Saltern Creek Bushfire Memorial


A memorial is located in Bryan Park, Oak Street, to mark the 100 year anniversary of the devastating bushfires on Tuesday 29 October 1918 on Saltern Creek, Willoughby and Rodney Downs.

The memorial is in memory of the seven men who perished as a result of the disastrous bushfires. This bushfire remains one of the worst fire disasters in Queensland's history.

Fires burned in many areas of Queensland during the latter half of 1918.

It was reported that due to the good rain received earlier in the year, around 26 inches, the grass was over a man’s head - long stretches of plains appeared like fields of ripened corn.

Fears had been expressed by many about lightning strikes when the thunderstorm season began....and those fears were realised in October.

The aftermath of the fires was devastating, seven lives lost and an estimated 60,000 sheep perished, as one person put it ‘sheep were laying all over the run like black watermelons’.

Early Wednesday night 19 points of rain was recorded at 'Saltern Creek' with more light rain falling during the night, by Thursday all the fires had been extinguished.

Newspapers in every State of Australia reported the catastrophe of the 'Willoughby' and 'Saltern Creek' bushfires.

Barcaldine, like Australia, rode on the sheep's back.

At seven o’clock on the evening of Tuesday 29th October a fire was observed between Bumble Outstation, Saltern Creek and Blackboy Creek. About ten men, including Messrs. Richmond - bookkeeper on 'Rodney Downs', Arthur Burgess and Alfred Hock, left various points to put out the fire.

Burgess and Hock were ahead of the fire when the wind suddenly changed driving the flames towards them pinning them against a fence. The grass was very high and they were badly burned.

Richmond, McDougall and Thomas Alexander escaped injury by crouching on the ground.

Hock was found naked with the exception of his boots.

Burgess, who was some distance away, was also naked except for his boots and a piece of singlet around his neck. He was conscious but in great pain.

Burgess said he tried to tear off his burning clothes and would have got away if his horse had not fallen over the fence throwing him.

The men were brought into town by motor car but Hock died half an hour after arriving at the hospital.

Burgess lingered until four o’clock Wednesday morning when he too expired. 

On Wednesday 30th October lightning set fire to long grass on 'Saltern Creek' and men were sent to the area to put out the fire.  The grass in some areas of the selection was reported as being as high as the horses shoulders and the wind was chopping and changing.

When Mr. Jones, manager of 'Saltern Creek', along with other men, did not return to No. 11 bore a search party was sent out.

Mr. Jones was found deceased lying face down with not a stitch of clothing on him.

Mr. Knowlton was lying alongside him alive. He said to his rescuers 'all right, mate! I will be right when I get to the hospital'. As he was lifted into the car he succumbed. They had been caught between two fires and were frightfully burned.

In the evening Constable Taylor returned, accompanied by other cars, conveying Dr. Cook, Matron Green, the bodies of Arthur King Jones and Harry Knowlton.  Thorpe, Gilchrist and Holmes were taken to the hospital, all with severe burns.

In memory of those loyal stockmen who perished in the fire



Birth date

Arthur Raymond Percival Burgess

Age 48

Saturday 19th March 1870 - Wednesday 30th October 1918

John Harold Gilchrist (Harold)

Age 40

Saturday 15th December 1877 - Sunday 3rd November 1918

Alfred Augustave Hock

Age 25

Tuesday 13th June 1893 - Wednesday 30th October 1918

William Roy Holmes (Roy)

Age 17

Wednesday 13th March 1901 - Monday 4th November 1918

Arthur King Jones 

Age 48

Thursday 27th January 1870 - Wednesday 30th October 1918

Harry Knowlton

Age 48

Unknown -  Wednesday 30th October 1918

Sproule Blayney Thorpe (Michael)

Age 27

Monday 26th January 1891 - Saturday 9th November 1918

Thank you to Kaylene Reynolds for researching the history of the Saltern Creek bushfires and the members of the Barcaldine Historical Society for their contribution.


Oak Street, Barcaldine QLD 4725