Forbes offers a great bush camp right in the middle of town. Unfortunately it doesn’t offer power and water for a donation like Gooloogong, which is probable a good thing as there wouldn’t have been room for us. The camp is set beside the lake and it was a beautiful walk along it. We weren’t the only ones to like the site, as there would have been about 30 vans already parked up when we arrived. On out first night we were treated to a gorgeous sunset with colours we hadn’t seen for a while. Amazing.
We made our usual trip to the information centre. To our surprise we leaned that Gillie and Mark Schattner had gifted a sculpture for the ‘Art in the Park.’ Adrian is quite partial to the Schattner’s sculptures.
There were several other works decorating the park as well. One pieces showed several blue painted poles. I had a chuckle to myself when I read the plaque. The sculpture is a work in progress and is a ‘tongue in cheek’ representation of the famous painting ‘Blue Pole’ brought by the government in 1973. At the time the painting was considered to be a great waste of money by the public. I took a greater interest in the piece. Love the humour.
The cemeteries in any town hold a lot of history. In Forbes it exploded with it. We picked up a pamphlet at the tourist information centre about theirs. The first grave that clearly marked dates back to 1863 was of James Twaddell Jnr, just 13 months old. So sad but James wasn’t why we were at the cemetery. You see the cemetery holds the remains of Ben Hall and Kate Foster (Ned Kelly’s sister). The graves link Forbes to the Frank Gardiner gang and the Ned Kelly gang.
Ben Hall was said to be a kind-hearted man with good looks to turn any young woman’s heart. He turned from being a stockman to being a bushranger when his marriage broke up. It was thought he took on the reckless life, as a war against society. Ben Hall was in the Frank Gardiner (bushranger, horse and cattle theif) gang when they robbed the Lachlan Gold Escort near Eugowra. The robbery of 2,700 ounces of gold and bank notes is considered to be the largest ever, gold robbery in Australian history. At the time the value of the gold and bank notes were estimated to be £14,000. Billy Dargin, a black tracker helped the police surprise the gang near Forbes. While Ben was asleep Billy was given the order to creep up in the darkness, put a gun to Ben’s head and pull the trigger. Billy was very upset with how things happened and was never the same after the affair. Within a month he too was dead.
The unnecessary killing divided the town. A report quoted, between four and five hundred people came to view the body curious to look at the corpse of the man who had held the countryside in fear. Ben’s body was laid out on a bed in one of the officer’s quarters. It was riddled with over 30 bullets. He was just 27, his bushranger life only last 3 years.
Ben’s grave was simple with a white picket fence around it.
Most of the gold was recovered. There is a story that tells the unrecovered gold was buried in a forgotten place close to where Ben was killed. More than one fortune hunter has tried his luck over the years to find it. All have been unsuccessful.
The second grave we came to see was that of Kate Foster, Ned Kelly’s younger sister.
When Kate first arrived in Forbes as a domestic servant, she went under the name of Kate Hennessey as she didn’t want people knowing she was a sister to the Kelly boys. She married in 1888 and had six children (of which only 3 survived her.) She was often seen breaking in young horses and was said to possess fine horse skills much to the ire of her husband. Five months before Kate died her husband was charged with using abusive language ‘in his own house to his wife, within the hearing of the public.’ If the public hadn’t heard him nothing would have been done. At the time domestic violence was not a criminal offence. When Kate vanished, her husband was a suspect he was working as a horse trainer on a station some fifty km west of Forbes. He confessed to visiting her on the night she disappeared and an argument had occurred. Kate was said to have been under the influence of drink. Kate had given birth just five week before and seemed to be suffering post-natal depression. Kate had asked her neighbour to take care of the baby and left the house never to return. (She had written a note to the neighbour but there is no record of what was in the note.) The neighbour reported Kate missing the next day. Kate’s body was found a week later floating in the lake. The advance stage of decomposition made it impossible to form any definite opinion as to the cause of death. The Magistrate returned the verdict ‘there was no evidence to show how the deceased got into the water.’ What a sad life Kate must of lived.
Kate’s brother, Jim Kelly drove from Victoria to collect the children. By the time he arrived the baby had died. He took the remaining three children home to be cared for by his mother.
The map pointed out many other graves that may be of interest. We walked around looking at the different ones. After the gold rush many immigrants came to claim land, a wealth which was beyond their financial reach in their motherland. Many of the graves have the country of origin next to the names. Others had epitaphs and symbolism on the grave monument evocative to the religious and cultural diversity of those who shaped the character and development of the town.
Each grave of interest had a brief history of it on the map. It was very interesting to read the life stories of some of the people. Like Michael Doyle, he was sent out to the new land from Ireland at the age of 19 after being convicted of stealing flannel for his employer. After his certificate of freedom in 1834 he became the owner of several stores and a timber yards. He acquired land and became a successful pastoralist. Being sent to Australia while hard at first was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.
Another story tells of Ann Neilsen who died at just 26, after giving birth to 7 children. Her husband remarried and fathered a further 10. (No TV back then.)
We were surprised to find we had spent almost two hours looking at graves and reading the history of the people that built this country.
We took a trip out to just past Condobolin to see the ‘Utes in the Paddock.’ It is a little like the Tin Horse Highway just outside of Kulin in WA. The utes have been painted and sculpted by some of Australian’s finest artists. They are all Holden as the Holden Ute represents the classic Australian outback vehicle. The original plan was to have 10 on display but now the collection had grown to 20. Cadillac Ranch in America sparked the idea of Utes in a Paddock. The first one was put in place in 2008. They are cared for by a group local volunteers and they sit on private property so you can only see the artwork from behind a fence.
Even the good old dunny is featured, as well as the redback spider on the toilet.
We took a walk around the water park area. It seemed to go on and on. Adrian stopped to take a drink at one of the many water fountains along the walkway. For some reason he changed him mind.
It was a charming walk although it was getting cold by the end of it. Winter is coming so we need to keep moving north. We have already put our extra blanket on the bed. Adrian has started to grow a beard to help him keep warm and I have found my gloves to wear at night. We will be warm but we are still heading north.