Barcaldine is a small town and Local Government Area located in Western Queensland, Australia, approximately 520 kilometres by road west of the city of Rockhampton. The town is the administrative centre of the Barcaldine Shire, which covers an area of 8430 square kilometres. Town population is around 1900. Major industries are wool and grazing. The town takes its name from a sheep station called Barcaldine Downs, which was named for Barcaldine, Scotland.
Barcaldine played a significant role in the Australian labour movement and the birth of the Australian Labor Party. In 1891, it was one of the focal points of the 1891 Australian shearers’ strike, with the Eureka Flag flying over the strike camp. The landmark ‘Tree of Knowledge’, under which the strikers met, still stands outside the railway station. In 2006, persons unknown poisoned the tree with the herbicide Roundup, which appears to have led to its demise.
One of the first May day marches in the world took place during the strike on May 1, 1891 in Barcaldine. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 1340 men took part of whom 618 were mounted on horse. Banners carried included those of the Australian Labor Federation, the Shearers’ and Carriers’ Unions, and one inscribed ‘Young Australia’. The leaders wore blue sashes and the Eureka Flag was carried. The Labor Bulletin reported that cheers were given for “the Union”, “the Eight-hour day”, “the Strike Committee” and “the boys in gaol”. It reported the march:
In the procession every civilised country was represented doing duty for the Russian, Swede, French, Dane etc, who are germane to him in other climes, showing that Labor’s cause is one the world over, foreshadowing the time when the swords shall be turned into ploughshares and Liberty, Peace and Friendship will knit together the nations of the earth.