More Haddens come to Walhalla
This story began with an inquiry that I received via an email addressed to this website in early October, 2011, from a certain Heather Prior.
I didn't know it at the time, and in fact only found out in mid-2013, after the bulk of my work on this story was well and truly finished, but Heather -- who I still haven't met -- actually shares a number of mutual friends with my wife (who has nevertheless never met her, either). She had written to ask if I could help her to locate Dr Hadden's grave-site, which she'd visited with her late father years earlier in the company of Rosalind Hadden, another descendant of Dr Hadden, but had subsequently "misplaced". Although I couldn't help her immediately, it seemed a reasonable request, since the grave was a well-known local landmark in earlier times, and one that was fairly readily accessible -- provided you knew where to look -- to generations of people who lived in the area and had an interest in such matters.
Heather's father, Dr Keith Macrae Bowden, who could be said to have prompted this entire exploration of Henry Hadden's life and times, has already made an incidental appearance in this narrative. In addition to practising as a doctor himself, and achieving the rank of Senior Government Pathologist, during his later life he had been a prolific historian and author in his own right, whose aid was originally enlisted years ago by the latter-day Hadden family due to his reference to Dr Hadden in one of his histories, entitled "Doctors and Diggers of the Mount Alexander Goldfields" (1974).01
The "incidental" appearance of Korumburra-born Dr Bowden, however, has been a bit more oblique than even this publication might suggest -- a footnote in the earlier chapter regarding Gippsland's roads elaborates on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, into which western Gippsland's rivers drained, as one of the major obstacles to opening up Gippsland, and South Gippsland in particular. It does this in the context of a blog entry on the subject of the Great Southern Railway, which ends with the following acknowledgement: "The photographs and most of the information in this post comes from 'The Great Southern Railway : the illustrated history of the building of the line in South Gippsland' by Keith Macrae Bowden. Published in 1970 by the Australian Railway Historical Association."
A number of earlier writers have also previously visited the gravesite, and left published evidence of their visits. Two examples from my own bookshelf include the following:
As early as 1994, readers were being counselled that the gravesite "rests on private property and permission should be obtained from the landowner for access to the site".02 I set out with the clear intention to comply with this advice, but still with little or no idea of exactly where it was that I should be looking. I knew, however, that the original coach road had disappeared from widespread use a long time ago.
Terminal "dissipation" of the Old Telegraph Road at Shady Creek
Can you hear the clink of the harness and the rattle of the wheels?
Discussing this story with a number of Gippsland people during the course of its development, I had found that the tale of Dr Hadden's demise is a fairly widely known piece of regional folklore, at least in its broad outlines, although in some minds, it is perhaps understandably jumbled up with Nicol Brown's misfortune at the Shady Creek Hotel. Identifying the exact location of Dr Hadden's final resting place, oddly enough, depends to a certain extent on where the person narrating the story grew up. Most of the way to Moe, it happened as I understood it, on the "Sale Road", but from about Morwell on eastwards -- to Sale, I'd guess -- people told me that their parents (and grandparents) always knew it as the "Melbourne Road".
It's an interesting exercise to sit down with Google Earth© and trace the path of this old road from Labertouche all the way to Sale, allowing for four kilometers or so of thin air, where it vaults across the gap where the Yallourn Open Cut coal mine has taken a giant bite out of it -- and beyond which, it does indeed revert to being the "Old Melbourne Road", all the way to the outskirts of Sale.
Over the course of the last couple of years, in fact, many local Gippslanders and their descendants have told me of their familiarity with the legend, and in some cases, with the grave's whereabouts, but always without being able to be too precise about where it was. The clearest indication I saw was an extract from an old parish map that was published on page 15 of Yolanda Reynolds' "Walhalla Graveyard to Cemetery" (2007). It showed the path of the old coach road through Shady Creek, emerging onto the present-day Old Sale Road a little to the north of the point where it now meets Beard's Track.
