When Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson set out to write a book about the town of Larrimah, 490km north of Tennant Creek, they had no idea the research would lead them all over the Northern Territory, including the Barkly region.
The journalists, who met in a newsroom in Mackay 15 years ago, first told the story of missing man Paddy Moriarty in their 2018 Walkley Award-winning podcast Lost in Larrimah.
Mr Moriarty and his dog Kellie left Larrimah Hotel by quad bike around dusk on December 16, 2017, for their home, across the Stuart Highway from the pub.
Several days later when police were called to the town of 12 people, they found his house undisturbed – his hat, keycard and keys all on the kitchen table, alongside some food that looked as if it were to be heated up.
Police conducted an extensive search, but neither Mr Moriarty or his dog have been seen since.
Ms Graham and Ms Stevenson have just released their book, Larrimah, which investigates Mr Moriarty’s disappearance, as well as looking at the broader issue of disappearing towns in the outback, and the way of life that goes with them.
“It was important to us to document not just what happened to Paddy Moriarty, but also what happened to the town of Larrimah in the wake of his disappearance,” Ms Stevenson said.
“As a town of just 12 people, Larrimah was slipping closer toward extinction, and we wanted to be a record of this incredible place and its incredible history.”
In the course of writing the book, the pair tracked down people all over the Territory who had known Mr Moriarty, which led them to the Barkly region where he had first worked when he arrived in Australia from Ireland in the 1960s.
“Paddy had worked at Brunette Downs, and visiting the station was one of the highlights of our research,” Ms Graham said.
“The staff were so warm and welcoming, and we got a sense of what it would have been like for Paddy working there all those years ago. We were also fortunate to meet a man who still worked at Brunette who had worked with Paddy.”
Their research also brought them to Tennant Creek and Elliott where friends of Mr Moriarty reside, and up into Gulf Country, where he had spent many years working at the Heartbreak Hotel.
Larrimah by Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson is on sale now.
To order a copy online, go to booktopia.com.au
This article appeared in Tennant & District Times, 8 October 2021.