Monday, 22 April 2013

SAA - Day 10 (Forbes)

The beautiful buildings of Forbes
Our last non-driving day before returning home.

Into town this morning after a few chapters of a new book - "Tom Wills: the First Wild Man of Australian Sport". There is no greater act of self-intimacy than turning the first page of a new book.

Sue attended to some scripts and then we got lost finding a coffee using an old version of google maps, before finding our way with the new version. We had coffees at Mezzanine Style Cafe. It is an old store house and has an interesting ambience, including old records in racks beside a record player and the invitation for customers to choose and play. At the back of the cafe, there are art works on display. Plenty of character but it bombed on service and delivery. Only average coffees and no warmth or engagement with customers from staff.

Forbes has amazingly well preserved old buildings, ranging right back to the settlement of the city around goldfields and then forward through the art deco period.

Although these buildings can be found dotted about the CBD, it is Victoria Park and the streets which border it on three sides which hold the most delightful town square in rural Australia. Starting at the Vandenburg Hotel, where Sir Henry Parkes, then Premier of NSW, stood on the upstairs balcony and addressed two thousand people in 1927 and moving past Victorian architecture of St John's Church, the Town Hall and the Presbyterian church and then down the third side with the School of Arts, The Court House and finally the Police Station, this 180 degree view is breathtaking. Taken from the centre of the Park, which has its own array of fountains, band rotunda and memorials, there are few panoramas to match it in the bush.

The concept of the square is only frequently used in Australian historic town planning, unlike Europe, who like to have their most important buildings arranged a central square. In Australia, we tend to draw them out along a single main road.

Forbes was named after Sir Francis Forbes, a Chief Justice of NSW. He had desired to be named after a placed of great wealth but an administrative blunder saw his name replace the original "Camp Hill", which John Oxley named it. Forbes' name was supposed to be conferred on Hill End.

We ended our morning at the Vandenburg Hotel, enjoying a mixed grill which might have fed us for several meals. I indulged a few beers which appeared to need my company.

Ben Hall's grave at Forbes
After a rest for Sue, we went to the outskirts of town on the Bogan Gate Road and wandered in the direction of copious signs, through the cemetery, to pay our respects to the infamous Ben Hall, a bad boy of these parts. Married and with one child, Hall appears to have turned to crime after his wife left him, taking the child he dotted on with him. In the late 1850's through to 1865, the rather good looking Hall pulled off many audacious robberies, after earlier being charged with robbery but released for lack of evidence. It is said that many of his robberies were done to taunt the police, who developed a strong disregard for his cheekiness. In 1862, he was part of Frank Gardner's gang which stole 2700 ounces of gold from an official transport near Eugowra. On equivalent values today, the robbery would be worth US$4.2 million.

Despite having never shot anyone, let alone killed them, when the Police caught up with him in May of 1965, they shot him through the brain, the heart and several other places to be certain. The first shot, it is alleged, was into his brain and was fired by the tracker sent into his hut as he slept. The tracker died less than six weeks later in mysterious circumstances, just as questions were being asked about the manner in which Hall was despatched. Great controversy still surrounds his demise.

Also in the cemetery are the remains of Kate Foster, wife of bad and abusive husband and a woman who married as quickly as possible to distance herself from infamous brothers ... Ned and Dan Kelly. She drowned in the Lachlan at Forbes. Some say she was attempting to rescue an aboriginal child. Others say she was drunk, a state which the tormented Foster was often in.

Having paid our respects, we went back into town for a short visit to the Forbes Lake, a big bowed billabong with fountains at either end. A darter stood on the far bank, giving a splendid display of drying his wings and ducks quickly swam to us in anticipation of morsels. Further on, the late afternoon sun was flooding the red gums and an old wooden bridge with that magical yellow light it keeps back for lovers and photographers.

We've made the best of things in the circumstances. At least we've determined one thing for future trips ... this camper trailer won't be behind us again. Time to trade up to something more solid but still with canvas half sides. Neither of us is eager to accept the grey nomad title yet but if we wish to continue, concessions need to be made to Sue's back. For mine, I have lost the fun and excitement of camping since I have had to basically do most of the work. Ninety minutes of break down and ninety minutes of set up on either end of four or more hours of driving, has lost its lustre.


  1. Hi Peter and Sue! Sorry to hear we didn't engage and have a chat at Mezzanine. Next time you're in the coffee is on us and we'll let you in on our local history! Cheers.

  2. That sounds like a good deal. Perhaps I'll play some of those records next time.


All comments will be moderated before being posted.