Queensland Boulder Opal: What makes it so special?

Queensland Boulder Opal is treasured throughout the world because people love its unique beauty and deep colouration.

As the name ‘Boulder’ suggests, the colourful opal forms inside cracks and fissures within ironstone boulders.

The opal forms over millions of years from water containing silica-rich minerals having seeped from river currents or streams, resulting in a gemstone with “playful” colours that last forever.

To prepare these beautiful gemstones for jewellery, cutters divide the ironstone boulder, leaving the opal sitting on top of either side or just one side, before cutting and polishing.


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Why is it so valuable?

Queensland Boulder Opal is the rarest and expensive type of this natural gemstone.

The reason why it’s so valuable? Well, how about an intense mystical fire inside that has really popularised this gemstone for thousands of years.

It’s found only in one country on earth where you have an intense fire inside– Australia!

Opal miners have many places to explore in their search for Queensland Boulder Opal.

The primary fields include Winton, Quilpie, Opalton, Yowah, Eromanga and Cunnamulla.

A fine example could be worth even more than diamonds because of their popularity with people who love these fiery stones or those looking for something unique.

 The natural iron base of Queensland Boulder Opal gives it stability and depth.

The varied shapes in which these gemstones occur make for interesting jewellery with vibrant, bold hues you can’t find anywhere else.

The value of Queensland Boulder Opal depends upon the colours in the gemstone.

A colourful specimen would be more expensive than a gem that has a few dull colours.

Likewise, a dark opal gem is more valuable than a light-shaded one.

The worth of the jewels follows an order. Red is the rarest and hence most valuable. It’s trailed by orange, green, blue, and purple.

Uses of opal

Many people believe all opal has magical powers. It is said that if you wear an opal on your neck or shoulders for protection from negative energy then nothing will go wrong that day.

Opal tends to have a calming effect on the inner soul; the varied colours in the stone represent changing emotions. It enhances personal actualisation and self-awareness.

Ancient Greeks and Romans particularly believed the stone to have special powers. They used it to improve their mental health and ward off evil spirits.

They also prized the gemstone because of its colourful display and variety of patterns, which range from fine lines to chic metropolitan “cityscapes”.

The stones themselves have been intricately carved into everything from jewellery pieces like earrings and necklaces to various household items such as kitchen tiles.

Boulder opal jewellery

Queensland Boulder Opal is a unique and beautiful gemstone that can make an excellent gift.

The contrasting colours add to the beauty of the jewellery piece, whether it’s a ring or a necklace— the play of colours in the stone expresses individuality.

Opal comes in all different colours, so you will find something perfect for anyone on your list, or to boost your own collection.

Here are some tips about caring for them:

  • Queensland Boulder Opal does not require much care, as the stone is relatively stable on its own. It remains unaffected by water.
  • It just needs cleaning with mild detergent and clean cloths to shine again once dry (or sometimes even polish).
  • Oils will also not damage these stones, but over time they may build-up, resulting in reduced clarity.
  • Opal jewellery shouldn’t be dropped onto a hard surface, for the gemstone might chip or crack. It is best to take off your rings before cleaning or any type of manual work.




  • Opal is a gemstone that symbolises innocence and purity. It is said to promote peace, love, and hope
  • The birthstone of October, opal is also the stone that celebrates 14 years of marriage
  • In ancient times this stone was considered sacred by Romans who believed it had magical powers for healing skin conditions such as leprosy
  • Queensland’s Boulder Opal gets its name from the fact it is found in boulders
  • Opal comes in a variety of colours and shapes. There’s black opal, white opal crystal-like in appearance and jelly; other types include firey varieties like hyaline or honeyed ones from Lightning Ridge
  • Boulder Opal is found only in Queensland. Other opals are found in Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Ural Mountains (Russia), the United States, and India

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Exchange your vows with a sand ceremony

Imagine exchanging your vows in sand, billions of years old and rock solid.

You can. A sand ceremony symbolises unity and is a popular choice for weddings as couples start their new journey together.

