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The Ghost Town Of Ballara (North West Queensland, Australia)

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posted by Buddy Patrick alias Buddy Patrick on Sunday 17th of October 2021 02:00:00 PM

Ballara was surveyed in 1913, after it was realised that Hightville was unsuitable for a rail terminus. It was to be named after the manager of the Wee MacGregor mine, Tom Warrick, who declined the honour but suggested it be named after a rich and famous town like Ballarat - - but the board they wrote the name on was not big enough so it became Ballara. The Cosmopolitan Hotel, renamed "the MacGregor" was the first building to make the move, followed by the establishment of smaller shops. Paddy Walsh and Ted Norton provided a general store and bakery, Percy House and Dan Parker a butchery, and Mrs Pat Sweeny built the first boarding house. The company store and post office was located at nearby Hightville. The town of thirty families and an equal number of single miners swelled to a population of over 1000 when the mines worked at their peak. The miners worked day shift only for six days a week. Leisure included drinking beer, betting on local horse races and playing billiards. In the afternoons, the patrons could hear the horns of milk goats raking the bearers as they walked under the hotel. Picnics south to Fountain Springs or east to the larger town of Kuridala were outings to remember. Before the arrival of the 3'6" gauge rail line, transport was provided by coach drivers Edwards and Lidster. Water for the town was sourced from Jimmie's Creek and transported to each house by horse and dray. There was no local saddler or blacksmith, so Hensley's Stables, the local Cobb and Co agents in Cloncurry, satisfied both demands. There was also no church, so either the congregations in Cloncurry or Kuridala serviced the town. News of the world arrived through the Cloncurry newspapers, the 'Advocate' and the 'News', and through the 'Sentinel' from Kuridala. Due to the uncertainty of the mineral field, buildings of the area were a unique type of demountable, with every part numbered to a code. The hotel, boarding house, and private homes were all bolted together in such a way as to allow them to be dismantled, transported by dray, and re-erected to another site. The Cosmopolitan Hotel, originally built in Ravenswood, resided in Highville, Ballara, and Cloncurry. Shutters replaced windows and mosquito nets on frames controlled pests. The Ballara Provisional School was opened on the 7th of July 1919, after the school teacher, Timothy Killeen, were moved from Hightville. Davis Arndt arrived in Ballara as a new teacher on the 3rd of May 1921 but was granted sick leave due to war wounds and later died in Stanthorpe. George Corboy and George Sargent followed as teachers until the school's closure on the 28th of February 1925. In 1921 and 1922, the Ballara police station was manned by Acting Sergeant John Gillick and Constable M. Kinnane. It was decided that the station was required in Mount Isa, so the buildings and cells were re-erected there on the 31st of July 1924. The Ballara District Hospital serviced small towns and mining operations of the area. In 1921, the matron of the hospital was SIster Mary Duncan, the medical practitioner was Doctor Rae, the accountant and secretary was Fraser Knox, and the cook was Selina Matthews. For many years, the undertaker, Bill Cocking, used the cemetery at Hightville. Funerals were sometimes delayed for days while relatives were informed and travelled. There was just no way to preserve the deceased in the coffin whilst the nearest source of ice was miles away in Kuridala. One day, the ultimate embarrassment occurred after a bumpy ride in a spring cart on a hot summer afternoon. As a result, the cemetery was established just to the north of Ballara. The Great War contributed to high copper prices, however, when the conflict ended in November 1918, the value of copper fell below production costs. The closure of the Hampden Cloncurry Copper Mines Limited smelter at Kuridala in 1920 saw the closure of mining production at the MacGregor mining fields. The company directors recommended all work cease and all equipment be dismantled and removed. The township then had no purpose and a large proportion of the demountable buildings were carefully removed to Cloncurry and the surrounding area. The local workforce was absorbed into the railways and pastoral industries. A few exceptions stayed and gouged on private mineral shows, hoping for the fickle minerals market to rebound. Source: Ballara Mining Heritage Trail, Blueprint for the Bush, Cloncurry and District Historical and Museum Society, Angor to Zillmanton by Colin Hooper.

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  • Published 07.03.22
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