Walcha History: Riflemen struggle to find their range

A Walcha Rifle Club competition in the early days at Round Swamp.
A Walcha Rifle Club competition in the early days at Round Swamp.

Walcha’s first-reported rifle club opened a 600-yard range at John Fletcher’s Orandumby station on August 23, 1884. The club had 30 members, a supply of Martini Henry rifles and ammunition, and practised three times weekly.

Now that the war is raging and every loyal resident is anxious to shoulder a gun, it is hoped there will be no difficulty in securing a suitable site.

The Tamworth Daily Observer

Uralla travelled to Walcha in August 1885 for the home team’s first inter-club competition. The return match, which Uralla won by five points, was held at Uralla some three months later.

Several members of the club travelled to Sydney in October 1889 to compete at the annual meeting of the New South Wales Rifle Association. By 1890 Walcha had 50 riflemen and was in regular competition with Armidale. The club went into recess a few years later but was revived at a meeting held at the Apsley Hotel in September 1897.

By 1903 the club had set up a range in a paddock at Clifton Eliott’s Greenwells property on the outskirts of Walcha. The new range was much more convenient than those used earlier at both Round Swamp and Rockvale. The revived club did not prosper and soon ceased all activity.

The Tamworth Daily Observer of February 19, 1915 commented on one of several attempts to revive rifle-shooting at Walcha saying: “Some years ago Walcha had a strong rifle club that secured prizes at Singleton and other parts. Now that the war is raging and every loyal resident is anxious to shoulder a gun, it is hoped there will be no difficulty in securing a suitable site. This has been the problem in the past.”

Another attempt to form a rifle club at Walcha was made at a meeting held at the Municipal Council Chambers on February 9, 1935, but it too failed due to the meeting’s inability to put forward a suitable site to set up a range.

A one-off shoot was held in a Langford paddock in September 1936 when a team of returned AIF soldiers took on members of the local Light Horse with the losers to host a dinner for the winners. The AIF won both of the events held.

The Walcha and District Rifle Club was formed on  December 11, 1937 with E.R. “Tiny” Harrison its captain. The club went into recess during the years of the Second World War but reformed late in the 1940s and remained active for many years afterwards.