Right now, I feel like I could poor a bucket of ice right over my head. Apparently, it’s 22°C and by rights I shouldn’t be complaining because the mercury is going to hit 36 °C later today. However, I’ll blame Zac the dog who is sleeping on my lap for blazing like a furnace and if it weren’t for him, I’d also elevate myself out of the chair and nab the remote control for the air-conditioning and turn it back on. Forget being stoic and developing resilience and grit. I want comfort!
The highlight of the last week was catching up with some school friends for dinner at the Butcher’s Block in Wahroonga, Sydney. Coincidentally, it turns out we were meeting up with our friend Natalie who moved to Toronto, Canada and I’ve always found it kind of nice that I get a window into my friend’s world in Toronto through our intrepid host, Natalie the Explorer. There were ten of us for dinner and a number couldn’t make it, which I think you really notice with school friends because we used to hang out in pairs, within groups and while some of these allegiances changed over the years, there were those friends who made it all the way through and almost became an institution. I went to an all-girls school and while that didn’t preclude a romantic attachment, I haven’t heard of any but we certainly had no boys to couple up with although there was the school gardener who was rather young, handsome, blond and considered hot property at least on the bus. Fortunately, none of my close school friends have passed away but a number keep to themselves and I haven’t seen some truly close friends for over 10-20 + years. Indeed, putting that into words really paints an awful picture and I feel almost honourbound to get fired up and do something about it. Not all of these friends are real social and of course “we’re all busy”, but I think sometimes we need to exit stage left and leave all of that behind…the lists, the mess, the family obligations and say I am going to see you. I am going to make room for that coffee with a friend, a dinner, a weekend away. I’m not going to let the people who matter most to me get drowned out by weeds. Of course, it’s a bit harder when they don’t make the time. Don’t feel the need or desire to have coffee with you or even to return an email or text. You are in the past dead and buried. Well, as they say, “that’s their loss”. What I will say, is that I truly appreciate our school reunions and the opportunity to make new friends or strengthen various friendships which sort of hovered beneath the radar back at school. While in a sense these school friendships are in the past, there’s something really special about them. Well, that’s what I think anyway. You’re thrown into a lift together and under each other’s noses, arm pits the works with these often very strange creatures called teachers and rules and regulations, especially in our case, which often didn’t make sense. I started at the school in Year 6 back in 1981 so we’re not talking about the era of the horse and cart here, but we had to wear leather satchels to school and we also had to use cartridge ink pens. While the satchel sounds bad, inflicting ink pens on kids when biros are freely available was sadistic. How could they? We weren’t allowed to walk on the grass. Couldn’t go into a shop in school uniform or talk to boys either (which probably should’ve gone at the top of my list of prohibitions!!) Thank goodness, we’d been spared wearing gloves, but we did have to wear hats, which I’m sure had nothing to do with sun protection, especially the Winter Tam-o-shanter which made for fabulous frisbees at the train station and it was nothing for them to take flight and go on all sorts of unplanned adventures on their own. Clearly, you had to be there to appreciate the place in all it’s glory, which is probably much the same for every school although for different reasons and why school friends become a kind of survival network. If you can get through school together, you can conquer the world.
So let me propose a toast to absent friends and an open invitation for them all to come home.
Meanwhile, I’m still writing up my posts from my houseminding stint in Sydney and still going on massive research detours. You might recall that I visited Watson’s Bay on Sydney Harbour and started reading Christina Stead’s novel: “Seven Poor Men of Sydney” which was set there back in the 1920s. Indeed, she lived there from 1911-1928. Well, I’m very passionate about biography and family history and so I started pouring through the old newspapers putting all that background together and was fascinated by her father, David Stead, who was a noted naturalist who was an expert in Australian fish and actively campaigned for the preservation of Australia’s native plants and animals at least as early as the 1920[‘s. He’s speaking out about koalas being killed for their furs, women wearing the feathers of exotic birds in their hats and I guess the thing that really struck me was there were tigers roaming through Singapore only 100 years ago. Indeed, his writings provide a terrifying reflection of a world we’re coming close to destroying. Yet, he was blowing the whistle over 100 years ago. Much not only to think about there, but to act on as well!
Meanwhile, the while all of that’s been going on, there’s my health which has been refusing to lie down in the background and is still trying to push me out of the way on centre stage crying: “Look at me!” Or, more pertinently “Listen to me” be it a cough, choke or shortness of breath. I think the increased prednisone is helping and the coughing has really calmed down a lot. I was able to catch the train to dinner and got through the night without mishap so I’m feeling pretty chuffed. I even got to wear my red high heels, although I managed to slip them on when I arrived and hide the dreaded flats in my bag. That’s the beauty of being first to arrive and the bathroom was conveniently right behind my seat. Surely, even I couldn’t trip over and break my neck taking only a couple of steps (You bet I could but thank goodness it didn’t happen this time.) Mind you, I could also ask why I felt compelled to wear the flashy red shoes at all when they were hiding under the table almost all of the night (Of course, I had to point them out, didn’t I ?!!)
This week I have more medical appointments, but excitingly it’s our son, J.P.’s birthday on Wednesday. He’s turning 19. My goodness time is flying.
Well, I’d better head off to bed and hope by some miracle it’s cooler in there than it is out here with the dog. I know I’ll be complaining about the cold before too long, so I’ll try to be thankful instead.
On that note, what have you been up to? I’d love to hear from you and look forward to catching up on your news.
Located right on Sydney Harbour, MacCallum Pool is like the Pool of Siloam. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s where Jesus healed the blind man. Looking at the stunning views and tranquil waters, you have to wonder if there isn’t anything a swim in MacCallum Pool wouldn’t fix?!
While generations have dived into it’s depths, thrived on it’s aquatic wonders and almost inhaled the breathtaking views, I’m delving into the old newspapers to find out what and who has gone before. These stories are my buried treasure, and add so much meaning to what I see.
That said, there’s no doubt that a lot of “what happens at MacCallum Pool stays at MacCallum Pool”, and no matter how deep we dive in, we’ll never reach the bottom.
Of the stories which can be made public, I’d like to focus on the incredible drive, persistence and grit of Cremorne locals who raised the funds and constructed the original pool themselves. We have them to thank for being able to wander freely into this magnificent pool free of charge and get in a few laps. What an incredible legacy to leave behind.
The vision for a harbour pool began with local resident and Olympic medal-winning swimmer, Fred Lane, who rearranged the rocks to create a natural pool.
Later, a group of keen locals under retired businessman Hugh MacCallum, took up the challenge in earnest. Work finished on the pool on Saturday 23rd November, 1924 after: “Fifteen years of patient, unostentatious work at week-ends and on holidays, work of the youngsters and the parents living around Shell Cove — and at last the monument was completed.”
This little snippet from the 19th January, 1927 does a good job of relating what went into creating the pool:
“This is a story that should make every alderman beam with delight — Every Mayor chortle with joy— .And every ratepayer gasp with admiration and envy. It is told simply in the following letter, which, accompanied by a photograph of a bathing pool, was received by the North Sydney Council last night. “As an example of what can be done by the residents of any suburb, where the people are willing to co-operate and provide the needful, it may be mentioned that, by doing a little every year, this series of potholes at Shell Cove has taken shape, until now it is a safe, shark-proof pool with a graded depth from 2ft, 6in. at the children’s end to 6ft. 6in. at the other end. “Up to date over £700 has been spent during a period of 15 years, and this sum has been voluntarily subscribed by the residents, no outsider’s help of any kind having been asked for or received.” Council expressed its appreciation of the fine public spirit which had prompted the construction of the swimming bath…” 1.
Council -took over the running of the pool in 1930 and on the 29th April, 1933, a plaque was unveiled naming the pool after Hugh MacCallum who had “collected £600 in the locality, and after several years of strenuous labor constructed a swimming pool about 40 yards long and which at high tide has a depth of over six feet. Many North Sydney youngsters have learnt to swim in the pool, and it has become a popular picnic spot.”2.
Here’s an interview with Hugh MacCallum’s grandson which was filmed at the pool:
Meanwhile, as I alluded to earlier, there was another side to MacCallum Pool. On the 5th March, 1930 the Evening News, ran a headline: “CREMORNE POOL: HIGH JINKS ALLEGED”. It continued:
“In a letter to North Sydney Council last night, a resident of Cremorne Point scathingly criticised the conduct of bathers in Cremorne Pool, and asked that the baths be removed. “Since this bathing pool has been in existence, it has been an intolerable nuisance to those who live nearby,” he wrote.
“Bathers use it up to and sometimes after, midnight, and indulge in singing, shouting, laughing, screeching, and often use very bad language. Many bathers, of both sexes, lie on the rocks sunbaking, and others run about the reservation in scanty bathing costumes at all hours of the day.” Ald. Norden asked that the pool be allowed to remain. The engineer will report on the cleaning of the pool.” 3.
I had thought there was further scandal to report until I had a closer read. It turns out there is also a Cremorne in Mackay, Queensland. Of course, I couldn’t let you miss out on a scandal. So here goes. On the 18th October, 1917 a letter to Mackay’s Daily Mercury lamented:
“About a dozen men were lying about in prominent positions, with absolutely nothing on. One man was also swimming about in a state of nudity. These occurrences prevent the place being used by ladies, and surely they have as much right to the place as men. On Sunday it is just as bad.
Yours, etc., DISGUSTED.” 4.
