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I don't know quite why it was that this poem sprang in to my head this morning. But spring it did and I found myself reciting it from memory, though I have not heard it in decades. 

Back in the 80's ( the good old days ) my eldest daughter, then aged about 10, owned a copy of the book that beautifully captured the spirit of Banjo Patterson's wonderful bush poem. We gave it to her for Christmas one year and it quickly became her most treasured reading material.  So much so that it would be read before she went to sleep and she was known to take it to the toilet to read and recite as she sat there on the throne in her private space.

Of course, being a bit of a bugger and enjoying parenthood way too much, I could not help but creep up the hallway and stand outside the smallest room in the house and listen as her small voice echoed from the chamber as she went through the story of Michael Magee's son's  christening in the Australian bush. 


Perhaps the reason it sprang in to my mind is because Christmas is approaching. Maybe because my daughter is now 45 and a grown woman with children of her own. Or maybe because I am bloody sick and tired of hearing idiots like Lidia Thorpe trying to make Aussie's sound like criminals.

Lidia Thorpe is the new Greens Party Senator who calls herself Indigenous.  The one that WAS NOT ELECTED but chosen by the party faithful to occupy a seat in the Victorian Senate to replace Richard di Natale upon his resignation. She is, give or take a year, the same age as my daughter. She is, like my daughter, a mother and grandmother.

But, unlike my daughter, Lidia is full of hate and would never have sat on the loo reading the works of Banjo Patterson. She appears to, as an adult, read the works of Bruce Pascoe - which, in all honesty, is more of a horror story than a work of Australian poetic capture of history.

Somehow, I just cannot see how " Dark Emu " would be the sort of thing any happy, well adjusted child would read to soothe their dream time  or their private time on the toilet.

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When, yesterday, she got stuck in to Senator Sam McMahon from the Northern Territory, I was pretty shocked. Sam is a fiercely supportive advocate for Indigenous women in the NT and herself, like Thorpe, is part Indigenous.

Both women are part Indigenous and part Caucasion.

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One, as Sam McMahon said, is part of the Melbourne latte sipping culture of Melbourne. The other actually lives and works in remote Indigenous communites.

I know who I choose to admire.

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So I suppose I have just answered my own question - why I suddenly thought of this poem this morning.

The Bush Christening is like so many of the works of Banjo Patterson: they capture the heart, soul and spirit of this great Nation we call Australia.

Fun loving, light hearted, easy on the ear and full of richness and generosity of life. 

All of Banjo Patterson's works were set against or upon the landscape of this great land. They tell tales of bravery, humour and isolation. They speak to us about pioneering spirits that still dwell within all of us - natural born or adopted by the Great Southern Land.

None of his works speak of apology or cowardice ( apart, perhaps, from the Man from Ironbark where there may have been a hint of fear - and rightfully so ) and none of his writing could be seen as anything other than written by a man with a great love, admiration and respect for the country of his birth. Although the son of immigrants, he embraced this Nation with a love that all true Australians can recognise.

After all, he fought for this Nation. 

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For Lidia Thorpe and the likes of Bruce Pascoe to criticise us for loving our Nation and effectively telling us that we are thieves, I would suggest only this.

Never buy another coffee, avocado, book, house, car or anything made by western civilisation ever again. Resign from your University positions and Parliamentary positions and go up and join Sam McMahon and work within your cultures.

Meanwhile, while you contemplate that, have a read of " A Bush Christening " and realise that, like you, Australia is mixed blood and we still had a sense of history, heritage, patriotism and humour until you miserable lot came along.

No matter what country you swear allegiance to, we need to look to history for inspiration for the future.

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,
And men of religion are scanty,
On a road never cross’d ‘cept by folk that are lost,
One Michael Magee had a shanty.

Now this Mike was the dad of a ten year old lad,
Plump, healthy, and stoutly conditioned;
He was strong as the best, but poor Mike had no rest
For the youngster had never been christened.

And his wife used to cry, “If the darlin’ should die
Saint Peter would not recognise him.”
But by luck he survived till a preacher arrived,
Who agreed straightaway to baptise him.

Now the artful young rogue, while they held their collogue,
With his ear to the keyhole was listenin’,
And he muttered in fright, while his features turned white,
“What the divil and all is this christenin’?”

He was none of your dolts, he had seen them brand colts,
And it seemed to his small understanding,
If the man in the frock made him one of the flock,
It must mean something very like branding.

So away with a rush he set off for the bush,
While the tears in his eyelids they glistened
“Tis outrageous,” says he, “to brand youngsters like me,
I’ll be dashed if I’ll stop to be christened!”

Like a young native dog he ran into a log,
And his father with language uncivil,
Never heeding the `praste’ cried aloud in his haste,
“Come out and be christened, you divil!”

But he lay there as snug as a bug in a rug,
And his parents in vain might reprove him,
Till his reverence spoke (he was fond of a joke)
“I’ve a notion,” says he, “that’ll move him.”

“Poke a stick up the log, give the spalpeen a prog;
Poke him aisy — don’t hurt him or maim him,
“Tis not long that he’ll stand, I’ve the water at hand,
As he rushes out this end I’ll name him.

“Here he comes, and for shame! ye’ve forgotten the name
Is it Patsy or Michael or Dinnis?”
Here the youngster ran out, and the priest gave a shout
“Take your chance, anyhow, wid “Maginnis”‘!”

As the howling young cub ran away to the scrub
Where he knew that pursuit would be risky,
The priest, as he fled, flung a flask at his head
That was labelled “Maginnis’s Whisky”!

And Maginnis Magee has been made a J.P.,
And the one thing he hates more than sin is
To be asked by the folk, who have heard of the joke,
How he came to be christened “Maginnis”!

A.B. Paterson








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