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Booroorban, NSW

The Royal Mail Hotel was an important Cobb & Co staging post.

Let's not exaggerate. Booroorban is a pub. Nothing more, nothing less. It is special because the pub is remarkably well preserved and is a genuinely historic and interesting place where a traveller can get a drink, have a meal and reflect on what life was like in outback NSW in the 1860s.


Booroorban is a tiny township located 770 km from Sydney and 48 km south of Hay on the Cobb Highway.


Origin of Name

Booroorban was originally called Pine Ridge. The name was changed in 1885 because there was another town called Pine Ridge. No one is sure what Booroorban means. It is taken from the language of the local Aborigines - the Wiradjuri or Nari Nari peoples. It is probable that the name was taken from a nearby property - "Burraburoon".


Things to See and Do

Royal Mail Hotel
There are two plaques under the peppercorn trees opposite the hotel. One is a Cobb & Co marker. The other is part of The Long Paddock signage which is part of a trail which stretches from Wilcannia to Moama. Both are worth reading. They provide useful background history to the pub. The important thing is that an Englishman Samuel Porter built the pub in 1868. It is still standing and, remarkably, the exterior has hardly been altered and the interior has a wonderful olde world, friendly feel. If you want to try and imagine what life was like for Cobb & Co passengers then this is about as good as it gets. This is the last remaining coaching inn on the Cobb & Co route between Hay and Deniliquin.It was where, because Porter had managed to dig a well and get access to reliable water, that horses would be changed and the passengers could alight and have a refreshment. There were always fresh teams of horses and there were stables at the back of the pub.

Perhaps the hotel's most famous connection is the story of the Headless Horseman which is depicted in a painting in the appropriately named Headless Horseman Bar. The story goes that around the 1860s and 1870s drovers moving through the area regularly saw a headless horseman wearing a cloak around Black Swamp, south of Booroorban. Not surprisingly the wraith frightened the men and their animals. It was said the ghost was that of a drover who had died near or in the swamp. Then the myths began. There was the wonderful story of a Moulamein butcher who dressed himself in a cloak thrown over a wooden frame on his shoulders. It is said that he used the ruse to steal small numbers of cattle which he duly killed and sold to his customers. There were other stories of how cattle was stampeded and taken south across the border and sold. One Cobb & Co. driver claimed to have carried the wounded cattle thief to hospital only to see the same thief's headless body riding a horse a few nights later. A roadside marker has been established to honour the Headless Horseman. It is located at the Black Swamp rest area.



* Prior to European settlement the Nari Nari and Wiradjuri Aboriginal people wandered through the district.

* By the 1840s drovers overlanding cattle from western NSW and Queensland were passing through Pine Ridge (the site of modern Booroorban) on their way to Port Phillip. They relied on very unreliable water at either Black Swamp or Billabong Creek.

* Booroorban came into existence because, given the amount of traffic from Hay (known at the time as Lang's Crossing) to Deniliquin, there was a need for a place where both animals and humans could be reliably watered and fed. A group of citizens in Hay raised money to dig a well at Pine Ridge on the Old Man Plain and this was the start of Booroorban. The well, which was completed in 1859, was less than perfect but a settler from England named Samuel Porter deepened it and, around 1868, built the Royal Mail Hotel beside the well. It became the only reliable source of water on the track.

* The hotel has always been essential to the continuing existence of Booroorban. It was a vital staging post on the route between Hay and Deniliquin and today is the only surviving coaching inn. When it was established, prosperity followed. Not only did Cobb & Co use it (the stables still exist) but it became a stopping point for drovers and for the bullock trains carrying wool from western NSW to the river port of Echuca.

* By 1885, when it was formally proclaimed a village, Booroorban had grown and there were two hotels, a school, post office, general store, about 20 houses and 200 residents.

* It is a comment on the isolation of the area that even today most of the families living in and around Booroorban can trace their ancestry back to Samuel Porter.


