Cemetery Exploring With Akari

Workers and players have earned their repose.
Soon on their names all in vain we shall call,
For even the grandest old landmarks must fall.
Just a warm hand-clasp ere one disappears—
These are the last of the old pioneers.
John Sandes

Turn off the Castlemaine to Maldon road onto the gravel Sandy Creek road and follow the old Cobb & Co route, past the old hotel, where they stopped for a break and drive on  towards Welshman’s Reef through Box-ironbark country.

Welshmans Reef is a former gold mining town 15 km west of Castlemaine and 110 km north-west of Melbourne. The name presumably came about from a Welshman discovering the gold-bearing reef: there were numerous Welsh and Methodist settlers at neighbouring townships such as Fryerstown and Vaughan.

West of Welshmans Reef there were the Loddon flats, which enabled miners to diversify into farming. A school was opened in 1877. The place was seldom more than a hamlet and its peak pre-twenty-first-century census population of 215 persons was in 1915. In 1956 the Cairn Curran Reservoir was completed, inundating much of the river flats.

As you approach the hamlet a sign points to the old Sandy Creek Cemetery, a cemetery that was closed in 1956. Many pioneers who came seeking gold lie here. Noting our arrival a large mob of kangaroos took off, bounding across the creek.

The sight of so many small white, numbered markers, combined with the fact that there were only a few headstones, took my breath away. Memorials placed by descendants revealed that this  is a place to honour the pioneers who came here.

Local Cemetery Exploration

This Sutton Grange Cemetery enjoys scenic views across to Mount Alexander and the green stone quarry of special significance to the aboriginal people who first lived here.

What used to be a thriving town during the prosperous days of the early 19th century, Sutton Grange has now been reduced to a population of around 150 people, after a typically devastating Australian bushfire ravaged the town, burning down most of the area’s established civic buildings and homes, and leaving behind nothing but scorched earth on the land that remained. Today, the town survives off the back of a few determined farming families who raise sheep and cattle, breed thoroughbred horses, and grow wine.

The Glenlyon Cemetery is another quiet, beautifully maintained, peaceful space.

 

Waltz With Matilda

Inexplicably, driving with Akari out to Moliagul, photographing an old thunder box (outdoor toilet) and a long abandoned house, filled me with the urge to wander further with my dogs sniff mapping. It made me think of swagmen and the much loved Waltzing Matilda.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a Billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”

Down come a jumbuck to drink at the water hole
Up jumped a swagman and grabbed him in glee
And he sang as he stowed him away in his tucker bag
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”

Up rode the Squatter a riding his thoroughbred
Up rode the Trooper–one, two, three
“Where’s that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?”
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”

But the swagman he up and jumped in the water hole
Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong,
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”

–from “Waltzing Matilda” by Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson, 1895.

“Advance Australia Fair” was proclaimed as Australia’s national anthem, replacing “God Save the Queen,” on 19 April 1984. If you ask an average Australian to sing the national anthem chances are that they will recite only the opening lines. However, if you ask an average Australian to sing “Waltzing Matilda” it is almost certain that they will sing about the swagman [1] who stole a jumbuck [2] and fled from the troopers [3] with some flourish.

“Waltzing Matilda,” Australia’s unofficial anthem, is known and loved all over the world and, arguably stands alongside” The Star-Spangled Banner” or ” La Marseillaise” as a song capable of arousing deep national pride. The strains of “Waltzing Matilda” consistently bring a tear to the eyes of Australians far from home, Australians who, like the late Peter Allen, still like to call Australia home.

Where did the song originate? Why do Australians find “Waltzing Matilda” so unutterably poignant? What do the words mean? Why are Australians moved by the escapades of a petty criminal?

‘Waltzing Matilda’ is credited to Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864 -1941). Banjo Paterson was a lawyer by profession and lived and worked in Sydney Australia. Although Paterson was a city slicker who hailed from the urban fringes of Australia, he was, like so many of his ilk, enchanted by the Australian bush and outback. Paterson is purported to have been travelling with his fiancée in central Queensland, about 1,500 km north of Sydney when he wrote the song. The couple are said to have spent a few weeks at Dagworth Station, a vast outback station near Winton in Queensland. It was at Dagworth that Paterson is said to have met Christina MacPherson, whose brother managed the station at the time. One yarn [4] suggests that it was Christina who inspired Banjo with a whimsical, dreamy rendition of the tune ‘Craigeelee’, a score which provided the basis for ‘Waltzing Matilda’

