One of the waterways near Dalby where in good seasons the ducks and geese abounded. .
One of the waterways near Dalby where in good seasons the ducks and geese abounded. . Contributed

Shooting and fishing made Dalby a popular spot

While pioneering days are often considered to be times of hardship and loneliness, it is interesting to find that in the 1880s Dalby was a rather sporting town.

It was often not the type of sport we have today. William Chambers, who remembered the early days well, related that race meetings, shooting and fishing were the main topics when the locals gathered in the hotel bars to socialise.

Most of the large properties were open for the sportsmen to indulge in shooting and fishing.

After heavy rains the western ducks seemed to know by instinct that water would be plentiful on the Downs.

Three or four days after rain, ducks were heard passing over the town at night in hundreds and the swamps and flats would soon be literally covered with them.

The shooters didn't have to go far to get a fair supply. Chamber took a party out past the racecourse and soon bagged 120 ducks and snipe to bring home. Wild geese were plentiful too as he recalls.

"I remember seeing one in the main street one day, right in front of the Post Office,” Chamber said.

"It was shot by a blacksmith named Hadcock off the balcony of one of the hotels with a muzzle loader.”

It seems fishing was good in the Condamine during or after the wet season. Murray cod used to come up the river in great numbers. Big catches were brought into town and sold at 6 pence a pound.

"I remember a shearer camped at Loudoun Bridge, who had a strong clothesline across the river with short lengths of line hanging at intervals across the length of it,” Chambers recalled.

"He used a canoe to row out and take the fish off the different hooks and he pretty well kept Dalby in fish in those days.”

While he was a butcher on Dandine Station, Chambers was well versed in the habits of the owner Mr Webb who was an ardent lover of shooting.

He was never much of a success at pigeon shooting in matches as his temper was too bad.

If he made a miss he would pack up his gun and walk off the ground.

Unlike most of the station owners, he never allowed the public to shoot there.

He kept his game for himself and his friends. His visitors would come from all over Australia for a week's shooting among the abundant bird-life.

On one occasion he sent a big consignment of game to the Brisbane Freezing Works.

This was afterwards shipped to friends in England. He used to travel to England on occasions and visit the owners of the big estates.

He would come away convinced there was no better eating than the Australian wild fowl, even after a trip of 13,000 miles.

While William Chambers knew the difficulties of dealing with Mr Wood, his wife was a woman of wonderful hospitality.

After her husband's death she lived in Toowoomba. It was noted no one ever left her place on an empty stomach or without a glass of cheer.

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