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Ah, mining towns.

Discussion in 'Living Room' started by Depreciator, 20th Apr, 2016.

  1. Depreciator

    Depreciator Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm staying for a week not far from one - Gulgong. It's about 4 hours west of Sydney.

    In 1870 some bloke up on Red Hill on the edge of town with his sheep found gold nuggets lying on the ground. The dill must have told his mates. The resulting gold rush pushed the town's population up to 20,000 really quickly. Then by 1880, all the gold was found and the place collapsed and lots of people would have lost money. It's always the way with mining towns. But this town fared better than Hill End. It's an hour from here and I took one of my teenage daughters, Lulu, there yesterday. Only 100 or so people now live in Hill End and it was once huge - it had 28 pubs.

    At least Gulgong has grazing land around it and Mudgee, 30 kms down the road, is a wine centre with dozens of vineyards. And there is the clay.

    The main street in Gulgong is called Mayne Street - they wouldn't have been great at spelling back then. It's a narrow street that runs a few hundred metres and isn't straight, unlike the main streets in all country towns. That's because it follows the line of the tents when it was a gold rush town. I bet even back then there were spruikers flogging tent sites. Some of the buildings on Mayne Street date from the 1880s. The are a couple of pubs and some of the usual country stores and an opera house,
    bizarrely. It's a big old building and is apparently the oldest continuously run opera house in the country - or something like that. There is apparently stuff on all the time - not opera, luckily.

    The original opera house - ABC Western Plains NSW - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

    Less than 3,000 people live in Gulgong now and there are lots of empty buildings. Some of them look like they might have been on the market since the 1880s.

    Every third year (I think) they have a huge ceramic festival organised by a local family - the Mansfields - and there are 1,000 people here for it this time. My wife is into ceramics, so we came along. There are lots of middle aged women wearing colourful hand made stuff and sensible shoes. Lulu made the whispered observation today that 'they all look like older and smaller versions of mum.' I said, 'I know. I have seen the future and I'm not sure I like it.'

    There are also lots of blokes with beards and home spun knitwear in natural colours. And, interestingly, there are a lot of youngsters here now that ceramics has become hip.

    I'm glad I brought my flannie shirts. I could either be a local, or a ceramics bloke - I'm going for the ambiguous look.

    The wood-fired ceramics people are the hard core ones. They are the ones who like to dig their own clay and fashion it by hand and then fire it in kilns made from rock and clay bricks and powered by wood. So their stuff looks primitive. Lots of them even make their own glazes by crushing up rocks - probably between their teeth.

    They look down on those wussy ceramics people who use a wheel, and as for those ones who do slip casting, they would run them out of town if they got wind of them being here.

    Up on Red Hill the are huge tents with people doing ceramic demonstrations and others flogging stuff they have made for strangely low prices - probably because all the people here are fellow ceramicists and none of them make money so they sort of buy stuff from each other in a weird closed financial loop.

    In the opera house they have talks every day from people who have come from all over the world to talk about what they are doing back home. It's amazing that given people have been making stuff from clay for thousands and thousands of years, the are still people experimenting with new techniques.

    Along the main street lots of the shops, including the mechanic, have given over their windows to displays of ceramics, which is sweet. People in small towns always embrace these sort of things because they bring money in.

    So why Gulgong? Apparently the land around here has fabulous clay. Those gold miners wouldn't have realised that. If I see anybody with a bulldozer moving some land around, I'm going to see if they have uncovered some clay. (Might ask them if I can have a turn on their bulldozer, too.)

    It's a nice town, but if I see somebody in the 'where to buy' forum say they have found a cheap house in Gulgong, I'll have to jump in and set them straight.
     
    Last edited: 20th Apr, 2016
  2. norwoodman

    norwoodman Well-Known Member

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    Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out if Bourbong Street through the centre of Bundaberg was named intentionally...
     
  3. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    Gulgong is also the town which appeared on the $10 note and is called the ten dollar town.

    I stayed at the 'Ten Dollar Hotel' many years ago. Restaurant was dang good though.
     
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  4. Depreciator

    Depreciator Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, it's on the old ten dollar note. Along with Henry Lawson - they love him here because he was a local (though often lots of towns make that claim of famous people).
     
  5. datto

    datto Well-Known Member

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    Great story Depreciator. Ah Gulgong, the birth town of Henry Lawson and the town featured on the ten dollar note.

    I've only been there once and I was only at the police station lol.

    We used to shoot rabbits on a property out near Coolah. Spent a day drinking in a pub at Dunedoo and on the way back to the property we rolled the car on a dirt road lol. All good.
     
  6. Waldo

    Waldo Well-Known Member

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    Any pictures for us Scott?
     
  7. Chrispy

    Chrispy Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Great story Scott. I love your travels. I have each one printed out and filed in a folder "Scott's Family Travels."
     
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  8. HUGH72

    HUGH72 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting post, thanks for sharing.
    Some things never change.
     
