In 1901 the Home Secretary ordered Acting Sergeant Philip Walsh to Bedourie in far west Queensland to take a poll for the Federal Elections. Walsh travelled from Brisbane to Charleville by train, and then by Cobb & Co. coach to the cliffs – 68 kilometres east of Windorah. The Acting Sergeant obtained a horse and rode to Windorah. He had to swim the flooded Cooper’s Creek before arriving in the town. After a few hours rest, Walsh left Windorah for Currawilla -arriving a day or so later. On his way to Monkira the next day he spent five hours swimming the flooded Diamantina River which was 10 kilometres wide. Another day on, he reached Cluny.
That night he began to cross the flooded King Creek, which was then 13 kilometres wide. Early in the morning he camped on an island amid flood-waste. In the morning, Walsh took off all his clothes – save his hat, and after tying his few possessions to his saddle, he carefully wrapped the electoral papers in an oilcloth and fastened the bundle to the back of his neck. As he was swimming across King Creek his horse went under and was swept away. While the animal was struggling in the water, Walsh’s bundle of clothes was lost. He later recovered his mount and after 12 hours in the water, reached the outskirts of Bedourie. All he was wearing was his hat and boots. Walsh was at wits end as to how he could reach the police station in the centre of town. After some thought, he fashioned a loincloth with the oilcloth and marched proudly up the street to the police station.
Acting Sergeant Walsh held the poll the following day and then set out for Brisbane. On his return trip to Windorah, a distance of 433 kilometres, he set a record which could still hold good today. He rode the distance in 58 hours, 41 of which were spent in the saddle using a relay of horses borrowed from local graziers.
This information has been supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available at the time of writing.
The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: [email protected]
“A record ride, 1901” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/legalcode