On the recommendation of the leaders of the local community, John Lemmone committed Melba to two concerts at Rockhampton separated by a day trip to nearby Mount Morgan.
The concert party caught the train at Brisbane and made the long slow trip to Rockhampton, a distance of just over 600kms (kms) which took 18 hours. Today it is a 7½ hour trip.
The Rockhampton concerts on July 5 and 8 were a great success and the party met some people whose descendants are still leaders in the arts in Queensland.
Today, Rockhampton on the Tropic of Capricorn is the beef capital of central Queensland and blends the old with the new. Just to re-enforce the influence of beef there are lots of the bovine sculptures of various shapes and sizes scattered around the city.
Cheryl and Jane at the History Section of the Rockhampton Regional Library were a great help with information, images and contacts for further information.
One valuable contact was the Australian Country Hospital Heritage Association. Errol from that group helped me immensely and put me in touch with someone else whose ancestor was at Melba’s Mount Morgan concert.
Across the Fitzroy river I met the president of Rockhampton & District Historical Society John Fletcher who with his team of Erica and Margaret, helped me with my research. Their society was housed in the magnificent old Rockhampton Council Chambers, a wooden 1885 building on the banks of the Fitzroy River.
They have on display some rare and fascinating objects from the region.
Melba stayed at the famed Criterion Hotel and the staff were happy to let us wander around and admire the wonderful interior which has changed little since Melba’s time.
As Rockhampton was at the end of the railway line north, after the concerts, the party boarded the train and headed 108km or 67 miles south to Gladstone to catch the coastal steamer Bingera north to Townsville.