Akari’s Mystery Tour

Definition: a mystery tour is a short journey that people make for pleasure without knowing where they are going

Akari, my 2008 Mazda 3, specialises in magical mystery tours that feed the soul and the creative spirit. Akari knows all about duende, that raw, tempestuous creative energy that flamenco guitarists, gypsies and dancers are familiar with. Her inclusive tours take in all aspects of Central Victoria including: geology, the environment, culture, flora, fauna and history.

A mystery tour is all about anticipation! Those who come on one of Akari’s tours, especially visitors from other countries, are always surprised when Akari takes them to some out of the way  place that reveals a different perspective of Australia. They are always  inspired !

Today, with the smell of spring in the air, my dogs and I went out on an artistic date with Akari.

 

In Art Heals: How Creativity Heals The Soul, Shane McNiff says that ‘photography can help us become more aware of our environments. When we walk with a camera searching for images… this process helps us look more closely and deeply at our surroundings.” There is no doubt that the camera has the capacity to hold moments of our perception and help us to see the possibilities for perceptual awareness.

I took the time to receive the benefits of aesthetic contemplation and to look attentively.  My perceptions were not all captured by the iPhone! Moliagul is almost a ghost town now yet it proudly boasts being the site where the Welcome Stranger Gold Nugget, found here by John Deason, changed Australian History.  Moliagul also has an amazing monument to John Flynn who pioneered the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service). At one time he was the headmaster at the small iconic school I stopped to photograph.

This meditation brings a new energy and creativity into my life. The fruits of Waiting For Godot over the past three months are beginning to ripen. There are so many things I can do with the images I collected on this ‘tour’ with Akari! I look forward to a rich harvest.

Mcniff, S 2004, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures The Soul, Shambala, Boston

Harsh Times on the Goldfields

Life in the 1850’s in Hobart Town was not easy. Like my great grandfather it is  likely that this family were drawn to the Victorian goldfields, from Hobart, lured by the prospect of finding gold and making a fortune.

Disease was rife upon the goldfields, where poor sanitation meant that refuse and excrement were liable to end up in the rivers that supplied drinking water for those on the diggings. Dysentery, typhus and other contagious diseases were all represented. The monotonous diet of mutton and damper did not help the health of diggers, and it is probable that many people, especially during the first years of a rush, were deficient in essential nutrients and vitamins. Common colds could be lethal; because of the combination of lack of sanitation and poor diet, miners lacked the necessary antibodies to fight off disease. With a weak immune system, a cold could quickly develop into pneumonia.

Within a week something of plague proportions wiped out Elizabeth Smart and her children. It is hard to imagine how Elizabeth Smart’s husband managed the grief of the loss of  his wife and children within such a short time . The experience of life on the goldfields was different for all who arrived, but few, as this tombstone reveals, had it easy. This husband and father had it tough.

Sacred To The Memory Of
Elizabeth Smart
Native of Hobart Town
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 26 Years
Also
Salena Smart
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Henry Smart
Who Died July 8th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Elizabeth Smart
Who Died July 10th 1864
Aged 14 Days

Weep not for me my husband dear 
I am not dead but sleeping here
Weep not for me but pity take
And love my children for my sake

The Stones and Ground Here Tells Stories

Recently I have taken to exploring cemeteries.  A taphophile, otherwise known as Tombstone tourist, cemetery enthusiast, detective or graver is an individual who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries, epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths.

I am not sure I will become a taphophile but I can see how visiting cemeteries can become quite addictive. Cemeteries tell the histories of our towns, states, and our country as well as the stories of all the people who lived in the community. Apart from being able to contemplate the meaning of life, there are lots of interesting things to find. The stones in these places certainly have stories to tell. Apart from the usual statuary it is possible to come across some interesting variations, such as the tribute to the man who loved fishing and the memorial honouring the much loved teacher.

 

I found these memorials in the Eddington Public Cemetery. Eddington Public Cemetery lies in a remote corner of Victoria. No doubt because of its isolation and the shortage of water this cemetery is decidedly derelict. Although there are recent graves no one is obviously taking care of this place and it has been affected by the contrasting heat and cold experienced in these parts.

Apart from this tiny green area, a family grave sheltered by a very old peppercorn tree, the place is stark and barren. Just as old people are all too often abandoned in sterile care units, it feels as if the dead who lie here have been abandoned to bake in the summer heat and freeze on extremely frosty mornings.

Perhaps most disturbing was the sign pointing to the Paupers section; a barren field with no markers.

Sadly paupers funerals still exist. They are now known as destitute funerals. In general they are given to people with no known family or assets. They are arranged by the police, if the person dies at home or in a nursing home or by the Social Worker if they die in hospital.

In the situation where someone dies and the family have no ability to pay for funeral expenses it is possible to have the state pay for the funeral. However there is no formal service because a chapel would need to be hired and the priest/minister paid. The grave is not marked so it is difficult to visit in the future.

The paupers section is devoid of statuary with one exception. A stone marking the life of a man who loved fishing lies here.

