This is part of a series of articles by Gillian Johnston as she travels with AAT Kings.You can read the other articles: ‘The Puffing Billy Train‘, ‘A farm of a different kind at Kangaroo Island pairs nicely with the local wine‘, ‘The Australian War Memorial Tour‘, ‘A unique Tower Hill experience‘ and ‘Beenchworth — an historical town‘.
One of the very special historical sites to be seen 5 miles (8km) from Gundagai is ‘Dog on the Tuckerbox’ on the side of the road at Snake Gully.
As a monument to the pioneers, the dog sits on a tuckerbox in between some modern shops and some historical remains of the 5 mile overnight stop and wagon, relics of the era. The original statue had not always sat there as it was first erected 9 miles (14.5km) from Gundagai.
The second current statue was built of brass and sat on a stone base with an inscription that read “Earths self upholids this monument to conquerors who won her when wooing was dangerous, and now are gathered unto her again”. The statue had been unveiled by the then prime minister Joseph Lyons on November 28.
There had been an incident with a teamster named Bill the Bullocky in the 1850s when his wagon became bogged in a creek and he broke the yoke trying to get it out with the bullocks. With his luck down he went to have lunch and found the dog sitting on his tuckerbox.
The other bullockies though the incident very funny and one, Jack Moses wrote a poem in the early 1920s, which was the inspiration for the statue. Interestingly it was easy to gather from the tone of the poem that some of the words had been changed, for example the word “sat” was changed from “shat” and “five miles” was changed to “nine miles”, possibly because it happened in Nine Mile Creek.
As I was coming down Conroy’s Gap,
I heard a maiden cry;
There goes Bill the Bullocky,
He’s bound for Gundagai.
A better poor old beggar
Never earnt an honest crust,
A better poor old beggar
Never drug a whip through dust.
His team got bogged at the nine mile creek,
Bill lashed and swore and cried;
If Nobby don’t get me out of this,
I’ll tattoo his bloody hide.
But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader’s eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai.
There has been some argument as to whether the dog sat 9 miles from Gundagai or 5 miles from Gundagai. First, it was erected in 1926 and looked like it was on a pole. The statue moved to its current position in 1932 when the local community got together and had the dog cast in bronze by Olivers Foundary with the stonemason work for the base of the statue done by Frank Rusconi. In the middle of the little park just a few meters from the dog is one of the old wagons that was used at the time. Showing some wear it is still in reasonable condition.
You can also see the ruins of the Limestone Inn, which had been opened by the Carberry family in 1858.
The inn was rather large with 12 rooms however, today very little is visible other than the old fireplace and a few stones around the edges of a room. It attracted a lot of passers by from Sydney and Melbourne and a local crowd came to hear Mrs Carberry play the piano.
The name of the inn was later changed to The Australian Arms after being held up by a bushranger named ‘Jack in the Boots’ in April 1861. After a succession of other licencees it became the Squatters Arms from 1865 and finally closed in 1876.
In total contrast on the other side of the dog stood a group of shops, the closest being a souvenir shop that was not open. There were numerous food shops including a diner and Subway.
This area is really a half way toilet stop or dinner stop for people travelling between Sydney and Melbourne and we did just that with our AAT Kings tour, although we did spend quite some time examining the history and taking photos of the famous statue of the dog.
The words to the song will live on as the tourists come and go past the Dog that sat on the Tuckerbox.
The historical relics of the inn and the wagon add to the character of the area.
Although the history is often clouded, the statue of the dog and its history remind people passing on the busy highway of the Australian era of pioneers who are being remembered and honoured.