Blue heeler battle revived between Aberdeen and Muswellbrook

Is there anything more true blue and dinky-di Aussie than the blue heeler dog?

Topics’ attention was turned to this iconic dog when we read a story in yesterday’s Herald about a blue heeler statue on a path at Muswellbrook.

Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen called for Muswellbrook Shire Council to move the statue, suggesting it was a bit of a hazard.

Thing is, this oddly-placed statue has revived memories of an old rivalry between Muswellbrook and Aberdeen.

“Take it to Aberdeen where it belongs,” Jaime Saunders said on Facebook, of the statue.

This comment had echoes of a dispute between the two towns that erupted years ago over the famous breed’s hometown.

The record books show that Thomas Hall first bred the blue heeler (also known as the blue cattle dog) at Dartbrook in 1840.

Hall crossed a dingo and a Northumberland blue merle drover’s dog (a breed with border collie lineage).

His creation was known at the time as a Hall’s heeler. It was the ancestor of today’s blue cattle dogs.

The blue cattle dog was first bred at Dartbrook, near Aberdeen, in 1840.

The blue cattle dog was first bred at Dartbrook, near Aberdeen, in 1840.

Dartbrook isn’t too far from Aberdeen and Muswellbrook. But, crucially, Aberdeen is closer.

A dogfight between the two towns boiled over in 2001.

Muswellbrook council erected a statue of the Aussie icon in its main street to welcome tourists to “Blue Heeler Country”.

Scone was known as the horse capital, so Muswellbrook thought “stuff this, we’ll have the blue heeler”.

This put some noses out of joint in Aberdeen.

A bloke from Aberdeen named Len Dever – a former Scone councillor – wasn’t a happy chappy.

“It's typical of the bigger town, more money mentality,” Mr Dever said at the time.

“People who have got a bit of bite or punch think they can do what they like.”

The town’s then tourism officer Kevin Doherty, who was known as “Mr Muswellbrook”, hit back.

“Muswellbrook is blue heeler country, the original blue heeler country, and Aberdeen can go and jump in the lake,” Mr Doherty asserted.

Tensions had already been simmering over the matter since Muswellbrook council used a blue heeler logo on its letterheads four years prior.

Muswellbrook still has a “Big Blue Heeler” statue in its main drag.

The statue was replaced last December. 

Dubbo artist Brett “Mon” Garling created the new two-metre high statue. It cost about $60,000.

“It will last forever,” Brett told the Muswellbrook Chronicle.

“I’ve given it a 100-year guarantee.”

Thoughts to topics@theherald.com.au.

Newcastles of the World

A Buddhist temple near Kota Bharu, the Malaysian Newcastle.

A Buddhist temple near Kota Bharu, the Malaysian Newcastle.

Topics wrote last year about a book titled Newcastles of the World United.

The book documents 50 Newcastles across the English-speaking world.

We were reminded of this when we attended the Placebo gig at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Tuesday (in our Newcastle, that is).

Placebo lead singer introduced violinist Angela Chan as hailing from “Newcastle… in Malaysia”.

The Malaysian Newcastle is a city named Kota Bharu. 

The name means “new city” or “new castle/fort” in Malay. 

The website newcastlesoftheworld.com says there are more than 100 Newcastles around the world. 

We know the obvious one in the UK.

Here’s some less obvious ones: Neuburg an der donau (Germany), Nové Hrady (Czech Republic), Nyborg (Denmark), Castlenuovo Rangone (Italy), Neufchâteau (Belgium), Nowy Zamek (Poland), Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Savonlinna (formerly Nyslott in Finland), Castillo-Neuvo (Spain).

Party in Japan

The 20th Newcastles of the World Conference will be held from October 3 to 9 next year in Shinshiro (which means Newcastle) in Japan.

“We hope to welcome many people from many Newcastles to Shinshiro and that you will enjoy our heartwarming hospitality,” the latest Newcastles of the World newsletter said.

Novocastrians, get amongst it.

“Take it to Aberdeen where it belongs."

Jaime Saunders