Happy New Year to my fellow bloggers and followers. May health, love and happiness be overflowing in 2017. For my first resolution I plan on catching up with our Victorian trip blogs!
I feel as if we are leaving Bendigo without having properly explained the history and cultural context of this city, but on the other hand, it is a very complicated story, so perhaps it is best to stick with the touristic gloss-over.
Instead, I will introduce you to the villages we passed on the way to Ballarat. As I mentioned earlier, Victoria is a densely populated state, and this region – The Goldfields – is particularly clustered, a little like England, where fifteen minutes driving will bring you to the next township.
Our first stop is Maldon. This town of around 1500 residents has retained an authentic pioneer-like appearance and was declared “Australia’s First Notable Town” in 1965 by the National Trust of Australia. Built on the gold-rush, today it is an agricultural and pastoral district. Yet its streetscape looks scarcely changed from 150 years ago. We walked around for a good while, including up to a local picturesque park.
On certain days, visitors can ride a restored steam train to Castlemaine – our next stop on the drive.
I could never drive through that town without remembering our school days of folk singing:
“Tis of a wild colonial boy, Jack Doolan was his name, Of poor but honest parents he was born in Castlemaine. He was his father’s only hope, his mother’s pride and joy . . . “
And then it goes on to narrate the sad ending of this Robin Hood type of bush-ranger, shot dead by a soldier in 1830, and to whom the famous last words “I’ll fight but not surrender” are attributed. Apparently the original song version made it clear that the Castlemaine was in Ireland, and the culprit was Jack Duggan, transported to Australia in 1825, but here is the version we all commonly learned.
Castlemaine also has an historic homestead open to visitors at certain times – Buda – owned by the Leviny family for more than a hundred years. The women were particularly creative in the Arts and Crafts style, which is explained in this video if you would like to learn more.
A little further down the road brings the visitor to the spa towns of Hepburn Springs and Daylesford. These are the places you will see in all the tourist brochures, close enough to Melbourne to be easily reached for a weekend away, and unique enough for visitors to want to go there. There is a very pretty main street packed with boutique stores, and not far out of the main centre is a huge antique undercover market place. We whiled away an hour wandering around the various stalls. It is the kind of place you go without knowing what you are looking for, and yet, when you find that perfect “thing”, you will go home congratulating yourself on your savvy shopping.
The road leads on to Creswick, home of the Creswick Woollen Mills, whose website is currently promoting cotton, silk, alpaca, possum and bamboo garments, in addition to its traditional fibres of wool and cashmere.
It is only 120km (75 mi) or around 1 hour 30 mins from Bendigo to Ballarat, but with our various stops and starts it was mid-afternoon by the time we checked into our accommodation. So we contented ourselves with an orientation trip to the tourist information office, and then headed out to the Old Ballarat Cemetery.
I had a special reason to visit as I wanted to find the grave of my cousin’s ancestor. It’s not difficult to have an ancestor who died in Ballarat. Every man and his dog went there from all over the world seeking gold. The cemetery trustees have even set up a self-serve computer so you can look up the internment, together with a relatively easy-to-follow map, so it wasn’t long before we found him: Daniel (Magennis) Magill, of Blundell Hill, Hillsborough in County Down Ireland, who died near Ballarat in 1864. His younger brother, who pre-deceased him by two years, is in the same grave, as are several other family members – Anastasia is Daniel’s niece – and more in the new cemetery (which we realised after an hour of looking for Section 24 in the wrong cemetery 🙂 ). The brothers were only 52 and 43 when they died. It must have been particularly tough on the younger one’s widow, who was pregnant at the time, but we can take comfort from knowing she also had a brother in the colony. Between them, the Magills and the Coghlans managed to satisfy the thirsty miners to such an extent that the breweries they started went on to become a major industry in Ballarat – which, for those of you who are familiar with the brand, was ultimately acquired by a subsidiary of Fosters. In this article there is reference to the label of the Magill & Coghlan Phoenix Brewery being one of the most valuable to collectors.
To keep up the family tradition, for our next three nights accommodation we chose a one-bedroom kitchenette style motel room attached to a pub, and that is where we happily dined for our first night in town.
Wednesday 7th December, 2016.