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Bullock teams are a large part of the early history of Mullumbimby. Cedar-getting was the very first industry in the Brunswick Valley with one of the first base camps established at Mullumbimby Grass. It grew to become a village, and later the township of Mullumbimby. The working bullock teams were vital to the industry, hauling the huge cedar logs to the water’s edge.
At some point in the early 1980s, long-time local, John Mills had become interested in training a bullock team which he would walk to Sydney. The celebrations in Sydney for the national bicentenary seemed like the perfect opportunity to put his venture into action.
Throwback to 1986 when the Echo was using its original smaller format, Stewart’s Menswear sold Nike and you could walk a team of bullocks down Burringbar Street Mullumbimby without raising an eyebrow!! The Byron Shire Echo reported that John Mills W.H.E. and John Huey B.C.D.O had a training program well in hand for their trip from Tweed to Sydney for the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988.
The two Johns, with a team of 6 people and 12 bullocks, aimed to set off from Tweed Heads in October 1987. They planned to arrive in Sydney to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Australia Day 1988 where they would feature prominently in the Bicentennial celebrations.
But what of the letters after their names you might ask? Family members recall that everyone needed a handle and thus John Mills became Whip Handler Expert and John Huey, Blue Cattle Dog Owner. The bigwigs in Sydney had no idea what the acronyms meant but frequently used them in correspondence.
Just like Santa’s reindeer, the bullocks were all given names: Rusty, Spanner, Pride, Bright, Boxer, Biggi, Paddy, Charlie, Plum, Nobby, Mullum and Bimby.
The trip was largely successful, it being one of John Mills’ finest hours although it was disheartening for him to lose several bullocks along the way. Down Bellingen way, red lantana, a noxious weed was growing. It only grew between Coffs Harbour and Kempsey and local cattle raised there would not eat it. Cattle introduced to the area including John’s bullocks, would become ill after eating it and so the reserve team, which were following by carrier, needed to be used: Nudgel, Trooper, Cherry, Brutus, Bunner, Warregal, Hawke and Pidgeon.
In other news of the day, Mullumbimby’s Chincogan Fiesta Committee resolved to rename the Chincogan Derby the “Chincogan Charge” in a bid to turn the race into an event with State-wide appeal.
As kids we climbed “Chinnie” regularly and looked forward to the annual Chincogan Fiesta together with its colourful street parade and the race up the mountain.
Whilst many fundraising activities occurred from 1950 onwards including Queen competitions and a footrace up the mountain, the very first Chincogan Fiesta was held in 1968 as a continuation of those earlier fundraising efforts. Funds raised were used to pay off loans raised by the Mullumbimby Municipal Council to build the Mullumbimby baths and amenities block, the project having been completed in 1967. The building of the swimming pool was truly a community effort with almost 6,000 hours of volunteer labour put into the preparation and building of the complex. All obligations to Mullumbimby Municipal Council were paid in full in 1971; the Mullumbimby and District Baths Committee had its final meeting and they invited the Service clubs to take over the Chincogan Fiesta.
At each annual Chincogan Fiesta from 1968 right through until 2001, Charity Queens representing local organisations, sporting groups and service clubs continued to raise funds for many community projects. This was an iconic event for the town of Mullumbimby however due to lack of volunteers and insurance issues, 2001 was the last Fiesta to be held. The Chincogan Fiesta was enjoyed by family members of all ages, it helped shape the culture and identity of Mullumbimby and it was a great way to support local community groups.
These days Mt Chincogan is closed to the public except for on the 3rd Saturday of September each year when the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce run their annual Chincogan Charge. The charge was revived by the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce in 2017 after being dormant for 16 years and is the only day of the year that the general public can access the privately owned mountain. Unfortunately, it was not held in 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic but it is envisaged to return in 2021.
Mullumbimby Happenings 50 years of fun 1950-2001. Compiled by Reg Byrnes 2003
Byron Shire Echo: June 11, 1986
What they Did Families of the Brunswick. By Neta MacKinnon 1998
Mills family recollections
Mullumbimby In Transition 1968-1988