The town of Gilgandra in the central west of NSW wrote itself into the pages of Australian history in 1915 when 30 of the district’s young men set off on the famous Cooee Recruiting March to Sydney.
The march was organised to whip up interest in recruitment following the upsurge in anti-war sentiment in the wake of the carnage on Gallipoli. By the time the marchers reached Sydney their numbers had swelled to 263. Fittingly, the local visitor's information centre is set in the Coo-ee March Memorial Park.
Gilgandra is also renowned for some 300 windmills that dot the skyline. For many years the town was dependent on the mills to pump water from an underground artesian basin.
The town’s name stems from the Aboriginal word Gulliganda, which translates to ‘long waterhole’. On the darker side of history, the tragedy of the Aboriginal tracker Jimmy Governor - revisited by novelist Thomas Kenneally in his book The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith - began in then Breelong Inn in 1900.
A former police tracker, Governor, who had married a local white girl, had been hired by the inn's owners John and Sara Mawbee as a fencer. At one point Mrs Mawbey confronted Governor, calling him 'black trash' and telling him he should be shot for marrying a white woman. The enraged Governor and his companion Jacky Underwood slew Mrs Mawbey, three of her daughters and a friend, Helena Kurz, with clubs and an axe.
Governor, his brother Joe and Underwood then went on a three-month rampage through NSW. They killed five more people in a series of armed hold-ups and robberies before being hunted down. Joe was shot and killed by police, while Jimmy and Underwood were hung in January, 1901.