Monday, March 2

Gundagai -Poet’s Recall & Niagara Café

We stopped off overnight at a motel named ‘the Poets Recall’ at historic Gundagai on our recent trip to Sydney.

Gundagai is a small historic town of only 2,400 located midway between Sydney and Melbourne and was first settled in 1850 alongside the Murrumbidgee River. The 13 streets of the new township were all named after famous poets- Shakespeare Terrace, Milton St, Pope St, Johnson St, Maturin St, Landan St, Hemans St, Sheridan St, Otway St, Byron St, Homer St, Virgil St and Ovid St.

But in 1852 tragedy struck when the Murrumbidgee flooded and completely wiped out the fledgling settlement with nearly half of the township (nearly 100 people) perishing. The rebuilt township with new roads on much higher ground abandoned the earlier literary intention so Gundagai’ streets could no longer lay claim to be graced by that literary theme until the present owners decided to honor this memory.

In the bar, exquisitely painted onto local slate tablets (mined from the area), were portraits of the 13 poets and 13 units had a slate tablet with verse inscribed from one of the poets above each entrance.

On the way back from our most enjoyable stay in Sydney we again stopped off at Gundagi but this time for a cup of tea at the Niagara café. The large homely Cafe was deserted on that smoke filled hazy day from the bush fires around Victoria which hung over the township and severely reduced visibility.

Adorning the walls of the Café were pictures of famous people who had visited the Niagara to celebrate one event or another including 3 past Prime Minsters of Australia. One such story which may be of interest concerns probably Australia’s greatest Prime Minster namely John Curtin. The story relates to an incident in 1942, after midnight when the owner heard a loud banging on the locked front door. Annoyingly opening the door he was just about to tell the visitor ‘where to go “when he discovered it was Prime Minister John Curtin.

Curtin in his typical fashion tipped his hat and said that both he and his ‘mates’ (future Country Party leader, Artie Fadden, and future PM, Ben Chiefly) were both hungry and freezing and would appreciate very much such tucker! They had been out all day from very early morning on the hustings promoting “War Bonds”: – but soon they were able to relax at last whilst eating a hearty meal of steak and eggs convivially shared around the warmth of the kitchen stove.

Curtain ascertained the Cafes meager war time ration of 28 lbs of tea per month was totally inadequate and absorbed with the first few week of each month, so for the remainder of the war Niagara received 100lbs. The PM frequently dropped in for a cupper when he was passing through. This was the way it worked then – the return of favor not forgotten rather than the corruption of the present.

Along the Road to Gundagai

There's a track winding back
to an old-fashioned shack,
Along the road to Gundagai.
Where the gum trees are growin'
and theMurrinbidgees’s flowin
beneath the starry sky.
Oh my mother and daddy are waitin' for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I will see
And no more will I roam 'cos I'm headin' right for home
Along the road to Gundagai

Jack O ‘Hagan.


susan said...

I would like to know we can return to those times. Thank you for posting something so encouraging and also for coming by and correcting my misapprehension about the possible amount of increase in global temperatures. I left Canada before they went metric so have continued my confusion US style. I feel a little better now even knowing it still must be understood.

Best wishes.

Seraphine said...

that sounds like a fascinating town. but really, like everywhere else, it's the people that make it so.
though i wonder... why 13 poets? isn't that an unlucky number?

Seraphine said...

no wonder my weltanschauung got so warped. instead of the master, i read albert weinstein entirely by mistake.

gfid said...

i'm a big fan of folk music. love the lyrics of this. it has a rhythm that you could walk miles to.

Seraphine said...

i can't think of one good thing to come from sarbanes-oxley.
sometimes leglislating morals just means more paperwork and legalese.

Gary said...

What a lovely story Lindsay. That's a cafe I'd enjoy visiting.

What a tragedy in 1952...

Seraphine said...

with a name like Murrimbidgee. no wonder ot floods. the name itself swirls off the tongue like an eddie, spilling the banks with excess spittle and drool. they should change the name to Smith and magically the floods will stop. I swear, some people suffer needlessly- all because of a poorly chosen name!

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Susan, Sera, Gf’d & Gary
Susan- The times I think are changing for the better( in the longer term ) notwithstanding the diabolical current economic conditions.
Sera - yes 13 unlucky streets, bur foolishness to set up on the river flats. Einstein would have avoided that - he did however collaborate to produce his own weltanschauung
Gfsd - Everyone sings along easily to the Tune and the words !!
Gary - Amazing history

Anonymous said...

