WHEN Jan Ross-Manley had an idea to create an artwork around the original brands of her region, she did not expect much interest.
To her surprise, about 70 local landholding families from the Raglan area in central Queensland turned up to her home at Halo Hill, with branding irons in hand.
These are brands that were first registered in the Brand Act of 1872, brought in after Henry Readford - aka Captain Starlight - made his audacious cattle duff from Longreach through to South Australia.
"The MPs were of the squattocracy with a lot of cattle, so they made sure they got the Brand Act through quickly," Jan said.
Up until this time, properties did have brands, but they were only recognised locally and cattle duffing was rife. Readford's decision to drive 1000 head of cattle along the same Coopers Creek country that Burke and Wills had perished on only nine years before was specifically so the brands would not be recognised.
"He was caught because he had a white bull, which people recognised, and he had actually bought that bull from the Archer brothers."
The Archer brothers were the first Europeans to "settle" central Queensland and built Gracemere Homestead in the 1850s.
Their brand A1A is listed at number 223 to Archer & Company on the Brand Register, and is still in the hands of descendant Russell Archer.
"I almost wept when I picked it up from Gracemere. It's thin, and rusted and frail, but it is 142 years old," Jan said.
"I asked Russell if it was still used, and he said last time they did it was on the Harry Readford trail when his grandad brought in a white bull and branded it."
Jan's fascination with brands began years ago when she and her husband Robert first married and lived on a farm at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, and in town was an old farrier shop that had serviced Cobb and Co coaches.
"The farrier at the time would test his branding irons on the gate. As an artist, I thought it was fabulous."
A further impetus was understanding that in America, brands have folklore status, celebrating the opening up of the frontier and the wild west.
It wasn't until recently, however, when she was looking for an arts project to put together, that she revisited brands.
"We used to live in the Northern Territory, and there the properties are vast and the brands from those properties are very distinctive and have a certain status.
"But when we came to Queensland, and then to Beef Week, there were brands everywhere.
"It's such a big industry, and this region is the Beef Capital, and people take the brands for granted."
Jan received an arts grant from the Gladstone Regional Council and is now collecting brands from the area, burning them into two large doors, and creating poetry and stories behind each brand.
This will be exhibited at the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum from December this year to February 2016.
"The whole point of this show is to bring to light the cultural heritage," Jan said.
The region is home to so many significant brands, and CA1 is one. This was the first brand ever registered, to Targinnie Holdings, and belongs to the Butler family in Calliope.
"I found brand number three on the register, MH1, was registered to the Acton family.
"Jennie Acton brought it along in honour of her husband, Graeme."
Then Jan found Mrs Acton had a brand in her own right - HB3, originally registered to Henry Beak.
"It is all the personal stories behind these brands that are fascinating," Jan said.
A3D is registered to the Rideouts in Mt Larcom; the EP3 brand belongs to the Parsons, Monckton Hills, Raglan; 1NN belongs to the Neil-Ballyntines at Galloway Plains; TE1 belongs to Targinnie Holdings but was originally registered to the Muirheads in 1872; and D2K to Margie Christiansen, Hourigan Park, Raglan.
"I saw Margie's brand came up to 1916 and I had a hunch it was a bit earlier, and it was registered in 1875 to Jens Christiansen."
Then there is C+C, which was registered to the Creeds at Langmorn Station. These are actually opposing Cs.
"Andrew Creed has it, but he's away at the moment and it's at the back of his ute and he will bring it in."
Out of all the brands, Jan's favourite is M1N, which belonged to Minnie Wills, Springsure, who married a Creed.
"I have to say she has me intrigued - she's an actual person with a strong personality."
There are other well-known brands - O8O from the Wilsons at Calliope Station and symbol A1underline from the Olives at Raglan Station.
"What I would like to see is a new clause put into the Act that recognises cultural heritage and pioneer status as a significant factor in the allocation and re-allocation of brands.
"There are many significant brands that are sitting dormant outside of the region, which is sad. It's a loss of cultural heritage.
"And there are property owners here in the region who would like to be able to get them back into circulation."