Barcaldine is more commonly known as Barcy (bar-key) by those who live in this region. It’s correct pronunciation is, Bar-cawl-den. I liked to pronounce it Bar-cul-dine, which made Craig grimace every time I said it. Why? Because I like to be annoying sometimes. I don’t know why I actually try. I don’t have to, it comes naturally. Anyway, it’s best know as home to the Tree of Knowledge, and birthplace of the Union Movement and Labour Party. More on that later.
Along the journey from Emerald to Barcy we passed over a lot of creeks, and just like the one called ‘Toogood Creek’, they weren’t too good. Bone dry, mini grand canyons, with exposed twisted logs littered along their length. They would make for beautiful photos, but I bet the locals don’t see it that way.
You may wonder how we fill in the 3hr drive to our lunch stop at Jericho. We told the kids to look out the window. Hey, it’s what we did before iPads and electronic games! They are allowed limited time on the iPad and usually play Minecraft. Otherwise, Xavier will usually read, Amelie will colour in or read and they have some school type workbooks they can do.
We’ve banned ‘I Spy’ in the car. There’s only so much stuff you can spy within the car and we are out of new stuff to spy! Instead we find shapes in the clouds and play a ‘What am I?’ game. This game can be pretty tricky as sometimes the clues don’t fit the answer. For example, I am a thing, I am man-made and you take it camping. The answer, an apple. What the? Science class, here we come.
The area either side of Jericho has a crazy amount of termite mounds! I think they were termite mounds. They were only about 500mm to 1m tall and they were everywhere. Some of them were wearing t-shirts! Yes that’s right, I said t-shirts. Ladies t-shirts, mens t-shirts and kids t-shirts. It was a pity we couldn’t get a photo. Towing the van with no shoulder to pull onto doesn’t allow the luxury of coming to a quick stop for a photo of a t-shirt clad termite mound.
We pulled up right outside the Jericho drive-in which is old school cool! It could probably hold about a dozen cars and there are canvas swing-back chairs up the back for peak crowds. The take away shop next door was full of dusty bric-a-brac with daddy long-leg spiders in every nook and cranny. If you ever stop there don’t let this first impression fool you, the burgers were delicious and the chicken chips were moorish! Most people head on past through to Barcaldine. If you have time, it’s worth stopping at Jericho and they look like they could do with the trade.
Thanks to Xavier, we were laughing our asses off coming into Barcaldine. He was talking about the author that came up on his Kindle ‘save screen’. Our boy may read very well and very fast, but the downfall of not reading out loud is incorrect pronunciation. Xavier called author Alexandre Dumas (Doo-mah), Alexandra Dumb-ass. Dumb-ass! Still makes me laugh. School kid humour, but still humorous!
It may be hard to stop for photo ops with the van, however it only takes about 15mins to set-up camp. Bonus! This gave us heaps of time to go see The Tree of Knowledge in the daylight and check out the Australian Workers Museum before heading back to camp where damper was on offer and happy hour was in full swing.
Regardless of which political party you are partial to, the story surrounding the Tree of Knowledge is really interesting. It may have remained a very old tree, however there was nothing special about the tree other than the events that unfolded around it.
The story goes, that in 1891 the shearers staged a strike against low wages and poor working conditions. Well, the pastoralists were having none of that! Serious shenanigans ensued with the burning down of shearing sheds, shot outs and unionist imprisonments. This was happening all over the place, not just in Barcaldine! The tree was significant as it was the place where influential members met and formed the labour union movement and eventually the Labour Party. Henry Lawson even penned a poem about these events called Freedom on the Wallaby.
In 2006 the tree was poisoned with Roundup! What seemed a bastard act, resulted in a pretty magnificent memorial which has won a multitude of architecture awards and cost the Australian people $5million. Bet that idiot is kicking themselves now!
When the memorial is lit up at night, the reflections off the timber chimes and the void glow green, representing the canopy of the tree had it been living.
You need more than a few hours to visit the Australian Workers cottage! There is so much to rediscover about Australia’s history and the exhibits are very detailed.
There is too much to write about here but I just have to share my favourite story:
At the Ravenswood gold diggings in 1872 there were 42 licenced ‘pubs’ (shanties) within a three mile radius. The police had no proper lock-up so they chained prisoners to a big log outside their tent. One night, a giant Irish miner was arrested and chained up, but later he was found in a shanty carrying the 150kg log on his shoulder. He was made to carry the log back to the ‘lock-up’ and threatened that if he did not behave himself he would be charged with theft of the log!
Barcaldine should be renamed Bar-crawl-dine. Five pubs stretch out along about 500m of the main street! Not a bad way to have a few drinks without having to travel too far between venues, but imagine how you’d be at the end, when the town held 14 pubs in its hey day!
Our tour of public pools hit a wall. Barcaldine Public pool was shut two days before we arrived! Two! Not only did they shut it, they drained it. We couldn’t even jump the fence for a sneaky swim!
Onwards to Ilfracombe and Longreach. We’ll swim there.