Extracts from an Australian Holiday
In the Tracks of Burke and Wills
||5. Dig Tree||6. Coopers Creek|
The Burke and Wills Monument in Melbourne
This monument commemorates the Victorian Exploratory Expedition's disasterous attempt to cross Australia from south to north. The Expedition commanded by Robert O'Hara Burke, left Melbourne in August 1860. At Coopers Creek, Burke took William Wills, Charles Gray and John King on a 'dash into the interior (to) cross the continent'. They reached the Gulf of Carpentaria in February 1861, but only King survived the return journey by virtue of assistance from Aborigines. This was Melbournes first public monument to Victoria's first heroes, and the first major sculpure conceived and entirely executed in Australia. It was originally erected at the intersection of Collins and Russell Streets in 1865
I am Mike WILLS, and am the fourth cousin, four times removed of William John WILLS who died at Coopers Creek in 1861. With my wife and second cousin William WILLS we visited Australia from England between 23rd April and 15th June 2002. Together with two Australian friends Rob and Robyn, we followed the route, within the limits of public roads, of the Burke and Wills Expedition from Melbourne to Birdsville. Much of the detailed planning was done by Rob without his help our achievements would have been considerably less.
Before proceeding over the main route of the expedition we visited Canberra to see the Burke and Wills Exhibition at the National Library. This was on tour around Australia during 2002 and included many of the artefacts normally in the Melbourne Library. The relatively few original items included some of William Johnís notebooks and exquisite drawings by Ludwig Becker. Additionally there were several extremely artistic impressions and paintings of the expedition that needed the guides interpretation and explanation.† I thought this a good and prestigious presentation that made one realise how little there is surviving of original items that were actually involved
During this holiday in Australia we also had the great pleasure in meeting for the first time some of our distant WILLS cousins from Taree, Sussex Inlet and Lake Bolac, whose g.g. grandfathers left Devon in the 1850s. Also other cousins descended from our WILLS female line, at Bairnsdale and Melbourne.