Saturday, June 6, 2020

Gundagai: The story of The Dog on the Tuckerbox

Dog on the Tuckerbox, Gundagai (c) Roderick Eime


Explorers; Hume and Hovell, passed through the region around Gundagai, ancient home of the Wiradjuri people, in November 1824 and by the time Charles Sturt's party crossed the Murrumbidgee River in 1829, pioneering settlers had begun to establish themselves. In 1838 the original township of Gundagai was gazetted and expanded on the floodplain under the old road and railways bridges. A decision that would later prove fateful.

The story of The Dog on the Tuckerbox, is a part of Australia's early folklore. Its origins lie firmly with those early pioneers who forged their way into the Australian bush. In the early days the area was serviced by huge wagons hauled by teams of sturdy bullocks. With rough tracks, river crossings, floods and extreme weather, many bullock teams became stranded or bogged. Often, on such occasions, the bullocky's dog would sit guarding its master's tuckerbox and possessions while he was away seeking help.

Bullock wagons at work


The legend of The Dog on the Tuckerbox captured the imagination of Australians throughout the colony. Spread by word of mouth, several versions of the story evolved over time, changing to suit the audience. The story was further embellished in later versions, with the bullocky having died and the dog pining away on the tuckerbox, awaiting its master's return. Bullockies meeting at camp sites and crossings (such as Muttama Creek near Gundagai) often sat around the fire in the evening sharing these stories, poems and songs.  penned his version of the story in a poem in 1857, but the verse was amended some time later by Jack Moses. Finally the legend was immortalised by Jack O'Hagan in 1937 in his popular song 'Where the Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox'.

Why a Monument ?

On 29th July 1932, a public meeting was held in Gundagai to discuss the 'Back to Gundagai' celebrations. The idea of a monument to the pioneers, in the form of The Dog on the Tuckerbox at the Nine Mile Creek, was decided upon. Frank Rusconi was elected as the chair of The Pioneers Monument Committee (having earlier suggested the idea in 1928).

“A monument should be erected at the Nine Mile Peg, dedicated to the pioneers and bullockies, who made the highway of to-day possible [sic], and there should be an unveiling ceremony during Back to Gundagai Week.” Monies from the wishing well at the base of the monument are still donated to the Gundagai Hospital Auxiliary.

The dog section of the monument was cast in bronze by Oliver's Foundry, Sydney and its base sculpted by Gundagai stonemason, Frank Rusconi. It was unveiled by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Joseph Lyons, on 28 November 1932, with more than 3000 people in attendance.

For more information on visiting Gundagai, see the website: www.visitgundagai.com.au/


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