The Callide Range is in Queensland – Rockhampton north-east of it, Bundaberg south-east, Biloela to the west. There are a couple of National Parks in the area and several State Forests; surrounded by many pastoral properties.
Coal was discovered in the Callide Valley in 1890 with open cut mining commencing in 1948 around the towns of Callide and Biloela. Gold had already been discovered in 1865. Tough horses were needed as gold miners tended to be on their own or in a very small group and their horse was vital. The area is not far from Mt Morgan, famous for its sure-footed heavy horses used in super steep country for mining, and even the riding horses had to be extremely hardy and sure footed.
An article from the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.: 1878 – 1954), Thursday 11 March 1926 “The Rainbow Trail: Inverness and Kilburnie by Seagee” has this to say about the terrain:
Mr. William Blair Campbell of Inverness holds 35,000 acres of land adjoining Dumgree. of which station it formerly was a part. At the time that Inverness was resumed by the Government for the purpose of the Callide and Burnett land settlement scheme, it was held under leasehold, but now the tenure is occupation license. The whole of the area has been surveyed into blocks, but no one seems to be anxious to acquire any of the land and no wonder, for after I had ridden and driven over a good portion of it Mr. Campbell asked me my opinion as to what a farmer could raise to make a living off it and the only answer I could give him was “billygoats.” It is cattle country, pure and simple, and nearly all rough mountainous country at that. I don’t suppose 640 acres of agricultural land would be found on the whole run, and there is of that nature only exists in spots of a few acres here and there in creek bends, whilst a good deal of the mountainous country can be classed as unavailable.
The article can be found here, it includes good detail about the area.
The McCamleys, Creeds and Leahy’s of the area (including the Ulam Valley), all bred excellent horses and ponies they called Walers – essential for managing cattle! Also, John Bell at Kilburnie with his high-class draught horses, and the Stirrat brothers at Mt Alma Station with their small horses and ponies in harness. John Bell had top class staying Thoroughbreds as well, he crossed them to his draughts and got his own utility line of horse, which after a few generations were called Walers by locals. The Bell brothers (there were a few on different stations in the district) got their bloodlines from Captain Maurice O’Connell when they purchased Riverston in the Boyne Valley from him, taken up by O’Connell originally in 1854 solely to breed horses for India.
One outstanding example from Dumgree we know about is pony stallion Gallant.
Images: Mrs T.S. Bell of Dumgree about to leave Mount Alma for home, 1890s, State Library of QLD; In the Callide Valley: Mr Shaw’s family and their pony, Capricornian Pictorial, 15 November 1928; At Mount Alma Station, Calliope District, Queensland, State Library of QLD.
Read more about nearby Calliope Station here.
Pony and/or horse brumbies remain in the Kroombit Tops National Park of the area. Parks say the population is small and they’re regularly removed (meaning shot we presume). We would love to add to our listing of Walers from this area.