The Authors

Jim Bryant

Jim Bryant

James Henry Bryant, the eldest of five children, was born in 1892 on the goldfields known as "The Welcome", between Parkes and Forbes. James was always known as Jim.

When his father was killed in a mining accident, Jim left school at an early age, seeking work to help his mother eke out a spartan existence selling butter and eggs to the miners. More

Joan Vagg (nee Parker)

Joan Vagg

Joan Vagg (nee Parker) was born in 1929 and her early years were spent east of Hillston. In 1928, her father drew a mallee farm, called "Long Plain" in a South West Settlement Scheme ballot. Most of the blocks were 1 square mile (640 acres), manifestly inadequate to allow the owners to make a living. Joan's father was fortunate to have sold his property near Peak Hill prior to moving to Hillston More

Maurice (Moc) Parker

Maurice (Moc) Parker

Maurice (Moc) Parker was born at Hillston in 1958, the second child of Arthur (Darby) and Dorothy Parker, and a brother to Victor and Allison. Moc grew up on the family cropping and grazing property "Long Plain" at Hillston. His primary schooling was at Hillston Central School, followed by Yanco Agricultural High School until year 10. His father thought it would be a great idea for Moc to go to Longreach Pastoral College for 1975 and 1976. More

Jonathan (Jon) Vagg

Jonathan (Jon) Vagg

Jon Vagg was born in Hillston in 1959, the third child of Albert and Joan Vagg, a brother to Jennie, Moira and Heather. His early years were spent on "Maxwell's Braes" and "Furlong" near Booligal, and was home schooled through Blackfriars Correspondence School. More

Graham Vagg

Graham Vagg

Graham Vagg was born in Griffith Hospital NSW in June 1960 and grew up on the family property "Wing Ding" 80 kilometres north east of Ivanhoe NSW, with nine siblings (seven younger). His primary schooling was done through correspondence lessons with his mother Ann as teacher. More

Naomi Vagg (nee Parker)

Naomi Vagg (nee Parker)

Naomi Vagg (nee Parker) was born in Griffith in December 1961, the only daughter of Lance and Josie Parker, (no relation to the Vagg-Parker families). She's the youngest in the family and has two brothers. Her early years were spent on the family farm, "Fairfield", near Tabbita, between Hillston and Griffith. She spent primary school at Goolgowi, started her secondary education as a boarder at Marsden in Bathurst and did years 11 and 12 at Abbotsleigh Girls' School in Sydney. More

Heather Frewin (nee Vagg)

Heather Frewin (nee Vagg)

Heather Frewin (nee Vagg) is Joan and Albert Vagg's youngest daughter, sister to Jennie, Moira and Jon. She grew up on "Tallawanta", the family property west of Hillston. She attended Hillston Central School, being the only one of her siblings not to be educated through Blackfriars Correspondence School. The commute from "Tallawanta" involved a 25km drive over black soil roads to catch the school bus for another 16 kilometres into town. More

Allan Vagg

Allan Vagg

Allan Vagg was born in 1989 and grew up on the family's sheep and cattle grazing property "Furlong" (which includes "Maxwell's Braes"), between Hillston and Booligal in western NSW. Allan is the sixth generation of the Vagg family to live in the Hillston district. Along with younger sister Bonnie, he was home schooled by his mother Naomi for his primary and half of his secondary years, via School of the Air, first from Hay and then Dubbo. More

  • Jim Bryant

    James Henry Bryant, the eldest of five children, was born in 1892 on the goldfields known as "The Welcome", between Parkes and Forbes. James was always known as Jim.

    When his father was killed in a mining accident, Jim left school at an early age, seeking work to help his mother eke out a spartan existence selling butter and eggs to the miners.

    By the time he was fourteen he was riding a pushbike many kilometres from station to station to work in the shearing sheds around western NSW.

    At the outbreak of World War 1, aged 22, he enlisted in the army and it was not long before he was in the Middle East.

    He was wounded at Gallipoli shortly after the debacle of the landing and was shipped back to an Egyptian hospital. It was at this time Jim wrote some of his best and most moving poetry.

