SOCIAL AND HISTORICAL LANDMARK
OF THE UPPER YARRA
By J. E. Pyke
You would have seen bearded dig-
gers in the fire dance and callow youths, men from most countries of the earth and soil-born Aus-tralian cattle men down from the ranges; bronzed timber men and careless easy-
going bushwalkers who could turn their hands to anything.
Girls would be there too, capable coun-try girls, their natural rosiness enhanced with the dance. Perhaps a phantom coach would draw up with a party of bygone "town" visitors to join the fiery revelry as they would join anything that was going - men and women from all
stations of life.
But the two jolliest ghosts would be Paddy McVeigh - who would send sparks whirling with an Irish jig - and his good wife for they were the life and soul of
"McVeighs" - as it was known to hun-dreds of tourists - was situated in a secluded valley at the junction of Walsh's
Creek and the Upper Yarra 20 miles be-
yond Warburton. The hotel was the high-
est inhabited house on the Yarra for there were no buildings and there was indeed no vehicle road be tween it and the source of the stream in the wild Baw Baw country.
To this remote spot went Paddy McVeigh and his hard working wife in the last century to establish the Upper Yarra Hotel. There was not even a road at the time - only a bridle track. The pioneering couple recognised that if they did not have much custom at first they would supply a great need for there were many prospectors in the ranges. Material for the house was packed on horses.
When the road was made a few
years later it ran past the McVeighs wide verandah and leaving the Yarra valley
continued over the ranges to Woods Point linking the shortest route from Mel bourne to the prosperous mining centre. There followed a stream of traffic to and from the diggings in that mountainous area and many an uproarious night was spent in the old wooden hotel. One night. at the time of a rush there were no fewer than 300 diggers camped on the flat in front of the hotel, all on their way to the "find". They were gone the next morning. Later many of them camped there on the way back but they were in twos and threes and their passing took many nights.
The Golden Trail
Mines near McVeighs were the Golden Bower, on a tributary of Walsh's Creek (where working was recently revived) and the Contention mine seven miles up the Yarra. The machinery for the Conten-tion, including a quartz battery was low
ered down the mountain side fiom a point on the Woods Point road and dragged to its destination by horses. The bridle track from McVeigh's to the mine is now familiar to tourists. It is part of the popular Warburton-Walhalla Track, be loved of hikers. All the streams and gullies in the district have been well worked for gold. The angler of to-day must be wary of old time water races.
If you believe the old Scandi-
navian legend thal the spirits of former occupants return to dance round a burning house, you could have imagined a motley assortment of phan-
toms among the flames which consumed McVeigh's Hotel at Walsh's Creek, beyond Warburton, in the early hours
of May 23.
McVeigh's Upper Yarra Hotel.
shafts and cuts that remain, half-hidden
in the scrub.
The golden days waned. Interest in McVeigh's changed to a milder but still an exciting and elusive pursuit - trout fishing. Early In the century the place was
"discovered" by anglers. Even at that time the Upper Yarra was well stocked with trout and the native blackfish were numerous and heavy. City folk liked the place, too, and found that a sojourn in that pleasant valley was a source of happy memories. Mrs. McVeigh and her attractive daughters catered for their guests in the real old Australian way.
Paddy was a typical Irish landlord of the old school. Genial, witty and generous,
he was the friend of all. Hungry
and thirsty wayfarers, without the "where
withal" had no need to pass McVeigh's.
Though Paddy was never known to have
gone fishing, he took a keen interest in
the fishermen who, in his later days, went to stay at the establishment. They were wise if they did not take on their host
at quoits for "the boss" had developed
a great deal of skill at just missing the
peg - until there was "something on" the
The hotel achieved wide advertisement
when a photograph taken in the bar was used by a brewery for a poster. This de-
picted a bearded labourer lovingly holding a mug of his favouite brew, with the
caption "I allus 'as one at eleven". Old
Sam, the subject of the photograph was for some years the gardener at McVeigh's and he always did have one at eleven so
the caption was just as true as the pict-ure. But he had others at other times too; which enabled his employer to pay his wages, "a pound a week and found" with the same banknote each week for more than a year. Paddy always got it back before the following Saturday, and kept it carefully away from other notes in the till. He said that Sam had taken a fancy to it.
For many years McVeigh's boasted a newspaper - the "Walshs Creek Ex-citer". This was produced at odd inter vals for circulation among visitors and residents. Like Fawkner's famous paper,
the first number was handwritten; but later it achieved greater dignity. It had several editors, more than one of whom had shone in far wider fields of Journa-lism and literature. Fishermen should appreciate the following gems of wisdom from its pages - "There's many a snag twixt the fish and the bag"; "A rolling stone frightens the fish', "Early to bed
and early to rise, is the one way to dodge
the mosquitoes and flies". Many tales strange and otherwise - could be told of fishing adventures at McVeigh's, but their full flavour can be transmitted only
Death of Mrs. McVeigh
Mrs. McVeigh died shortly after the war, and her husband did not survive her many years. Since then the place has had many vicissitudes, and to those
who knew it in 'the good old days',
(really good in this case) the place was never the same. Out of the ashes of the old building, no doubt, a new one will arise. But it will not be like the house that McVeigh built. None of the aura of the past will cling to it. It will belong to the modern age that has reduced a day's journey from the city to one of a little more than two hours.
Let these verses from the "Walsh's Creek Exciter" serve as an epitaph:-
"Who'er has travelled life's dull round,
Whe'er his footsteps might have been, May sigh to think he still has found
His warmest welcome at an inn." Who'er from cities' hush and din,
From flattery and falsehood flees, Will search in vain to find an inn
That is more welcome than McVeigh's. And when old Time's remorseless will Has made it but a memory,
Whoever knew will sigh for still
The inn kept warm by old McVeigh.