Quilpie
Collage of Quilpie.

Quilpie is the administrative centre of the Quilpie Shire. As the largest town in the district, with just over 570 residents, it can boast having two schools and a hospital. The grand, two storey Quilpie Hotel dates back to 1926. Its red brick construction, full verandahs top and bottom are reminiscent of 'inter-war' Australian architecture that was popular in that era. It's often referred to as 'The Brick' probably more for it's shoebox shape than its brick construction.

Quilpie has hot summers and moderate winters and doesn't receive a lot of rain. The semi-arid landscape is pure southwest Queensland grazing country and the pastoral industry has been the mainstay of the towns fortunes although opal has played an interesting part in the towns history. The small mining operations in the area are well known for producing 'Boulder Opal'. St Finbarr's Catholic Church has a fine opal alter and lectern as it's centrepiece while opal shops can be located in the town precinct.

Quilpie is relatively young, only being formally recognised as a town in 1917 when the railway arrived. The word 'Quilpie' is taken from the aboriginal word 'quilpeta' and refers to the ungainly bird, the Bush Stone-Curlew, that can be found through the district. The streets of Quilpie are nearly all named for birds.

Even though Quilpie is a relative newcomer to the area, people had begun settling many years before, with notice of the first 'white' birth occurring about 1867. The late development of the town didn't hinder progress though. A telephone exchange was established in 1923, a year after the first phone line was installed. The town received a sewerage line in 1938. Quite remarkable when you consider that many towns have no common sewerage infrastructure today with many places not even being connected to the electrical grid until the 1980's. Quilpie was ahead of it's time.

1926 was an eventful year for Quilpie and Queensland as a whole. It was calculated that over 10 million sheep had been lost to drought in the preceding five years. Those sorts of numbers had a dramatic economic effect on the fortunes of these small wool towns. 1926 also saw Quilpie burn to the ground. The 'Worker' journal of the same year described every premises being lost except the masonry Commercial Bank, the police station and the post office (which was 'only a hut'). The fire is though to have started in the local billiards saloon. On a brighter note 1926 saw Joe Knehr discover a giant pipe of red crystal opal at the Red Show Mine. This discovery would help to forge Quilpie's reputation as a leading opal producer.

Quilpie makes a good base to further explore the the towns up and down the Barcoo River and is an alternative gateway into iconic outback destinations like Birdsville.


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