This is the view through the skylight in Melville’s Cave in the Kooyoora State Park in western Victoria.
Captain Melville was a notorious bushranger. He rates his own entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Born Francis McNeiss McNiel McCallum he was well known to police, as they say, back in Scotland where they finally sentenced him to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land for burglary at 15 years of age.
He arrived on 29 September 1838 and in October was placed at Port Arthur in the Point Puer institution for juvenile convicts. In 1839-48 he came before the police magistrate twenty-five times. In 1841 his sentence was extended by two years for felony in February and to life for burglary in July; in September he was sent to Port Arthur for five years. Recommended in 1846 for a year’s probation, he absconded and lived with the Aboriginals for a year. After recapture he was given nine months’ hard labour in chains, an experience repeated in January and August 1850.
Quite how he got to Victoria I don’t know but he arrived in the goldfields in about October 1851 posing as a gentleman and calling himself Captain Melville. Gold was attractive but wielding a pick and shovel wasn’t. He became a bushranger and eventually sufficiently notorious for a reward of £100 to be offered for his capture.
Our Francis boasted of this during a visit to a Geelong brothel and a lady turned him in. Astounding what a woman will do for money. Back to jail.
It was the old Melbourne jail this time where on 12 August 1857 a warder found him strangled by a red-spotted blue scarf. It was never determined if it was murder or suicide.
Plenty of gold came out of the Kooyoora district, Melville’s caves have a commanding view and are surrounded by dense bush, excellent habitat for a bushranger. Whether he spent time here or not though is open to debate. He is known to have made use of a cave on Mt. Arapiles further west.
I spent a little time in the park yesterday evening chasing the landscape. It has been dry and windy and there was a lot of dust in the atmosphere. I found myself on a granite tor up behind the Crystal Mine.
The dust haze is quite obvious. Late in the afternoon someone off to the east was lucky enough to see a drop of rain.
Over in the west there was a fair bit of cloud but the horizon was clear. The dust had detracted from the photography during the day but I hoped it would make up for it as the sun went down. Would the sky catch? Oh, yes.