Yackandandah/Beechworth— A Journey into Australia’s Past

21 Apr

We decided to take a small journey down memory lanes of my past, apart from visiting relatives, I wanted to show Ana some beautiful old country towns that I recall from my Army days.

These old towns date back to the 1800s, an era in Australia when Gold fever was rampant throughout the colony of Victoria; the two specific towns I wanted to visit again were Yackandandah and Beechworth.

For our three day visit we made our home base at Yackandandah, now where is Yackandandah you may well ask, Yackandandah is in the State of Victoria, much like a Province for my overseas readers.

Yackandandah is not far from Tangambalanga, at the foot of Murramurrangbong, and over the hills from Mudgegonga, just follow the dirt track to the intersection and turn right, there’s three cows grazing on the corner paddock of Browns pastures, you can’t miss it. Follow the creek line along and you will enter the old Gold town of Yackandandah.

This historic town has retained its old buildings and charm, I recall visiting the town over forty years ago, it was being used as a back drop for a movie at the time, I do recall having lunch in the old pub with a number of beautiful girls dressed up in period costumes, the actress was either Meryl Streep or Sigrid Thornton, I was in uniform at the time with an old Army mate, just wish we had the stamina to approach and ask for a photo with them.

Having enjoyed the afternoon in Yack, as it is commonly known as, we departed next morning for the other well know Gold mine town of Beechworth. With the changing of the seasons, the trees all through this Alpine part of the country were shedding their leaves, vivid Gold’s and Brown leaves decorated the trees and roads throughout the region, an exciting visit into Natures studio of colours.

What drew me back to Beechworth was its history, a history I never really delved into back in my more adventurous Army days. The Cemetery was my destination, a cemetery is always a good source of a town’s historical background, so we entered the hallowed grounds of Beechworth cemetery which was established in 1856 and contains the graves of many of Beechworth’s pioneers.

Alexander Roy (Dick) Harwood, Dick Harwood was an Australian film producer and the first to introduce Talkie films in Australia.

Jacob Hoffman, an American Civil War Veteran.

John Drummond, Battle of Waterloo Veteran and Pioneer of Beechworth.

James Riley, American Civil War Veteran.

The Gammon Children, seven children of George and Kate Gammon, their ages ranged from 9 weeks to two years, all died from various traumas of family life in the 19th century.

James M Storey, a Mexican War Veteran.

John Watt, shot by a bushranger.

James Ingram, known as, The Grand old Man, a very stalwart pioneer of Beechworth.

Rosetta Isaacs, Sister of Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian born Governor General of Australia.

Dame (Annie) Jean McNamara, long remembered for her work as an authority on Infantile paralysis, (Poliomyelitis).

Chinese Graves and Burning Towers.

The Victorian goldfields were characterised by the large numbers of Chinese miners who, along with others from Britain and Europe, came to try their luck with the gold pan and pick. Beechworth was no exception. By 1856, there were many Chinese in the district and the numbers swelled following the Buckland riots in July, 1857, when many Chinese, having been driven out of Buckland, joined their brethren at Beechworth.

The Chinese formed their own community within the town, and Chinatown was to be found along the lower Stanley Road, on the high side of where Lake Sambell is now situated. It had its own shops, Joss House and Temple. The Chinese took an active interest in town affairs and were generous donors to the appeal to build Ovens District Hospital in 1856-1857. They also formed a colourful part of the annual procession through Beechworth’s main street. The Burning Towers were built in 1857, and were used for burning prayers and meals for the dead. The towers were not used for cremation. It is interesting to note that in Northern China, it was the custom to burn paper prayers and meals at the graveside, whereas in southern China, burning Towers were used. The existence of the Beechworth Towers indicates that a large section of the Chinese community here were from southern China. The altar in front of the Burning Towers was not built until 1883-84.

Although there are thought to be about 2000 Chinese persons buried here, it was the wish of all Chinese persons to be buried in China. For this reason it was relatively common for bodies to be exhumed and sent back to China with relatives, where re-burial would take place.

Henry Ah Yett was the last Chinese person to be buried in the Chinese section of Beechworth cemetery; he died at Reid’s Creek on 31st July 1932. Mr Ah Yett was a very old and well known identity of Beechworth and district, having lived in the area for over seventy years. He is believed to have been 105 years old when he died. He came to Beechworth during the gold rush, and was a goldminer for a number of years. He later established a market garden at Reid’s Creek and had numerous customers in Beechworth and Chiltern on whom he called regularly. He was also skilled in the use of herbs for medicinal purposes. Mr Ah Yett was noted for his honesty and his geniality and kindness to children was proverbial.

We leave the Beechworth cemetery and its residents, to rest in history, making our way back to Yackandandah before driving back to Mildura. Leaving behind us an enjoyable excursion, back into the flamboyant exhilarating days of Australia’s Gold rush.