    A couple of months after recovering from his wounds he was back on the Gallipoli Peninsula and was killed a few days later during the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915.

    Some of his war verses from this period are included in this book – a moving description of the horrors he encountered. When Jim died, he was a private in the 3rd Brigade. Jim was never in the Light Horse Brigade, so it seems likely that the verse "An Aussie's Farewell to his Horse" was written for an army mate.

    We are fortunate that he posted his works back to his mother in Australia, where they are a treasured part of the family collection. He has left us with a wonderful legacy, especially in his verse, which has remained a constant inspiration to our family's poetic endeavours.

    Uncle Jim, may you never be forgotten!

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  • Joan Vagg

    Joan Vagg (nee Parker) was born in 1929 and her early years were spent east of Hillston. In 1928, her father drew a mallee farm, called "Long Plain" in a South West Settlement Scheme ballot. Most of the blocks were 1 square mile (640 acres), manifestly inadequate to allow the owners to make a living. Joan's father was fortunate to have sold his property near Peak Hill prior to moving to Hillston, so had enough money to buy more land to enable the family to make a living as wheat farmers.

    Joan's childhood was happy and carefree, playing and roaming in the bush with her younger brother Darby. Joan and Darby rode their pushbikes eight kilometres to the Muggabeen School, a one-teacher school surrounded by mallee scrub.

    In 1951 Joan married Albert Vagg and moved to live on his family sheep property, "Maxwell's Braes", near Booligal on the vast western division plains of NSW. Thus Joan went from being a farmer to being a grazier. "Maxwell's Braes" and neighbouring "Furlong" (belonging to Albert's family) were run as one place. Over the years, "Pine Grove" and "Tallawanta" near Hillston were added to their land holdings.

    Joan and Albert had three daughters and a son. The three eldest were home schooled by Joan for much their primary education. After the children had left for boarding school, Joan had the opportunity to pursue her interest in art and studied for seven years through the McNeill Academy of Realist Artists (MARA) in Victoria.

    Joan and Albert retired to Hillston where she continued her artistic practice as a painter and quilter. For many years she was an art teacher at Hillston's Red Dust and Paddy Melons Gallery. Nowadays, she takes commissions from local people who find her by reputation. The illustrations in this book are Joan's.

    Although best known as an artist, Joan has combined her art with bush poetry, drawing inspiration from the flora and fauna of the areas in which she has lived. The family has had a long tradition of expressing thoughts and ideas in verse.

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  • Maurice (Moc) Parker

    Maurice (Moc) Parker was born at Hillston in 1958, the second child of Arthur (Darby) and Dorothy Parker, and a brother to Victor and Allison. Moc grew up on the family cropping and grazing property "Long Plain" at Hillston. His primary schooling was at Hillston Central School, followed by Yanco Agricultural High School until year 10. His father thought it would be a great idea for Moc to go to Longreach Pastoral College for 1975 and 1976. This meant he experienced different sides of the pastoral industry. After 2 years at Longreach he returned to the family property where he was more interested in grazing than cropping. In addition to working on the family property, Moc did casual work for neighbours and friends around the Hillston area, which broadened his experience by working outside the family partnership.

    In January 1981, Moc married Sheree Anthony only daughter of Sam and Joyce Anthony, also from Hillston. They have three sons; Michael born in 1982, Reginald in 1984 and Roby in 1988.

    In December 1984, the family moved to Hungerford on the NSW-Queensland border to work on the property "Currawinya". This was one of Moc's most treasured experiences. There he learnt to fly and also bought his own property, "Mooro" at Wyandra. After Moc's sons completed their education in 1998, the family moved to "Bootra" at White Cliffs. After five years there Moc again got itchy feet and they moved back to Hungerford to run the hotel, before taking on the Wanaaring Hotel.

    During his 10 years in the pub business, Moc was able to indulge his passion for poetry, regularly entertaining travellers with his verses while pulling a beer. Later Moc worked for six years for the Wild Dog Destruction Board patrolling the longest fence in the world. Now he's been back in his old stomping ground at Currawinya National Park happily working as a park ranger.

