Once they were all sitting down one of the barmaids, multi- skilling as waitress for the evening … yelled “hands up all youse that want soup”.
IGNATIUS Park College teacher Dennis McCloskey sent me this email yesterday. He’s touring around out in the western parts of the state and is pondering the eternal conundrum of where does the “Outback” start and end. Hi John, Currently I am in Winton and will be driving to Boulia tomorrow. There is no question that this is the “Outback.” But, where does the “Outback” begin? When I left Townsville I figured that the Towers was in the “Outback”, but a ringer in the Leichhardt Hotel in the Curry strongly disagreed. He put Hughenden as the beginning of the “Outback” but then refined the boundary to the Burra Range. He claimed that it was to do with types of vegetation, and that the black soil “downs” country is “Outback” stuff.
People living in the old country have a strange fascination with the “Outback”. They perceive it to be a dry, lonely and dangerous place full of dangerous snakes and deranged people wanting to commit murders on lonely roads. My Irish relations asked me whether I had been there. That started me thinking about where it begins. I saw your Central/ North/ Far North Queensland boundaries article recently and the response it elicited. The Curry ringer, when pressed, put Normanton in the “Gulf” and Mount Surprise in the Cape York region. He was adamant that neither town was “Outback.” Does it go right over to Broome and Geraldton in the West? Do North/ Far North and Central Queensland have an “Outback” component? Should I ask Bob Katter? Regards, Dennis McCloskey This was my response. Hi Dennis, This is one of those “black eye” arguments. It never really gets resolved until someone gets a black eye. Firstly, let’s deal with the “Curry ringer”. By the way, Cloncurry is Bob Katter’s home town. Bob always reckons that male babies born in the Cloncurry hospital have their tear ducts removed at birth. If you do ask Bob, he will probably tell you that anywhere within a 100km radius of Cloncurry is “proper Outback” and anywhere outside the circle is “inside” or “soft country”. Getting back to “Curry ringer”, yes, Normanton is in the Gulf Country as is Burketown, Doomadgee, Karumba, Croydon, Georgetown and Mt Surprise. “Curry ringer” reckons Mt Surprise is in the Cape. He’s lost. Have a look at Mt Surprise on a map. It’s almost due east of Georgetown. A lot of bush people use the Mitchell River, easily 200km north of Georgetown as the crow flies, as the demarcation between the Gulf Country and Cape York Peninsula. Stations such as Miranda Downs, Van Rook and Delta Downs south of the Mitchell are always described as being in the Gulf Country. Your mate “Curry ringer” would have them in the Peninsula. There is a popular assumption that if somewhere is “Outback” it has to be in or near the Australian interior. Dennis, old mate, I don’t go along with that. I regard the Outback as anywhere remote and sparsely populated. The online The Free Dictionary describes “Outback” as “remote bush country of Australia”. That’s reasonable in my book. I’d bet that “Curry ringer” who doesn’t think the Peninsula is “Outback” would quickly change his mind if he found himself bogged and alone in a ti- tree swamp out on the back of Merapah Station up on the Archer River. He would be alone. Very alone. I’d agree with “Curry ringer” that the Burra Range - part of the Great Dividing Range - in the Pentland- Torrens Creek area is as good a place as any to start calling “Outback” when heading west. There are other changes, some of them subtle that help define “Outback”. There is the way people living in some of these places define their place in the world. There are regional dialects, especially in Cape York Peninsula. There are other things you notice. For example children are more self- reliant. You will see girls and boys aged 10 or so riding motorbikes, helping with the station work. You might see a 15year- old boy fixing the clutch on a station 4WD or grading a fire break down a fence line. These are all reminders that you are in a different place, that you are in the Outback. You said there is “no doubt” Winton is in the Outback. I’d go one step further and say Winton and its postcard Diamantina landscapes are quintessentially “Outback”.
It is what we all imagine the Outback to look like. But, is arguing about where the Outback begins and ends worth a black eye? Surely, like beauty, “Outback” is in the eye of the beholder. Happy travels, Dennis. John.
DRINK UP THE HISTORY
LOOKING for a change of scenery? The Federal Palace Hotel in Richmond is on the market.
Wasn’t it the Federal Palace where the governor and his wife once came to dinner? The local citizenry invited to the soiree arrived in dinner suits and fancy frocks. It’s not every night the governor and his wife come to Richmond for dinner. Everyone was seated in the pub dining room where the old timber tables were covered with the whitest, linen tablecloths upon which was set the hotel’s best cutlery. The guests went to their assigned tables and stood at their seats waiting for the governor and his wife to be seated. Once they were all sitting down one of the barmaids, multi- skilling as waitress for the evening, came to the doorway, leant against the door, a thin “rollie” hanging from one corner of her mouth, and yelled “hands up all youse that want soup”. Well, they reckon you could have heard a pin drop. There are plenty of yarns about the Federal Palace. There was the time a local grazier tried to drive his Suzuki 4WD up the pub steps into the bar. There have been fights downstairs and upstairs, countless promises of marriage have been made. Back in the wool days there were more sheep “shorn” in the bar at the Federal Palace than there were shorn in the local sheds.
Ditto for rough horses ridden and wild bulls “throwed”. It’s a bush pub in all its glory.
BUSH HUMOUR: Dennis McCloskey spotted this sign in the Australian Hotel in Boulia.
TRACKSIDE AT STAMFORD There have been plenty of events around the northwest in the past few weeks and the Stamford Races, just south of Hughenden, was one of them. Andrea Creagh took this photo.
FOR SALE: Richmond’s Federal Palace Hotel.