Posted by on April 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


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40 responses to “Yackandandah/Beechworth— A Journey into Australia’s Past

  1. jasmindamaro

    May 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    liebe gruesse an dich bin sehr sehr krank hoffe es kommt gut lov vor jou von jasmin

    • aussieian2011

      May 16, 2016 at 9:30 am

      Mein Lieber Freund Jasmin, Ihnen einen schönen Freund und ich schätze unsere Freundschaft über die Jahre, es tut mir weh, wirklich zu wissen, dass Sie sich unwohl sind, wie ich Ihnen wirklich Schöne Wünsche senden und hofft, dass alles, was das Problem ist, werden Sie überwinden.
      Ich schicke Ihnen viel Liebe Freund bewertet.

    • aussieian2011

      May 18, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Hallo Jasmin, ich hoffe, dass Sie von Ihrer Krankheit erholen, ich fühle mich traurig, zu wissen, Sie sind nicht gut und Sie sind zu veröffentlichen auf Word Press verpasst.
      Ich schicke Ihnen aus Australien lieben.

  2. Sue Dreamwalker

    May 7, 2016 at 10:05 am

    WOW… now this I really enjoyed.. I think in most countries I have visited there is a China Town of sorts and this was a very interesting read Ian.. Loved all of the photo’s Loved that the funeral directors also doubled for taxi’s…. LOL.. Made me smile.. Got my imagination going in a rather macabre way LOL hehe.. Of Spirits Hailing a taxi, lol.. to go to their final destination 🙂 lol

    • aussieian2011

      May 10, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      It really was a great little journey to the Chinese part of this small Gold mining town Sue.
      I developed a great respect and appreciation for these people and their culture.
      I never noticed the Taxi service sign Sue, but apparently he sold everything that anyone would want, even galvanized coffins, the shop is all closed now but everything is still inside as it was, not sure what the story behind it is, but it was used in a number of movies.
      Best wishes and kind regards.

  3. reocochran

    April 30, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    What a treasure trove you shared here. I happen to like memorializing our heroes and history. The wagon, horse, different foreign headstones and the final gorgeous tree all were like windfalls from Heaven. I examined and studied each aspect of this post, Ian. Have a wonderful day, dear friend. xo

    • The Emu

      May 1, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Thanks Robin, after your comment I went back to see what I had posted and you are right, I did put a variety of subjects into that post, put together it does paint a lovely image.
      Thank you Robin and Kind regards.

  4. giselzitrone

    April 28, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Lirbe rüsße von mir und salles liebe von mir Gislinfe

    • The Emu

      April 29, 2016 at 6:07 am

      Schöne Grüße an Sie Liebe Gislinde, in der Hoffnung Sie bei bester Gesundheit sind.
      Wir wünschen Ihnen viel Liebe.
      Herzliche Grüße und die besten Wünsche.

  5. Mél@nie

    April 28, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Hi – konichiwa from Yakushima island, Japan! 🙂 very interesting article, Ian… I hope you’ll take your beloved wife to Europe some day… and then, you’ll write about your European ancestors, too… 🙂
    * * *
    after a 4h hike in the heart of the island, I rest visiting my favourite blogs… 🙂

    • The Emu

      April 29, 2016 at 6:05 am

      Lovely to see you are travelling Melanie, what a wonderful experience to see Japan and enjoy it’s beautiful culture and scenery.
      My ancestors are mainly Irish and English, don’t think any of the family have European ties.
      Ana and I would love to visit Europe but with world events the gloss of visiting Europe has faded, Ana would like to see Andorra again, somewhere in the future, after our next Chile adventure, Vietnam may be the next destination, I would love to have seen Vienna and some of the Scandinavian country’s though.
      Time will tell which path we follow next.
      Best wishes for a beautiful time in Japan.

  6. Michiko

    April 26, 2016 at 3:12 am

    I was very happy to Australia Or Japanese person in here .I has enjoyed reading for a wonderful our country photos Thank you Ian!

    • The Emu

      April 26, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Hi Michiko, lovely to read your comment and visit, I am glad you enjoyed reading that story.
      Australia is a beautiful country Michiko and if ever you get to travel to that part of Victoria, you will really enjoy Yackandandah.
      Hope you are well my Friend and keeping warm these nights, Winter will soon be on us.
      Kindest regards and Love.

  7. reocochran

    April 26, 2016 at 1:56 am

    I appreciate your sharing the history of these two very special places, Ian. Ana would need you as a guide with the depth of information shared here. 🙂 I treasured the photos featured here, too.
    This made me smile as if I could hear your voice telling me and taking me on this as a personal tour! 🙂

    • The Emu

      April 26, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Glad you enjoyed that story Robin, I actually try to make a story out of all my journeys and adventures, I form it in my mind and try to capture photographs that illustrate the story, much like writing on the run, a lot of research has to be done also but I try to give the story a personal touch rather than a google reading, think it makes for better reading.

  8. giselzitrone

    April 25, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Danke wünsche eine gute Woche eine Umarmung Gislinde

    • The Emu

      April 26, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Thank you Dear Gislinde, so kind of you to visit and leave your lovely wishes.
      I do hope you are well and everything is going fine for you in life.
      My best wishes and kindest regards.

