Ararat Advertiser helped preserve legacy of Hugh Byrne Carroll and the creation of Carrolls Cutting to Moyston

MANY families have their own legends, but few have those almost unbelievable old tales confirmed via the pages of the Ararat Advertiser.

Carroll's Saddlery co-owner Greg Carroll has found many details of his pioneering family’s exploits in the newspaper archives.

“There’s a lot about us in the newspaper,” he said.

“I think that’s because we were one of the original pioneer families who haven’t moved away or died out.

“If there’s no people and no record of them, I think there’s a risk of the community forgetting.”

There’s a particular tale of how his great grandfather, Hugh Byrne Carroll, almost lost his life on two occasions while carving a new road through the ‘Big Hill’ between Moyston and Ararat.

Greg Carroll said that back in 1864, Moyston was producing a lot of goods but the road suitable for horse-drawn carts was far from direct.

“Hugh Byrne Carroll arrived here in 1862 and immediately took up farming land and contracting,” Greg said.

“By 1865 he had successfully tendered for the cutting through the ‘Big Hill’, as it was known then, to make the road to Ararat more direct.

“The hill was a real barrier at that point in time.

“Moyston  was a very active gold mining area as well as farming and produce. It was quite an active settlement, but to get to Ararat, which was a major centre, they had to go up the ‘Better Route Road’ up to the end of the range and come back in.”

Ararat’s municipal government at the time advertised for people willing to smash their way through the hill to clear a path for a new road.

Hugh took up the task but what nobody realised that just below the overburden was a metamorphic rock layer that had been hardened by heat and pressure from lava flows.

Greg said commercial explosives had only just been invented and Hugh instead used gunpowder to blast through the rock.

“It was during the excavation that they set a number of charges and after the blast they walked up to inspect the results,” Greg said.

“There was a delayed fuse and one charge exploded. The Ararat Advertiser paper at the time reported, it’s not just family hearsay, ‘Mr Carroll was buried in rubble up to his neck and severely injured’.

“He was conveyed to Ararat Hospital. There was no helicopter or ambulance in those days. It would have been by horse and cart on a barely formed road.”

High returned to work weeks later and before the project was complete, he was injured again after falling from the top of the cutting while swinging a 30-pound hammer.

In 2005, the state government named the gap Carroll’s Cutting.