I have previously posted Judith Wright’s famous poem South of My Days, here. For anyone growing up in rural eastern Australia, this poem with its stories of the great cattle droves of the late 19th and early 20th century resonates.
The SMH recently carried an obituary for John Atkinson (1940-2011), a mechanical engineering lecturer at Sydney University and member of the Matherati. Atkinson’s mother, Gwen Wilkins, had been a university friend of Judith Wright (1915-2000) at Sydney University in the 1930s. Atkinson’s father Tom managed a cattle station in Southern Queensland for Wright’s father, Phillip, and Judith apparently introduced Atkinson’s parents to each other.
This long-ago connection of farming families reminded me of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Stinson aircrash in the remote and treacherous sub-tropical jungles of the Lamington Ranges National Park in Southern Queensland in February 1937, a commemoration I attended. The crash was the occasion of a famous rescue by bushman, Bernard O’Reilly, trekking alone on a hunch, recounted on the O’Reilly Guest House site here.
My father, with me that day in 1987, was surprised to encounter a work colleague also present. It turned out that the O’Reilly family had farmed in the Kanimbla Valley in the Blue Mountains in central NSW, on a property adjoining my father’s colleague’s family property, before moving up to the McPherson Ranges in 1911. Despite the distance (about 600 miles) and the remoteness of both locations, the two families had kept in touch through the intervening 76 years, with each new generation becoming friends.
POSTSCRIPT (2011-12-23): I remembered that Judith Wright wrote a poem about James Westray, who initially survived the Stinson crash. I have posted the poem here.
Bernard O’Reilly : Green Mountains. Brisbane, Australia.
The report and documents of the official Queensland Government Inquest into the Stinson crash are here.
A remembrance of John Atkinson by a bush-walking friend is here. Apparently, Dr Atkinson drowned in the surf.