The expression ‘waltzing matilda’ is believed to have German origins. Handolf, near Adelaide was just one of the many German settlements that sprang up in Australia once free immigrants began to arrive and German expressions quickly made their way into the vocabulary. It is almost certain that the title of Paterson’s ballad came from the expression Auf die Waltz gehen, that means to take to the road. The term harks back to the Middle Ages when apprentices were required by their master to visit other masters before their release could be secured. Later a ‘matilda’ was given to female camp followers who accompanied soldiers during the Thirty Year War in Europe and was common place during World War One.In the context of the song ‘Waltzing Matilda’ the ‘matilda’ was a pack that swagmen carried, filled with things tho keep them warm at night. To waltz with matilda literally meant to travel, to dance from place to place in search of work, with one’s belongings wrapped in a grey blanket. [5]

Paterson, like most Australians who lived in the cities, was fascinated by stories of the hostile, arid outback. Deaths in the outback were well publicized. Deaths on the track were a common occurrence and it is likely that the fate of travelers would have been a subject of conversation of an evening while Paterson was at Dagworth. Stories of those that perished would have been told along the bush telegraph, shared over dinner, acting as a cautionary tale for the foolhardy. For example, one story that drifted down the bush telegraph told of the fate of Seymour Hamilton, a nineteen-year-old, two years out from England. He left Tinga Tinagans for Coongie but never arrived. Subsequent searches found his packsaddle and swag. He was believed to have died of thirst and, when his bones were finally found, they had been scattered and gnawed by dingoes.

Another formative influence on Paterson may have been the story of an incident that actually occurred at Dagworth. an incident on the property that must have become known to him during his stay. On 1 September 1894, a mere four months earlier, shearers had set the Dagworth woolshed ablaze, cremating a hundred sheep. MacPherson and three police troopers had pursued the shearers. [6]

It is almost certain that Banjo Paterson threaded together events such as these when he conjured up “Waltzing Matilda”. But why has the story endured? How has “Waltzing Matilda” made its way into the Australian psyche?

Modern Australians may live predominantly in urban zones but this does not lessen the call of the outback, the lure of the bush, or lessen their need to hear yarns of pioneering ancestors who left Old England’s shore, picked up lumps of gold [7] and went on to build a nation on the back of the sheep. Australian stories and art that have endured are invariably set in the bush and involve the triumph of the underdog.

The setting of “Waltzing Matilda” is enough to fuel a deep yearning within Australians to escape from the concrete cities of the urban fringes. To travel the outback, with my swag all on my shoulder, to witness the stark beauty and isolation of this most ancient of lands, to lie beneath the Southern Cross, to smell the unique perfume of the eucalypt, is a dream, a quest that sends thousands of wanderers towards the red centre each year, in search of just such a place. To lie while the billy [8] boils, to dream by a billabong [9], under the shade of a Coolabah tree is akin to finding the eternal Garden of Eden.

Moreover, “Waltzing Matilda” builds support for the underdog and creates a hero out of a gutsy, destitute man. The hapless swagman in this story was one of thousands of unemployed men who tramped around the Australian bush during the mid nineteen eighties, usually coming to sheep stations at sunset to ask for supper and a bed, when it was too late to work. (Sometimes called a Sundowner because they arrived at sundown when it was too late to be expected to work.)

We can only speculate, but it is more than likely that, having been refused supper or a bed, the swagman of “Waltzing Matilda” fame, camped for the night by a billabong, under the shade of a Coolabah tree [10] meditating upon where his next meal was to come from. The squatter and troopers, who swooped down upon this swaggie, demanding that he give up the jumbuck, represent despised wealth and authority. It is no coincidence that the Squatter is riding a thoroughbred horse and that he brings not one, but three troopers to help retrieve his stock. The swagman’s defiance touches a deep anti-authoritarian archetype that springs from the days of the Eureka Stockade, The First Fleet, the Rum Corps and the personal history of those early convicts who were transported to Australia for petty crimes.

The early Australian settlement was confined within the curves of the Blue Mountains and as the settlement grew, free settlers arrived explorers sought new land for grazing. People ‘squatted’ on patches of land, grazed their animals, grew their crops and built their houses and fences. In good quality grazing country squatters claimed vast areas and became wealthy. The term ‘squattocracy’, a term blended from the word ‘squatter’ came to be associated with ‘aristocracy’. The police worked with them to maintain law and order and to protect their holdings. Consequently, squatters were an object of resentment.

The pastoralist/squatter’s reluctance to mete out food, his need to protect his flock is understandable given the swarms of penniless, badly clothed men wandering discontentedly from hut to hut and station to station, but the crime of the swagman in this story seems petty! A hungry, destitute man, down on his luck, steals one sheep on a sheep station with a flock of thousands. This is hardly a hanging offence, any more than stealing a loaf of bread warranted transportation.

