I didn’t plan my visit to Crows Nest very well, and my guidebook remained silent about the town’s single most interesting sight, the Carbethon Folk Museum. Given the dearth of other tourist-related activities, I can’t imagine why the guidebook didn’t mention it. I only saw the museum because it was on my route out-of-town on the way to Hervey Bay. I did a u-turn and went to investigate.
In a word, Carbethon Folk Museum is fantastic. An authentic recreation of a historic Queensland town, filled with heritage buildings that have been brought together from across the region and fitted out with over 9,000 piece of machinery, memorabilia and artefacts. A lot of items inside the museum buildings have been donated by local families. It was the best $10 spent during my entire trip.
The museum is run by volunteers, who’ve done an amazing job of making it a fabulous experience. A shame then, that I was the only person there, although hardly surprising since they don’t seem to have a website. Luckily, it meant I could chat at length with one of the friendly and informative volunteers. It turned out that his daughter lives in the Netherlands. Something of a coincidence since only 2,000 people live in Crows Nest, and I’m a Brit living in the Netherlands.
The centrepiece of the museum is the ‘Carbethon’, a traditional Queenslander home-constructed in the 1880s. It was moved to Crows Nest in 1978, the year the museum opened, albeit on a much smaller scale than today’s museum. Inside this lovely building rooms are decorated in the style of the period, and there are hand written descriptions for almost all the memorabilia.
It’s a cornucopia of nostalgia and a fascinating insight into the lives of Queenslanders over the last 150 years. There were plenty of reminders of ‘home’, with household items that came from the UK or were decorated with Union flags. There was even a picture of Queen Elizabeth II with her young family. It was a strong reminder of the historic links between the two countries – a link that is slowly, and rightly, eroding.
The displays about the men who left this distant part of the world to fight for Britain in the First World War, only to end up in the Hell of Suvla Bay or the bloodbath of Passchendaele, were particularly poignant. Nearly half a million Australian’s fought in the First World War, almost 10 percent of the population, and many never returned. It’s a history worth remembering.
Stepping inside the buildings triggers an audio recording, which relates the history of that specific room. In a rundown shack at the start of the main street, a man lies in bed and his woeful lot in life is told as you enter; in the school room the teacher scolds the pupils; and, in the building called The Shed, the original office of Ray White, the narrator tells you the history of the man who founded Australia’s biggest real estate empire.
Nearby, and restored to its original condition, is the White Family home. Ray White is a legend in Crows Nest, and famous across Australia and New Zealand. He started his first auctioneer business in The Shed and was soon very successful. But he was also a man of the people, remembered as much for his kindness to townsfolk who had hit upon hard times as for his business deals.
I was so engrossed, I lost track of time. Instead of being half way to the ocean and a whale watching trip I’d booked, I was still looking around the various buildings. Eventually I made it out of the door and set off on the next leg of my journey. It was a long drive and I only arrived in Hervey Bay after dark. Sat with a cold beer at a pub, I reflected upon the day and decided Carbethon Folk Museum was worth the late arrival.