Stockmen’s Footsteps offers a rich insight into past
IN 1988, I was fortunate to visit the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach. I was on an outback adventure with my wife Lyn and my two sons Neil and Brian. We travelled by car to Darwin and back through Central Australia. One of the highlights was a visit to the newly-opened hall of fame and we had planned this for months.
I can remember the first impressions as we drove into Longreach and saw the sheer size of the 15-metre high hall with its huge super-sized windmill; to see the beautiful stone cottage RM had built by hand and, in doing so, brought tremendous publicity and goodwill to the project; to spend four hours absorbed in the displays and stories so lovingly preserved in the hall didn't do it justice and, while we were enthralled, we all went away feeling we could spend days there.
It wasn't until I returned in 2006 for another four-hour visit that I realised I still need to go back to really get to know the Hall of Fame. All Australians should visit this wonderful memorial and museum of the history and stories of the men and women who pioneered this great outback land.
To have the opportunity to read Jane Grieve's story and her personal involvement in the dream that became a national monument is enough reason to read In Stockmen's Footsteps however her story is really an autobiography of an ordinary Australian country girl who became a high achiever.
The story covers an amazing variation of Jane Grieve's life and gives a rich insight into a way of life for young rural Australians in the baby boomer era.
Jane takes a detailed look at growing up on the Downs and being sent off to New England Girls' School at Armidale in the 1960s, the lifestyle, the rigidity of an English education system which was lived out in Armidale.
During her restless wanderings in the early 1970s across Australia, New Zealand, USA and Europe, she bounced from job to job and trip to trip, including spells in stock camps.
My only struggle with the book was at this point and when she tried to intertwine her extensive colonial family history into the story.
It becomes evident later in the book when you realise her background gave her the energy and determination to follow almost single mindedly the dream of RM Williams, Hugh Sawrey and others to become firstly secretary and later executive director of the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame - a massive achievement.
If you love the outback, this story is a worthwhile read, it certainly gave me an even closer admiration of the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame.