Jack Riley’s life in the High Country is the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s famous poem
Nestled in Australia’s High Country, the Murray River starts out as a bubbling small stream near Mount Kosciuszko and flows 2,530 km to the Southern Ocean, near Goolwa in South Australia. Showcasing stunning mountains, beautiful waterways and scenic villages, the Upper Murray region is also home to legendary bush characters with Jack Riley (the Man from Snowy River) being the most famous.
In 1884 Riley was employed as the manager of Tom Groggin Station and worked there for 30 years where he gained a reputation as a skilled horseman and stockman. He is also recognised as the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s celebrated poem and The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival held annually in April at Corryong.
During the winter of 1914 Riley became gravely ill and a team of cattlemen set off to get him medical attention in Corryong from his Tom Groggin Hut. Through freezing temperatures and falling snow they carried the semi-conscious Riley along Harringtons Track, at first on a makeshift stretcher and then assisted on horseback for the climb over Hermit Mountain.
At Surveyors Creek the party set up camp in an abandoned miners hut and it was here that Riley passed away. A memorial to Riley has been established near the remains of the hut and his grave rests in Corryong’s town cemetery. It is inscribed with the words, ‘In memory of the Man from Snowy River, Jack Riley, buried here 16th July 1914’. It’s signposted to the left of the main entrance.
The Man from Snowy River Festival celebrates Australia’s unique mountain bush culture, heritage and history. The weekend is full of activities and entertainment including poets, artists, musicians, horse competitions, trade stalls, street parades, markets, re-enactments, rodeo, camp cooking, historical machinery, ute muster and cattle-dog competitions.
The highlight of the festival is the $60,000 The Man from Snowy River Challenge where many of the country’s most skilful riders compete in six gruelling horsemanship events. The winner for 2019 was Kieran Davidson who ended the recent domination of the event by local champion John Mitchell from Tooma.
Just outside the Visitor Centre is the life-sized bronze statue of Jack Riley on horseback. Beside the statue is some interpretive signage and an interactive recording of local poet Maurie Foun performing the “Man from Snowy River” poem.
Across the road, The Man from Snowy River Museum chronicles the story of Riley and provides further insight into his life. Here, you can learn about the pioneering life of the early settlers of the Upper Murray and view a variety of antiques and memorabilia. Highlights include the Jim Simpson POW knitted rug from WWII, a collection of early skiing relics, Jack Riley mementos and the Jarvis Homestead (a 19th-century slab-timber hut).
The Corryong Memorial Hall and gardens complex is a tribute to locals who served in conflicts in which Australia has been involved. A statue of Horrie the Wog Dog tells the story how an Egyptian terrier followed the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion throughout various locations in the Middle East and in Greece and Crete, before being smuggled back to Australia in 1942 and living his life out near Corryong.