Instead of reprinting my traditional Australia/Invasion/Survival Day poem,”The Land”


I thought instead I’d present this recent poem, whose subject seems appropriate for the occasion.

Dig Tree


Burke and Wills starved to Death

in a Land of Plenty.

Dispirited by the lack

of Handsome-cabs and servants,

they expired in a fit of pique,

as any proper English gentleman would do.


Meanwhile, King, the youngest

and the least regarded of the group,

went off and fraternised with the Natives.

Ate their food,

slept with some of the women,

learnt a bit of language,

made himself useful

around the camp in small ways,

while he awaited his rescue

and a hero’s homecoming

before the amazed

and wondering Crowds.

john king (better image)


*The story of Burke and Will’s doomed expedition into Australia’s Desert Heart, and their agonising demise beneath the “DIG” tree, is surely one of this country’s Great Foundation Myths.

Or at least, it was back in my day, when a basic Australian History was taught to every schoolchild, and we traced the paths of European explorers in red pencil across the blank maps of a still unknown Land.

(These days, partly as a result of the decade-long ideological struggle known as the”History Wars”, no Australian school-kid is taught any history at all until grade eleven, when it’s available only as an “optional” subject. A disgrace, but I digress..)

I remember standing for the first time before Sir John Longstaff’s famous “DIG” canvas hanging in the Victorian Gallery in Melbourne; A great dark heavy thing that looked like it was painted on a roughly cured bullock’s hide, it reeked of Gravitas, Despair and Epic Failure.

To me though, the real hero of the story is John King, the young Irishman who alone had the wits to survive and whom, it is rumoured, was largely responsible for the occasional appearance of sandy hair and freckles amongst the children of the local Yandruwandah People.

This poem is for him.


time will tell Pt 2jpigdress



The Reverend Hellfire is..

Bloody hot! And don’t talk to me about the humidity!



~ by reverendhellfire on January 25, 2015.

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