Looking back: In search of Barney Carney
IN 1940 well known Northern Rivers historian and journalist Mr Norman Cowan Hewitt wrote an article on the decision of the NSW Resumed Properties Department to demolish the old customs house at Tweed Heads.
NC Hewitt had also worked as the Daily News' Tweed Heads correspondent for a number of years after taking up residence in the seaside town in 1921.
The old customs house building, later becoming a boarding house known as The Bangalows, was unique in that it straddled the NSW/Qld border. The wooden structure was built in 1872 on a site now occupied by the local bowling alley, but the site became water- logged during heavy rain and after some years the decision was made to remove it to a dry site at the top end of Bay Street.
NC Hewitt wrote that the contract for the removal was let to the late Mr Barney Carney, of Barney's Point, who decided he could transport it bodily with the aid of his team of 28 bullocks.
The house became bogged and the late Mr Tom Boyd hitched his team of 28 bullocks to help in the task. The house was finally deposited across what eventually proved to be the border between the two colonies and it ran through the centre of the bedroom of the customs officer Mr Garrick.
In an article on historical aspects of Mount Lindsay NC Hewitt wrote that when the Tooloom gold diggings broke out "a grog shanty was opened at the foot of the range by Barney Carney, who later gave the name to Barney's Point, Tweed River, where he had the pub at Terranora". This is all that can be gleaned about the person known as Barney Carney.
In 1859 gold was discovered at Tooloom on the upper reaches of the Clarence River in the Casino district. In September 1859 the Moreton Courier reported "Mr Thomas Carney, who returned from Tooloom on Saturday, is so favourably impressed with the prospects of the gold-field, and the advantages of the road via Balbi's and Koreela to Tooloom, that he has made an application for permission to erect a house of accommodation at the foot of the range on the Koreela Road, distant about 25 miles from Balbi's Inn."
Balbi's Inn, previously called the Bush Inn, was taken over by a man named Balbi in 1856.
In October 1859 a notice was placed in an Ipswich newspaper announcing that parties travelling to and from the Tooloom Diggings will find every convenience at Patrick Carney's Accommodation House, at the stockyard near the foot of the Koreelah Range and there were all provisions of the best quality with grass and water in abundance.
A visitor to the diggings wrote in December 1859 that he had arrived at the foot of the Koreelah Range "and not being disposed to journey further that night, I made up my mind to camp with Pat Carney, who has erected a large shanty, where he dispenses board and lodging".
The location of the accommodation house was originally called Carney's Camp but became known as Carney's Creek. Patrick Carney was still the keeper of the accommodation house in 1861, but it is believed that he closed his hotel in 1863.
A man named Lindsay Chalk, who later owned Balbi's Inn, wrote that the buildings at the camp were slab with dirt floors and consisted of a pub with a few huts in which up to 140 miners with their families slept. The ruins were said to have stood until the 1870s but there is no trace of them remaining today.
Chalk also claimed that Carney deliberately kept his past a secret and little is known of him. Speculation was made that he had come to the colonies as a convict.
Although there are a number of convicts who could quite possibly have been this mysterious publican, there is insufficient information to prove this theory. It seems likely that the man known as Patrick Carney was also known as Barney Carney, however the true identity of the man whose name was given to a local area on the Tweed may remain unknown and his ultimate resting place undiscovered.
The romantic tales of past times on the Tweed and the activities of the pioneers continue to tantalise the imagination of those who live here now.