Recently I had the pleasure of visiting five western Queensland towns - Blackall, Barcaldine, Aramac, Isisford and Longreach. Each was different, with something that distinguished it from the others.
As I'm interested in all things historical, I loved the Blackall Wool Scour, the Masonic Temple and the Memorial Park with its artillery pieces.
At Barcaldine I admired the railway station building, was astonished by the Tree of Knowledge, intrigued by the Masonic Temple's exterior painting scheme, and loved the streetscape with its evocative old hotels, testament to its worker and wool history.
Aramac is a small town that obviously loves its heritage. The main street has former banks with residences, and a handsome post office. The hospital is a beautiful building dating from 1910, and the school with its early buildings seems an oasis of calm.
At Isisford, sited near a crossing of the Barcoo River, I found that a precursor crocodile fossil had been discovered nearby - Isisfordia duncani - and a replica can be seen at the Outer Barcoo Interpretation Centre in town. The former district hospital, dating from 1892, is still there, 70 years after nationalisation of all community-run hospitals in Queensland. You can fish in the famous Barcoo at Isisford, which must be pretty special.
Longreach, of course, is the biggest of these towns - a mecca for grey nomads who fill the tourist park sites, and rightly so. The western central railway line comes to town, bringing other tourists drawn by the Stockman's Hall of Fame and the QANTAS founders' museum, and also by the many other attractions of this part of Queensland. Longreach has many heritage buildings including its railway station, a large Art Deco hospital dating from 1940, a large classically-inspired shire council building, and numerous examples of early houses - low-set and verandahed.
I can't conclude without mentioning the amazing country between the towns - wide plains under a vast blue sky. I'm looking forward to visiting again. Next time I'll take the train to Longreach to see more of this amazing country along that route.
Which towns in western Queensland do you think are great? Leave a comment - next week the author of the one I like the most will receive a copy of my historical rural romance - All Quiet on the Western Plains.
If you're interested, a round-up of reviews from this week's book tour for All Quiet on the Western Plains can be found here: http://www.isabellahargreaves.com/news-and-events.html. The winner of a copy of the novella has been drawn. Congratulations if it was you!
Join me on tour 15-21 May to launch All Quiet on the Western Plains. As usual there's a book giveaway drawn at the end of the tour.
"One war, two battle-scarred hearts, one chance for happiness. "
First stop is: http://bookwormbridgette.blogspot.com/2014/05/blog-tour-all-quiet-on-western-plains.html
It gives me great pleasure to announce the release of my historical, rural romance - All Quiet on the Western Plains - set in western Queensland, Australia in 1924.
"One war, two battle-scarred hearts, one chance for happiness."
English nurse, Fleur Armitage, wants to escape all reminders of the Great War, which killed family and friends; by living as far from its reminders as possible - in outback Queensland. Jack Edgarson is a pastoralist, war hero and damaged man. Suffering from nightmares and sleep walking, he lives in isolation, fearful he may harm someone. Through a chance meeting, their lives become entangled. They come to share their love of the wide western plains, but dare they love each other?
Available from Amazon and all good ebooksellers.
Several years ago, I started researching three Brisbane men who had different experiences of World War I. One served in an Engineers Corps – earning a Military Medal; another served as a motor cycle messenger in the Motor Transport Corps and was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ in 1918; while the third was an ambulance driver in the Balkans – a theatre of the war about which we rarely hear. They also all served on the Australian home front during WWII.
Researching these men was made easier by the wonderful resources provided by the National Archives of Australia. Digitised copies of the service records for Australian WWI servicemen are available online – free - making researching your ancestor, or person of interest, simple. These can be found here: http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/explore/defence/service-records/army-wwi.aspx
World War II records are similarly available online, if someone has paid for the initial digitisation. If the record is not yet digitised, getting them done costs a nominal fee.
Once you know the division and unit in which the soldier served, it is then possible to find the battalion's history and/or diary which tell where the unit was located at various times.
