QANTAS BEGAN IN WESTERN QUEENSLAND and a number of Western Queensland towns are proud of the part they played in its formation in 1920.
In 1918, at the end of World War 1, Western Queensland transport was still stuck in the horse & buggy and T-Model Ford days. Many early settlers had come from Victoria. The train from Longreach took ages to deliver mail and passengers to southern Australia.
Into this scene in 1919 stepped Paul McGinness and Hudson Fysh, two young ex-airforce men intent on using their skills to launch faster and more efficient transport of both mail and passengers for the bush - by plane.
Hudson Fysh in his book Qantas Rising, quotes Fergus McMaster as saying it was "sheer chance" that he should break a stub axle in the Cloncurry River on a Sunday and, after walking the three miles into Cloncurry, the first person he met was Paul McGinness, who by various escapades managed to get McMaster on the road again. In the time they had together McMaster was impressed with the story of his and Fysh's ambitions, and he promised to do what he could to help.
McMaster declared that his "chance accident and meeting, with the true Australian help and friendship given by McGinness" to him was "perhaps the greatest factor in the shaping of Qantas to be".
McMaster was a well respected station owner/manager and business man who centred his business in Winton, banking with the Bank of New South Wales. Having listened to McGinness and taken to the idea of air travel, he set about helping their cause and raising capital from friends and neighbours, as well as business associates from farther afield.
So, with some capital and the help of two astute Winton women in Kit Tighe as Treasurer and Harriet Riley as Secretary, who each voluntarily gave of their time and office space, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS) was founded in Winton on 16 November 1920, with the first Board Meeting at the Winton Club on 10 February 1921.
On 21 May 1921. the decision was made to move the airline's headquarters to Longreach, the railhead town in a more central position between Cloncurry and Charleville.
Western Queenslanders are proud of the beginnings of Qantas, the history of which is so well documented in the QANTAS Founders Museum in Longreach, and Qantilda Museum within the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton.