Owners took a chance on the luxurious lodge

BENDIGO Historical Society member Dale O’Sullivan provided the following material for this article on a property usually known as ‘Chance Lodge’.

In the early 1970s, trucking magnate Bernie A’Hern, fell out with the Trotting Board and he decided to leave them to build a model horse establishment which became the best in the world.

A’Hern built a mansion at Goornong, with luxury fittings that were legendary and included a $50,000 crystal chandelier in the ballroom, custom-made furniture, curtains, wallpaper and carpets.

The owner called it B J Lodge and it came with 40 state-of-the-art stables, a 300 person show area, a Vet Clinic with heated stables, internal roads, 90 miles of white rail fencing and a fully functional heliport. Horses to the value of $2 million were at stud there.

Years later, after having made his point to the harness racing field, Bernie A’Hern packed a single suitcase and caught a train to Melbourne, never to return to the now famous B J Lodge, with his red Rolls Royce left in the garage.

The next owner was Doug Kefford, who maintained the property and kept it fit for royalty. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth expressed an interest in seeing the horse establishment, though by this time, the rural side was becoming run down, as Kefford’s main interest was in living in the mansion, which garaged his new Rolls Royce and Maybach cars. He named the property ‘Copperwood Ranch’.

When his family had grown up,  he found the property was surplus to his other investments around Australia, and he put it up for sale.

Enter the famous singer, John Farnham, who with his wife Jill, established themselves as quarter-horse breeders at the re-named ‘Chance Lodge.’ Farnham was soon quoted as saying, “I am losing millions on keeping Chance Lodge and it has to be unloaded quickly.” The mansion and horse establishment was in disrepair and run-down and proved hard to sell. Eventually it did sell to Richard Anderson, who soon found Goornong was too far from established racetracks, and when the pastures and irrigation infrastructure were destroyed by floods, he decided to move his horse establishment elsewhere and concentrate on restoring the gardens and interior of the mansion with his friend Dale O’Sullivan. 

O’Sullivan cleaned up the mansion, renewed the fittings and re-installed the priceless chandelier. Chance Lodge was now at the height of its fame. Unfortunately on August 2, 2010 the mansion burnt down and the entire interior and roof were gutted, leaving only the exterior walls and columns.