On the latest trip to Australia, we visited Beechworth in northern Victoria. We knew there was a Ned Kelly association, but apart from that very little. I hadn’t appreciated that it was one of the earliest goldfields. I knew of the Ovens but hadn’t associated it with Beechworth. What a great little town! It still has a host of wonderful, original gold rush buildings, crafted by Scottish stonemasons; the courthouse; telegraph office, lock-up; gold office etc. Luckily they have managed to preserve them and build a tourist town around both them and Ned Kelly, for it was here that he was tried and condemned.
We did two tours with the same guide and he was fantastic. One was on the town and the other on Ned Kelly, but he threw in the ill-fated Bourke and Wills expedition too. We learnt so much and I can understand now why he has become such a folk hero. I know that Ned Kelly was seen by great-grandfather, Joe Timms, at some point. In my book the Digger’s Daughter, Jane witnesses the bank robbery at Euroa, so we continued eventually down the road to there. It was a reluctant farewell to Beechworth, which is an idyllic place . The elm-lined roads, old railway walking track and reservoir could have kept me happy for a week or more. I thoroughly recommend it on a tour of Victoria.
Euroa, on the banks of the Goulburn River was settled by sheep farmers. There’s a fascinating little museum which pays homage to an amazing woman, Eliza Forlonge. I loved the story of this strong, determined sheep pioneer from Scotland. The fact that she first settled in Tasmania and in the same area as the Dugmore’s, makes me wonder if they knew of her, maybe even saw her in Launceston. I love how these connections are made in my travels. The museum also has a section on the famous bank robbery and a useful booklet. Most importantly for me, I was able to visualise the scene much better, standing with my back to the station, looking at Biddle Street and the site of the original bank. Google Earth is no real substitute for standing where your characters stood. Although I may not have got much wrong, I have been able to re-edit that particular chapter to put in more detail and colour. The joy of self-publishing.
Finally, we walked along the river to the war memorial, celebrating the Victoria Cross heroes from the area. Again, I am reminded how Australia honours its war dead in a way that is informative and visually stunning. Every town, every village has not just a cenotaph but an Anzac Avenue. It’s not just the generals who are commemorated by street names. There is an equality of service that we in the UK find unfamiliar and we are the worse for that.