Ri­val How Rocky stole march on

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - MICHAEL MADI­GAN

IT WAS 1857 and the prison hulks that brought con­victs to Aus­tralia were be­ing re­tired on the River Thames, the fa­ther of Fed­er­a­tion, Al­fred Deakin, was cel­e­brat­ing his first birth­day, and on the cor­ner of Quay and Fitzroy streets in Rock­hamp­ton, Richard Parker was build­ing a slab hut called The Bush Inn.

On a Septem­ber af­ter­noon 160 years later, Kahley Bryson is pulling beers on ex­actly the same spot, gaz­ing up at the or­nate ceil­ing of the Cri­te­rion Ho­tel and mar­vel­ling at the gen­er­a­tions that have come and gone.

“It’s kind of cool to be work­ing in a pub that’s 160 years old,’’ says Kahley. “I of­ten think about all the beer that’s been drunk here.’’

The beer-keg count prob­a­bly passed the 100,000 mark sev­eral decades ago, and in­side the plush con­fines of the Cri­te­rion, a new gen­er­a­tion of drinkers is en­sur­ing the am­ber liq­uid will flow on for another cen­tury.

The “Cri’’ is one of the state’s old­est pubs if we de­fine old­est by its ex­is­tence on one par­cel of land. Swirling around the pub is a wealth of his­tory reach­ing back to the great­est Queens­land gold rush that never was.

One of Queens­land’s grand ladies, Lorna Lor­raine McDon­ald, OAM – the cel­e­brated his­to­rian who died last June just weeks short of her 100th birth­day – recorded the 1858 Canoona gold rush as one of the big­gest fizzers of all time.

Thou­sands of peo­ple ar­rived from Syd­ney and Mel­bourne to what was still the far north­ern reaches of NSW, armed with picks and shov­els to mine gold at Canoona, about 40km north of Rock­hamp­ton, only to find rocks and scrub. Yet Dr McDon­ald found it was Canoona that se­cured Rock­hamp­ton’s fu­ture, as dis­ap­pointed min­ers re­treated to the tiny out­post by the Fitzroy River, many drown­ing their sor­rows at the Bush Inn. In 1859, as Queens­land pre­pared to be­come a state, Rock­hamp­ton was a hive of ac­tiv­ity, and the nearby town of Glad­stone – hop­ing to be­come the state cap­i­tal – was shunted aside as re­sources were poured into Rocky.

“In (Canoona) at­tract­ing the nu­cleus of a per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion to Rock­hamp­ton, it for­ever put an end to hopes in some quar­ters that Glad­stone would be­come the cap­i­tal of the new Colony of Queens­land (pro­claimed in De­cem­ber 1859),’’ Dr McDon­ald wrote.

As for the Bush Inn, it thrived un­til 1862, when a knock­about cus­tomer be­came man­ager and re­branded it “The Cri­te­rion Ho­tel”.

To­day’s own­ers, Me­gan and Ryan Turn­bull, in­tend to safe­guard the pub’s his­tor­i­cal in­tegrity.

“There’s a lot of his­tory here and we’re proud to pre­serve it,’’ says Ryan.


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