Rock-solid? Yes, because sand comes from rock, coral, shells – and the beginnings of time itself.

In early ceremonies, the couple tossed handfuls of sand together into the wind.

The grains combined and could not, of course, be separated, thus symbolising unity and eternity.

Many of today’s celebrations honour both families and the vases are kept as a treasured reminder of eternal togetherness.

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Sand ceremony: one way of tying the knot

Choose three beautiful glass vases. 

Place one coloured sand into one vase, and a second colour into another vase. These are designed to represent the couple.

At the right moment in the service, one partner pours a portion of his/her sand into the third vase. The other partner then pours a portion of her/his sand on top of the first.

Finally, the couple jointly pours the remainder into each of their vases and into the central vase. Two symbolically then become one.

You can create your own sand ceremony kit or buy one ready-made.


Here is an original selection of special words each and both can say at the ceremony

  • I wish for us these sands of time to unite, inspire, and heal.
  • I wish for us the continuity of the billions of years represented in these sands.
  • I wish for us the smoothness of these sands as we too move across the waters of life, together.
  • May our commitment, our love be as ever-lasting as these sands of endless time.

You can also include children in this beautiful ceremony by using more colours.

Why not engrave the vases with initials, names and the wedding date making them a moving keepsake for years to come?


Recommended Reading: Author and marriage celebrant Jennifer Cram gives a fresh look at unity ceremonies in Unity Candle and Sand Ceremony: A Definitive Guide to the Creative Use of Candle and Sand Rituals in Wedding and Commitment Ceremonies

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Is the daily rat race leaving you feeling exhausted?

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What do the cemetery symbols and emblems mean?

Have you ever wondered about the symbols and emblems found on headstones and monuments at the cemetery?Cemetery Symbols

If you grew up in a religious family, there were no doubt some symbols that appeared frequently.

For me, it was the Celtic Cross. This is an interesting combination, including Celtic, Latin and Ancient Greek.

At the cemetery, you will find these and many more. The Maryborough Cemetery, or at least the monumental part of it, is quite old by Queensland standards. It was established in 1873, though there had been earlier cemeteries.

The first was at the site of the Old Maryborough Township near the intersection of Alice and Aldridge streets, and, later, at the site of the Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens. There were also various burials scattered throughout the district.

If you wander through the monumental cemetery on Walker St, you will be in awe of the size, variety and beauty of the various headstones and monuments erected to honour the deceased. It should be noted that the cemetery is divided into portions assigned to various faiths.

If you enter from Walker St, through the main gate, you will note the abundance of Celtic Crosses on the left of the avenue.

This is one of the Catholic portions of the cemetery. Cemetery symbols

To your right is an Anglican section. Crosses predominate throughout the cemetery, as one would expect, historically.  There are two quaintly named “Non-Christian” portions which are quite small.

Amongst the larger and more spectacular monuments, several motifs stand out apart from the crosses.

Angels, of course, are common and of varying styles. Look out for the Archangels Michael, with a sword and Gabriel, with a horn or trumpet. Angels may fly, symbolizing the departure of the soul, or crying in grief. Cherubs are often used to show the deceased was a child.

There are many monuments that feature an obelisk or stele. This is a square spire tapering towards the top, with a distinctive pyramid shape at the point. They are quite ancient symbols of power and achievement.

Occasionally, the monument will be topped by a column that appears broken off. This is deliberate. The broken column, again, symbolizes a life cut short and is usually a sign that the deceased died quite young.

Cemetery Symbols

As you continue to ramble amongst the graves, note the number of monuments topped by urns. Maryborough Cemetery has quite a few of them.

Some argue the urn symbolizes immortality, but it is probable that the urn motif is a remembrance of an earlier time when cremation was more common than burial.

The word urn comes from the Latin “uro” which means “to burn”. The purpose of the urn was to hold the ashes, and which echo the Biblical reference in Genesis, to the dust we humans intrinsically are.

