Bushrangers, lost gold, camp ovens
The inaugural Mad Dog Morgan Lost Gold Festival will coincide with a Camp Oven Challenge at Pine Plains Lodge to create an ‘unforgettable’ June long weekend in Patchewollock.
The festival, on June 9, will start with a 26-kilometre walk through Wyperfeld National Park, following the route ‘Mad Dog Morgan’ took while hiding out from the law in 1862.
Mad Dog Morgan was a bushranger who put fear into both police and squatters due to his wild mood swings and hatred of authority.
His penchant for violence and bushranging caught up with him and he was sentenced to 12 years’ jail. He was surprisingly released early in 1859 for good behaviour.
When released his failure to make his fortune in gold fossicking led him back into crime as a bushranger.
After robbing a Cobb and Co coach near Dimboola that was taking gold from Ballarat to Adelaide, he decided to lay low in the area surrounding Lake Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya due to the abundant food source and lack of traps.
On the east shores of Lake Albacutya nestled Albacutya Station, run by the O’sullivan family. It was here Mad Dog overheard a conversation about the isolated Pine Plains station.
Mad Dog must have liked what he heard and decided this was the perfect hideaway, so after demanding Mrs O’sullivan cook him a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, he promptly stole six fresh horses and seven chooks, loaded the gold onto the horses and headed up Outlet Creek to camp at Pine Plains for two months until the heat was gone.
The station’s buildings, including the kitchen where Mad Dog ate breakfast, are on display at a Jeparit museum.
The young O’sullivan family members can remember being shown his campsite in the 300acre buloke swamp at Pine Plains, where bottles from the era were found. They have not been able to locate the exact area since and the large amount of gold he was carrying in his saddle bags has never been recovered. It is assumed it is still where he hid it at Pine Plains.
Festival coordinator Michael Robertson said the walk was not to commemorate the sadistic murderer that Mad Dog was, but to experience the beauty of the Outlet Creek trail and maybe find the missing gold.
The walk and festival will also be used as a vehicle to promote mental health in isolated rural areas.
The Mad Dog Morgan Lost Gold Festival kicks off at Patchewollock Pub from 6pm, with a bushranger-themed evening including live music and prizes for competitions including the best Mad Dog look-alike.
The traditional Camp Oven Challenge at Pine Plains Lodge will follow on Sunday.
Registration is at 9am with a variety of activities throughout the day.
For more information people can call Bryce at the Patchewollock Pub, Trish at the Eureka Hotel in Rainbow or visit the Mad Dog Morgan Lost Gold Festival Facebook page.