    Moc's always enjoyed reading, listening to and reciting poetry. The interesting characters he's met as well the significant events of his life have been incorporated into many of his poems.

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  • Jonathan (Jon) Vagg

    Jon Vagg was born in Hillston in 1959, the third child of Albert and Joan Vagg, a brother to Jennie, Moira and Heather. His early years were spent on "Maxwell's Braes" and "Furlong" near Booligal, and was home schooled through Blackfriars Correspondence School.

    He finished his primary schooling at Hillston Central and then attended Yanco Agricultural High School. His gap year, 1978, was spent helping his parents and working on various properties around Hillston doing stock work and fencing.

    He spent 1979 to 1982 at the University of New England, not studying as much as he should have, concentrating more on football, cricket and partying, until finally settling down and completing an economics degree.

    After Jon's grandfather passed away in 1983, leaving him a share of his properties in his will, Jon returned home and went into a grazing partnership with his parents.

    In January 1988 Jon married Naomi Parker, daughter of Lance and Josie Parker, at their homestead, "Cascade", on the banks of the Lachlan River. Typical of the stamina of outback folk, the wedding party continued for three days! Naomi and Jon settled at "Furlong" and had two children – Allan, born in 1989 and Bonnie, born in 1990. There, they grazed stock in partnership with Jon's parents.

    When Naomi was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2013 Jon cared for her at home as long as possible, but due to her rapid decline she moved into specialist care in Griffith.

    Jon continues to graze sheep and cattle in partnership with Allan and Bonnie and their partners, Jenna and Andrew. In 2016 he moved north to the property "Wangaroa", in the Roto district, trying his hand at grazing stock on the red scrub country as distinct from the black soil Riverina plains.

    Jon has always been fond of poetry, reading a lot and writing sporadically since his earliest school years. It's natural that bush poetry would be Jon's preferred genre, given his upbringing and lifestyle.

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  • Graham Vagg

    Graham Vagg was born in Griffith Hospital NSW in June 1960 and grew up on the family property "Wing Ding" 80 kilometres north east of Ivanhoe NSW, with nine siblings (seven younger). His primary schooling was done through correspondence lessons with his mother Ann as teacher.

    His first five years of secondary schooling were as a boarder at St. Stanislaus College, Bathurst. His final year was at Griffith (NSW) High School while boarding at the youth hostel which at that time provided accommodation for school and TAFE students.

    Although well short of being an exemplary student at high school he always had an interest in words and the English language.

    After leaving school he spent a bit longer than a year working at various jobs in Sydney before returning to "Wing Ding" where he still lives.

    Perhaps influenced by his formative years he developed an affinity with bush poetry, but generally speaking he's attracted to any story, verse or otherwise, that's based on humour. He admires the work of such artists as Murray Hartin and Rupert McCall.

    While he often creates poems and stories, usually around current events, he's too lazy to save them in any form and consequently rarely remembers them after a few years have elapsed.

    Because of his shy and retiring nature Graham doesn't usually publicly recite many poems or stories.

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  • Naomi Vagg

    Naomi Vagg (nee Parker) was born in Griffith in December 1961, the only daughter of Lance and Josie Parker, (no relation to the Vagg-Parker families). She's the youngest in the family and has two brothers. Her early years were spent on the family farm, "Fairfield", near Tabbita, between Hillston and Griffith. She spent primary school at Goolgowi, started her secondary education as a boarder at Marsden in Bathurst and did years 11 and 12 at Abbotsleigh Girls' School in Sydney.

    Naomi then studied teaching at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga before moving to Queensland to gain honours in Special Education at James Cook University in Townsville. On completion of her studies she worked as a governess on a remote station near Collinsville in the Whitsunday region of Queensland and then spent a year working with children with special needs at Charters Towers.

    During a trip home to her parents in 1986, Naomi met Jon. They conducted a long distance relationship until she returned to western NSW in 1987 to be with the love of her life. After they married on the banks of the Lachlan in 1988 and settled on "Furlong" west of Hillston. Naomi divided her time between station work, housekeeping and schooling her two children, Allan and Bonnie, through Distance Education, at the same time helping a large number of the district kids with their schooling. None of the challenges of rural life fazed Naomi – she could manage flooded roads, crippling drought or cantankerous animals with the best – and she loved every minute of it!