Many of the urns are draped with a cloth. This is the shroud, another ancient motif associated with death. From the earliest times and across many faiths, the body was wrapped in a cloth before interment.

The cemetery in Maryborough also contains at least one crypt and several raised tombs.

What would you like on your tombstone?

What’s with the pissoir in Clochemerle?

When I was a boy, I think my mother had a problem with toilets. Not the functions but the architecture.

Mum was quite “distressed” by the outhouse, which was situated some 10 metres from the house, out in the back yard.

Hence, the one horror story she recounted of my early childhood was that I would habitually knock on the outhouse door, while she was in there, and ask, rather loudly, “Mum, what are you doing?”

I was an otherwise perfect child if the lack of other or worse stories were any indication. I was inquisitive.

Equally, I remember her anguish and annoyance when a BBC production of a French story, Clochemerle, appeared on our television guide.

Clochemerle was a farce, originally political, which, I suspect, the BBC funded as a shot at the French.

It involved a small French town in the Beaujolais region, which put in a public urinal, a “pissoir”, in the town square, outside the Catholic Church.

Mum mumbled imprecations against the BBC for weeks.

They’re funny things toilets, aren’t they? More funny peculiar than funny Ha!Ha!; though not if you’re a little boy of a certain age or, sometimes, not so young.

In a way though, they define civilisation. The earliest sewer systems known were in the Indus Valley; a technology present in almost every house in the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro more than 8000 years ago. The Romans had them.

More than 5000 years ago the dwellings at Skara Brae, in the Orkney Islands, were all connected by a sewerage system.

All that c@%$

I would like to clear up one misconception before I sign off. It is an urban myth that the flushing toilet was invented by Thomas Crapper.

Though he held patents on numerous toilet-related inventions, Thomas did not invent the flushing toilet.

His greatest claim to fame is that he invented and patented the ball cock system that made flushing toilets more efficient and is still in use today.

The wily amongst you will no doubt have discerned another connection between Mr Crapper and toilets.

Yes, it does seem that a form of his name has come down to us in a colloquial term for the function one performs when using the toilet.

As with all things, there is some debate about this but let us leave the topic entirely, as, I’m sure, my mother would have wished.


Clochemerle, loos and all that … first published in the Maryborough Herald, 24 June 2020. 




















Mortuary chapel, the nucleus of M’boro Cemetery

Have you ever been to the Maryborough Cemetery; the Monumental Cemetery, south of Walker St?

Of course, you have! However, if you have visitors and you’re looking for something interesting on a balmy afternoon, there’s no better place to visit.

Apart from the forest of beautiful and interesting monuments and headstones, when you arrive, your eyes will be drawn to the Mortuary Chapel.

This is the handsome structure in the centre of the “old” cemetery.

Once again, a building in our midst boasts interesting and talented antecedents.

The Queensland Heritage Register describes the “chapel” building type as rare and the structure itself, with a tower and four entrances over a central axis as unique in Queensland.

Bravo! There’s a reason this piece of our heritage is so ­special.

Work of architect Willoughby Powell

As with the various buildings, mentioned in the Maryborough Herald on May 7, attributable to Francis Drummond Greville Stanley, the Mortuary Chapel is the work of ­another distinguished Queensland Colonial architect.

This time it is Willoughby Powell who arrived in Queensland in 1872, and by 1875, had won a competition for the ­design of the Toowoomba Grammar School.

In 1882, he moved to Maryborough and set up his own practice here.

Apart from his design for the cemetery chapel, he was the “genius” who gave us ­Baddow House; one of the classic heritage private homes of Queensland.

Alas, Powell moved back to Brisbane in 1885, but went on to design important buildings across the length of Queensland.

Among his other achievements are Gabbinbar Homestead, Toowoomba Town Hall, Warwick Town Hall and the Atkinson & Powell Building in Townsville.

For more details, visit the Queensland Heritage Register at

Mortuary Chapel story first published in the Maryborough Herald, 18 May 2020

Who was Francis Stanley?

Francis Drummond Greville Stanley. That’s a name to conjure. “Who was he?”, many of you may ask and yet you will all know his work.

