The Day We Went to Bunnamagoo© Keri Webb
The day we went to Bunnamagoo was forecast to be a stinker - a genuine, east coast, January stinker with high humidity, high temperatures, and over the mountains worse to come. Up with the birds, we’d made an early start - Ian and Jenny in their four-wheel drive, John, Dorothy and I, in the air-conditioned Honda - and there in the pregnant cool of early morning nothing could dampen our enthusiasm.
Our plan was a simple one, to follow the tracks of Sarah and James.
The first I’d heard of Sarah and James was the day my Aunt gave me the brooch. Sarah and James, she said, were her father’s grandparents, and on the day that they married, they had gone by coach to Rockley. There was not much more she could tell me, but Rockley, she thought, was west of the Blue Mountains, somewhere out of Bathurst. As to what was at Rockley, or why they went there, she had no idea.
Now these new great-great-grandparents captured my imagination right off. Maybe because we grew up with not much sense of family - no cousins, and just the two grandmothers who would no more talk about themselves than fly – but whatever the reason, I was hooked. I simply had to find out more about Sarah and James. Who were they? What was at Rockley?
So that is what this day was all about.
Giving me the brooch had clearly been something of “an occasion” for my fragile, white-haired Aunt. Under the light of the lamp on the small table beside her cherry velvet armchair, she had carefully positioned a dainty red and gold embossed box. Opening it gingerly, almost as if she might find something unexpected inside, slowly she peeled back a layer of yellowed tissue.
“Soon after Sarah arrived at her new home out there at Rockley,” my Aunt told the story, “she found a gold nugget on their property. James, her husband, then had it made into a brooch for her. This, my dear,” she announced gravely, “is that brooch. Your great-great-grandmother Sarah’s Brooch. You see the writing on it? And it’s been passed down from one generation to the next - Sarah Pye bequeathed it to her daughter, who gave it to my mother; then my mother gave it to me. And now it belongs to you.”
The brooch was unlike anything I’d ever seen. But not just quaint, or unusual, there was something else about it; something that reminded me of one of those old houses I might see on a late afternoon walk – one of those old houses that seems to hide a secret, seems to draw you, to whisper, “Come close and listen well, there’s a story I can tell… “. Something you can almost feel.
So right from the beginning, this brooch seemed to have a story to tell.
Back home in Perth from visiting my Aunt, I’d checked the map, and there it was - south of Bathurst, at the junction of five roads, a town called Rockley. On today’s roads, no more than four hours from Sydney I’d guessed. Due to fly to Sydney again in the next few days, my schedule had no time to spare, but I’d have to get to Rockley somehow.
That night I phoned my east coast brothers, Ian and John. We planned a visit to Rockley. In the pit of my stomach, a gnawing feeling.
Restless night, and early morning saw the detective in me up searching through all my old documents again: birth certificates, funeral notices, photos, pages from old family Bibles, endless notes and newspaper cuttings themselves becoming pickled with age - in and out these many nooks and crannies so often now, that surely they had yielded up their every secret.
But there was one I hadn’t remembered seeing before - “Sarah… late of Burramagoo… 1914″ said the barely legible death notice squeezed in under yet another photocopy. Could this be my ‘Sarah of the Brooch’? Could ‘Burramagoo’ have something to do with Rockley?
“Has anyone heard of Burramagoo?” was my last-ditch query on the internet the night before my plane to Sydney.
“Perhaps you mean Bunnamagoo.” The reply came promptly. “Bunnamagoo was one of the first pastoral land grants in the Rockley area out of Bathurst… some of the first grazing land to be opened up after Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth discovered their way over the Blue Mountains… Lawson’s land grant also… .” Greedily I made a print, grabbed my bag, and boarded the airport taxi.
My mind awhirl, rigorous evidence this was not, but “Breathes there a man with soul so dead…”? Could not this Bunnamagoo have once been home and hearth to our Sarah who found the gold nugget? My heart galloped ahead of the facts. After all this time, could some part of their old home be left still standing? Maybe there would be something, just something to show where they both once lived, had children, raised their family - even if it’s only small, part of some old stone wall perhaps, or even just an old tin shed.