Return to Williamsford

Return to Williamsford

This is a very special post written by my mum, Karen.

Karen Mace


In a blog post about ghost towns of Tasmania, Andy, the blogger, writes two paragraphs about Williamsford. In the first couple of lines he dubs Williamsford ‘an embarrassment, as if it was a mistake best left forgotten…’. I returned to the now non-existent town recently-the first time I had been there since I left in 1961. On and off over the years I thought about going back but it just never happened. One time I mentioned it to my aunt who grew up, married and had her children there. She shook her head and told me not to even consider it, “there’s nothing there Karen. It’s all gone. There’s nothing to go back to.
But we went. It was a spur of the moment thing. We were sitting around the table chatting about our plans and the words just popped out of my mouth “We could walk to Montezuma Falls. I did it once when I was about four.” And that meant going back to Williamsford because that’s where the track to Montezuma begins. So, we went. My husband, my very family-oriented, warm-hearted and history loving daughter, her fiancé and I bumped and bounced over the roughly paved road, an improvement on the dirt road I remember rattling over in the old school bus as a child.

We came to a stop right where the Co-Op used to be, on the corner of the road where our house, well, my grandparent’s house, once stood with a flourishing rhododendron in the front yard and a huge pussy willow tree out back. That pussy willow tree was my haven when I had done something that merited punishment. I was pretty good at shimmying up to where grandma couldn’t reach me. I searched with my eyes and Miriam and I walked around a bit hoping to find some evidence of my life in the once thriving little township but whatever might have been there is now lost in the lovely native bush that has reclaimed pretty much all of where we lived, loved and played.

It was an odd feeling being in a place that had so much meaning for me and not being able to see, hear or touch anything that made it special. Across the road from where we stood was where my cousin and I often played happily in a clay patch, but the clay patch didn’t seem to be there anymore. At the beginning of each week grandma ordered our bread for the week and every couple of days, after school, I walked to the Co-Op to pick it up. I remembered fossicking through the rocks surrounding the petrol pumps hoping to find dropped change but even the rocks had disappeared.

Further down the hill we came across the remnants of the Send-off where grandpa worked for so many years and I remembered grandma telling me I was never to go down there. I pressed her for a reason and in few words, grandma told me that my uncle and a couple of friends wandered down there one day and sat on the bank watching grandpa work, “and the bank caved in and buried them alive,” she said, her hands not missing a beat as she creamed the sugar and butter.
I guess it’s different for someone who just breezes in and breezes out of somewhere like Williamsford. There are so many towns like it in Tasmania and its possible to look at them as old, uninteresting ghost towns with nothing to offer. For me though, it was a journey back in time, a place where memories came to life. I heard the echoes of laughter and shouts of glee and saw flashes of me and others in our homemade billycarts careening down the hill. Whispers of voices I’ll never hear again floated around me as my mind reached back to childhood days. The Williamsford I knew was no longer, but for those of us who lived there it could never be an embarrassment or a mistake that should never have happened because that would trivialise all that it once meant to us.