Colonial architect Francis Stanley

Francis Drummond Greville Stanley

Francis Stanley was born in Edinburgh in 1839 and came to Queensland in 1860 or thereabouts.

He was an Edinburgh trained architect and began work with the Lands Department. He rose to be the chief colonial architect in 1871.

The recently refurbished and opened Maryborough Story Bank, the birthplace of Mary Poppins’ author, Pamela Travers, began life as the Australian Joint Stock Bank (AJS Bank) and was designed by Stanley.

St Mary's Catholic Church, Maryborough

He also designed the Maryborough Court House, St Paul’s Anglican Church, in Adelaide St and had a hand in completing the design and extension of St Mary’s Catholic Church (pictured).

He was a significant contributor to the heritage Maryborough now boasts. His role in the city’s local heritage is echoed throughout Queensland.

The AJS Bank commissioned him to design branch buildings in Gympie, Mackay, Ravenswood and Townsville. He also designed St Mary’s Convent, now the museum, in Cooktown, in Far North Queensland, and the Brisbane GPO and Fort Lytton, in Moreton Bay, as well.

Architect of lighthouses

Stanley’s skill and taste are not just to be found in his public buildings, though.

He designed the Capricorn Light on Curtis Island, north of Gladstone and others along the coast.

The original light was a prefab structure of wood and iron, built in Brisbane, and was only the fifth lighthouse built in Queensland.

As we celebrate the beauty of our heritage, it is worthwhile to remember the humble public servant who designed them for us.


First published in the Maryborough Herald, 7 May 2020. 

Maryborough Story Bank

Maryborough Story Bank, the birthplace of Mary Poppins author, P. L. Travers, was designed by Francis Stanley.















Maryborough Courthouse

Maryborough Courthouse, Queensland, designed by Francis Stanley.

Crocodiles were prehistoric but they’re not dinosaurs

Crocodiles are in the news again, for all the wrong reasons.

They are reptiles like lizards, turtles and snakes and they have a very ancient lineage.

Crocodiles belong to the clade Archosaur. A clade is a group of organisms that have a common ancestor.

Interestingly, Archosaurs also include dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The earliest fossil crocodile known lived more than 300 million years ago and the crocodilians developed alongside the dinosaurs.

Like birds, which are now considered dinosaur descendants, crocodilians survived the K-T extinction, 66 million years ago.

Why aren’t crocodiles considered dinosaurs?

There are a number of reasons particularly surrounding the Archosaur “family tree” and when crocodiles branched off. For you and me, the answer is fairly simple.

A key aspect of dinosaur morphology, or shape, if you like, is that their hind legs are positioned directly under their body. This is true for birds, for instance, but not for crocodiles.

For this reason, also, pterosaurs, flying reptiles from the time of dinosaurs and prehistoric marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, pliosaurs and plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs.

In recent years, crocodiles have appeared in our news as the culprits in attacks on humans. This shouldn’t surprise us and, in fact, they are fairly easy to avoid.

Those who’ve been attacked took unnecessary risks either through bravado or ignorance. In Australia, the warnings are clear and simple.


On a bank of the Annan River near Cooktown is Blackie, the five-metre male croc that is said to rule the area.

Where are crocodiles found in Australia?

You can expect they are in any watercourse or basin from Fraser Island, across the northern coastline, to Shark Bay in WA.

Don’t go in or on the water, even in small boats or skis and kayaks. Don’t develop habits such as fishing, cleaning fish or dumping fish or meat scraps in the same place regularly. Crocodiles are smart and they learn.

Crocodiles are common in Australian tropical waters and the largest grow to at least five metres. You are not going to survive a meeting with an animal that size.

How big are crocodiles?

The largest measured crocodile was Lolong, which was captured and measured at 6.17 metres. Lolong was captured in the Philippines. He was suspected of the deaths of several people in his vicinity.