I guess this leaves us with the dilemma of whether we are going to be a force for good and make a contribution to our local community. Or, are we going to be the “fart in the lift”? That’s not to say the two are mutually exclusive. You can be community-minded and still have fun. Yet there’s a balance, and at least a consideration of one of my favourite principles: the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I’m also a fan of trying to walk in someone’s shoes. Although living this way may not leave a concrete legacy like MacCallum Pool, it could very well build invisible, luxury mansions inside those we meet, especially those who need it most.
Have you ever been to MacCallum Pool or something similar where you live? Do you have any memories to share?
Doubtless, there’s no shortage of historic newspaper accounts of daytrips to Manly or descriptions of the place. However, not all of them are so well illustrated and I appreciated how this story in the Australian Town & Country Journal from 1899 covered some of the businesses in town as well and added people to the scene, which made t much more personal.
So, here goes….
Manly – The Queen Of Manly is to Sydney what Brighton is to London -the people’s. watering place. It is the resort par excellence of holiday-makers. On New Year’s Day-or, more correctly, January 2, for the year opened on Sunday-the five steamers of the Port Jackson Co-operative Company carried, exclusive of season ticket holders, no less than 22,000 people to the deservedly popular suburb. Not only is Manly the objective point of pleasure seekers at holiday times, but all through the summer season it is visited by hundreds, sometimes thousands, daily. A more ideal place for family picnics would be hard to find. Juveniles delight in the magnificent ocean and harbour beaches, the merry-go-rounds, the splendid baths, the fishing, the rambles by rocky glens and fairy bowers, and other attractions which make up the sum total of a day’s outing at Manly. Young ladles, while their male acquaintances are at work in the city, slip down there for afternoon tea and gossip, and in the evening, when the labour of the day is over, a “blow” on the harbor, and a walk on the ocean promenade with sweetheart, wife, or sister, has become almost as much a part of the city denizen’s existence as his pipe or newspaper. As the recreation haunt of the metropolis, Manly has steadily and satisfactorily increased its attractions, considering our somewhat tardy recognition of its advantages and possibilities. A good band is badly wanted, or, for the matter of that, two bands, one for the (harbour) Esplanade, and another for the (ocean) Parade. Occasionally the Port Jackson Company secure the services of a band for the Esplanade, and the popularity which attends these performances points to the desirability of establishing the band as a permanent institution.
Though it is only with-in the last three or four years that Manly has come to be known and appreciated at its proper worth, the now more than village has been growing nearly half a century. There are still one or two Manlyites who remembered the narrow isthmus which connect North Head with the mainland as a scrubby waste with rude tracks leading here and there to the ten or twelve, cottage residences, where lived as many families, the sole population of the neighborhood forty odd years ago. Mr. Henry Gilbert Smith, the proprietor of the estate, had a house on the hill where now stands Dalley’s “Castle,” or “Folly,” as the unfinished pile has been called, and of the other residents one or two were “some-thing in the city,” and the remainder were mostly fishermen. Communication with the city was maintained by the Parramatta steamers, which plied from the wharf at the foot of Erskine-street, and made two trips a day in fine weather, and whenever was convenient-perhaps but one trip a week in bad weather. A return fare then cost 3s. The steamers of those days were the Victoria, Black Swan, Pelican; and Emu, comparatively small craft, but capable of covering the distance-something over seven miles-in three quarters of an hour. To-day we have those fine saloon steamers Brighton, Manly, Fairlight, Narrabeen, and Brightside, which make the run a slightly shorter one certainly, in 35 minutes (the Manly does it in 25), and are together capable of transporting with, comfort 5000 people in one trip, or an average of 1000 per steamer. Instead of the two trips a day. there are now twenty-seven from each end, and fair weather or foul the service is maintained with the regularity of the English mail. Such a service as this, such fine steamers, and such cheap fares, is unexcelled anywhere.
In other respects also great strides have been made. The little fishing village has become, perhaps, the most picturesque watering place on the Australian seaboard. Nature has done nearly everything for Manly. The residents have done the rest. They built the Corso, the main thoroughfare connecting the harbor beach with that of the ocean, and as population grew, cut up the land on either side into residential blocks, planted shady trees by the way-side, created a park and recreation reserve, constructed the Esplanade, and defined the Ocean Parade, the completion of which the local council will, doubtless, leave as a legacy to a future generation of aldermen. More might have been done but for the circumstance that the Municipality of Manly, like most similar bodies in this country, finds itself hampered by monetary considerations.
The village had grown into a township, but the atmosphere of the village still clung round it. Manly was at best a dead and alive sort of place. Families who could afford, it sojourned there during the summer months, but the eighteen penny fare which obtained was not calculated to encourage permanent residents, and even the holiday fare of 1s seldom brought more than a few thousand visitors on any single occasion. A stimulus was wanting to galvanise the place into activity, and it came two or three years ago, when a number of influential residents, failing to se-cure a reduction in fares from the Port Jackson Company, organised, and ran an opposition line of steamers, at the ridiculously low rate of 3d. The competition which ensued was keen and suicidal, but “all’s well that ends well,” and Manly, as the saying is, has never looked back since. The great public having once tasted of the joys of a trip to Manly, must needs go again, and often, so by and bye, the rival companies amalgamated, a sixpenny return fare was established, and where, in 1893, the number of visitors was 376,777, the number in 1898 reached the grand total (exclusive of season ticket holders-a very numerous class, of course), 1,145,872-more than three times the number carried at the 1s 6d rate. Scores of new houses have been erected to meet growing demands, and from 3500 the population has increased to nearly 7000.
Under this new stimulus business, of course, went ahead by leaps and. bounds. Not a few shop-keepers found it necessary to rebuild, and extend their premises. Mr. J. W.Purves was one of these. He is the leading baker of Manly, and his refreshment-room at the Esplanade end of the Corso beats anything to be seen in Sydney for comfort, convenience, and general up-to-dateness. No wonder, for it cost him £2000 to build it. The floor is beautifully tiled, the ceiling is of the kind known as “Wunderlich,” and the furnishings and fittings are of modern type. What is more to the point, the confections, etc., are of the best quality, and as there are six waitresses in constant attendance, patrons are spared those trials of temper which invariably arise from “having to wait.” Mr. Purves’s establishment seats 80 people comfortably, and by utilising the balcony, he can accommodate 200. Not very long ago Mr. Purves had the satisfaction of seeing the Premier (Mr. Reid), and the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Brunker), sitting in his shop, enjoying a cup of tea “on their own.”
A little further along the Corso is the establishment of Mr. Charles J. Carroll, who, as chemist and druggist, has built up a large connection during the three years he has been in; business. This is the same Mr. Carroll whose “Instantaneous Headache Cure” has afforded relief to numbers of suffering humanity. Apart from his profession of chemist and druggist. Mr. Carroll is a skilled surgical and mechanical dentist, and residents can have their teeth attended to on terms as advantageous as can be obtained in the city.
The “Universal Providers” of Manly is a distinction enjoyed by Messrs. Butler Brothers, who, seven years ago, took over the business of Mr. Stephen Sullivan, and have since extended it so as to embrace all the needs of the town. A list of the things they sell would make tedious reading, but roughly, they may be summed up under the several heads of groceries, provisions, wines and spirits, produce, hardware, ironmongery, paints and oils, bedding, furniture, and building material. Tea blending is made a specialty of, and the Butler Brothers’ brands have many appreciative consumers.
Another well-appointed tea-room is that of Mrs. Frances Young, which is situated at the corner of the Corso and the Ocean or Steyne Parade-the best and most admirable site in all Manly. The building is quite new-it was only opened by Mrs. Young on Christmas Eve-and it is replete with modern conveniences. Here visitors may sit and sip their tea and look out upon the great ocean, and listen to the music of the waves, as they break upon the beach a few yards away. What further recommendation is necessary? Unless it be that the catering is excellent, and the attendance first-class.
In the matter of educational advantages Manly is ahead of most suburbs. The University College, conducted by Mr. John F. M’Manamey, B.A., Syd. (gold medallist in classics), with competent assistant masters, though only twelve months founded, has become one of the institutions of the district. It is both a boarding and a day school. The curriculum includes preparation for the examinations of the University and of the Public Service Board. Special instruction is given in shorthand and type-writing, and, of course, adequate provision is made for recreation, in the shape of sports clubs, with the additional advantage of a cadet corp for drill and discipline.
The completion of the sewerage system-the construction of which was begun fifteen months ago will add materially to the reputation of Manly as a summer and health resort. As is well known, Manly numbers amongst its residents some very distinguished and influential people. His Eminence Cardinal Moran has his home there, and within a stone’s throw of his palace; dominating the landscape, stands that magnificent sandstone pile of buildings known as St. Patrick’s Ecclesiastical College, the most conspicuous landmark of Port Jackson. Facing St. Patrick’s, on the heights opposite, rises the gaunt facade of the late W. B. Dalley’s “Castle,” another landmark and a striking monument to the vanity of human ambition. It was near by. on what used to be called Constitutional Hill, that was exhibited, forty-two years ago, the first camera obscura known in these colonies. Yet a third landmark remains to be mentioned-the kangaroo, which for forty years has, from the elevated pedestal on Kangaroo ‘Hill, beckoned a welcome to vessels making for the port. Many stories are in circulation as to the raison d’etre of this stony marsupial, but the “very oldest” resident assures us that it was erected by the owner of the estate, Mr. H. S. Smith, simply to attract .people up the hill, he supposed. No article dealing with Manly would be complete without mention of those other delightful retreats known to thousands of cyclists, to which it furnishes the key. These include Narrabeen, Rock Lily, Bay View, Newport, and Pittwater, with all of which there is regular communication by coach daily.
Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1919), Saturday 25 February 1899, page 30
Hope you enjoyed this step back into Manly’s history.
Manly might be a place, but it’s also a legend. Indeed, right from the very beginning of English settlement in Sydney, the local Guringai men were legendary for their “manly” attributes, which ultimately gave Manly its English name. These were the men Governor Phillip encountered at Manly Cove or its Aboriginal name: Kai’ymay.
“Their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”.
Capt. Arthur Phillip
Tragically and I guess inevitably, those days are long gone and yet the legend of Manly lives on with its thriving surf and beach culture and epic ferry service. Yet, for the rest of us mere mortals, we’re just happy to go to Manly for a swim, get a bit of a tan, hang out with a few mates and have a bite to eat. We’re a long way from living legend status.
By the way, we’re not going on any long or strenuous walks on this tour and we’re sticking to the main drag which runs from Manly Wharf and along The Corso which takes you to Ocean Beach. There’s obviously much more to do around Manly and when we go back in April, I’d like to get to the Quarantine Station, but I’m pretty sure that requires a car. (Hold that thought. The Manly fast ferry stops there.) Anyway, this is our walk and no one else’s and is in no way a comprehensive guide to what to see in Manly.
However, we did go on a bit of a detour. We were looking for the Manly Cenotaph, but the map directed us to a park opposite the Town Hall where we found what I thought was a canon. How bizarre! As it turned out, it was a World War II-era 25-pounder Mark II field gun. Naturally, I wondered why it was there, and it turns out that the gun was presented to the council in 1983 in recognition of the close association between the Manly municipality and the School of Artillery at nearby North Head, and as a tribute to those residents who served in the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.
Meanwhile this detour meant that we actually bypassed Manly’s famous Corso where the actual cenotaph we were looking for is conspicuously located not far from the wharf. Of course, this won’t come as a great surprise to any of you who know about my poor sense of direction, but this time Geoff was in charge of the map or perhaps Siri got it wrong. Anyway, we found the cenotaph on our way home, and to be honest, you can’t miss it!!
I guess I should probably explain why I was so keen to visit the cenotaph when most people visiting Manly head straight to the beach or for something to eat. Manly’s cenotaph is special because it was the first cenotaph to be built in Australia and it was organized and paid for by local solicitor, Mark Mitchell, whose son Alan from the 1st Battalion AIF was wounded during the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on the 25th April, 1915. Tragically, Alan later died of wounds in Egypt on the 5th May, 1915 and was the first Manly Volunteer to die. Knowing that story, the Manly cenotaph feels incredibly personal and a symbol of not only one father’s abject grief at losing his son, but also a community’s grief as many more sons fell not only in the “war to end all wars”, but also in subsequent wars.
While we were looking for the cenotaph, we came across the markets. In yet another case of sleeping in and arriving somewhere too late, the markets were closing as we arrived. However, we did manage to check out a few stalls and I bought a great pair of Thing One and Thing Two (from Dr Suess) earrings.
As I mentioned in my previous post we bought chicken Kebabs and headed across the road to Ocean Beach and sat on the steps to eat. I’ve already mentioned the treacherous divebombing food stealing sea gulls in my previous post so I won’t elaborate.
By the time we’d finished our kebabs, Manly was bathed in the most glorious golden light as we headed towards sunset and even a row of rather ordinary but historic shops came to life in this light becoming rather photogenic.
We walked back to Manly Wharf via the famous Corso.
I know it doesn’t really sound like we saw much of Manly now that I’m back home in the comfort of the lounge, but we had a good time and saw as much as we could at the time and our Manly experience was focused more on the ferry rides than exploring a lot of Manly itself on this trip.
Have you been to Manly and do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you!
This week, I’m going to make you a pot of English Breakfast Tea and make you a Marmalade Sandwich and we can pretend we’re the late Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear having lunch together at Buckingham Palace.
It’s hard for me to know quite what to say about the death of the Queen. She’s been the monarch for 70 years and at the very least, she’s been a constant all that time at least in terms of being a portrait in our school halls, classrooms, scout and guide halls etc seemingly watching everything that’s going on and being a part of things, yet not. It’s going to be very strange to see King Charles III there instead, especially when I’m a Republican. Personally, I think it’s time to have an Australian as our Head of State and quite frankly I don’t want to see them to have the same ubiquitous presence the Queen has always had. She was quite an exceptional human being, stuck to the straight and narrow and was a worthy role model and leader. Most of us are a lot more human and so many leaders both in and out of politics have let us down. It would be good to move on.
Meanwhile, we’re coming into Spring here. I’ve heard the local Waratahs are back in flower and I’ll have to drive out and have a look. They’re about ten minutes away and simply growing beside the road. We’ve also seen groves of golden wattle in bloom, which is absolutely beautiful. This is all a reminder to keep your eyes open to the positives around you, even when the going gets tough. There’s always something to make you smile and radiate joy!
Speaking of joy, we’re actually very happy and relieved to still have Lady, our Cavalier x Border Collie still with us. Last Sunday she vomited and the next day she went off her food and was barely moving. I had no idea what was going on with her and after her carrying her out to bed, didn’t expect her to be with us in the morning. However, there she was at the back door wagging her tail and full of beans. Far from being sick, she was actually more lively than usual. I was most surprised. We’re not real good at keeping track of how old our dogs are. Probably because we really don’t want to know. As we all know, they speed through life seven times faster than us and that’s a tough thing to contend with. However, we think she’s about eleven or twelve so she’s older than she looks.
Absence is the sign of a great, well-enjoyed holiday – absolutely no posts until well after you’ve arrived home. That’s because you’re not only seizing every single moment you’re away. You’re also so exhausted from your holiday, that you also need to recover.
That describes our trip to Bathurst well.
On the 18th August (just over a week ago now), Geoff and I left on a four day escape to Bathurst without the kids. After two years of intermittent covid lockdowns and isolations along with just over 18 years of parenting, this represented a tremendous achievement. Indeed, it could well be argued that it would be easier to climb Mt Everest, except you’d probably accuse me of hyperbole or that old favourite….being a drama queen! Anyway, the only reason we could get away now was because Miss was off to the Gold Coast for four days competing in Nationals for cheerleading.
However, just like Cinderella, we had restrictions in place. Firstly, we had to drop her off at the station at the unholy hour of 5.30am necessitating a 4.30am wake up for this die hard night owl. Then, we had to pick her up from the local train station at 4.00 pm Sunday afternoon. Of course, we didn’t want our beloved red Alfa 959 to get turned into a pumpkin if we ran late. If you’re the parent of a teenager or if you’ve ever been, you’ll know the teenager should not be upset, inconvenienced or forgotten. Being turned into a pumpkin could be an optimistic outcome!
Well, you might ask why we would go to Bathurst when we could almost go anywhere on the planet for our special extended weekend away. Well, given the time restraints, not quite anywhere but there was still quite a smorgasbord of choice available. Firstly, since we live at the beach, we wanted to go to the country to experience something different. We are both pretty interested in history and photography and we thought we’d check out old mining towns in the area as well as the race track at Mt Panorama.
Bathurst was traditionally owned by the Wiradjuri People, or “the people of the three rivers”, being the Wambuul (Macquarie), Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidjeri (Murrumbidgee). Meanwhile, the city of Bathurst was founded in 1815, and is the oldest settlement west of the Great Dividing Range. It is located on the Macquarie River about 200 kms West-Northwest of Sydney. Following the discovery of the first payable gold at nearby Ophir, on 12 February 1851; all roads led to Bathurst. Indeed, on the 17th May, 1851 the Bathurst Free Press reported: “A complete mental madness appears to have seized almost every member of the community. There has been a universal rush to the diggings.” The goldrush has left it’s imprint on Bathurst and the surrounding regions architecturally, which was one of the reasons we were heading up there- photography! Bathurst’s other great claim to fame is the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which goes around the legendary Mt Panorama Circuit. Car racing is more Geoff’s thing, but I was also looking forward to driving round the track for the first time.
So, let’s get cracking…
Day One- Umina Beach to Bathurst.
After dropping MIss off, we headed to Bathurst via the Bell’s Line Road, which is an alternate route across the Blue Mountains to the more conventional Great Western Highway via Katoomba. When asked why we went this way, Geoff tells me “it is a much more fun road with better scenery and you’re not stuck in traffic all the way. Why would you want to be stuck in traffic all the way?” Makes sense to me.
Now, I’m going to pick up our journey from Bell’s Line Road, which took us through the Blue Mountains National Park. In 2019, four horrific bushfires swept through the region decimating bushland on an unimaginable scale. We drove through vast expanses of burned out vegetation at times stretching as far as the eye could see. It’s starting to regrow, but the loss was catastrophic. You can get an impression of the scale of these fires on the map here. Yet, we also stopped to enjoy spectacular views of soaring cliffs, and also saw a few wildflowers.
We arrived in Bilpin around 8.00am and were delighted to find the Grumpy Baker. We shared one of their epic sausage rolls, while I also indulged in the most luxuriously delicious cinnamon scroll I’ve ever had, and Geoff ordered an apple turnover. With eyes much bigger than our stomach’s, we also ordered a cheese stick for in the car. I almost forgot to mention my coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee due to my heartburn. However, feeling like a veritable zombie after around 4 hours sleep, it was a must, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I could well understand how coffee keeps the masses alive.
