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outback_riderI first met him years ago in the West of Ireland when I was in my early twenties, a long way from Australia where I live now.

He was a striking looking man over six feet tall with short fair hair. I don’t remember the colour of his eyes – men don’t bother much about those things.

I have a good ear for accents so when we first got talking I pegged him straight away; Home Counties, Marlborough or Eton College, Oxford University and clearly an English aristocrat.

But he had a strange lilt to his accent that I thought was perhaps South African. I had also pegged him as a Sandhurst graduate; a British Army officer, but I was wrong there. That was something in his demeanor and his way of talking; his ADN I think.

And yet he was not arrogant at all and certainly not a snob. He seemed to have a quality of wisdom about him – like he had seen it all.

He had a flat in London at the time on the bank of the river Thames – in the high-rise building just by Vauxhall Bridge adjacent to the massive headquarters of MI5.

When I got out of the army I went to live in London. He owned a soft-drinks factory in Berkshire and he gave me a job selling his products, so I moved there and lived on my own in a little cottage that I rented.

One Friday night we went out for a few drinks together and I mentioned that I was born in Australia. He was quite surprised and replied “But you have no trace at all of an Aussie accent.” I explained that although I was born there my parents had left for Europe when I was just four years old.

He replied “I lived there too for several years; in the Kimberley region – on a cattle station that my father owns.”

I was intrigued and asked him to tell me more.

He had indeed attended Marlborough College. His father was a retired Royal Navy Admiral and one-time aide to Churchill during the war who was rewarded with a Barony.

He tried to join the Navy but failed the entrance exams. In despair his father gave up on him and bought him a one-way ticket to Australia to work as a Jackaroo on his vast cattle station – a property located hundreds of miles from Perth. And he had no choice but to go. It was at the very end of the world.

outback stockmanThe problem was that he didn’t get on with the station manager and wasn’t allowed to stay in the main homestead. He was forced to sleep in the outhouses.

So he moved out and made his own camp near to a billabong where he met an aboriginal girl (indigenous as we say now). They fell in love and lived together for over two years among the tribe.

He had an older brother in England who was the heir to the family fortune and estates. But he broke his neck in a bad fall from his horse in a hunting accident and died instantly.

His father sent him a telegram saying ‘Come home your brother is dead.’ So he packed the very few possessions he owned into his rucksack and went back to London by ship from Fremantle.

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I was unhappy in my job. I did my best to sell soft-drinks for him but it was just not my thing and the awful weather in England was the last straw for me – I wanted to go somewhere with a future where the weather was warm.

One morning in the office in the middle of the freezing winter he laid an envelope on my desk and said “Good luck Downunder.” and he smiled with a broad grin.

It was a one-way ticket to Sydney and one hundred pounds in cash.

Not long after I had left for Australia his father died and he inherited the title and everything else.

He flew to Perth and sold the cattle station (probably for a song) and then he caught a flight to Sydney to visit me and see how I was doing – that is a great friend.

They wrote a song about him in the Kimberley. I don’t know what it is called but several people I know have told me they have heard it in the outback hotels and pubs and know the legend of the man.

Fifty years past he is still much respected there to this day for his humility and his love of the people of those sacred lands.

You see the concept of life and time is different for the aborigines. They do not live their lives in terms of money like we do.

Their time is infinite. They believe that the earth, the animals and trees, the heavens and the stars are all one. It is their Dreamtime, and it belongs to them.

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