08 January 2010

I'm My Own Grandpa

Over the holiday I had the time to get back to genealogy and having recently seen the movie Australia decided to concentrate on the relatives who went walk about to a truly different continent. 

Now you all know about my "stream of consciousness" manias ... not a whole lot of actual family fact finding got done.  There was simply way too much fun stuff to learn that will eventually get woven into the history of a family.  For starters I looked in the white pages for Australia  for one surname.  Not counting all the surnames for women joined to male offspring or the men that daughters might have married for merger, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that  should I finally visit where I have longed to go for ages, there are 137 phone numbers I could call to say, "Hi Cuz!  Guess who's in town?"  Now this is true because in 1857 Mungo Bisset, his wife Elizabeth Paterson and seven little Bissets hopped on board the Forest Monarch in Glasgow and hopped off in Hobart, Tasmania.  From that point they proceeded to farm and begat.  They seem to have been very good at both farming and begatting.

Forest Monarch

Then I started reading the Study Guide for the movie because I had some major gripes about the historical accuracy and time compression and and and .... Jackman, Kidman, and the continent look great and it is a fun movie, but I wanted some explanations for playing a little fast and loose with actual events, place names, conditions, people etc.  The Study Guide is an excellent read and has both a juvenile and adult section that I would recommend to parents who want to introduce their children to Australian history in a way that is at least colorful and interesting as opposed to the coma inducing methods found in most classrooms.

The "Back Story" for The Drover is provided by the song "The Drover's Ballad". Great song, but excuse me ... At 39/40 Jackman was too young to play the drover. (See what happens when I get off on one of my "I have to know everything" obsessions).  He's gorgeous and you could get stuck on the shower scene, but back to history.

In Australia April 25 is a major holiday. It commemorates the first day of invasion in Gallipoli in 1915 by ANZAC troops. Immediate sideswipe, if you haven't seen the movie Gallipoli run don't ... you know the rest. Assuming an age normal for the period of 20 for women and 23 for men to marry in 1915 and a location of ANZAC troops in either France or Turkey, The Drover would have been born before 1895 ... forward march to opening of film in 1939 and you have a man of 44 at the least ... okay, it's "let's pretend" and I'm quibbling, but quibbling counts in history.  Sidenote:  This particular detour of history means a multi "great" aunt who happened to be a nurse serving with the Red Cross is buried in one of those Turkish ANZAC dedicated cemeteries.

Now you have the matter of "The Drover's Wife" which takes us to something I honestly didn't know and why I love history.  Sometimes facts become human beings and the stories of those human beings can make you cry. It is never totally explained why "The Drover" is so angry, but in some early scenes before the cattle drive in the movie Australia, you see the aboriginal women riding as well as the men with the idea of their taking part on the drive.  Found in my roundabout of the internet because you really, really have to follow the links, there is this tribute to those women:

Ted Egan, an Australian songwriter and folklorist wrote the song The Drover's Boy in recognition of the many Aboriginal women who worked as drovers in years past. With their hair cut short and breasts flattened with scarves, they were made to conceal their identity and live and work as men did, because Aboriginal women were not permitted to work as drovers. The lyrics highlight the nature of the close, yet hidden relationships that existed between many white men and these Aboriginal women.  So enjoy Nicole Kidman being tall, blond, beautiful and the next romantic love for The Drover, but don't forget this piece of the past:

By Ted Egan

They couldn’t understand why the drover cried
As they buried The Drover’s Boy,
For the drover had always seemed so hard
To the men in his employ,
A bolting horse, a stirrup lost,
And The Drover’s Boy was dead
The shoveled dirt, a mumbled word,
And it’s back to the road ahead
And forget about The Drover’s Boy.

They couldn’t understand why the drover cut
A lock of the dead boy’s hair.
He put it in the band of his battered old hat,
As they watched him standing there,
He told them, “Take the cattle on,
I’ll sit with the boy a while,”
A silent thought, a pipe to smoke,
And it’s ride another mile,
And forget about The Drover’s Boy.

They couldn’t understand why the drover and the boy
Always camped so far away,
For the tall white man and the slim black boy
Had never had much to say,
And the boy would be gone at break of dawn.
Tail the horses, carry on,
While the drover roused the sleeping men,
“Daylight, hit the road again”
And follow The Drover’s Boy,
Follow The Drover’s Boy.

In the Camooweal pub they talked about
The death of The Drover’s Boy.
They drank their rum with a stranger who’d come
From a Kimberley run, Fitzroy.
And he told of the massacre in the west,
Barest details, guess the rest,
Shoot the buck, grab a gin,
Cut her hair, break her in,
Call her a boy, The Drover’s Boy,
Call her a boy, The Drover’s Boy

So when they build that Stockman’s Hall of Fame
And they talk about the droving game,
Remember the girl who was bedmate and guide,
Rode with the drover side by side.
Watched the bullocks, flayed the hide,
Faithful wife, never a bride,
Bred his sons for the cattle runs.
Don’t weep… for The Drover’s Boy.
Don’t mourn… for The Drover’s Boy.
But don’t forget…The Drover’s Boy.

And that is where we end for now.  The photo at the top is a story for another day  because I got distracted, as I always do, in the middle of the afore mentioned research by the "I have to know" mania.  It comes from Picture Australia a place that has photographs of a whole century or more from all the libraries in Australia.   If your tears have dried for The Drover's Boy, have fun prowling through the collection.

Oh, one last little P.S.  If you have never read Banjo Paterson's  "Clancy of the Overflow" and why you need to go where the lights of the city don't block out the the "Everlasting Stars", here it is:

CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW - A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".

And for the Drover, The Southern Cross

"It says the outcast is a free man If he sleeps under the stars
and makes the blanket of the southern skies his home"