The Three Lost Children Walk commemorates the tragic story from Daylesford's gold era when three small boys wandered away from their homes on June 30, 1867. Sue Stanley joins Margaret and other members of the Daylesford Walking Group to retrace the 15km trek the boys made. The tale unfortunately has a sad ending, but many people are drawn to the trail each year because of its beauty and its significance in Australia's gold rush history. If you're keen to get involved in walking for good health, check out our fact sheet for some great hints and tips.
Sue:Daylesford is one of Victoria's most popular tourist hubs, famous for its spas and stunning surroundings. Here’s something that you may not know about Daylesford – it is scattered with some of the most amazing walking trails and none with a better story to tell than this one. The Three Lost Children Walk commemorates the tragic story from Daylesford’s gold era when three small boys wandered away from their homes on June 30, 1867. William Graham (aged 6), his brother Thomas (4) and Alfred Burman (5) responded to the call of adventure, looking for wild goats. When the boys failed to return home, their fathers began a frantic search. The news spread quickly throughout the district and as a result of public meetings, more than 100 horsemen and 700 people turned out day after day in cold, miserable conditions to search for the three lost boys. This walk is definitely not for the faint hearted. It’s about 16km and takes around six hours to complete. Now, I get pretty bored on my own, so I’ve joined a Daylesford walking group to tackle the terrain. Now, Margaret, this walk to you is really passionate because there’s a bit of history on your side.
Margaret: For years, I've heard about these lost children. My grandmother was born just out of Daylesford at Sailors Falls and her mother used to sing about these lost children and then my grandmother sang to her children, who would cry every time they heard about these lost children. So, we’ve never done the whole walk before, so it was a real incentive to start walking and that was the start of us walking every week because we found it was a great group to walk with and you walk somewhere different every week and it’s a great way to get to know the area.
Sue: The walk was established as part of a bicentennial project and thanks to people like Robin Holmes from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, it’s been recently upgraded to follow as closely as possible the original track the boys took.
Robin: So, they’ve got a fair idea of where they went, but joining the dots, they don’t know exactly which route they took.
Sue: It may not look it, but it’s freezing here today, so I can only imagine how terrible it would have been for the three kids out here with no protection from the elements.
Robin: You’ve got to think back what it would have been like in June 1867.
Sue: And then some of the coldest days of frost and everything.
Robin: Freezing nights. The search effort was really hampered by driving winds, hail. So yeah, they brought in some aboriginal trackers and they…
Sue: Oh they did do that? Aboriginal trackers?
Robin: Yeah. They weren't actually able to sort of follow the footsteps because of all the rain also the disturbance from… they’d been a lot of horses and horsemen.
Sue: The boys spoke to two people along the way, but after ignoring attempts to turn them back, they vanished into thick bush.
Robin: And then they found some footprints down round here.
Sue: So, they’d been through here obviously.
Robin: They’d been through here. So...
Sue: It really does send shivers up your spine. Now, we’ve just about finished the walk. Did the actual kids… were they found here?
Robin: Very near to here. They were found in farmland approximately 1km from the picnic area, across some private farmland.
Sue: At the end of the walk, there are no high fives, no congratulations, just a silent finish. The final piece of the puzzle is about 1km up the road and Lorraine says you can’t complete the walk without finishing the story.
Lorraine: This is the monument pointing to where the tree that they were found in...
Sue: Forty-four days after their disappearance, a shock discovery was made and the boys were found dead in the hollow of a large tree.
Lorraine: A dog actually found a little boot and it took it home. The farmer then came out, followed the dog and found the bodies.
Sue: Very sad.
Lorraine: Very sad, but it’s Australia's history and I really do believe people should know more about the lost children, walk on the Lost Children’s Walk because it is such a beautiful walk.
Sue: It's estimated more than a thousand people assembled at the Daylesford Cemetery when the three boys were finally laid to rest.