Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution — more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.Lisa Cron, Wired for Story
I’ve shared my travels to the rural township of Tenterfield previously. Located just over the New South Wales border I have attended the Peter Allen Festival in consecutive years ( and became caught up in raging bushfires at a time when the drought meant the town water supply was negligible), and shared some of the history of their famous sons : Oliver Woodward from “Beneath Hill 60”, Henry Chauvel of Australian Lighthorse fame, as well as Major James Thomas who represented Henry Harbord Morant, more commonly known as Breaker Morant, who was shot by firing squad during the Boer War under questionable circumstances which historians continue to debate vigorously.
This journey was meant to be more tranquil. No maracas, just the beauty of autumn leaves of which there were plenty, though the story of Breaker Morant and his bush lawyer, Major James Thomas, gathers momentum on every visit to this beautiful country town.
1n 1980 a little Australian movie was released that saw me ring up the office to call in sick. It was my very first “sickie” and worth every bit of anguish, as I was employed in a role my father deemed appropriate for a single woman, yet I found totally soul destroying. Yes, the Australian Public Service. I conned my father into attending as his last venture to the flicks featured Betty Grable, nearly forty years beforehand.
The movie was of course Breaker Morant starring Edward Woodward of the golden tonsils and a young Bryan Brown when he still had his own teeth and hair. Who could ever forget the Breaker’s ” shoot straight you bastards” with half a dozen rifles pointed at him. Anyway, yet another obsession was born, not as crazy as that of my fascination for Errol Flynn or St George footballer, Teddy Goodwin though I’ve been carting around numerous books on the debacle ever since.
Earlier this year I read a biography on “James Thomas” written by Greg Growden. It was rather a sad read as Thomas never really recovered from losing the case which cost Breaker and Peter Handcock their lives. He had served as a solicitor in Tenterfield prior to the war, dealing with conveyancing and wills, and after the war he returned to eventually take over the running of the local newspaper, the Tenterfield Star.
Upon retirement Thomas moved to a property at Boonoo Boonoo, west of Tenterfield, where he became hermit like and gave in to the booze. He passed away in 1942. Some 70 years later, after the Boonoo Boonoo property was being renovated, artifacts including a signed flag and a medallion worn by Morant ( sporting a bullet hole) were found at the Tenterfield Dump.
Talk about a story!
I will sign off with some sedate but spectacular autumn leaves.
PS. If you’ve kept up with this tale, you deserve to know that my dear old Da hated the movie. It was nothing like Legs Grable apparently.