    As well as an expert stockwoman, she was also a talented cook, gardener, musician and an international award-winning photographer for her classic photograph of a rolling dust storm taken on "Furlong" in 2002.

    Naomi was a gifted writer, occasionally turning her hand to poetry, but generally not the bush poetry genre. After a particularly challenging day, she did, however, write the memorable verse, "Feathered Windmills", which is included in this collection.

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  • Heather Frewin

    Heather Frewin (nee Vagg) is Joan and Albert Vagg's youngest daughter, sister to Jennie, Moira and Jon. She grew up on "Tallawanta", the family property west of Hillston. She attended Hillston Central School, being the only one of her siblings not to be educated through Blackfriars Correspondence School. The commute from "Tallawanta" involved a 25km drive over black soil roads to catch the school bus for another 16 kilometres into town. It was not unknown for Albert to carry up to 13 of his own and neighbouring children in the Land Rover on wet days so they could attend school. Heather started high school at Hay War Memorial High School, her father's old school, finishing at Pymble Ladies College in Sydney.

    In 1982 Heather began studying at UNE ,where she met her future husband Les, before joining BHP in their Sydney office, selling steel out of Newcastle. During this time Heather and Les lived at Marrickville before moving to the Blue Mountains, living at Lapstone, Springwood and Faulconbridge.

    In 1991 Les and Heather married at "Tallawanta" on the banks of the Lachlan River, followed by a year-long honeymoon around Australia in a secondhand converted campervan. They returned to "Tallawanta" where Glenn was born. After the property was sold, they moved to Tooraweenah in the foothills of the Warrumbungle Mountains and Stephanie and Nicholas were born.

    Heather was an assiduous parent helper at the small school in the village and eventually was employed as a teacher's aide. This made her realise how rewarding being in the classroom was, and after Nicholas started school, she returned to university to complete a teaching degree. She worked in various schools around the Warrumbungle region, including the high school her children attended. Her children were horrified on the days Heather travelled on the school bus. She was given strict instructions to sit directly behind the driver and not to turn around at all during the trip!!

    The family was devastated when Stephanie was diagnosed with Leukaemia at age 19 and then succumbed to the disease at just 22 in 2017.

    Heather is currently a Special Education Teacher at Coonabarabran Public School.

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  • Allan Vagg

    Allan Vagg was born in 1989 and grew up on the family's sheep and cattle grazing property "Furlong" (which includes "Maxwell's Braes"), between Hillston and Booligal in western NSW. Allan is the sixth generation of the Vagg family to live in the Hillston district. Along with younger sister Bonnie, he was home schooled by his mother Naomi for his primary and half of his secondary years, via School of the Air, first from Hay and then Dubbo. Despite the constant allure and freedom of farm work and sport, Naomi was able to instil a solid grounding in the importance of education.

    Typical of children from far western NSW, in 2003 Allan started boarding school in Orange to complete his secondary education and play cricket. He took a working gap year before going on to study a Bachelor of Rural Science degree at University of New England in Armidale. While studying full time Allan worked at contract stockwork, fencing and lamb-marking across the New England district. He then spent several years working for corporate agriculture companies and contracting around Hay and Deniliquin districts before returning to "Furlong" in 2014, where he lives with his partner Jenna.

    As children Allan and Bonnie were published in a number of junior poetry books, and were successful in many junior poetry competitions. They also recited poetry at local events with their father, Jonathan.

    Allan recites poetry at fundraisers, parties and country music concerts, but instead of a stage he prefers to recite from plastic chairs and ute tailgates. And, after many years of reciting other people's material, he decided it was bloody well time that he wrote some of his own.

    Allan's highlights in the public arena have included being a cricket commentator several times on ABC radio and appearing in The Land's "Hunks and Spunks" competition.

    Allan's style of poetry has a flowing, conversational rhythm that lends itself to recitation, on topics inspired by country living, the livestock production industries and the characters associated with it.

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