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Byrock, NSW

Quiet town noted for the Byrock Rockholes.

Byrock is a "blink and you will miss it" settlement on the long straight road from Nyngan to Bourke. Once an important watering hole for travellers today it is nothing more than a hotel, a general store, a deserted railway station, an old butcher's shop, an historic cemetery and a few unoccupied homes. The hotel is a popular watering hole which also offers camping facilities and bushwalks through the scrub.

Location

Byrock is located 685 km north-west of Sydney and 78 km on the Mitchell Highway south-east from Bourke.

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Origin of Name

It is accepted that the root of the town name comes from the Ngemba word "bai" meaning the semen of men and animals. This evolved to became the Bye Rockhole. In the 1880s when the railway arrived the settlement was known as 'Bye Rock'. There is an accepted explanation for the name changing to 'Byrock'. When the post office arrived the postmaster requested a rubber stamp from Sydney and it came back with the incorrect spelling 'Byrock'. The Railway Station Master, eager for a simple solution, cut out the 'e' from the railway sign and it became 'Byrock' as well.

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Things to See and Do

Byrock Water Hole
The water hole, which lies 500 metres to the west of the town just beyond the hotel, has a detailed explanation of its meaning to Aboriginal people.

Creation Story of the Byrock Rockholes.
"The Ngemba (Kurulkiyalu - stone country people) name of this granite rock outcrop is Bai - a word signifying the semen of men and animals. Towards the northern edge of the rock is a small hole in which water collects in rainy weather and during every thunderstorm. There it remains for a considerable time.
The little rockhole called 'Wuggarbuggarnea" was a great camping place for Ngemba, both before and after this part of the country became occupied by European settlers. Still residing in the neighbouring towns of Brewarrina and Bourke and spread through the towns in New South Wales, are the descendants of the Ngemba people.
Baiame - the great creator in Ngemba mythology - had his home at this place in the dreamtime. He dug the rockhole with his
stone axe. Every time it became blunt during the operation, he whet it on the surface near him.
"At other places there are hollows in the rock where the great creator pounded nuts and and ground grass-seed for the purpose of making bread.
"There is a long straight crack in the rock, varying from a metre to half metre in width and about half metre deep, commencing at the rock-hole.
"This is the trail along which the great creator dragged his firewood and larger game. It also served the purpose then as now, of channelling storm water into the rockhole.
"The great creator started his journey from Cobar chasing after a wild bee. on his feet he put bird feathers.
"He followed the insect all the way to a large rock at Wuttagoona where he successfully secured the honeycomb.
"There is still a bees' nest in the rock, but ordinary mortals cannot reach far enough into the crack to get at the honey."
When non-Aborigines arrived in the area they started using the rockhole because it was the only reliable source of water. It does dry up during periods of drought and therefore is not available all the time. At various times Afghan camel drivers, railway fettlers and Cobb & Co coaches have used the water. There is more information at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aboriginalplaces/ByrockRockHoles.htm.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Ngemba people who belonged to the Wongaipuwan language group. Kurulkiyala, or stone country people, was another identification name as was Gunda-Ah-Myro meaning men who stay out back and never visit rivers.

* Byrock came into existence as a stopping point for Cobb & Co coaches which used the Byrock rock holes to water their horses.

* By 1879 the Mulga Creek Hotel was being used as a Cobb & Co change station.

* On 2 September, 1884 the Great Western Railway from Sydney reached Byrock which was 455 miles and 42 chains (747.39 km) from Sydney and 497 feet (152 metres) above sea-level. The railway was an attempt by the New South Wales government to win back the trade which, at the time, was all going down the Darling River to South Australia.

* By 1885 the New South Wales government was offering blocks of land for sale in the town.

* With the arrival of the train, Cobb & Co started offering a service to Bourke four times weekly. The trip took 12 hours.

* By 1886 there were about 500 people living in the area. There were 10 stores, 5 hotels, as well as a butcher's shop and a baker's shop.

* In 1974 the railway branch line to Brewarrina was closed as a result of flood damage.

* In 1984 a new Mulga Creek Hotel was built at Byrock.

* The train service from Nyngan to Bourke was closed in May, 1989 due to flood damage.

* In 2006 the school was closed due to a lack of students.

