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.