The tiny township of Morven claims Harry Readford (or Redford) as the local historical hero, which is unsurprising as Australians often empathise with outback bushrangers such as the Kelly's and Kenniff's.
Readford may or may not have been partially inspirational for the lead character in Rolfe Boldrewood's classic tale of bush ranging adventure - Robbery Under Arms. Fiction may have found it's way into folklore as Readford is claimed to be the notorious Captain Starlight of the novel - bushranger extraordinaire. Whatever the truth, Harry Readford was a known cattle 'duffer' (thief) and responsible for famously stealing a herd of 1000 cattle and pushing them across into South Australia where their Queensland brands wouldn't hinder a sale. It was a distance of nearly 1300km and realised a profit of nearly quarter of a million dollars in todays money.
The feat is recreated each year in the form of 'The Harry Redford Cattle Drive', 19 days and 200km pushing a 600 strong mob through the Queensland outback on horseback. Essentially the event is a tourist attraction and a chance for 'city dudes' to saddle up and take part in a bit of pioneering nostalgia.
Legend has it that Captain TJ Sadlier and his wife used a waterhole, near the present townsite of Morven, as a camp. Originally known as Sadlier's Waterhole the site became known as Morven after Oscar de Satge, a pastoral pioneer, named his local station Morven Downs for a town in Scotland.
The early days of places like Morven were often times of social unrest. Friction between local aboriginals and white settlers often ran high. Local aboriginals, who had often been displaced frequently speared cattle (and people). It was often simply a method to acquire a meal or, in some instances, a means of eliminating the cause for white settlement. In some instances across Australia many thousands of cattle were killed. Retaliation often involved a massacre on the part of the whites, usually led by the constabulary. Of course the gun won.
Towards the end of the twentieth century shearers across Australia engaged in a general strike against 'scab' labour, in essence the aim was to keep non union members out of union sheds. The district astound Charleville and Morven was not immune and riots and arrests were frequent as the standoff escalated. At one stage a wool wagon, seventeen sets of harnesses and seventeen bales of wool were 'burnt to ashes' at Morven by unionist shearers. Around the same time a detachment of mounted infantry was required to escort 45 non-unionists on the train leaving town.
Today Morven is home to under 300 residents and still relies on the sheep, wool and cattle industry. Nearby Tregole National Park is indicative of a semi-arid ecosystem and contains stands of the Ooline Tree (Cadellia pentastylis) a rare and vulnerable species that really belongs in the rainforest.
Other town attractions include a museum containing a miniature pioneer township that took fifteen years to complete. The museum also displays aboriginal stone tools and implements and displays showcasing 'early outback life'. The grounds contain a hut made from kerosene tins.
The Morven Clara 4x4 Stocke Route Trail takes you past the Clara Creek Hotel ruins, waterholes and an old bridge.
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