Driving from Albury to Canberra took us past a number of smaller towns that are now bypassed by the Hume Highway. We made a point oif diverting into some of them for their beauty and history.
At Holbrook, we stopped at the local bakery to buy some bread rolls for lunch. Until 2013, Holbrook was the last town to be bypassed by the new highway. Traffic would slow down, pass through on the town’s long straight with the roar of trucks depriving the town centre of any appeal even though it had a number of significant historic buildings. It is much quieter now and quality cafes serve light meals and good coffee. Today Holbrook’s primary function is a stopover and rest destination where the huge HMAS Otway can be inspected and walked over. The local park beside the Otway is ideal for picnics and an extended rest break.
On entering Holbrook, we passed an old prperty that was probably once a sheep station in colonial days. I can’t find any information about it but it was interesting to see.
After several name changes, in 1876 today’s Holbrook was called Germanton. As with many Australian towns which smacked of some connection with Germany in WW1, it was changed again to Holbrook after Submarine Commander Norman Douglas Holbrook. The HMAS Otway, a 90-metre submarine, dominates the townscape. It is impossible to miss as you drive down the main street. In 1995 the submarine’s fin was gifted to the town by the Royal Navy. Slowly the vessel’s outer skin was acquired to reinforce the town’s submarine theme. It was financed by public donation and by a $100,000 gift from Commander Holbrook’s widow.
Seeing that we are travelling to Canberra to attend a ceremony recognising 50 Years since the end of Australia’s imvolvement in the Vietnam War, I found it interesting to encounter a group of soldiers with their large vehicles in the main street. It turned out that they were a group of Mechanical Engineers f(RAEME) rom Bandiana, near Albury. They were on a training drive. It maybe just my sense of humour, but I found it quite ironic that one of the miltary’s newest and high tech vehicles, the Hawkei’, was being towed on a trailer by a large wrecker (tow truck).
Further along, Tarcutta is a humble town roughly midway between Melbourne and Sydney. It thrived as an important stop and changeover point for truckies wanting to have a meal and a break before heading off to their destination. In older days, transport companies had their own accommodation facilities where drivers could sleep before continuing on their, then, arduous Melbourne / Sydney long haul freight route. The main attraction is the genuinely interesting, and very sad, Truck Drivers Memorial which is a monument to the memory of truck drivers who have been accidentally killed while performing their duties in the transport industry.
Apart from the broad flood plain of the Murrumbidgee River, Gundagai is famous in Australian Folk Lore as the home of ‘Dad and Dave’.
The country bumpkin figures of Dad, Dave, Mum and Mabel were characters in the author Steele Rudd’s story entitled ‘On Our Selection’. He hadn’t intended that his these characters be regarded as comic figures; he had merely set out to describe the experiences of a typical ‘cockie’ family from the point of view of one of them. And he meant to rub it in to townspeople just how hard life on the land really was. Dad and Dave first faced the footlights on 4 May 1912, when the play ‘On Our Selection’ premiered at the Palace Theatre in Sydney.
We stopped for lunch at a picnic table iright behind a statue of these literary characters. The fame of these characters was supported by a song written by John Francis O’Hagan OBE who was an Australian singer-songwriter and radio personality. Between 1916 and 1961, O’Hagan wrote over 600 songs – more than 200 of them were published. His best known song is “Along The Road To Gundagai, written in 1922 and it was used as the theme to the Dad and Dave radio show.
Just before turning off the highweay to Canberra at Yass Junction, We popped into the town of Bowning. It is s a small village situated 15kms south of Yass on the Hume Highway. It was one of the earliest settlements in the district, developing as it did because of its location on the Port Phillip Road, now known as the Hume Highway.
Its Rollonin Cafe was inspired and created by the owners of the old Historical Cobb & Co Coaching Station that was restored after many years of neglect. There is a lot of history associated with this building, it was used as a Cobb & Co Coaching Station from the mid to late 1800’s. There was a hive of industry in Bowning in those days with people being transferred from the station to the Inn ready for next leg of their journey south on the Cobb & Co Coaches.
We reached Canberra at 4.30 pm, settled in to our hotel and got ready for a very pleasant dinner with my Vietnam Platoon Commander, John Snare and his wife, Janine. We enjoy their comany and regard them as good friends.
In 1969, John was a Captain and Duntroon Graduate, At the ripe old age of 24 years, he had responsibilty for a platoon of 100 men and around thirty trucks. He was an outstanding officer and it is not suprising that he treached the rank of Colonel before retiring.