Blackall’s country charm
Alan Betteridge goes touring the Aussie Outback and discovers Blackall
Most houses do not have a hot water system. Instead most have a water cooling system!
T HERE is something about the Australian Outback that appeals to the average Aussie’s sense of belonging – even if they have never been there.
There is no doubt that even in the grip of one of the worst droughts in living memory, the Outback gives you a feeling of belonging.
Blackall is situated on the Landsborough (or Matilda Way as it is now becoming known) Highway, about midway between Charleville and Longreach, some 1000km north-west of Brisbane.
The area around Blackall was explored by Major Thomas Mitchell in 1846.
It was Mitchell who named the river that flows past the town the Victoria River, but this was subsequently changed to the more distinctive Barcoo, an aboriginal name meaning “ice on water”.
The township was surveyed in 1868, although a small township already existed some 6km east of present-day Blackall. It was named after Queensland’s second governor, Sir Samuel Blackall.
There is no doubt that the township owes its existence to the Great Artesian Bore, which supplies the water.
The first bore, aptly named Pioneer Bore, was drilled in 1885 to a depth of 800m.
The bore, along with a replica of the drilling rig typical of the time, can be seen at the end of Clematis St, a short distance from Shamrock St.
The town’s water supply now comes from a series of three bores that were sunk in 1994 and are reticulated directly into the town’s supply.
The temperature of the water when it reaches the surface is about 60 degrees.
Blackall, like much of Australia, was built on the backs of sheep, and the town owes much of its history to them and the industry that grew around them.
Blackall was the town that legendary shearer Jack Howe called home.
In 1892, Howe sheared a record of 321 sheep in 7 hours, 40 minutes, with blade shears, a record that remains to this day.
Blackall has another, less fortunate, claim to fame. It has the dubious honour of being the town that became known as the town that killed Santa.
In times past, it was a tradition in the town to have “Santa” hang off the back of the fire truck and throw sweets to the children who would line the street for the Christmas parade.
This fateful year the person who normally played this part was unavailable, so a shearer was called upon to take the role.
Unfortunately he had partaken of the local hotel’s hospitality, causing him to fall from the truck and strike his head, which led to his untimely demise.
As can be imagined, this was the cause of major concern for many of the children, who believed there would be no presents that year.
There is so much to see and do in Blackall that you could easily spend a week to take it all in.
OUTBACK ART: An eagle with her nest stands watch over the Barcoo River – one of many sculptures scattered around the town.
The Blackall Visitor Information Centre is located in the old railway station building in Ram Park.
RECORD-HOLDER: A statue was erected in Blackall to acknowledge legendary shearer Jack Howe.