Thursday, January 31, 2013

The familiarity of the past

I've been to Young, in central-west NSW, for a cousin's funeral. As I drove to Young I was acutely aware of the accuracy of the now-cliched description of Australia in Dorothea Mackellar's poem - that we are a country of 'droughts and flooding rains'. It was raining as I left Sydney and the radio was a constant flow of information about the imminent dangers from floods in Queensland and Northern NSW. But as I drove further west the country-side changed from green to the gold of stubbled paddocks and dried pasture-land.

Off the Boorowa Road 2

The grey clouds of my photo brought only a few spots of rain. Not enough to please the farmers.

The cousin whose funeral I attended is the first of the cousins of my generation to die. It's a significant marker of passing time. He had a mild intellectual disability and had lived a sheltered, very private life. He was steadfast in his Catholic faith all his life, so that the requiem mass with its well-worn ritual and predictability seemed a perfect last marker of his life - even to an unbeliever such as I.

Afterwards there was tea and sandwiches (and later, beer and wine) and gossip among the cousins who are now spread around NSW and whose last catch-up with one another had been the funeral of an aunt from the previous generation of relatives. One of my cousins is compiling the family history of this part of my family and took us to see the gravestone of our earliest Australian ancestors in the Young cemetery.

Thomas Joyce headstone
Catherine Joyce headstone

Thomas (1807-1877) and Catherine Joyce (1811-1871), my great-great-grandparents, came from County Kilkenny in Ireland to join their three sons, Thomas, Edward and Patrick who had already settled near Young. I don't often catch up with members of my family of origin, but it's always very reaffirming of my past when I do.

Off the Boorowa Road


Rose Red said...

I find it fascinating wandering around cemeteries, and reading the old headstones. I might have mentioned it before, but that is how my father's sister discovered that their oldest sibling died as a baby - their parents had never discussed this with the rest of their children. But they found her headstone. Very sad.

Lynne said...

My condolences to you and the family.

My dad, his mother, sister and brother were evacuated to Young after the Japanese submarines came into Sydney Harbour. Dad went to high school there and stayed after the family returned to Sydney. He picked cherries and often told us that he had to whistle all day to prove he wasn't eating the cherries. Those who couldn't whistle had to sing!

I think that's where got his live of the country; he moved mum to Bingara (NW NSW) when I was pregnant with their first grandchild!

DrK said...

i think ive said this before, i love that part of the world. you always manage to take such evocative photos of it too. im sorry about the funeral though.