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I later this year, the Imperial War Museum has online exhibitions and projects underway. Go to: http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/first-world-war. Similarly, the Australian War Museum has new exhibitions to commemorate the centenary - see them at http://www.awm.gov.au/1914-1918/.
Inspired by reading autobiographies and diaries of Australian soldiers who served in World War I, my novella All Quiet on the Western Plains explores the aftermath of that conflict for an Australian soldier and an English nurse who move to the western plains of Queensland to escape their experiences. Instead, they find each other and hope for the future. Available 1 May 2014 from Amazon and other good book sellers.
Have you researched an ancestor who served in World War I? I would love to hear about him or her.
During the 1920s, the biggest concern for many people in country Queensland, aside from the weather, was the rapid spread of the pest cacti commonly known as prickly pear. From Mackay in central Queensland to central New South Wales, these plants were multiplying and choking the land. They had been introduced into Australia from North and South America during the nineteenth century.
Warnings of their capacity to multiply and make good land useless began in the 1870s, but it wasn't until the 1890s that bylaws and legislation requiring their removal were created. By the early twentieth century, the need for a biological control of the pest had been recognised. Although an effective poison to kill the cacti was determined in 1916, obtaining it during World War One was difficult and Australia's manpower and the money to control prickly pear were employed overseas.
Finally, in 1919, the Commonwealth Government and the governments of Queensland and New South Wales established a joint project, to discover and introduce into Australia biological pests of prickly pear, to control its spread. Achieving this goal was to take 10-20 years, but the introduction of Cactoblastis cactorum and a number of other parasites of the cacti, was an outstanding success.
Not all of Queensland was affected by prickly pear. Open plains were generally spared the infestation - among them the plains of western Queensland. It is here that my latest book, All Quiet on the Western Plains is set. The characters therefore weren't involved in the struggle to control prickly pear that was going on in much of rural Queensland in 1924.
Does your family have a story from the bad old days of Prickly Pear? I would love to hear from you.
All Quiet on the Western Plains - available 1 May 2014 - from Amazon, Steam eReads and Book Srand.
Dodd Alan P. The progress of biological control of prickly pear in Australia. Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board, Brisbane, 1929.
Dodd Alan P. The biological campaign against prickly-pear. Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board, Brisbane, 1940.
Dodd, Alan P. ‘The Conquest of Prickly-Pear’. RHSQJ, 1945, 3, 5, pp. 351-61.
Mann, John. The Naturalised Cacti in Australia, Queensland Lands Department, Brisbane, 1970.
With the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One approaching, I have been reading lots of autobiographies and biographies of soldiers and nurses who served in Europe and the Middle-East. A few months ago all this reading sparked the idea for my forthcoming novella, All Quiet on the Western Plains.
English nurse Fleur Armitage wants to escape all reminders of the Great War, which killed family, friends and patients - by living as far from its reminders as possible - in outback Queensland, Australia. Jack Edgarson is a war hero, pastoralist and damaged man. Suffering from nightmares and sleep walking, he fears he may harm someone, so lives in isolation. Through a chance meeting, their lives become entangled. They come to share a love of the wide western plains, but dare they love each other?
For some World War One autobiographies and biographies, see my sources page on this website.
All Quiet on the Western Plains – available 1 May 2014 – from Steam eReads and Amazon.
Last Saturday I was fortunate to hear Rural Romance author, Rachael
Treasure, talk about her writing, at a Brisbane Writers’ Festival event at Nundah
Library. It was an entertaining and informative talk which
highlighted the importance of getting her message across, primarily looking
after the land, while writing an entertaining romance. I’m a city girl
and I have to confess that I’m not a reader of rural romance, but I am now
engrossed in Rachael’s book of short stories ‘The Girl and the Ghost-Grey Mare’. I have no
intention of trying to write rural romance, but I am heartened and inspired by
her commitment to write meaningful romance. That is something I do want to
achieve in the historical romance genre. What are your thoughts?