Henry Lawson worked a month at nearby Toorale Station and wrote of this tiny N.S.W. settlement - 'We can imagine Louth - especially on a Sunday afternoon. Two or three wooden humpies, badly in need of paint - a scrimpy swag here and there under a tree along the river bank, and maybe a tent, or a bag - and the mia-mia - and a sad and dusty sheepdog - a primitive steamboat ... blazing drought overhead and all round, burning the Darling banks to ashes, and audibly baking the land for a depth of several feet'.
Louth understands that famine follows feast and vice-versa. An 1889 news article from the Australian Town and Country Journal reported that - "This district is at present suffering severely from a prolonged drought. If we do not get rain this month, the loss of stock will be something alarming." The Barrier Miner followed up twelve months later with "The embankment gave way and the town is under water. The Post Office and The Royal Hotel are the only buildings above water. The women and children had been previously removed to the sandbank."
The Darling River has always played a vital role in the fortunes of Louth. In 1859 an Irish immigrant, Tom Mathews who hailed from County Louth, built a pub along the eastern bank to take advantage of the numerous paddle steamers that cruised the river carrying supplies, wool and people. The bush tracks were also busy with drovers pushing thousands of sheep to and from the local stations. Dunlop Station in particular exceeded one million acres and in 1888 was the first shearing shed in Australia to use mechanical shears. In a single 48 hour period the Australian Town and Country Journal noted that 7700 maiden ewes, 10,000 wethers and 7000 ewes passed through the town of Louth. That's a lot of flies.
Cobb & Co stages used Tom Mathews's hotel as a stopover and a town grew around the pub. In 1866 Mathews's wife Mary died and Tom commissioned a 7 metre high polished granite cross to erected in her honour. Known as the 'Celtic Cross' the alignment of the cross was reputedly aided by a river boat Captain. For three minutes every day the sun catches the monument reflecting the cross over the town.
So, apart from a 100 residents, a pub, a few house and a towering christian monument what else could Louth offer? Horse racing is in the town's blood with the first races held in 1880 for a prize pool of 75 sovereigns. Henry Lawson noted that Louth "loved a drink, a punt and a party." In 1959 Bob Horten formed the Louth Turf Club, whose name is at odds with the track as the dusty dirt oval has never been quilted in lush green turf.
The town pulls 6000 punters each year for prize money in excess of $75,000. They arrive by aeroplane, boat, Winnebago and horse and sleep where they lay their swags. There's a fishing competition, live music, the Gundabooka Golf Challenge, evening dinner and a charity auction. The final race sees the saddling paddock convert to "one big, dusty dance floor." Don't miss it.
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