The light pole and wall murals along Peak Downs Street were commenced in 2000 under the leadership of Mrs Alice McLaughlin of Childers. They relate a little of Capella’s history as you walk along. Beginning at the southern end:
1. Water Sports/ Aquatic Centre
In 1969 Capella was the first town on the Central Highlands to install a public swimming pool. It was a 25m pool on the site of the present Skate Park. When maintenance and repair costs became prohibitive, the Aquatic Centre was built to serve the people of not just Capella, but the whole of the Central Highlands community. World records can be set and recognised in the main Olympic standard competition pool.
2. Swimming at the Railway Weir
The concrete weir is half a mile upstream of the Centenary traffic bridge. It held water for the steam trains and was the local swimming hole. It has silted up over the years, but the wall can still be seen.
3. Performance Masks
The Capella Cultural Centre hosts theatre, conferences, movies and world class touring performers.
4. “Children in Concert"
Each end of school year the Primary School held a school concert, with every class performing a program item. These were always great fun - although the teachers were really ready for a holiday by the final curtain.
5. Country Women’s Association
The CWA has celebrated over 80 years in Capella. When told that the CWA is catering for an event, people’s eyes light up because everybody knows where the district’s best cooking is to be found.
6. Baker & Cockatoo
The old bakehouse, with its wood fired oven intact, is next to this pole. Rod Mallon was the baker from 1959 - 67 and he had a white cockatoo who was a terrific talker. When a customer entered the shop he’d say ‘Loaf of bread Rod, loaf of bread’.
Cocky talked to everybody and copied Jimmy Hamilton’s distinctive laugh exactly.
Rod’s Uncle Slim was coming for a visit, so Rod taught Cocky to say ‘How are you, Slim?’ Uncle Slim arrived and was still in his car in a fairly empty street, when Cocky called out ‘How are you, Slim’. Uncle Slim almost did his neck in twisting around trying to see who was talking to him!
Rod had an Australian Terrier dog and a dog box for him at the Bakery. Cocky was constantly on patrol walking backwards and forwards in front of the dog box and wouldn’t let the dog out unless Rod intervened.
7.The Jazz Singer - Paramount Theatre
The Paramount Picture Theatre with its canvas sling seats was the primary entertainment venue for Capella for a lot of years and sat on the site behind this pole.
8. “Our First People"
The people who first inhabited the Capella area were of the Wangan tribe. Bora Rings, native wells and stencil art can be found in the area.
9. “Leichhardt at Peak Downs"
Ludwig Leichhardt and his party were the first Europeans to traverse the Peak Downs district, on their way from Jimbour to Port Essington in 1844-45 - a little more than one hundred years before the Queensland-British Food Corporation came into being.
They entered the region from the south, travelling along the Comet River to its junction with the Mackenzie and thence across the downs and passed the Peak Range, heading for the Isaacs River. Leichhardt first caught sight of the downs from Mt Stuart, where he received his impression of ‘an undulating country of varied character, now extending in fine downs and plains, now covered with belts of thick brigalow scrub, with occasional ridges of open, silver-leaved ironbark forest.’
Later he wrote-
‘Having ascended the sandstone ridges at the head of Newman’s Creek, we found ourselves on a tableland out of which rose the peaks for which we were steering, and from which we were separated by fine downs, plains, and in lightly timbered country, with belts of narrow-leaved ironbark growing on a sandy soil….It is difficult to describe the impression which the range of noble peaks, rising suddenly out of a comparatively level country, made upon us. We had travelled so much in a monotonous forest land, with only now and then a glimpse of distant ranges through the occasional clearings in the dismal scrub, that any change was cheering. Here an entirely open country - covered with grass, and apparently unbounded to the westward; now ascending, first in fine ranges and forming a succession of almost isolated gigantic, conical and dome topped mountains, which seemed to rest with a flat unbroken base on the plain below - was spread before our delighted eyes. The sudden alteration of the scene, therefore, inspired us with feelings that I cannot attempt to describe.
…..There seemed no end of apparently isolated conical mountains, which, as they resemble very much the chain of extinct volcanoes in Auvergue, might easily be mistaken for such; but, after changing the aspect a little, they assumed the appearance of immense vents, with very short ridge-poles.’
Leichhardt travelled across the area in a January heatwave, just before the onset of the wet season, and had reason to realize in a long days ride across the waterless plains, the characteristic periodic disappearance of surface water from the downs.
‘Although we passed many localities where water might have been expected, and travelled where three different rocks, domits, sandstone and basalt came into contact, and where springs are so frequently found, yet not a drop of water could we find. In travelling over the hot plains our horses began to fail us, neither whip nor spur could accelerate their snail like pace; they seemed to expect that every little shade of the scattered trees would prove a halting place and it was not without the greatest difficulty that we could urge them to pass on. It was indeed distressingly hot: with open mouths we tried to catch the occasional puffs of a cooler air; our lips and tongues got parched, our voices became hoarse, and our speech unintelligible. Both of us, but particularly my poor companion (Calvert) were in the most deplorable state.’
