Saturday, 19 September 2009


It's all Ted Egan's fault.

Or maybe you could blame Howard. He gave me a copy of The Dish for my birthday, which I watched with DH and was stunned when I discovered that DH had never heard Russell Morris sing "On the Wings of An Eagle" before. That lead to me buying the movie's soundtrack as a download off Amazon, which lead to a further "I wonder if I can find...." session, where I looked for more obscure tracks. It was then that I purchased Ted Egan's A Town Like Alice album.

Maybe you can lay the blame further back, on the shoulders of the coach driver who played A Town Like Alice constantly on the school Central Australia trip, all the way from Port Augusta to Ayers Rock and then on to Alice Springs.

Me? I'll stick with blaming Ted.

Anyway, there I was driving back from Site a couple of weeks ago, when Ted Egan began singing about John McDouall Stuart dying at his sister's house in London, a few miles from where I sat stuck in traffic. Stuart is one of Australia's greatest explorers, the man who successfully mapped the route south to north across the heart of Australia, from Port Augusta in South Australia to what is now Darwin. Apart from the highway named after him, I knew nothing about him until I sat listening to Ted. If you asked most Australian school kids of my generation who mapped the route for the telegraph, they'd tell you, wrongly, that it was Burke & Wills. In fact, it was John McDouall Stuart.

Consumed with a sense of sadness that Stuart died unappreciated and forgotten, miles from his beloved Australia, I decided that the only thing to do was to mount a pilgrimage to his grave. On Saturday, I dragged DH down to Kensal Rise Cemetery to lay a branch from a gum tree on Stuart's grave.

It was the best that I could do. You can't get wattle, or Sturt's desert pea, or bottle-bush around here, and a European flower just wouldn't have been fitting.

We stood there silently for a couple of minutes, paying our respects. I hope, somewhere, Stuart knows.

- Pam

PS: When doing my research to find Stuart's grave, I was pleased to discover that some people haven't forgotten him. The John McDouall Stuart Society ensures that he isn't forgotten.

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