Lyle and Madonna Connolly have overcome a raft of challenges over two decades to make Southern Queensland’s Bonus Downs a successful cattle operation.

Story By Annabelle Brayley

Tiptoeing across the fragile, broken verandah floorboards of the old Bonus Downs homestead in 1990, Madonna Connolly wondered briefly if their friends were right when they said she and husband Lyle were mad to buy such a wreck of a place. The knowledge that no woman had lived there since 1957 and no one at all had lived there in recent years did little to allay her apprehension. But they were committed to the property in Queensland’s Maranoa and, with two small children in tow, Madonna and Lyle rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
A year later the Queensland Government resumed the Connollys’ new home and business for use as a national park, a blow they didn’t see coming. They went into battle and won, increasing their determination to succeed at Bonus, despite the seemingly endless challenges.
Over the years on the property, which lies 46 kilometres south-west of Mitchell, they have rebuilt fences, pulled and cleared scrub, planted seed, cleaned and deepened dams, re-equipped bores, resurrected the homestead and renovated the big old jackaroos’ quarters. Their goal was to construct a viable enterprise that their son and daughter might eventually have a part in, if they so chose. When they renovated the homestead, which was built in 1911 by Sir Samuel McCaughey, Lyle and Madonna opted to restore and furnish it authentically, mostly with old furniture inherited from Lyle’s grandmother, Doris Pulbrook, who had owned “Auburnvale” in Charleville, Qld. According to Madonna, “We’ve always operated on a shoestring budget. It was one of the reasons we bought this place; it suited our purse. And we were both brought up on the adage, ‘Waste not, want not’. Consequently, we’ve recycled everything we can and we’ve done most of the work ourselves, with help from a few angels along the way.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #76

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2011