Today, we started our real tour of the silos. We began our day with n extended look around the town of Stawell and then visited the silos at Rupunyap, Sheep Hills and Brim. We are staying overnight in Warracknabeal.
Before leaving Stawell, we stopped in the main street to see if we could find the old English Scottish and Australian Bank Building where Jill lived as a little girl in the early 1950’s. Her father was posted there as the branch manager and they lived in the residence above the bank office. Jill can recall it being an old building with three windows across the upper level and an ornate entrance that came off the side lane. There were even bell pulls to call the servants who lived in the lower levels of the building (not that her family had any servants in their days off living there). We couldn’t find anything consistent with her memory of such a building in the same area of the main street of the town. In this photo from the 1850’s, the bank building is the second building from the right.
There was a gift shop in a building that looked to be in the right location and we talked to the woman who was opening it up for the day. She confirmed that it was indeed a previous bank building but it was very different in appearance. Our later visit to the Stawell Historical Centre in the old courthouse building helped us put the pieces together. It seems that in 1956, the old building that Jill knew was demolished and replaced with a more modern building that suited the ‘modern’ needs off banking. In the 1970’s the building was sold to Westpac who remodelled it again. Twenty years ago, the lady from the gift shop purchased the building and converted it into a shop. The only thing that remains is the old strong room. The garden that Jill played in at the back of the building is long gone and is now a part of a council car park.
The current building is in the photo above (on the right). It just looks like an awful 1970’s structure. The more ornate building to the left was, In Jill’s day, a grocery store run by Stan Hamilton. His daughter Sue went to Kindergarten with Jill and she is still a close friend to this day. We looked for the kindergarten which was located in the street behind the bank and a little way down the hill.It turns out that it was built on contaminated land from an old gold mining site and was deemed unsuitable as a site for a kindergarten. The council built a nursing home on the same site. It’s bit ironic that while it was considered unsafe site for a kindergarten, it was sill OK for old people!
We left Stawell after a drive up to ‘Big Hill’ that Jill could remember as a girl where you can get a good view over the entire town.
The first (and most southern) silos that we visited were the ones at the little town of Rupunyap.
These silos were painted by the Russian artist Julia Volchkova. They feature two local young people, netballer Ebony Baker and footballer Jordan Weidemann. I’m amazed at how she, and other silo artists, were able to capture such accurate images on a very large scale and get the perspectives all correct.. She talked bout the difficulty of handling heavy equipment at such a height and how the wind would blow paint back into her face as she worked. With all the there silos that we saw today, I used my drone to take some elevated shots and show something of the environment that surrounds these disused structures. This one is next to the long abandoned station and railway line that once provided this town with transport. The old station building and platform is the building with the red roof to the right of the silos.
Up the road some 20 kms are the silos at Sheep Hills. There may be some sheep around there, but there are hardly any hills. This whole area is as flat as a tack with broad expanses of wheat and canola fields. They are being harvested at the moment and every now and then you can see a trail of dust in the distance that rises behind a giant combine harvester.
Thi silo was painted by the International artist Adnate and is the third of the six current silos to be painted, It features Wimmera Elders Ron Marks and Regina Hood, along with a young boy and a young girl. The mural is about passing culture and knowledge from generation to generation, especially within Aboriginal culture. It features two Elders and a young boy and a young girl and it is set in the night sky. It took over three weeks to finish.
Finally, we found the silo at Brim which was first of these to be painted and which stimulated the other towns to create more of these art works. Brim is about 20 kms north of Warracknabeal (the largest town in the area).
I found this too be the most enticing of the silos that we saw today.
Guido van Helten is the artist and he has created images of country folk without any accompanying story – just images that create mystery as to their background. He requested that the real stories of these people not be disclosed, so they are open to an individual’s mind being able to create their own perception as to the background of each of the four characters.
Perhaps the man on the left silo has all the weight of those on the land on his shoulders. He looks to me as though he has been through some tough times.
On the second silo from the left is a young bloke wearing a cap. He could be a modern day farmer, a truck driver, or a shearer. Perhaps he tells a story about the changing nature of farming in Australia where young people are now much more educated..
I think that the next person is a woman, dressed in her flannelette shirt and droopy hat. Perhaps she is a farmer’s wife or a woman who has moved into town and is retired. She may work in some sort of shop.
The fourth character seems to me as if he has just gone to the pub for a drink.
Whatever the real story of these people, the best thing is that you can make up whatever story you wish.