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Everyone has their cross to bear – their swag, their shiralee – and for Macauley, walking across New South Wales in search of work, it is his young daughter who has to suffer his resentment at having her in tow. But then, he discovers that the ties that bind can be as much a comfort as a burden, and what he thought of as his Shiralee could be the one thing that will save him from himself.
This classic Australian novel perfectly captures the spirit of the bush and the tough, resilient people of the outback.
D'Arcy Niland was born in Glen Innes, New South Wales, and
spent much of his boyhood travelling with his Irish father. He began
work as a copyboy on the Sydney Sun but soon left to travel
the country, where he led an adventurous life, working in a wide
variety of jobs - as an opal miner, circus
hand, stevedor and woolshed rouse about.
He married the writer, Ruth Park, in 1942 and they settled in
Sydney where Niland worked as a writer, television and film
scriptwriter and magazine editor. He died suddenly in 1967, two days
after completing his last novel; he was forty-seven. The Shiralee, with
its insights into fatherhood, confirms that he understood the human
heart as well as he knew the country roads of Australia.
There was a man who had a cross and his name was Macauley. He put
Australia at his feet, he said, in the only way he knew how. His boots
spun the dust from its roads and his body waded its streams. The black
lines on the map, and the red, they knew him well. He built his fires
in a thousand places and slept on the banks of rivers. The grass grew
over his tracks, but he knew where they were when he came again.
He had two swags, one of them with legs and a cabbage-tree hat, and
that one was the main difference between him and others who take to the
road, following the sun for their bread and butter. Some have dogs.
Some have horses. Some have women. And they have them as mates and
companions, or for this reason and that, all of some use. But with
Macauley it was this way: he had a child and the only reason he had it
was because he was stuck with it.
They'll tell you he took that child from the city when it was only
three and a half and went into the backblocks and carried it on his
shoulder, under his arm, and in a sugar-bag that swung as a balance to
his bluey. And that's the truth. He still did it, for the kid was only
six months older; though not so much – for it had been broken into
walking and Macauley in desperate resignation had shaped his travelling
time and means to suit it. They saw him coming into town with the child
asleep in his arms, or thrown up with its head on his shoulder, bobbing
with the rhythm of the walk, dead to the world. They saw it trudging
beside him, the two of them such a contrast in size it made you laugh.
Wherever Macauley went the child went with him. It was his real
swag. The one he carried on his back was a mere nothing. That swag when
he hoisted it and strapped it about his thick shoulders stayed put and
gave him no trouble. He didn't have to cook a feed for it. He didn't
have to make an extra shake-down. If he put it on the ground it didn't
walk away. He didn't have to wash it and comb its hair. It never had to
have its buttons done up. It was never the burden to slow him down.
ISBN: 9780143204732 ISBN-10: 0143204734 Series: Popular Penguins Audience:
Number Of Pages: 272 Published: 28th June 2010 Publisher: Penguin Books Australia Country of Publication: AU Dimensions (cm): 17.9 x 11.1
Weight (kg): 0.13
Edition Number: 1