There are times when the past comes to visit. Times when you are touched by something from your heritage and you are reminded that people, those from history, loved and lived just like you do. Their life experiences, the recount of day-to-day events from a century ago are like a window into a world that is no more. It is a wonder to visit such things.
I met and had the privilege to come to know an elderly relative before his passing, some time ago now. At the time I was preparing educational resources for a school and self-publishing was purely a vanity press. We have come a long way since those days, but even then I recognized the wonderful history in tales that Roy could recount.
Cecil Roy Mackaway was a gem of a person, full of recollections, integrity and old world charm. I thoroughly enjoyed his stories, encouraging him to collect them together along with his bush poetry, for the enjoyment of all. My Dad, also now gone, helped build the small collection with sketches touched by the hand of experience and history and together the three of us enjoyed the project.
Roy would often talk of how he wished this collection could be published and at the time I produced a small booklet for our enjoyment. I went on to publish this many years later with his permission and I would like to offer you an insight into his memories.
Following is the first of his stories and an excerpt from the publication. It is an introduction to his world. The book, Nulla Nulla : A Breath of Yesteryear, has been published in the “Around the Campfire” Series and is available in both ebook and print.
I was born in 1912 and reared at Dyers Crossing on the Wallamba River in New South Wales, Australia. My Grandmother was the daughter of a young Englishman, he was sent out to the colonies by his family for colonial experience like so many young men from England. It is believed however that he was murdered on the gold fields at Bendigo.
My Grandmothers Stepfather, Mr Rolf, was a jack-of-all-trades. In his time he took to droving, station managing, fencing and dam sinking. He travelled a lot by horse and bullock dray, taking his family along with a couple of goats and some fowls when conditions were suitable.
At one time when my grandmother only had two sisters, her father and a mate had a contract to drove a mob of cattle from Wagga Wagga to Rockhampton in Queensland, some 1,000 miles (1560klm), but after about four days on the track the mate was thrown off his horse and killed. They had with them also a black boy who drove the horses and dray.
Grandmother’s father had to ride back to Wagga to report the death and bring back a policeman who could make the report and help bury the man. So he put the man under the dray and then they covered the whole with a big tarpaulin. Gran, her mother and sisters slept in the dray that night, however early in the morning her mother heard slight noises outside, so she slipped the children and herself between the tarpaulin and cart and they all got underneath with the dead man.
The black boy; he had gone bush in a hurry and in the panic under the cart Gran bumped her skull on the axel of the cart. To stop her from yelling her mother clapped her hand over her kisser and almost suffocated her.
One of those jackey’s who was creating all this strife put his hand up under the tarpaulin to feel if there was anything he could lift. Well he touched the stiff’s cold foot and next he give one awful hell of a scream, which sent all the wombats underground for miles. The mob went bush in a hell of a hurry.
Two days later when her father and the copper arrived, the stink of the corps was beginning to attract the crows from ‘halfway to Bourke’. The trooper looked at the tracks and said that there could have been up to a couple of dozen of the ‘sunburned jokers’ sniffing around, but they smelt the stiff, and when they touched his cold foot it really was getting too close to the bedevilled.
So the poor stiff had done a good job, even after he had gone to the great cattle drive in the skies. The copper said, but only for the dead man they would have been murdered for sure as these jackey’s had speared a stockman a few days before.
The dead man was buried and the two police helped her father and his new man muster the cattle again. So they went off on their merry way on to Rockhampton with no more mishaps. They only lost about thirty head of cattle out of the three hundred. Not a bad job, as to say, as there were no roads in those days and the blacks were giving them the silent message by smoke to get out of their territory.
Roy’s story and prose is available in ebook and Print at Amazon. It is written in the Australian vernacular of the day and in publishing this account this has been preserved.