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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Toowoomba, Queensland

Dry and dusty

The city of Toowoomba is the commercial hub of the Darling Downs, serving a total of 250,000 people. Called the Garden City, they have over 150 public parks and have just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Carnival of Flowers, no mean feat for a city that's run out of water.

William Henry Groom

Up on the hill at Picnic Point, the outlook is bleak, no green anywhere, just dried up chaff as far as the eye can see. Toowoomba residents are still struggling with strict level 5 water restrictions and are fed up with the ten year drought. The town is now pumping water from an emergency allocation from the Great Artesian Basin (bore water).

Queens Park

Three years ago residents rejected a recycled water referendum when dam levels were at 23 per cent, now they are down to 9.8 per cent. The State Government is working on a 38km pipeline from Wivenhoe to Cressbrook Dam scheduled for completion by the end of January 2010.

The Royal Bulls Head Hotel, 1859 Drayton

They have one of the most beautiful Japanese Gardens I have ever seen. To their credit, under trying circumstances with the water situation, the gardens are simply breath-taking.

Empire Art Deco Theatre

The rich black volcanic soil of the Darling Downs is one of the most productive agricultural areas in Australia. Explorer Allan Cunningham discovered the lush farming land and named it after the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Ralph Darling.

Fibber McGee Irish Pub

William Henry Groom was an interesting character and was considered to be the "Father of Toowoomba". He was an ex convict, caught stealing when he was 13 in Plymouth and sentenced to 7 years transportation. He arrived in Sydney on the 8th June 1849 and was pardoned in October.

He eventually made his way to Toowoomba and over the next 43 years, he became the town's most respected and influential person. He was elected to Parliament, owned several businesses including the local newspaper and served as Toowoomba's Lord Mayor six times.

How did an ex-convict with a tarnished reputation and no money get started? He moved to Queensland and set up as a store-keeper and auctioneer at Drayton.

He met a young lady there called Grace Littleton who he married in 1859. That's when her father, Cornishman John Thomas Littleton financed him and he never looked back. They had four sons and three daughters.