Sepia Saturday says ‘Some times you just need to be alone. You need space , space to think, space to breathe, space to contemplate your place in the great scheme of things’ Well there’s plenty of space in this photo which involves a visit to the river to escape the relentless heat.
This boat is on the slowly moving Murrumbidgee River at Hay in south-western New South Wales. In 2013 Hay recorded a maximum temperature of 47.7 °C (117.9 °F) but the average temperature for January, the hot month, is 33.0 °C (91.4 °F). This family album photo was taken in 1924 and the people, protecting themselves from the sun with hats or scarves or towels aren’t identified but it could possibly be the two Rawnsley children with their parents But whoever they are they are connected with Tom Tansey, the town-hopping bandmaster who brought a book on Shakespeare with him when he came from England in 1888.
Think of concentric circles. At the centre we have this drifting boat. The first circle is the Murumbidgee River, the second circle is the small town of Hay and the third circle covers the agricultural district near Hay and the wide open plains of the Riverina. It’s quite a long way from the bigger cities of Australia.
It is 1924, the year after Tom Tansey left Hay to move to Castlemaine. The First World War has been over for a few years but its effect is still felt in this district.
My interest in the photo comes from the fact that these people are living in a town which has had a town brass band since 1897 , and the unique place the town held in World War I in Australia. They had one of the highest losses in any community in Australia – from the 641 men who enlisted for service one sixth of them were killed, over 100 young men missing from the post-war community.
This is shown in this brief film clip from Australian Screen, made in 1993. I know that the big award-winning brass bands are beautiful to listen to. But I just love the small town brass bands, the mixture of young and old players, the variety of skills, the pleasure that they give to their listeners. The film clip then takes you back to the band farewelling the volunteers in 1914, sending them off in a train which doesn’t look as though it is usually used for passengers, taking them off to fight a war on the other side of the world.
Enjoy Hay’s band in its wide brown space.
We will have music wherever we go.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
- Dorothea MacKellar, c1907