The Farmer’s Tale

Second last day in Oz and we’re spending the arvo chilling in the back garden with a few cold tinnies – my shout before Donald gets started again.

This morning, we went to the Noosa Farmers’ Market. A local Sunday institution and the real deal. You actually have to have grown, bred or made the stuff yourself before you can sell it there.

I did a quick circuit, bought a gourmet pie for later in the day (lamb and rosemary aka a ‘jolly jumbuck’) then sat down with a coffee as Mrs M set off on lap two. Another guy sat down beside me and said that he was wife-waiting. When I said I was too, he leapt on my accent and asked if I was Australian.

I explained that I was from Jockland, at which point the wife-waiter on the other side said that he had been to Scotland four times and loved the country. This has been happening a lot. It appears to be almost impossible to find an Australian who has not either got some Jock blood or visited Caledonia (stern and wild) or have a Jock friend. Wife-waiter 2 and I discussed Pitlochry, Kinlochrannoch and Mallaig in no particular order and then I listened to wife-waiter 1’s tale.

He was a 73 year old farmer from Victoria. One of his earliest memories was of his father’s farmhand, Archibald Burnett Wilson, who was from Dunbartonshire. When he inherited the farm, Archie worked for him and was his most trusted employee and a close friend.

Archie had no family in Australia. He had left Scotland as soon as he was old enough because he did not get on with his stepfather. He sent back money for a few decades, presumably until his mother died but, apart from that, he had no links to the ‘Auld Country’.

He was a model worker, except for a tendency to go walkabout once a year for a couple of weeks and blow all his savings on drink. He would then reappear and get back to work. The farmer said that he had never met a fitter, harder-working man than Archie. He also said that he had a soft heart. When he was about five, the farmer used to catch mice and put them in jars. They were never there the next morning, because Archie had let them out. When he complained, Archie would quote him the first few lines of Burns’ poem ‘Tae a Moose’. The farmer was still able to give me a fairly accurate version of the poem all these years later.

When Archie died, he had little to leave except his Bible, and he left that to the farmer. It had been his father’s Bible. His Dad had been in the Royal Artillery and serving in India when he was shot by a sniper on the Afghan border. He wrote his son’s name in his Bible as he lay dying, the date of 15th September 1902 and, as his writing became more scrawled ‘A wanderer dying far from home’. The farmer said that you could still see the bloodstains on the Bible.

Now, I did not write this down as he told me and I may not have got the quote exactly right. I am also well aware by now that all Aussies can spin very convincing yarns. This one, however, had the ring of truth about it.

The farmer ended it by telling me that he had buried Archie in his family plot and had named his first son Burnett after him.

5 thoughts on “The Farmer’s Tale”

  1. Lovely tale.

    Sounds as though you may have been enjoying the waiting…. were there many purchases?

  2. I am delighted at the ease and enthusiasm with which you have adopted Strine thinking and language, JM. Good on ya’. 😀

  3. I am disturbed at the ease and enthusiasm with which you have adopted Strine thinking and language. 🙂

  4. Rather a sad tale really, depressing how many people wandered round the British Empire with absolutely no roots at all.
    Still do.

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