Monday, January 17, 2011

The… 40 Mile Pub

I came across a slim volume in my recent travels and thought to reproduce some of it here for you. Warning: Some readers may find it offensive for its racism and condescension and maybe even for its jingoism. It is a product of the times.

Reproduced here under fair dealing but Copyright until 2033 [Created/Published Date + 70 Years]

Ashton Murphy

(Sketched by Vasco Tourerio [sic], Bulletin Office, Sydney, 1906.)

Memoirs of the late Ashton Murphy as told by his son, Bert Ashton Murphy, to Edgar Hawthorn.
First Edition - 1963
Short stories written by Ashton Murphy are re-published from the Steele Rudd Annual, produced by Arthur Davis and Ashton Murphy.

Published in association with the erection of a replica of the Forty Mile Pub in front of the G.P.O., Brisbane, which served as an Information Bureau for the Warana Festival 1963, linking the Capital and the West in the Annual Celebrations of South-east Queensland.



I'm a bushman in every sense of the word. I love it, you can have the concrete jungle of the city, its towering edifices, its long dark hustling corridors with their dark tributaries, its tense, nervous, endless movement, its rank atmosphere, its heavv mantle of lethal haze. When I cross the border from bush to city. I step from Spring to the depth, of an overcast and bitter mid-winter's day, from Mardi-Gras to the monotony of the work-a-day world, from buoyancy to depression.

The scent of gum leaves wafted on the breeze stirs a sudden sweet sad longing — a flood of memory, as the call of the bush birds conjures each its picture on my mind.

When I hear a mopoke crying eeriiy, I see vividly a scene on the open space in front of the Nindy Gully Hotel on the Moonie River — a great fire of logs and brush, flaring up into the night, crowds of shearers, shed hands and followers fresh from the cut out at Bullamon shed.

Everyone has a cheque in his hand, in his hat, in his boot, in his hip pocket, in his waistcoat, in his coat, in his bluey, in his billy , somewhere, anywhere, you'll find he has a cheque and quite a substantial one at that and he is a man of substance. Ragged though he may look, dusty though his clothes may be and no matter how ragged at the edges he may seem, with a bushy countenance, unkempt and untrimmed. Reeking though he may of a perfume that could hardly be likened to eau-de-cologne and could perhaps be better tolerated by a sheep than milady at Her Majesty's Court, he is yet ten feet tall and ready to take the nearest town by storm.

He is eager to sweep the nearest suspecting or unsuspecting lady off her feet and fill her ears with bold romantic and almost true tales from his recent adventures, her tummy with the warmth of wine and her heart with tenderness and generosity. That is up to that delicate point where danger lurks and he might find himself snared and hear the distant sound of wedding bells, by that time his money has gone, his outlook on life takes a turn for the better or is it worse, and he takes off in haste making a bee-line for the next shed and freedom. No girl, no town can hold him, the bush is in his blood.

Even the local gins are not forgotten and queue up to get their pay. I recall one scarlet clad gin coming into "town" one day with a bundle of notes fluttering between her fingers. She swings the kip before eager upturned faces and shouts "Sydney or the Bush. Which do you think won."
They have made it this happy breed. No thundering transport, no bills to meet, no thought for tomorrow. There's only today and the peace and tranquility which only the bush can give.

A cockatoo screeched from somewhere, and straightaway I forgot the streets and saw a homestead with golden sunset dying out behind the gums, while great sun-bleached stacks reflected the ruddy gold and flock after flock of white cockatoos flashed suddenly in the sky, returning from the wheat fields to the gums along the creek.

Let a crow caw harshly, and I am back again in the great drought with the sun throbbing from a brazen sky on a land that is one eternal sameness of choking dust and twanging wire fences.
The white calico wings1 pegged out like an immense circus ring, the sheep streaming in, filling the break thousands upon thousand, giving the impression of a gargantuan cotton wool ring set with twinkling fires. No matter where I hear the jacks2, I remember that scene.

In the city a bell chimed, the city dissolved, and the bellbird's note floated over the bush, giant gums silhoutted against the sky — walls of green slender saplings waving their tips of fire in the soft breeze — sunlight and shadow; hand in hand, dancing merrily with a setting of wattle in all its golden glory.

When i hear the liquid joyful carol of the magpie. I am back on the Dawson side, on Clifford station [currently offline due to floods] where I was born. It is sundown and the black stockmen are throwing boomerangs in the station paddock. Bare legged lubras are bringing black swan eggs in woven reed baskets to barter. There is a charm for me in the faces of these children of the bush, with their expressions, of mingled melancholy and fun.

The wild note of the curlew brings back Eurombah and its lagoon in the old days, with its herd of brumbies, the largest in Australia.

I'm going back one day and it will take a herd of wild brumbies to drag me away. I'm going back to where the colourful history of South West Queensland is epitomised in a unique and perhaps obscure hut made of weatherboard and slabs which was the haven of hundreds of travellers from all walks of life, the pioneers who built the solid foundations on which this vast and vigorous country stands today. This was a place of rest, a place of conviviality, a place to meet your mates and spread the news, a place to forget the toil and the tears. This was the 40 Mile Pub.

[1] Tents.
[2] Jackdaw [sic] perhaps?

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