Visitor Information

Royal Mail Hotel, Booroorban, tel: (02) 6993 0694



Royal Mail Hotel, Booroorban, tel: (02) 6993 0694



Royal Mail Hotel, Booroorban, tel: (02) 6993 0694


Useful Websites

There is a plan to develop a website for the Royal Mail Hotel. In the meantime check out http://www.thelongpaddock.com.au.

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10 suggestions
  • Hi, Thanks for your interesting www-site. I remember welcome breaks at Booroorban on trips to Deniliquin over the years. Recently, I have come across Booroorban again in researching family histories for Sarah Laing and Charles Simper who lived there on a property from about 1882.
    Charles Laing (1840-1923) was the son of Mary Howlett and Richard Simper from Rushbrooke, Suffolk, England. As a young man in the 1850s, Charles migrated to Australia.
    Sarah Laing (1857-1928) was born Carngham, Victoria, the daughter of Jane Barden and Christopher Laing who migrated in 1852 to Victoria.
    The children of Sarah Laing and Charles Simper were: James, Charles, Caroline, Charles, William, Alice, May, Sarah, Annie, Mary, Rose and Ada.

    Laurel Fisher
  • Hi, I am a direct descendant of Samuel Porter, with a brother and cousins still living in the area. We believe the name Booroorban came from the Aboriginal name for a swamp on our property east of Booroorban called “Burraburoon” not sure of the meaning of the name though!

    Anne Romanin
    • My maternal grandmother was Martha Edna Porter, born (I believe) in 1878. I can recall her describing Summer evenings where she and her sisters would bridle their horses and ride bareback across the local plains until the horses, having sensed the girls had fallen asleep, would turn and walk quietly back the the hotel.
      She also spoke of how her father would rarely turn away swaggies looking for food, having them chop firewood in exchange, preserving their dignity.
      She married a travelling merchant of cloths and other soft goods and bore a son Lindsay and daughter Betty, and moved to Sydney in around 1902, having failed at farming on a selesction near Leeton NSW.
      Lindsay was a Surveyor with the Army and was seconded to go and peg to Gunbarrel Highway with a very small team for Len Beadle’s construction gang following a day or two later.

      Peter Lindsay Batty
      • Samuel also hosted the Annual horse racing carnival on the flat opposite the hotel. Once or twice a year the kids would collect jars and bottle and they would make a barrel of ginger beer.

        Peter Batty
      • Correction. She was Martha Esther. Her son and daughter were born in Sthn NSW; they moved to Sydney around 1930

        Peter Lindsay Batty
  • My great-great grandfather Thomas Stallworthy b.1825 Padbury BKM England. He married Bridget Grindrod nee Grealish at Hay in 1877 but previous to that he was on Warriwillah / Wangenella Station and living at Pine Ridge as an overseer circa 1870-80. Prior to this he was a sailor on HMS Scout 1846 onwards in the Mediterranean Sea in the hunt for slave traders and pirates. He died Melbourne in 1902 aged 77.

    Henry Watts
  • I am a direct descendant of Edward & Catherine Smith who had the coaching inn later known as the Trotting Cob hotel at the Black Swamp, Edward died in 1871 and is buried at Hay and Catherine died 1883 and is buried at Deniliquin.

    Robert Hermes
    • Am also a direct descendant of Edward and Catherine Smith (great great grand son) who, I understand, set up the Trotting Cob Hotel at the Black Swamp. I also have a photo of them both, well dressed for the time, probably taken in the 1860’s. Was told many years ago that Edward died in an accident, involving a wagon, at the Black Swamp.

      John Thebridge
  • I don’t have any relatives with connection to Booroorban at all, but will come visit one day and stay a night or so.

    Steve Goodwin
  • My mother Doris Pavey (nee Eldridge) born 1916 Wanganella, lived in Booroorban. Doris known as Dot & husband Bob Pavey became publicans of Royal Mail Hotel, & the Post Office in 1960’s where we as kids went to school, also schooled in Hay. Doris ( Dot Pavey) remembers her father changing the horses for the coaches when they stopped at Booroorban & what a hub of rest & refreshment it was !

    Question: when did the Cobb & co coaches stop their services from Deni to Hay?
    Jan Pavey, 0416654313. Sept 2022.

    Janice (Jan) Pavey