Apart from the anti-authoritarian overtones there is no doubt that “Waltzing Matilda” romanticizes the larrikin quality of the jolly swaggie, jumping with glee. Who can resist this rascal’s charm? A character, unique, fiercely independent, the swagman is not to be patronized. It is his free spirit that sends him to a watery death and haunts Australians as his ghost may be heard, singing in the Billabong. The swagman, like Joan of Arc, never dies. They cut out Joan’s heart and thought that this was the end of her but she lives on. Similarly the ghostly figure of the unnamed Swagman has eternal life, representing a freedom of movement and thought that many Australians now take for granted.

At day’s end, “Waltzing Matilda” is poignant because of the combination of characteristics that sum up so much of Australian spirit and life. “Waltzing Matilda” reminds us of our ancestral history, defines nationhood and fills Australians with a sense of pride that the country was built by people who had been deemed dregs, but who were courageous and innovative and built something from nothing. The ghost of the swagman may be found in the faces of the pioneers who settled the Never Never; in the eyes of the hardened shearing unionist who paved the way for Unionism in Australia; within the defiance of the Anzac storming the beaches of Gallipoli; in the stride of the Bondi life-saver and in the face of the determined protestor thumbing his nose at government officials and bureaucracy.

Australians will never fully accept “Advance Australia Fair” as their national anthem because it is the song of a city-based intellectual, full of stilted language that paints Australians as something they are not. Australians will always respond to “Waltzing Matilda” because “Waltzing Matilda” has moved from being a bush ballad to a creation myth, a yarn told in a language now almost as unfamiliar as Latin, a glorious romantic tale that helps to identify and separate Australia and Australians from every other country, every other people on the globe.

[1] A gentleman of the road, an itinerant roaming country roads, a drifter, a tramp, a hobo. Carried his few belongings slung in a cloth, which was called by a wide variety of names, including ‘swag’, ‘shiralee’ and ‘bluey’.

[2] A sheep: aboriginal word meaning white cloud.

[3] A cavalry soldier, or perhaps a mounted militia-man or policeman.

[4] an Australian story.

[5] From the Web site: About Waltzing Matilda, Senani Ponnamperuma, 1996, 1997.

[6] From the Web site: About Waltzing Matilda, Senani Ponnamperuma, 1996, 1997.

[7] This is in reference to the Gold Rush which saw an influx of gold seekers to towns like Ballarat.

[8] A can or small kettle used to boil water for tea.

[9] Billabong: a waterhole near a river.

[10] A kind of eucalyptus tree.

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

Chinese Cemetery Vaughan Springs

In 1861, there were more than 24,000 Chinese immigrants on the Victorian goldfields of Ararat, Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough. 

Vaughan Springs was once a large gold rush town called “the Junction”. Many Chinese miners moved there in 1854 and searched for alluvial gold in areas that had been abandoned by the Europeans. They established market gardens and Vaughan became an important stopover.

The Chinese diggers moved from goldfield to goldfield within NSW and across the border. Constantly on the move, their presence and experience are evidenced mainly from the observations and interpretation of Anglo-Australians, from archaeological digs and from objects saved by families and community members. There are few written accounts and sources from a Chinese perspective. The Chinese attracted particular attention and local newspapers were quick to comment on their distinctive features, clothes, languages and habits — especially their tendency to travel en masse — their methods of transport, their diligence, tirelessness and productivity.

Any admiration of their work ethic was offset by envy and resentment when times got hard. The Chinese were often scapegoated by disgruntled Anglo diggers as seen in the violent anti-Chinese riots at Turon (1853), Meroo (1854) Rocky River (1856) Tambaroora (1858) Lambing Flat, Kiandra and Nundle (1860 and 1861) and Tingha tin fields (1870). They were seen initially as oddities, later as rivals and then as threats to white Australia.

Today the small Chinese Cemetery on a rise above the mineral springs is very different to the waste land created by the gold rush. Now it is a quiet, tranquil place for those who were not taken home to China, but who now rest here. Likewise, Castlemaine Cemetery has a very beautiful grove for the Chinese who died on the goldfields.

 

Unknown Goldfields Miners Grave

‘Since Saturday morning, the scene (on the goldfields) has greatly changed – then a tent would be seen here and there, but now they are becoming inconveniently crowded … On Saturday, dozens were arriving at a time; on Sunday, hundreds; Monday and Tuesday, one continuous line of new arrivals.’
Argus, 8 November 1851

KALIMNA PARK is a bushland reserve on the north eastern outskirts of Castlemaine comprising 175 ha. During the gold rush the area was almost totally denuded and the ground turned over. In time, coppice regrowth has produced a box-ironbark woodland with a characteristic ecosystem of plants, birds and less visible wildlife.