Leichhardt was nevertheless favourably impressed by the area.
‘I wish I could sufficiently describe the loveliness of the morning just before and after sunrise: the air so clear, so transparent, the sky slightly tinged with roseate hues, all nature so fresh, so calm, so cool. If water were plentiful, the downs of the Peak Range would be inferior to no country in the world
10. “Lilyvale Ghost"
The Lilyvale Waterhole was discovered by John Gilbert on January 26th 1845. Gilbert reported finding an anchor carved in a tree with a stone axe at the waterhole.
The waterhole was said to be haunted by the ghost of Johnny the Chinaman who drowned there on October 14, 1870. The story goes that Johnny carted water from the waterhole and, as the banks were high and steep, backed his dray against a certain stump to hold it whilst he filled his buckets. This day he missed the stump and with a dreadful yell, horse, cart and Chinaman vanished into the waterhole - which at the time was over thirty feet deep. People told stories of hearing Johnny’s ghost’s screams during the night and some believe his ghost still haunts the waterhole today.
The town of Lilyvale was established following the start of its surrounding pastoral industry and the discovery of gold around Clermont. The original town plan was drawn up by pioneer surveyor, Charles Gregory in 1862. It was located on the Cobb and Co coach route between Clermont and Rockhampton. When the prohibitive cost of building a bridge across the Mackenzie River diverted the rail line through to Emerald and on to Capella, Lilyvale began to decline. Many of the houses were dismantled, transported to Capella and rebuilt. In 1933 all freehold lots were resumed and the streets closed in 1934.
Today, the shelter built for Bicentenary celebrations sits on the site of the Lilyvale Hotel and crinum lilies flower after rains. The Lilyvale watering reserve is surrounded by the Gregory (named after Charles Gregory) and Crinum Coal Mines.
11. “Pioneer Women"
History books are full of the pioneering male daring dos, but what about the pioneer women with them who faced fearsome hardships and hostile conditions to settle the inland regions.
12. “Feathers for Soldiers- Emu Plumes and Light Horse "
Origins Of The Emu Feathers In The Australian Light Horse Hats
The Great Shearers’ Strike started north of Capella on 6th January, 1891, at the time of the Logan Downs roll call for around 200 unionised shearers and roustabouts. Logan Downs was owned by the Fairbairn family. Sir David Fairbairn whose Grandfather, George Fairbairn, owned Peak Downs station, makes reference to this time in an article published about his family. In part it reads, “I still have a picture at home of troops transporting the free shearers on Peak Downs. This was the period when they shot emus and put the emu plumes in their hats, which later were to become the insignia of the Australian Light Horse.
At this time also, the first act of terrorism in Australia occurred. This unionist attack on civilians and military during the Great Shearers Strike - occurred 10km north of Capella with the sabotaging of the Abor Creek railway bridge in 1891. Unionists sawed through a fifteen inch diameter column and a headstock of the bridge, with the intention of stopping the train carrying free shearers (Black Legs) and members of the Queensland Mounted Infantry from reaching its Clermont destination. Many lives could have been lost if the bridge had actually given way. As it happened the sabotage was not discovered for six weeks. The ringleader was arrested regarding another matter and when told what he was being arrested for, said ‘Oh, is that all?’ Picking up on this, the authorities went looking for what else he had might have done and were able to show that he was the ringleader of the saboteurs.
13. "Sewing Bags of Grain/ Queensland-British Food Corporation"
Following WW2, the Queensland Government was interested in promoting the production of Agriculture. At the same time, the people of Great Britain were still suffering rationed food and their Government wanted to relive this situation and so was anxious to identify sources of agricultural crops. A delegation from the British Overseas Corporation was invited to Queensland and arrived in January 1948. The Queensland - British Food Corporation (QBFC) was subsequently formed to produce grain crops in the region. This venture was later wound down, and from 1954 to 1956 all the QBFC holdings in the area were thrown open to selection.
During its operation the QBFC held about 200,000 hectares of land in the region and put some 27,000 hectares under crop in its second year. It also established bagged grain storage sheds throughout the Central Highlands. The Pioneer Village has machinery and tools from this period in its QBFC Exhibit, including a Caterpillar D6, Massey Harris 55K and 44K tractors, a Fordson P6 Major tractor, an Oliver 90 tractor, Sunshine No. 4 Header, Sunshine Seeder, scarifiers and ploughs.
The Village also has a large comprehensive collection of original QBFC reports and photographs and has published one book on the QBFC and another on the 50 years of the Peak Downs ex-QBFC lands after the ballot. These are available at the Capella newsagency.
14. “Wool Growing"
Wool was the dominant agricultural enterprise of the region from the first settlers on down until the 1960s. However, the legendary 1969 drought saw the end of most of the wool growing on the Central Highlands, as beef cattle and grain production took over and, today there is only one woolgrower in the Peak Downs district.
