Forgotten box of slides holds precious memories, local history

Matthew Holmes could easily have discarded the old shoebox he found while filming The Legend of Ben Hall in Forbes.

Discovering it was heavy with slides, he thought he'd better look after it.

The children of the man who took those slides, Robert Cox and Jennie Barnes, are so glad he did.

The photographs were taken by their late father Richard Cox during a priceless part of their childhood, while he was education officer at the Lachlan Vintage Village in the early to mid-1970s.

Robert and Jennie would never have known what happened to the photos had Holmes not picked them up and then - during lockdown - started scanning them and sharing them to Facebook.

Jennie saw the photos online and got in touch with her brother. They got on the phone and sat browsing through the galleries on Facebook together.

"I was so looking forward to seeing a photo of dad," Jennie said. "I was on the phone going, why are there no photos of dad? These are all his friends."

They soon realised their dad had been behind the camera.

They connected with the filmmaker who was delighted to confirm the origin of the slides and return them to the family.

There are hundreds of images, from the construction of the Vintage Village to the days hundreds of school students in costume explored life as it was on the goldfields and in early farming.

"It was living history," Jennie said.

The swinging bridge, the goldfields, the replica Nelungaloo homestead, the traditional farming methods, the horses and the trains are all documented.

Robert and Jennie have spent happy hours since going through the images and reminiscing about the many people who built and ran the village in those years.

"It's amazing," Robert said, "particularly as all our photos are gone (due to weather damage decades ago). We're very grateful to Matthew."

"We were both thrilled," Jennie added.

For Robert, the photos document that he did indeed drive the little steam train, Ralph, around the village at just nine years old.

Jennie, away at boarding school, cherished her holidays working with the horses and camping in one of the humpy huts on site.

More than that, they believe the images are a record of a period of Forbes' history.

They continue to scan, file and share them on The Lachlan Vintage Village 1975 Facebook page.