Most Australians would be surprised to discover that Jesus played a bigger part in the early Union movement than Karl Marx. William Spence, the ex-miner who travelled the backcountry persuading shearers to join the Union in the 1890’s was not only a brilliant organiser of men, but also a respected preacher. He pioneered the Labor Party driven by his conviction that Jesus should be met in the workplace as well as in the church.
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In the years we lived in Bourke, we often heard warm praise from the locals for the Bush Brothers. They were an Anglican order, begun around 1900, which mobilised young men from Oxford University to tackle the tyranny of distance in the Outback. The first Australian recruit, 21 year old John Dent Martyn, caught my attention with his enthusiasm. Here is a snatch from his diary.
“The old Lizzie in which I have to travel is quite a specimen for the Museum. It is six years old, has done 76,000 miles, has been up two trees, has torpedoed one cow, has had the chassis snapped, has been bogged, I might say, hundreds of times! I have just got in tonight from a 150 mile trip. That is the shortest trip I have to do…Who wouldn’t be a Bush Brother? This district is half the size of England and just as large as the whole of Victoria."
LISTEN as Paul tells more of Brother John's story.
I’ve driven the Great Western Highway hundreds of times between Bourke or Dubbo and Sydney and shot past tiny Hartley village thinking ‘I must pull up there one day’ and never have. Last weekend, tracking from Victoria Pass across the valley to Lithgow, I decided ‘This is it!’ The bright sunshine of a crisp winter day made the honey-coloured sandstone of the Courthouse and St Bernard’s church just sing. And they sang two stories that touched me.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.