  9. giselzitrone

    April 24, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Tolle Fotos und Beitrag ich wünsche dir einen schönen Sonntag liebe Grüße Gislinde

  10. Andrea Stephenson

    April 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    This was a fascinating visit, thanks for taking me along.

    • The Emu

      April 24, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Thank you for visiting my post and pleased you enjoyed my story.
      Kind regards and best wishes.

  11. davidprosser

    April 22, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Fantastic photographs Ian,

  12. derrickjknight

    April 21, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Fascinating history with some interesting photos, Ian. My son and his family have now moved from Perth/Freemantle to Rottnest Island, so I am keen to learn what I can

    • aussieian2011

      April 24, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Greetings Derrick, you will enjoy Rottnest island, it’s a bicycle island, lots of Quokkas, the Island was so named by a Dutchman who mistook the Quokkas for Rats, hence the name was originaly Ratsnest but became Rottnest.

      • derrickjknight

        April 24, 2016 at 9:39 am

        Thanks, Ian

        • Janet Caldwell

          August 18, 2016 at 6:32 am

          I grew up in Yack, next to the cemetery! There is a small Chinese section in the Yachk cemetery, but not well marked! Sigrid Thornton walked across the road from the old RSL rooms to Dixie Dean’s grocery store in the movie. ‘Strange Bedfellows’ followed a few yrs later with Paul Hogan and ???????

          • The Emu

            August 19, 2016 at 9:30 am

            Hi Janet, lovely to hear from you, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my short story. I remember Yack from my younger Army days and visited a few times out there, my cousin is Max Short and his lovely wife Diane, this story was written after our last visit a few months back, we stayed in that great motel that is in the main street, a great place to stay, Yack is always a beautiful place to visit, so peaceful and quiet, yet has great vibrancy. My Aunty’s name was Bess and her brother Jack Felton was my Father. It would be great to see any pictures you may have of Aunty Bess back in those days.
            I look forward to a revisit to Yack again soon, it is a great pleasure to be accepted into the Yackandandah Facebook site.
            I recall having lunch when Sigrid Thornton was also dining in between shots, she was still in costume, if we only had cameras like now back in those days, I would have loved to have had a picture taken with her. If you bump into Max or Diane please give them my regards, I don’t think they have Facebook. Cheers Ian Felton, aka Aussie Ian aka Aussie Emu.

  13. GP Cox

    April 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Some terrific history here, Ian! Very interesting. I never knew very much about your gold rush days, it’s a treasure that these towns feel the need to retain it all. Love your directions to the town – no problem finding it now!!! 🙂

    • The Emu

      April 21, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Hi gp, I have always been interested in the old Gold mining towns, I used to come across these quite often in my Army travels, good going back over old territory, glad you could understand my directions.

  14. CJ Wheadon

    April 21, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Story was as good as the drive that I imagined, good areas on any day, will see how the taste is when I imagine that Yackandandah Pub grog. Just enjoyed a glass of the real thing up here on the island. Cheers flightless but well travelled bird.

    • The Emu

      April 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      Hi Col, that bloody drive was longer than I thought, supposed to be six and a half hours and I got lost, down Seymour way, unbelievable, I served at both Bandiana and Pucka but got disorientated, drove on to Seymour instead of Wangaratta, stayed overnight there and turned back up the Hume highway, all in all it was a bit of an adventure, had a few sherbets at the Yack pub, great publican.
      Hope you are doing okay on your tropical island.
      Take care and best wishes.

      • CJ Wheadon

        April 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm

        I can recall having a compass and maps provided up in the Murrundindi and I still had no trouble getting lost so your doing pretty okay old son, you just couldn’t ‘throw smoke’ is all to call in your mate Huey. Alpha Delta out.

        • The Emu

          April 21, 2016 at 1:42 pm

          Your right there Col, got lost a few times up in the Murrundindi myself.

  15. peppermintfarm

    April 21, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Good reading of these historic places and I never knew there were Chinese settlers in Australia. Always something new to learn. Pic are great.

    • The Emu

      April 21, 2016 at 11:59 am

      Hi peppermint farm, thanks for visiting, yes we had many people from many country’s settling in Australia, started with the Irish after the potato famine in Ireland and then it bloomed with the discovery of Gold, Australia has a very diverse background.

  16. George Parsons

    April 21, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Great read as always Emu, when you visit a new town, do you partake in a drop or 2 in the local pub? I only ask this as when I am on the road, I make it a habit too visit the local pub and get the latest gossip or best fishing spots etc.

    Cheers mate, take care


    • The Emu

      April 21, 2016 at 10:54 am

      G’day George, yes I never miss a drop or two with the locals, my next story is actually about the Yackandandah Pub.
      Trout fishing streams are not really running well down there, been bloody dry, I did give it a go but Blackberry bushes got in the way, in my old days at the School fishing with Stubbsy we would march straight through them.
      Hope your keeping well old mate, I’m off to spend Anzac day in an Adelaide hospital, little bit of minor surgery needs attention.
      Take care.

  17. Stan Middleton

    April 21, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Thanks Ian

    Excellent reading!


    • The Emu

      April 21, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Thanks for reading Stan.


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