Welcome to Wollombi, NSW.
After what turned out to be a very convoluted route, which my husband has called “driving to Wollombi via Darwin”, the little red car and I pulled into Wollombi and I did the rest on foot.
In case you haven’t read the preamble, I’d driven to Wollombi to see historic St Michael’s Church of the Archangel, and also to steep myself in Wollombi’s historic ambiance. It was no exaggeration to say that arriving in Wollombi, felt like stepping out of a time capsule into the 19th Century and I loved that. Love, loved, loved it. It’s so good that some places have in a sense been by-passed, fallen asleep and been spared from the crappinization process. That’s what we loved about so much of Tasmania and it was great to find that so close to home.
Obviously, Wollombi isn’t a huge metropolis. So, you won’t be surprised that I spotted the Church straight away, but it did feel a bit funny to actually see it in person for the first time, and it was much smaller than expected. Wondered how you could fit both sides of a good Catholic family inside back in the days before TV. I guess they were probably used to squishing in.
On 1st April, 1891, my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Ann Lynch from Glendon Grove, Wollombi at St Michael’s. This press excerpt provides a great impression of their special day and I can just hear those bells ringing out:
“On Tuesday last our little town, usually so dull and quiet, was the scene of much excitement, and that eventful day will long be remembered as a red-letter day in the annals of our history. At the early hour of eight o’clock the tolling of the bell at St. Michael’s Church announced that some ceremonies of a very rare occurrence were about to take place there, and immediately crowds of spectators could be seen wending their way to it. Half an hour later two brides (sisters), the Misses Lynch, of Glendon Grove, were standing before the hymeneal altar in the above-mentioned place. The elder, Miss Jane Lynch, who for some years has been residing near West Maitland, was united in the bonds of matrimony to Mr. William Gardiner, a resident of West Maitland, and afterwards her sister, Miss Agnes Lynch, was joined to Mr. Joseph Tripp, of Aberdeen. Each was assisted by two bridesmaids, the former by her sister and niece, Miss Teresa Lynch and Miss Bourke, and the latter by Míss Tripp and Miss Katie Bourke. The Rev. Father Flanagan, who came here the previous evening from Cessnock, performed both ceremonies, and afterwards celebrated Mass, during which the choir, of which Miss Agnes Lynch was a prominent and efficient member, sang some beautiful selections, and as the long procession was leaving the church, Miss M. Kenny played the Wedding March with great effect. On the previous evening the ladies of the Altar Society, as a last tribute of respect to one of their members, decorated with artistic skill the church and altar the walls being hung with magnificent wreaths and festoons. At ten o’clock a start was made for the brides’ residence, and as tho long train o£ buggies passed through the streets the firing of guns and ringing of bells could be heard in every direction.” Tuesday 7th April 1891The Maitland Advertiser & Hunter River Advertiser pg 7.
Next to the Church, I spotted an intriguing looking building called: “The Forge” and I couldn’t quite make out whether it was a home or a shop. There was a mannequin tied up to a telegraph pole out the front and I’m not sure whether she was waiting for a bus, a ghost or an alien landing, but she’d definitely been heading somewhere before she’d been detained. Macca, the Proprietor, invited me in, even though it was closed and let me take photos, which I really appreciated as this place really felt like home to me. Perhaps, I should be concerned about that, and book myself in with a shrink. However, I love maccabre and I love how random objects can be thrown together in a space, creating a licorice allsorts of possibilities in my head. It also reminded me of exploring under both my grandparents’ houses where things weren’t thrown out, but simply “retired’. What gave this place the edge over your garden-variety vintage store, was Macca’s artworks peering out inbetween old dolls and vintage mannekins a few Sunbeam Mixmasters, books and salvaged farm equipment. He’d also arranged things in intriguing combinations, which ranged from maccabre to down right hilarious.
Naturally, this place which seemed like a kind of “Mecca to Displaced Euphemora”, deserves its own post and so I’ll be back with more photos.
Meanwhile, I’m heading off to the cemetery. William Henry Gardiner wasn’t buried here, but Jane Lynch’s family is well-represented. I love exploring and photographing old cemeteries like this, especially capturing haunting shadows lurking on tombstones and the like. They get you thinking.
Anyway, I was delighted to spot this magpie sitting on top of a Celtic Cross, especially when it didn’t dive bomb me as I approached. It’s Spring here, and I’d already been warned about a dive-bombing magpie earlier on the trip and was on guard. I know I often overinflate the dangers of Australian wildlife, but these swopping magpies are beyond a joke.
I walked back to the car via the grocery store and old courthouse.
By now, it was approaching 5.00PM and impending darkness. It was a windy drive home through Wombat country and I needed to be alert. I was also concerned about having a possible encouter with a kangaroo. They come out and feed on dusk, and let’s just say they’re best avoided.
However, I popped into the local pub for an apple juice and toilet stop before leaving. I very rarely go into pubs and they’re not my scene. However, I really loved the country feel of this one, which felt very authentic and real. Names had been carved into the tables outside. Farm utes were parked out the front. I felt surprisingly relaxed and would’ve loved to stay for a yarn.
I am already planning my next trip and am even looking into camping there with friends. However, next time, no detours. It’s just a 70 minute drive “up the road”.