It was on a day such as this, well not quite, but very nearly, that my uncle William told me about The Little People.
“Some people,” he said, “call them gnomes or leprechauns, but all over the world they have different names.”
“But they are just make-believe?” I asked.
And that set my mind a drift for all the years since. In my house in Ballarat there is a tree, it is still there, where the little people live. I wrote a post all about them some years ago and if anyone goes to the trouble to ask, I will tell you all again. But today I was in Geelong. Now Geelong is about one hundred kilometres from Melbourne and about one hundred kilometres from Ballarat and it makes a neat point on a triangle. I don’t go very often to Geelong but today I did. And Oh! what a delight!. For on the foreshore there was a reminder of the day my Uncle William told me of the little people.
There is a memorial to them. The Poppykettle Fountain. It sparked remembrances in my tired mind and I was tempted to do some research but asking questions about the little people is fraught with consequences too difficult to imagine. So I seemed to hear my Uncle telling me. Maybe it is common knowledge to the people of Geelong but all I have is a smattering of thoughts that Uncle William planted.
In 1849 there was a Gold Rush to California. From all over the world men came to search for gold. Movies have been made of gunfights and other disasters. But much is not explained. And Uncle William told me that the little people went to California as well. They are small, he told me and they can hide in luggage and never be discovered. They came from Ireland and Scandinavia. I had to ask him, for I knew of no country called Scandinavia and then I learned that many of the little people came from Norway, Sweden and Finland and were called Misse or Tontu, (I think). Also there were many from across the ocean in South America.
And today I saw the Poppykettle and a lot came rushing back. Because after the Gold Rush ended there was a Gold Rush in Victoria and many people came from California and Europe to Victoria. Many came to Melbourne but many came to Geelong. Some, as Uncle William told me, came from South America. And with them came some little people.
However some of the little people came on their own. There were some little people from Chile or Peru or Bolivia who came in a boat. One such boat was the Poppykettle. Here is a picture.
The Poppykettle is made of copper and has a ladder up the side. As you can see it has no mast and was therefore not a sailing vessel. But if you study the currents of the Pacific Ocean you will know that there is a major current that runs up the coast of South America, hence across the Pacific just a tiny bit south of the Equator and then down the Eastern coast of Australia. Therefore intrepid little people could have come in this fashion all the way from South America to Australia and by chance have landed in Geelong.
And the good people of Geelong have erected a monument in their honour. It is called the “Poppykettle Fountain”.
I wondered as I hid behind bushes to take these photographs if they were happy here or if they sensed some dark future. I hope they feel at home. They are as much a part of Australia as are we all.
Can you see the old man as he sits upon the shore. I do so wish I could have spoken with him but when I approached he sat on his rock as if he was made of stone.