High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England

High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England

High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England

High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England

Synopsis

An exploration of the history and heritage of the New England region of New South Wales.

Excerpt

O’er all the wide Australian land
     I’ve wandered far and near,
Through dusky scrubs and dreary plains
     The haunts of pallid fear;
O’er valleys green and mountains high
     Where wild marsupials roam—
Yet thou are dearer far to me
     My own New England home.

So wrote John Wetherspoon, of Glencoe, near Glen Innes, in 1871, summing up in stumbling rhyme a real love of country. What was it he liked so much about New England? Most of his poem was a list of less interesting spots, from ancient Greece (over-rated, by comparison) to ‘the red Barcoo’ and the deserts of the Darling. But he did mention some local pleasures—or, as he called them, ‘scenes which please my beating heart’. They included the mountains, ‘[m]ajestic in their height’, the shaded valleys and New England’s still famous waterfalls.

Wetherspoon was not a brilliant poet. All the same, he was one of the first in this part of Australia to try to capture its landscape in verse. There were three places in the world he felt passionate about. One was Scotland, his native country, though he had left it as a child and he could barely remember it. the second was Australia, not yet federated. the third was New England. Only in the case of New England did he wrestle at length with his feelings and ideas, trying to put down on paper what it was like to live in a place so new and . . .

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