Brian Godden’s recollections of the finding and purchasing of Currawinya,
and his experiences at Currawinya during the period from 1976 until 1981.

 

     Currawinya was purchased in 1976 from Tom Hamilton by Murray Slavin from Perth, and Brian Godden from Sydney.  We acted on behalf of 21 shareholders.  We had been searching for land in the area for some time and while driving through Drake saw a road sign - Cheviot Hills. I had a rock band in Sydney in the 60’s which was managed by Arthur Ramsay. I vaguely remembered that he had mentioned to me that his family home was named Cheviot Hills.  Murray and I called Cheviot Hills to track down Arthur and Spoke to his father Rod Ramsay. He invited us out for a visit. Rod Ramsay suggested we go and see Tom Hamilton at Currawinya who was trying to sell some of his land. This was the height of what was called The Cattle Slump, which was brought on by the USA canceling beef imports from Australia, as it did not meet the hygiene standards they demanded.   We drove out to meet Tom and we were truly amazed by what we saw - Such a beautiful place at the meeting of the rivers. We drove around the whole property with Tom and with nods and winks between Murray and I, we knew that this was it.  We went back to the homestead house with Tom and had lunch and tea prepared by Tom’s wife Nancy. After suitable conversation and mastication, we asked how much he wanted for Currawinya, and Tom replied in his style, ”With it - how about 20”? Tom used “With it” in conversation quite a lot, and when he visited me in Drake this year it was no different.  We didn’t quite understand at first. Murray and I looked at each other - 20 what? 20 Million? 20 thousand and acre? We were not game to think 20 dollars an acre. To us it seemed priceless.  After a few moments we came to the realization that he meant $20 and acre, we said 15, he said 17, and we agreed and shook hands.  This of course was 17 dollars and acre. We had the money for the deposit with us; we had collected $3000 each from the members in Sydney and Perth. The deal as agreed was that Tom would hold the loan for the balance, and we would pay him off over 7 years at Bank interest. He would pay us for the use of the grazing and continue to run cattle until we could get the fence built.

 

    It took Jacquie and I and our two infant Children, Amber and Kalyan, about another year before we had it together to move to Currawinya. We wanted to live up high, away from the mosquitoes and snakes, and because it was warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. We selected our site at the end of what is now called on the NPWS maps - Godden Trail. I knew when I first explored Currawinya that this was what we were looking for.  It took us a couple of days to cut the road in as that ridge is a mile long. We had a land rover, chainsaw, block and tackle, generators, a pump, shovels and axes. We had purchased a truck load of used building materials in Sydney and had them delivered to the homestead - then called the big house. We hauled all the materials up to the spot where we were going to build our shed. There were 6 ironbark trees roughly rectangular in position, that seemed to me to be uncannily auspicious, so using my block and tackle, I hoisted a couple of 35 foot long poles up in the trees put up a temporary roof 20 x 35 feet, to protect the building materials. Over the period of a couple of months, using flitches and local conglomerate stone, we built a temporary hut under these live trees.  There was a problem. The 6 live ironbark trees spoiled the water that came off the roof. So in a Keystone cops series of foolhardy antics we cut the trees off at roof height. I would get up on the roof and climb the trees, hook a chain up to each tree as high up as I could get it,  then climb back down to the roof and fire up the chainsaw. Jacquie would be in the landrover with the engine revving, and as soon as the cut was deep enough I would yell Go! and she would hurtle off down the hill.  From then on we have good water. 

