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3 corrections, most recently by mullalk - Show corrections

CUTHBERT FETHERSTON-

HAUGH.

(BY WALTER C. HENDERSON, ALBURY.)

It seems almost absurd to speak of him as the late Mr. Fetherstonhaugh. Those who   knew him well will have a difficulty in realis-

ing that he does not remain breezily alive. To be counted amongst his intimate friends was a constantly refreshing experience, no wail- ing about hard luck, no complaints or repin- ings, just vigorous optimism, manly pluck, and a face and spirit from before whom gloom fled as from the sunlight itself. Truly "courage is a great lnvlgorator." Mr. Fetherston-

haugh, in spite of the innumerable accidents met with in his adventures and his long years of pioneer hardship, lived to 88. He came from a family of "stayers," and, given a good constitution, staying is greatly a matter of the optimistic courage which was one of his chief characteristics. Fear is a killing thing, a great waster of good tissue, not only physical fear, but fear of the future, of the possible result of one's last deal, of the impending law suit, of innumerable other things that make up the varied dally life of mankind. It did not trouble Mr. Fetherstonhaugh. I once asked him if he had ever really felt fear. His reply, after reflection, was that he could not remember having had such an experi- ence. His book "After Many Days" fully

bears him out.

Those who did not know him sometimes de- clare that the amazing escapades narrated, all in the simplest and most unaffected way, are exaggerations. Those who best knew him know that the stories are the mere truth.   He felt no fear, only exuberant vitality; he wanted to do the things. The risk of his neck never entered into his calculations, so he just did them. He was very lucky, be declared. In proof of this, he points out that apartt from 18 fractures, a few dislocations of shoulder and other joints, and sundry con- cussions, he never really hurt himself.

Whan I first met him he was over 60. Owing to his losses he was practically making a fresh start in life. Most men would have given in, and have resigned themselves to going down hill mentally and physically until they should reach "the allotted span." No allotted span tor Mr. Fetherstonhaugh. Bother the allotted span! He may have lost his property; It was the only thing he lost. Here was something to tackle, difficulties worth a man's while, so have at them! With the eager courage and hopefulness of youth he went straight on to a successful result, and a serene old age. I sometimes wonder it he ever became old. If he did it was in body only. His letters just before his death, were those of a vlgorous. man of 40.

"After Many Days" is certainly the best book of its kind over produced in or on Australia. I studied every paragraph in MS., aqaln in proof form, and I read the finished product with zest, and more than once. Now on opening it once again for reference, I find a difficulty in putting it down. What a range of varying existence it covers; yet only the first 35 years of Mr. Fetherston- haugh's life are embraced in t. As a book of reference alone it will be invaluable to future historians who would deal with pioneor life in Australia and the people of the bush. Its author, with his active mind, had a happy faculty for keeping notes and records, which served him well when he came to write, it. It is a misfortune that his desire to write a further volume could not be carried out,   though there is a manuscript-about 40 pages of typed matter-dealing with his experiences as a bush parson. Horses gallop through almost, every, page. , How he loved a good horse, from the intimate personal love for such a one as Pannikin, favourite hack and "lepper" of his early manhood, to the kings and queens of the turf. And how he loved Australia, particularly inland Australia! "I am nothing if not a bushman," he declared, and his book is dedicated to the bushmen of Australia, One must read the book to

understand the varied range of his activities as Jackeroo-"cadet," it was in his day-sta- tion manager, pastoralist, steeplechase rider, and bush parson.

His zest for sport, his responsibilities dur- ing the years he managed Brookong, his   interest in pastoral pursuits, and his delight in literature, were none of them so pro-   found moment to him as his religion. I doubt if he thought of it as religion; It was just part of his life, simple, sincere, unaffected, and as much a part of, his existence as the stream which waters and vivifies it is to its valley. There was no particular creed, nothing hide-bound of any sort. Simply do the right thing; be good because goodness is the only thing that really matters; but for goodness' sake let there be no hypocrisy, no wretched "saving your soul" for the sake   of avoiding pains and penalties, no long faces or harsh judgments of the erring.

"After Many Days" is a fascinating volume and one is tempted to quote, and quote again. But let it speak for itself. It introduces a fascinating lot of peuple, from our own Aus- tralian Gordon to the veriest cut-throats; from the Governor's lady to the black gin. Always also there are the horses, with their swift appeal to Australians. No wonder Gor- don, with his hard riding, his inherent man- hood, and his fascinating verse, enthralled a man like Mr. Fetherstonhaugh. From the deep Australian sentlment of "The Sick Stock Rider" to the passionate swing of "The Rhyme of Joyous Garde," eo drew the utmost

delight.

Many things Mr. Fetherstonhaugh has been, but I rather fancy that nowhere would he have been more conspicuously successful than as the leader of a desperate cavalry

charge.

Then a steel shod rush and a steel-clad ring, And a crash of the spear-staves splintering.

And the billowy battle blended.

Riopt of charges, revel of blows,   And fierce flushed faces, of fighting foes,

From croup to bridle, that reeled and rose,

In a sparkle of sword play splendld.

How that verse must, many a time, have rung through the head. Yet, with all the galloping rush of verse, perhaps the lines in Gordon most applicable tor Mr. Fetherston- haugh are the famous

Two things stand like stone-

Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own.

One outstanding attribute possessed by him wns the fascination which he seemed to have for young men. Perhaps his remarkable feats of horsemanship, his reputation for daredevil csenpades, may have had some- thing to do with it, but I think that the   chief reason why young men delighted in his society was becaueo, with all his years and snowy hair, he was just one of them, a boy talking to a boy, a youth to a youth. Loving humanity, he often seemed surprised that they loved him, but the fact is that he simply carried his own welcome with him. People were glad to see him, and to wel- come him, and press him to stay just another week, or, falling that, anothor day. A man of happy expedient in minor difficulties, such as the setting by himself of his own broken nose, as so amusingly described in chapter 28 of his book; the winning of the truly re- markable race, described in chaptor 17, when his opponent, knowing Mr. Fetherstonhaugh's horse would probably baulk at the jumps if not given a lead, pulled up at the back of the course to argue the matter; and of re- source, determination, and purpose in the bigger obstacles that so often confronted him during his long life. A wild Irishman, many would call him; none could fail to add, a courteous, chivalrous gentleman, a thor- oughbred every inch of him.

I make no apology for writing this. Vivid and picturesque as was his life and per- sonality, he cared nothing for the limelight. Probably many a second-rate politician is better known to the general public. Yet If brilliant courage, unflagging energy, and faithful work; simple directness of purpose and inherent goodness; a heart that could dare; a personality full of love and true camaraderie; a brain that could think, and a long life of doing to the utmost and in the best way possible to him the work that came lo his hand, are things worth writing about, then space may well be allotted to the memory of one in whom these qualities were inherent. His life in this world was full to the brim willi happy interest; to life In the world to come he looked forward quite simply and seriously, with the same happy interest, sure that all would be well. It is good to have known him.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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