Hollywood actress Lucy Lawless has some pretty strong links to Coolac. The Coolac Hotel (formerly known as The
Beehive) was once in her family when Walter Hoare (her grandmothers maiden name) ran it. The then Beehive Hotel
was a single storey Cobb & co stop, but it was Hoare who put the second storey on that we see today. Walter Hoare was
once held up by the legendary bush ranger Ben Hall and the story goes that he and his son were finally released in
return for getting morning tea for the bush rangers. The Hotel stayed in the family through the 1940's and 1950's with
Lawless remembering her mother growing up there.
Did you know that Coolac once had wild bears?! The place name Coolac is derived from the local Aboriginal name for a
plant which was abundant in the area and also from the Aboriginal word meaning "native bear". Of course today there
are very few native bears to be seen, but locals have suggested their might be one or two still sneaking about. Its said
that every so often they catch a glimpse of one for a few seconds, out of the corner of their eye but their have been
no confirmed reports to date.
The satirical Bald Archy art competition (named from the more prestigious Archibald Prize) began in Coolac at the Coolac
Festival of Fun, launched by Peter Batey. The home of this competition is now the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga
Wagga and it also travels to Sydney and Melbourne for exhibition once Maude the Cockatoo, who is the official judge,
selects the winning entries each year.
The Coolac Geological Site 4km north-east of Coolac, is the best known example in Australia of a substantial ophiolite
assemblage. The distinctive rock assemblage over a 130 hectare site provides insights into events in the continental
evolution of eastern Australia.The rocks here were part of the oceanic crust and mantle, normally not exposed on the
earth's surface. The rock from the mantle is called Coolac Serpentinite.
Coolac Memorial Hall was built in approx. 1959 to replace an earlier hall that burnt to the ground. A small bronze plaque
set into a menhir stands in front of the hall recording the names of the volunteers and the dead from WW1, WW2 and the
Vietnam War. The Name Plaque Reads: "In honour of Coolac and district servicemen and women" The Memorial Gates
were built shortly after the Second World War and were funded by D.H. Roberts who lost his son, Pilot Officer Arthur
Donald Roberts (615 Squadron - No 402063) flying Hurricanes in the Second World War. A black granite memorial panel
set into the brick pier records his death. Pilot Officer Roberts was a member of the RAAF attached to the RAF and was
shot down over the English Channel flying a Hurricane on 27 September 1941 aged 20.
Coolac was originally home to the Wirradjuri People and was first settled by Europeans in the 1830's. There are a
number of buildings, created between 1850 to 1880 from the local stone, still standing, including the three original hotels
known as the Beehive, Coolac and Junction hotels, the police station, and two churches, St Judes Anglican and St Peters
Coolac Post Office opened on 1 June 1870. The school was established in 1872 of local stone, with the present weather
board structure erected in the 1920's, closing permanently in 1980. It is now the venue for the annual Coolac Festival Of
Fun which offers a program of outdoor concerts by some of Australia's leading performers, along with the well-known
Bald Archy Prize, and a grand dinner celebrating the regions best wine and food.
The Murrumbidgee River is joined by the Tumut River and the Muttama Creek, which wends its way from Cootamundra,
not far from the current Hume Highway. Situated some "nine miles from Gundagai", it is arguable that the bank of the
Muttama Creek at Coolac was the original site of the legendary Dog on the Tucker box tale, as opposed to those who
argue for the "five mile" theory! Coolac produces quality beef, lamb and cereal products. In the early days of
settlement a minor gold rush was experienced. It is reputed that some 900 miners were camped on the hill not far
from the present hotel, which also had a producing vineyard nearby. Some minor minerals and semi-precious stones
have been found in the area. These days the region boasts Australia's largest apple orchard and the champion
racehorse, Tie The Knot, grazes not far away.
Patrick Kiley was born at Coolac, NSW in 1841. Patrick was later a mate of Banjo Paterson, who is believed to have
spent some time on Red Hill Station and to have used it as the model for his poem as 'Kiley's Run', although others
dispute this claim. During the Kiandra gold rush, Patrick and his brother Edward conducted a profitable business
taking flour by pack horse through the mountains to the diggings". In 1864 they were able to buy "Red Hill" Station
at Adjungbilly. Patrick Kiley was a man ahead of his time. He paid his Aboriginal employees equal wages, the same as
his white employees. In 1986 among much controversy the old "Red Hill" Station was sold to the Forestry Commission
to be planted with radiata pine.
Low lying hills encompass Coolac subtly contrasting the flatness of the enclosed farmland and it was these hills, in
early 1920, that Henry Lawson was encouraged by young Grace McManus to climb; after frequenting the local hotel.
Grace’s father ran the local Coolac store and some of Lawson’s friends in Sydney had persuaded the writer to spend
time in Coolac. He stayed with the McManus family. It was hoped this time in the bush would improve his health, which
had been severely ravaged by his alcoholism. Lawson stayed for two brief weeks and although promising to return, he
never did. Within two years he was dead.
Cecil Taber was born in Coolac in 1893 the son of William and Mary Ann Taber and attended Coolac Public School. Like
many young men of his generation he enlisted for the great war. His unit, the 13th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement
departed from Sydney on HMAS A70 Ballarat on 16 February 1916. He was killed in action on 15 May 1917 at Bullecourt,
France and is remembered today at The Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France. He was awarded
the British War Medal and Victory Medal for bravery. After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which
£12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new
school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school
was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery,
with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial.
Coolac Train station was opened in June 1886 as part of the Tumut line. It contains a 100m up side platform located on
a loop siding. Further down the line were a pair of goods sidings serving a loading bank and goods shed. The goods
sidings continued over a level crossing to a dead end stock siding and stock yards. The platform and goods shed are
still present. Multiple tracks indicate the presence of a yard. The landmark signal is still present at the south end. In
recent years, the goods shed has been restored and a preservation order placed upon it. The signal diagram for Coolac
has been also been preserved and is now in the Gundagai Railway Station.
In 2005 a furore broke out in Coolac after a local 62-year-old shearer claimed the RTA was charging him rent to live in
his own house! The dispute began when plans for the Coolac road bypass meant the RTA took possession of the man's
house under the Land Acquisition act and then tried to charge him rent until they agreed on a compensation figure. The
man held out for a fair price and the matter was finally resolved.
Coolac was once played host to visitors from outer space! in 1874 a 19.28kg meteorite landed 3 miles west of Coolac
presumably trying to blend in with the other rocks around it. When the Meteor was originally found it ended up as a
fire-stop in an open fireplace for about 5 years before its value was realised. The rock was extensively re-studied in
1937 and it was established contained mainly nickel. Its origins are still unknown!