THE COUNTRY IN ME
Binnaway is in central NSW, about seven or so hours of constant driving from Sydney. You cross the Blue Mountains to Lithgow, take the Mudgee Road and then head northwest to Gulgong and Coolah. I taught in Binnaway for two years. While in the country, I continued playing the guitar and singing songs. I also became more interested in song writing. The songs I was writing at this time were on religious themes as well as being influenced by the place where I was living.
In my second year at Binnaway, I lived alone in a rundown, farm labourer’s cottage called Rosedale, a few miles out of town. They were pretty basic living conditions with no hot water, little furniture or floor coverings and no door locks to secure the cottage. However, there were plenty of opportunities to just take to the surrounding paddocks and hills, and explore. On weekends I wrote, read, drew pictures of the countryside and played my guitar. It was during this time that a deep appreciation for the country and its small towns was nurtured.
During my first year in Binnaway, I bought a portable record player so that I could listen to my records. At the beginning of my second year, I purchased a portable cassette recorder. This became invaluable for my song writing, as well as allowing me to collect poems and songs performed by others.
During my stay in Binnaway I met a local minister named Angus Ewin. Angus lived in Coonabarabran and had an infectious love of Australian poetry and song. He kindly lent me some wonderful recordings to listen to, furthering my growing enthusiasm for Australian folk songs. He also encouraged my song writing. During this time I started performing. Besides my own songs, my repertoire included “Four Strong Winds”, “Dirty Old Town” and some traditional Australian songs.