ARCHBISHOP PHILIP FREIER

THOUGHTS AND OPINION


Hay and Hell and Booligal

Hay and Hell and Booligal

10 Jul 2017 

I survived Booligal, contrary to the warning of the great Australian poet Banjo Paterson, on a delightful trip to the Riverina at the weekend. Paterson’s poem Hay and Hell and Booligal, published in 1896, concludes:

We’d have to stop!” With bated breath
We prayed that both in life and death
Our fate in other lines might fall;
“Oh, send us to our just reward
In Hay or Hell, but, gracious Lord,
Deliver us from Booligal!

I’m not sure about just reward, but I met a warm welcome in both Hay and Booligal (while managing to avoid Hell, though this may be a reference to a nearby property, Hell’s Gate), hosted by Riverina Bishop Rob Gillion and his wife Janine.

During Joy’s and my weekend in the Riverina we enjoyed a Naidoc celebration of Indigenous dancing and didgeridoo playing at Griffith art gallery, reconsecrated the chapel of the heritage mansion Bishop’s Lodge, at Hay that was home to the first Bishop of the Riverina, Bishop Linton, from 1888, and joined worship services at Hay and Booligal.

Janine Gillion, Riverina Bishop Rob Gillion, Archbishop Philip Freier and Joy Freier outside the Bishop’s Lodge chapel

Janine Gillion, Riverina Bishop Rob Gillion, Archbishop Philip Freier and Joy Freier outside the Bishop’s Lodge chapel

It was both important and moving to remember the founding of the Warangesda Mission by John Brown Gribble in 1879, one of the first Anglican missions to the Aboriginal people. From there, Gribble served in Western Australia, then north Queensland, founding the Yarrabah mission south of Cairns with his son Ernest Richard Gribble. Gribble junior later was instrumental in founding the Mitchell River mission.

The Bishop’s Lodge chapel will now be available for worship after a gap of some five decades. The imposing mansion still stands with its corrugated iron walls and sawdust insulation that keep it warm in winter and cool in summer. Bishop Rob wishes the Riverina churches were built the same way, as Hay – for example – has cracks that make it unsuitable for use. The original rose garden is still maintained by the local council.

St Pauls, Hay

St Pauls, Hay

That Banjo Paterson poem, which may be justly disowned by the good folk of Booligal, is too good not to give in full. Here it is:

“You come and see me, boys” he said: 

“You’ll find a welcome and a bed

And whisky any time you call”

Although our township hasn’t got

The name of quite a lively spot –

You see, I live in Booligal.

 

“And people have an awful down

Upon the district and the town-

Which worse than hell itself they call:

In fact, the saying far and wide

Along the Riverina side

Is ‘Hay and Hell and Booligal’.

 

“No doubt it suits ’em very well

To say it’s worse than Hay or Hell,

But don’t you heed their talk at all:

Of course, there’s heat- no one denies-

And sand and dust and stacks of files,

And rabbits, too, at Booligal.

 

“But such a pleasant, quiet place,

You never see a stranger’s face-

They hardly ever care to call:

The drovers mostly pass it by:

They reckon that they’d rather die

Than spend a night in Booligal.

 

“The big mosquitoes frighten some –

You’ll lie awake to her ’em hum –

And snakes about the township crawl:

But shearers, when they get their cheque,

They never come along and wreck

The blessed town of Booligal.

 

“But down to Hay the shearers come

And fill themselves with fighting rum,

And chase blue devils up the wall,

And fight the snaggers every day,

Until there is the deuce to pay –

There’s none of that in Booligal.

 

“Of course, there isn’t much to see –

The billiard table used to be

The great attraction for us all,

Until some careless, drunken curs

Got sleeping on it their spurs.

And ruined it, in Booligal.

 

“Just not there is a howling drought

That pretty near has starved us out –

It never seems to rain at all:

But, if there should come any rain,

You couldn’t cross the black soil plain –

You’d have to stop in Booligal.”

 

* * * * * * *

 

“We’d have to stop!” With bated breath

We prayed that both in life and death

Our fate in other lines might fall;

“Oh, send us to our just reward

In Hay or Hell, but, gracious Lord,

Deliver us from Booligal!”

Top picture: Archbishop Philip and Joy Freier, left, and Riverina Bishop Rob Gillion, right, with Indigenous dancers at the Griffith art gallery.

 

 

 

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