(c)  John Van Groningen, 2009


‘ Between its global image and its natural history, Hanging Rock remains embedded in a more communal story. Its old picnic celebrations, its continuing race meetings, and even the raids made by desperate farmers on its water and grass, all remind us of people who lived around the Rock. Hanging Rock possessed a rare capacity to draw them all together, even if only for a few days each year. Perhaps that social significance explains the strange majesty that writers, photographers, film-makers and popular music performers have sought to capture. There is though, another deeper and more elusive history of Hanging Rock’.
(C) Chris McConville 2017


‘ For thousands of years Aboriginal custodians cared for Hanging Rock. Over the last 150 years, both visitors to Hanging Rock and its image-makers first of all ignored the role of Aboriginal people in protecting the place. They preferred to picture the Rock as ‘natural’, a wilderness rather than a cultural landscape. They then made belated, occasionally romanticised, and often poorly substantiated attempts at reconstructing an Aboriginal image of Hanging Rock, and neighbouring sites. Finally, in the 21st century, the Aboriginal custodians of Hanging Rock have been acknowledged in arrangements for managing the Reserve, and in accounts of its significance as a cultural landscape.’
(c) Chris McConville 2017

Robert Bruce, January 25, 1865
Wood engraving published in The Illustrated Melbourne post.

Diogenes Monument “Anneyelong” looking Sth towards Mt Macedon. W. V. Blandowski. 1855-56. State Library of Victoria

Chapter 3 –  Volcanic Wilderness


‘ One of the most remarkable spots in the country . . . an almost perpendicular wall of dolerite, of deep somber hue, rising above the most lofty of the trees, imparts a strikingly picturesque character to the view. Approaching the monument, the interest increases at every step . . . at the foot of the monument, about a thousand pyramidal columns rise in bold relief from the surface, giving to the hill, which is about one mile in circumference at the base, a kind of giant porcupine appearance.’ 

William Blandowski, ‘Dryden’s Monument and Mount Macedon’, The Age, 14 September 1855


Chapter 4 –  AROUND THE ROCK

‘ For Hanging Rock was always more than just a pleasant spot for picnickers and climbers. It was after all, both a water and recreation reserve, where farmers jealously guarded rights to its creek, and sometimes the lake. Local townspeople played sport at the Rock, and clung onto key posts in managing the Reserve. Summer visitors came to the Rock perhaps once a year for a day out. In contrast, for farmers, Hanging Rock stood as a familiar landmark
in their day-to-day lives. These farms have been an integral part of the story of Hanging Rock. A cloud though hangs over their future. How many of their connections to Hanging Rock can survive the near disappearance of towns, and the accelerating northwards march of Melbourne’s suburban fringe?
‘(c) Chris McConville, 2017 

Boxshall Family Farm, Newham, Victoria, c.1870 – c.1900. Museums Victoria

Hanging Rock Races 1929, Kyneton Race Club Archives

Where in this universe is the racecourse that can equal this, with its hundred and one beauties of rural simplicity? Is it not far more impressive than Ascot with its wealth of aristocrats; far lovelier than Longchamps with its giddy throng; more enchanting even than our well-beloved Flemington with its brilliancy on a most festive day? Which of these can compare with this little remote racecourse with its modest structures and simple white rails nestling contentedly amid the slopes and hills that rise majestically to guard it’.
‘A Day at Hanging Rock Races’, Table Talk, 7 January 1915

Chapter  6 –  CARNIVAL TIMES

‘ Successive licensees of the Hanging Rock, and other local hotels, quickly established themselves as patrons to all-encompassing, spectacular, outdoor gatherings around the Rock, to the extent that these speedily overshadowed casual family get-togethers. Hoteliers in the years after the gold rush in Victoria set great store on such festival events. Christmas, New Year and any other public holiday meant that hoteliers across the colony set up stalls on open ground, near to their bars and lounges. They underwrote sports like quoits, foot racing, and occasionally, as at Hanging Rock, horse races. Sharp impresarios amongst the colony’s licensed victuallers paid for circus
entertainments, from sideshow alleys to jugglers and contortionists. Hanging Rock proved no exception to these ventures.’

