Burra to Broken Hill wheelbarrow push

Reuniting with old mates: Des Menz, Dick Cuttle, Colin Baker, Neil Page and Jeff Hirschausen. Seated, Maurice Taylor, Alan Day, Paul Smedley.
Reuniting with old mates: Des Menz, Dick Cuttle, Colin Baker, Neil Page and Jeff Hirschausen. Seated, Maurice Taylor, Alan Day, Paul Smedley.

In the late 1800s Miners looking for work would travel great distances with their families, pushing all their belongings in a wheelbarrow. 

The trek from Burra in South Australia to Broken Hill in New South Wales, was one of the most famous and arduous journeys.

After the closure of the Burra Mine, many miners packed their belongings in their wheelbarrows and walked to Broken Hill for work. 

This close historical link between the two mining towns has never been forgotten, and the Centenary celebrations in 1983 saw the birth of the Burra to Broken Hill Wheelbarrow Push. 

The ‘Wheelbarrow Races’ were also held as competitive events in January 1985 and ‘86, with the last race held in 1988.

"On Wednesday 26th January, 24 wheelbarrow pushing teams from all over Australia were flagged off from Market Square Burra on a race to Broken Hill by Olympic runner Herb Elliot."

Excerpt from the Burra School and Community News reported in the 3rd February 1983 edition.

Colin Baker, a former Burra Resident, and one of the six members of the ‘Burra Breathers’ team, recalls that each side pushed a fully laden barrow weighing approximately 40kg in a relay race spanning 368km over five days. 

Each team’s time for every stage was recorded, and the team with the lowest total elapsed time was declared the winner.

Although the ‘Burra Breathers’ did not compete in the first race in 1983, they did have a team in the following two events. 

The ‘Breathers’ finished in third place in 1985, but did not place in 1986 having finished in just over 17 hours. Other team members to participate across the two years included Dick Cuttle, Peter Bartlett, Paul Smedley, Des Menz, Neil Page, Maurice Taylor and Gary Williams.

Booborowie local Geoff Thompson, along with former colourful Burra identity, Garry James, were involved in three races (1983, 85, 86).

Burra also had an all-female team ‘The Burra Barrow Birds’ that competed in 1985 and 1986.

Colin was instrumental in organising a reunion for members of the ‘Burra Breathers’, on Friday night at the Burra Hotel. There were 19 people in attendance, with only one of the original ‘runners’ unable to attend.