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
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
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
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.