60TH ANNIVERSARY ARTICLE
By “Woolly Butt.
Saturday, November 3, 1917, was the 60th anniversary of the landing in the colony of one of the few remaining pioneers of Upper Yarra, Mr. L. Hilditch, of Hazelwood, and in the evening, at Beechton, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Burgess, son-in-law and daughter of Mr. Hilditch, a party of friends and relatives gathered to offer congratulations, and to express their wishes for continued health ands happiness. ‘It was mainly a family gathering, but some of the oldest neighbours and some old friends from the township were present.
From Maryborough had come Mr. G. Blackburn, who knows the guests from Millgrove to the head waters of the Yarra, to be with his old friend for a few days, and revive memories of,the early times. Mr. David Ewart, of Launching Place, who was on Hoddle’s Creek two years before Mr. Hilditch, was to have been present, but, to the regret of all was unable, through indisposition, to make the journey. To most people there is a fascination in the stories of the early days, especially when heard from the lips of the men and women who enjoyed the good fortune and suffered the adversities which were in turn the common lot of the first colonists.
And at the tea-table reminiscence after reminiscence was brought forth of the days when the population of Hoddle’s Creek ran into hundreds, not including the tribe of blacks at Killara of the Launching Place, as named because it was-the starting place for boats for up river (not down river, as we had supposed), of how the travellers pushed their boats and cargoes up stream, sometimes turning aside to explore a tributary creek and discover the gold-bearing wash; of the flood of ’62, disastrous to the hopes of the gold seekers, whose treasure trove went with the flood waters produced by three days and nights of steady rain; of all the comedy and tragedy of the goldfields; of Big Bill, Big Pat, Yankee Jim, Ned O’Donnell, the Robinsons, John Croom, Walter Fisher, Ovenshaw, Ewart, Panton, and a dozen other names familiar to those who know something of the story of the Upper Yarra. And always the talk of the pioneers comes back to the dominating topic gold. Virgin glittering gold, and the adventure of the search for it, was the lure that brought these men across the seas. And the listeners, hearing hints of good “specs” still waiting in the upper reaches of Seven-mile Creek; or embedded in the, bowels of Little Joe mentilly resolve to sail forth on the first holiday with shovel and dishes and make their fortunes.
After tea, with Mr. Burgess as toast: in so far a few toasts were honoured with proper enthusiasm. “The King,” with musical honours, then the health of the guest of the evening, coupled with that of his old friend, Mr.Blackburn. Mr Hilditch, in responding, gave some interesting facts about the old times, which will be embodied in an account of his experiences to appear in these columns later on, and both he and Mr. Blackburn received ovations at the conclusion of their responses.
To Mr . E. A. Story was entrusted “The Pioneers of the Fifties” and he paid an eloquent tribute to their sterling qualities, their courage, energy, and love of freedom. Qualities which have been passed on to the generation now continuing of sea and land, for the continued possession of the rich inheritance won for them by their forefathers the pioneers. Mr.W Bleakley, by request, responded for the pioneers, and spoke of the desirability of at once obtaining full and authentic records of the events in the early history of the district and mentioned the work of the Historical Society which was at present seeking information as to the origin of the names of creeks and ranges in Upper Yarra. He concluded by expressing the hope that the pioneers would live to see the land they had won again enjoying peace, security and prosperity. Other toasts were “The Ladies” responded to on their behalf by Messrs. Grant and Oliver Host and Hostess of Beechton with accompaniment of “For they are jolly good fellows.” Afterwards with music, song, and conversation, a pleasant evening was brought to a close.