Before we left Bilpin, I had a rather “interesting” experience. The public toilets were a short drive down the road. Although this should have been a very straightforward experience, I actually got locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out. The lock was a bit complicated and I’m turning it this way and that and pushing and then Geoff realized I was stuck and started pushing from the outside without any luck while I kept fiddling with the lock. By this stage, a mixture of dread, panic and potential embarrassment was setting in as I was starting to think we would be needing to call the police to let me out. OMG!!! That happened to a friend at a restaurant once and he was just lucky he’d taken his mobile phone with him and called us at the table to let him out. You could just imagine the laughter. We were such a sympathetic bunch. So, while you might say this was karma 30 years later, I didn’t see it that way. Anyway, I looked up and saw a second rather serious looking lock and hey presto, I was out. The toilets had just been cleaned and it looks like they hadn’t latched back the lock. Phew!
We arrived in Bathurst around 10.00am (can you believe we’d travelled 248 kilometres before 10.00am? I doubt it!!). Our first stop was the Visitors’ Centre where we came across one of three restored Cobb and Co. coaches in existence. Now, we really knew we were travelling back in time. We left with a swag of tourist brochures, heading for the town centre.
Almost…Geoff being Geoff, headed straight for Mt Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 track before we’d had much of a look around town. It was interesting, even a bit exhilarating, to drive round the actual track in person after watching the race on TV. It certainly gave me a much better appreciation of what the drivers go through at speeds of up to 300 kph, even though we had to stick to the speed limit of 60 KPH which dropped down to 40KPH in a few treacherous spots. I was too tired to even think about having a go myself.
We headed back into town. After doing a quick drive around the streets where I was literally salivating over all the historic architecture, we parked at Machattie Park on William and Keppel Streets and set out on foot armed with our cameras. Machattie Park is a wonderland all by itself. Moreover, it was surrounded by an incredible array of striking historic buildings. To be honest, I didn’t know quite where to point my camera, and was very grateful for digital technology where I could snap away to my heart’s content.
After sunset, we made it to our hotel, Rydges at Mt Panoroma, which is located right on the race track on Conrod Straight. Of course, it would be incredible on race day, but entirely out of our league. We have no idea how much it would cost, but it’s booked out for the next three years. When Geoff, Mister and their crew went to Bathurst, they were slumming it in tents, although being out in the paddocks had a culture all of its own.
We didn’t see much beyond sunset and crashed for the night. The early morning start had well and truly caught up with us.
Day Two – Carcoar and Milthorpe
The second day of our trip was a reminder that there’s only 24 hours in a day and brings to mind that old question about whether life is about the journey or the destination.
It began with breakfast at Nicky’s Cafe in Bathurst after we slept through breakfast at the hotel. I wandered across the road dazzled by architecture and a laser display and then wandered down an alleyway being lead by my camera and not by the clock. We were heading for Carcoar to see an old school friend of mine and Geoff mentioned getting there before she closed but I had all day. This steady stop-start meandering continued all the way to Carcoar, and you guessed it, she was closed by the time we got there, and she’d had to shoot off to Orange. Another note to self about prioritising.
We scooted around Carcoar which was absolutely stunning. We drove back to Bathurst via Millthorpe.
Day Three- Driving Around the Bathurst Track, Sofala and Hill End
By day three, we were well and truly into holiday mode, which in our case, had nothing to do with relaxing and was all about trying to squeeze as much as we could into one day.
Before we headed off to Sofala, yours truly finally had the chance to drive around the racetrack at Mt Panorama in our Alfa 159. While neither a Ford nor a Holden, Alfas have also had their day out at Bathurst. I was really proud of myself for “conquering the mountain” because I’ve generally been quite an anxious driver and I wasn’t nervous at all despite some very sharp bends. I’d gone round the track again with Geoff taking note of the trouble spots and thought it doesn’t matter if I take those serious bends like a snail, as long as I made to the end. After all, I wasn’t trying to be Peter Brock, the undisputed King of the Mountain! Hurray! I did it!!
After going round Bathurst i.e. the track, we were off to the former gold mining town of Sofala, followed by Hill End. Artist Russell Drysdale immortalised Sofala with his award-winning landscape (pictured above). I have a feeling my parents had a print of Sofala at home growing up as it feels very familiar. Another artist, Donald Friend, was with Drysdale at the time and did his own version which isn’t as well known. For some time, I’ve been wanting to get out to Sofala and and photograph my own version. I was most annoyed that a telegraph pole was put right in the way along with all the parked cars, but otherwise the scene looked pretty much the same. However, being Winter it didn’t have the omnipresent sense of blazing heat of Drysdale’s work.
Next stop Hill End. By now, we were hungry and I remembered reading about Hill End Pies at the Hill End Estate found at 3664 Hill End Road, Hill End. Thanks to plumber turned pastry chef, Steve Rattray, we were in for a treat, especially with the Danish pastries we had for dessert. Oh golly! I’d get in the car and go there now if it weren’t for the 319 kms drive!
Day Four – Abercrombie House, Bathurst.
Unfortunately, by the time we reached Day Four, we were living on borrowed time and needed to be back home by 4.00pm to pick up miss from the station. Their team came a very close second at Nationals and we were looking forward to seeing her, while also not real thrilled about going back on the leash and the time pressures involved. Yet, in our usual carpe diem style, we headed out to historic Abercrombie House. We couldn’t leave Bathurst without experiencing this magical castle.
Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family, Rex and Mary Morgan bought the house in 1969 it’s been the home of the Morgan family since then. They’ve fully restored the house, outbuildings and grounds and share it with the community. As it turns out, Rex Morgan also founded a successful private school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Pittwater House. My best friend used to go to Pittwater House and they used to stay in dormitories at Abercrombie House for a week, which included dinner at the main house one night. It sounds like quite the experience, especially with plenty of ghost stories thrown in.
While we were wandering through the gardens at Abercrombie House, a message came through from Miss saying they were arriving back at the station early. Being 4.5 hours drive away, we weren’t going to make it back in time, and we could relax a little. My friend was driving her home. Returning home after only four days away felt rather brutal. However, we’d had a wonderful time and now needed a rest.
Have you ever been to Bathurst? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to meet their bollard people in person. Geoff and our son made their acquaintance while they were in Geelong last weekend. They’re so creative, and would be most suitable guests for a Mad Hatter’s tea party if only you would wave a magic wand and bring them all to life. Indeed, that would be rather interesting, and I can’t help wondering what would happen to unsuspecting Geelong if that were to come about. Would they be forces of good or evil? I don’t know. There are over 100 bollards, which were all designed by artist Jan Mitchell who was commissioned by the City of Greater Geelong in 1995 to transform reclaimed timber pier pylons into these remarkable works of art.
Well, now I feel like jumping on a plane and trying to find and identify all 48 bollards. They have this wonderful fusion of history, humour and really help to give Geelong a sense of place and character. Indeed, I’d love to see something like this in our local area. What can we do to give us character, individuality and artistic flair? Traditionally here in Australia, that has involved building something big such as Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana, the Big Prawn in Ballina, the Big Pineapple on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the Big Orange in Mildura, the Big Merino and the Big Cow at Nambour also on the Sunshine Coast. I don’t know whether it’s an achievement or a point of shame that I’ve been to all of these throughout my lifetime. Geoff resisted revisiting the Big Merina driving home from Geelong through the week.
Have you ever seen the Bollard People of Geelong? Or, perhaps you have something similar in your local area you’d like to share? I’d love to check it out.
Today, we’re going on a quick fly-by tour of Geelong, which is the second largest city in Victoria. It’s a major port located on Corio Bay, which is an an extension of Port Phillip Bay. I’ve posted two maps down below to help you get your bearings. The first map gives you the bigger picture of where Geelong is located in regard to Australia, and the second map zooms into Port Phillip Bay, and you can see Melbourne up the top on the Yarra River, which flows into Port Phillip, and Geelong on the left.
After that brief geography lesson, I should explain that our visit to Geelong is really riding on Geoff’s shoulders. Geoff was down in Geelong for the weekend depositing our son (the Infamous Mister) onto the Young Endeavour which was sailing out of Geelong on Monday, and arriving in Sydney on Wednesday 30th March nine days later. They spent two nights in Geelong before Mr sailed out and Geoff drove home yesterday (Wednesday) after he spent Tuesday stalking the ship around Port Melbourne.
Geoff quite liked Geelong, and pointed out that much of the historic architecture is still around and hasn’t been bulldozed to make way for concrete bunkers. So, you can thank him for most of these photos, although after looking at all the photos and hearing his stories, I decided to pop down there myself via Google Earth, and join the dots for myself. I’m glad I did, because it’s a really good thing to walk around the streets to get to know a place, and not just jump from spot to spot.
I have to admit I was quite grateful, because Geoff especially photographed the architecture around Geelong to give me a feel of the place, and I guess to also help me feel like I was still a part of it. I was planning to be there and was really looking forward to it, but our daughter had a dance audition here, and so it evolved into a father-and-son road trip in the end and I watched the boarding and departure via FaceTime, which actually wasn’t too bad. I really felt a part of it.
Geoff also made a particular effort to photograph doors around Geelong for me (and of course my other door affectionadoes at Thursday Doors). This means that he’s become a convert, which is rather good. Much better than him thinking we’re a bunch of nutters (even if it might be true!!)
Anyway, here’s a selection of doors Geoff spotted around Geelong:
Well, I need to call it a day. However, I will be back tomorrow to share some fascinating painted bollards which can be found around Geelong. I felt they deserved a post of their own.
