We had been told if we were anywhere near Gulgong we would have to go see the town as it is an amazing town. Even with all the recommendations I didn’t know much about it before we arrived. Adrian and I talked about how the town has claimed Henry Lawson (even though he was born in Grenfell in 1867) as one of their own. We both knew Henry was a writer but we were unsure of what he had written. We came up with only a few names of different pieces but we weren’t too sure about them. We were almost sure he had written the story about the dog and the dynamite but didn’t know the name of it.
We chose to stay in the showground again and made our way straight there. Like most showground’s it was ‘park anywhere.’ As we were setting up camp our next-door neighbours came to say hi. He asked us if we had driven down the main street. We explained no we came straight here. “Good. Don’t. I drove down the main street with my van on and it was a big mistake.” We promised we wouldn’t and headed off to have a look around thinking what a strange conversation.
One of the first things I noticed was a sign on the top of a pub. “Ten Dollar Town.” I was intrigued but it didn’t click what it really meant.
We walked up the main street and I was blown away. Wow!! I knew what our next door neighbour meant now. The street was very, very narrow. Cars had to stop and pull over to let the oncoming car get passed. It would have been a nightmare driving a van down the road. Hopefully everyone would have given way to you.
We walked the length of the town in awe with the age of everything and marvelled at how everyone seemed to have tried to keep the heritage of the town. There is even an old cement horse trough at the end of the main street. Many of the building have been listed with the National Trust and it is easy to see why.
Outside of many of the shops were baskets of flowers. Nice touch.
On one of the shop fronts were some information sheets explaining how Gulgong became the ten dollar town. Australia was introducing the decimal currency and on the back of the $10 would be a photos of Henry and around him would be some old photos of Gulgong taken in the early 1870. It started to make sense now.
It was getting late so we made it back to the van with the idea of an early start the next day.
We started at the Henry Lawson Museum. It features the life and times of Henry with paintings and photos. The building was an old Salvation Army Church, now days it holds the largest collection of information and artefacts of Henry Lawson outside of the Sydney Museum. Gulgong even has a Henry Lawson Festival each long weekend in June. There are street parades and horse dawn vehicles with a poetry workshops and the list just keep on going.
One of the frustrating things for me is there was no photos allowed. I just don’t get that. What is the big secret?
Anyway, Henry was born in a tent in 1867 and was the oldest of 4 surviving children. He is known as a poet, balladist and short story writer.
The museum is filled with personal stories like, by the age of 9 Henry had lived in 5 different towns and had very little schooling which wasn’t uncommon for the time. In Henry’s words Robinson Crusoe taught him how to read. His mother started to read the book to him at night and stopped at an exciting part. He then would pick up the book and try to continue on with the story. By the time they had finished the book Henry could read it himself. Then there is how he went deaf at the age of 14. Henry developed an ear infection and his father kept giving him butter and sugar to bring the infection out. It continues on and the next day he suffered from some deafness going fully deaf in later life.
We were right about the story of the dog and the dynamite. Henry wrote ‘The Loaded Dog’ while he was teaching in NZ. It was good to know we were right.
Sadly Henry had rather a dysfunctional life. He suffered from depression and alcoholism, marriage break up and was jailed for not paying the £6 12 shillings and 6 pence child maintenance he owed. By 1892 it is said he was broke.
There was so much to read about Henry. It took us about 2 hours to see most thing in the one room building. One of the most interesting items and the most bizarre was the ‘death mask’ of Henry’s hand. It is one of only 6 made. (I really wished I could have taken a photo of that.)
We had a look in the old opera house. It is the oldest remaining Opera House in Australia still in use. We had to go to the shop next door to get the key as it is kept locked for off season. The lady from the shop opened the door and once we were inside she locked it behind us. The foyer was a little on the dark side and quiet. Adrian found the light switch and all was good.
It isn’t fancy inside although you could see the touch of extravagance. The dark red velvet curtains and the red seating. It must have been a great night out.
In later times it was upgraded with a sound system.
As we were on our own we took a look out the back as well.
After the opera house we went for lunch. The pub was great, it looked like several small building and shacks had been made into one big place. For lunch it offered $6 meal deals. You can’t beat that. We chose the burger and chips. Nice.
After lunch we trekked to the museum.
It’s large and set over an acre of buildings and land. Once I was inside one of the first items to catch my eye was a note to all the volunteers. It said it all.
The museum was jammed packed with everything. Although it did seem like they have everything anyone had ever given them on display so there were several items of the same things. But the things they had. There was one wall filled with guns and enough dinky toys housed along another wall to make any child young or old filled with delight. Something for dad and son.
The museum has the photos that have been used for the $10. It took a little while to pick out each photo that was on the note. If you can’t find the photo or if they looked jumbled up there is a reason for that. One story tells the tale; to avoid forgery the designer put one half of the photograph in one place and the other half in another. The funny thing about this story is the $10 note was the first of the new notes to suffer forgery.
There was so much in the museum there didn’t seem to be a spare space for anything else.
The museum had everything even down to some of the toys from cereal boxes. I can remember emptying the cereal out into a big bowl so we could find the toy even through our mother told us again and again not to. After you made up the toy horse you put it on a slope and it would walk on it’s own down to the bottom. Just like magic. (It was the first flat pack I can remember.) You could always tell if someone had raided the cereal box, as the cereal never went back the same way again. The tell tail sign was a puffed out box. If we weren’t caught we would plead innocence.
I was talking to my younger sister later that night and I told her you know you are old when the items you use when you were first married are in a museum.
We the showgrownds, was only $16 a night for power and water. Massive area. There were some fire pits scatted around all you had to do was gab one. Even better we were told there was wood up behind the toilets. Help yourself. We lit our fire and were siting around it with the people from next door when the caretaker came to collect the money for the night. He asked us where we go the wood from? The next door neighbour told him he had been told he could collect any wood he need around the back of the toilets. The caretaker informed us that it was his wood he had collected for his own use. Embarrassment. So pleased it was our next door neighbour who had been the one to go get the wood and not us.
Gulgong show grounds had a great sense of humour. Loved the fun of the red back on the toilet wall.