Bleak and aban­doned... the Aussie vil­lage with a fa­mil­iar name

Llanelli Star - - FRONT PAGE - Bethan Thomas [email protected]­

AS Rob James was walk­ing through a ceme­tery look­ing at head­stones of those buried there, he no­ticed some fa­mil­iar fam­ily names.

En­graved on the tomb­stones were dis­tinct Welsh names such as Evans, Wil­liams and Thomas.

But it wasn’t through the ru­ral Welsh coun­try­side that Rob was walk­ing but, rather, the derelict and aban­doned vil­lage of a sec­ond Llanelly, two hours out­side of Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia.

“I’ve lived in Aus­tralia for 12 years and was just mooching around on Google Maps one day, look­ing for some­where to go on a day trip.” said Rob.

“I was look­ing around the Bendigo area and saw Llanelly. I thought that ei­ther some­one was tak

There is hardly any­thing there now, just an aban­doned bank, a hand­ful of houses and a ceme­tery full of Thomases, Evanses, and Wil­liamses

Rob James

ing the mick or that Google had re­ally messed up their maps.

“But I thought, how can I not go there? Llanelli in the mid­dle of Aus­tralia?” added the 41-year-old, who is from the orig­i­nal Llanelli.

Si­t­u­ated in the cen­tre of Vic­to­ria, the small vil­lage’s close neigh­bours in­clude the gold-laden cities of Bendigo and Ballarat.

The dis­cov­ery of gold in these cities in the 1850s caused the area to re­ceive an in­flux of mi­grants from all around the world, in­clud­ing Wales.

Welsh min­ers that had flocked to the area in search of riches, found sev­eral gold-loaded reefs in the re­gion and ul­ti­mately es­tab­lished a vil­lage in 1860, giv­ing it the name Llanelly after their home town.

Dur­ing its hey­day, the area pros­pered with an ar­ray of ho­tels, banks, schools and shops open­ing and in 1865 there was a pop­u­la­tion of around 20,000 res­i­dents.

But the con­tin­u­ous de­cline in gold dur­ing the 1880s caused res­i­dents to move from the area and ul­ti­mately led to its demise, leav­ing the bar­ren Llanelly that Rob re­cently walked through.

“There is hardly any­thing there now, just an aban­doned bank, a hand­ful of houses and a ceme­tery full of Thomases, Evanses, and Wil­liamses.

“I spoke to a chap who knew about the gold min­ers and the fact that the town just died when the gold ran out. He wasn’t aware about the orig­i­nal Llanelli at all,” said Rob about his visit.

Rob stated that “they pro­nounce it with a sin­gle ‘L’, as in L-an-el-y.

“The Aus­tralian man I spoke with had a go at the real pro­nun­ci­a­tion – but like many non-Welsh peo­ple, com­pletely man­gled it.”

To­day, not much re­mains of the small Aus­tralian vil­lage ex­cept the parched yel­low fields sur­round­ing it and the idle, rusty train tracks that lead to nowhere.

But the area’s aban­doned build­ings and dis­coloured road signs act as mem­o­ries of a com­mu­nity that es­tab­lished a vil­lage in Aus­tralia while pay­ing homage to their Welsh home town.

Llanelli-born Rob James on his re­cent visit to Llanelly, Aus­tralia.

Signs for Llanelly in Vic­to­ria, Aus­tralia.

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