But it doesn't quite show where the road came from, and in transporting Dr Hadden's corpse to Shady Creek, Mounted Constable William Smyth would have followed the more likely path of Moorhouse's coach, down from Crossover to the northwest, along the Old Telegraph Road, which today ends at the very gate to the farm property at Webb's Road, and barely two or three hundred meters from the former site of the "Drover's Rest", at what is known as the first site of a Shady Creek settlement, down behind the hill, and some 3km NNW from where you'll find it on a map today.
Writing about the Old Telegraph Road in 1979, Graeme Butler called this point the road's "dissipation", and said, "Parts of today's Telegraph Track are reminiscent, in many ways, of the better aspects of its long history. It has not the muddy quagmires of old but still, it is a wonder, as there is no pronounced crowning on the road, or deep gutters to the side to collect the water run-off. It still drives like a genuine bush track, with little respect for the motor-car."03
In order to acquaint myself with the area, I made a point of driving home from Walhalla along the Old Sale Road once or twice, before I allowed myself the time, one day, to turn off onto Beard's Track, in order to stop and have a look over the fence, just in case there was anything to see.
What I saw was a couple of fossickers waving metal detectors around in the paddock, and so I asked what they were after. They said that they were bottle collectors, and that they were looking for old, buried bottles on the site of the original Shady Creek Hotel, the other hotel that had opened at Shady Creek (and which had burned down in 1912.)04 I explained what I was looking for, and my interest in the site of the "Drover's Rest"; they said that like most locals, they were familiar with the story, and they'd just come from scavenging for bottles in the ground around there, too, with the same scant success they were having when I met them.
Overseer John Mason (L) greets David and Diana Hadden at the farm gate
As far as I was then able to, I added a detail or two to what they already knew about Henry Hadden. I explained the reason for my interest, and asked whether the gravestone was still clearly visible. They said that it was (and that in fact they'd just come from there), but that recently, it had been broken in half. I promptly leapt to the wrong conclusion and was just about to launch into an ad-hoc editorial about rural vandalism, but before I could get too wound up, they said, no, it had probably been caused by the cattle that were being fattened for market on the property, scratching themselves against it. A little reluctantly, I thought, they told me who they thought owned the property, as far as they were aware, and where they understood he lived, on the outskirts of Melbourne.
When I arrived home, I looked the name up online, and found what appeared to be a contender in the outer eastern suburbs. After a day or two of playing telephone tag, I was able to speak to the wife of one of the owners of the property, conveyed to them the short version of the story to that date, and obtained their permission for the Haddens to visit. They told me how to locate the entrance to the farm, where they said they would have their overseer meet us on the day to show us over the property and direct us to the site of Henry Hadden's final resting place. I contacted David Hadden and his wife via email, and waited for their arrival.
One Wednesday morning in mid-November, 2011, I had coffee with David and Diana Hadden where they were staying at the Hilton Hotel in Jolimont, before escorting them in their rented car for the 100 kilometers or so up to Shady Creek,05 where we arrived shortly after midday.
Once there, I went in and introduced myself, and as promised, the overseer, John Mason, came out to meet the Haddens at the farm gate, explaining a little bit about the property, its immediate neighbourhood and how we'd get to the gravesite.
It was a downright hot day, but bearing in mind what I already knew about "bayonet country" and the horror stories that the property owner himself had told me during our phone chat about even his own respectably-branded four-wheel drive having become bogged and needing to be rescued there, it was something of a relief to see our modern-day stage-coach (and what had turned out to be the owner's salvation on the day that he became bogged), the farm's full-size, industrial-strength, four-wheel drive Kubota tractor and trailer.
Was this the cellar of the "Drover's Rest"?
