Why Land of the Beardies?
We are often asked about the origin of the Museum’s quaint name.
The ‘Land of the Beardies’ is coined from a book of the same name about the history of the area written in 1922 by E.C. Sommerlad. The story goes that two stockmen, Chandler and Duval, were the first to see the expanse of unexplored grazing country to the north of Armidale. They wore long beards and gentlemen from elsewhere looking for suitable land for stock were recommended to apply to ‘the beardies’. Both men have since been immortalised, Chandler by a peak and river, Duval by a mountain. As well as lending their names to the Museum, Chandler and Duval are also remembered in Beardy Waters (source of the town’s water supply).
However, Mr Graham Wilson OAM, Heritage Advisor to the Glen Innes Severn Council, has researched Chandler and Duval. Duval is well documented but it was not until he searched for Chantler instead of Chandler that he found this individual, convict records and all. Unfortunately, the two men were not quite contemporaries and the above legend must be questioned, romantic as it is.
Two new possibilities have now come to light:
- A loach, a local fish resembling a European catfish, is referred to in northern England, Scotland & parts of southern Queensland as a ‘Beardie’.
- As the area was settled by many Scots, they would have bought with them their sheepdogs known as the bearded collie or ‘Beardie’.
No museum can be successful without suitable premises and the Glen Innes & District Historical Society Inc. (a community based organisation) is fortunate to occupy a building that is itself a museum piece.
Formerly the Glen Innes District Hospital, the first section known as the Sharman wing was built in 1877. The beginnings were indeed humble, just one ward for six male patients and a kitchen/laundry/store building. At intervals over the next 50 years or so, further sections were added until its doors finally closed as a hospital in 1956.
As a hospital, which was conceived, funded, built and operated by the community, it has immense significance for the history of the town and district.