The Internet and our beloved Google has expanded our world’s in so many incredible ways, something we particularly appreciate as bloggers posting our writing online and not only sharing it with all sorts right around the world, but also have conversations and read their work as well and gain personal insights of what it is to be someone else and live somewhere else.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve dabbled in visiting places overseas via Google Earth. Just to remind you I live in Greater Sydney, Australia and there’s a lot of ocean in between where I want to go and also several continents. Not easy to get away for the desired length of time, and there’s the expense and then covid was added to the mix. However, as bad as covid’s been, it has opened up International communication online and being able to zoom in anywhere, tune into live stream, and then there’s Google Earth and that took on another dimension when I realized that I could take photos on my phone while on my travels, and they weren’t half bad. Of course, not on par with my Nikon SLR but mostly more than adequate.
The other interesting thing about traveling via Google Earth, is that you in effect get dumped somewhere in the vicinity of where you wanted to go, and have to come to and get your bearing. So, for someone like me who gets lost in the real world and can’t read a map, there’s been no magic fix traveling via Google Earth. The only difference is that I’m not getting worn out trudging back retracing my steps like I did in Amsterdam back in 1992, and I also had a 20 kilo pack on my back to complicate matters further. It truly is wonderful, particularly as my husband and I are close to still being in lockdown. We can go out. It’s people we need to stay away from. I won’t lie. As an extrovert, it’s tough but the alternative is sobering.
What took me on this journey from Cloyne to Midleton was very simple: How far is it from Cloyne to Midleton? My 4 x Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, was an Irish Famine Orphan, and there is mention of her being born in Midleton and Cloyne and I wanted to cover my bases.
By the way, I’ve mentioned Bridget before (including my last post). In essence, Bridget was plucked out of a cesspit of starvation, fever and certain death in Midleton Workhouse and given free passage and a trunk full of goodies to start a new life in Australia.
There is also a complicating twist to this story. Two maybe three of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women and some of their descendants were removed from their families in a process called the “Stolen Generation”. I know of at least one descendant who was placed in an institution called the Cootamundra Girls’ Home. So tragic. I am new to all of this, and the cultural nuances involved. There seem to be parallels in how the Irish and the Aboriginal people were treated by the English under colonialization, but the Irish also moved onto Aboriginal land. So, it gets messy and I’m descended from it all, and yet innocent of the actions of my forebears. However, I am trying to undo some of my own ignorance and find out a bit more, but it’s a process.
Meanwhile, we’re in Cloyne. It’s a village of about 1, 803 people and 350 houses (2016) and it’s a whole 7.7km from Midleton. So, really only a long stone throw away. In about 560 AD, Saint Colman mac Lenene (who died in 604) founded a monastery in Cloyne, and the round tower was constructed later, and dates back to around the 10th century, and is approximately 30m high and 16.25m around when measured about 1.5m above the ground. The stone in the tower is dark purple sandstone. Since then, a lightning strike in 1749 caused some damage to the top of the tower. I’ve also read that you used to be able to climb up to the top of the tower, but the state of disrepair and the threat of being sued have conspired to keep it out of bounds, which is such a shame as the view from the top would be incredible.
However, I had a bit of a false start when I first touched down in Cloyne. I landed on a roundabout in the middle of nowhere, and can’t help wondering whether the dog had fiddled with the coordinates. It happens, you know. So, I reset the dial. Phew. This time I’d landed right near Cloyne Tower.
Like something straight out of a fairy tale, of course I envisioned Bridget climbing up that metal ladder and up the wooden stairs to the top. Of course, she was just a little girl then with long, dark flowing hair and of course she ran all the way to the top with an energy I can only dream about now. It was also long before the Great Hunger ravaged Ireland, and transported her to the workhouse and ultimately Australia. Of course, this is a romantic view where she is always smiling, and laughing with her friends. There is no sorrow in this early vision. I want her to simply be a child. A child whose future isn’t darkened by looming shadows but is free, because she didn’t know what lay ahead, and neither do we.
I had a short walk around Cloyne, and managed to miss one of it’s main attractions – a monument to Christy Ring Christy Ring won eight All-Ireland senior hurling medals, nine Munster titles, four National Leagues and 18 inter provincial Railway Cup medals with Munster. However, I have to admit I don’t know much about hurling. So, that’s another aspect to my Irish heritage which has gone by the wayside, which isn’t so strange considering I’m Australian and in Monopoly parlance “just visiting”.
Anyway, I wasn’t planning to linger in Cloyne today, although the possibility of legally or illegally climbing up the tower is appealing. Rather, I’m here to get some sense of the drive from Cloyne to Midleton, and I was delighted to find River Road is the road which takes you out of Cloyne to Midleton. This River Road had been mentioned to me in one of those family history chat sites. Apparently, some of the Donovans were living there so this is a great find with something of an “X marks the spot” feel to it (except that I have no idea of where the actual x was, but it’s a darned sight closer than here.)
I follow this road through what appears to be a tunnel of trees and I’m just relishing all this lush green Irish foliage and never-ending rows of rustic stone walls.
Then, I reach a huge roundabout and I think I had to turn right to get into Midleton, but big roundabouts are no less confusing on Google Earth than they are in real life and it’s just as easy to get lost although you’re not going to wind up in the morgue if you get all your directions completely muddled up and go round the wrong way straight into a truck. No, in this regard, Google Earth was rather kind. I could sort of diagonally scoot over the top, hold my breath and much to my relief spot the sign to Midleton. I’m almost there!
I don’t know what I expected to find in Midleton. Ideally, I’d find somebody who knew all about Bridget. The bits I don’t know. After all, there are two main parts to Bridget’s story…the Irish and Australian bits and it’s not that easy to join them up, especially when I haven’t even been able to find a death for Bridget in Australia (or her husband George) and you can’t just stick a Wanted Ad up on a telegraph pole when you’re looking for your missing ancestor and where and when they were buried. That said, many would say that she’s entitled to her privacy and if she’s been this hard to track down when I’m rather relentless, perhaps it’s time to leave well enough alone. However, I’m not giving up yet. There are still a few stones left which haven’t been turned.
Anyway, I did manage to find Midleton Library. That might be helpful.
I also just enjoyed walking along these streets she and my other forebears trod all those years ago. She was 19 years old when she arrived in Sydney and I wonder if she had a sweetheart she left behind. Or, maybe, he was one of the million or so who perished during the Great Hunger. Or, he sailed to America onboard one of those dreaded “coffin ships”. I don’t know. Moreover, while we’re talking about all I don’t know, I’m wondering why we didn’t study something about Irish history over here in Australia given those so many of us have Irish heritage. Humph. I don’t really need to ask I already know. There’s lots about Australian history we didn’t touch on at school. So, I shouldn’t be surprised.
However, as I mentioned in my last post, while I didn’t find any connection to Bridget Donovan in Midleton, I a sixth sense led me to Midleton Bookshop, and it just so happened that I looked up their web site to see what might be in their front window, when i felt a magnetic attraction towards a book by Irish author, Michael Harding. I’ve since bought two of his books and listened to quite a number of his podcasts. He’s such a find. Here’s a link to that story here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/02/19/irish-author-michael-harding-midleton-bookshop-ireland/
Well, I might pop back later and add a few more photos. It’s really late and my head is spinning. I have really loved visiting Cloyne and Midleton, wandering around the streets and wondering about Bridget Donovan.
I would love to hear from you and hope you’ve had a great weekend.
Two years ago, our son was booked to go on a European history tour with his school, which included visiting the battlefields of WWI, and spending ANZAC Day at Villers-Bretonneaux. Wanting him to know what our family members had gone through, I started researching my Great Great Uncle, Jack Quealey, and my husband’s Great Uncle Ralph French who was Killed in Action at the Battle of Mont St Quentin.
It was all supposed to be fairly quick, and nothing more than an overview. However, it was me doing the research, and after covid hit and his trip was cancelled, unravelling and understanding their WWI experiences dramatically expanded to become “My Covid Project”, especially as lockdowns and self-isolation continue. Once again, my passionate curiosity had led me astray.
As it turned out, there were some interesting twists to their stories. Uncle Jack’s parents were Irish, and the “Bill” Uncle Ralph mentioned in his diary might’ve been born in Tasmania, but his parents and siblings were German-born. While the Irish initially supported the Empire and got behind the war effort, the 1916 Uprising and the brutal English response, reignited longstanding animosity and called for independence. I’m Australian and we weren’t taught any Irish history at school or university and I just grew up with some scant reference to the potato famine. I had no idea parts of the family had come out more recently, and what had gone on. Ireland was simply the land of green grass and Guinness. Clearly, I’ve been on a steep upward curve trying to make sense of it all, and it’s no wonder I’ve ended up in an Irish mist so much of the time.
Anyway, this brings me to this short story I wanted to share with you. Of course, it will mean a lot more to people with Irish heritage, but I really enjoyed it as a story and was also intrigued by the grandmother who can’t see, but has incredible vision- very much like a close friend of mine.
My Grandmother And Myself
By Mary Synon
ILLUSTRATIONS BY BOARDMAN ROBINSON
My grandmother was at the basement window, peering into the street as if she were watching for someone, when I came home from school. “Is that you, John?” she asked me as I stood in the hall stamping the snow from my boots. “Sure,” I called to her. “Who’d you think I was? A spirit?”
She laughed a little as I went into the room and flung down my books. My grandmother hasn’t seen any one in ten years, though she sits day after day looking out on the street as if a parade were passing; but she knows the thump of my books on the table as well as she knows the turning of my father’s key in the lock of the door. “‘Tis a lively spirit you’d make, Shauneen,” she said with that chuckle she saves for me. “No, ’twas your father I thought was coming.”