I didn't mind at all that we made most of the trip at a gentle walking pace, just as slowly and possibly even more sure-footedly than anyone walking, in low-low-low gear for much of the time over the more difficult patches of terrain. Over the hill, down across the creek that gave the district its name, along its northern bank and up the slope we followed the remains of the old coach road to where we paused, at a large hole in the ground that is said to represent the cellar and all that's left of the original site of Nicol Brown's "Drover's Rest" hotel.
(At Walhalla, of course, we've found that all those miners didn't just dig holes for cellars, nor only for gold, either, but also for other, far more mundane and far less inviting uses -- domestic and other waste disposal, for example -- and that you don't always want to go investigating those too recklessly ...)
And eventually we came to the clearing among the trees where the headstone had stood for the previous 142 years. If my memory serves me correctly, it was a couple of hundred meters further up the hill, and to the north-east of the cellar, but there was no sign of any other gravesite, or even of disturbed or uneven ground that might possibly hint at the extent of the original graveyard.
Sure enough, though, when we arrived there, we found that the headstone has indeed been broken, horizontally (and almost neatly) across the middle.
In close-up, if you look carefully, you can still see the unmistakable results of the occasional bored or careless random, trespassing shooter over the course of the intervening 142 years, taking random pot-shots and scoring a random hit or two, but at least none of the pieces are missing.
Dr Hadden's headstone today
It's difficult to say whether or not it could ever be put back together by some type of invisible mending process -- I somehow doubt it -- but like me you have probably also seen instances before of headstones that have been far more severely damaged than this one, even in some cases with significant pieces missing, which have been able to be more or less reconstructed in place to preserve their original intent. I confess that I don't quite know at what point it ceases to be a matter of interest to historians, and becomes the province of the archaeologist, but it was certainly heading that way.
In earlier times, photos show a headstone that was in varying stages of being overgrown with weeds and opportunistically self-sown vegetation that would surely have ended up completely obscuring it from even nearby casual observation. With a few years of additional neglect, it might easily have vanished from view altogether, even to those with a rough idea of approximately where to look for it.
It would perhaps have been revealed every few decades by a passing bushfire, as we've found to be the case with some of the outlying "satellite" suburbs of Walhalla (Black Diamond, for example), but a few such conflagrations would also inevitably have spelled its eventual destruction, as might well already have been the case with other markers in this small graveyard. The rightmost of the three previously published photos above, for example, shows definite signs of earlier singeing around the base of the headstone, and what appears to be some evidence of scorched ground in the immediate vicinity, or what might perhaps simply have been some passerby's campfire.
Now, however, the gravesite stands on a reasonably cleared, grassy hilltop and is surrounded and sheltered by some fairly well-established native trees. Both David and Diana Hadden were rightfully quite impressed with the post-and-rail fence that the property owners have very graciously caused to have erected around the gravesite to keep other livestock from possibly doing more damage to the headstone.
... although there's evidence that somewhere in the neighbourhood, there's a local wombat who's considering moving in, too. I don't know whether or not it's still the case, but attitudes to these animals vary so widely that at shire boundaries, it was sometimes possible to find them as a protected species on one side of the road, and subject to a bounty on the other. Unfortunately, for as hard-headed as they're alleged to be, they're rarely the match for even a small car, as any drive in the country will show you, but -- while by reputation they're slow, dim-witted and sluggish in movement -- I've seen them absolutely leap out into my path on the odd bush road at times, and get clear across into the scrub on the other side before I've even fully realized they're there, making a wallaby or even a lyrebird look positively lethargic by comparison.
On a map -- well, using Google Earth©, actually -- it looks as though the grave is located at (roughly) 38º 4' 40" S by 146º 03' 55" E, but I haven't yet confirmed that with observations from an on-the-ground GPS. As an aside to our discussion here, I learned some time ago not to trust the token coordinates that are provided as part of the properties of photographs taken with certain smartphones if you're anywhere out of town at the time, because beyond "settled areas" they become extremely unreliable, being based, as they seem to be, on approximated triangulation from (sometimes quite distant) cell phone towers, rather than genuine, geostationary satellite GPS signals. For example, I took three photos of the gravesite with my mobile phone -- for precisely this purpose -- from points which I know were no more than 40 meters apart and found the nominal "coordinates" shown among the properties of the most widely-separated pair of photos to vary by almost four and a half minutes of latitude (over 7 km!) and more than 16 minutes of longitude. The worst error actually resolves to a location that appears to be more than 30 kilometers south-east of the grave-site's true position!