 

    We were elated that this creative process and the dream of self sufficiency was manifesting before our eyes.  Within a very a short while we felt very in tune with bush. Tom and I put a dam in just above the ridge to Strawberry and it filled up in a matter of  days. We built a very productive veggie garden which fed us and the local mob of rock wallabys on a daily basis.  There was a old man wallaby that had decided to stay around our house. I guess he had been here before us and was not put off by our presence. We cooked outside most of the time and when we weren't looking, Fats would jump up on the table and eat the boys porridge.  We called him Fats. (Fats Wallaby) There were a lot of bull ants nests at our site and we decided to dig them out rather than poison them with 10/40 or diesel as Tom suggested.  While digging out the nests I became somewhat desensitized to their stings. Tom thought this was all pretty funny and ribbed me good-naturedly about my city-slicker environmental fancy-pantsing. After digging them out and relocating the nests, they never came back. We felt pretty good about that, and regrettably over time my desensitization wore off.  We had selected a spot a couple of hundred meters back from our hut for our house site, but unfortunately we did not get that far. There were already a lot folks on Currawinya when we arrived. Phil Clark and David Custance were over on Echidna Ridge and they had started construction of the massive stone house which was became respectfully known Phil’s Folly, Gene Mapp in the big house, Angus and Gail, Peter and Chris Lienhe, John Dutton, a few more that came and went.

 

The construction of the fence.

     Soon after I arrived on Currawinya Tom and I started on the Fence. The fence was not a boundary fence but was meant to control the stock from Tops Yards and Currawinya.  Our deal stipulated that Tom would supply the fencing materials, and we would supply labor to help him construct the fence. The fence would be a give and take affair starting at the tick fence on Mount Currawinya in Tops Yards, and zigzagging back and forth across the boundary for about 4km, down to the bridge where the Pretty Gully Trail crosses Bangalow Creek. Then it would start again at the ridge top above the Bungalow and travel along the ridge top about 3km to the Godden’s site, and then down the ridge about 3km to Strawberry Yards.  The fence would finally finish with flood gates at the west end of Strawberry Yards, a total distance of around 10km. Tom and I and Tom's brother Jeff  built the Bangalow bridge on the Pretty Gully Trail, and another bridge above Yellow creek. I worked with Tom for the whole time I lived on Currawinya, we did all the mustering and Currawinya fence maintenance, and graded the roads with his grader and D6 bulldozer. I considered Tom a great teacher and a good friend.  He told me many wonderful stories of the bush and the history of Currawinya. We would get out early for a days work. He would call me on a one wire phone line we installed from Tops Yards to my place, and make our plans.  He would invariably say “with it, don’t bring lunch I have it already packed in the saddlebags".  At lunch time we would unpack the lunch which would be buttered bread and a gigantic chunk of cooked beef. We would boil the billy for black tea with lots of sugar, and eat our lunch. I offered to bring salad from our garden but he said “with it, salad has no flavor”. At lunch Tom never sat on the ground, he would get down on one knee. I asked him about it and he said, as you may have guessed, “with it, if your in the bush you take a chance your gonna have to do The Bushman’s Dance” He was referring of course to the ever present danger from those nasty stinging bull ants. "keep your shirt tucked in and your duds uptight, or, if you need to go and take down your pants, be careful or you’ll do the bushman’s dance". He had many crack up sayings that I enjoyed: "the trees are so thick me dog can't bark" or when he was astonished about something:  "I'll walk to Bourke backards" or Well I'll be sheep-dipped". He would laugh as he delivered these little poetic lines. These were his little jokes, and I took the liberty of writing a song using some of his lines and called it - The Bushman’s Dance.  

 

     When the fence was nearly completed we were on the final run down to Strawberry, I was injured by a logging accident. I was speared in the feet by a tree which we were felling to clear the fence line. As it fell it got caught in the tops of some surrounding trees, it snapped of at the base and speared back like arrow and squashed my feet. Tom picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and carried me half a mile up hill to my hut. He was tremendously strong after years of  working the land and riding pickup at rodeos. It was an amazing experience as and I was over 100 kilos and 2 meters tall. When we got to my hut he said "With it I sure am glad we were not down at the river as that would have been really hard work".  I was unable to walk for about 6 months and still have problems with my feet

 

