Many of the towns in the Parkes Shire who have seen their heydays come and go have questionable futures. However Brolgan isn’t one of those, with its site set to play an integral part in the logistics of the nation. While its future is exciting, there is a history that is often overlooked and underappreciated. This blog hope to redress this.
A fascinating part of researching old towns and localities is how they were officially recorded in the Census. The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics – the forerunner to the Australian Bureau of Statistics – did not include Brolgan in its 1947 Census, but Brolgan does feature in the 1954 Census with a population of 55. The CBCS then omitted Brolgan again in the 1961 Census and by 1966 the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, J. P. O’Neill had devised a new way to record results and only Bogan Gate, Parkes, Peak Hill, Trundle and Tullamore are recorded.
A place called Brolgan is first mentioned in 1853 in New South Wales Government Gazette article about CROWN LANDS BEYOND THE SETTLED DISTRICTS where there is also mention of Brolgan Plains (Source: Trove) Newspapers and Government Gazettes of this period also made mention of Brolgan Plains Run and Back Brolgan Station. Often frustrating for modern readers is the lack of consistent spelling in people and place names. Brolgan also experienced this, with a notice for public auction for the station of Thomas Morris, called “Bralgan” or “Brogan” (Source: Trove)
Throughout the latter part of the 19th Century, Brolgan is mentioned at least weekly in either newspapers or NSW Government Gazette. The land was highly prized and Brolgan had a proactive branch of the Farmers & Settlers Association, who campaigned for the release of more land for settlement.
While many towns and localities had small one teacher schools, Brolgan had two. The first was Brolgan Public School, but after the railway line was laid and Brolgan Siding grew it petitioned the NSW Department of Education for a school. Initially it was Brolgan Siding Provisional School, but after more campaigning by the locals it was granted full status becoming Brolgan Siding Public School in 1901.
In 1972 a British film company came to the Parkes district to film most of the Australian scenes for the Harry Secombe-led Sunstruck. While the Parkes Champion Post of the time reported the locations as being “near Nelungaloo”, both current and former residents of Brolgan will highlight that it was their town, not Nelungaloo, as the actual location.
Braeside, the home of Joe Venables, is located in Brolgan. The Venables allowed the film company to temporarily use the house, turning into the fictional Kookaburra Springs’ Mayfair Hotel.
Gwenda Chester is the daughter of Joe Venables and remembers the filming occuring on her parents’ property. Her dads horses, Spin and Jenny, were also used in the film. Gwenda recalls that Spin was a particularly flighty horse and the one that Maggie Fitzgibbon had to ride. However the actress demonstrated her horse-riding prowess and handlded Spin really well. Wilf Norris of Eugowra supplied the main horse, with Dobbin playing Old Nell in the film. Dobbin died a week before the film’s world premiere in Parkes.
The future of Brolgan
Many towns and localities have a great past but their futures are in doubt. The same cannot be said for Brolgan, due to its location it is poised to plan an integral part of 21st Century Australian business.
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:
If you have stories, photographs or memories that you are willing to share about Brolgan (or the film Sunstruck) please contact Parkes Shire Library via firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.
News from the Colonial Fields. (The latest information concerning mining shares will be found in our Telegraphic and Commercial Reports.) NEW SOUTH WALES. (May 13, 1882). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 22. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70968993
TENDERS FOR WORKS IN CONNECTION WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS. (June 29, 1886). New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), p. 4338. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221686557
Gunningbland and Brolgan & Warrigal Joint Meeting. (June 1, 1900). Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder (NSW : 1899 – 1952), p. 10. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213241221
Gwenda Chester (June 30, 2020). [Map generated from information on Gwenda Chester’s sketch map of Brolgan including Sunstruck filming locations]. Unpublished raw data.
“Kookaburra Springs” Pub Takes Shape. (January 5, 1972). Parkes Champion Post, p. 3.
Harry Secombe with Sunstruck children (n.d.). photograph. Used with permission, from the Sharryn Cunningham personal collection
‘SUPERSTAR’ IS A WARM, FRIENDLY HUMAN BEING. (January 19, 1972). Parkes Champion Post, p.10
The Harry Secombe Coach House Trophy. (January 24, 1972). Parkes Champion Post, p.3
New South Wales. Department of Lands. (1963). Parish of Brolgan, County of Ashburnham Land District of Parkes, Goobang Shire, Central Division N.S.W Retrieved June 29, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-233726965