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Tambo, QLD

Small rural service centre on the Barcoo River

Tambo is a small regional service centre - police station, post office, health care centre, general store - the famous Barcoo River. It is a town which has been held in aspic with a couple of pubs, a disused picture theatre and a number of old buildings which date back to the 1870s and 1880s. Tambo proudly claims that it is the oldest town in Central Western Queensland. 


Tambo is located 200 km north of Charleville, 208 km south-east of Barcaldine and 862 km north-west of Brisbane via Roma. It is 398 metres above sea level.


Origin of Name

No one is certain of the origin of the town's name. Suggestions include "hidden place" and "resting place". It is taken from an Aboriginal word of unknown origin. There is also a Tambo in Victoria.


Things to See and Do

Tambo Historical Walk
The Visitor Information Centre has copies of Tambo's Historical Walk: The Oldest Town, a brochure which includes 17 buildings (most of which are in the main street) and offers an image of a town which has changed little over the past century. The most interesting include:

1. Post and Telegraph office building (1876)
Tambo has two Post Offices. The first one, now the Tambo Museum, was opened in 1876 and still stands as a simple, timber building with a wide veranda which houses "artefacts relating to Tambo and its early post office days, the Qantas crash, horse racing and pioneer life". Nearby is the handsome Post Office built in 1904.

2. Old Court House (1888)
Located in the main street, the Old Court House (1888) was built for £1068 and is now used as the local library and the town's excellent Visitor Centre. As it originally contained the largest room in the town the locals insisted that all the court equipment - the witness stand, prisoner's box and Judge's bench - were portable and could be moved to one side for community functions. It has an unusual connection with the famous Harry Redford and the white bull case which was held in Roma. The white bull was brought to Tambo from Rockhampton and held outside the court house.
If you don't know the story - it is a classic piece of outback folklore. See below for a detailed account of the theft and the trial.

5. Reginald Barry's Influenza Memorial
At the southern end of town is a grim reminder that even a place as remote as Tambo was affected by the deadly influenza epidemic of 1919. A memorial beside the road has the following dedication: "Reginald Sylvester Barry (late manager of Tambo Station) who died on 17 June 1919. He worked unceasingly to save those people in Tambo stricken with pneumonic influenza and at the end of the epidemic contracted the disease himself and died. Erected by the residents of Tambo and District in January 1920." Barry lost his wife and two of his three children to the epidemic and, in 1919 when it looked as though the epidemic was dying, he caught the disease and died.

6. Tambo Dam
As the visitor enters the town from the south they notice a stretch of water on the right hand side of the road, this is the Tambo Dam which was constructed in 1880 to supply the town with reliable water. Sometimes referred to as Tambo Lake, is Tambo Dam which was built in 1880 and was the town's vital water supply (along with the Barcoo River) until 1895. That year bores were tapped into the Artesian Basin which still supplies the town with water. The dam has become a popular place for brolgas, swans and cygnets and locals enjoy skiing when the lake has a good supply of water. The shore offers both pleasant bushwalks and places for picnics. There is a useful sign beside the dam with a list of birds which can be sighted. It includes Pelicans, Richard's Pipits, Brolgas, Australian Pratincole, Black-fronted Dotterel, Fairy Martin, Australian Bustard, Dusky Moorhen, Little Corella, Major Mitchell Cockatoo, Galah, Darter, Nankeen Kestrel, Tawny Frogmouth and Wedge-tailed Eagle.  Check out http://www.blackalltambotourism.com.au/tambo-tambo-dam.

17. Royal Carrangarra Hotel
Located at 25 Arthur Street, and probably the oldest hotel in western Queensland (more accurately the oldest licensed pub site), the Royal Carrangarra dates from around 1865 when Moses and Solomon Coverley first held the license. Over the years it has been the town's post office and has been burnt down three times. Today it is most famous for Ben's Chicken Racing which occurs seven nights a week between May and October and starts at 5.00 pm. For more information check out https://www.chickenracing.com.au which includes a number of Youtube videos. And https://www.royalcarrangarrahotel.com/about.

18. Tambo Teddies
Located at 17 Arthur Street is the Tambo Teddies Workshop where Teddy Bears, using the skins from local sheep, are filled with wool. A brilliant idea to use local produce, the Tiny Teddies first started in 1992 and since then over 50,000 have been made. The company explains: "Each of the teddies created is numbered and all have there own individual name. They come in different styles from the "bickie" bear for the very littlies to the fully dressed stockmen with his stock whip and swag. This is a ‘must see', however be prepared to lose your heart to one of these very cute and cuddly bears. There really is one there who would love to travel with you." Check out https://www.tamboteddies.com.au/ for more details.

