Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Day 41 - Dogs, Ghosts and Canberra

Closer to the real story.
With not far to travel, we dawdled, leaving the caravan at exactly check out time and making our way along Sheahan Drive, which took us to the place where the dog sits on the tucker box.

The roadway, which has largely been replaced by the Hume Highway bypass of Gundagai, was named in honour of Billy Sheahan, the Labour member from Yass who was a Minister for Transport and rose as high as Attorney General in the NSW governments between 1941-65. Australia first notable sportsman, Tom Wills, the inventor of Australian Rules Football who took his own life after a turbulent life of brilliance, alcohol and disagreement with authority, was born near Gundagai. Another even more authentic Australian, Yangar, who came forward to salute the Duke and Duchess of York at the opening of the first parliament house in 1927 and was introduced as Jimmy Clements "a prominent citizen of Australia", also came from the area.

Despite these rather significant humans, it's a brass effigy of a dog that is Gundagai's most famous resident and certainly it biggest crowd puller. That's exactly what it was designed to do. Since it was placed there in 1932 and declared sat by none ther than Prime Minister Joe Lyons, it has acted as a tourist attraction, all the while pulling donations for the Gundagai District Hospital. To this day, coins are invited to be left in his drinking bowl as he spies out across your head to some far off time and a misquoted poem, from which his fame arose.

In the story, originally a rather vulgar ditty from a poet unknown, old Bullocky Bill was bringing his loaded team out of the hills when they bogged in swamp country near Gundagai. All manner of things went wrong, until his lead bull, Nobby Jack, broke the yoke and then Bill's dog launched the finally indignity by defecating in the food box. A cleaner version was pieced together by a journalist, Tom Kinnane of the Gundagai Independent, from a sheet of paper in the office files and then Jack Moses wrote his famous version which later became a song lyric.

It those later versions, the dog SAT on the tucker box.

Today, the souvenier shop on hand also sends its profits to the health system.

We drove on towards Jugiong where we had planned to have morning tea but the sight of a road sign to Harden made for a change of plans.

Harden-Murrumburrah is more than a set of twin towns so close together that they became one. It also shares different but never the less important places in the story of both Sue (the Gibbens) and my (the Langstons) families.

It was at Harden where my sister came in her early married life to teach at the local high school, whilst her husband took up the role of CEO at the hosptital. My brother and I lived with them for a short time whilst mum and dad had an extended holiday.

Sue meets her great grandfather
It was also at Murrumburrah where Frederick Thomas Lovering married Amy Spackman and rasied ten of their thirteen children. Three they buried as infants less than a year old in the cemetery at the top of the hill, near where the road branches off north to the village of Wombat. Fred and Amy are buried beside each other in the same cemetery and down the hill, Fred's brother William and Amy's sister Elsie - also husband and wife - are also buried. None of Fred or William's other nine brothers or sisters are buried here, nor their parents. They are buried with the family of their wives an oddity for the day.

So what?

Frederick Lovering, six years before he married Amy, was the father of Kate Knapman's only child, Lousia Fredericka, Sue's paternal grandmother. Fred and Kate were first cousins. Kate and her sister Hilda had come to live at Kingsvale, the farm of Fred's parents Phillip and Anne Lovering near Murrumburrah in 1891, after their mother died and they were sent from England on a boat. Anne was their mother's sister.

This juicy backstory was uncovered in the last five years after a ward record surfaced from the Benevolent Society Hospital for unmarried mothers, naming Frederick as the father when Louisa was born in 1897. The hospital once stood where Sydney's Central Railway Station is and was demolished so it could be built.

Today, we found his grave and Sue had a chance to meet an ancestor who had been unknown until recently. Its a story we will follow up with more interest with the local historical society and who knows, we may even meet some relatives in the future.

After that emotional moment, we drove on to Yass and then to Canberra to spend some time with my brother and his family and to catch up with Kevin and Amanda, two friends we met in the UK in 2012 and who have been mentioned on these pages. It was Amanda who danced a jig with Sue in a crowded Ennis (Ireland) bar on the night of my 56th birthday ... to be sure, to be sure.

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