Shearing history and the possible home of the Black Stump - April 2017.
The phrase 'beyond the black stump' has connections with the town of Blackall, though it is not the only Australian town that lays claim to the coining of the phrase. The original stump at Blackall was used as a reference point when the area was surveyed in 1887. The area to its west was considered 'beyond the black stump'. A replica of the stump referred to remains behind the Blackall State School today.
Thomas Mitchell explored the Blackall district in 1846 when he followed the Barcoo River, calling it the 'Victoria' and hypothesising that it flowed north into the Gulf of Carpentaria. His theory was proven incorrect when his second-in command, Edmund Kennedy, followed the waterway until it intersected with Cooper Creek in 1847.
A settlement around six kilometres east of the current town was established in 1864. In 1868 Blackall, named after the Queensland governor of the time, was surveyed and gazetted.
Subdivision of the large pastoral runs in the area began in 1880. Although attempts were made at cropping during the 1880s and 1890s, sheep continued to provide the area's main agricultural industry.
The first bore into the Great Artesian Basin was sunk at Blackall in 1885 but the water proved undrinkable.
Blackall was the area's major town until 1886, when the railway terminated at Barcaldine.
The nearby Alice Downs Station was the site of a shearing world record set by Jackie Howe in 1892. On 10 October that year Howe blade shore 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes, a hand shearing record which still remains today. After retiring from shearing Howe became a publican in Blackall and was buried in town when he died in 1920. A statue in his memory still stands in Blackall today.
Blackall, approximately 950 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, is today located in a prominent stud beef and sheep production area in central Queensland.
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