Unique venue in Nobby a place for all events
YOU could certainly say that Tony Fenner has the gift of the gab.
The wiry 68-year-old is a great teller of yarns and reciter of poems - he also has a gift with his hands, and has purpose-built the Dillybag Gunyah at Nobby from the ground up.
Listed as a wedding venue with Toowoomba Regional Council, the Dillybag Gunyah just "evolved", according to its creator.
A builder by trade, Tony bought the "dirty, overgrown block" in Nobby's main drag back in 2005.
"The house on the block had burned down and it was covered with weeds and old wire," he said.
"It was just the right price at the right time."
Tony said he decided to build a winter barbecue area on the block at first, then a slab hut purely to "camp in" when he'd had too many at the local watering hole, Rudd's Pub.
"I sourced the slabs from sleeper cutters," he said.
"It was the flitches they left behind, and it took me three months to build.
"Then a young couple asked if they could rent the hut as a B&B."
That's when Tony realised the half-hectare paddock could become an event venue.
Tony bought the local Lutheran Church at Clifton in 2007 and moved it onto his block.
Since then he has hosted weddings, christenings and, just a few weeks ago, a funeral.
"Some people bring their own minister or celebrant, and a previous Clifton Catholic priest, Father Thomas, even held a Catholic mass here once," Tony said.
The church is in its original form, complete with the pews and altar cloths.
Tony's next addition to the Dillybag Gunyah was a large shed built in 1866, which he sourced from a property outside Nobby.
"It was a carriage horse shed, which included four horse stalls, feed and tack room, and room for carriages out the back," he said.
"It was in bad disrepair, and I rebuilt it here."
Tony has hosted many functions at the Dillybag Gunyah over the years, including regularly holding events for five different charities.
"I built a galley and a stage in the carriage shed, and used to have camp oven meals in there, but now the ovens are too hot and too heavy for me," he said.
Over the years, the Dillybag Gunyah has played host to several Queensland Day celebrations, Queensland Country Women's Association functions and fundraisers for the Masonic Lodge, the Catholic Diocese and the Cancer Council.
Tony is the third generation of his family to live in the Clifton/Nobby district, with his parents owning a farm at Nobby.
"The peanut farm at Clifton was my grandfather Bill's original property," he said.
When Tony left home, he worked around Queensland for close to 14 years as a builder's apprentice and then on jobs in the construction industry, both commercial and residential.
"I became a registered builder in 1978 and started my own business," he said.
He has been retired now for about three years, and devotes all his waking hours into improving his beloved Dillybag Gunyah.
While he had built up quite a clientele and name for the venue over many years, Tony had about three years off due to ill-health and family matters. Last year he was diagnosed with scrub typhus.
"They were going to replace both my knees, as I couldn't walk or drive," Tony said.
He was on crutches for many months. "After they diagnosed me with scrub typhus, it took a fairly strong course of antibiotics to get me right," he said.
"It is fairly rare for this area, and is picked up from a tick bite or a mite from a rat - I was four months getting over it."
Tony is now back enjoying good health and raring to get the Dillybag Gunyah back into the spotlight.
"I'm not getting any younger so, if I could host about 12 to 15 weddings a year, I'd be happy," the host said.
"Just last week I hosted a local wedding for 60 people - they got married on the lawns and had their reception in the carriage shed. It was lovely."
The Dillybag Gunyah is not just a wedding venue, Tony is quick to point out.
He has hosted a dinner for 67 female councillors from all over Queensland, who were in Toowoomba for a Women in Local Government Conference.
"It was a fun night and I got two marriage proposals and three job offers from it," he joked.
As well as creating his purpose-built event venue, which has been a labour of love for Tony, he is also a talented storyteller.
He has entertained audiences by telling bush yarns and reciting bush poetry for almost 20 years.
Tony has been a fixture at the Clifton Australia Day celebrations for several years, but feels next year's may be his last.
"The grey matter is starting to let me down a bit and I'm starting to drop a line here and there," Tony said with resignation.