Harrietville, Victoria. Queen’s Birthday weekends since 1999

 It seems appropriate that I’m writing this during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, ironically stuck in Melbourne (with the Memphis blues again) due to restrictions caused by the current pandemic.

Usually  I spend these weekends in the alpine town of Harrietville with my closest mates. The core.

The usual suspects, Rob, Steve P, Des, Steve M – sometimes Andy  – plus assorted extras over the years. And I end up writing the epistle at the end of the weekend.

We play a lot of good music, drink far too much, eat fabulously. Sometimes play a little golf or go for a walk up to Washington Creek. Most of all we keep stoking the fire to keep the old house warm and our friendship ablaze. A good red helps with that.

Let me take you back to 1999. The “Shack”, as it is known, was pretty rundown, but still viable. Built in the 1860s by two Chinese settlers on a Crown Grant on Mill Road. Various incarnations from hotel, brothel and store had seen it survive neglect, bushfires and time.

Old house in the snow

Robbie, part owner with John, bought it from a guy who probably never owned it close to 50 years ago as a base for bushwalking and a retreat from the city.

In 1999 a few of us, the core, went up for the weekend primarily to fix the old dunny that a squatter using the place had fallen into. As you do. The dunny is a classic piece of architecture indeed.

What ensued was one of the most hilarious, side splittingly funny weekends I’ve ever had. It even out did the splodge episode. That’s another tale. But the dunny got fixed. We had a ball, ate well, drank too much and slept badly in a draughty termite ridden old house that contained the two old Chinese brothers’ dreams.

We resolved to go up every Queen’s Birthday and get the shack more habitable, and so we did.

Over the years the old place has been rebuilt inside and out, but still retains the same look and footprint of when it was built so long ago.

Our musical interests led to the formation of Harry T Ville and the Boyz Blues Band: the long weekend in June was our time to shine.

There have been many guest “artists” over the years. Marty, who froze all weekend, Boyce, Simon, Dave and the Ronnie Wood of the core, Steve M.

We have all been through love, loss and tragedy but always knew we could rely on the shoulder of our brotherhood for support. We’ve let the sun shine brightly living our lives together.

So, to the song. I was an early solo arrival one weekend; I may have gone up on the Thursday.

Alone in the house with the fire blazing thinking of what was to come, the iPod gently sorted through itself. When The Rolling Stones’ Waiting On A Friend came on. Not long after the song ended, I heard the sound of vehicles coming through the rusty old gate.

And so, another episode was about to begin.

To Rob, Steve P, Steve M, Des, Andy and all the others:

May the red be old and the beer cold.



My name is Jim Roberts. Married, two grown men, two grandchildren. Not bad so far. We live and work in Melbourne. I'm just one of the drones from sector C. I like sailing, hiking, music and occasionally writing a song or two. Sometimes my dreams get in the way of reality.