Blackall on the banks of the Barcoo – so much history and so much to see.

Monday, Sep 07, 2009 at 11:00


During the 2007 Heartland Festival, Blackall contracted metal sculptor Richard Moffat as an in-resident artist. Richard created three unique pieces of art for Blackall. The Eagles Nest is located down at the Barcoo River is my favourite of the three sculptures.

Cleverly created with a nest of scrap metal, the eagle is on a high pole near the bridge across the Barcoo River and overlooking the large area where camping is welcomed with a $5 per night permit.

Labor Federation Memorial tells three stories.

The first shearer’s union meeting was held in Blackall in December 1886 and formed the foundations of the Australian Labor Party. This memorial commemorates that historic event.

At its first General Council meeting in Brisbane on August 1 1890 the Australian Labour Federation drew up a visionary and radical program of political reform and so the Queensland Labour Party was formed. The second stage of this process of launching workers into the political arena occurred here in Blackall on December 9 1890 when the first ordinary meeting of the General Executive of the ALP met to draw up the rules that would govern the running of the new Labour Party.

Thomas Joseph (T.J.) Ryan (1876-1921) was elected at the state member for that seat of Barcoo in 1909. He and his Government were both innovative and effective, especially in the area of industrial reform.

Blackall was one of the first towns to drill for artesian water with the first bore, known as the Pioneer Bore being sunk in 1885. Replica of the steam-operated percussion drilling rig is on display at the site.

In 1901 the number 2 bored was drilled to 900 metres and delivered 6,800 litres per day, coming out of the ground at 58º C. It was the first bore in Queensland to be cemented and the first bore in Queensland to have a cooling dam in use for 75 years.

In 1913 the deepest artesian water bore in Southern Hemisphere was sunk to a depth of 2,100 metres at Springleigh Station, eighty kilometres south west of Blackall.

A few kilometres out of town along the Jerico Road is the Blackall Woolscour. This steam driven, wool washing plant operated from 1908 to 1978. It is the only one of its kind in Australia with original machinery in place. This feature alone was unusual with a twenty stand shearing shed and yards to hold 40,000 sheep were added. As the huge sheep stations were sub-divided, new settlers did not have facilities so sheep could be shorn at the site of the scouring plant. The original stream plants were powered by burning Gidgea wood and a large pile of white ash remains.

A bore of 780 metres delivering almost three million litres per day operated at Blackall Woolscour from 1908. A reliable source of quality water was required to run steam driven scouring plant and the hot soft water from this bore was ideal. The bore has now been regulated, allowing a small flow for demonstration purposes at the Blackall Woolscour and a water flow through pipes to five adjacent stations.

The Blackall Woolscour operated from 1908 until 1978. With two million dollars in funding from the Queensland Heritage Trails Network, the dilapidated Blackall Woolscour was reopened in 2002 for demonstration purposes.

The plant is operated on steam from 1st of May to the end of August. It is the only steam-driven scour incorporating a shearing shed left in Australia. Outside of those times, electricity is used to demonstrate the processes.

The Blackall Woolscour is open seven days a week for guided tours. Tours are on the hour, every hour between 9 am and 4 pm.

A rural theme museum is known as Ram Park, features this large Merino ram. This park was not completed when we visited. The big ram signifies the importance the wool industry held in the Blackall region. Cropping machinery including a combine and a hay making equipment are in the outdoor display.

Blade shearer Jackie Howe put Blackall on the map when at local station Alice Downs when he set a world record in 1892 by shearing 321 sheep in seven hours and forty minutes with blade shears. It took another 58 years before anyone could match this feat, and that was by machine shears.

Wearing a flannel shirt when shearing to keep his back warm, Jack found the sleeves hot and restrictive so tore them out. The blue flannel singlet known as a Jackie Howe became the standard shearing shirt across the country.

Blackall; home of the black stump.

Read more about Blackall and all about our visit to Blackall on the Barcoo River complete with lots of photos at 2009 Travelogues and come touring Australia with us via our other travelogues.

Red desert dreaming

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