There are more than 13 streets.

They are not named for poets but for parts of those poets works. If you know the ancient archaeology of the town, its easy to find what part of Virgils works for instance are nearby.

The river is the Murrumbidgee not the murrimbidgee. It means path of the boss in Wiradjuri language. This refers to the large fault line the river flows within.

There is massive Indigenous heritage at Gundagai that was so significant that the colonials tried to obliterate it and the town continues this attitude to this day.

There was a large and very very nasty massacre to the north of the town in the 1830s. The colonials got away with ti whereas Myall Creek was not got away with. The Dog (DonT) monument guards the massacre remains.

Gundagai is more significant than places such as Stonehenge/Avebury etc but the locals are too blinkered to capitalize on the treasures of the area to keep the town properous so will reap a massacre mindset reward.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Anonymous.
Welcome! Many thanks for your informative comments and for pointing out my spelling typo for the Murrumbidgee River which is now corrected.
Your comment caused me to do some research to try and find out more about the massacres and the history of the area. I found a reference to the massacre but the most informative comment was signed from a J J Jones attaching to posting by the local librarian!!
Sadly too often our past history is a testament to the innocent victims of past atrocities and even worse for them not to be properly documented. Your comments are most welcome and I will now always view the “Dog in the Tuckerbox” from an entirely different perspective. I would be interested to hear more about the archeological significance from your perspective as one who obviously has a wealth of experience and knowledge of Gundagi. Thanks for your visit and please call again.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Hi Lindsay. I often put on the Internet content about the Coolac Massacre and the resulting Dog on Tuckerbox (DonT) monument. It gets deleted though. Someone online tries to hide what I say.

That someone may be in Gundagai. Gundagai and its tourism steer well clear of Indigenous content that may be contentious or suggest another culture.

In around 2001 I found the proof of the highly significant ceremonial ground here, took it to Council requesting they notify it to the Elders. Guess what. They neglected to saying "they won't do anything". Guess what - the Elders and NSW Heritage and NSWNP did do quite a bit when they knew of the proof of what is here, after I notifed it to them.

I think Gundagai imagines its tourism direction should be minus Gundagai's Indigenous heritage. The town provides a few minor things now 8 years on after my ceremonial ground find but then facilitate recent stuff such as allowing tree removal and replanting along the burial area (Indigenous burial areas are often along stream banks) though they knew that was the burial area.

Imagine what will happen to old bones if areas are disturbed. This happened here with no Indigenous survey as required and no supervision by DECC which is the regulatory authority for Indigenous archaeology in NSW. It also shows a total lack of respect for Indigenous culture.

Gundagai tries to pretend Australia was found by the colonials in the 1700s. We are a very very very backward town with in my opinion, abyssmal leadership.

I am not of Indigenous ancestry but my lot were here in the 1840s (1820s and earlier).

A few years back Gundagai held a referendum to see if the Dog monument should be moved in to town. The result was a No vote. Its imagined that if the Dog monument is moved in to town more tourists will come into town and spend at ther shops. (Gundagai is evolving back to a village but many dont twig to that.)

Anyway, that referendum failed. All could vote in that referendum. Now Council have come up with a new idea. They are paying some marketing consultant that has moved to this area from Wollongong, $20,000 and she (Denise Drabble) is running some survey that includes questions on moving the Dog monument in to town. Contrary to the previous referendum, only allegedly 300 people get a vote in this new survey.

Some of those elite who are surveyed will be business owners, some tourists and a few locals names taken from the electoral roll the mayor tells me. Electoral rolls arent available to be used for such purposes so I sincerely hope the electoral roll isnt misused in that manner.

Its a selective survey and when I did stats at uni, surveys can produce any result a person would like.

I'd like the Dog on the tuckerbox monument pulverised as its about what the white pioneers did to the local Indigenous people (massacred them) but if they do move the monument into town that will be a grand thing to promote Gundagai via (a monument about a massacre?).

Here is a totally bizarre place. Correction. Some Gundagai antics are totally bizarre and like something from a really psychotic D grade movie.

They dig up bushrangers remains from Sydney and bury them here to get more tourism but that one failed too.

North Gundagai is built on a very large asbestos deposit and there are newspaper and other reports of a ghost that is likely phosphorous gas that seeps out of that same hill which all fits with the geology of the place. Council lets more houses go up up there, allows development in bad flood areas and generally, performs like a circus which would be funny if it were not.

Have fun
(the same J.Jones)

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