We were married at six in the morning, and now my brand-new husband and myself are starting to our station home, sixty-five miles from the little Queensland township.
When the Classics Club announced their latest Dare – Love is in the Air, I went looking for a suitable Australian short story to read. I have a number of Australian short story collections including Eclipsed : Two Centuries of Australian Women’s Fiction edited by C. J. Burns & Marygai McNamara (1988) which contains the story A Bush Honeymoon by Laura Palmer-Archer (1904). It sounded perfect.
But who was Laura Maude Palmer-Archer?
There was not a lot of detail online about her, but I did discover that she was born in 1864 in Melbourne to Hugh O’Ferrall and Mary Brophy, both originally from Limerick, Ireland. They had eight children altogether, including Ernest Francis O’Ferrall “Kodak” (poet & short story writer) and Nancy O’Ferrall who wrote short stories under the name “Bohemienne”.
Laura also used a pseudonym for her work writing for the Argus and The Australiasian, signing off as “Bushwoman”.
In 1888 Laura married a Tasmanian, Tom Palmer-Archer and moved with him to a property in outback Southern Queensland. “Barendo” was on the Warrego River, the northernmost tributary of the Darling River. They had two sons and two daughters. Many of her stories were based on this first-hand experience of rural life, specifically writing about the bush experience of women.
Laura died on the 8th June 1929 in Melbourne.
She makes the barest of appearances in my copy of Australian Literature, under Archer, Laura M. Palmer (“Bushwoman”) followed by the listing of her two short story collections. It was only thanks to AustLit and wikipedia that I was able to put together this briefest of histories about her. However, Patricia Clarke has an interesting looking book called, Pen Portraits from 1988 that contains a whole chapter which includes Laura…it has now been added to my second hand bookshop wishlist.
This short story was published in A Bush Honeymoon and Other Stories (1904) which contains 33 stories (see list below). It included a Foreword by Rolf Boldrewood:
In giving my name as a guarantee for the truthful presentment of these ‘Tales of the Never-Never Country’, otherwise character sketches of Australian life, I have been actuated by artistic and literary sympathy. It appeared to me a matter of simple justice, as well to the British public as to a talented writer, that work of such genuine merit should find a permanent place in literature.
The story itself is the simple tale of new bridegroom driving his young wife to their outback property for the first time. She is only nineteen and not “a bush girl“. They leave the township on a balmy morning with a packed picnic lunch, but it had been raining for some days and they had heard that “some parts of the road are rough travelling.”
They bravely set off in their wedding finery, talking the whole time, getting to know each other.
The day gets hot and muggy and the road gets muddier and softer. When they stop to change horses, the superintendent, Bill warns them that a storm is approaching. The rest of the journey is hairy indeed. From digging the wheels out of mud to crossing flooding rivers. By the time they finally arrive at the station, their new home, they are bedraggled and muddied, and the housekeeper mistakes young Nell for one of old “Mulligan’s gerruls“. This is the final straw and Nell faints into her astonished arms.
Thankfully Nell declared herself to be a practical “matter-of-fact” type early on, so we can assume that after she recovered from her journey, she will have got on with the job of making this new place her home.
As for love? They both appeared to be pre-disposed to like each other and we can only hope that as they got to know each better that this feeling will mature into love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes. In real life it almost never looks like a Hollywood movie. Nell and Jack lived in a time when such romantic notions as falling in love or la grande passion had no practical use. In small town Australia, the options were limited, and the best you could do was to make the most of what was presented to you. It may not have been a perfect recipe for martial bliss or happiness but it was all they had.
This story contains, as many do from this time, a few racial descriptions that we now consider to be offensive.
Oh that a man might know the end of this day’s business ere it comes.Julius Caesar
- Bush boys
- A bush honeymoon
- The little white soul
- A lovely little liar
- The violet and the little oddity
- My visit to a woolshed
- Shopping on the Warrego
- Dolan’s discharge
- Mary AnnLafferty’s on th’ ‘rise’
- At Coomassie Gully
- Princess Bella
- Amblin’ Jimmy’s offsider
- Racing in the back blocks
- A knot of Jasmine
- Sixpennorth o’ coppers
- Our big fire
- Old stockin’
- A hot day
- Old Jenkins
- Woolshed-gully Bob
- From a window
- ‘Lizer o’ th’ overshot
- Strolling players
- The Coolibah Christmas cakes
- Blanket presentation day
- A bushman’s sweetheart
- Through wood and wold
- Macintyre’s missus
- Six yarns from the Never-Never
- Cassidy’s Mick.
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.