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Ride anyone!

By JOL Admin | 29 September 2016

Guest blog: Bowen Historical Society and Museum
Due to funding awarded by the Whitsunday Regional Council and Regional Arts Development Funding (RADF) in 2016, members of the Bowen Historical Society and Museum were able to display a valued collection item dating back to the 1920s.

Very much a part of the local landscape, the billy cart was built by Mr Tom Cheffins between 1910 - 1920. The cart is part of a permanent display at the Museum and is complete with a billy goat in situ. Everyone at the museum agreed it wouldn’t be long before young visitors asked if they could have a ride in the cart, just like previous generations did all across Queensland.

A life-size re-creation of the billy goat cart proudly displayed at the Bowen Historical Society and Museum. Photographer: Nadine O’Neill, Bowen Independent Newspaper, August 2016 gave permission to feature the image.

It was a common site for families on the land to hitch a hand-made cart to the family’s billy goat, as early as the late 19th century. According to local research the term 'billy cart' originated because billy goats were the preferred animal to pull the smaller designed cart. They were used to convey milk cans on the family farm but were often used to entertain the smallest members in the family also. Not only was the billy cart a practical part of people’s lives, the combination also provided a source of entertainment, joy and independence.

It is understood that Tom reconditioned his cart for younger brothers Charlie and Arch and historical accounts indicate his neighbours Hugh and Mary Massy often rode in the cart also.

The Cheffins family prepare to leave for Sunday School, 1923. In the background is Mrs Cunningham’s residence, Poole Street, Bowen. This photograph taken by Fred Cheffins is part of the Bowen Historical Society and Museum collection.

If you are interested in viewing a selection of similar images, the State Library of Queensland has posted 30 images to an album entitled Goats of Queensland on Flickr Commons. They reflect the importance of the billy goat to family life all over Queensland. Which is your favourite!

Owen McVey, Walter Grant, James Grant and Carl Vaughan riding goats, ca. 1918, Isisford, Queensland. Image 10258 John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Bowen Historical Society and Museum


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