There have been claims of bigger specimens, including Krys. He was shot in 1958 near Normanton in Far North Queensland and was claimed to be 8.64 metres long. The accuracy of this measurement is contested though.

There is a skull in the Paris Museum that is 76cm long. Lolong’s skull was only 70cm.

Returning to prehistoric crocodilians, the largest known was Sarcosuchus imperator which may have grown to 12 metres.


Feature photo: Crocodile in the Northern Territory of Australia, by Jocelyn Watts.

What’s the deal with so many pineapple motifs?

Have you ever wondered why pineapple motifs are a recurring theme? I have.

It seems like pineapple motifs are everywhere. They’re on shirts, pineapple art, jewellery and ornaments to name just a few.

Pineapples are even featured in one of the mosaics adorning Kent Street at Maryborough, Queensland.

The blurb suggests the city’s municipal benefactor, George Ambrose White, who donated money for the construction of the Maryborough Town Hall in the early 1900s, made his money out of pineapples, amongst other things including gold.

Pineapples in mosiacs

Maryborough storyteller Ian Brown tells Eriko Badri and daughter Sana from Bundaberg about the pineapple motifs in the city’s mosiac.

Why pineapples?

The pineapple is a member of the Bromeliad family. It is native to South America, most likely from southern Brazil and Paraguay.

It was introduced to Europe in the 15th Century first by Christopher Columbus, who encountered it in Guadeloupe.

It had, by then, spread throughout South and Central America.

In Europe, the pineapple proved hard to cultivate and therein is the answer to why the pineapple remains an emblem, a motif of fashion and prestige.

It became rare and hard to procure and so became a symbol of wealth and power.

A pineapple could sell for as much as $8000 in today’s money.

Those able to acquire a pineapple would use it as a centrepiece for swank affairs. In fact, it was possible to rent pineapples for an event.

The rich and famous adorned their homes and other building with carved pineapples.

Christopher Wren chose gold pineapples to top both the North Towers of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Purportedly, it was Barbara Palmer, mistress of King Charles II, who first cultivated the tropical fruit in Europe in a ‘hothouse’ in the late 1600s.

Indeed, King Charles also had official portraits painted in which pineapples appear prominently.

In Queensland, pineapples are grown in the Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay, Yeppoon, Coastal North Queensland and the Atherton Tableland regions. In the 2012-13 season, the Australian pineapple processing sector produced 39,000 t of fruit for canning and juicing, which was worth $12.5 million. — Queensland Government, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Pinapples in architecture

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Toogoom RSL opens restored Vietnam shed

A shed destined for the Vietnam war is now basking in the Queensland sun after 45 years in storage at the Wallangarra Army base on the New South Wales border.

The shed that was to be used as a soldiers’ mess hall on the battlefields of Vietnam now stands proudly at the beach-side town of Toogoom located 16km from Hervey Bay.

Toogoom and District RSL Sub Branch president Ken Higgins said the shed was among hundreds manufactured for the Australian Army during the Vietnam conflict that ran between 1962 and 1972.

“These sheds were widely used as food and recreation halls,” the Vietnam veteran said.

“At Nui Dat  we had one the same as this with a veranda at each end. We played darts at one end and at the other, the corporal ran the bar.

“By 1971, Australia was starting to pull out of Vietnam. These sheds were still being manufactured and stockpiled at Wallangarra. Many became surplus.

“We got onto this one through military contacts and just before last Anzac Day (2014) the army built it as an exercise, sending a dozen soldiers, an engineer and a cook up here.”

The Toogoom Community Hall became a small army base where the soldiers showered and ate while camping nearby during the construction period.

Local volunteers painted the building and lined it with the hardwood tongue and groove packing cases in which it came.

“The hardwood timber we put in added to the bracing. It’s so strong that it’s cyclone proof and authorities want to use it as an emergency centre,” Mr Higgins said.

“It’s self-contained and wired for a generator. If the power goes out we just turn the generator on and everything runs as normal.

“So if we do have a disaster such as a flood or a cyclone, people can at least come here, get a meal and be comfortable out of the weather.”

