It is not far from Forbes to Grenfell, about 65 km. Bob was wrong, two nights is required in Grenfell, unless you wanted to go out and do a few bushwalks in the Weddin Mountains NP, in which case you would need another night or two!
Now, one of the things we have come to learn in our travels is that Australian country towns really like to highlight famous sons and daughters. Grenfell lays claim to four. In no order of importance, Stan McCabe, Jan O’Neill, Ben Hall and Henry Lawson. The last two are quite prominent.
The town has the annual Henry Lawson Festival. Lawson was born on the gold fields in Grenfell in 1867. He left, never to return, several months later as a child in arms. After leaving town as a youngster he became profoundly deaf after illness and with limited formal education he went on to be one of our celebrated late 19th Century early 20th Century poets and story tellers. Much is made by Grenfell of the Lawson heritage. There is a sugar gum planted in 1924, near where he was born, that is growing strongly today nearly 100 years later. It looks like it will live for many years yet to come. A statue to sit by on a street corner and a bust with buttons to push that play some of his poetry and tales (only during daylight hours of course!).
Stan McCabe was born in Grenfell in July 1910. Cricket tragics of Allthego’s vintage will know the name, if not the record. He was a contemporary of Donald Bradman in the Australian Test team during the 1930s. He played 39 tests for Australia and averaged 48. Not bad. There is an oval in the town named after him, nothing much else. Prominent in the town museum though!
Jan (Lehane) O’Neill was born near Grenfell in 1941 and went on to be one of our leading Australian female tennis players in the late 1950s early 1960s, she reached a career ranking of 7 in 1963. She won a number of Australian junior tournaments and went on to win overseas, but never the big ones. She was a contemporary in the Australian women’s team with Margaret (Smith) Court. She was beaten by Smith in the final of the Australian championships four years in a row, 1960-63. She was the first leading female with a double-handed backhand.
Ben Hall, the bushranger was shot in 1865 in Forbes at the age of 28. Over hundred robberies were attributed to Hall and his associates. We saw his grave in the Forbe’s cemetary. He was a Grenfell identity though and frequented the region, using the area as a base for his activities. A cave in the Weddin Mountains is thought to be one of his hide-outs, we did the short walk up the escarpment to its location. Interesting spot, a good look out for approaching police!
Gold was big in Grenfell too in the 1860s and remnants of the mines are on display on O’Briens Hill. A couple of open shafts and old equipment lie around the workings. There were more than ten thousnad people working on the diggings when Henry Lawson was born. Something like thirty hotels lined the town’s streets, ten banks as well, some of the grander buildings remain today. Trains no longer come to Grenfell to carry away wool and grain, but the restored heritage station and its precincts stand, nearby the free camp site for van travellers.
The latest tourist magnet for the town is a painted grain silo. A bit of a gem this is and something to be admired. How these artists paint these panoramic instatallations is amazing, they are only feet from the silo and several metres above the ground, with paint brushes and cans of spray paint. How do they get the perspective? Allthego sent the drone up for a photo, getting a different angle.
It was a couple of busy days in Grenfell and Allthego almost missed seeing the Parramatta Eels clean up the Newcastle Knights 39-2. The final ten minutes were caught on the big screen late on the Sunday at the Criterion Hotel, with Mitch Moses kicking that last second field goal!
We now head off to Tumut, it is tempting to stay another day! Haven’t checked out the cemetery or had the time to try a local custard tart!