Continuing along the theme of my recently-published book In Stockmen’s Footsteps, my memoir about growing up on the Darling Downs, is the next part of my speech at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach on its Silver Anniversary on 29th April.
This is the poem that I have quoted at the start of my book. I believe it illustrates the philosophy that got this amazing place started. It’s not a bad philosophy for life either. It was written by Joseph Cummings, RM Williams’s father-in-law.
The Men Who Try And Try
I was never a great believer
in the things that men call luck
For it takes hard downright digging
ere the vein of gold be struck.
Dame Fortune may be fickle
but none of us can deny
She loves to lay her treasures
at the feet of those who try.
I’ve read the records closely
and I’ve watched life’s battles too
It’s taught me one good lesson
which I pass on to you.
Fate cannot build a barrier
so rugged or so high
That it cannot be surmounted
by those who try and try.
And when in life’s grand procession
of people that pass on by
I’ll raise my hat the highest
to those who try and try.
My book In Stockmen’s Footsteps is a many splendoured thing. In the first instance, it’s the embodiment of a dream, and of a dream within a dream. Here I am standing in the foyer of that dream. How impossible, how utterly impossible it seemed in 1979 that this, to quote RM Williams, “cathedral, where beauty of form was dedicated to magnificence of action” would rise in stone from a dusty paddock on the outskirts of Longreach.
And yet, here it is.
Having lived through all of that from the inside, and learned from RM and all the board during my 10 years in harness that anything is possible provided the will is there to achieve it – I should not now be surprised that my book, published by the international publishers Allen & Unwin, is sitting up here on the shelves of this cathedral here in Longreach! And on bookshop shelves throughout the country. And by now after 4 weeks since publication, in over 2,000 homes.
After all, I learned from the master.
This story, being a memoir, hangs on me because that is the nature of memoir. It could, however, be the story of so many of us. It’s the story of my upbringing post-war in rural Australia – of the values that were inherent in that lifestyle and the people who raised me and went before me. It’s a real-life vignette of an ordinary Australian life, culminating in my involvement in the early days of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
I have tried (and I really hope that I have succeeded), to write something of historical value through my simple life story.
Most certainly, of historical value was the establishment of the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is no less important now than it was then; in fact, in my opinion it’s far more important now as the majority of Australians came from somewhere else, cluster around the edges of this vast land and seem to have developed a national tendency to look towards the sea, rather than to the interior, which is where their national wealth – and food – have always come from and continue to do. As we all know, that’s where Australia really is.
Not only that – the spectacular individuality of the Aussie persona grew there, and still flourishes there. Our stories. Our culture. Our uniqueness.
As long as we can get people united to support you all in breathing life and energy into the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, there is hope that our stories, our culture and our uniqueness will survive the current erosion of the core Australian values that are being collected here.