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On the banks of the Barcoo

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Clancy's Overflow, Isisford
With winter on the way, it’s a fresh morning in Isisford. Rolling out of bed and negotiating the rickety floor boards between bed and bathroom upstairs at Clancy’s Overflow Hotel is a bit like being on boat. There’s a definite tilt – maybe even a gentle rocking – you need sea legs to get around. Downstairs, on the back lawn, a couple of people are tucked soundly in swags, having slept the night under the stars in the pub’s backyard. This rambling inn, 112 years old, was full again last night.

New publican at Clancy’s Overflow, Hans Budding, is creating a welcoming, family friendly atmosphere. Letting a few people roll their swags out back isn’t a problem. “I want to run a family pub with dogs (he has three), where people can relax, read a book, do nothing ? and where there’s internet access for business people. When you want something, you ask for it and you can have it,” he says fervently. Hans’ex wife, Catriona, their twin boys, 15, and two daughters, 19 and 21 are arriving shortly for a six week stay. “It will be lots of fun – my youngest daughter is at university in Brisbane, my oldest stayed in Holland with Catriona and my boys. The boys love Australia and will hopefully have a future in this country one day – the best place in the world.”

In the heart of central western Queensland on the Outer Barcoo, Isisford is west of Blackall, south of Ilfracombe and 120km south east of Longreach – ‘in the middle of everywhere,’ as the local’s say. The road to Isisford (from any direction), particularly on dusk, is an experience in itself. Avoiding the plethora of wildlife is a challenge, with hoards of kangaroos, flocks of emus and plenty of feral pigs to steer clear of.

Emigrating from Holland on a business visa nearly three years ago, Hans had two sabbatical years at Pacific Pines on the Gold Coast, before finding the Isisford Pub for sale on the internet. A steal at $400,000. “I came to Isisford in July to have a look and fell in love with the place. I began negotiations and moved here in February this year. I’ve never had a pub before, but I can tap a good beer. It’s my little paradise and no-one can take it away from me,” he says with conviction.

With an appreciation for an easy going lifestyle and keen to embrace the wide open spaces, Hans has found the ideal place. “At first you don’t know anybody – and with small town gossip you hear all kinds of things, but I discovered you have to find out for yourself. I now have wonderful, trustworthy people around me – with two cooks, two bartenders (so they can take breaks), a cleaner and I help them all. My best friend, Craig, like me, left the Gold Coast to bring his family here and he’s my manager. Everybody is equal in my pub.” A successful businessman with a background in internet technology, Hans is also a born entertainer. “My father was a magician and had a band – like a Glen Miller band,” he adds. “We grew up with music in our home and that’s what I want here, a place where people feel at home and enjoy our hospitality – and they don’t have to order anything.”

With a palpable sense of history, little change has occurred in Isisford since explorer Major Mitchell pulled up on the banks of the Barcoo River in 1846, near where Isisford was settled in the mid 1800s; and where Banjo Patterson drew inspiration for many of his works including the Bush Christening and Clancy of the Overflow. With a population of 130, most people in town work in the cattle or sheep industry, run a business, work for the council or are professional roo shooters.

The Barcoo River is famous for its yellowbelly fish, fishing holes and the impressive Isis Downs’ Shearing Shed (built in 1913), is a popular tourist attraction near Isisford. With the discovery of an exciting range of fossils, Isisford is now a key site to understanding the range of flora and fauna existing in Australia during the dinosaur age. The discovery of Isisfordia duncani, the ancestor of modern crocodiles, made international headlines and led to the creation of the Outer Barcoo Interpretive Centre, a state-of-the-art building (right across the road from Clancy’s Overflow) with a theatrette, café and museum with a life-sized replica model of Isisfordia Duncani, who live around 98 million years ago.

Well aware of the tourism potential, Hans has already trebled the pub’s takings. It didn’t take long for the locals to realise that while Hans has a high tolerance level – there would be no rough stuff in his pub. With many owners through the years, including one publican who took all the money and ran, little has been done to the old colonial pub. Hans has begun renovations to the six rooms upstairs, five downstairs, the bathrooms and the ringers’ quarters out back which are popular with tradesmen and sheep shearers. But with a lovely lack of luxury, pomp and poker machines and the very basic, but homely décor, there’s a heady sense of times gone by in this pub – making it an exhilarating stay.

As for Hans, he’s looking forward to permanent residency. “You have to be successful in Holland for five years, which I was, then gain sponsorship from the Queensland Government and within four years you have to turnover $200 000 annually and employ one Aussie. I won’t give up – I love it here – this is a wonderful pub, a wonderful place and I will do it.”