The theme for this week is Solitude.
A recurring theme in my mother’s father’s family. My great grandfather Francis (Frank) Darchy was born in 1854 on an Australian outback sheep and cattle station to a wealthy grazing family. Together with his six brothers he attended an expensive private boys’ school in Melbourne. His family were famous for entertaining with “bumpers of champagne”. But the family’s sheep and cattle properties were mostly disbanded during the Depression of the 1880s and most of the brothers were forced to earn their own livings. Most took off for the loneliness and solitude of the Australian bush, the only life they knew. They became stockmen and later the more able became managers of cattle/sheep stations. Stockmen drove stock sometimes for thousands of miles across the Australian continent. The Australian Banjo Patterson’s poem ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ describes the life of a stockman beautifully.
Clancy of The Overflow [poem by Banjo Paterson]
Incidentally my grandfather worked at The Bulletin, where this poem was first published, and I went to school with a granddaughter of Banjo.
Initially Frank was an outback mailman, travelling between Dirranbandi, Camooweal and Anthony’s Lagoon – a particularly lonely job, spending weeks on horseback, leading a packhorse with perhaps a dog for company, going from one remote cattle station to another – covering hundreds of miles. His wife ran a boarding house in a country town. How often did he see her?
Two of Frank’s sons Dick (1882-1938) and Ted (1885-1947) fought in the First World War. Ted was badly gassed in France. Returning home, he also returned to the outback and the lonely life of a stockman. At the time of his death in 1947 he was working on the ironically named Gallipoli Station in the Northern Territory (he did not fight at Gallipoli but in France), maintaining one of the outer pump stations which were so essential for providing water from artesian wells for the stock. He spent his days alone, being supplied with food and smokes every few days. He died alone, coughing his heart out judging from the position in which he was found. In lonely solitude.