Gold miners often led an itinerant life, following rushes from lead to lead, so tracking their movements can be difficult. In a remote part of this reserve lies the grave of the unknown miner dating back to the gold rush (circa 1850s). I certainly needed my local guide to find this grave, tucked in a remote corner of the park. It is hard to imagine what life was like for this miner seeking gold in what was a remote part at this time. If this hapless miner made his fortune it didn’t bring him any glory! More sadly the gold rush proved to be a second wave of dispossession for the Dja Dja Warrung people. Already marginalised by the first white settlement, the discovery of gold destroyed vast tracts of land and much of their traditional way of life.

The destruction of their environment and subsequently their traditional lifestyle was a major cause of grief for the Aboriginal people. Traditional food sources such as berries and plants, as well as the native animals they depended upon for meat were all destroyed as the Europeans cleared land and stripped huge areas of timber for their own needs.

Geological Lesson in Castlemaine

 

“This upward facing fold, called an anticline, is a nice example of how the gold-bearing strata in the Victorian goldfields are folded.

The curved stratum, about 50 cm thick, is composed of sandstone and interpreted to have been deposited as a turbidite—an underwater sediment-rich, turbulence deposit. This particular one involved a lot of sand and would have covered a large area.

These turbidites were deposited as the waters of Noah’s Flood were rising, during the Ascending phase of the Flood. It’s likely they were deposited one after the other in quick succession, and all folded soon afterwards, within days or weeks, based on the timing of the sequence of events that took place during the Flood, as documented in Genesis 6 to 9.” Source: Biblicalgeology Blog

Get some play dough out and take the kiddies, or go by yourself, to the Anticlinal Fold in Lyttleton Street for a geology lesson. Take the time to see the local area more deeply. Check out some of the wonders of geology. Make sure to take along art supplies and introduce the whole idea of an art sketch book at the same time.

Who Castlemaine Remembers

“The past does not lie down and decay like a dead animal. It waits for you to find it again and again.”
“The Gilda Stories” ~Jewelle Gomez

This map depicting the journey Burke and Wills is a key part of the monument in Castlemaine

At the time when I was running the Soul Food Cafe I created a number of features which are stored in the Box of Wonderment. One was The Dig Tree which examined the fated journey of Burke and Wills and explored what the creative writer or artist could learn from their expedition.

My great grandfather, George Chale Watson, took a great interest in this expedition. He was in Echuca at the time and was inspired to set off on his own journey of exploration after their departure.

Finding myself in Castlemaine I was intrigued to discover that Castlemaine was the first town to decide to build a monument to Burke and Wills. Initially they wanted to bury Burke at the Castlemaine cemetery.

By May 1862, the citizens of Castlemaine had raised £450 for a memorial from public subscription and donations and on the anniversary of Burke’s death, 1 July 1862, a public holiday was declared. A procession of over 2,000, including John King, John Macadam and Frederick Standish, marched from town to a hill to the east of town where a ceremony was performed and a foundation stone laid by the Sheriff of Castlemaine, Richard Colles.

Why Castlemaine? Why the passion and drive to erect this monument? It appears that Burke, who was born in Ireland in 1820, became the Police Superintendent in Castlemaine in 1858, before being appointed to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition which embarked from Melbourne’s Royal Park on August 20, 1860. Their mission was to become the first expedition of Europeans traversing the interior of Australia from south to north. They traversed successfully but that ultimately this venture would cost Burke and his third-in-command Wills their lives on the return leg. Perhaps if they had connected with the owners of the land they crossed they may have survived.

It is fascinating to check out who Castlemaine likes to remember and offers pride of place to. A visit to the local museum gives one perspective of who the town remembers and equally, chooses to forget.

Out at nearby Guildford a memorial has been created for one of their favourite sons, a Castlemaine born footballer, Ron Barassi

At Chewton there is the Monster Meeting Place where the miners rallied. In pride of place, on a hill overlooking the town, a monument costing a small fortune was erected to remember a fated journey and Robert O’Hara Burke, a policeman who is described as being one of Castlemaine. In actual fact he was an immigrant from Ireland and only lived here for a couple of years. At least Senator Lawson who stands in Lyttleton Street had a long association with Castlemaine.

Personally I would like to know more about what the land remembers; what the land looked like before the European invasion. I would like to know more about the lives of the indigenous people who lived here! Who will you remember and how will you remember them?

