The Murray River, the longest river has its head waters in the mountains of South East Australia and wends a long path west before crossing through three states to meet the sea.
But these mountains don’t take their from the Murray but share a name called Snowy.
The Snowy Mountains and the Snowy River are both known for their wild beauty
The Snowy River originates on Mount Kosciuszko and flows 352km to the sea at the 90 mile beach at Marlo.
The Snowy was a wild river now somewhat tamed by being dammed at Lake Jindabyne.
When I was younger I walked the trail to the peak of Mount Kosciuszko from the ski resort town of Thredbo.
This trip was a ride through the mountains south to follow the river from Lake Jindabyne to the sea,
The route was through the southern sections of the Kosciuszko National Park and into the Snowy River National Park camping at the famous McKillops Bridge.
The campground sits just above the river with a little beach on the Snowy River
McKillops Bridge is a long narrow wooden bridge opened in 1935 that spans a low gorge of the Snowy River and links remote villages in the mountains of South Eastern Australia.
Originally McKillops Bridge was to open in January 1934 but a huge flood sent a 14 metre high wall of water down the Snowy River lifting the wooden top structure off the concrete pylons. The rebuilt bridge was designed to withstand a 17 metre flood. Not that that is likely now the wild river has been tamed by Lake Jindabyne.
The Snowy River National Park is home to smaller rivers, tributaries and deep gorges in the mountains, reflectiong the wild remoteness of these mountains.
At the little village of Marlo the Snowy meets the sea
At Corringle Beach on the Marlo Estuary sits an old slipway where the boats that used to ply the old wild Snowy were pulled up for repairs.
An immature Osprey standing guard over the estuary
A small line of sind dunes separates the estuary
from the 90 mile beach and the wild sea that pounds it.
The Snowy drops from around 2000 metres high in its short 350kilometre journey to the Ocean. No wonder it was a wild river.
Well readers you can see why this blog is called a discontinuous narrative as I bounce back a few posts and rejoin the tale of my Great Grand Father Edmund Cahill and his pioneering life in Western Australia.
The rolling hills around York and a ready water supply from the Avon River made the area favourable for grazing and by 1851 convicts, like Edmund, were sent to the area to expand the settlements and to colonise the lands.
Convicts built new settlements like Toodyay 64 km, north of York, where the old mill and hotel show its early prosperity. Northam become the major town in the district when the trainline to the gold towns further west was routed through it.
Settlements like Greenhills have all but disappeared with only the old pub left.
Others like Beverly have reborn as areas of tourism and art.
As settlement spread more and more the Ngoongar Aboriginal people were displaced. But they never ceded their land.
In the 1847 Spanish monks had established a monastical village, New Norcia as a base for missionary activities in Western Australia. It was here the many aboriginal children stolen from their parents were trained as maids and servants and deprived of their own ancient culture.
In Northam the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Cultural Centre provides in its building the story of dispossession, the frontier wars and the families broken and the children taken away.
The treatment of the Australian Aborigines, the disrespect for and destruction of their culture, is in my view marks the worst aspect of European colonisation. It was a brutal destruction. I think there is nothing more emblematic of the destruction of the culture than the stealing of Aboriginal children form their parents, a process that was undertaken in Australia for 100 years from 1869 -1969 as part of the policy of Australian Governments.
Despite it all this, below is the last piece a visitor reads before leaving the centre.
Edmund and his brother were most likely part of this dispossession as they successfully farmed their land. Young Irish convicts themselves stolen from their family and land, having been driven to stealing by the famine and the seizing of crops and livestock by the English overlords . Transported from their homeland that had been struck by famine and forced on a long dangerous voyage to the hot dry strange land.
They also pined for home. The Tipperary School in York an example of the Irish calling out to home.
But for Edmund, his wife Bridget and family, success in farming wasn’t enough and when in 1887 gold was found nearly 300 km west of York followed the gold rush to the new settlement of Southern Cross. In Southern Cross there is a monument to the pioneers. The Shovel and Pick representing the miners and the Scythe and Rake representing the farmers.
In moving to Southern Cross they really did start a new life. Edmund changed his name to Edward and claimed to be 10 years younger than his age. Why he did this is unclear. Whether it was to escape his convict past or to make himself available for a position suitable for a younger man or some other reason, Im left to guess. Its a sign of the times that a man who was prominent in society could make such a change.
Edward lived in Southern Cross until his passing on 24 April 1895 at the reported aged of 55. (but he was born in Ireland in 1830 so really 65). On the edge of Southern Cross there is a list of those who were buried in the original cemetery (now destroyed)
In the Southern Cross Museum I found a transcript of Edmund/Edward’s obituary which had been posted in the Southern Cross Herald. It states he was ‘one of the first residents of the town’, ‘was held in high esteem’ and ‘was a former resident of York’.
But the family had contracted gold fever and following Edmunds death Bridget and her two youngest children, Patrick (My Grandfather) and Michael with their families headed further east, to the edge of the desert, chasing gold that had been found in and around Kalgoorlie. That’s a tale for another time.
In my journey through Australia last year I was determined to make myself open to Australian Aboriginal culture and through that make my own connection to the land. It has been an experience that has affected my greatly and has allowed me to at least have some understanding of aboriginal connection to the land and how beautiful and powerful that is.
Seeking out my family history at the same time allowed me to feel the longing for their homeland my fore bares felt and to some small extent maybe I do. Maybe its my once ginger hair which is part of the Celtic gene that makes me feel that way.
I have travelled to Ireland twice and will likely return again. On my last visit there, (look for Ireland in the drop down menus) I was in a pub in Bantry. I had just finished a pint of Guinness when another was plonked in front of me. I looked up at the barman and was about to speak when he said – ‘the boss said you have an Irish head on ya, this ones on the house’ – says it all really!