When Captain Sturt came down the Murrumbidgee river in 1829 he found Henry O'Brien at Jugiong, William Warby at
Mingay and the Stuckey Brothers, Peter and Henry at Willie Ploma and Tumblong. Officially they were beyond the
bounds of settlement, which meant that the Government was not obliged to protect them. They had followed in the
footsteps of the Hume and Hovell expedition and found wonderful grazing along the river.
A settlement gradually grew at the river crossing, and by 1852 about 300 people were living in close proximity on
the river flat, some having purchased lots from the Government which would not replace land inundated during the
Despite several big floods across the flats, and warnings from the aborigines, people stayed near the river because
of the proximity to water. On the evening of the 24th June 1852, a great flood swept down the Murrumbidgee valley.
Settlers still didn't go to higher ground, instead taking refuge in the lofts of their houses. The river rose ever higher,
and with the dawn came the horrifying spectacle of just how much damage had been wrought. The punt that carried
the freight across the river set out to rescue people but capsized, tipping out the terrified occupants. The aboriginals
Yarri and Jackey Jackey took their canoes out into the torrent to rescue people stranded in trees.
Altogether there were 89 known deaths in Gundagai, and even as the settlers came to grips with their grief and loss,
another flood swept away what was left in 1853.
In 1859-61 with the discovery of gold in the hills surrounding the town. As miners swelled the population, so came the
schools, churches, a hospital and expanded commerce. The Prince Alfred Bridge was built to span the flood plain in
1867. What stories it could tell of the vast amounts of freight and infrastructure carried over its wooden planks. The
railway arrived in 1886, and the twin bridge enabling the extension of the line to Tumut was opened in 1903.
Another gold boom swelled the population around the turn of the 20th century, with the discovery of the Reno and
Bongongolong gold fields. Underpinning the life of the town was the wealth created in the countryside. Agricultural
life was booming, and the river was utilized for the growing of crops to feed a hungry and growing city population.
Gundagai was declared a Municipality in 1889, and Adjungbilly Shire Council created in 1906 to administer the district.
These two were amalgamated in 1923 to form the Gundagai Shire Council, which still administers local government
Gundagai has had a long and colourful affinity with horse racing, and has produced many sportsmen and women who
have represented at every level. There would be few country towns our size that have the facilities developed over
many years that we enjoy today. The celebration of Gundagai in verse and song is one part of our heritage that we
are very proud of. Monuments like the Dog on the Tuckerbox and Mr. Rusconi's Masterpiece in Marble are just two of
the many monuments in Gundagai that tell of Australian History.
The Gundagai area is part of the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri speaking people before and post European settlement,
and also holds national significance to Indigenous Australians. The geology of the Gundagai Shire and its situation on a
sizeable prehistoric highway, (the Murrumbidgee River), indicates it would have been an important mining, manufacturing
and trading place before the arrival of the Europeans.The floodplain's of the Murrumbidgee below the present town of
Gundagai were a frequent meeting place of the Wiradjuri. A bora ring has been identified close to town.
Some believe the name "Gundagai" derives from the word gundabandoo - bingee which is said to mean 'cut with a
hand-axe behind the knee' based on gunda meaning 'sinews at the back of the knee' and bingee meaning cut with a
tomahawk. The significance of the meaning is not clear though it has been suggested it might refer to the shape of the
river bend. It has also been suggested that the name may mean 'going upstream' or 'poor crows'. In 1826 it was the
name of a station run by William Warby and owned by his brother Ben.
Australian-born Hamilton Hume and British immigrant William Hovell were the first European explorers to visit what is
now Gundagai when they passed through the region in 1824. Hovell recorded seeing trees already marked by steel
Aboriginal leaders Pat Dodson and Noel Pearson, along with senior retired military and vice regal appointees; and
current Australian business leaders, met at a remote property on the Murrumbidgee River near Gundagai in September
2008 on the first stages of an Australian Dialogue to promote constitutional reform and structural change for Indigenous
Gundagai Post Office opened on 1 April 1843 as the township (gazetted in 1838) developed. Gundagai was located at
a crossing of the Murrumbidgee River and the route eventually became the Great South Road which in 1914 was
declared a main road of New South Wales and named the Hume Highway in 1928. The Main Roads Management Act
of June 1858 declared the Great Southern Road, from near Sydney through Goulburn and Gundagai to Albury, as one
of the three main roads in the colony. However, its southern reaches were described as only a 'scarcely formed bullock
track' as late as 1858. The road was improved in the mid 1860's with some sections near Gundagai "metalled" and all
creeks bridged between Adelong Creek (approximately 10 kilometres south of Gundagai) and Albury. The highway
bypassed Gundagai in 1977 with the opening of the Sheahan Bridge.
The railway reached Gundagai in 1886 with a branch line to Tumut from Cootamundra on the Main Southern railway
line. The branch line was extended reaching Tumut in 1903 and Batlow and Kunama in 1923. The line was finally
closed after flood damage in 1984.
The original European town that was gazetted in 1838 was situated on the right hand bank of the Murrumbidgee River
floodplain at the place colloquially known as 'The Crossing Place'. This town was hit by several large floods of the
Murrumbidgee River. The June 25, 1852 flood swept the town away, killing at least 78 people (perhaps 89) of the town's
population of 250 people; it is one of the largest natural disasters in Australia's history. Following an even higher flood in
1853, North Gundagai was redeveloped at its current site on Asbestos Hill and Mount Parnassus, above the river, and at
South Gundagai on the slopes of Brummies Hill, using pre-existing surveyors plans.
The efforts of Yarri, Jacky Jacky, Long Jimmy and one other Indigenous man in saving many Gundagai people from the
1852 floodwaters were heroic. Between them, these men rescued more than 40 people using bark canoes. Yarri and
Jacky Jacky were honoured with bronze medallions for their efforts, and were allowed to demand sixpences from all
Gundagai residents, although Yarri was maltreated on at least one occasion after the flood. Long Jimmy died not
long after his rescues, possibly from the effects of being exposed to the freezing cold and wet conditions.
It is claimed that the Gundagai community developed a special affinity with the Wiradjuri people and that the flood
and its aftermath was the birthplace of reconciliation.
The Gundagai cemetery contains the graves of two policemen shot in the district by bushrangers.
Sergeant Parry was shot and killed in 1864 by the bush ranger John Gilbert in a hold-up of the mail coach near
Jugiong. Gilbert was a member of Ben Hall's gang which was active in the district in 1863-64. Senior Constable
Webb-Bowen was killed by Captain Moonlite in November 1879 in a hostage incident at McGlede's farm. Captain Moonlite
is also buried in the cemetery. Scott had been asked to buried at Gundagai near his friends James Nesbitt and
Augustus Wernicke . Both had been killed in the shoot-out at McGlede's Hut. His request was not granted by the
authorities of the time, but his remains were exhumed from Rookwood Cemetery and re interred at Gundagai near to
the unknown location of Nesbitt's grave in January 1995.
In 1867 an iron truss bridge, the Prince Alfred bridge, was completed across the Murrumbidgee River, with a timber
viaduct leading to it across the river's flood plain. The bridge has a total length of 921 metres and probably was the
first truss bridge built in Australia and is the oldest metal truss road bridge in New South Wales. Until 1932 when the
Sydney Harbour Bridge was completed, the Prince Alfred bridge was the longest bridge in New South Wales. In 1902 a
second (railway) bridge was built, with a total length of 819 metres.
In 1977 the Sheahan bridge was opened, a concrete and steel bridge on the Hume Highway. At 1,143 metres (3,750 ft),
it is the second longest bridge in Australia after the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It replaced the Prince Alfred
bridge as the crossing of the Murrumbidgee River. The bridge was named after Billy Sheahan (1895-1975), who was a
member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Yass from 1941-1950 and for Burrinjuck from 1950-1973
and held various ministerial portfolios.
Gold was identified by the geologist Rev. W. B. Clarke at Gundagai in 1842. A gold rush hit the area in 1858 following
further discoveries of gold and mining continued initially until 1875 and following a second gold rush in 1894, mines
operated again until well into the 20th Century with some mining activity still occurring in 2007. The best known historical
mines were the 'Robinson and Rice's Mine' (Long Tunnel Mine) a few miles to the south west of Gundagai and the 'Prince
of Wales Mine' (where Herbert Hoover, the future President of the United States, was the mining engineer in about 1900)
a few miles to the immediate west of Gundagai. Both mines struck the ore body in quartz reefs along serpentine/diorite
contact zones with finds of gold telluride (of bismuith origin) also found.
Gundagai, perhaps more than any other Australian locality, is referenced in stories, songs and poems. These include the
Jack O'Hagan songs Where the Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox (five miles from Gundagai), Along The Road To Gundagai and
When a Boy from Alabama Meets a Girl from Gundagai  It is referenced in Scottish band Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie's
Other references in literature include Banjo Paterson's The Road to Gundagai and the traditional ballad Flash Jack
from Gundagai. Additionally, the town is mentioned in Henry Lawson's Scots of the Riverina and C. J. Dennis' The Traveller.
Miles Franklin's Brent of Bin Bin saga is set in the area and it includes an account of the flood of 1852.
Andrew George Scott , Aka Captain Moonlite, was an Australian bushranger. On a trip to Italy for the purpose of studying
Roman aqueducts, Scott enlisted with the forces of the revolutionary Guiseppe Garibaldi. Though unable to speak the
language, Scott's service in the campaign earned him a personal note of commendation from the revolutionary leader.
He moved to Australia in early 1868. Calling himself "Captain Moonlite" (thought to be after American criminal Archie
Telford who used the alias) he met up with James Nesbitt , a young man whom he had met in prison - considered by many
to be Scott's lover, and trading on his tabloid celebrity as "Captain Moonlite" began a career as a public speaker on prison
In March 1879 he assembled a gang of young men, with Nesbitt as his second in command and the others being Thomas
Rogan, Thomas Williams (19), Gus Wreneckie (19) and Graham Bennet (18). Scott met these young men through his
lecture tours or through brothels.
Inspecting Superintendent of Police John Sadleir, a Victorian police officer claims Scott sent word to infamous bush ranger
Ned Kelly, asking to join forces with him but that "Kelly sent back word threatening that if Scott or his band approached him
he would shoot them down". The reasons for Kelly's refusal are unclear, though it is worth noting that Kelly was a Catholic
Irishman, and Scott, Anglican Scots-Irish.
Scott seems to have never received the reply as his gang left Melbourne in the later part of 1879, and travelling north crossed
into New South Wales to look for work, far from the police surveillance that stymied any opportunity of employment in Victoria.
While traveling through the Kelly's area of operation, the gang were frequently mistaken for the Kelly's and took advantage of
this to receive food and to seize guns and ammunition from homesteads.
Scott's gang bailed up the Wantabadgery Station near Wagga Wagga in November 1879 after being refused work, shelter and
food. By this stage the were on the verge of starvation, after spending cold and rainy nights in the bush and in Moonlite's words
succumbed to "desperation," terrorising staff and the family of Claude McDonald- a wealthy squatter. Scott also robbed the
Australian Arms Hotel of a large quantity of alcohol and took prisoner the residents of some other neighbouring properties-
bringing the number of prisoners to 36 in total.
One man, Ruskin, escaped in an attempt to warn others, but was caught and subject to a mock trial- the jury of his fellow
prisoners finding him "Not Guilty". Another station-hand attempted to rush Scott but was overpowered. A small party of four
troopers eventually arrived, but Scott's well armed gang held them down with gunfire for several hours until they retreated to
gather reinforcements- at which point the gang slipped out.
The gang then holed up in the farmhouse of Edmund McGlede until surrounded by a much more substantial police force. During
the following shootout, Senior Constable Webb-Bowen was shot and killed, as was Wreneckie. Nesbitt was also shot and killed,
attempting to lead police away from the house so that Scott could escape. When Scott saw Nesbitt shot down and was
distracted, McGlede took the opportunity to disarm the gang leader and with the other members wounded, or captured on
attempting to flee the fire fight came to a close. According to newspaper reports at the time, Scott openly wept at the loss of his
dearest and closest companion, stooped, raised the wounded man and kissed him passionately.
During the trial Scott claimed all guilt and allowed his young confederates to put all the blame on him, with them claiming to
have been deceived as to the nature of their expedition, however both Scott and Rogan were given death sentences.
Scott was hanged in Sydney on 20 January 1880. Scott went to the gallows wearing a ring woven from a lock of Nesbitt's hair
on his finger and his final request was to be buried in the same grave as his constant companion, "My dying wish is to be buried
beside my beloved James Nesbitt, the man with whom I was united by every tie which could bind human friendship, we were
one in hopes, in heart and soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms." His request was not granted by the authorities
of the time, but his remains were exhumed from Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney, transported by horse and carriage and
re interred at Gundagai next to Nesbitt's grave in January 1995.
