Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife is an Australian classic that depicts life for the early Australian pioneers. McCubbin’s monumental painting The pioneer reflects the self-conscious nationalism of the years immediately following Federation. Each panel is ‘read’ to link the progress of toil on this land across time.
The first panel shows a pioneering couple in their new bush environment: the man is lighting a fire to boil the billy, while the woman contemplates their future life. The second panel shows the couple several years later: the woman holds a baby, land has been cleared and a small house has been built. In the final panel a bushman discovers a grave, and in the background a city begins to emerge. It is uncertain who has died and whether the male figure is the pioneer, his son or a stranger. By presenting his painting across three panels – the triptych format for traditional religious art – McCubbin elevated the status of the pioneer within Australian art history.
The pioneers who came to Central Victoria are honoured in various ways. Less marks the lives of those people who lived on the land that was not actually empty when Europeans first arrived.
In memory of Fryerstown Pioneers
This installation, at the Vaughan Cemetery, was gifted by the artist in memory of her pioneering ancestors who, like couple, sacrificed so much and contributed to shaping the township of Vaughan. She also pays respect to the Dja Daj Warring, the first people who lived here.
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 memory of Fryerstown Pioneers
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.
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
I am sure the residents awoke cheerfully at the sound of the gentle footfall of two fluffy dogs
The road less travelled
Archie and Neeky do love to add new places to their sniffing GPS! Cemeteries like this give rare, personal glimpses into other ages.
In memory of John Scott the beloved husband of Margaret Scott who died 1879 aged 57. Margaret died 25 years later in 1904
I stopped to talk to Margaret Scott who survived her husband. I explained that my husband had died at 58 and that I wanted to know how her life changed after John’s death at 57! Had she forged a completely different life for herself? Had it been as tough living in this region at this time as I imagined it might be? What did she do while she waited for Godot?
Margaret’s silence suggested that I should talk to the living about such matters.