COMPASS MUSTERING COURAGE QHA REVIEW | 40 THE GREAT SHEARERS’ STRIKE OF 1891 PUT BARCALDINE ON THE MAP AS THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOUR MOVEMENT. JUST “BARCY” TO ITS 1300 LOCALS, THE TOWN IS A LENGTHY 520KM DRIVE ALONG THE CAPRICORN HIGHWAY WEST OF ROCKHAMPTON AND WAS ESTABLISHED AROUND THE VAST BARCALDINE DOWNS SHEEP STATION IN THE 1880S. By 1890 wool was one of Australia’s largest industries, but Queensland shearers soon became fed up with its inherent poor working conditions and low wages. A strike originating on Darling Downs stations quickly spread. By February the following year central Queensland was on the brink of civil war as camps of armed unionised shearers formed outside towns and faced-off against police protecting imported “scab” shearing gangs. In May around 3000 striking shearers marched under the Eureka Flag through Barcaldine, which had become the unofficial HQ of the strike, and held a political rally under the branches of a now famous ghost gum tree in the main street. Although the unionist shearers were eventually forced to return to work at the stations out of hunger, the strike is nonetheless associated with the formation of the Australian Labor Party with several shearer strikers going on to become some of the first Labor MPs. Barcaldine’s ghost gum became a symbol of the Australian labour movement and was given monument status as The Tree of Knowledge not long after. Over the years its importance grew as an icon of the town’s identity and courage. Sadly, in 2006 the 7-metre high tree was the victim of a malicious herbicide attack and died. Its remains were subsequently preserved intact and “re-rooted” in its original spot as part of a revamped monument. In its heyday Barcy had a head count of roughly 5000 who regularly patronised 11 pubs. Surprisingly, the town now has more pubs per capita than it did then – most within a convenient dag’s-rattle of each other on the main street. Its four QHA member hotels are just as lively on Facebook as they are when the taps are flowing and the stubbie caps are flying.
COMPASS Tree of knowledge photo credit Outback Queensland Commercial Hotel Railway Hotel Union Hotel ARTESIAN HOTEL “CUZZIE BRO’S” 85 Oak Street, Barcaldine @artesianhotel Barcaldine’s oldest pub dates back to 1887. It’s a live entertainment venue with a distinct Kiwi flavour in the middle of Queensland. This is sheep country after all. “Nau mai, haere mai” and welcome, as they say across the ditch. Reviews include: “Only put my head in the door to say kia ora to the two beautiful cats that were doing security...” “Great pub. Speccy place. Hang out with original signed Samantha Fox at the pool table.” COMMERCIAL HOTEL 119 Oak Street, Barcaldine @CommercialHotelBarcaldine Classic old Queenslander with a heart of gold. Love darts? The “Commy” is the place to be every Wednesday. Owner Gerry Fogarty is often the man to beat since taking over the venue two years ago. There’s also pool tables, a beer garden and two-up every Anzac Day with all monies raised going to the local RSL. RAILWAY HOTEL 77 Oak Street, Barcaldine @railwayhotelbarcaldine With a prime view of the Tree of Knowledge monument, reviews include: “Amazing staff! They loved to have a dance with me and my choice in music! They asked me to come back to visit and I will just go see them again!” “It’s a great establishment but last night I had this dream I went to the jukebox and the only song was the Westlife version of Uptown Girl. Please don’t ruin this for me.” UNION HOTEL MOTEL 61 Oak Street, Barcaldine @ben.pelizzari.90 The Union Hotel Motel is a third generation family owned and operated business since 1962. It includes the Witches Kitchen family restaurant and motel accommodation. Reviews include: “They make really good pizzas, staff are nice and the drinks are cold.” “Staff were pleasant and friendly. Nice quiet country pub with country hospitality. Clean and lovely rooms. Will definitely be staying again.” QHA REVIEW | 41