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Croydon – Lonely Planet Guide Book Moment

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 9 May 2008 | Views [2181] | Comments [1]

Croydon, a little town with a beating heart of gold

(We entered Croydon with a recent 4000 kilometres under our belt)

I’m flicking through the brochures, finding more information, and nothing comes close to explaining the reality of entering into Croydon.

Its an historic town in the Savannah Gulf region. It’s a cattle town with a mining history. It celebrates the past and remembers the hardship of its inhabitants – whether Chinese, Indigenous, female, or white Non-Indigenous. It has a foot in the past, while stepping forward with the recent addition of Lake Belmore (perfect for swimming, picnicking, fishing, boating and bird watching) and the Gulflander Train over night stop over for the modern traveller.

And still, none of this really explains what goes on here.

Albert and I both felt it. Apart from restored buildings, apart from modern sign posts and prettily hedged areas it had character. We found ourselves lost and becoming involved with the stories we found in the town. The characters of Croydon.

And perfect for us, the town is sprinkled with a liberal dose of humour to take the sting out of the brutalities of the past.

Albert read about ‘Little Alfie’ and I read of Leonora Gregory. There are piles of readily available material for your perusing pleasure. Real stories. Real people. We were utterly caught and I am fantasizing about returning to explore further. Of course a day was not enough to satisfy our curiosity.

The foundation and structure for the modern interpretation of historic Croydon is laid at the door of Savannah Guide Chris Weirman His enduring love for his heritage and undying belief in upholding its worth has created Croydon as you now see it.  

Leonora Gregory

I have to share more about this amazing woman. In the late 1920’s she takes up the job of managing editor, chief sub-editor, lead writer, advertising manager, news editor, compositor, printer and publisher of the Gulf News (previously ‘The Croydon Mining News’)

She publishes her first newspaper on May 12, 1930.

Did I mention she had fallen under the spell of Croydon while on a leisure tour of the country at age 20?  The  memory of the  old press  'haunted' her.

The concrete steps leading to the old print house are still there. The house is not. Chris showed me a photo of the building, pointing out Leonora’s head as she bent over the printing press. I can’t help but see the stained ink hands, the moments of utter freedom and utter depression.

I spoke to the information centre about her, and they reminded me of the times.  The women ran the brewery, they ran the hotel. They were used to taking up leader roles out here. When I asked what the men were doing, they said they were in the mines, or out droving (or doing what ever it is cattle farmers do).

Little Alfie

Someone else was also caught by the characters of Croydon.  She found letters to someone called ‘Little Alfie’ in the local newspaper, dating back to the 1920’s. Intrigued, she prolonged her stay to research further into the history of the letters. She compiled the history of a small boy receiving letters from his school. Alfie was terminally ill in a hospital in Cairns. He passed away, but his story is alive and as poignant as ever.

Croydon holds the key to this story and much more. It tells of a town dwindling to the appearance of a ghost town in the 1950’s.  Its heart is still beating, and now boasts a population of 300, with visitors in the thousands each ‘dry’.

Was it that good?

Yep. (I’m thinking up plans of luring Albert back there so I can do a little more research on Miss Leonora)

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, t a j




Hi there, I was interested to read your comments about Leonora Gregory. She was my mother's first cousin and lived a remarkable life. I am also very interested in her and know of a book that's being written about her. My Grandfather and grandmother lived in the gulf country, he was a Church of England minister and Pat (leonora) went up to visit them but ended up staying on in Croydon and starting up the newspaper.

Cheers from Catherine

  catherine buxton May 2, 2010 3:18 PM

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