Loomberah launched in print

Loomberah might have celebrated its centenary of subdivision and the start of its family farming community four years ago – but this weekend marks another mighty milestone in its social connections.

When the rural neighbourhood celebrated its 100 years in 2009, they had such a good time of it, they decided to take it further. 

FAMILY HISTORY: Janelle Tongue and daughter-in-law Karlie Tongue, have helped put the family history of Loomberah into book form. 
Photo: Geoff O’Neill 020614GOG02

FAMILY HISTORY: Janelle Tongue and daughter-in-law Karlie Tongue, have helped put the family history of Loomberah into book form. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 020614GOG02

They’ve produced one cookbook to mark the settlement and the families that have come since. Now there’s another to trace the heritage of the rural community on the outskirts of Tamworth.

The social connections of the Loomberah lot are legendary. They’re a close-knit family where neighbours can trace generations of mates and where the local hall has been home to plenty of parties through the ages. 

The church, St Luke’s, and the memorial hall, are the focus of Loomberah community life. 

Janelle Tongue can tell you of balls in the hall, of dancers and kids who slid along the buffed floors, getting splinters in their bums and having a great old time while their parents did the same. And then kids slept in cars out the side while the elders finished up the night, had a nightcap or two, cleaned up and went home.

Loomberah is part of a land area of some 100,000 acres hived off from the former Peel River Land and Mineral Company back in 1889. 

It was the result of the subdivision of some of the grander Goonoo Goonoo Station under what was then called the Closer Settlement Act.

In effect, it offered up some 234 blocks of land for ballot.

Karlie Tongue, who can trace her generational roots back to two lots of original settlers, has done a wealth of research in tracing the story of Loomberah – but also helping to drive the book that will be launched today from the hall.

The book details how Loomberah came about. 

Those blocks ranged in size and location. Along the Peel, she says, some were 300 to 400 acres. Away from the fertile flats they got bigger, up to 1200 acres.

All those blocks were taken up, by ballot, with a marble drawn from a box. 

Today, 105 years later, there are four families who still farm part or all of those original holdings. Others have recently sold up and retired into town, or their properties were acquired by others in some of the consolidation that has gone on around Loomberah in the years since the first ballot.

Some, like the rural residential subdivisions of Loomberah Heights and Tullamore Heights, were shaved off some of those original family farms. 

The Tongues, Pontos, Carters and Collisons remain of the original 

settlers in that first year. The Marshalls retired just a couple of years ago, severing that original landholder link. The Camerons moved on too and the Smiths, the Barwicks and others came just a few years after, in 1911 and 1918, and retain family farm interests there now.

Karlie Tongue, married to Paul Tongue, son of Kevin, can boast a Loomberah link that goes back into two of those original family holdings, through great-grandparents the Pontos and the Collisons, and now through marriage to a third.

She’s been the research editor and collator for this newest book on Loomberah, rounding up the 25 families who have provided history and social profiles for the publication. 

It has 314 pages, lots of old photographs and newspaper articles, generously loaned.

“And there’s quite a few yarns too. It’s factual, but I think it’s a pretty good read. It’s not heavy, but it has lots of fascinating things in it,” she said.

“Yes, I suppose it does illustrate the social fabric of our community, it’s a social history rather than just a dry history, very much so.”

Today’s celebration begins from 9am at the hall with morning tea. There’s two bus tours too, around the blocks, down country lanes, and through the rolling landscape that is the mixed farming heritage of Loomberah. Among them will be plenty of those retracing steps they’ve taken before but more importantly and poignantly, following in the historic footprints of those who came before them.

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