 

Was She Robert Burns Granddaughter?

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
Robert Burns

Portrait of Jean Armour and Sarah Burns aged 9

Robert Burns, the celebrated Scottish poet, had 12 children by four women – nine by his wife Jean Armour. Seven of his children were illegitimate, including the first four by Jean Armour, legitimised by their parent’s marriage in 1788. Of Jean’s children, six died young and another, William, had no children.

On a tombstone, in the Castlemaine Cemetery, it is purported this is the place where Sarah Burns, the granddaughter of Robert Burns, lies. No doubt after talking to the Castlemaine Historic Society a local Castlemaine establishment claims that Andrew Campbell built the place as a private residence and that in 1883 he married Sara Burns Thomspon (granddaughter of the celebrated Scottish poet Robert Burns).

I am not disputing this BUT after a rudimentary online search…. A portrait features the poet’s wife, Jean Amour, alongside their beloved granddaughter Sarah. Sarah was nine at the time this portrait was done. According to a Scottish geneologist Sarah Elizabeth Maitland Tombs Burns (1821-1909) was the daughter of their fourth son James Glencairn Burns (1794-1865).

This tombstone says Sarah died in 1885! Perhaps someone, out there can clarify if the woman who lies here really was the granddaughter of the Robert Burns and Jean Armour.

May They Have Found Peace

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms
Maya Angelou

 

On a quiet country back road, near the Newstead General Cemetery, lie two burial markers of interest. One is simply called Chinese Ground.

Chinese gold digger starting for work, circa 1860s. Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland: 60526 .

The Chinese were not welcome on the Australian goldfields. They were thorough workers, often picking meticulously through the discarded tailings or abandoned mines of other diggers. They were viewed with suspicion as few spoke English, and they were regarded as idol-worshippers. Chinese mining methods used more water than European methods, and such practices were not appreciated in a country known for its heat and droughts. Furthermore, few of them traded their gold in the towns, preferring to store it up and return to China with their wealth. The colony of Victoria was the first to introduce Anti-Chinese immigration legislation, imposing a poll tax of £10 per head for each Chinese person arriving in Victorian ports in 1855. Within a few years all other colonial governments had enacted similar laws to restrict the number of people from China entering the colonies. This did not stop the Chinese from arriving in droves and spreading out to goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria.

Tensions came to a head on 30 June 1861 in NSW at Lambing Flat. It is estimated that around 3 000 European diggers banded together in a rowdy gang called a “roll up” and, armed with picks, whips, knives, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon, converged on the Chinese camp. Chinese tents and equipment were destroyed, gold plundered, and dozens of the men themselves had their pigtails, or ‘queues’, cut off – a matter of great dishonour for them – or worse, they were scalped. An unknown number of Chinese were murdered: although the official death toll for Chinese was given as two, eyewitness accounts suggest between 30 and 40 were killed, and several hundred more injured.

Given that an angry group of European and American miners met in Bendigo in 1854 and declared that a “general and unanimous rising should take place… for the purpose of driving the Chinese off the goldfield” it is not hard to imagine that the Chinese here in this region suffered similarly.

The other stone, not far from the isolated Catholic Ground is inscribed with the words “A tribute to those who lay beneath may they have found peace”. After substantial rainfall this part of the world is truly beautiful. With only the sound of nearby grazing sheep I think it is a good place to lie and rest.

A Window to the Past

A graveyard can be a great place to explore local history and genealogy, or just take a peaceful late winter walk. So let’s grab our coats and cameras and head out to the nearest cemetery to learn about local history!
How to Explore a Graveyard

In a piece called Travel With a Purpose Angela Dollar (Broderick) nostalgically recalls her grandma taking her to cemeteries to play. She recalls how they would “visit our favorite ‘spirits’, reading their birth and death dates on their head stones and making up stories about what their lives had been like living in Washougal, WA way back when.”

It is a semester break from intense university study and while I have been Waiting For Godot to shed some light on how to structure my days,  I have taken to visiting neighbouring cemeteries.  My son and I have fond memories of exploring the Montparnasse Cemetery when we met up in Paris, respectfully sitting by the tombstone of Jean Paul Satre, writing.

Pennyweight Cemetery, here in Castlemaine, is a favourite. It tells a poignant story of Gold Fever Grief. I love the serene Vaughan Cemetery. When I visited recently I took time to remember Margaret Scott.

So you can imagine my delight when I finally found the Fryerstown cemetery. A Cemetery may not be on everyone’s list of top 10 places to visit but this one is particularly special. I thought that it would be a great place to take morning or afternoon tea in a picnic basket. It was there that I wrote the Saddest Lines to mark the tragic deaths of Annie and Henry Clifton.

Angela Dollar’s grandma had a brilliant way of entertaining her grandchildren. In the process she developed their love of story and helped them connect with nature. Apart from the potential of photography   a cemetery is the perfect place to write or draw inspiration for art. My iPhone photos may not be anything spectacular but each visit nurtures a part of me.

For my part I took the time to view the greening that can come from looking in a rear vision mirror.