Things I Love About Castlemaine

Many years ago, in another life, in a parallel universe, I gave my heart and soul to the creation of the Soul Food Cafe. The Creativity Portal was just one major site that featured the work that I was doing.  Facebook completely changed the online environment and the shift that came with it, along with consecutive losses, silenced me. Ten years ago I walked away from everything I had known, including Soul Food. Eventually I found my way to Castlemaine and settled here.

Reinventing oneself takes time. While Waiting for Godot is a place to wait, a place to reconnect with who I am and what I am passionate about. Now it is enough to sow a new wild garden. The ground is fertile here in Castlemaine and I  know that something will grow. It may be nettle or thistles or roses or carrots or oranges on my citrus trees. If my backyard is any indication something will grow. Fertile ground never remains empty. I am reminded to stay earthed and to attend to my growing ground.

Back in the day Betsy Bayers, “Pinballs’ prompted me to promote list writing. I used the Indian War Bonnet as one way to encourage students to make lists of 28 things they loved, hated, were disappointed about etc. In this instance I will use it to record 28 things I love about living in Castlemaine.

28 Things To Love About Castlemaine

  1. Living within walking distance of the centre of town, the Botanic Gardens and the railway station which provides a regular service to the city.
  2. The host of wonderful spots where I can take my dogs walking – many of which are featured in this blog.
  3. The devoted team who work down at the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are a jewel, something Castlemaine is rightly proud of! I particularly love the woodland area beyond the creek.
  4. The sound of football and cricket matches and sporting teams training at the Camp Reserve.
  5. The comforting sound of the Post Office bell ringing. It brings back memories of my late husband and us staying in an English village.
  6. The sound of the old steam train chugging out to Maldon.
  7. Being able to make full use of a wonderfully stocked, welcoming, library.
  8. Having an electrician respond to an SOS call (the sound of the smoke alarm chirping was impacting on my dogs) and came at 5 on a Saturday afternoon.
  9. Having devoted tradespeople restore my home with loving care.
  10. Having a woodland spring up in my backyard within a couple of years of planting!
  11. Warring with the flocks of sulphur created cockatoos who descend upon my trees. They are hooligans but I cannot help but love those life affirming rascals!
  12. The Pennyweight cemetery is the spiritual place I love to visit.
  13. The exhilarating history of this place! Places like Forest Creek Diggings, the Oak Forest and Specimen Gully Road where history changed.
  14. Good quality book shops.
  15. Turning off the highway and knowing I am almost home.
  16. Proximity to diverse places such as Chewton, Fryerstown, Taradale, Guildford, Newstead, Maldon, Daylesford and Harcourt.
  17. The natural beauty of nearby Mt Alexander and Dog Rocks.
  18. Stunning autumns and spectacular springs.
  19. Looking at old Jack Frost while sitting by my fire.
  20. Enjoying the view across town from the Old Castlemaine Gaol.
  21. Getting a coffee from James and sitting on the platform, deep in conversation, with a friend at the Railway Station.
  22. Knowing my neighbours and knowing how supportive they are.
  23. Waking to the sound of so many birds, knowing my beloved ravens are on the watchtower (neighbouring tall trees) and watching a family of birds take turns bathing in the water in the enamel dish on the back deck.
  24. The community garden at Continuing Ed.
  25. Great supportive friends.
  26. The dog walking community.
  27. Entering my drive, parking the car and walking in the front door after being away.
  28. My home! I give thanks every day for finding it, for being brought to Castlemaine!

Germ of Australian Independence

Much is made of the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion that took place in Ballarat. However, 160 years ago, in 1851, 15,000 protesters gathered on the Forest Creek diggings in central Victoria to object to higher gold license fees. This gathering took place at what has come to be known as the Monster Meeting place at Golden Point. While the Eureka Stockade has a place in Australian history many believe that the Monster Meeting actually started the chain of events. Miners became stronger political force and were stronger and stronger in demanding their rights as citizens as well as miners.

Many of us are guilty of taking hard won rights for granted! Few Australians would think to stop and give thanks to these miners who defied establishment and won democratic rights.

Gratitude is the art of receiving gratefully, of showing appreciation for kindness great and small. It is easy to show gratitude when you receive a gift or an obvious benefit and, alas, just as easy to forget to show gratitude for seemingly less personal benefits.

1. Keep a gratitude journal this month. In honour of the people who met here keep a list of things you are grateful for and things worth fighting for.

2. Each time someone does you a favour make it a practice to look them in the eye and thank them.

3. Think of ways to repay those who have made sacrifices that have been beneficial to your lifestyle. How can you give more than you take? What legacy can you leave? What will your footprints be?