Journalist nears end of long journey

Malcolm Brown just south of Wellington yesterday morning. Photo WELLINGTON TIMES
Malcolm Brown just south of Wellington yesterday morning. Photo WELLINGTON TIMES

I AM now on the Mitchell Highway between Molong and Wellington, in blistering conditions, with the beautiful Bell River reduced to a series of puddles.

The shimmering horizons have their own beauty, great fawny expanses dotted with box gums rising and ending starkly against a cloudless sky - the sort of scenery that great artists such as McCubbin, Streeton and Roberts were inspired by. And there are millions more panoramas yet to be painted.

The further I am from Sydney, the friendlier everyone has become. A couple had me in their farmhouse for lunch. Terry Jones, former editor of The Area News in Griffith, stopped for a chat, a lemonade and recollections of the Don Mackay case.

Kevin Howell, an engineer with Cabonne Shire, walked with me for a while and thought aloud about what he might do when he retires next month. A woman passing in a car gave me $8.50 in change for the Sydney Children's Hospital Westmead, and Alex Dalziel gave me a cool drink and $10 for the same institution.

Molong was established in the early 1820s as a staging point for men, stock and equipment being taken to the convict settlement at Wellington. Molong became an important Cobb & Co staging post and the company's coach house is still there. In 1830, the Bathurst to Wellington Mail made history when it became the first mail in Australia to be held up by bushrangers.

On Saturday I stayed in Molong, where Des Sullivan, 57 years a shearing contractor and president of the Molong Historical Society, showed me the other side of the Fairbridge Farm School story.

Opened in 1937 and closed in 1973, the school put through 1200 British migrant children and the vast majority profited by it, despite hard work and harsh discipline, though there were abuses.

Last year, Ron Sinclair, a retired academic, published an article in the Central Western Daily describing "a fortunate life at Fairbridge".

I've now gone past Larras Lee, another Cobb & Co coach stop and the original coach tracks can still be seen in parts of the district.

This area was settled by a First Fleeter, William Lee, the first man to take sheep across the Blue Mountains.

I am travelling well, though my spare shoes which I mailed to Molong in advance did not arrive and size 14s are hard to come by in the country. So my present shoes, badly worn, must serve on the road which goes on and on.


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