Tribute to Vietnam war

Officially opened on Sunday, June 14, 2015, the old-but-new shed is a tribute to the Vietnam war.

“The Toogoom sub-branch is proud of its new home,” Mr Higgins said.

“It is expected to be on the proposed Fraser Coast Military Trail from Maryborough to Hervey Bay and Toogoom.

“This is not about talking war; there’s nothing glorious about war. We want to make this a pleasant, enjoyable place to come to and be used by all and sundry. Army base; soldiers’ mess hall; battlefields of Vietnam; Toogooom & District RSL Sub Branch; Hervey Bay; Queensland; Nui Dat;

“Cadets will use it and we plan to run community health programs and have speakers come here to talk about such things as rural fire fighting and first aid.

“Since we got our shed, men’s shelters, sporting clubs and Scouts have been putting them up in other places across Australia.

“It’s amazing that in 2015 as we commemorate 100 years since the Gallipoli landings and 50 years since the middle of the Vietnam war, these sheds built by Lysaght then are now seeing daylight and that company is still one big family.

“It’s a pretty impressive performance. The steel came out of the packing in good nick – there was no rust. Almost everyone who comes in says: ‘Just look how thick that steel is!'”

The Vietnam memorial at Toogoom is expected to be a highlight on the proposed Fraser Coast Military Trail that also takes in Maryborough’s military museum, cenotaph and memorial gates, airport, air raid shelter and Duncan Chapman Memorial as well as the Z Force training ground on Fraser Island.



Backyard birds: Noisy Miners

One of the joys of living on the Fraser Coast is being able to work in and around the garden pretty well 12 months of the year and be able to study and enjoy the multitude of wildlife and birds on offer, such as the Noisy Miners.

The simple selection and placement of trees and shrubs will open your garden to the splendours of nature with the most prolific being birds.

One bird species that are frequent in this area are the Miner birds (not to be confused with the Myna bird).

Of the four varieties of Miner Birds, the most common to us is the Noisy Miner also known as the Micky or Soldierbird.

Noisy Miners are one of the most animated and aggressive species to visit the garden.

They are especially noisy when a predator such as a goanna, crow or the household cat wanders into the garden and will fly around the intruder calling loudly and snapping its beak at it, which is possibly why it is also known as the Soldierbird’

Noisy Miners have adapted well to suburbia and our leafy gardens and green lawns.  They’re easily identifiable with their incessant chatter call of “pwee pwee pwee’”  or the chuckling “weedidit weedidit weedidit”.

Noisy Miners feed mainly on insects

Feeding mainly on insects in the upper tree covering they do enjoy fruit and nectar and will feed on a bird feeder placed near a tree.

While they’ll have a go at most fruits they are very partial to PawPaw.  Trees such as Banksia’s and Grevilleas are  a great way of providing shelter and nectar for our Miner friends,

These little blokes are real entertainers when it comes to bath time, taking in turns to dive-bomb into the birdbath or even the family pool and then retreating to a nearby fence or tree branch whilst they preen and clean their feathers.

A close relative of the Noisy Miner is the Yellow-throated Miner. Almost identical to the Noisy except for a yellowish patch on the fore-neck and a more pronounced white rump. It is not unheard of on the Fraser Coast but lives predominantly in drier areas to the west of the Great Dividing Range.  A keen eye is needed if you are to spot the difference.

Miner birds have been wrongly linked with the introduced Myna bird which is of the Starling family and considered a pest in many areas.

The Myna bird was introduced into Australia from south-east Asia in the 1860s and can be found in many parts of the country.  They are a similar size to our native Miners but black to dark brown in colour with larger yellow feet and have a bandy walk.

Backyard Birds

This is the Noisy Miners’ cousin, a Yellow-throated Miner, which is more commonly seen in Western Queensland where this fellow was photographed by Jocelyn in Charleville.

Noisy Miners

Don Watts of Maryborough attracts Noisy Miners to his garden with pieces of fruit in a bowl. Photos by Jocelyn.