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Visitor Information

Mulga Creek Hotel, Mitchell Highway, Byrock, tel: (02) 6874 7311

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Accommodation

Mulga Creek Hotel, Mitchell Highway, Byrock, tel: (02) 6874 7311

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Eating

Mulga Creek Hotel, Mitchell Highway, Byrock, tel: (02) 6874 7311

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Useful Websites

There is no website for Byrock.

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Got something to add?

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12 suggestions
  • The Cemetery at Byrock, some distance out of town, holds the graves of two babies, second cousins of mine. Both babies died at the station, two years apart, waiting for a train which might take them to Bathurst. They were sick, about 1900, mother wanted to take them to her parents in Bathurst, but they died at the Station, waiting for a train. They are buried at Byrock. SO sad. The poor mother.
    When I was there, for a day, a group of workers was busy clearing up the Cemetery, where the babies are buried, and it was VERY beautiful — trees murmuring to each other way up high. And, there was a large panel in which were listed the names of the people buried there. And the graves were identified as well as possible.
    Thank you SO much to the workers who did it!

    mary sculthorp
  • Does the Winter family still own the hotel in Byrock? My last visit was in 1969. At that time the Winter family ran the pub as well as the garage.

    patricia
  • Very informative. I was the officer in charge of Byrock Railway from about late 1964 until about 1965. I then transferred to Girilambone where we stayed until mid-1968. These days were very precious, as our son was born at Nyngan Hospital in 1967. Later on we moved to Tamworth NSW. However this is another story.

    Bill Barber
  • My Grandfather (Jesse) Andrew Roper was overseer on Byrock Station for decades. I have electoral rolls listing him and my Grandmother Alice Mary (nee Arnold) as living there during the 1930s and 40s. However, I think they were there for much longer

    Christine Barker
    • Hi Christine, my grandmothers maid name was Roper, Alice Maud she married Jack Hazelton probably in the late 1920’s , they have 7 kids, 4 girls and 3 boys, My grandfather was a fettler on the railways, they moved into Bourke in the late 1960,,,,julie cullen

      Julie cullen
  • Is there any information on Waddell’s Tank? My great grandfather Michael Joseph O’Grady was the caretaker there in 1892 but I cannot find anything about it’s purpose or closure.

    Sue MacGibbon
  • Do you have any information about a mine at or near Byrock around 1907-1909? I believe the mining company went bankrupt about 1909/1910. Unfortunately I have no details as to what kind of ore was mined – it may have been gold, tin or lead – or the name of the company operating the mine.
    My great grandfather Robert Doyle was apparently employed as a mine manager there around the years mentioned. The family rented a house at Byrock or Bourke and my grandfather travelled about 60 miles to the mine in a sulky and came home at weekends. There would also have been a Mr Hetherington who worked there during the same period, probably as a mine foreman. If you have any details, or could direct me to where I might find this information, I would be very grateful.
    Regards,
    Maxine Jones

    Maxine Jones
  • My grandfather, George Ernest Dorman was the licensee for the Commercial Hotel Byrock (later re-named the Gateway Hotel) for a short period between June & September 1926. This was after holding the license for the Federal Hotel in Miandetta (1919-1925) and then the Coolabah Hotel and immediately before taking up the license of the Barwon Hotel in Brewarrina in September 1926. There are photos of the Commercial Hotel in Byrock from Tooth & Co at the Noel Butlin Archives at ANU dated September 1927 if anyone is interested. There are 2 glass plate negatives of Byrock Railway Station from the Goldthorpe Collection of the University of Newcastle which are very evocative of Byrock. Find them at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/byrock

    Kaye Schofield
    • Elias Denis Jarrett was my great great grandfather. We knew that he moved with the family to Byrock in the 1890s & leased a bore, my great great grandmother Rosa Jarrett died in childbirth while there. But we don’t know much else about that part of the family’s life. Do you have any further information – very interested. Thanks.

      Grant Scott
  • From the 1890s until around 2015 Byrock had at least one council maintained water bore. My great grandfather, Elias Jarrett was the manager of the bore during the early 1890s. This information was often related by my grandmother who was born at Byrock in 1892.

    Kevin Richardson
  • Grandfather Jack Willoughby grew up in Byrock possibly 1920’s and eventually settled in Bathurst passing away in 1982. in the I am trying to trace some family history/heritage.

    Natalie