Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : history             Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
 

 

 

FUTILITY


At my father's funeral we sang the hymn God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. The preacher said it was one of my father's favourites. I remember him best by another hymn he often sang, the one beginning:

Awake my soul and with the sun
Your daily stage of duty run
Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise
To pay your morning sacrifice.

My father had always been against sloth. In his day God expected hard work.

Leaving the Uniting Church, the funeral wound its way through the empty streets of Watchem to the cemetery. We left from near the vacant block on which the Methodist Church once stood. We passed the disused and decaying Church of England.

The cemetery lay next to the football ground, where the Watchem-Corack team once played. Now it is part of Birchip-Watchem, and all the home games are played on the ground of the bigger town. Strictly thinking I suppose the team's name should be Birchip-Watchem-Corack, but Corack seems to have been dropped off. Perhaps there are no residents left to object.

The cemetery is divided into four, each with its sign. The signs read Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian. There was no space marked for Jews, Muslims, any other forms of Christianity, or atheists. But now in the town there are only two churches left, Catholic and Uniting Church.

We returned to the church backroom for afternoon tea provided by the ladies of the church. It was appropriate, reminding us of those times when people came together over homemade sandwiches and cakes.

We tried the pub, but did not stay long. We were the only people in the bar, and we didn't feel much like a drink. We went on to the old farm and our old school at nearby Massey.

Along the road from Watchem to Massey we passed a Murray pine tree. We passed it pretty well every Sunday when we were children. The tip of its trunk was still leafless and bare. 'That's how pine trees die, from the top down' my father had told me sixty years earlier. I don't think it had changed at all. A long time dying. There were no young trees around it. Farming operations and rabbits prevented that. When it dies along with others of its species its presence will eventually be forgotten.

The old farm had been sold a year or two ago, and the previous owners had been allowed to stay in the house, but no longer worked the farm. Our house had long gone. One of the sheds our father built still stood, but the sheep yards had fallen into ruin. The thatched stable was gone. There was no trace of the cow yard, or of the little shed and bail where a couple of cows were once hand milked.

We went on to the school, its site now marked by a sign. A few sugar gums still stood, the products of arbor days of long ago. Probably if we had looked more closely we could have found a miserable peppercorn tree. The sign said ' 'Site of the Second Massey School, 1898 - 1947'.

We photographed each other, and told jokes and stories of days long past.

There was nothing more to do than to drive back to Melbourne. It is much closer than it used to be. Australia is full of relicts of the efforts of previous generations to build a continuing life, of hopes destroyed by the mysterious workings of economic progress.

 

DOUG WHITE


 

 

 

 

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