The Tambo Truck - Wild and Woolly
The sign on this amusing piece of sculpture, which lies at the southern end of town, explains: "Wild and Woolly was conceived in 2012 during the 'Art in the Grasslands' concept development project. Christopher Trotter was one of seven artists who spent a two week residency in Tambo which culminated in an exhibition of their ideas for public artworks in the Grassland Art Gallery.
"This whimsical wool truck was the design the Tambo Community selected to enhance their town. Representative of a time when wool was king in the Outback and small body trucks piled high with bales of the natural fibre lumbered through town, this creation had its origins deep in Tambo's heritage.
"The front half of the sculpture was an original freight truck purchased in 1944 and donated by local trucking company, Johnson Bros. Transport; this body has been cleverly coupled with old steel boxes that have been reclaimed from the station dumps around Tambo. Students from the Tambo State School sourced the 400 horseshoes that adorn the boxes creating the illusion of 'steel wool' and adding texture to the art work."

Coolibah Walk
This is an ideal way to enjoy the countryside. The Coolibah Walk passes along both sides of the Barcoo River and is a pleasant walk designed so that visitors can experience the rich bird life (particularly in the early morning) and kangaroos. On the route is the famous crash site of a Qantas De Havilland DH9C. The plane crashed in 1927 killing all three passengers.

Located next door to Tambo Teddies, Potoooooooo or Potato or Pot8O, was a famous 18th century (1773-1800) Thoroughbred racehorse which won over 30 races and became an important sire. The sign beside the unusual timber sculpture explains: "Potoooooooo took artist Pip Fearon about 50-60 hours to make. He weighs approximately 300 kg and is constructed from locally sourced hardwood timber, predominantly gidyea collected from Ivanhoe, Tambo. Fearon explains: 'Most sculptures evolve over 7-10 days. He is my 7th sculpture. They are all very different, unique and straight from nature. I made and donated Potoooooooo to the Tambo branch of the Isolated Children's Parents Association (ICPA) to be auctioned off the evening of the 2018 Tour de Tambo bike ride with all proceeds going to the local branch'."


Other Attractions in the Area

Tambo's Wilderness Way
A 320 km loop through countryside which includes deep gorges, dramatic vistas, low lying ranges with huge sandstone formations, the Salvator Rosa National Park and the Mitchell Springs. There is a detailed description of the route at https://www.outbackqueensland.com.au/drive/tambos-wilderness-way. The route is recommended for 4WD vehicles although, in good weather, it can be achieved in a 2WD.

Harry Redford and the White Bull
The history of Harry Redford is a tale of daring, chicanery and the outback's admiration for a criminal bushman which the novelist Rolf Boldrewood used as the basis of his famous novel Robbery Under Arms.
Redford was born in the Hawkesbury River district of New South Wales in 1842. It is likely that his father was the convict, Thomas Redford, who had arrived in Australia in 1826. By the time he was a teenager Redford was working as a drover and by 1870 he was in Central Western Queensland working on the vast Bowen Downs station which, at the time, covered 1.75 million acres. Today Muttaburra stands at one end of where this vast holding once stood.
At the time Bowen Downs was running about 70,000 cattle and Redford felt that the station owners wouldn't even know if they were a thousand short on muster. Redford knew that if he stole the cattle (all of which had been branded) that he couldn't sell them in Queensland or New South Wales. So he devised a plan to drove the cattle down the Cooper Creek into South Australia. To understand how daring this plan was it is worth remembering that Burke and Wills had died attempting to make a similar journey only nine years earlier.
Amazingly Redford was successful. He drove the cattle 1,300 km to the Blanche Water station in northern South Australia where he sold them for £5,000. However the loss was noted and in February 1871 Redford was arrested and taken to Roma to be tried. The charge was "that Redford, in March 1870, at Bowen Downs station, feloniously did steal 100 bullocks, 100 cows, 100 heifers, 100 steers, one white bull, the property of Morehead and Young."
From the outset the trial had the elements of an entertainment rather than a serious investigation. Locals, captivated by Redford's consummate bushcraft and daring, packed the courtroom. The white bull, which had been brought from Rockhampton to Tambo and then on to Roma, stood in a yard outside the courthouse. Forty-one of the forty-eight people called as possible jurors were dismissed because they were prejudiced. The white bull took part in a line up with twenty other bulls and was immediately identified by its owner.
The evidence against Redford was overwhelming. The defence offered no witnesses and complained that Redford had been gaoled without trial.
The jury retired for an hour and then delivered their verdict. The court transcript reads as follows:
Judge: What is your verdict?
Foreman of the Jury: We find the prisoner 'Not Guilty'.
Judge: What?
Foreman of the Jury: Not guilty.
Judge: I thank God, gentlemen, that the verdict is yours, not mine!
It was an example of admiration of bushcraft overwhelming justice and on 5 April 1873 the governor of Queensland ordered that the criminal jurisdiction of the District Court at Roma be withdrawn for two years.
After his acquittal Harry Redford headed into northern Australia. He worked as a drover on the Atherton Tableland and around the Gulf country. In 1883 he moved the first herd of cattle from Queensland to the Brunette Downs station where he was appointed manager. For many years he managed the McArthur River station on the Gulf of Carpentaria and was known around Burketown as the model for Captain Starlight although he refused to acknowledge the obvious similarities.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Dharawala Aboriginal people.

