In 1861 Burke and Wills with King and Gray, were the first known Europeans to come into the area on their ill fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Burke named the river “Cloncurry” for his cousin, Lady Elizabeth Cloncurry of County Galway in Ireland. In may 1867, Ernest Henry (honoured as founder of the town and the vast mineral wealth of the district), came this way searching for grazing land, instead he discovered copper, he named this the Great Australia. The town was surveyed in 1876 and named after the river.
Over the years Cloncurry has been the focal point for many of Australia’s greatest innovations. Cloncurry was involved with the beginnings of QANTAS, and the original QANTAS Hanger is still in use at the aerodrome, where “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service” is still displayed above the hanger door. The Royal Flying Doctor Service was founded here in 1928, now recognised the world over. The airport was also on route for early planes coming from overseas and a stopping place for contestants in the great air races of 1919 and 1934. During the Second World War, Cloncurry was the site of a major United States of America Air Base.
The railway reached Cloncurry in 1907, but officially opened 1908 and remains an important railway town. A visit to the Museums: Mary Kathleen Memorial Park or John Flynn Place will open the eye of any budding historian to the richness of Cloncurry’s history.
Cloncurry is a rural town, which derives its main income from the mining and pastoral industries. The town itself is nestled on the banks of the Cloncurry river, the river and Chinaman Creek Dam, situated approximately 3km from the town centre, provides the town’s water supply. Many residents supplement household supplies during the summer months with private bores. The Cloncurry River catchment area begins in the Selwyn Ranges and flows into the Flinders River where it continues on to empty into the Gulf of Carpentaria. The average annual rainfall is 500mm. With the heaviest falls being experienced between December and March. Cloncurry is noted for having Australia’s highest recorded temperature in 1889 (53.1c).