like many of the “Afghan” camel men who came to Australia Peer Mohammed (Mahomet) claims to have fought for the British Army with the Amir’s contingent during the Boer War.

Peer (at right) left a wife and children behind in Peshawar, now Pakistan, and married again in Australia. He never saw his Afghan family again.

He was originally a goldsmith and jeweler before coming to Australia where he later married Ruby Stuart, the daughter of an Englishman and an indigenous woman. Peer Mohammed worked as a camel driver and importer and is recorded as having sold camels to Baricot in Afghanistan in 1902.

In 1882 he bought a string of laden camels through the MacDonnell Ranges into the tiny settlement of Stuart (now Alice Springs). This was just a decade after the opening of the Overland Telegraph Line and he recalled the completed line of wooden poles.

After returning to India for a period he came back to Alice Springs with his camel team again in 1885 and was shocked to find that white-ants and fires had taken their toll and the poles were being replaced by iron ones.

Peer returned to India in 1905 but by 1910 was living at West Camel Camp in Broken Hill, working as a camel driver for Basha Gul.

He returned to India again and in 1911 was resolutely refused re-entry into Australia; but he came back anyway.

He then operated a small mine at Sliding Rock in the Flinders Ranges, SA, but this was not as lucrative as he’d anticipated and he turned his attention back to driving camel teams.

Once motorised transport started to make inroads into servicing the freight needs of the cattle stations throughout the outback Peer Mohammed found work carrying railway sleepers for the east-west railways before finally retiring. Peer Mohammed died in Port Augusta in 1940 and is reported to have been destitute.

His son Gul (Gool) Muhammed also worked as a cameleer. Gul married Miriam Khan from Marree and went on to become one of the last cameleers to operate in the Alice Springs area.

Gul’s son, Sallay (Saleh) married an Australian woman, Iris, and went on to form a trucking company in Central Australia with his sons John and Noor.

In 1979 Saleh (at right) delivered four racing camels to King Khalid of Saudi Arabia as a gift from the Australian Government.

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