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Miranda's Bedroom and Searching for C. J. Dennis.

Road Trip Day 2: 24th May 2007

Rose and I didn't make it to Broken Hill today as planned due to the elusive nature of author, C. J. Dennis or, more correctly, a statue dedicated to the famous Australian Author.

Rose had seen a picture of the statue in one of our travel brochures and wanted to find it for a photo opportunity (having previously snapped a picture of herself with a statue of Australian author, Colin Thiele, on a trip to Eudunda). You would think Auburn, being the birthplace of C. J. Dennis, would be the location of the statue but no.

Auburn has a replica statue of the former Auburn Hotel (since demolished) where C. J. was born but not the statue we were looking for. We did enquire at the local internet cafe/tourist info centre and bike hire shop but the owner there couldn't tell us where the statue we were looking for was.

The brochures we had said that C. J. had spent much of his youth in the township of Mintaro, just north of Auburn. Perhaps the statue was there?

Mintaro is the location of Martindale Hall, the authentic 19th century Georgian mansion, used as the 'Boarding School for Young Ladies' in the Peter Weir film 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'.

Our visit to the hall was certainly worth while even though you are pretty much left to your own devices in wandering around the rooms of this very impressive home. It is a real look back in time at how extravagant some members of Australian society lived in the later part of the nineteenth century. Originally built as a home for entertainment and sporting activities for 21 year old sheep farmer, Edmund Bowman Jnr, later it was sold to the Mortlock family and is still in nearly original condition.

The home was staffed by one butler and 13 female servants and was designed so that the servants could move around the rear section of the building (on both floors) without intruding too much on the front rooms where the occupants lived.

Whilst it was mainly the exterior of the building and the grounds that featured in the movie 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', one bedroom, known as 'The White Room' was also used as Miranda's Bedroom. Miranda being the lead character of the film and one of the school girls who vanishes mysteriously. [Note: After writing this post I watched a DVD Rose purchased of the film and discovered considerably more of the interior is featured however the home's own brochures only make a note of this one room appearing in the movie.]

If you're holidaying in the region it is worth knowing that you can actually stay as a guest at Martindale. All the bedrooms are still used (though fortunately there is modern bathroom and toilet facilities, noting that this home was built at a time when servants used to empty the commodes). As well, the hall hosts special 'Murder Mystery' weeks, 'Incident at Martindale', a role playing game for 10-12 players. Everyone plays a character from the past and the game is played as part of your stay in the grounds.

Unfortunately, C. J. had nothing to do with Martindale so, no statue. Rose and I headed back to the Mintaro township and drove up and down the main street looking for parks that may be ideal for a statue. Nothing. Not even in the Timandra gardens, a 'must see' European style garden that was very nice but no C.J. statue.

We asked the garden tour guide at Timandra if she had any idea as to the location of the statue? She did try to direct us to a statue that she knew of (though she didn't know what it was of). Somewhere along the way we kind of lost track of her directions so we gave up headed off to the town of Clare. Another place we wanted to see.

I thought that was the end of our search for C. J. but a brief stop at the Clare Valley information centre turned up a lead. One of the staff said she knew of the exact statue in the brochure and told us it was located in the town of Laura (another place where C. J. had lived). Odd considering the picture of the statue in the brochure was alongside text talking about Auburn and Mintaro?

Laura was a little too far off track on our way to Broken Hill so we decided to visit the statue on the way back, on our way to the town of Whyalla (our other major stop before heading to Perth).

By the time we got into Clare it was getting quite late in the afternoon and obvious we couldn't make Broken Hill before dark. Over a late lunch at a local cafe we decided to drive as far as the town of Burra and spend the night there.

Approximately 54 kilometres and a fairly scenic drive later we arrived in Burra at 3:50pm. I've been to Burra before on a research trip to the Burra Regional art gallery. We knew the gallery shut at 4pm but managed to have a quick look around as other people were still doing the same. I was a little disappointed that the main exhibition was quilts. Not because they weren't great quilts but because quilts isn't really a creative medium that I've ever wanted to try. Hard to be inspired by something that is outside your creative interests.

Before checking in to the Burra Motor Inn we drove up to the Township and Burra Mine look outs for a quick photo session of the sun setting on the open mine walls.

Tomorrow we will definitely be gunning for Broken Hill. There's not much to see between here and there so hopefully we won't get distracted.

The search for C. J. will continue another day, however, whilst in the motel tonight, I looked up the town of Laura in another brochure we had. Guess who's photo is on the page? If you thought C. J. then you're correct. Not only is his picture on the page but the picture is a picture of the very same statue we were looking for with the caption, 'CJ Dennis Statue, Laura'.

At least we're certain that we know where C. J. is.

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