Walking down the deserted main street one evening with a friend visiting for the first time, ‘In Dreams’ by Roy Orbison comes floating out from the pub… the line between past and present in this village can blur at times like this…
You’d never know that this had been such a big town; there’s a lot of space between the old miners’ cottages now. The pubs, oyster bars and opium dens have fallen down, been burnt, abandoned. But in a way this allows the town to breath- it’s not all bunched up tight like other country towns. Plenty of grassy spaces for the kangaroos to graze on.
There’s always some tourists around, but it doesn’t seem like a ‘ tourist town’. Not everything is signposted – there are still some things you can discover for yourself.
There is information about; little plaques next to historic mounds of bricks and holes in the ground. And signs with reproductions of paintings of famous Australian artists who came to the village in the 40s and 50s. You can look from the representation to the reality, filtered through the artist’s eye.
Opposite the pub is a rusting German machine gun- a reminder of Australia’s very high casualty rate in the first World War. You see these memorials in so many country towns. Reading the list of names of the men who died from the village, there’s sometimes 2 or 3 with the same surname, brothers, listed as among the ‘fallen’. Often killed by the same type of German machine gun, dead before they hit the ground, described by their companions as seeming to fall.
Heading back to the old schoolmasters house, night coming on quickly – the sudden thump of the kangaroos by the side of the path bringing you straight back to the here and now – & into the magic night!