Friday, March 28, 2008
My father's book - at last!
I nagged dad for 4 years to publish his autobiography, and he very nearly did, dying before he was able to complete it, sadly.
I promised dad I would complete his journey and publish it, and so I have, after 4 long years of editing and indecision on how to complete the book...
"....and then he died.......argh..."
Anyway, it's now published on glossy paper (for the photos) and looks (and feels) great. I am very happy and relieved.
Dad will be pleased.
Here's the Foreword, by anthropologist Athol Chase.
Some years ago John Warby published his memoir called “You-me Mates Eh?” which dealt with his nine years or so across the decade of the ‘50s as the superintendent of the Lockhart River Mission in eastern Cape York Peninsula. He was kind enough to ask me to write a foreword for that book, which I was extremely happy to do. I had spent much time at Lockhart (at the new site location near the Iron Range Airport) since 1970, and I had also met John on quite a number of occasions in Rockhampton. He was a good friend, and all my experiences with him bore out the great reputation he and his wife had developed at Lockhart River as mission helpers of character, strength, and of love towards all people.
The last time I saw John was at my mother’s funeral in Rockhampton in 1998. He had not known her, but he has seen the funeral notice in the paper, and he had come along on his very shaky legs, in his 80s, to pay his respects to our friendship. As is the way of church funerals, there were the usual desperate and faint attempts on the congregation’s part to sing hymns in tune, and to make a valid participation. At my mother’s funeral, my brother had chosen a number of old Anglican stalwarts to be sung, and as could be expected, there was faint and muted participation. John decided to move things along, and from the rear of St Pauls cathedral came this magnificent voice, loud and resonant like an organ, giving very sure leadership to the congregation. I knew without looking who it was: John had come to the rescue.
In this book John has incorporated his earlier account of the Lockhart days, but he takes us back to the very beginnings of his life in New South Wales, the depression years, his subsequent enlistment in the Army, and his long period of active service as an artilleryman in the Middle East and in the south Pacific. After the war the young John, deeply affected by his war experience, married and set up house in Thursday Island, engaging in the trochus and pearling industry. He had been deeply religious since his war experiences, and in the decade of the fifties he took on the superintendency of Lockhart River mission through a Christian sense of duty. His time there is well reported in this book too.
Following his time at the Mission, John decided to go the whole nine Christian yards, and he entered St Francis’s college to study for the priesthood. Once ordained he worked as a priest in central Queensland with his usual full-on zeal, always with a strong commitment to Aboriginal people in central Queensland. For this work he was made Queenslander of the year in 1989, and his acceptance speech did little to endear him to the Premier of the time, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. As I remember, it was a brave statement of defiance about the validity of Aboriginal people and their rights. Later he also was awarded an OAM, which was richly deserved. John died before finishing his life story, and his daughter Patty has added information to complete the account. The book stands as testimony to a true friend of many Aboriginal and European Australians, and a truly humble, devoted and very effective Anglican priest, for it is in those terms which I think John would wish to be remembered.