  9. Terry_w

    Terry_w Solicitor, Finance Broker, CTA Business Member

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    What does a house up there sell for Scott?
     
  10. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    30 pieces of silver?
     
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  11. Depreciator

    Depreciator Moderator Staff Member

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    You're the only person who has copies of those past travel tales, Chrispy. We'll have to meet up one day so I can read them.

    I learnt last night that Henry Lawson was born in Grenfell - hours from here. His family moved her chasing gold and he went to a primary school at Eumundee, about 20klm from Gulgong. Then he went to high school in Mudgee. So I need to visit the Henry Lawson museum in Gulgong to find out just how tenuous his link was with Gulgong - while making sure I don't offend the well meaning and no doubt very old locals who man the museum. Henry Lawson liked a drink, so perhaps it was just the pubs in Gulgong that he frequented. His time in Gulgong may have been similar to Datto's. Stay tuned.
     
  12. Depreciator

    Depreciator Moderator Staff Member

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    Okay, this is big. I'm going to blow the myth of the Henry Lawson/Gulgong connection. If you don't hear from me again, the locals will have silenced me.
    So he was born in Grenfell and then the family came to Eumundee, which was a town, but is now just a name on a map. In 1872, his dad moved the family to the outskirts of Gulgong while he chased gold. Henry Lawson was 4 years old. After a year or so, they moved back to Eumundee. So that was it for the Gulgong years.
    We learnt this in the 'World Famous Henry Lawson Museum' in Mayne Street, Gulgong. Lulu and I were very quiet in there while we researched his early years so we didn't draw attention to ourselves.
    So we are staying in a farm on Henry Lawson Road, Eumundee (just across the little Henry Lawson Bridge). Spookily, I spent my boyhood living on Henry Lawson Avenue, in Abbotsford, Sydney. Henry Lawson died in a house not far from where I lived and possibly spent more time there than he did in Gulgong. And when his mother split from her husband, she moved to Sydney and the first place she lived was Marrickville, where I live now. With all of those connections, I should become Lawson scholar, but I would have to like his stuff a bit more than I do.
    He moved around a lot during his life, but Gulgong got the jump on everybody else and established the 'Worth Famous Henry Lawson Museum'. The town has an annual Lawson festival and stuff like that and they hold him in great affection.
    I heard something interesting about Hill End today. Apparently back in the gold rush days it had an oyster bar. Oysters unopened in the shell can survive many days out of water if kept in a wet sack or something. So some enterprising bloke started bringing them out to Hill End and selling them for huge amounts to cashed up miners. The pubs would have done a roaring trade, as would women of 'ill repute'. It's often the way. The people selling stuff to the miners tend to be the ones who do best out of booms.
    Terry, there are very few houses for sale in Gulgong, which is interesting. Usually, country town are full of stuff for sale. And hardly anything is being built. Have driven around most of the streets and seen one house going up. On the edge of town there is an estate with a dozen new houses and somebody is trying to sell some land, but that's it.
    And the weird thing is I haven't seen another kid in town. It's school holidays, and there are no kids on bikes or hanging around the milkbar. I made this observation to Lulu, and she said, while looking at me very directly, 'Of course dad, this whole place is full of boring old people.'
    'Wearing sensible shoes and homespun knitwear', I added.
     
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  13. Angel

    Angel Well-Known Member

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    I've got some of your stories here Scott.

    As for the new estate in town, you'll have to let Tekoz know. You might be on to something.
     
  14. Depreciator

    Depreciator Moderator Staff Member

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    I made it back. I thought for a while that I was being followed by someone in a non descript, dusty 4WD, till I realised there were a lot of non descript, dusty 4WDs out there.
    I heard on the radio yesterday that Grenfell has a huge Henry Lawson festival on the June long weekend. I wonder how many other places have Henry Lawson festivals? He moved around a fair bit. A Lawson scholar needs to find out where he spent the longest time. Darlinghurst jail could possibly have a claim to that as he spent a fair bit of time in there for failing to pay child support and getting pissed in public. He really was pretty hopeless - I can say that now that I'm back on the other side of the great Dividing Range.
    But only Gulgong has the 'World Famous Henry Lawson Museum'. It's in an old Salvation Army hall manned by volunteers and is pretty good. I asked the elderly volunteer on duty about the Marrickville connection to Henry Lawson. She said, 'I didn't know there was one?' 'It's in that display over there', I said, perhaps a bit too much like a city smartarse. Then she got a bit flustered and told me that it was her first day on the 'job'. We had a chat and she had lived there all her life so she told us a bit about the town when she was a kid. I asked her about the Pioneer Museum down the street and she said it was pretty good. I said, 'I bet they don't have a Henry Lawson display as fabulous as yours, though.' She liked that.
    It lacks a diorama, though. I think all museums in country towns need a diorama depicting a local event - maybe something knocked up by the local school kiddies. They could have done a whole model of a gold town with the pits, tents and pubs, and some kid would have managed to sneak into it a brothel, unbeknownst to the teacher.
    I'll dig out some more photos.
     

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