At the beginning of European settlement of Australia was mainly populated by means of the transportation system. That means most levels of society were filled with people who had begun their residence in Australia in chains.
Life was pretty terrible as a convict and often those who escaped lived out in the bush and took to robbery under arms (highway robbery) and stealing from homesteads. Often they were helped by sympathetic ex-convicts who supplied information or food.
Bushrangers like Captain Starlight, Ned Kelly, Bold Jack Donohoe, and, the star of todays post, Captain Melville, had something of a celebrity status, with their exploits dramatically recounted in the papers.
Captain Melville was touted as something of a gentleman, chivalrous to women and reportedly returning money to poor settlers on occasion.
This article from 1947, 90 years after his death, tells the story of the night he called on the startled McKinnon family for a night of musical entertainment. Reports like this no doubt helped cement the romanticized reputation of bushrangers that still carries through to today.
Francis McCallum, (1822-1857) arrived in Van Diemens Land in September 1838. By 1851 he had become a bushranger known as Captain Melville whose range covered a large part of western Victoria.
Wedderburn, where we are staying for the next few days, was a rich goldfield at that time, and attracted many people hoping to make their fortune. Captain Melville was no exception and had a hideout on nearby Mt. Kooyoora known as Captain Melville’s Caves.
The ‘caves’ are not really caves as such, the mountain is populated by huge granite boulders, the ones the we see have been weathered out over the years. Captain Melville’s Lookout and his namesake caves are the ones most exposed. The wide view from the Lookout is spectacular, and I could imagine someone sitting up there watching for gold escorts.
Small part of the view from Melville Lookout.
We climbed down the path to the caves, the upper is supposedly where he kept his horse, sleeping in the lower. He must have had a thin or extremely agile horse if it could get through the tumbled boulders to the upper cave without getting stuck though!
Melville Caves 2012.
The upper and lower caves are really just one space with a big step up in the middle. There have been sturdy steps built for us to walk between the two although one of the lowest steps had been smashed by a rock falling from above. Not the best thing for number 1’s confidence. He had taken one step inside, looked up at the tonnes of perilously balanced boulders over our heads and said a bad word.
We walked through and I wondered how much time Captain Melville had actually spent in here. It was cold and damp and dark. A settlers hut down the hill would have been far more pleasant. This photo makes them look far more airy, bright and inviting that they really were.
Off to the right was a track that headed down, winding steeply through the boulders and making the kids very happy with another excuse to climb and jump around. We followed it for a while until the Man and I realized that by the time we made it to the bottom the car would still be at the top. We turned and climbed back up, kids moaning all the way.
Our trip in to the caves had been an amusing one, we had arrived by default. We were aiming to go there but had taken a back road and done a bit of exploring first. As usual we had stopped for lizards and kangaroos and interesting sights on the way, bemoaning the lack of signage and not finding any bitumen until we actually parked. Then we realized we had come in what was effectively the back door and that it was well signposted from the other side of the hill….
Oh well, going the back way meant the photo opportunity below; a farmer moving his sheep between paddocks. Sheep walk very slowly unless being chased, and he had two dogs to do all the hard legwork for him, but he still drove his car.