O’Connell’s of Omeo

The Blue Duck Inn is situated at the junction of the Cobungra, Bundarra and Mitta Mitta Rivers – hence the areas name is Anglers Rest because of the trout fishing. The site was originally built in 1900 as a slab construction with local timber as a butcher’s shop serving the gold miners at nearby Mount Wills.

Billy O’Connell was a successful miner and bought the building in 1912 then obtained a liquor licence on the promise that the main road would pass his establishment. However this did not happen on the government survey of the day. He therefore nailed a panning dish to the front of the pub and wrote with irony – “Blue Duck”. This was a mining term for a white elephant.

In the early 1920’s he transported two houses through the bush from Omeo, room by room One became the main building of the pub and the other became the residence. If you have been to the area you would realise this would have been a very difficult job to do as the area is very rugged and inhospitable in winter. With his wife, Lillian Billy had nine children and there are a large number of O’Connell descendants in the Omeo area.

O’ Connells sold the pub in 1946 and it passed through many hands until the liquor licence was relinquished in 1967 with the gold running out in the area. The pub reopened in 1998 with cabins added out the side where a small school built by Billy O’Connell used to stand.

The O’Connell family have operated buses since 1958 as D.M. (Max) and D.J. (Dot) O’Connell. The business was managed by their son Rod from 1976 onwards. He later purchased the business and registered it as a company on 21/11/1995.

Effective 1 April 2017 the operation was sold to the ever-growing Dysons empire, ending nearly six decades of bus operation by the O’Connell’s.

The operation consisted of full time contracts:
(1) Omeo-Mount Hotham-Bright. ‘Alps Link” is a route service which commenced as a trial service in 5/07 until 30/5/08 operating a return trip each Monday and Friday. By 2010 it was thrice weekly. In summer it operates Monday/Wednesday/Friday and in winter it operates Wednesday/Friday/Sunday. Departure from Omeo is at 8.30am arriving in Bright at 10.45pm. The return leaves Bright at 1.20pm, arriving in Omeo at 3.20pm. A new 5 year contract for this service was issued from 1/7/13.

(2) School bus contract from Omeo Primary School to Omeo Valley (Blue Duck Inn). This was the original contract purchased in 1958 and originally ran with a VW Kombi minibus. This connects to and from the two buses which run from Omeo to the district high school at Swifts Creek.
(3) School bus contract from Swifts Creek to Omeo (including Omeo Primary School) then to Cobungra and Dinner Plain. This contract started in 1973 operating just to Cobungra and was extended to Dinner Plain by at least 2011.It would be the highest altitude school bus contract in Victoria.

There is also an additional winter snow service from Dinner Plain to Geebung Polo Club and Cobungra. Trips depart Dinner Plain at 9.30am, 10.30am and 11.30am, returning from Geebung Polo Club at 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 4.30pm.

The current fleet is 0062 AO BCI PK6930AT (LGG5SKCM27H002101 9/07) C43F-reg 1/10/07 on Swifts Creek-Dinner Plain; 0063 AO Nissan Civilian (100027 1/94) B19C,ex FEH 776; 0064 AO Mitsubishi Rosa (00490 6/04) C24C -reg 8/7/04 and allocated to Omeo-Omeo Valley; 0065 AO Toyota Hi Ace (401006787 8/01) B13C; 7140 AO Mitsubishi Rosa (00351 1/04) C24C-reg 16/7/09 ex Hinter Coast Transport Eumundi 983 JMW and there is also a new but as yet unsighted full size BCI or Bonluck for the Omeo-Bright service.

Some previously operated vehicles were KEN 950 Toyota Coaster (1973) B18V and KMS 243 Toyota Hi Ace (1971) B11C which comprised the fleet during the early 1970s. Subsequent buses which have come and gone are: IIR 054 Toyota Coaster (1/76) ex Dawson, Raywood, INU 853 Toyota Coaster (021395 8/76) B18C ex Kangaroo Flat Bus Lines, IXJ 244 Toyota Coaster (1977) B18C ex Kangaroo Flat Bus Lines, ARL 914 Toyota Landcruiser 10 seater, ASZ 666 Mazda Parkway (1980) B17C, NAV 741 Nissan Civilian (1992) B22C rereg 0064 AO, CEX 805 Toyota, BGY 883 Hino AM100 (42256/ K17561) B27F, FWT 782 Toyota Coaster B19C & 0062 AO Isuzu LT1-11P/ Ansair (IS1788 7/88) B49F ex DMN 371 – previous bus on the Swifts Creek run.