The opening of Hervey’s Range Road in April 1933 was described as a “red-letter day” for Townsville and district, and particularly for the tobacco growers who lived on the Range. The long-awaited road was expected to relieve much of the difficulty and expense involved in getting their produce to market.
|The Eureka Hotel, at the top of Hervey's Range, c. 1930.|
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
During the official speeches, the President of the Townsville and District Development Association, Mr R. McKimmin, said that it was “one of the happiest days of his life” when he received word that the road up Hervey’s Range was gazetted. He believed that Townsville had been greatly neglected when it came to main roads, and that it had taken a lot of agitating to even get the few roads that they now had.
Just before the ceremonial ribbon was due to be cut by Mrs Wordsworth, the Shire Chairman’s wife, a man on horseback galloped out of the nearby scrub and slashed the ribbon with a knife. He then turned and made off back into the bush before anyone could apprehend him.
The Townsville Daily Bulletin noted that the man was a “well-known tobacco grower”, though didn’t give his name, instead preferring to call him “the bogus De Groot”. Other newspapers dubbed him “De Groot the Second”. This was a reference to Captain Francis De Groot who had caused a scandal at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge a year earlier, by dashing up to the ceremonial ribbon and slashing it with his sword before the Premier could do it.
The official party at Hervey’s Range took the incident in their stride and promptly replaced the ribbon, which was then duly cut by Mrs Wordsworth. The real De Groot never got off so lightly though - he was arrested and later fined.
It was the Chairman of the Thuringowa Shire Council, Councillor C.W. Wordsworth, who had the duty of declaring the road open. In his address, Councillor Wordsworth noted that many of those present had travelled up the Range by car, but asked them to consider what it might have been like 70 years before, when there was no road up the Range, and when “every foot of the way was plodded along through clouds of dust and profanity”.
|Hervey's Range Road, c. 1900.|
Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
In earlier days the track to the top of the range was steep and hazardous and took a full day for bullock drays to negotiate. The teams would spend one night at the Range Hotel, at the base of Hervey’s Range before negotiating the range the following day and reaching the Eureka Hotel at the top by nightfall.
One carrier’s wife, Mrs Margaret Fulford, remembered how arduous the journey from Townsville to the hinterland was, having made the trip in 1870. She recorded in a memoir: