About 10 kilometres south of Hopetoun, just off the Henty Highway, tracks along the YarriambiackCreek pass through Goyura. Today all that remains of the original town is a single, decaying shed. Shops, a wine bar, a community hall and other amenities have disappeared over time. But visitors to the town who know Goyura’s impressive Great War history might still imagine the scene here in the first decades of the 20th century.
No photographs of the main street in its heyday have yet been found. Two modern wheat silos hint at the business that once sustained the place, when it was a railway siding from which the Mallee’s bounty was delivered to markets in the south.
How the stories of vanished towns will be remembered and sustained in future is a matter for concern.
The first European ‘selector’ in the Mallee, James Hill, took up 240 acres in the parish of Goyura in 1877. The district quickly became more populous, but modern farms tend to be much larger than those of the early settlers and, as a result, the district’s population is now smaller. Easy access to services in adjacent towns – especially by motor vehicles – destroyed the community whose amenities once ranged along the highway.
But it was from here that the five sons of Susan and Alan McMaster said their farewells and went to the war: Alan, Alexander, Dugald, Duncan and Ewen. Alan died in Belgium, but three of his brothers returned having been awarded the Military Medal. While it is not clear if three in one family is unique in the AIF, it says much for their character.
The collective bravery of the McMasters is reflected in Duncan’s war record, which could be said to be typical of the Anzac legend. He appears to have been a characteristic larrikin-hero.
On 28 September 1918 it is recorded that he ‘neglected to obey an order given by a superior officer’ in the field, forfeiting seven days’ pay. A much shorter entry on 28 October 1918 reads: ‘Awarded the Military Medal’.
Memories of these lives are preserved in family and national collections of photographs and medals. The Australian War Memorial’s Algernon Darge Collection of studio portraits taken in training camps records the fresh faces of these young men before they went to the war.
Almost nothing remains of this once busy little town. There is no war memorial, no hall or municipal building in which the names of those who went to the Great War are recorded on an honour roll. Though at least one such roll once existed, its whereabouts is not presently known.
Standing opposite the modern silos at Goyura siding, a visitor can only imagine the scene as the train from Hopetoun made its way to join a main Adelaide–Melbourne railway line at Murtoa. The community probably waved its boys off to the war; it certainly welcomed the four surviving McMasters back at Goyura Station, near to the site of the present siding, as a large crowd ‘cheered and cheered again’. (Beulah Standard, 19 June p. 2ff)
Karkarooc: A History of the Mallee Shire 1896–1995, Phil Taylor, (Shire of Karkarook), 1996, particularly Chapter 5 ‘On the Altar of Patriotism’ pp. 115–140. Mr Taylor also kindly supplied some of the images used in this entry.
AIF Project – summaries of the lives of the three Military Medal winners are given here: https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/index.html
Australian Archives – various papers, including the McMasters’ records, from attestation to discharge, can be found online here: http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/explore/defence/service-records/army-wwi.aspx
Australian War Memorial – the AWM holds many types of records of the Great War, including photographs included on this site: http://www.awm.gov.au/