Henry ‘Cocky’ Bignell has spent most of his 89 years in the small outback town of Isisford in central west Queensland.
- Henry ‘Cocky’ Bignell has embarked on his third monumental project for his tiny home town
- Isisford’s big yellowbellies have helped put the town back on the map
- The Isisford Fishing Competition celebrated its 20th year
“I was born and bred here, I put a lot of years away,” Mr Bignell said.
But 12 years ago, when he and his late wife Veronica planned to return home after a stint in Rockhampton, he could not shake the feeling that the town he loved was missing something.
“We were talking about coming back home and I just thought a little town wants something to put us back on the map,” he said.
Since then, his vision to have larger-than-life yellowbelly (golden perch) monuments on the banks of the Barcoo River has become reality, twice.
Mr Bignell’s biggest catch is a nine-metre whopper on the road in from Ilfracombe, built in late 2018.
“It was supposed to be 6 meters, but like all fish stories it finished up 9 meters,” he said.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn out like this.”
school of giant fish
Construction of Isisford’s third metal marine monument is underway on the opposite side of town.
“It won’t be anything like the other one, it’ll be flat, on a 90-degree angle to the road, [a] good view coming [from] both ways,” Mr Bignell said.
“A lot of the [windmill] sails I’m going to use have never been used, they’re still in the crates that I got them in, so they could be a bit shiny.
“It’ll stand out like nobody’s business.”
After years of fashioning fish sculptures for his hometown, Mr Bignell said it had all been worth it.
“I’m still getting messages from overseas people who have driven through and had a look at it and found out who I was,” he said.
“I’m so happy, so proud of it.”
Always a bigger fish
Whether it is oversized attractions or ancient fish fossils, the waterways of Isisford are one of the town’s main attractions.
During the cooler weather of the outback tourist season, residents say hundreds of caravans make themselves at home on the banks of the Barcoo River or at Oma Waterhole.
Such were the scenes at the weekend, when almost 750 people wet a line with the hopes of snagging the biggest yellowbelly at the Isisford Fishing Competition.
Isisford Fishing Club president Rob Anderson said the popular event, now in its 20th year, had come a long way.
“Twenty years ago, everyone just had old utes and tents, now there’s that many camper trailers and caravans,” Mr Anderson said.
“It’s a good drawcard, it’s a lot of money coming into the town, and a lot of people come and join it from everywhere around.
“It’s real good.”