Darbys Falls/Mt McDonald – Frank Clune 1935

Extract from Rolling down the Lachlan by Frank CLUNE.

Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1935.

Chapter XIV p121

It being Sunday afternoon, a drive was suggested to Wyangala Dam, twenty-eight miles away; and, with a full load of passengers, we were soon outward-bound via Woodstock and Breakfast Creek. …….

Sunlit hills in the distance, densely wooded; and the first two-story farm-house for many a day and mile. On this road are the remains of the old gold-diggings, and the Waugoola Creek, a tributary of the Lachlan. A white-box which had been struck by lightning was in marked contract to a forest of black-gums; just as a shabby buggy was in contrast to our car. This vehicle really alarmed me; I was glad we passed before the wheels came off.

Darby’s Falls, sixteen miles away; were now travelling through delightful country and soon crossed Sheet-of-Bark Creek; but saw neither sheet, bark, nor creek. After that, we climbed a piccaninny mountain, whence we took in a good view of Waugoola – hills like waves, and apple-green valleys. Why do so many Australians spend money visiting the Rockies when there are places more than “just as good” in the Commonwealth?

Our friends introduced us to Miss Lizzie Hailstone, a local lass, who told me that she and her brother could outtalk any married couple in the back country; “and her brother wouldn’t say a word.” She joined the party as guide.

Milburn Creek was discovered, and crossed, by Surveyor Meehan in April 1820. In May 1934 we discovered and crossed the same creek, which never goes dry as it is fed by springs. It’s a darned pity more creeks can’t adopt this excellent idea.

Green Gully was the next place of note. In the copper-mining days it used to boast of three pubs, with a population to match. Now it has neither pubs, population, or matches. It is just nothing. Even at the copper-mines, we only saw a lot of holes and one rusty boiler.

A few hundred feet below, in the valley called Springvale, they breed racehorses. I dropped the same distance in Lizzie’s esteem when I admitted that I had never heard of Eurythemic, a Melbourne Cup winner who it seems was bred there.

We passed another road leading to Darby’s Falls. Who was this Darby anyway, to have a two-road waterfall named after him? We kept climbing and arrived at Mount McDonald. Here, there was another superb view; and also fourteen has-been taverns. An old-timer told me that reef-mining started on the Mount in 1891 and the same year they had banks, pubs, butchers, a main street, and a couple of thousand people. To-day they only have the main street; and the pot-holes exceed the population.

Local industry went bung in 1912, and the place is now a one-mulberry-tree town, with more empty tins lying around that we have seen in any settlement.

Nearby are two large dams, full of water, where gold was formerly sluiced; also throats, when credit was scarce at the hostelries.

We cut through the bush to the cemetery, a mile away. It is well hidden and surrounded by trees. What a miserable time the ghosts would have trying to return and haunt the fourteen pubs! White box-trees surrounding the cemetery were covered with patches of mistletoes, and there was plenty of rosemary for remembrance, yet the graves seem forsaken. A pastoral pest, called bush-mountain cane was growing wild. Beneath a tall pine-tree the rosemary was four feet high, and the Scot wistfully garnered a sprig from the most lonely burial place, I have ever seen.

Susan Elliott, who left us for a better home on 12 May 1898 aged 17.

Gone but not forgotten

We sighed for Susan; because seventeen is too sweet for death; then continuing along the mountain, came to an elevation called Abercrombie Look Out. Johnny Vane and Mick Burke, both of whom were eventually to join Ben Hall’s gang, camped here with two others on the night before their first big job of cattle duffing. Vane, who was born at Jerry’s Plains, in 1842, seems to have been (in his youth, at any rate) diligent and inoffensive, yet he lived to receive a sentence of fifteen years’ jail, after having surrendered to a priest.

The Abercrombie River, mingling with the Lachlan beneath us, was discovered by Charles Throsby, in May 1819, on an overland trip from Bathurst to Paddy’s River. The valley, which resembles an amphitheatre with ranges of hills on three sides, and on the fourth stretching away into space, will shortly be submerged by the banking of the Lachlan River at Wyangala Dam. This work of construction was going on about six miles down-stream from where we stood, but could not be seen owing to a hill obscuring the view. There were several homesteads in the valley. Those that will be inundated have been resumed by the government. ……….

We retraced our steps to the mount, and continued the journey to Wyangala, a one-dam galvanized-iron town. A settler named Green had his home where the town now stands; and on this land there is now a hunk of concrete worth over a million pounds, with eleven feet of water banked up against it. …….

Darby’s Falls has a sub-station, carrying live electricity from Burrinjuck Dam to Wyangala. When it gets to Darby’s Falls it is 66,000 volts, but they break it down to 11,000 volts for Wyangala and the same voltage for Cowra.

“Breaking down” sounds like a pub, doesn’t it? But there ain’t no such animal at Darby’s. There is a spring instead, which I thought just as good.