Timothy McCarthy

Family History

Timothy McCarthy was born in Cork Ireland in 1863. He travelled to Australia and in 1877 at the age of 24 years he was living at Muttaburra. He worked as a wardsman at the District Hospital for five years. This was where he met Norah Cunneen a nurse at the hospital. They were married in Rockhampton on the 8th January 1889.Timothy and Norah raised a family of five daughters. Mary Ellen 1890; Norah Agnes 1892; Annie 1893; Edith1900; and Katherine 1904.

His wife Norah talked Tim into going into the Hotel business and he became the licensee of the Australian Hotel in Muttaburra. He then built the Exchange Hotel, a two storied building of which he was the licensee for 54 years. Their granddaughter Jeannie Jack once described the beautiful hotel built by her grandparents in 1900. “It was two stories high with ten bedrooms upstairs, and a large dining room Bar and Parlour downstairs. All the floors were polished and there were masses of flowers everywhere. Each bedroom had a lovely washbasin and jug”.

On Saturday 23rd July 1933 the family went to Winton for a game of football arriving home about midnight. A couple of hours later at about 2 am a fire broke out in one of the shops in the middle of the town. The ensuing fire destroyed five buildings in the town including Tom and Agnes’ Grocery store Café and Picture Theatre. The following article in the “Longreach Leader ” newspaper dated Saturday 29th July 1933, describes the event,

“About 12.30 Monday morning Robinson’s café was closed and everything then appeared to be in order, but by 2.30 am a fire broke out in Robinson’s store and café and in a short while had secured such a hold that it was evident the conflagration was going to be a big one.

Assisted by a strong south easterly wind, Robinson’s store, café, and private residence, at the rear, were soon in flames, which leapt to Mc Carthy’s two storied Exchange Hotel and their private residence at the rear, then on to Hall’s café & Picture Theatre, progress being stopped at Hall’s private residence by a bucket brigade which, however, was hampered by a poor pressure of water. The flames advanced with such rapidity that the inmates of the several buildings had just time to escape, in most cases, in their night attire and the loss of personal belongings was heavy. The article goes on to mention, “Very little furniture or property was saved. Mr Hall saved his picture projecting machine, but the engine and dynamo were destroyed.”

The Muttaburra State School 100 Years Centenary Book “Muttaburra Saw Us” by M.R. Whitcomb also gives a good account of the fire.

“The fire started in one of the café’s about 2 am and the gusty wind soon made the task of the firefighters a hopeless one. The sleepy occupants hurriedly left their beds and stood in the street while volunteers tried to save furniture and valuables from nearby buildings. One small group was almost trapped in the projection booth of the picture theatre next door to the burning hotel and finally had to axe their way through the corrugated iron walls when the heavy projector became jammed in the only doorway.”

Tim and Norah’s daughter Norah known as Agnes, married Thomas William Hall on the 21st of September 1913. Thomas known as Tom was the second child of Thomas and Julia Hall of Dalby. He was born in Gayndah on 24th May 1874. Very little is known of his early days other than he was a drover of cattle then sheep in the Central West with his brother Frederick. Family stories tell of them being the first to bring herds from the Gulf to Muttaburra and Longreach, opening up the area. He was the owner of the Grocery shop and Café in the town.

Tom and Agnes had two children, John Robert (Bobbie) born on the 30th of June 1914 and Neil Robert on 11th of July 1919. They also took into their family their nephew Neville Bullen when his mother Mary Ellen (Nell) passed away in 1924.

During this period movies were becoming very popular, so Agnes and Tom decided to build an open-air picture theatre in the grounds beside the café and show silent movies. During the summer months, patrons would sit on the lawn or bring their own chairs, and in the winter, Tom would have coal fires burning around the perimeter of the grounds to keep everyone nice and warm.

After the fire Tim and Nora McCarthy rebuilt the “Exchange Hotel” as a single-story building and their daughter Edith looked after the catering. Tom and Agnes decided to go into the dairy industry, with the thought that everyone had to have milk, which they supplied daily for many years.

What a terrible disaster for the families and the town as it was also during the time of the great depression when many people were already having great difficulty in paying their bills.

After her sister Edith passed away in 1941, Agnes took over the catering for the hotel. By now her father Tim, riddled with rheumatism was finding the hotel business too much for him, so Tom was seconded to help in the bar. Agnes took over as Licensed Victualler of the Hotel after her father’s death in June 1956.

Neville Bullen recalls, “Tom was quite a character, many of the customers called him ” The man behind the bar”, or “the dour Scotsman”, even though he was born in Gayndah. He was always having a shot at people, and they would never know if he was joking or serious. He would love to take the rise out of them. He was so very quick and would do it with such ease. They didn’t really know him”.

Tom and his nephew Neville were very great mates and loved fishing together for yellow belly at the Broadwater and Picnic area.

During the last few years of his life when Tom wasn’t well, Agnes contacted Neville, (then living at Redcliffe), and asked him to consider coming home to help her in the hotel, which he did. This made life a lot easier for Tom as he could then potter around and do his own thing, though he continued to hold the position of Justice of the Peace, which he had held for many years


The death occurred in Muttahurra on Sunday, 31st January, of Mr. T. J. McCarthy, 89 years. Mr. McCarthy was one of Muttaburra’s oldest residents. An Irish immigrant, he arrived in Muttaburra in 1887, when he was 24. He worked as wardsman at the District Hospital for five years, after which he became licensee of the Australian Hotel. He then built the Exchange Hotel, of which he had been the licensee for 54 years. This hotel was destroyed by fire in 1934, and he erected another building, which stands now as the Exchange Hotel.

Mr. McCarthy married Miss Norah Cunneen at Rockhampton, and raised a family of five girls.Ind four daughters (Mrs. Bullen, Mrs. Ussher, Mrs. Johns and Miss E. McCarthy. He is survived by one daughter (Mrs. A. Hall), who manages the Exchange Hotel.

There are numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren residing in this district. Mr. McCarthy would have reached the age of 90 in June and could recall the town in its busier times, before Longreach became the centre of the district. He subscribed to Billy Lane’s movement to found a Utopia “New Australia in Paraguay,” in the 1880’s, but was not among the party which sailed from Australia on that mission. The bereaved relatives have received many expressions of sympathy. Country residents were unable to pay their last respects, owing to inclement weather, but townspeople attended the service at the graveside in the Muttaburra Cemetery on Monday, February 1. Dr. J. A. Anatta conducted the ceremony according to the rites of the Roman Catholic

Source: Marion Hall <marioncqfha@bigpond.com>