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Louth, NSW

Tiny outback town on the Darling River.

Louth is a tiny settlement on the banks of the Darling River which came into existence the moment paddle steamers reached Bourke and Brewarrina. It was established in 1859 when T.A. Mathews built a pub to cater for the passing river trade. Today Louth is known for its unusual 'Shining Headstone', a remarkable Celtic Cross on the grave of Mary Mathews (the wife of T.A. Mathews) which glows at sunset, and the Louth Races, one of the best and most successful racing carnivals in outback Australia.


Louth is located 858 km north west of Sydney via Dubbo and Nyngan and 99 km south west of Bourke.


Origin of Name

Thomas Andrew Mathews, the founder of Louth and sometimes known as the 'King of Louth', named the town after the County of Louth in Ireland where he was born on 12 May, 1825.


Things to See and Do

The Shining Headstone
The one remarkable attraction in Louth is the "Shining Headstone" which has officially declared  an Australian National Monument. The headstone is the work of Peter Hoey-Finn of Bendigo who constructed it for Thomas Mathews to celebrate the life of his first wife, Mary Mathews, who died in 1869. The headstone was completed in Bendigo in 1882 and a year later it was transported up the Darling from South Australia on the Jane Eliza. It did not arrive in Louth until June, 1886. At the time the Darling River was too low and the Jane Eliza could not progress beyond Tilpa. It was eventually transported the final 90 km by bullock team. The monument cost £600 and was quarried from grey granite on Philip Island. It stood 7.6 m high and the Celtic Cross was 1.2 m high. It was positioned in such a way that on the anniversary of Mary Mathews' death, 19 August 1869, the sun reflected from the cross onto the house where she had lived in Louth. The monument was installed in such a way that it caught the light of the setting sun and reflected it through town. It is local folklore that the alignment of the headstone was achieved with the assistance of the navigational aids and expertise of the captain of the Jane Eliza.

Louth Races
In 1959 Bob Horten formed the Louth Turf Club and organised an annual race meeting to be held on the first Saturday after the August Bank Holiday. The first meeting was rudimentary. The toilets were made of corrugated iron and the horses were stabled in the open. Today the race meeting attracts over 5,000 people. Check out http://www.louthraces.com for more details.



* Prior to European settlement the Barranbinya First Nation language group lived in the area.

* The first European to travel through the area was Charles Sturt who, in 1828 and accompanied by Hamilton Hume, reached the Darling River north of Louth.

* In 1835 Sir Thomas Mitchell travelled down the Darling and passed the present site of Louth.

* As a result of these early explorers pastoralists moved into the area.

* In 1859 Captain W. R. Randall sailed the Gemini up the Darling River from South Australia to Bourke. Immediately Bourke became the transport centre for the whole of south west Queensland and western New South Wales.

* That same year (1859) Thomas Andrew Mathews built a pub, the Daniel O'Connell Hotel, to cater to the passing river trade. Louth was also a stopover on the Cobb & Co run and one of Mathews' sons became a noted driver for the coaching firm.

* In 1866 Thomas Mathews purchased 200 acres of which 40 acres were divided up into house blocks along the Darling River. He also built a bonded store where goods could be stored. Around this time he became known as the 'King of Louth'.

* The Louth Post Office was established in 1869.

* In 1880 the village held its first race meeting - the Louth Christmas Races which had a two race program.

* In 1888 Dunlop Station, owned by Sir Samuel McCaughey, became the first property in the world to experiment with mechanical sheep shearing. So revolutionary was the experiment that the shearing shed was subsequently visited by the Governor of New South Wales.

* By the 1890s the town had grown substantially. Local wool was being transported upstream to Bourke and copper ingots from Cobar were being transported down river by steamer and barge to Morgan in South Australia. The town comprised a brick post office and residence dating from the 1880s, a school, police station and the Dan O'Connell Hotel. A ferry carried sheep, the Cobb & Co. coaches and the travelling public across the Darling and the telegraph connected the town to the rest of the world.

* In 1959 Bob Horten formed the Louth Turf Club and organised an annual race meeting to be held on the first Saturday after the August Bank Holiday.

