History of Aramac, QLD
Aramac had one of the most hectic weeks of its existence in 1889 when the Aramac Riots took place. Races were scheduled for the end of the week and attracted a number of followers of the sport. A number of shed hands had cut out and the town was crowded with shearers and shedhands with a few pounds to spend. In those days, it was the custom of country people, who could manage it, to come to town for a week of festivities. Naturally this attracted a sprinkling of the spieler class after on easy shilling. Gambling was rife and these "Heads" introduced "Nobs and Greys" and crooked dice at every opportunity. During the progress of a dice game at the Marathon Hotel, one of the "smart boys" was caught in the act. He was given a hiding and thrown out, but his mates were a tough lot and returned looking for trouble. They got it. For the whole day the fight was on. When the Police endeavoured to stop it, the crowd turned on them. Sergeant Patrick Ryan, who was then the officer in charge of Police at Aramac, was roughly handled by the mob. One old identity said that he saw Sgt. Ryan fly into the room where the brawl was, only to get hurled out like a ball. He raced in again to receive the same treatment. However, the Police had their revenge on the succeeding days when led by Sgt. Ryan with his face all cut about and plastered up, they went to the racecourse armed with handcuffs and leg-irons, and arrested the ringleaders. One man, who had escaped with the handcuffs on was "yarded" the next morning.
The comedy of the riot was provided ty Paddy, the black tracker, who was hit in the stomach by a bottle and knocked out of the tree where he had taken refuge. This tree was a land mark in front of the Marathon Hotel for many years, and Cobb and Co. coaches used to pull up underneath it. Being in the middle of the street, it was considered to be a traffic hazard and eventually removed.
The Aramac gold rush of the 1880's is now regarded as one of the comical events of the early days. The story associated with this is that two prospectors, passing through from the Cloncurry district, camped at the creek, which runs from the back of the old dam. During the night they returned to their camp after having imbibed unwisely but too well at the local taverns. When they arose next morning, they found that they had knocked over a pickle bottle of quartz. The only thing to do was to shovel up the surrounding earth, and take it to the nearby dam and re-wash it. They were in the process of washing this earth, when a lad, off for his horse, enquired from the men what they were doing, to be told they were washing for gold. Probably being practical jokers out to "pull his leg" they showed him the gold, and to his enquiry where they found it, pointed out the nearby creek. The rush was then on. The whole of the creek down to its junction with Aramac Creek, was pegged out and dug up. At the same time Jack Kingston, then the younger, and his school mate Bob Lenehan (who died on 30/5/63) were running around with shanghais. The stones which they were using for ammunition had an auriferous appearance. These stones were sent away by Jack Kingston, Snr, to be assayed and it was found that they had slight traces of gold. This added further fuel to the rush. J.W. Kingston had his brother C.J. (later to become a very successful storekeeper at Aramac) and a man, named Tom Gilman out at Mt. Pattison, sinking shafts for gold, but without success. A
man, named Jewell, was prospecting at what is known as Mt. Jewell without any payable result. Mt. Jewell was then on Stainburn Downs, but is now part of Kingsborough Selection. When the late W.H. Rudd, the past owner of Kingsborough, first acquired the property he found a number of miner's tools in a shaft on this mountain.
The financial institutions were not slow in coming to Aramac, the Q.N. Bank opened its first branch in 1875 in an old building at the corner of Burt and Gordon Streets. This building was later used as a cottage by the Strutton Family when they owned the Albion Hotel. The Methodist Church is now on this site. When the bank smash came in the early nineties, this bank was closed. It re-opened in 1913, with F. Pace as Manager, at its present location in Gordon Street, being between the Post Office and Memorial Park.
The Bank of New South Wales was opened in 1898 with C.H. Hodgson as manager and a Mr. Walker as his assistant. A few months later, when the Bank was established, Mr. Hodgson was succeeded by Mr. Pearson of Cairns. The N.S.W. Bank was in what was formerly Thompson's old store in Burt Street, and what is now vacant land next to the Q.C.W.A. Rooms. This Bank did not move to its present site, at the corner of Gordon and Porter Streets, until a few years later.
This corner allotment was originally owned by George Porter, who built a blacksmith's shop on it and put Jack Black in it, and later Hughie McLean. Walter Hall later owned this shop, before selling it to the Wales Bank, when he moved to the corner of Porter and Kerr Streets, where the Roman Catholic Church is now located.
The first medical practitioner to hang out his shingle at Aramac was Dr. Ben Poulton, in the year 1876. He lived in a little old cottage near the western end of Gordon Street, at the site where Mr. R. Wright now lives. Dr. Sydney Spark was his successor.
The next medico was Dr. Murdock Matheson, who was the first Medical Superintendent of the Aramac District Hospital.
The original Aramac Hospital was one of the first to be erected in the west, being built in 1879, only seven years after the formation of the town. The first hospital was situated out along the Muttaburra Road near the present cemetery. It was built at a cost of £720, exclusive of furniture. The old hospital was dismantled in 1909, when the hospital on its present site was constructed. Since then a maternity ward has been added. In 1956 a fine nurses' quarters were built by B.P. Branch, building contractor of this town.
Unfortunately the early records of the Aramac Hospital, like those of many other local institutions, were destroyed in fires which occurred in the years that followed, The first records of the hospital date back to 1881 and show that Thomas McWhannell was the president that year, with William Forsyth as vice president and William Fuller was treasurer; Sydney Sharwood was secretary, The Committee consisted of C.W. Little, A. Thompson, W. Brown-Steele, T.S. Sword, C. Moeser, D. O'Brien, J.T. Tilbury, G. Porter, J. Hollis, W.J. Gardener, W.H. Booker and W.J. Hodda.
