Back To Uarbry Day

The small village of Uarbry was almost wiped out during the Sir Ivan Fire in 2017 – it made State and National news showing the damage that a bushfire can do to a small community.

Not to be cowed, Uarbry has made a comeback and the peaceful little village with its 16 or so residents have (or are still) rebuilding.   Small towns can have quite a history behind them and Uarbry is a prime example of that.


Some of the locals at the hall site at the Back to Uarbry Day, with the old fireplace from the 1932 hall in the foreground. Photo credit: Carol Richard

Originally known as Nandowrie Plains, it rated a mention in 1833 when Capt. John Piper, travelling through from Maitland to Bathurst obtained a native guide nearby.   In the Camillaraay language Uarbry means “Yellow Box Tree” of which there are many still in the area.  (For those environmentally minded it also appears that the nearby “bush” meets the criteria of the critically endangered box gum woodland ).

In 1861 a Uarbry settlement along the Talbragar River sprung up, a couple of miles west of the current site.  After a devastating flood the settlement moved to its current location on higher ground.   The design for the current village was completed in June 1868 and old maps show a fairly large village was planned.

Many of the villages and towns at the time contained self-made men and an entrepreneur or two.   William Piper, originally from Ireland and with a brother, nieces and nephews in nearby Cassilis, moved from Cassilis to Uarbry with his family and opened a pub on Main Street.   This popular watering hole with the locals was also the host to the Uarbry Races from 1874 onwards, which from old news reports sounds like quite the event with dozens of ladies on the field, fruit and cake stalls, calling for champagne for the toasts in the evening, and dancing till the sun rose!

The remains of the Uarbry bridge built in 1877 across the Talbragar River on the old entrance to town. Photo taken during removal in the 1980s. Photo credit: Shirley Holden

The village stayed small, however, and supported the nearby farming community with a part time school, church, hall, partial saleyards for a few years and a post office and shop that moved around as time passed.  Families came and stayed and some moved on.   The little church was built with donated funds and labour and was the scene for many happy and sad occasions before it was lost to the fire in 2017.


Uarbry Church
photo credit: Bush Churches of Australia FB page.

Uarbry was known throughout the early to mid 20th century for it annual sports events, its cricket team – and its dances!   There are records of at least two halls that were utilised for dances as well as private residences hosting “socials”.   Older members of the community have related the distance people would travel to attend a dance on horseback and then by car and its quite mind boggling with people setting out hours before.  No wonder the dances went on into the wee hours as I’m sure they decided to head back the next day.  The last hall, also built by locals with donated materials and opened with a grand ball in 1932,  was also lost to the 2017 fire although a shelter now stands on the site providing a spot for locals to gather.


Uarbry Hall, after it had been given some TLC (and a new coat of red paint) in 2017, just before the fire. Photo credit: Grant Piper

On the 12th February 2023 locals and visitors came to the hall shelter to mark the sixth anniversary of the fire with a Back to Uarbry Day.  Around 50 people attended, including past and present residents of the district and it was lovely to witness old friends and neighbours catching up after many years.   Display boards were set up with photos of the village – historic ones from family collections and newer photos that showed the aftermath of the fire.

A self guided history walk was designed for the day so that people could wander around the village and use their imagination (or the photos on display) to transport themselves back to what the village was once like.  There are hopes of making this history walk  a permanent feature in the future.


John Horne, Dunedoo History Society, enjoying the Uarbry History Walk. Photo credit : Carol Richard

The Hall site has become a popular free camping site (no facilities) with travellers wanting a quiet night off the highway and where they can enjoy the shady trees and birdsong.


Countryside Drive to Uarbry



Journey time is approx. 43 minutes / distance 46 km one way.


Drive to the small village of Uarbry by exiting town via Campbell Street/Cassilis Road.  Approximately 18km from Coolah turn right into Tongy Lane.

Of note on Tongy Lane are the location of a number of old stories – John Jones, the owner of the Turee Station in 1837 was attacked by an employee Edward Tufts, with a pair of shears – wounded in the thigh and groin he died a few days later and was buried on the property.   Mary Ellliot, whose husband William Elliott held New Turee in the 1860s, died at Turee in 1864.   Her above ground sandstone vault stands in a paddock about a kilometre off the Lane near the grave of John Jones.   Mary often wore a red dress and old timers claimed that on many occasions at night an apparition in a red dress was sighted near her vault.     The nearby Croppy Creek also features a headless rider scaring late night travellers.    Also along the Lane was the place where two troopers and their horses were killed and buried and there were old reports of a bobbing light seen in the area at night.

The last property on Tongy Lane is Tongy Station whose sandstone homestead was destroyed by the Sir Ivan fires in 2017, however the historic woolshed can still be seen on the right hand side of the the Lane.  Tongy Station was initially owned by Robert Fitzgerald, an ex-convict who through hard work and charm increased his fortune.   In 1838 he had 41 assigned convicts on Tongy mostly engaged in clearing the land.    Tongy came into the Bailleau family in 1923 and is still held by a family member.

Continue down the Lane to the T-junction, and turn right on the Golden Hwy.  A few km further and the village of Uarbry is on your right (although this is the second village, an earlier village being located to the left on the plains but prone to flooding in its first few years, causing the move to higher ground and its present position).   Mentioned as early as 1833 by the Surveyor Robert Dixon  “Arrived at Uarbry and obtained for Captain Piper a native guide”.   Always a small village, it nevertheless was full of community spirit holding horse races and having a tennis and cricket club and of course a pub,all in the late 1800s.   The Mudgee Guardian of 30 July 1900 reported that Joe and Jimmy Governor  “called at Robinson’s, Uarbry … asking for George Cohen and France Piper, and wanted to know if they were home or not…” – this was during the time of the Governor’s rampage (made famous by the film The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith).

Uarbry Church before 2017


The remains of Uarbry Chruch after Sir Ivan Fire 2017.


Uarbry was almost completely destroyed by the Sir Ivan fire in February 2017, losing its charming little church, community built hall and all but two residences, and fire damage is still very evident around the town as it slowly recovers.  The cemetery at the rear of the town (on a short but unsealed road) has mostly survived and contains some touching family stories, most notably that of the Hobbins family.

Settling near Leadville (over the hill to the west of Uarbry) at Old Castle (now Dhu Robin) in the 1850s,  Martin Hobbins left his family at Christmas 1876 to go droving, not returning until May 1877.  During this time his eldest daughter Catherine died, followed 2 weeks later by Teressa aged 9, twelve days later Ambrose age 6 died, all from diptheria.   On April 26th Martin’s wife Catherine died while giving birth to twins and a month later Mary, aged 18 also succumbed to the disease.   Martin arrived home soon after.   He is said to have cut, shaped and inscribed all the headstones with his own hands whilst mourning, then carrying them by horse and dray to the cemetery at Uarbry.  Martin died 13 years later and is also buried there.

More history on Uarbry, Tongy and Turee Stations can be found in the book “Around the Black Stump” by Roy Cameron, a copy is available to view in the Coolah Library.

To download this drive in PDF format, please click here: