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Home > Travelogues > 2009 Travelogues Index > Blackall
tn_blackallblackstump.jpg tn_blackalluniversalhotel.jpg tn_blackallstreet.jpg tn_blackallrampark2.jpg tn_blackallrampark1.jpg tn_blackallram.jpg tn_blackalllabour.jpg tn_blackalleagle.jpg tn_blackallboretrough.jpg tn_blackallbore2.jpg tn_blackallbore1.jpg

Blackall: A town on the banks of the Barcoo River with so much history

Blackall Shire Council

Blackall Bore No. 1

(Dicksons)

 

Date commenced                      December 1885

Date completed                        26th April 1888

Flow registered                         210,000 gallons per day

Present day flow                       38,500 gallons per day

Source                                     Artesian           

Depth                                       1,663 feet

Temperature                             119º F

 

Blackall was selected as the first place in Queensland as a site to bore for Artesian water

 From signage at the site

A detailed mural by local artist Bob Wilson depicts drilling operations in the early 1900s and sets the scene for the now capped borehead and information plaque and f or two pieces of restored machinery. 

 From signage at the site

This shop is a replica of the facade of the Universal Hotel, most famous for being owned by world champion blade shearer Jack Howe. In 1892 Jack shore 321 sheep with blades in one working day at Alice Downs, north of Blackall.

 

He retired from shearing when he was 39 to become a publican, owning the Universal Hotel on two separate occasions; from 1900 to 1902 and again from 1907 to 1919. He was said to have a fine signing voice and often entertained Hotel patrons with popular songs of the day.

 

While he was at theUniversal Hotel Jack acted as a catalyst for the political career of reformer T.J. Ryan, nominating him to stand for the seat of Barcoo, from which he went on to be Queensland Premier from 1915 to 1919.

 

From signage at the site

Upon invitation by Blackall residents Jack Howe and Paddy Sheehan to run for the seat of Barcoo, Thomas Joseph (T.J.) Ryan (1876-1921) was elected at the state member for that seat in 1909.  He and his Government were both innovative and effective, especially in the area of industrial reform.  In 1919 he resigned as Premier of Queensland to enter Federal Parliament.  He gained popularity because of his concern for the rights of the worker, small business operators and landholders of the time.

 

 

It was the lowering of the shearing rate in 1886 that led shearers from Isis Downs to meet in Blackall to fight the directives of the pastoralists.  This resulted in the formation of the Queensland Shearers Union and in December 1887, Bill Kewley, a Blackall resident, was appointed its secretary.  He was an efficient, hard working and well respected man and also became involved in the largest and most successful workers’ political organisation in Queensland, called Workingmans Parliamentary Representatives Association (WPRA).  From its headquarters in Blackall, the WPRA extended its influence into other districts and in 1891 the organisation changed its name to the People’s Parliamentary Association (PPA) and adopted the political platform of the Australian Labour Federation.   

 

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.

 

During the 2007 Heartland Festival, Blackall housed metal sculptor Richard Moffat as an in-resident artist. Richard created three unique pieces of art for Blackall. The first of is the Eagles Nest which is located down at the Barcoo River. The Circle of Friends and Roly Poly complete his works.

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

This fossilised tree stump is on display in the main street of Blackall and is a conifer related to the hoop pines.  The stump was preserved by opalisation and silification 

 

 

In the wide main street a clock is dedicated to Major Thomas Mitchell who discovered Blackall in 1846 and whose explorations alerted pioneering farms to the potential of the extensive grassy plains.  Mitchell grass was named after Major Mitchell

This eagle 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 at the Barcoo River Camp with a $5 per night permit.  

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From the campground it is a short walk to the town centre and most other sites are within easy walking distance.  We found thisbrochure with map ideal for our walk around the town. 

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.

 

Blackall’s water is now supplied from town bore number 4 in Leek Street. The water comes to the surface at 58°C and is pure enough for drinking.

 

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 rural theme museum is known as Ram Park, features this large Merino ram.  This park was not completed when we visited. 

 

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. 

 

Jack Howe’s grave can been seen at the Blackall Cemetery. 

This park has several historic buildings including Navena Homestead and the old railway station.  Work was being undertaken on the relocated and reconstructed railway station which was not open to the public at that stage.  The large bullock dray came from the Bollon area. 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. 

This historic site marks the original Astro Station established in 1887 by the Surveyor General for the purpose of the survey based on the principal meridional circuit traverse around the town of Blackall.  The circuit was 27 miles square and contained an area of 729 square miles. 

 

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The mural at this site was painted by local artist Bob Wilson
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In 1887 a group of surveyors arrived on Astro Station near Blackall. The surveyors placed their theodolites on the stump for latitude and longitude observations.  The stump was used rather than a set of legs because the theodolites used on such observations were of large size.
 
This Astro Station was used as part of the survey to fix the position of principal towns extending from Brisbane to Boulia via Roma, Charleville and Blackall.  This was designed to establish the points of important centres with which the survey work of the whole colony could be connected, and enable the mapping of Queensland on a more accurate basis.  It was considered at the time that country to the west of Blackall was “beyond the Black Stump”.
 
This piece of petrified wood replaces the original stump which was burnt out.
 
From signage at the site
Jackie Howe