Sydney Sharwood was the secretary of almost every board or society in Aramac in the early days. He conducted a commission agency as a sideline. He died in Aramac on the 12.1.93.
The Aramac Tramway, which is owned and controlled by the Aramac Shire Council, is one of the few privately owned railways in Australia. It was officially opened on 2nd July, 1913. The line took little more than two years to construct; and not without opposition, a section of the ratepayers contending that the Government should have built the line. The Minister for Railways (Hon. W.T. Paget), who performed the opening ceremony, said that in forty years the Tramway would belong to the people and not the Government from whom the money was borrowed. His prediction was very wide of the mark. For the first fifteen years the earnings were not sufficient to enable the original loan to be reduced. Additional loans have been granted and arrears of interest refunded, but still the debt has not been paid off. To commemorate the opening of the line a Ratepayers' Ball was held in the Shire Hall, when the Chairman (Mr. Fraser) announced that the
cost of the Tramway amounted to £74,371 plus the interest due of £1662. The cost of building the line was £1800 per mile.
Aramac gained in importance, when on 11/11/79, the Aramac Divisional Board, the forerunner of the Aramac Shire Council was formed. It covered a wide area of territory, taking in what are now the Longreach and Ilfracombe Shires and a portion of the Barcoo Shire. The inaugural meeting of the Board was held in the Aramac Court House on 6th April, 18B0, with Thomas McWhannell as the Chairman. The other members consisted of E.R. Edkins, J.T. Tilbury, W.H. Booker, S.W. Donner, and J.B. White, Sydney Sherwood was engaged as the Board's first clerk at the salary of £50 per annum.
After two meetings of the Board at the Court House, meetings were held in the office of the Clerk. In 1892 an allotment at the corner of Gordon and Porter Streets was purchased for the sum of £33 and offices were built at a cost of £331. This site is now occupied by the offices of the Queensland Primary Producers' Co-Op. Assn. Ltd.
The old Shire Hall was completed in 1913, having been transferred from Barcaldine. One thing of beauty about it was the backdrop from the stage. It was a scene of Lake Como, which was a fine piece of work and much admired. Mr. H. Waite of Paddington, Sydney was the artist. The cloth was the admiration of ratepayers and pointed to with pride. One day tragedy hit the town. Two goats and a little white "stinker" broke into the hall and ate Lake Como, pine trees and all.
Aramac's first bore was completed in 1896. The contractor was James Brown and the contract price for boring was 14/- per foot for the first 1000 feet, 15/- per foot up to 1500 feet and 16/- per foot thereafter. A good supply was struck at 1343 feet. The town was reticulated with water in 1897. The loan for the first bore was starting to give trouble in the 1930's so the contract for a new bore was let to a man, named Hannay. The new bore was sunk about 200 yards from the old site, and a splendid flow was struck at 1200 feet.
The original Aramac Aerodrome was situated about two miles to the south of the town and adjacent to the Barcaldine Road. It was opened on 6th October, 1948, by the then chairman of the shire, Councillor R.A. Stobo. As this 'drome proved unsatisfactory, the slightest amount of rain putting it out of service, a new 'drome about half a mile to the north-east of the town was constructed. It was opened by J.T. Neill, the present chairman of the shire, on 15/3/58. In order to provide the necessary emenities for air passengers during their put down here, a very fine terminal building has since been constructed. This terminal was opened on 8/11/58. The new 'drome can be considered as almost an all-weather one as it has not been out of commission since its inauguration in consequence of unfavourable weather.
It was a red letter day for the town of Aramac when Sir John Lavarack, the State's first Queensland born Governor, visited the town at the invitation of the Shire Council, with the then Chairman R.A. Stoto, to perform a dual ceremony on 13th September, 1952.
In the afternoon at a well attended gathering his Excellency officially opened the swimming pool. Then at night from the Shire Hall, during the progress of a Ball in his honour, he switched on the town's electricity supply.
If there is one thing that local residents can point to with pride and say there is none better in the west, it is their Memorial Park. This place of artificial beauty was opened on 18th October, 1947. The fine swimming pool, which was opened by Sir John Laverack, is situated within this park.
For places of natural beauty, Aramac can lay claim to those scenic Lakes, particularly Lake Galilee, situated in the desert country to the north. The largest of these is Lake Galilee, covering when full an area of approximately 120 miles, being about 30 miles long and 4 miles wide. Apart from the deep arm adjacent to Eastmere, its average depth would be about 6 to 8 feet. After the wet season this lake abounds with almost every class of wild fowl, of which black swans are the most numerous. The main scenic spots of this Lake are the islands, of which Dolphin, St. Helena, and Swan are the largest situated within it. On these islands the birds, being safe from marauders, breed, and one not only sees swans nesting in the water but on the land. It is said that the aboriginal tribes, who frequented these lakes, were very hostile, probably on account of being well fed.
The other lakes are Lake Barcoorah, Lake Mueller - now usually dry excepting after very heavy rain, Lake Dunn and Lake Buchanan. Lake Dunn, with its circumference of 20 miles, is an excellent picnic spot. It was called by the blacks Pajingo Bola, meaning "Big Fella Waterhole". It was named after James Dunn, at one time head stockman at Mt. Cornish, who discovered it when he tracked a mob of cattle there. Lake Buchanan, the second largest and the northern most, was named after the founder Nat Buchanan, who found it in 1862 when surveying the road through from Bowen Downs to the township of Bowen. As this lake has no overflow it is salt. Here the pelicans nest and breed, When dry the salt is collected by the surrounding graziers, who use it as a supplementary stock feed. This salt is unsuitable for culinary purposes, turning meat black and dampers blue.