This striking rock face, towering over the Kamilaroi Highway outside Boggabri, has been known by many names over the years. Local Aboriginals knew it as ‘Cooloobindi’, whilst it was known as ‘Bullaballakit’ in the era when Sir Thomas Mitchell was exploring the Namoi Valley. In Cobb and Co coach days, it was known as ‘The Rock’ and now it goes by ‘Gin’s Leap’. And you thought Prince had identity issues!
The widely accepted origins of the current name follow the tragic death of a pair of ill-fated young Aboriginal lovers, a modern day Romeo and Juliet. The young girl, promised to an elder of her tribe, the Kamilaroi, ran away with a young aboriginal man from another tribe. Hotly pursued by Kamilaroi tribesmen, the lovers jumped to their deaths from somewhere along the top of this rock.
A Mr ‘Baldy’ Adams obtained a grant of land in the vicinity of Gin’s Leap to build a hospital but changed his plans and opened The Rock Inn in 1854. The hotel was a vital stopover point and renowned landmark for 20 years. It closed around 1875, after new hotels were built in Boggabri, but parts of an old outdoor lamp from the inn remain on display at the Boggabri Historical Museum.
Mr David Grover, his wife Maria (nee King) and family operated The Rock Inn for many years. Maria and her sisters Charlotte and Elizabeth arrived in Australia on board convict ship ‘Fanny’ in 1832. Mr and Mrs Grover are buried in a vault below Gin’s Leap, along with their daughter Mrs Russell and her two-year-old son John James.
Mrs Russell was 21 when she and her son suffered fatal burns during a fiery accident involving bulk spirit handling at a Mungindi Inn. The Grover family received word of the tragedy by a man on horseback. A horse team set out to meet the coach carrying the bodies back home to Boggabri.
Mrs Grover was buried next to her daughter and grandson 25 years later in November 1891, and Mr Grover was laid to rest beside them in October 1892.
The present vault was built in 1895 by a tradesman of Danish ancestry, Mr Christy Hansen, some 200 metres west of the original grave site. A small headstone to the left of the vault belongs to Mrs Grover’s niece MaryAnn Meins, who was the daughter of Charlotte and Edward Meins. MaryAnn died on January 17, 1858, aged 19 years and was buried close to the old Rock Inn. Her headstone was moved due to road reconstruction some years ago, and was damaged during the process.
Gin’s Leap stands as a silent sentinel over the grave sites. It also has a picnic area and interpretive sign.