Pioneers settled in the Gundagai area probably as early as 1825. The Murrumbidgee River crossing became a major
stop-over place between Sydney and Melbourne, and the town site was gazetted in October 1838. Bullockies, their teams,
tuckerboxes and dogs played a vital role in the transportation of goods. They were renowned not only for their hard work
under difficult conditions but also for their colourful language and their poems, songs and yarns shared around the campfire
at night. Controversy abounds whenever the original doggerel or poem about The Dog is mentioned, and no definitive copy
of these early verses survives. It may have been Charlie 'Bowyang' Yorke who wrote down the following version in the late
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 bugger Never earnt an honest crust, A better poor old bugger Never drug a whip through dust."
His team got bogged at Nine Mile Creek, Bill lashed and swore and cried: "If Nobby don't get me out of this, I'll tattoo his flaming hide." But Nobby strained and broke
the yoke, And poked out the leader's eye; Then the dog shat in the tuckerbox Nine miles from Gundagai.
Another early fragment runs: Good morning mate, you are too late, The shearing is all over. Tie up your dog behind the log Come in and have some dover. For Nobby
Jack has broke the yoke, Poked out the leader's eye And the dog shat in the tucker box, Nine miles from Gundagai. Other verses went on listing the bullocky's many
misfortunes, of which the dog's action was the last straw.
Perhaps the last words on this poem should be those of Patrick F. Sullivan, former owner and editor of The Gundagai Independent. In his 'Buzz' column of May 31 2007
he wrote: "The original is the anonymous doggerel which begins 'Good morning mate you are too late .....'. Mind you, the end result is the same. The poor old bullocky
ends up with strangely flavoured tucker! That's the glory of our dog. He was not one of your boot licking faithful types. He had a mind of his own, and a unique way of
showing his displeasure with his master."
It was certainly Jack Moses who cleaned up the 'originals' and wrote his famous poem, 'Nine Miles from Gundagai', probably in the 1880s. With the refrain "And the dog
sat on the tuckerbox / nine miles from Gundagai", it was widely circulated on postcards published by newsagent Ephraim O'Sullivan and sold at Gundagai Railway
Station for many years. In 1922 Jack O'Hagan published the foxtrot 'Along the Road to Gundagai', a hugely popular song whistled by Australian diggers abroad. Both
poem and song have became much-loved additions to Australia's folklore, and deserve much of the credit for popularising the image of a dog sitting on a tuckerbox.
By 1932 Australia was in the depths of the Great Depression and Gundagai Hospital was in danger of closing due to debts of more than 2,000 pounds. Oscar Collins, a
hospital board member, came up with the idea of erecting a statue of The Dog dedicated to the pioneers as a way of attracting tourists and raising funds for the
hospital. Although the Council of the day refused to support the idea, the Back to Gundagai Week Committee, led by Messrs Collins and Stribley, persevered and
raised the funds for the casting.
With input from Frank Rusconi, Gundagai's famous monumental mason, and Frederick McGowan, the life-size statue was cast in bronze by Alfred Taylor at Olivers
Foundry, owned by W J Treloar, in Sydney. The monument was sited at The Five Mile, north of Gundagai, in an area which later became known as Snake Gully.
The unveiling of the monument on 28 November 1932, by then Prime Minister Joe Lyons, was the culmination of the 1932 Back to Gundagai Week. By the end of these
festivities the hospital debt was more than cleared and the hospital was saved. The Dog continues to support the local hospital with the money placed in its wishing
well and royalties from souvenirs.
The first kiosk was opened by Annie Pyers around 1933. Mrs Pyers used to pose her dog Hoppy on a wooden box for visitors to be photographed with him, and also
set up the wishing well in front of the Dog for the benefit of Gundagai Hospital. It was Annie who appropriated the name Snake Gully from Steele Rudd's popular On
Our Selection radio serial, which began in 1937, and she and husband Andy told visitors they were 'Dad' and 'Mum'. Her contribution to the Dog’s history is
commemorated in the recent naming of Annie Pyers Drive at the site.
For many years The Dog has been cherished by locals and visitors alike. The Dog on the Tuckerbox Festival is celebrated each third week in November with the
famous Snake Gully Cup Racing Carnival taking place on the Friday and Saturday along with other activities in the town. The third Sunday morning is set aside for
celebrating The Dog's Birthday and The Dog's Breakfast at The Five Mile is a highlight.