“What’d he be doing home at this time?”
“These are queer days,” she said, “and there are queer doings in them.”
“There’s nothing queer that I can see,” I told her.
“I’m an old, blind woman,” she said, “but sometimes I see more than do they who have the sight of their two eyes.”
She said it so solemnly, folding her hands one over the other as she drew herself up in her chair, that I felt a little thrill creeping up my spine. ”What do you mean?” I asked her.
“Time’ll tell you,” she said.
My mother came in from the kitchen then. “Norah forgot to order bacon for the morning,” she said. “Will you go to the market, John, before you do anything else?”
“Oh, I’m going skating,” I protested.
“It won’t take you five minutes,” said my mother. She seemed tired and worried. The look in her eyes made me feel that there was trouble hanging over the house. My mother isn’t like my grandmother. When things go wrong, my grandmother stands up straight, and throws back her shoulders, and fronts ahead as if she were a general giving orders for attack; but my mother wilts like a hurt flower. She was drooping then while she stood in the room, so I said: “All right, I’ll go,” though I’d promised the fellows to come to the park before four o’clock.
“And look in at the shop as you go by,” my grandmother said, “and see if your father’s there now.”
“Why shouldn’t he be?” my mother asked.
There was a queer sound in her voice that urged me around past my father’s shop. My father was there in the little office, going over blue-prints with Joe Krebs’s uncle and Mattie Kleiner’s father and a big man I’d never seen before. I told my grandmother when I went home. “I knew it,” she said. “I knew it. And I dreamed last night of my cousin Michael who died trying to escape from Van Diemen’s Land.”
“You knew what?” I asked her, for again that strange way of hers sent shivery cold over me.
“Go to your skating,” she bade me.
There wasn’t much skating at Tompkins Square, though, when I found the crowd. The sun had come out strong in the afternoon and the ice was melting. “Ground-hog must have seen his shadow last week,” Bennie Curtis said. All the fellows—Joe Carey and Jim Dean and Frank Belden and Joe Krebs and Mattie Kleiner and Fred Wendell and the rest of them—had taken off their skates and were starting a tug of war in the slush. Mattie Kleiner was the captain on one side and Frank Belden the captain on the other. Mattie had chosen Joe Krebs and Jim Dean and Joe Carey on his side. Just as I came along he shouted that he chose me. Frank Belden yelled that it was his choice and that he’d take me.
“He don’t want to be on your side!” Mattie cried. “He’s with the Germans!”
“Well, I guess not,” I said, “any more than I’m with the English. I’m an American.”
“You can’t be just an American in this battle,” Frank Belden said.
“Then I’ll stay out of it,” I told him.
They all started to yell ” Neutral!” and “‘Fraid cat!” and “Oh, you dove of peace!” at me. I got tired of it after a while, and I went after Mattie hard. When I’d finished with him he bawled at me: “Wait till your father knows, he’ll fix you!”
“What for?” I jeered.
“For going against his principles, that’s what,” Mattie Kleiner roared.
“I’d like to know what you know about my father’s principles,” I laughed at him.
“Well, I ought to know,” he cried. “I heard him take the oath.”
“What oath?” we all demanded, but Mattie went off in surly silence. Joe Krebs and Joe Carey trailed after him. I stayed with the other fellows until it was dark. Then I started for home.
Joe Carey was waiting for me at the corner. “Do you believe him, John?” he asked me. “Do you believe Mattie about the oath?”
“How’s that?” I parried. I seemed to remember having heard a man who’d been at the house a fortnight before whispering something about an oath, and I knew that I’d heard my mother say to my grandmother: “I pray to God he’ll get in no trouble with any oaths or promises.” I kept wondering if Mattie Kleiner’s father and Joe Krebs’s uncle and the big man with the blue-prints who’d been in my father’s shop had anything to do with it.
“Oh, Mattie’s talking in his sleep,” I said.
“Well, maybe,” said Joe Carey; “but he wasn’t sleeping the night they had the meeting in his house. He was on the stairs going up to the top floor, and he kept the door open a little way and he heard everything they said, and nobody at all knew he was there.”
Joe Carey’s eyes were almost popping out of his head, and so I knew that Mattie had been telling him a long story.
“I guess he didn’t hear very much,” I said.
“You bet he did,” Joe declared. “He heard them reading the letters telling people not to go on the ships because they were going to be sunk, and he heard them talking about bombs and munition factories. He says that he heard your father say that he’d gladly lay down his life for the sake of Ireland.”
“But Ireland’s not in this war!”
“Sure it is! Mattie says the Germans are going to free Ireland if they beat England. That’s why the Irish ought to be with the Germans. Mattie says your father’ll be awful ashamed that you wouldn’t go on his side. Mattie says your father…”
“I don’t give a whoop what Mattie says about my father,” I told him. “I guess I can take my own part.”
“I guess you’ll have to,” said Joe.
As I went up the street toward our house I had that queer feeling that comes sometimes after I’ve been away for a while, a fear that something terrible has happened while I’ve been gone and that I’ll be blamed for it. It was dark on the street, for people hadn’t lighted the lamps in the basement dining-rooms, and I was hurrying along when suddenly a man’s voice came over my shoulder. I hadn’t heard his step behind me at all, and I jumped when he spoke.
“Where does Mr. John Sutton live?” he asked me.
“Right there.” I pointed to our house.
“Do you know him?” he asked. Through the dark I could see that he was a tall man with sharp eyes. I knew that I had never seen him before, and that he didn’t look like any of the men who came to my father’s machine-shop. “Don’t you know Mr. Sutton?” he repeated.
“Know him well, sonny?”
“He’s my father.”
He whistled softly, then laughed, turned on his heel, and strode down the street. I watched him to see if he’d take the turn toward the shop, but he turned the other way at the corner. I thought that I’d tell my grandmother about him, but my mother was with her in the dark when I went in. They were talking very low, as if someone were dead in the house, but I heard my mother say, “If I only knew how far he’s gone in this!” and my grandmother mutter: “Sure, the farther he goes in, the farther back he’ll have to come.” I stumbled over a chair as I went into the room with them, and they both stopped talking.
I could hear the little hissing whisper my grandmother always makes while she says the rosary, but I could hear no sound from my mother at all until she rose with a sigh and lighted the gas-lamp. She looked at me as if she hadn’t known I’d been there. “Have you any homework to do to-night, John?” she asked me.
“No, ma’am,” I said. “It’s Friday.”
“Then I want you to come to church with me after your dinner,” she said.
“Oh, I don’t want to go to church,” I’d said before my grandmother spoke.
“‘Twill be a queer thing to me as long as I live,” she said, “that those who have don’t want what they have and that those who haven’t keep wanting.”
The telephone bell rang just then up in the room that my father uses for an office, and I raced up to answer it. A man’s voice, younger than that of the man who’d spoken to me, came over the wire. “Say, is this John Sutton’s residence?” it asked. “And is he home? And, if he isn’t, who are you?”
“What do you want?” I called.
“Information. This is The World. We hear that there’s to be a meeting of the clans to-night, and we want to know where it’s to be held.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Can you find out?”
“No,” I lied. “There’s nobody home.”
“Won’t your father be home for dinner?”
Even then I could hear his key turning in the lock, could hear him passing on his way up to his bedroom, but a queer kind of caution was being born in me. “No, sir,” I said. (pg227)
“Who was that?” my grandmother asked me when I went down.
I told her of the call, told her, too, of the man who had stopped me on the street. Her rosary slipped through her fingers. “I feared it,” she said. Then the whisper of her praying began again.
At dinner my father was strangely silent. Usually he talks a great deal, all about politics, and the newspapers, and the trouble with the schools, and woman-suffrage, and war. But he said nothing at all except to ask me if the skating were good. My mother was just as quiet as he, and I would have been afraid to open my mouth if my grandmother hadn’t started in to tell about New York in the days she’d come here, more than sixty-five years ago. She talked and talked about how different everything had been then, with no tall buildings and no big bridges and no subways and no elevateds. “Faith, you can be proud of your native town, John,” she said to my father.
“I wish I’d been born in Ireland,” he said.
She laughed. “And if I’d stayed in Ireland, I’d have starved,” she said, “and little chance you’d have had of being born anywhere.”
“It might have been just as well,” he said bitterly.
“Oh, no,” she said; “there’s Shauneen.”
He rose from the table, flinging down his napkin. “I won’t be home till very late,” he said to my mother.
She stood up beside him. “Do you have to go, John?” she asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
“Oh, John,” she said, “I’m afraid.”
“Of what may happen you.”
“Nothing’ll happen me,” he said.
I wanted to tell him of the strange man who had halted me on the street, and of the telephone call, but my father’s anger was rising and I feared to fan it to flame. My grandmother said nothing until after my father had gone. Then she spoke to my mother.
“Don’t you know better,” she asked her, “and you eighteen years married to him, than to ask John not to do something you don’t want him to do?”
My mother began to cry as we heard the banging of the outer door after my father. “Well, if you can do nothing else,” my grandmother said, “you’d better be off to church. Keep your eyes open, Shauneen,” she warned me, while my mother was getting her hat and coat.
It was a grand night, with the evening star low in the sky, like a lamp, and the big yellow moon just rising in the east. The wind blew sharp and salt off the water, but there was a promise of spring in the air, saying that it must be almost baseball time. We went over to the Jesuit church, walking slowly all the way. There we knelt in the dark until I was stiff. As we came out my mother stopped at the holy-water font. “John,” she said, “will you promise me that if you ever marry you’ll never set any cause but God’s above your wife?”
“No, ma’am, I won’t,” I said, vaguely understanding that my father had hurt my mother by his refusal to stay at home, and wondering what cause he had set above her. As we walked toward the car line I remembered what Joe Carey had told me of Mattie Kleiner’s speech about my father. “Do you have to go to Ireland to die for Ireland?” I asked her. She clutched my hand. “My grandfather died for Ireland,” she said, “and he wasn’t the first of his line to die for her. But I pray God that he may have been the last.” She said no more till we came into our own house.
My grandmother was still at the window of the dining-room. There was no light, and my mother did not make one. “There was another telephone call,” my grandmother said. “Norah answered it. ‘Twas the newspaper calling again for John to ask about the meeting. She said she knew nothing about it and that no one was here to answer.”
“Do you suppose,” I said, “it was detectives?”
They said nothing, and I could feel a big lump coming up my throat. I thought they might not have heard me until my grandmother said: “Do you know, Kate, where the meeting is?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know,” my mother cried. She turned to me sharply. “Go to bed, John,” she said.
“I know where the meetings are,” (pg 228) I blurted out, eager enough for any excuse to put off the hateful order. “They’re at Mattie Kleiner’s house, because he hides on the stairs when they come, and he heard them take the oath.”
“Is that Matthew Kleiner’s boy?” my grandmother asked, so quietly that I thought she had not realized the importance of my news.
“Go to bed, Shauneen.” She repeated my mother’s order.
I went up-stairs, leaving the two of them silent in the dark. I whistled while I undressed, but I shivered after I had turned out the light and jumped between the sheets. I was going to lie awake waiting for my father’s return, but I must have dozed, for I thought that it was in the middle of the night that something woke me. I knew, as soon as I woke, that someone was in my room. I could feel him groping. I tried to speak, but my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Then I heard a faint whisper. “Shauneen,” it said.
So far away it seemed that I thought it might be a ghost until my grandmother spoke again. “Your mother’s in bed now,” she said. “Put on your clothes as quick as you can.”
“What is it?” I whispered.
“We’re going to Matthew Kleiner’s, you and I,” she said. “I’d go alone if I could see.”
“What time is it?”
“Between ten and eleven.”
I pulled my clothes on as fast as I could. Then stealthily as thieves we crept out from my room and down the stairs. I held my grandmother’s hand and wondered at its steadiness. When we had come outside the basement-door she halted me. “Look down the street for the tall man,” she bade me. There was no one in sight, however, and we walked along sturdily, turning corners until we came to Kleiner’s.
It was a red-brick house in a row, not a basement house like ours, but with a cellar below and an attic above its two main floors. There was no light on the first floor, but I thought that I saw a stream behind the drawn curtains upstairs. I found the bell and pushed on it hard. No one came for a long time. I rang again. I could see shadows back of the shades before Mattie Kleiner’s mother came.
“What is it?” she demanded before she opened the door.
“Tell her that your mother’s sick, and that you’ve come for your father,” my grandmother ordered me.
I repeated what she’d said.
Mrs. Kleiner opened the door. “Oh,” she cried, “it is Mrs. Sutton and little John. Oh, you did frighten me. Is the mother very sick? I shall call the father.”
“Let me go to him,” my grandmother said. We were inside the hall then, and I put her hand on the railing of the stairway. She had started up before Mrs. Kleiner tried to stop her. “I’ve a message for him,” said my grandmother. Mrs. Kleiner and I followed her. At the top of the stairs I turned her toward the front room, for I could hear the murmur of voices. I passed a door and wondered if Mattie Kleiner were hiding behind it. “Oh, we must not go in,” Mrs. Kleiner pleaded. “The men will not want us to go in.” She tried to stop us, but my grandmother turned, looking at her as if she could see her. “I’ve always followed my own conscience, ma’am,” she said, “not my husband’s, nor my son’s, nor any other man’s.”
From within the front room came the sound of the voices, growing louder and louder as we stood there, my grandmother alert, Mrs. Kleiner appalled, I myself a thrill. I could hear my father’s voice, short, sharp. “It’s our great opportunity,” he was saying. “We have only to strike the blow at England’s empire, and the empire itself will arise to aid us. Twenty thousand men flung into Canada will turn the trick. French Quebec is disaffected. What if soldiers are there? We can fight them! We may die, but what if we do? We will have started the avalanche that will destroy Carthage!”
There were cries of “Right!” to him. Then a man began to talk in German. His voice rang out harshly. From the murmurs that came out to us we knew that the men were applauding his words, but we had no idea of what the words were. Mrs. Kleiner stood wringing her hands. “Who’s in there?” my grandmother asked her.
“I do not know,” she insisted.
“Joe Krebs’s uncle is there,” I said. “I know his cough. And Mr. Winngart who keeps the delicatessen shop. And Frank Benner’s father; and that’s Mr. Carey’s voice.”
“They just meet for fun,” groaned Mrs. Kleiner.
“Sure, I saw that kind of fun before,” said my grandmother, “when the Fenians went after the Queen’s Own.”
My father’s voice rose again. “We are ready to fire the torch? We are ready to send out the word tonight for the mobilization of our sympathizers? We are ready to stand together to the bitter end?”
“We are ready!” came the shout. Then my grandmother opened the door.
Through the haze of their tobacco smoke they looked up, the dozen men crowded into the Kleiners’ front bedroom, to see my grandmother standing before them, a bent old woman in her black dress and shawl, her little jet bonnet nodding valiantly from its perch on her thin white hair. She looked around as if she could see every one of them. My father had sprung forward at her coming, and, as if to hold him off, she put up one hand.
“Is it yourself, John Sutton, who’s talking here of plots, and plans, and war?” she said. Her voice went up to a sharp edge. She flung back her head as if she defied them to answer her. All of them, my father and Joe Krebs’s uncle and Mattie Kleiner’s father and Mr. Carey and Mr. Winngart and the big man who’d had the blue-prints in the shop, and the others, stared at her as if she were a ghost. No one of them moved as she spoke.
“‘Tis a fine lot you are to be sitting here thinking ways to bring trouble on yourselves, and your wives, and your children, and your country. Who are there here of you? Is it yourself, Benedict Krebs, who’s going out to fight for Germany when your own father came to this very street to get away from Prussia? Is it you, Matthew Kleiner, who gives roof to them who plot against America, you, who came here to earn a living that you couldn’t earn at home? Is it you, Michael Carey, who’s helping them hurt the land that’s making you a rich man? Shame on you; shame on you all!”
“Why shouldn’t we fight England?” Joe Carey’s father said with a growl. “You’d be the last one, Mrs. Sutton, that I’d think’d set yourself against that.”
“‘Tis not England,” said my grandmother, “that you fight with your plots. ‘Tis America you strike when you strike here. And, as long as you stay here, be Americans and not traitors!”
They began to murmur at that, and my father said: “You don’t know what you’re talking about, mother. You’d better take John home. This is no place for either of you.”
“No more than it’s a place for you,” she said. “Will you be coming home with me now?”
“I will not,” my father said.
“Faith, and you’ll all be wishing you had,” she told them, “when the jails’ll be holding you in the morning.”
“The jails!” The big man who had held the blue-prints came closer to us. “What is it you say of jails? You have told the police, then?”
“I didn’t need to,” my grandmother said. “The government men have been watching this long time. ‘Twill be at midnight that they’ll come here. But ’tis not myself they’ll be finding.”
I saw the men’s glances flash around the room through the smoky haze before she called: “Come, Shauneen.”
I took her hand again and led her out of the room. Just before the door closed after us I saw that my father’s face had grown very white and that Mattie Kleiner’s father had dropped his pipe on the floor.
Outside the house I spoke to my grandmother tremblingly. “Do the police really know?” I asked her.
She gave her dry little chuckle. “If they don’t, they should,” she answered; “but I was born an O’Brien, and I’ve never known one of them yet that ever told the police anything. No, Shauneen,” she laughed, “’twas the high hill I shot at, but I’m thinking that the shot struck. We’ll watch.”
We crossed the street and waited in the shadow of the house at the corner. For a little while all was quiet at Kleiner’s. Then I saw the tall man come out with Joe Krebs’s uncle. After a time my father came out with Mr. Winngart and Mr. Carey. They walked to the other (Pg 230) corner and stood there a moment before they separated.
“Shall we go home now?” I asked my grandmother after I had told her what I had seen.
“Not yet,” she said. “I’ve one more errand to do this night.”
I thought it might have something to do with the tall man who’d spoken to me or with the telephone call, and I wondered when she sighed. “I’m a very old woman,” she seemed to be saying to herself. “I’ll be ninety-one years come Michaelmas Day. Some of the world I’ve seen, and much of life. Out of it all I’ve brought but a few things. I’d thought to give these to my son. But—” She paused. “How old are you, Shauneen?” she asked me.
“Fourteen,” I said.
“Old enough,” she nodded. She turned her head as if she were looking for something or someone. Then: “Do you know your way to the Battery?” she asked me.
“Sure,” I told her. “Are you going there?”
It had been quiet enough in our part of town. It was quieter yet when we came to Bowling Green and walked across to the Battery. Down there, past the high buildings and the warehouses, we seemed to have come into the heart of a hush. To the north of us the sky was afire with the golden glow from the uptown lights. In front of us ran the East River and the North River. Out on Bedloe’s Island I could see the shining of the Goddess of Liberty’s torch. Every little while a ferry-boat, all yellow with lights, would shoot out on the water. A sailing-vessel moved slowly after its puffing tug. The little oyster-boats were coming in from the bay. A steamer glided along past it as I walked with my grandmother out toward the old Castle Garden.
