Whether they were long-time residents, returning home or just passing through, hundreds were drawn to Wilcannia in far west New South Wales, Australia to celebrate the town’s 150th anniversary.
During its century and a half, Wilcannia has endured colonial lawlessness, thrived as a major inland port and, more recently, has suffered from entrenched disadvantage and a poor reputation. However, the mood was bright at Wilcannia’s annual field day on Sunday, which this year also served to commemorate the 150-year milestone.
Jacqueline Holdich made the trek to the isolated town for personal reasons when she discovered this year she was a first cousin, four times removed, to English writer Charles Dickens.
Dickens’s son Edward Dickens lived at Wilcannia for about 25 years after being sent to Australia by his father.
“I did have an inkling of it because an aunt of mine had told me a long time ago when I was quite young, ‘You’re a descendant of Charles Dickens’,” Ms Holdich said.
“Then when I got onto Ancenstry.com just this year I thought I’d better have a look and see if there’s any truth in this, and before very long I found out through my great great grandfather that he was a cousin of Charles Dickens.”
It was her second visit to the town in three months. “My impression is that there’s a new lease of life coming to Wilcannia,” Ms Holdich said.
“Looking around at this field day, there are people everywhere, who’ve come from everywhere around Australia back to the town.
“There’s a movement towards this town becoming a place where people will enjoy coming to stay.”
Excerpt from NSW News