Wednesday, 12 July 1995

AUC 1995 - Stockman's Hall Of Fame (Longreach QLD)

A mild night and much better sleep than at Carnarvon Gorge, although punctuated by frequent trips tothe toilet. The down side Of staying in caravan parks is the need to accompany the children to the toilet and with two boys in the family, I get to make twice as many trips as Sue.

Our reason for stopping at Longreach - the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Cultural Centre - was to dominate this day. The Hall of Fame was opened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on 29th April, 1988 and has no doubt been a boon to the small rural town of Longreach. Originally a concept of bushman and painter Hugh Sawrey in 1974, the company was incorporated In 1977 and operates independent of any government assistance. Feiko Bouman, a Sydney architect, designed the buildings, which give the appearance of being elongated galvanised iron water tanks which have been turned on their sides.

As well as providing excellent static displays of pictures and information relating to the role of stockmen, pastoralists, women and aborigines in the opening and partial taming of the outback, it also features significant use of computer technology through various access points to databases and the selection of video clips relating to the displays around each terminal. Another clever piece of video technology is the screening of a face-only image onto a white dummy's face. The face sits a-top a mock drover who is ensconced about a camp fire on a dark, outback night. The "Talking Drover" speaks of the deeds of famous stockmen and of the romantic, yet hard life they led. Most effective.

The Dick Smith produced movie "Cattle King" is on show from a small screen in the midst of a display about Sir Sidney Kidman. An excellent production - starring Australian character actor Martin Vaughan as the aging Kidman - it would have been enhanced by showing it in the main theatre.

An introductory slide presentation takes place in the main theatre on the half hour and this was a stirring piece, with striking photography and apt, bush music to accompany it. The final shot of this presentation has left an indelible image in my mind - a young stockman in close up, standing behind his horse and looking over the saddle, with his hat low on the brow and his resting arm draped on the saddle, obscuring all but his eyes. A powerful, evocative picture which again proved the truth of the saying relating pictures and the number of words they represent.

One item from the static displays which impressed me was the story of legendary shearer, Jack Howe. He held a world record which stood for 60 years, for shearing 321 sheep in 7 hours and forty minutes. In fact, the record was not broken until mechanised shears greatly sped up the process. You see, Howe had set the record with hand shears! He is reputed to have had hands as big as the head of a tennis racket and could hold a sheep in a manner no other man could copy.

Outside the Hall of Fame, we were entertained and informed by the Currfamily, from the famous Dagworth Station - the place were A.B. Paterson wrote "Waltzing Matilda". Their show was one of wry humour and highlighted the work of dogs and horses on these large properties and in relation to sheep and cattle in particular. To demonstrate the control and discipline of their dogs, Damien Curr released four ducks from a pen and worked them around the arena, past and through obstacles and finally, back Into their pen. During the demonstration he used a combination of voice and whistle commands to direct the dogs into position. To highlight these commands evenfurther, he selected a child from the audience, who also had to respond to the commands and move in the manner he was told. We were left wondering as to whether his parents were busily writing down the commands for later use !

Brother Brendan "Winks" Curr - new to the show that day - gave a great display of horsemanship in both riding and cutting. His mount moved instinctively with him and it was hard to tell who was doing the most thinking in working the beasts into position. His piece de resistance was to remove the saddle and bridle from his horse, direct it around the small stadium using his body movements and legs and then have it sit down to allow him to dismount The horse then lay down and snorted as though it was going to sleep ! Throughout, the love and gentleness displayed for the animals and the excellence of their performance, was a great recommendation for their owners methods.

Including lunch, The Stockman's Hall of Fame was $70 well spent and if all of the "attractions" we were scheduled to attend were of this calibre, we will have had good value for money.

The only disappointing aspect of the day, was the knowledge the "live shows" were to be scrapped by the Board of Management of the Hall of Fame. They felt the shows detract from the Hall. This was not the feeling of the people who saw the show and one was left with the belief there was more to this issue than met the eye. As in Carnanxm NP, another enquiry would be forthcoming once we reach home. As it was, Pa and I wrote three page letters to the Board and left them in the suggestion box.

The bulk of the day spent, we returned to the caravan park for more of our hosts lukewarm water and
hospitality. Despite the great temptation - he said facetiously - of a bar-b-q and entertainment for $5 a head, in the "Entertainment Area immediately adjacent to the toilets", we declined the invitation and ate in our own digs. As the revelers in the Entertainment Area regaled in laughter at the Irish humour of Hal Roach, we provided our own entertainment with after dinner cards under the Big Top.

Following our return home, a letter was received from the Stockman's Hall of Fame, expressing
happiness we had enjoyed the live show and explaining that the Board hopes the Curr's will find
another venue to operate in Longreach, as many people have enjoyed their show !

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