The first Australian writer to be given a state funeral was the most famous son of Grenfell, a gold mining town in central NSW. His name is well-known in literary circles and his writings share the harsh and unforgiving experiences of living in the Australian bush during the late 1800’s.
In the 1860’s, gold fever hit the small gold rush town of Grenfell. Within weeks of the discovery of gold by a shepherd, Cornelius O’Brien, miners flocked to the site and began setting up their tents and bark huts along the banks of Emu Creek seeking to make their fortune in gold.
Between 1867 and 1869 Grenfell is reported to have produced a yearly average of over 1000 kilograms of gold, that’s a tonne of gold each year. It was around this time, most likely in 1866, with the first rush of miners who came into the area that a Norwegian sailor, settled in Grenfell.
His firstborn son, Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson was born on the 17 June 1867, in a tent on the goldfields of Grenfell. It was a hard life for families on the goldfields. When Henry Lawson was just a child, he lost his hearing due to a severe ear infection. By the time he was fourteen he was completely deaf and yet, despite his disability he went on to become one of the most celebrated poets in Australian history.
Now a theme that runs through Henry Lawson’s writing, deals with one of the most fundamental human needs: hope. His depictions of the harsh realities of bush life give us a sense of hopelessness and in so doing help us to understand just how much we need hope. We all need hope.
Right now, the world is reeling with wave after wave of disaster and strife. Millions have lost their livelihoods and families are feeling pressured and struggling to survive. If ever there was a time when we have come face to face with the stark realities of life, it is now.
But the challenges we find ourselves facing are an opportunity to reach out and be a blessing to those around us. During a time of unprecedented loneliness and hopelessness we have the opportunity to reach out and share what little we have with those who are suffering or have even less. We can make a real difference in people’s lives. We can offer hope – physically and spiritually.