Come By Chance

If ever the name of a town captured the magical unpredictability of taking the Big Lap, then Come By Chance in Outback New South Wales is it.

Located about 100 kilometres north of Coonabarabran in the Walgett Shire, this is one of those unique places that – thanks in some part to Banjo Paterson – will always have a place in Australian folklore.

The town, which has a population of around 125, sits on the Baradine Creek, which is known locally as the Bungle Gully Creek.

The early settlers put down roots here in the 1850s but the town didn’t earn its name until after George and William Colless arrived in 1862.

The brothers had initially thought that all the land in the area had already been sold, so were amazed to come across a block of land that had missed allocation after the 1861 Lands Act settlement. After having bought the land, they gave it a name that they thought reflected their good fortune, Come By Chance Station.

Many visitors like to look around the old cemetery. PIC: Walgett Shire Council

As the town grew to host a post office, a hotel, a police station, and a blacksmith shop, the wider township adopted the name that had been given to the Colless sheep station.

In those early days, sheep and cattle were prevalent in the area and crops like legumes and cereals were also grown. The development of Artesian bore water early last century was a major boon for the village, and meant properties could graze both cattle and sheep.

While it was successful in its own remote Outback town sort of way, it wasn’t until Banjo Paterson wrote the ballad, Come-by-Chance, that it exploded into the public consciousness.

‘But my languid mood forsook me, when I found a name that took me,
Quite by chance I came across it — `Come-by-Chance’ was what I read;
No location was assigned it, not a thing to help one find it,
Just an N which stood for northward, and the rest was all unsaid.’

With many horse owners in the area, what was to become an annual horse race was first run in 1947. Today, the Come By Chance Picnic Races attracts thousands of visitors every September and has become a hugely important community event.

Many visitors to Come By Chance also take the opportunity to have a look around the local cemetery which really offers a fascinating insight into the past of this remote region.

… and have their photos taken next to the sign. PIC: Walgett Shire Council

But this is a place where ‘just ‘being here’ is the main attraction. That, and having a photograph taken next to the ‘Come By Chance’ sign, of course!

There is, however, plenty to occupy grey nomads in the surrounding area. The service town of Walgett, which boasts a population of around, 2,600 people, is about 50 kilometres away. A favourite here are the Walgett Artesian Bore Baths where travellers can soak in the soothing waters which spring from the Great Artesian Basin at a naturally heated temperature of around 42C.

The Burren Junction Bore Baths, about 100 kilometres east of Come By Chance, are another favoured place to take a therapeutic dip. There are some other great villages in the region, including Collarenebri which offers some excellent fishing, and Carinda which is home to the iconic pub made famous by David Bowie in his Let’s Dance video.

Like the Colless brothers before them, many grey nomads will come here by chance but they too will count themselves very, very lucky that they did.


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