Off the Tourist Trail #6 – Irvinebank, Queensland

Last Updated on March 3, 2017 by Red Nomad OZ

Across the River, Irvinebank, Queensland
Across the River, Irvinebank, Queensland

As an antidote to the Atherton Tableland mist and drizzle, Irvinebank was working just fine. A few kilometres beyond Herberton, we’d crossed the range to clear skies, warmth, and a spectacular setting – another universe far, far away from yet another day of dampness. Just what Dr Pilchard ordered! Sadly, no bakery but the monster plate of chips accompanying the pub’s lunchtime fishburgers sure made up for it.

But that’s not what kept us there all day. This semi-ghost town was once so historically significant its influence was felt around Australia – if not the world!

Irvinebank, Queensland
Irvinebank, Queensland

Giving new meaning to ‘oral historian’, the Loudon House Museum volunteer gave vast historic knowledge ’til it hurt!  Having a low museum tolerance threshhold, I had planned to wander aimlessly, viewing an exhibit here, taking a photo there, pausing to read more about exhibits that caught my eye. Nothing doing. There were stories to be told, and by golly, we were going to hear them!!

Sparing nothing, the volunteer regaled us with historic snippets and fascinating anecdotes not just about Irvinebank, but also John Moffat, controller of up to 25% of Australia’s base metal trade in the late 1800’s, Irvinebanks founder – and its favourite son in whose home we now stood.  The two are inextricably intertwined, a phrase more commonly encountered in Mills & Boon than serious historical facts.

Irvinebank Museum, Queensland
Irvinebank Museum, Queensland

Owing more to Christopher Robin than the Book of Common Prayer, Irvinebank youngsters routinely asked for God’s blessing on John Moffat in their evening prayers. And well they might, given that most of the area’s population of 6000 relied on his wellbeing for their livelihood.

After establishing an extensive business empire, this reclusive mining entrpreneur married late in life – which MAY explain the master bedroom’s romantic outlook over the mine workings. But I’m betting his wife was unruffled by the continual noise and bustle of work that kept the mine, treatment works and tramway going a few metres from her bedroom window.  Previously employed as John Moffat’s housekeeper, she must already have become accustomed to these inconveniences!

Entrance to Irvinebank Museum, Queensland
Entrance to Irvinebank Museum, Queensland

But John Moffat’s – and hence Irvinebank’s – contributions to Australia’s fortunes weren’t just financial. Previous mine workers included Bill McCormack – former Queensland premier; and ‘Red’ (YESSSS!) Ted Theodore – former Queensland premier, Federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister. And with John Moffatt’s business success – despite his reputation for honesty and integrity – this town was a player in the Australian business scene.   BUT … a range of factors contributed to the decline of John Moffat’s empire – and left the town with the buildings he had contributed.

View from John Moffat's House, Irvinebank
View from John Moffat’s House, Irvinebank

Tragically, there is no record to definitively state whether the Irvinebank locals preferred the Gladys Moncrieff performance to a live X-ray demonstration at the School of Arts Hall – both are listed on bills of entertainment.  And, as regular readers already know, I’m well versed in the destructive habits of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – while I can’t readily imagine a chain of events allowing them access to valuable books, they nonetheless have virtually destroyed a number of them, now on display at the museum!

Tales of Irvinebank’s most famous Swedenborgian are set against the backdrop of the town itself.  But despite heritage listing and the remarkable preservation of many key buildings and features, it’s the anecdotes that brought the town to life.   Did I say the volunteer gave til it  hurt?  Yeah, but it was ‘good’ hurt!

Mining Machinery, Irvinebank
Mining Machinery, Irvinebank

Inexplicably, the free camp area on the town common – complete with toilets and hot showers – was empty during our July 2010 visit. With so much to offer already, the fishing’s good too, if the pix at the pub are anything to go by. And as a further inducement, there’s an annual John Moffat festival – in 2011, it features the ‘Hillbillygoats’!

Now if that’s not a drawcard, I don’t know what is!

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  1. @Amanda – Yes, some people call me Red ‘too much information’ Nomad, but that guy wouldn’t have learned much from me!
    @jenny – Welcome, and thanx! Come back anytime!!

  2. Great post – very interesting story – good thing the guide was pushy enough!!

    And congrats on passing your 100th post (without knowing it – I did the same, didn’t notice until 500!). Thanks for taking part in Not A Ballerina’s Weekend Wanderings.

  3. @River – yes, the trick is to identify the interesting ones BEFORE you go in!! I’ll let you know when I’ve worked out how to do this …

  4. A museum that’s fascinating; that’s new. It sounds so much better than the stuffy buildings where you just wander about looking at weird paintings on walls.

  5. @Mary – Always a pleasure to hear from you. And this spot has history in spades!! I AM having a good day because I’m on the road!!
    @Manzanita – Ah yes, the social climbing housekeeper cliche! I wonder if she was happy?
    @Betty – so great you dropped in for a visit – love getting your feedback!!
    @Kath – Ha! You may be on to something there, my friend! But it really WAS fascinating!!

  6. Your Loudon House museum guide sounds like Dinky the dingo’s owner. He won’t take no, or obvious signs of boredom, distress or the engine of the tour bus starting up as an excuse!

  7. Love reading posts with historic elements like this one.
    Beautiful and reflective pictures, too.

    Big hugs!
    Betty xx

  8. John Moffatt’s housekeeper had an eye for success so she worked her way up the corporate ladder.
    Thanks, Red, for another sightseeing tour.

  9. I love the photos and the liberal dose of history that came with them. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  10. @Sailor – The story’s the thing! The pix are just a bonus!!
    @Toni – I’ve actually been there twice!! 1st time about 12 years ago … flood marks seem unbelievable considering the size of the creek!
    @Windsmoke – Strange you should say!! I had the same thought …

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