Friday 26th June 2009
Commemorating Ned’s Last Stand
I was again beside myself when I read that the Siege Dinner in commemoration of Ned’s last stand at Glenrowan had finally returned. I was even more beside myself when I saw that the price of admittance was just a paltry $35, a far, far cry from the exorbitant prices charged for those Siege Dinners of yesteryear at that bloody winery. I looked closely at the itinerary to see what the catch was.
Would the menu consist of a small plate of fish ‘n’ chips, or something rather more substantial, and what about the entertainment? Well have a look at this folks; Entrée…Salmon cakes with Dill Aioli (whatever that is), Pork Dumplings with Soy Ginger Glaze, and Bacon & Chicken Parcels with Thyme Butter with Damper. Main Course… Slow Baked Beef Fillet, Potato Cake and Red Wine Wildberry Jus followed by Irish Bread, Butter and Sultana Pudding for dessert, now that’s what I call real value. And what about the entertainment? That well known singing personality Eureka Smith with his top selling CD, Blood on the Ground and supported by a vibrant presentation by that wizard of all things Kelly, Gary Deane.
My granddaughter of sixteen summers had just arrived on a visit from Brisbane, and what better way of welcoming her to Victoria than to surprise her by taking her to the Siege Dinner. I promptly booked the tickets to include my good wife and waited for the surprised look on their faces when I told them. The surprised look lasted for a mere second and quickly turned to a look of; what’s that word when people want to kill you? Oh yes, psychopathic. My wife spearheaded the attack on my good self followed soon after by my not too happy granddaughter. It was only when I showed them the menu, and told them that the entertainment was Karaoke and a surprise performance by someone I had pulled from the top of my head called “Pink” that they cautiously relented. I knew from the moment I had opened my big mouth, I was now in a lot more bother than the hostages at Mrs. Jones Inn.
I had planned to take them to Glenrowan in my newly acquired sulky pulled by my fine mare Mirthic, but under such trying circumstances I thought it wise to travel once more by automobile. As we approached the Glenrowan pub we could see that the main street parking was filled. The sullen look on my granddaughter’s face had quickly changed to a look of excitement. ‘Pop, look at all these people. I thought you were fibbing when you told me Pink would be here. Thanks a lot Pop, you’re the greatest; you’ve really made my night’. I pulled into a no parking zone and alighted slowly from the vehicle. My two companions were already walking swiftly towards the pub as I wiped the sweat from my brow. My body started to tremble and my knees felt unusually weak under its weight. Could I be coming down with that Swine Flu thing? I could only pray. It was a crying command from my good wife that immediately removed all known symptoms as I scurried off after them like an obedient canine to face my imminent fate.
By the time I had made it through the front door, and wormed my way through the crowd of locals making merry in the public bar, my wife and granddaughter were already in the dining room, their eyes scanning every nook and cranny for sign of a Karaoke machine or better still, Pink. ‘So where’s this Karaoke machine you promised, and who’s the old bloke holding that microphone wearing a cowboy hat with the big gut?’ ‘Shoosh! That’s Eureka Smith. He only happens to be the fellow that has released that well known Kelly CD, Blood On The Ground’. My wife looked at me with an unimpressed look and continued. ‘So tell me, why’s that bloke with the long grey beard from that souvenir shop here?’ At this point I knew I was cornered and decided to come clean. After giving me a good reprimand in no uncertain terms I retreated to the public bar for a quick round of drinks. When I returned, Eureka was already gyrating his 120 kilos like a geriatric Elvis Presley to the sounds of his top selling CD. With the arrival of the magnificent entrée, more drinks and the stirring rhythm of Blood On The Ground, I knew all would be forgiven. After a delicious main meal and even more drinks, the crowd was going wild to the sounds of a piano accordionist singing and pumping out an old Irish folk song. The laughter and chatter coming from the pool table in the public bar was all that saved me from hearing a single note or word. To keep things rolling along, a brave fellow borrowed Eureka’s guitar and brought the frenzied crowd to complete and immediate silence. He tried in vain to remember the words and to keep in tune, but to do both and play guitar at the same time eluded him in all exercises. When all words were forgotten, he simply stopped, apologised and continued on with another masterpiece. That’s the Kelly spirit for you. As the night wore on a lady tinkered away on the keys of a piano in the corner. I could see vengeance returning to my wife’s face as she looked at her watch and slid slowly down into her chair. After my tenth pot of super, and after I had won a fine bottle of Merlot in the raffle, my spirits were well and truly on a high. If Gary Dean had picked up the electric guitar and kicked off a psychedelic rendition of Wild Thing I would not have been at all surprised.
It must have been around 10 o’clock when I could see Gary Dean through the bottom of my beer glass and holding what seemed to be a copy of his updated book Ellen Kelly. As I continued looking through the bottom of my glass my hand trembled as thoughts of Gary reading aloud the entire book came to mind. I was relieved to see him put it down and continue with his presentation. Following his silhouetted finger across the screen I tried to make out what he was talking about, but with the increased sounds of inebriated excitement coming from the pool table and public bar I found it very difficult. The one thing I had been waiting anxiously to find out was what the hell happened to George King? Unfortunately, that too remains a mystery to me. My good wife could take no more, and with granddaughter in hand decided to wait for me in our vehicle. With the next presentation being about Stringybark Creek and those bloody huts and fireplaces I scampered with speed from the Glenrowan pub. Silence prevailed on our journey home but all will be forgiven in time. As far as the Siege Dinner is concerned and in the words of my mate Arnie … I’ll be back!! But I wouldn’t put money on my dear wife.