* The first European to pass through the area was Sir Thomas Mitchell in September, 1846 who described the region as "downs and plains extending westward beyond the reach of vision". 

* A townsite was surveyed and gazetted in the early 1860s

* Settlement of the area began in 1863. This makes it the oldest township in western Queensland.

* By 1864 it was an important stopping place for drovers and a blacksmith's shop was established.

* By 1865 there was a pub for the travellers from Charleville to Longreach.

* In 1868 the settlement was named Tambo. It was previously known as Carrangarra.

* A branch of the Queensland National Bank was established in the town in 1875.

* The Tambo State School opened in 1876.

* The local Court House was completed in 1888.

* The local Masonic Lodge was opened in 1899.

* Tambo Shire was created in 1901.

* The Rivoli cinema was opened in the 1920s.

* On 24 March, 1927 a Qantas Airco DH9 crashed on the airstrip killing three passengers.

* Electricity reached the town in 1954.

* A new Shire Hall was built in 1957.

* In 1992 the Tambo Teddy Workshop, making teddy bears out of wool, was established.

* In 2008 the Shire of Tambo became the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council.

* In 2012 the town was cut off by floods fo eight days.


Visitor Information

Tambo Visitor Information Centre, 9 Arthur Street, tel: (07) 4654 6408. Open Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 4.45 pm.


Useful Websites

There is a dedicated local website. Check out http://www.blackalltambotourism.com.au.

Got something to add?

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

14 suggestions
  • Have you any record of any major buildings constructed in town by my grandfather George Wale early 1900 and beyond thanks

    Chris Wale
  • There are signs about Major Mitchell but no thing telling us about the original inhabitants – would be nice to see a sign about the Dharawala people

    Jayne Manwarring
  • I am looking for Kerri Movliatti (née Ryan) who owns a hotel in Tambo. I was a young teacher at Woodstock State School (1966-1973).and boarded with the Ryan’s. Further, I taught both Kerri and her older brother Kelvin. I would love to make contact with that lovely girl. John Grey

    John Grey
  • Why nothing about Dr Wuth who began doctor services in Tambo district from Germany. Memorial plaque at Mefical Centre but no mention here

    S G GRAINGER Nee Wuth
  • I am trying to find some information about my Grandfather, Patrick Dunne (Butcher), of Tambo married to Mary Ann Brace. Patrick Dunne would have been born 1892 (approx)
    They would have had 5 children Leonard Earnest, born 1916, Patrica, John, Nell, and Etty.
    Leonard Dunne went on to become a policeman,later moving to Brisbane..
    I would appreciate any information .
    Graham Dunne

    Graham Dunne
  • Reginald’s influenza memorial reads his wife had died and a younger child had also died it seems before the pandemic. Not because of the flu?

    Donna May
  • I went to the Kathleen Parr CWA hostel in Tambo in 1949, at the time we were living on a property outside Aramac and my parents sent my sister and I to Tambo for schooling. The first year we were there the CWA took us to Brisbane for the August school holidays.

    Peter Hutton
  • Matt McBride and Rebecca Ellis visit Tambo in 2022

    Colin Ellis
  • My Mother Jessie Ford from Blackall recalled that during WW2 they made teddy bears out of wool for children in the local area. Does anybody remember the bears made during WW2, do they in anyway resemble the Tambo Teddies? . Mum died in 2004 so I am unable to ask her.

    Patricia Trappett
  • You may phone the Tambo Tavern on 46)546109. This is where she is. In response to John Grey

  • Hi,
    Was just noticing a comment here from a Graham Dunne. I’m also a descendant of Patrick Dunne.
    Is Ed Dunne who replied still in Tambo?

    Sharon dunne