Sunday, 28 August 2016



Quiet, I was
as I sat beneath the tree
dreaming of how the Australian bush
had been especially made for me.
It was then I heard the sound of strangers
coming through the scrub
so, I climbed up, so very fast,
right up that old gum tree.

'Twas no place for an Irish lad
of this I could be sure
but as the folks got closer,
what they said I could not ignore.
For it seemed they were the Kelly gang
and they talked and planned a raid..
I thought of the saints of Ireland
and begorrah, how I prayed.

I moved a little in my fright
and uttered the smallest sound
alas, lack, it was enough
to be heard there on the ground!
They pulled me down from that tall tree
and gave me such a fright
they said they'd thought they'd kill me
till I told them of my plight.

For I was just a starving Irish lad
right down on my luck
I thought that I was finished
but they admired my pluck.
So, in return for vows of silence,
they kindly paid my fare
back to dear old Ireland
and my kin in County Clare.

(c) Crissouli 1983

 image courtesy of Pixabay


This was based on a story my Great Uncle Martin Dillon told me many years ago in a letter… that one of his brothers was in the bush, looking for work, food, anything and came across the Kelly gang. By the timing, it wasn’t Ned Kelly, but many ‘gangs’ would later claim to have been part of the Kelly gang, so who knows..According to Uncle Martin, they fed his brother and gave him a small sack of money and sent him on his way.

Two of his brothers did come to Australia, Michael and John, known as Jack.  Michael was the first, haven’t found exactly what year as yet, but I think it must have been early 1900s… Ned Kelly died in 1880. Michael sponsored John, then Molly (Mary) pre 1920 and Bridget, along with Susan/Susie in 1923 (though Susan stayed in New Zealand on the way, as another brother, James, was already there). 

Michael returned to Ireland to take over the family farm as their brother, Patrick, became ill. John was killed timber felling in the bush near Coffs Harbour in 1918 and is buried in an unmarked grave there. Molly married a Gerald (Edward G.) McDermott, in Australia in 1917.. he was killed in April 1918, a few short months after their marriage. Molly later married Tom Foley in 1920. 

Bridget was to marry Roy Leonard Swadling in 1924… they were my grandparents. She died when my mother was just 11, in 1942.
(c) Crissouli August 2016

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