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In the 1870s Melbourne was growing fast and experiencing the flow-on effects of the wealth generated by the earlier goldrush. Impressive buildings were replacing the previous neighbourhood character in large sections of the city and Melbourne was shaping up to be one of the must-visit cities of the Empire. [White Hat pauses to lift a glass of mildly intoxicating liquor to our lips while paying homage to our queen � Victoria � after all the colony was named in her honour.]

These were heady times and the signs of progress and civilisation were everywhere. What a difference from the squalor of London and some of the less civilised reaches of the Empire. [White Hat takes a second sip and toasts QV once again.]

However, behind the scenes all was not as progressive as people liked to believe. A writer who we believe can lay claim to be being Melbourne�s first major investigative journalist arrived on the scene. He submitted a piece about people sleeping rough to the newspaper �The Argus�. He signed the piece �A Vagabond�.

Gravestone of 'The Vagabond'
Tomb of The Vagabond
at Melbourne General Cemetery

Fairly soon he was submitting pieces about various institutions on the outskirts of society. He went in �undercover� to write pieces about places such as lunatic asylums, the morgue and cemetery, prisons and other places that the good readers of The Argus would presumably have had no first hand experience. Fairly soon he had graduated from �A Vagabond� to �The Vagabond�.

The writings of The Vagabond soon gained a following and a certain mystique � any writer who did not reveal their real name obviously has something to hide and became a creature of almost sensuous intrigue. Ah, those were the days. The Vagabond�s pieces weren�t just voyeurism for a Victorian era public fascinated with the seedier side of life. Suggestions made by The Vagabond about how the social services involved could be improved often seemed based on a broader knowledge of how things were done elsewhere in the world and led to action to change our local practices.

For a while The Vagabond wandered off to other parts of Australia and the world but eventually returned to Victoria. He was now aging and in dubious health and in need of income. He took on the project of heading by horseback to the remoter parts of Victoria and writing a regular lengthy newspaper column reporting on bush and town life in Victorian era Victoria. He eventually died in poverty in Fitzroy.

Today he is remembered by a few through his collected investigative writings republished under the name �The Vagabond Papers�. However at White Hat we quietly value his observations on country Victoria collected under the title �Vagabond Country�. Here he managed to create a sort of �Lonely Planet Guide to Victoria� long before the Wheelers were to create their more high profile product.

The Vagabond is buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery. His neglected grave features a carving of a hand holding a pen. At the foot of the grave is a carved urn, obviously contributed by some contemporary admirers.

It contains the simple inscription �VAG�.

[White hat takes a final sip and toasts �The Vag�.]

___________________  White Hat  ___________________

Seven Journalists of Melbourne - overview