Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - with John An­der­sen john. an­der­sen@ news. com. au

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.


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.

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