Barcaldine and the History of the Tree of Knowledge
The name Barcaldine originates from The Oban region in Scotland. Donald Charles Cameron was one of the first settlers in the Barcaldine district and a direct descendant of the Campbell’s of Barcaldine Castle. He settled on a portion of land fronting the Alice River and immediately named his property “Barcaldine Downs”.
In 1864 the rail line came as far as Lagoon Creek and the township of Barcaldine sprang up on land from the Barcaldine Downs run.
The ghost gum, Eucalyptus Papuana, which grew outside the Railway Station, earned its claim to fame as the founding site of the political movement we now know as the Australian Labor Party. In 1891 Barcaldine was the centre for the striking shearers during the “Great Shearers Strike” when they met under its boughs. In May 1891, about 3000 striking shearers marched under the “Eureka” flag to put forward their protests against poor working conditions and low wages. Because the area beneath the Tree of Knowledge was the scene of actions and decisions which had a profound effect on the future of labour and politics in Australia, it has become an icon of the Labor Party and Trade Unions.
The Tree of Knowledge was included in the National Heritage List on 26th January 2006. Sadly it was poisoned in 2006 and did not recover.
What was once a one day float parade on the Labour Day Monday and known as May Day Parade & Celebrations has grown to a full weekend of community celebration embracing a diverse range of activities including Street Festival, Rev Fest, and Goat Racing now known as the Tree of Knowledge Festival.
The May Day holiday was abandoned in 2013 but the festival proceeds as usual, using the motto "We may have lost the holiday but we haven't lost the tradition".