Merluna Station, located around 120 kilometres to the south-east of Weipa, can trace its history well back into the 19th century. On 1 January 1908, Leopold Tamerlane Watson applied for and was issued a lease on Pioneer Downs Station and some four year later, at the request of Watson, the station’s name was changed to Merluna Station. However, the name Merluna appears to predate this change of name from Pioneer Downs as records show that as early as 1888, Watson was using the name Merluna as his place of residence.
The area comprising the present day Merluna appears to have been originally taken up around 1884 by Messrs Sefton and Cox, in five individual runs brought together as Pioneer Downs. This original area was however soon expanded by the addition of two runs by January 1885. The Watson Family came into ownership in 1886, when Pioneer Downs was transferred to S.G. Watson and later, in 1888, to G.J.M., E.S. and L. Watson. In these early years, as with many other remote stations, conflict with the local Aborigines was an on-going reality with misunderstandings on both sides very common.
Merluna Station appears to pass out of the Watson family’s ownership in 1914 with various other owners following as the property’s boundaries were altered or expanded. However, the Watson name lives on in the name of the nearby Watson River. As with similar large stations, the precise dimensions and area are difficult to pinpoint at different times throughout a station’s life. For instance, in the 1950s, Merluna Station was actually registered as Boyd’s Lagoon, comprising an area of some 600 square kilometres. However, it is unclear whether this covered or included the same area as present day Merluna Station or whether Boyd’s Lagoon was a separate holding. Also, at one stage, the adjoining and much larger station, York Downs, was listed as covering a number of different areas including Merluna Station.
Present day Merluna Station remains a working cattle station covering more than 160,000 hectares with the original stockmens’ quarters now converted into visitor and tourist accommodation.
Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland