During my recent visit to Victoria, I finally made my long awaited trip to the famed Hanging Rock in the Macedon Ranges, an hour’s drive north of Melbourne. Often, unrequited expectation can lead to disappointment, but 40 years after seeing Peter Weir’s famous film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” the place still excited me. Our visit coincided with the monthly country markets, which made the car park very crowded, even utilizing the racetrack whose first race meeting was held on New Year’s Day in 1877 and which is still being used for three meetings a year.
In 1968 Joan Lindsay first published her book “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, which led to Peter Weir’s atmospheric film in 1975. The book relates the unexplained disappearance of three schoolgirls and a teacher at Hanging Rock during a picnic on St. Valentine’s Day in 1900. Peter Weir said: “What intrigued me about the mystery was that there was no solution. Joan Lindsay would never say whether it was true or not and newspaper files of the day tell of no such tragedy.“ True or not, Hanging Rock inspires the imagination. A dream within a dream. It rises as a monolith from the surrounding cultivated farmlands, and challenges us to climb to its summit. In the quiet of the afternoon, and in between my puffing as I paused to get my breath, I could still easily conjure up the sound of haunting pan pipes, and the dreadful scream for the lost Miranda. However, unlike the fated school group, all of our company returned safely back from our climb. I even claimed to have discovered the lost Miranda, when I pointed out wife, Phyllis, to passing climbers (even though she would have been 130 years old, and Phyllis doesn’t even remotely look that age!) Still the memory of Hanging Rock remains. I wonder if the Wurundjeri Tribe in their long forgotten Dreamtime held Hanging Rock in the same awe as I did today. Perhaps I was merely influenced by Peter Weir’s film. or was it as the Illustrated Melbourne Post had so succinctly put it in 1863:“…in the present keenness of our sensibilities there is infinite pleasure and relief in the contemplation of what if primeval.”