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Booligal, NSW

Outback town immortalised in “Hay and Hell and Booligal”.

A pub, a few houses, a playing field and a memorial to explorer John Oxley are the totality of this small settlement surrounded by the vastness of the Riverine Plains of western NSW. It is a lonely and isolated place made famous by ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s famous line ‘Hay, Hell and Booligal.’ Over the years numerous complaints have been made about Booligal, particularly in summer. Dust, flies, heat, grasshoppers, rabbits (there was a plague in 1890), snakes, drought have all been levelled at the district but then … isn’t that the essence of outback Australia.

Location

Booligal is 802 km west of Sydney via Yass, Wagga and Narrandera. It is 78 km north of Hay via the Cobb Highway.

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Origin of Name

It has been suggested that the word comes from a local Nari-nari Aboriginal language and means ‘a windy place’.

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Things to See and Do

The Booligal Hotel
No longer an historic pub, the Booligal Hotel (now known as the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel) was rebuilt in 1979. It still has a certain, rough, outback charm and the walls are lined with interesting photos of earlier pubs in the town. The original town pub, the Drovers Arms (see photo) opened in 1861. In 1867 the first Duke of Edinburgh Hotel opened.

The Oxley Theodolite Memorial
Just beyond the pub and over the road is a huge theodolite, a memorial to the surveyor and explorer, John Oxley, who was the first European to move across these vast plains and reach the Lachlan River. It has a simple plaque which reads: “Lieut. John Oxley, Surveyor General of NSW reached this point on 5th July 1817.”

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Other Attractions in the Area

Goonawarra Nature Reserve
Drive 19 km south to the Goonawarra Nature Reserve which edges the Lachlan River. Those interested in the wildlife of the region will find galahs, hawks, wedge-tailed eagles, kangaroos and emus in the swamps and billabongs (when there is water) around the river. It is claimed that the Lachlan River is a good place to fish for Murray cod, yellow-belly and redfin. It is also possible to catch yabbies.

The One Tree Hotel
39 km south of Booligal is the ruin of the One Tree Hotel. It is currently being repaired although it is said that it will cost $80,000 to get the electricity reconnected. The hotel was built in 1862 and known as Finch’s Inn. It became an important stop on the Cobb & Co route between Hay and Wilcannia with passengers often having lunch at the hotel while the horses were changed. The hotel became very profitable when William Clark, who had purchased it from Alexander Finch, leased a nearby government tank which was capable of watering up to 12,000 sheep. Clark charged a penny per head to water cattle and horses. The inn changed hands again when it was purchased by the McQuade family in the 1880s. The 1862 structure burned down in 1901 but the building was rebuilt exactly as it had been so the current hotel is a replica. The pub’s license lapsed in the 1940s and it became a private residence. One Tree was proclaimed a village in 1885 though it never grew.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Nari-nari Aborigines. It is from their language that the town takes its name.

* On 5 July 1817 the NSW Surveyor General John Oxley reached the present site of Booligal. He was following the Lachlan River from Bathurst at the instruction of Governor Lachlan Macquarie who wanted to determine “the real course of the Lachlan... and whether it falls into the sea, or into some inland lake.”

* The township came into existence in the 1850s and by 1859 there was a punt across the Lachlan River.

* The town was surveyed and gazetted in 1860.

* In 1871 a provisional school was opened. Children were taught in a tent measuring 5m x 6 m until a school was built in 1901.

* A bridge was built in 1872-73 and the owner charged three pence per wheel for every vehicle that used it. It was closed in 1913.

* The town grew slowly. Its important location on the stock route from western Queensland to the sales in Melbourne meant that by 1890 it had a population of around 500 people. It had a post office, a court house, two punts, a blacksmith, a wool scour and two pubs.

* Both the One Tree and Booligal hotels were important staging posts between Hay and Wilcannia for Cobb & Co coaches until the service closed in 1914.

* Electricity didn’t arrive until 1986. It cost $29,000 to connect each property in the town.

* The town became part of Australian folklore when ‘Banjo’ Paterson coined the phrase “Hay and Hell and Booligal” in 1896. It actually suggested that Booligal was worse than Hell although the Hell that Paterson was referring to may have been the property of ‘Hell’s Gate’ which lies between Hay and Balranald. Paterson’s poem is quoted in full at http://www.hay.nsw.gov.au/VisitHay/PlacestoVisit/Booligal/HayHellBooligal/tabid/158/Default.aspx

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Visitor Information

The best place is the Booligal Hotel. Tel: 02 6993 8123.

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Accommodation

There is accommodation at the Booligal Hotel.

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Eating

Food is available at the Booligal Hotel.

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Useful Websites

Check out the Hay website for additional information: http://www.hay.nsw.gov.au/visithay/placestovisit/booligal/tabid/130/default.aspx

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17 suggestions
  • Have you seen the Booligal monster?.. A massive mossie optic in the pub in 1961

    John
  • Hi John, I am not sure it is there still. Long time ago and the pub has changed hands. Next time I am out that way I will check it out.