On the Saturday before Joe Carey and I had come down to the piers, prowling all afternoon on the docks, watching the men bringing in the queer crates and boxes and bags while we told each other of the places from where the fruits and spices and coffee and wines had come. There were thousands and thousands of ships out there in the dark, I knew, and I began to tell my grandmother what some of the sailors had told us of how the trade of the world was crowding into New York, with the ships all pressing the docks for room.
“If you could only see it!” I said to her.
“I can see more than that,” she said. Then: “Take me to the edge of the waters,” she bade me.
Wondering and a little frightened, obeyed her, trying to solve the while the mystery of her whim to bring me to the deserted park in the middle of the night.
“Is Castle Garden over there?” she pointed. “Then, I’ve my bearings now.”
She stood alone, a little way off from me, staring seaward as if she counted the shadowy ships. The wind blew her thin white hair from under her bonnet and raised the folds of her shawl. There in the lateness of the night, alone at the edge of the Battery, she didn’t seem to be my grandmother at all, but some stranger. I remembered the story I’d read somewhere of an old woman who’d brought a pile of books to a King of Rome, books that she threw away, one by one, as he refused them, until there was but one book left. When he’d bought that one from her he’d found that it was the book of the future of the empire and that he’d lost all the rest through his folly. As I looked at my grandmother I thought she must be like the old woman of the story. Even her voice sounded strange and deep when she turned to me.
“It was sixty-five years ago the seventh of November that I first stood on this soil,” she said. “‘Tis a long lifetime, and, thank God, a useful one I’ve had. Burdens I’ve had, but never did I lack the strength to bear them. Looking back, I’m sorry for many a word and many a deed, but I’ve never sorrowed that I came here.”
I would have thought that she had forgotten me if she hadn’t touched my arm. “You’ve heard tell of the famine, Shauneen,” she went on, “the great famine that fell on Ireland, blighting even the potatoes in the ground? We’d a little place in Connaught then, a bit of land my father was tilling. We hadn’t much, even for the place, but we were happy enough, God knows, with our singing and dancing and the fairs and the patterns. Then, little by little, we grew poorer and poorer. I was the oldest of the seven of us. My (pg 231) Mother and myself’d be planning and scraping to find food for the rest of them. Everyday we’d see them growing thinner and thinner. Oh, mavrone, the pity of it! And they looking at us betimes as if we were cheating them of their bit of a sup! Sometimes now in the dark I see them come to my bed, with their soft eyes begging for bread, and we having naught to give them. Brigid—she was the youngest of them all—died. Then my father went.
“I used to go down to the sea and hunt the wrack for bits of food. There by the shore I would look over here to America and pray, day after day, that the Lord would send to us some help before my mother should go. You don’t know what it is to pray, Shauneen. Your father cannot teach you and your mother hopes you’ll never learn. For prayer is born in agony, avick (my son), and grief and loss and sorrow. But because you are the son of my soul I pray for you that life may teach you prayer. For when you come to the end of the road, Shauneen, you’ll know that ’tis not the smoothness of the way, but the height of it and the depth of it, that measures your travelling. Far, far down in the depths I went when I prayed over there on the bleak coast of Connaught.
“God answered my prayer. There came from America food to us. There came, too, the chance for me to come here with the promise of work to do. ‘Twas a drear day when I left home. How I cursed England as I looked back on the hills of Cork harbor, all green and smiling as if never a blight had cast its shadow behind them!
“‘Twas a long, dreary sailing. Nine weeks we were in the crossing. A lifetime I thought it was between the day I looked on the western sea from the Connaught mountains and the day when I stood here looking back toward home. Sure life is full of lifetimes like those.”
She paused a moment, but I felt as if I were under a spell that I must not break by word of mine. A cloud came over the moon and all around us grew shadowy. The big throb that the city always beats at night kept sounding like the thrumming of an orchestra waiting for the violin solo to start.
“I’d plenty of them before many years.” My grandmother’s voice came like the sound for which the thrumming had waited. “Did you ever think what it means to the poor souls who come here alone for their living? When you’ve a house of your own, Shauneen, with men servants and maid servants, don’t forget that your father’s mother worked out for someone. They were kind people, too, who took me to their homes. Don’t forget that either. For ’tis my first memory of America. Kind they were, and just. They helped me save what I earned and they showed me ways of helping my folks at home. I’d brought out Danny and James and Ellen and Mary before the war. I met each one of them right here at Castle Garden. That’s why I always think of this place as the gateway through which the Irish have come to America. Sure Ellis Island’s been for the Italians and the Jews and the Greeks. We didn’t wait outside the door. We came straight in,” she chuckled.
“My mother wouldn’t come from the old place. Long I grieved over her there in the little house where my father and Brigid had died, but after a while I knew she was happier so. Sometimes, Shauneen, I think of Ireland as an old woman, like my mother, sitting home alone in the old places, grieving, mourning, with her children out over the world, living the dreams of her nights by the fire. ‘Twas here we found the freedom the Irish had been fighting for. ‘Twas here, away from landlords and landholding, away from famine and persecution, that we found that life need not be a thing of sorrow. ‘Twas here I met your grandfather.
“I’d nothing of my own, and your grandfather had but a trifle more when we married. I suppose ’tis brave that people would call us now. We didn’t think that we were. We were young and strong and we loved each other. And we were getting along fairly well—we’d started the payments on a bit of a house of our own after your father was born— when the war came down on us.
“Your grandfather went with the brigade. Not twice did we think whether or not he should go. We knew that he owed his first duty to the country that (pg 232)had called him, and sheltered him, and given him work and hope and freedom. For he was a boy from home as I was a girl from home. I stood on the curbstone the day he marched by, with your father in my arms, and I cheered for the flag. ‘Sure he’ll be walking to meet you when you come back!’ I called, lifting up the child. Your grandfather never came back. He fell at Marye’s Heights.”
When she spoke again her voice had changed more to her every-day tone. “Well, I raised your father,” she said, “and I thought I was raising him well. My arms were strong. I worked at the wash-tub morning, noon, and night. It wasn’t long till I had a laundry of my own. I thought to give my son all that I’d ever wanted for myself. Perhaps that was where I made my mistake. I thought too much of the things that money can buy in those years when money was so hard to earn. Perhaps ’twas myself and no other who taught your father the cold, hard things of life, though, God knows, I’d no thought to do it. He’s a good man in many ways, but he’s not the man I want you to be. He’s a good hater but he’s not a good lover. And, faith, what’s there in life but love?”
I moved a little then, and my grandmother swung me around, with her two hands on my shoulders, and, blind as she is, stared at me as if she were looking right down into my heart. “Shauneen,” she said, “I have prayed, day and night, that your father might be to America the good citizen his father was. I have prayed that if America should ever need him he would stand ready for her call. I have prayed that he’d love America as I have loved America. I love Ireland, mavrone. Always in my heart do I see her hills as they looked on the morning I looked back on them from the sea. But I love America, too, and I wanted my son to love her even more than I do. I’ve wanted him to love this land as my fathers and their fathers loved Ireland. ‘Twas not that I wanted him to forget my land; when he was a lad like you, I’d tell him tales of Ireland’s glory and of Ireland’s woe. How was I to know that all it would do for him was to rouse the black hate for England? I taught him love for Ireland, but never did I teach him to set my land above his own.
“For ’twas America gave us our chance, Shauneen, when we’d no other place on earth to seek. Hard days we’ve known here, too, days when even the children jeered at us, but we’ve never felt the hand of the oppressor upon us since we touched our feet on these shores. We’ve been free and we’ve prospered. Fine houses we have and fine clothes; and ’tis a long day since I knew the pinch of hunger. This is our debt. Tell me again, Shauneen, what you see out there?”
I told her of the shining lights, of the funnels of the steamers, of the piled piers, of the little oyster-boats, of the great liners waiting the word for their sailing.
“‘Twould be a fine sight,” she sighed. “Do you think me a madwoman to bring you here?” she went on, as if she had read my thought. “Perhaps I am that. Perhaps I’m not. For you’ll remember this night when you’ve forgotten many another time, just as I remember the day when my mother took me to the shrine at Knock. For this is the shrine of your country, Shauneen, this old Castle Garden, where your people set foot in the land that’s given them liberty. Here it was that I told my brothers and my sisters of the future before them. Here it is that I’m telling you that your country will be the greatest nation of all the world if only you lads stay true to her. That’s why I’ve brought you here to-night, Shauneen. I’m an old, old woman. I’ve not long for this earth. But I’ve this message for you; it’s yours; this duty that your father shirks when he plots with black traitors who’d drag us into wars that are not of our choosing. Raise your hand, Shauneen. Say after me: ‘As long as I live, God helping me, I shall keep my country first in my heart and, after God, first in my soul!”
Through the misty moonlight there came to me the memory of my mother’s plea at the door of the church, my mother’s cry: “Promise me that you’ll set no cause but God’s before your wife!” Some battle of spirit struggled within me. For an instant I was silent. Then, suddenly, as if the moon had ridden above the cloud, I saw the right. “Since all (pg 233) true causes come from God, it is right to set my own country above anything else that may ever come. I said the words after my grandmother. She took my face between her hands and kissed me. “God keep you, Shauneen, for the woman who’ll love you, and the children you’ll teach, come.” Then through a sleeping city my grandmother and I went home.
There’s a lot to absorb and process in this story, but I wanted to share it with you first.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you and get a bit of discussion going.