AN UNUSUAL COMBINATION
In April 2008 we headed off to the Wimmera to seek out places where my wife’s relatives had lived when they first came to Australia over 150 years ago. We made Maldon our home for the first night. We have visited this picturesque, little township a number of times over the years and have always enjoyed our time there.
Like the “wildest dreamers” described in Henry Lawson’s poem The Roaring Days, we followed roughly the path taken in the mid 19th century by that “human stream” in their quest for “their shining Eldorado”. This took us through the famous, gold mining area of Forest Creek on the outskirts of Castlemaine. We made the obligatory stop at the Pennyweight Flat cemetery, rambling around the humble piles of stone that marked the final resting place of many young lives. They have remained on the goldfields long after their parent’s fortunes were either realised or dashed. The grey-box trees that clustered on this hallowed site mottled the glaring, autumnal brilliance of the midday sun.
We stayed the night in an extremely comfortable and uniquely furnished apartment above what was once Franklin’s building, on the corner of Maldon’s Maine and Phoenix Streets. Later in the evening I found some information about this lovely old building. Built around 1870, it had been first used to retail plumbing supplies. Constructed of stone and galvanised iron, the use of these materials was described as “an unusual combination”. The building’s significance was summed up as follows: “Large simple building of unusual materials”.
Sometime later I turned the television on, flicked through the channels and discovered that “The Fog of War” had just started. This documentary, which I had seen a few years ago, is based around extensive interviews with Robert McNamara who was the American Secretary of Defence between 1961 and 1968. It was during his time in office that the order to use Agent Orange in Vietnam was given. Although acknowledging this fact, the octogenarian claimed he could not remember doing so.
During the documentary McNamara listed eleven so-called “lessons” he had learnt. Lesson 9 was: “In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.” I immediately thought that this was an unusual combination, making good dependent on evil. I made some notes before retiring to bed and the seeds for a song were sown that night.
© Jim Low
22 October 2008