A woolshed from Gordon Downs has been dismantled by the Pioneer Village Committee and transported to the Pioneer Village where two thirds of its original length, or as much of it as possible, has been re-assembled. The ground level section is around the size it originally was at Gordon Downs. However the stumped section was twice as big as has been reconstructed with 15 belt driven stands down each side. A raised shearing board has been included with electric shearing gear to illustrate how the modern shed rouseabout does not have to bend so low to pick up the newly shorn fleece.
Shearing demonstrations are now held in the woolshed on Village Craft and Vintage Machinery Fair days. These are held annually on the second Saturday in September.
15. “Coal Mining"
There are nine coal mines in the Peak Downs district. You can drive past some of these mines to view the size of their operations if you take one of the District Self Drive Tours. The first, BHP’s Gregory Open Cut Mine, commenced construction in 1977 and a portion of its workforce made their homes in Capella. The miners and their families made a huge contribution to Capella’s community and when the mining operations at Gregory scaled back, many chose to stay on and found employment in other local industries or mines.
16. “Grain Growing"
The QBFC scheme demonstrated that farming was a viable enterprise on the Central Highlands, and after 1956 many farming families moved into the region. Much ingenuity was needed to gain the horsepower and implements required to quickly cultivate and/or plant large acreages of land to take advantage of available soil moisture in this wet season/dry season climate. A converted army tank, tandem hitched tractors and triple tow pulls for scarifiers are some examples of this home grown engineering.
Sunflower growing was introduced in the 1970s and around April each year (providing the wet didn’t fail) glorious fields of yellow sunflowers spread right across the Central Highlands. Then in the mid 2000s disease struck and severely curtailed sunflower plantings. Flocks of cockatoos would watch the crops closely for once the sunflowers started to ripen, it was feast time for them.
17. New Years Eve Balls
The Capella Community Hall was built in 1936 and is reputed to have the best dancing floor on the Central Highlands. Up until 1993, when the Cultural Centre was built, a New Years Eve Ball was held each December 31 at the hall that would draw all the locals, as well as people from right across the Highlands - and a grand old time was had by all.
18. “Trucking Cattle- Road Train"
Once the drover and his team took cattle to market. But now the giant road trains reign.
19. School Participation in Community Events
To commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June, 1953 Mr John Hay Snr and Mrs Emma Mead planted schotia trees (drunken parrot tree) on either side of the path in the entrance to the Capella State Primary School. Mr Hay’s tree has unfortunately died, but Mrs Mead’s tree lives on and is now huge.
The pole celebrates that the Capella schools have always been involved and continue to be involved in community and special events.
20. “Grain Storage"
Capella is surrounded by a large grain growing area. During harvest grain trucks deliver thousands of tonnes of grain to the storage depot. Capella is one of the few inland grain receival depots to have a grain drier.
21. “Soldiers and Nurses"
The Peak Downs district citizenry has made its contribution to Australia’s involvement in conflicts throughout the world. Anzac Day is commemorated at the Cenotaph each year and each year the numbers remembering our debt to those people grows. The Pioneer Village holds a shield and honour roll as well as medals and coupon books belonging to local families.
22. “Horse Sports"
Horse racing, rodeo and polocrosse have long been a feature of Capella’s sporting life.
23. “Railway Fettlers"
The town of Capella grew from a settlement on a site surveyed by Charles Gregory in 1862. The settlement was mainly used as a resting place for travellers on the Rockhampton - Peak Downs Road. Capella developed into a town after railway line reached it in December 1882. This enabled provisions and supplies to be supplied by rail and travelling to Rockhampton or further afield became significantly less arduous.
24. Agricultural Exports
The Capella and district agricultural industries make their contribution to Australia’s National Gross Product.
25. Beef Cattle and Grain Industries
The major agricultural industries of the area.
26. “Swaggie Shearer"
Swaggies passed through the Capella region in times gone by and made their contribution in the area’s woolsheds.
27. “Timber Cutters"
Without the pioneer timber cutters and their cross cut saws, the Peak Downs Homestead and many other wooden buildings and homes could not have been built.
28. “Sporting History"
Tennis and football have long featured in Capella’s sporting life.
29. “Water For The Train"
The train water tower once held a prominent position in the town. Water was drawn from the town weir on Capella Creek, upstream of the current main traffic bridge. No water - no train - no produce in the shops.
30. “Days of Steam"
Capella’s Railway Station was built in the days of steam and is a most unusual construction. Its roof is detached from the working area. This enables air to flow between and helps to keep the work spaces cooler in summer.
31. “Hotel Fires"
Capella once had many pubs, most were lost to fire. One, the Peak Downs Hotel, once stood where the Café now stands. 32. Australia’s Federation
Capella celebrated Australia’s Federation in 1901, and Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001.