Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ
With an official population of two, tiny Toompine is barely a blip on the radar!
And yet, all roads seem to lead there in the western Queensland Outback. A simple distance measurement between the outback towns of Eulo, Thargomindah and Quilpie yields Toompine’s coordinates almost exactly.
Is that enough reason to visit? Of course not!
But finding out why the local cemetery is called a ‘cemery’ surely is! To our regret, we had failed to give in to this tempting drawcard on our first visit to the Quilpie Shire. So the intriguing ‘cemery’ question was still in the back of my mind when we returned to the region a couple of years later.
The drive south from Quilpie to Toompine follows the historic ‘Dowling Track’. En route, it passes a turnoff to the Duck Creek opal field – site of ‘Pride of the Hills, the first opal mine in Australia registered in 1871. And home of the ‘Huns Head’ opal – at 15.75 kg (35 lb) Queensland’s largest find!
But … giant opals being absent from the roadside, or at least not visible from the car, we were free to continue our 80km drive south to the Toompine pub.
The settlement of Toompine isn’t a town though. This onetime Cobb & Co changing post and overnight stop built in 1893 proudly proclaims itself as ‘the pub with no town’! There’s another good reason to visit right there.
Still maintaining its reputation for hospitality, the Toompine pub draws a steady stream of visitors with the offer of free camping (including power and hot showers), alternative accommodation at the ‘Toompine Terraces’, or drinks and meals for those just passing through!
But there’s more.
Out on the road, we’d swerved to avoid an errant Bustard (that’s the heaviest flying bird in Australia, not a misspelling) wandering along the road. It could have done a lot of damage to the car (and itself) if we’d hit it at speed.
To soothe our shattered nerves we entered the pub in search of refreshment. Urbanites please note – this isn’t the place to order a skinny-soy-decaf-latte unless you want to provide some amusement to the bar staff. But if you can, time your visit to coincide with a bus tour at morning tea time. Then, for $7 you can pig out on sample a s**tload variety of delicacies straight from the Country Womens Association cookbook. Trust me. Fancy coffee is not relevant here.
And you won’t need lunch – you’ll be so full it’ll feel like you’re going to have a food baby! That’s because the Country Women’s Association is comprised, as far as I can tell, of extraordinarily good cooks devoted to resurrecting the lost art of taking tea. Something they do extraordinarily well.
So after sampling at least one of everything, admiring the pub’s historic displays, chatting with Stacey and Amelia (I can’t guarantee they’ll still be there for your visit) and admiring the pub’s exterior and campground, we returned to Quilpie, never to eat again.
Or at least not that day …
But damned if I didn’t forget to find out why the cemetery is called a ‘cemery’! Luckily, after putting out a call for help, I got the explanation. Apparently, on the wall of the pub where I was so busy eating like there was no tomorrow, there’s some information about the ‘cemery’.
So here’s what I now know.
Toompine’s ten-grave cemetery contains the graves of two young children. One of them, a young boy, died from strychnine poisoning after playing on some kangaroo skins that had been treated with arsenic. When this child’s sister visited the cemetery, she carved a sign saying ‘Cemery’ from a piece of Mulga wood to mark the spot. The Quilpie Shire has now fenced the cemetery and used her sign to mark the spot.
After staggering back to the car, we returned to Quilpie to relax in the artesian spa. Toompine makes a great day trip, even without the morning tea. But take my advice and find out when the next one is before you go!