Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Legends Sealed in Granite

View from one of the many caves.

As we walked amongst the granite outcrops and explored the caves at Kooyoora State Park, I couldn't help but wish that the stones could talk.   I wanted to put my ear against the cool granite and hear the echo of the past.  I wanted descriptions of how the forces of mother nature had etched the land over time.  I wanted stories about the activities and behaviors of the Jaara Jarra Aboriginal people that once called the area home.  I wanted to learn about the native flora and fauna.  But most important I wanted to know where Captain Melville hid the five billycans of gold dust.
Frank McCallum--alias Captain Melville--was born in Scotland in 1823.  At the ripe age of 12 he was convicted of theft, and three years later he was sent to Van Diemen's Land (the original name used by the Europeans for the Island of Tasmania), where he spent 10 years in the main penitentiary.  He "earned" his freedom in 1851, the same time that gold was discovered in Victoria.  He headed for Melbourne in search of fortune.  However, his approach to the gold rush quickly evolved from pick and shovel to gun.  After all it was much easier to point a gun, than to dig for gold.
For several years Captain Melville was a successful and notorious bushranger on the roads between Melbourne and Ballarat.  These roads passed near the present day  Kooyoora State Park.  According to local legend several of the caves in the park were where McCallum hid himself and his horse as he waited for unsuspecting victims and/or the law.  It is also believed that this is where he hid his stolen treasures.
On Christmas Eve 1852, Capain Melville ran out of luck; he was arrested in Geelong and sentenced to over 30 years in prison for highway robbery.
In 1856 he was involved in an attempted escape and murder of a guard.  He was sentenced to death but reprieved.  On August 10th 1857, he was found hung in his cell in the Old Melbourne Gaol.  His death and lost loot remain an unsolved mystery.


  1. Hi Maya, wonderful post and a very interesting story about Capt. Melville. Wow, if only those granite stones could talk. That's a great photo.

    Thanks so much for the interesting read this morning. Have a great day.

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  3. The intersections between Australian and American history viz the gold rush are astounding. Lovely post.

  4. I sure like this story and it would be interesting to hear the stones tell their story.
    Have a good day.