I arrived at Wangaratta at lunch time and popped into the tourist information office to ask what the must see attraction was in the town. The first thing I noticed was a large statue of Ned Kelly, the famous bushranger, and then a friendly lady appeared behind the counter.
The lady advised that gardens and vineyards are their top attractions but I could not really enjoy a vineyard whilst driving and gardens really are not my thing. She then suggested I take a trip to the graveyard instead, so off I went out the door and past many many shoppers going about their business. Wangaratta is a thriving town, quite unlike any other country town I have witnessed. I did not notice any boarded up shops (which are becoming quite noticeable in many towns) but I did notice a constant throng of people reminiscent with Christmas shopping, only its March!
Now, most Australians know that Tamworth is the town for country music but I wonder if they also know Wangaratta is home to Jazz, and in particular the annual Wangaratta Festival of Jazz which has been attended by thousands each year since 1990? This fact was mentioned on the town sign as I drove out of town to the cemetery but was the only clue I noticed to this fact.
The Wangaratta cemetery occupies a large area to the southern part of the town and I was there to seek out a grave and had the map showing it’s location. Unfortunately the orientation of the map required me to know the names of the roads boarding the cemetery which I did not know, so noticing the grave I was after was near a corner, I systematically inspected corner graves noticing the approximate dates of burial. I was seeking one dating back to 1865 and then I found it.
In a far corner, next to a row of chinese grave stones is a large stone with a brass plaque mounted giving the story of the person who’s remains lay buried below – a bushranger known as Mad Dog Morgan. Morgan committed a number of robberies, typically of coaches and pastoral stations. However he met his match when he robbed a homestead north of Wangaratta resulting in him being shot from behind. Morgan died 1.45 p.m. on 9 April 1865 and was buried on 14 April. Before he was interred at Wangaratta, his head was severed, to be forwarded to the professor of anatomy at the University of Melbourne. I am unsure if Morgans head is or is not in his grave or if any headless horsemen are reported wandering the area.
After my graveyard inspection I carried on about 12km to Glenrowan, the scene of the Ned Kelly’s final showdown and home to the BIG Ned Kelly!