My only other visit to Bourke was back in about 1979. I was working at Tottenham at the time and my mate was relieving at the Nyngan Branch. We were both at a loose end for the weekend so decided we would go to the Bourke races on the Saturday. I headed up from Tottenham to Nyngan on the Friday night and stayed at the motel that my friend was staying in. For some reason he was into seances at the time. I wasn’t. He convinced me that we should have one. I was reluctant and very sceptical but nonetheless he put a blanket on the round table and an upside down glass. As we put our respective fingers on each side of the glass we both pushed as hard as we could to make it move. As we were pushing in different directions the glass didn’t budge and the spirits never came. My thoughts were “what a load of ………”
Anyways next morning we headed up to Bourke which was 200km along a very straight stretch of road. It ran beside the railway line so there were only a couple of what you would call slight bends in the road. We arrived at Bourke about 10am . I was driving and I drove straight through town and out the other end. As we were passing the open speed sign on the way west My mate asked me where was I going? “That was Bourke back there”. “I know” I said, “I just wanted to go to the back of Bourke”. I then spun the car around and went back into town.
We had a couple of hours to kill before the races started so we decided we would go to the pub. We saw one on the right which was called the Central Australian Hotel. We parked on the left side of the road and we got out and we both walked silently across the road and up onto the footpath. As we approached the hotel we looked at each other and without saying a word we silently turned around and headed back to the car. We got in and and discussed how we both had this strange feeling but didn’t know why. We saw the Bowling Club and went in there. As it was still well before lunch it was pretty deserted and we explained to the barman what we had just experienced. The barman told us that the pub was a “black” pub and that we would not have been welcome if we had entered. That was my first first-hand experience of race segregation. At the time I didn’t know that there were “black” and “white” pubs. The barman told is that there was only one Aboriginal man allowed to drink in the Bourke Bowling Club.
This time round the pub we visited back then is now closed down and the Bowling Club does not discriminate as evidenced by the people enjoying a drink or playing the pokies. An irony of our visit years ago is that my mate only in recent years found out that he was Aboriginal so HE could have gone into the pub and not me and HE shouldn’t have been allowed into the Bowling Club. Thank goodness that times have (mostly) changed.