Enngonia
Collage of Enngonia.

The Mitchell Highway runs right through the centre of Enngonia, doubling as the main street. In fact Enngonia doesn't have a lot of streets at all. It's a sleepy little town just 40km from the Queensland border that usually looks like it could use a decent haircut and a new shirt. There's not a lot more than a hotel which serves as a caravan park, the Police Station, a tiny school and a handful of streets with a collection of dwellings. The town has been describes as the 'Outback Village by the Border'.

The town of Bourke is nearly a hundred kilometres south with the next closest town being Cunamulla across the border. On shopping day you could toss a coin to decide whether you stayed in New South Wales or ducked over into Queensland for a little variety.

Don't be fooled by Enngonia's mellow demeanour. Underneath lies a tiny settlement with some real get up and go. Each July the town hosts the Enngonia Race Day, an event that pulls seriously big crowds for a place with just over 100 residents. The dirt track has all the character of a true country race meet. It's a casual affair that's been run since at least 1877, that year a rider died after his horse 'ran him against a tree'. Accommodation on race day usually consists of a swag by the track and local graziers often attend by aeroplane, landing at the course.

Enngonia's other big event of the year is the Field Day which draws a surprising array of sponsors and exhibitors as well as good crowds.

Captain Starlight was an infamous bushranger who roamed between New South Wales and Queensland at the turn of the 20th Century. His body is buried in an unmarked grave 35km west of town. Enngonia proudly uses his image as the towns unofficial logo.

Captain Starlight's real name was Frank Pearson and he arrived from England in 1866. Together with Queensland bushranger, Charles Rutherford, the two robbed inns and pastoralists across the country. The December 1900 edition of the Morning Bulletin recounts an incident at Eggonia - "One day several of the Bourke police arrived at a bush public-house at a point on the Warrego known as Enngonia in search of the rangers. They had made their inquiries, taken their hordes to a yard at the rear of the hotel, and strolled in from the back. As they passed out toward the front verandah two other travellers dismounted in front of the house whom the police recognised as their quarry. So soon as the call to surrender was given, the rangers fired upon them. A desperate conflict then began. The police gripped Rutherford and haled him inside the hotel. Pearson, who was then himself wounded, shot the sergeant dead. That is as the tale as was told by eye-witnesses to the encounter. The robbers then mounted their horses and took to the bush."

Starlight was eventually captured and sentenced to death but managed to secure his release after 15 years in prison. He died by mistakenly consuming potassium cyanide during a drinking binge. Rutherford's end came when he wrestled with a publican whom he was trying to rob. During the scuffle he was shot in the jaw with his own gun, dying the following day.

The late Fred Hollows, the renowned opthamologist and humanitarian, had a special relationship with Enngonia. In the late 1970's the town was the trial site for the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program across outback Australia. His coffin was draped with a pall that was hand painted by the people of Eggonia.


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