Notwithstanding such minor technical challenges to navigation, in mid-afternoon we continued from the farm on up to Walhalla, where the Haddens spent the remainder of the day and the following morning finding their way around the town, spending the night at Walhalla's Star Hotel. It was while they were out sightseeing around the town that they ran into Andrew Sestokas, self-styled "Mayor" of Happy-go-Lucky these days (George Morgan, the other occasional resident, and Andrew rotate the position year upon year). They met Andrew entirely by accident, in the Corner Store that's run by the Heritage and Development League.
Andrew lives on the block that was formerly Henry Hadden's, over the road from the Morgan property (which is still recognizable from early photos of the town), so he escorted them up the Little Joe hill to the south-east of Walhalla for a site inspection at Happy-go-Lucky. These days, however, there's precious little to show of Henry Hadden -- or anyone else -- ever having occupied the block, or even of the Union Hotel which later stood there and across the adjoining block ...
... nothing to show for it, that is, excepting [shameless plug time again] another Heritage Trail plaque, installed by the Walhalla Heritage and Development League in the clearing that's now identified as Happy-go-Lucky's "Town Square".
The through road (through to at least as far as Brunton's Bridge), which was originally the main coach road into Walhalla from Sale via Toongabbie, is today mostly the domain of 4WD off-roaders, pretending that no-one's ever been here before, although the Haddens and I went up there without too much discomfort in what were decidedly town cars. Having said which, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a trip for just anyone, at any old time, and particularly not in winter, without seeking advice regarding the condition of the road from a local.
I had to leave in order to get back home to Melbourne, and I knew that David and Diana Hadden would be returning to Melbourne the following day for their flight back to Ireland. From an email which they sent me following their own (rather lengthier) return home, though, I understand that they stopped in for a very agreeable coffee and a chat with one of the owners of the property, on their way back to town.
I'm not sure whether or not the subject was discussed at that meeting, but David had told me that he'd originally been thinking that his great-grand-uncle's bodily remains should have been exhumed and his final resting-place relocated to the cemetery at Walhalla. In the email that he sent to me on his return to Ireland after his visit, however, he disclosed that he had changed his mind, and said, "I think that now there is a stout fence it is better staying where it is for the time being." I'd have to agree -- the setting is absolutely beautiful, with a view down the valley to the south-west. When I'd spoken to the property owner, he had confided to me that even he wouldn't mind being buried there himself when his time came, if he could only obtain Health Department approval before then.
The Walhalla Heritage and Development League is hoping to negotiate access to the gravesite with the owners of the Shady Creek property, even if only occasionally, taking into account the site's heritage value and the ongoing respect that it is due, as well as the optimum regard for the undisturbed welfare of the cattle that are being grazed on the property and the need for work to proceed on what is fundamentally a working farm. For these sorts of reasons, it is probable that any future access will need to be limited, and is likely to be by mutually-agreed arrangement only.
If access can be agreed, we intend to place a memorial plaque at the site, in the same style as the Heritage Trail plaques which we have previously installed along the length of Stringer's Gorge -- and at Happy-go-Lucky -- which have proven so durable for more than a decade now. If not, we may approach the Council and/or VicRoads about positioning such a sign by the roadside, probably on Beard's Track near the corner of the Old Sale Road. Wording for a draft of the sign has already been completed, although the necessary funding has not yet been sought. While they're not cheap, we are reasonably confident that this will not be a problem.
© 2013 Bernard Bolch for the Walhalla Heritage and Development League.
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