    When our children reached school age we had to move to town. We were hoping that other shareholders with children would come and we could build a school on Currawinya. But this did not happen. 1n 1980 we moved to Naughton’s Gap and our kids went to school in Casino, after a while we formed a band called High Beam.  We were still coming to Currawinya on weekends, but as the band got more gigs we found it difficult to get back to our home at Currawinya. After a year or so we decided to move back to the USA. We were then out of the loop. What happened during the years 1981 to  2006, is a matter of record to which I cannot contribute. In 2006 I moved back from the USA to Australia, and I now live in Drake. I do a lot of  lollygaggin, shillyshallying, and scallywaggin with old mate Arthur Ramsay.  We play golf 3 days a week and after the game we solve the world's problems over a cup of coffee at the Gecko in Tabulam   I have known Arthur for 50 years. It sure is great to have such a fine friend.

  

    Eventually, sometime in the 90's, our hut burnt down in a bushfire, usually started deliberately as a way of encouraging new growth for cattle feed.  We lost a lot of memories in that fire. All my fathers tools, all our photos, and many recordings that we both had made during our professional careers. But there is always more stuff and a good cleanse is sometimes a good thing.  Unfortunately Jacquie passed away recently, but she and I both considered the time we spent on Currawinya as one of the most fulfilling chapters of our lives. My boys Amber and Kalyan live a musical life in California, but they too remember the wonder that is Currawinya. Our site is now called a heritage site and the river stone floors and chimney are still there. I planned to someday rebuild something on that site, but that will have to wait until my sons come back to Australia to live.

 

 

Thanks for listening

Brian Godden

Drake, Christmas 2010

 

The Godden family 1976
Jacquie, Kalyan, Amber, and Brian in Back


 

The Goddens and rellies  in our hut Christmas 1978


 



Amber, Sam, Sarah, Jake, Luke, Kalyan.


 

Hugh Ellicot outside our hut 1978


 

Kalyan, Jacquie, and Amber Godden, Tui Villis, Phil Clark, Terry Villis, Hugh Ellicot, Murray Slavin
Meeting up on Currawinya 1992


 

The Bushman’s Dance
Inspired by Tom Hamilton - Copyright Brian Godden 1980

 

When you’re in the bush you take the chance

You’re gonna have to do the bushman’s dance

If you need to go and take down your pants

Be careful or you’ll do the bushman’s dance

By the old campfire with a cup of tea

On the dunny seat or up a grey gum tree

You never know where it’s gonna be

The bull ant sting lives in history

 

They make you leap about like a tiger cat

Like a kangaroo or a wild wombat

Make you scream and squawk like a cockatoo

It’s surprising what they can make you do

So when you’re in the bush keep your trouble eye bright

Keep your shirt tucked in and your duds up tight

Or you’ll learn to dance like the bushman do

While half a dozen kookaburras laugh at you

 

The chances are if you’re hit by one

There’ll be twenty close by just looking for fun

The bull ant’s sting is like a red hot knife

And you’ll do that dance to save your life

When you’re in the bush you take the chance

You’re gonna have to do the bushman’s dance

If you need to go and take down your pants

Be careful or you’ll do the bushman’s dance

 

I had a mate he was quite a card

He took a pretty girl to the old stockyard

He laid her down on a bull ant’s nest

I’m gonna leave it to you to Imagine the rest

When you’re in the bush keep your trouble eye bright

Keep your shirt tucked in and your duds up tight

Or you’ll learn to dance like the bushmen do

While your mates and the kookaburras laugh at you.

 

So when your in the bush you take the chance

You’re gonna have to do The Bushman’s Dance


 In 2007 Mike Bryant And Brian Godden collaborated with the singers of the Drake Music Club on a new set of lyrics to a John Lennon song which we recorded at Perfect Third Studios. Mike Wrote the words - Love Without End, Brian played the bass, acoustic and electric guitars, and hand drums.

   
             Email

Official Website for Currawinya Pty. Ltd. Copyright 1/12/2010