* In late November, 2022 the Darling River broke records when it flooded. On 27 November it reached 13.37 metres.

* Today Louth is a tiny stopover on the journey from Bourke down the Darling River to Wilcannia.


Visitor Information

Ask at Shindy's Inn or check at the Bourke Visitor Information, Kidman Way, Bourke, tel: (02) 6872 1321.



Shindy's Inn, Bloxham Street, Louth, tel: (02) 6874 7422 has basic food supplies, good pub meals and, reputedly, excellent chips.


Useful Websites

There is no dedicated website for Louth.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

17 suggestions
  • Go west over the bridge, travel about 1km to the T junction, turn right then the next left and travel west over the long plain and up the rise where the road has bitumen. Stop, look back east – a great panoramic view. This is Australia. An Anzac service is held about 5 p.m. in the park opposite Shindy’s Inn – worth attending.

    Michael Young
  • Thanks for the tip. The view is stunning! Makes you realize just how BIG the place is and how small us travellers are.

  • How is the area for fishing? Thinking of buying a bit of land up there around this time next year.. Cheers

    Nevil Yates
  • It is great to see there is now a pub at Louth. I travelled down the Darling from Moree to Swan Hill on several occasions in the late 1970s early 80s, camped at the race track for a few days. Some of the best travelling I have done. Just doing some research on the the trip again, this time from Toowoomba, before they take away my licence. I travel alone and with the the sun on my right arm, that means I’m going west. I have covered most of Australia except for the west that will probably elude me. All the best to anyone who does the Darling trip even though things have changed a lot. Remember respect others property and country.

    Hayden (saplin)
  • They used to have a great tennis tournament in Louth as well plenty of courts and fierce competition.

    Mark Weaber
  • What a great piece of history
    Thank you

    Dave Eddy
    • I’m a descendant of Thomas Andrew Mathews. I’d love to visit one day. Always wanted to see Louth. As I live in Nth. Qld, it’s a long way from here. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

      Cherie Dionysius
  • Thank you for writing this, I found it very interesting. I’ve never been to Louth, but I definitely will. Thomas Andrew Mathews and Mary Devine are my maternal 3rd great grandparents, my grandfather was William Francis Patrick Mathews and funnily enough Peter Hoey Finn is also my 3rd great grandfather, his daughter Sarah Ann Elizabeth Finn married Peter Mathews the son of Thomas Andrew Mathews and Mary Devine.

    Kim Legge
  • I love living here. It was my home. My mum and dad, Archie Lawrence McMaster and Regina Elizabeth McMaster(Harmer), lived here. We lived in a few different places, then our last home was the old shop which is long gone xx I remember the pub being so much bigger that it is today xx i even attended the school wow Auntie Elise Park x,most important – my Auntie Amy n Uncle John xx Love them forever and always x I must mention my Biggest love ,Ian, Brian Christopher, Warwick n my bestie Jo (Kevin) Fowlers in my heart xxx Miss those days xx Love u forever, To my lil sis xx you are my ROCK xx Toni Louise Innes ( McMaster)

    Cynthia Jean McMaster
    • Do any of you remember Jack Fraser? He lived on his aunts place just across the river from Shindys Inn back in the 60s. In those days the river was crossed on a Punt.

      Steve ennett
      • Yes, I went to school at Louth with Jack Fraser 1951 to 1953. Our teacher was Kevin Enright then Jack Haines who more recently lived in Cobar. We lived in the Post Office. The publican was Jack Letton. The pub was called The Royal Hotel before Shindy’s Inn was built.The punt was out of action during the 1951 flood. Jack Fraser and I both went to Dubbo High in 1953.

        Peter Connell
  • Hi there, researching my Great Grandfather Thomas Powell and have uncovered a Coroners Inquest 29.6.1893 at the Louth police Station, Buried this same day in Louth Cemetery. Not sure why he was here as he previously worked on a high country sheep station in NZ, and had a family here, so must assume he was working or looking for work, possibly at a similar station. He was born in the West Indies and thus a man of colour so may have encountered some trouble in a small town but any information about those days in history would be helpful. Thanks

    Max Ferris
  • Great read.
    Specifically where is the Cross situated?