(c) Chris McConville 2017

The Kyneton Guardian, 4 January, 1873.

(c) Cover Design Alison Forbes 1967


‘In the afternoon of 14 February 1900, four schoolgirls set out to reach the Summit of Hanging Rock. Three vanish. One of their teachers also climbs Hanging Rock. She too disappears. What happens to these vanished souls, all from the pretentious rather than prestigious Appleyard College, remains the enduring mystery of Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock. It is a mystery revisited in Peter Weir’s film of the same name. Lindsay, in the oft-quoted introduction to her tale, suggests that any differences between the facts and the fiction of Hanging Rock hardly matter. And yet, this evasion of historical truths only partly explains why her ‘College Mystery’ continues to fascinate us. As it has turned out, the story has become far more than an intriguing fictional, or perhaps true, crime story. A tale of disappearance, suicide, warped chronology and faulty memory, it relies on Lindsay’s recasting of that popular picnic spot, Hanging Rock, as a macabre, vanishing point.’
(c) Chris McConville 2017

Chapter 8 – CINEMA PLACE

‘Who could have known that, in cutting the closing chapter of Joan Lindsay’s novel, Cheshire’s book editors would transform Hanging Rock from a picnic ground into a global icon? When screenwriter Cliff Green adapted Picnic at Hanging Rock to the cinema, he and subsequently director Peter Weir, resisted demands that their film resolve that “damned mystery” of vanishing schoolgirls. In leaving the mystery unresolved, they converted Joan Lindsay’s melodrama into the signature movie of Australia’s ‘Film Renaissance’. At the same time, their film turned a rapidly expanding popular curiosity towards Hanging Rock itself.’
(c) Chris McConville 2017

A Winner from Australia

But poking around the outlying cinemas for neglected films in the buying-and -selling market, I’ve come across some gems.My favourite film this year is from Australia, a country with no film tradition at all. If you see an Australian film, you’re usually grateful if it’s in focus. “Picnic at Hanging Rock” is not only the best film ever made there, but also the highest grossing film ever shown there. It is a remarkable work, chilling and hypnotic, and doubly disturbing because it is so delicately performed and sensitively directed with camera work in the paintbrush style of “Elvira Madigan”
(c) Rex Reed “Cannes – it’s really crazy, but it works” New York Daily News May 10 1976

Leonard Cohen Concert 2010, (c) Bruce Hedge

Chapter 9  – ROCK ICONS

‘ One cold spring night in 2010, a star descended on Hanging Rock. Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet turned musician, who had once trained to become a Zen Buddhist monk, took his music onstage in the East Paddock. Cohen had returned to touring after a break of more than a decade, his rock renewal only ensured by the discovery that a former manager had emptied his bank accounts. On this 2010 tour, the 76-year-old Cohen played at Glastonbury’s legendary festival outside London. He performed at the wonderfully restored Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, in Dublin, and at Piazza San Marco in Venice. Hanging Rock now joined these iconic locales as a backdrop to Cohen’s music. As the sun began to sink behind the Rock, and the moon rose above the 12,000 crowd, Cohen thanked his fans for inviting him to “this sacred place”.’
(c) Chris McConville 2017


‘History suggests a different approach, emphasising common rather than conflicting interest, expressed through the hybrid cultural landscape of the Reserve. Hanging Rock has never been and can never become, an exclusive environment. Across its history, the Reserve has been modernised, without being taken over for commercial gain, and without destroying its most significant natural qualities. It is after all a humanised landscape, as it has been since long before Europeans arrived in Australia Felix. …………….. Protection of this landscape, for the people, or the public, is just as important now, as when Albert Tucker set aside a recreation reserve at Hanging Rock in 1884.’
(c) Chris McConville 2017

For Sale. Tim Jones, 2014. (c)