    Bruce Elder
  • Booligal, a place I have long desired to return, was the birthplace of my grandmother Anne Eleanor Clancy, youngest daughter of John Joseph Clancy of ‘The Overflow’. As a child growing up, my grandmother regularly relayed to us, stories of her birthplace, the harshness of the land, and the joys of family life, one of which were regular visits by “Mr Paterson” A.B. (Banjo) Paterson) to the family home in Lachlan Street Booligal. Over the years many have written that ‘Clancy of The Overflow’ was a myth, a figment of Patterson’s imagination. This has led to many others, claiming to be ‘Clancy’ or to be connected to him in some way directly. The truth is that John Clancy of ‘The Overflow’ was a real, large-as-life figure who embodied a strength of spirit that became an inspiration for all that we see today in the ‘Australian Spirit’. My Father, Gerard Joseph, son of Anne Eleanor and the grandson of John Joseph Clancy, is living still (age 95 years) in Newcastle NSW, probably the last person still living who grew up with an intimate knowledge of ‘Clancy of The Overflow’. It is my deepest hope that before the passing of much more time, I will have a opportunity to visit Booligal for a deeper experience of my family heritage.

    Brian Cork
    • Thanks for that, Brian. I am sure that all the people who visit the Booligal entry will be fascinated by that story. A real Clancy of the Overflow. I will relay it to Warren Fahey who is currently playing Banjo Paterson with Max Cullen.

      Bruce Elder
  • Hello, Does your town have a fishing club and could you give me details? Thank you.

    Short answer: No. It is in the middle of the desert. However the Lachlan River at Booligal is a popular fishing spot with large cod, perch and catfish to be had.

    Alan Pritchard
  • Hi, Is it possible to camp along the river somewhere nearby? We are in a caravan and self sufficient. We would like to come to the sheep races. Also, is there any water in the river atm?

    Can anyone answer these questions? Contact luiseor@netspace.net.au.

    Luise
  • I write as curator of the Banjo Paterson Museum in Yeoval Central NSW at present we are researching the poem Hay Hell and Booligal for a small display and would like to make contact with anyone who may be able to contribute anything. Love to hear from Brian Cork or Bruce Elder. Also can anyone inform me is the Overflow a Property or a Place. Alf. 29th September 2016

    Alf Cantrell
  • My great great grandfather John Devane was the publican for the Drovers Arms Hotel before his death in 1880. His son Timothy took over the license but died in 1882. I believe the pub then burnt down shortly afterwards. I would like to thank you whole heartedly for including the photo of the Drovers Arms! A trip to Booligal and a drink at the Booligal pub is on my radar!!!

    Karen Pike
  • Many years ago, I think from 1973-75, my family owned the Booligal post office and I have many fond memories of the little town. I had to go to school a year early as one of the children was leaving the school, taking it to under 10 children which would have meant it closing down. I used to love ringing the school bell and as I was the only child in kindy, I got to ring it quite a bit 🙂 I remember the old post office, the 24 hour switchboard and the mail room which my brother once covered in foam from the fire extinguisher! We had no electricity so Dad had to go turn on the generator every morning and turn it off every night.There were all the characters from the pub, and I still remember the publican, Mrs Loverige( forgive me if I have the name and spelling wrong!!), you wouldn’t mess with her!!! I loved going back and visiting the properties of Nintee and Greenvale and would love to go out there again one day soon, but not in summer!!!! I’m glad I found this site, it’s bringing back some wonderful memories

    Belinda Jones
  • Reading about Booligal reminds me. In about 1971 I was working in the Goolgowi area. Two other men and myself were sent to Booligal on a job. It was a hot day and we stopped off at the Booligal pub for a little light refreshment. At that time there were fuel pumps outside. While we were there we noted the publican seated at the end of the bar and when a car tooted for petrol he remained seated and said he’ll be in soon. After a few more toots a man came in enquiring about petrol. The publican said come and sit down and have a beer while I finish mine and I’ll get your petrol. The man ordered a beer. At this time me and my workmates left to get on with our work. A few hours later we returned for a drink for the road home. We noticed the car still at the fuel pump , the publican still seated at the end of the bar, and the man requiring petrol seated beside him buying the beers saying “We better get my petrol soon” and the publican “She’ll be right mate. It’s your shout.” I heard a story sometime later that the publican did this on a daily basis and his wife was the barmaid and just kept the drinks coming – but the customer always paid. They also rented out rooms for the driver too drunk to drive. Good work if you can get it. P.S. the locals served themselves fuel as not to be roped in.

    Keith Davis
  • Is anyone familiar with Culpatara Station in Booligal. Just doing some family research and would love to know more about the property. Thanks

    Michelle
  • My father was born at Hillston in 1905. His father [aged in his late thirties] was an Englishman and he married a younger lady from Booligal.
    He was an actor and played in local shows around the area of Hay and Hillston. One show was THE COURT JESTER in which he played the main role. He was also a bookmaker and fathered 2 sons and 3 daughters all of whom lived in the area until around 1939. Most of them lived or worked in Hay. My grandfather was born in Leeds in England and came from a wealthy family [born 1864? and passed on in 1934 at Hay where he was laid to rest]. He was also a member of the AWU. His union number was 17296. When i asked the AWU they said they didn`t know that number existed. ps I have further questions to ask and would like to get your assistance later on

    graham denton
  • I’m visiting Booligal over Easter. My mother’s maiden name is Watkin and I believe her grandfather (my great grandfather) and her sister Ella are buried in the cemetery at Booligal.

    Joanne upton
  • You all should check out the species and Eade’s settlement in Booligal on the Lachlan River. Also check out graves near the Booligal station wool shed more history there.

    Gary James eade
  • hay and hell and booligal

    banjo paterson