Teaching Treasures™

Poetry... Through the eyes of a bush poet.

(Years 6-10)

fire side reflections

Author John Hayes, fell in love with poetry at a young age. On this page you will find some of his poems and a short version of his life story. He is to be commended for his contribution to Australian bush poetry, the accurate recording of actual people, places and events and how they have made an impression on his life.

Tasks you may like to do

  • Read the poems and the author's life story.
  • Try to locate the places he mentions on a map.
  • Look up words you don't know in a dictionary.
  • Write your own poem and e-mail it to Teaching Treasures
    for insertion on this web site.

Diggers Rest

The Golden Mile he called home for twenty years and five,
he worked below the surface in almost every mine.
Down in the tomb of darkness where carbine lanterns gleam,
he drilled the rock for natures' wealth, in search of reef and seam.
In the trembling earth above him, he watches for the fall and
breathes the dust on every shift he works against the wall.

Charges laid with fuse and cap, set to fire on time,
sounds of muffled thunder roll from deep within the mine.
Ore trucks waiting on the rails, skips race up and down,
they're sending up their quota, from the diggings underground.
While gold rooms fill with bullion bars and coffers overflow,
the miner breathes the dust of doom, three thousand feet below.

They work the shift that never ends, in the land of "deeper down"
and send their drives further out, in tunnels underground.
You can see their shadows flitting by the swaying carbide lights,
as they toil and sweat against the wall in the land of "always night"
And breathe the dust in every yard, onward as they go, the miner
and his mate called death, three thousand feet below.

Can't you see the row of headstones with diggers names inscribed,
those who walked the galleries through passages of time,
to work the diggings daily for strike or show, and breathe the
dust of doom, three thousand feet below.

In a weather-beaten cottage on the outskirts of the town,
lives the widow of a miner who was dusted underground.
She listens for his footsteps by the gate and in the hall,
and the voice that won't be speaking to her gently any more.
Through the nights of "cold and lonely", days of "wait in vain"
for the image of her loved one who won't be home again.

She'll receive some compensation and a pension I suppose.
A pittance more than likely to purchase food and clothes,
for herself and for their children, while she carries on alone,
through the days of endless waiting,
for the man who won't be home.

You'll not hear her complaining for she's Goldfields born and
raised by the pioneers of this country, throughout the roaring days.
She will hear the siren sounding while the distant thunder breaks
and feel the tremble in her heart, as the Golden Mile quakes.

Can't you hear the echoes as the hobnailed boots pass by,
or their voices softly calling from the gold mine in the sky.
Can you hear their laughter ringing through the streets of "no return"
or see the carbides gleaming with the flame that always burns?
'Til far away the whistle blows and the miner she loved best,
has found a place to lie in peace, down at the "Diggers´ Rest".

By John Hayes

John Hayes, born Philip John Hayes born on the 21st of February 1937.
Brother Harry Hayes and sister Dorothy Joy Hayes.
Youngest son of Alice Kathleen and George 'Snowy' Hayes who were married
on the 4th of June 1932 at the All Hallows Church Boulder, Western Australia.

John Hayes photo

Snowy Hayes worked on the mines of the Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Norseman fields. Snowy died from pneumonia in 1939, though his lungs were affected by silicosis (dust on the lungs). After his death his widow with her three young children went to live with her mother, Alice Swain who lived in Grovesnor Road, Perth Western Australia. On March 18th 1941, she married Arthur Smith who was a miner on the Golden Mile. Once again the family returned to live in Boulder and the boys attended St. Joseph's Convent in Boulder, then the Christian Brothers in Kalgoorlie in 1947.

In 1947, due to silicosis Arthur Smith could not have his miners ticket renewed, so he was paid the six hundred pounds compensation and put on the invalid pension. The family moved to Esperance on the South coast of Western Australia for a better way of life. It was here at the Esperance State School that John was given his first lesson in Australian verse by the school principal, John Rintoul. The first poem he learned was 'A Bush Christening' by A.B.Patterson, and this had to be recited in front of class. From that day on he was hooked on Australian bush ballads and stories.

When he was thirteen the family moved to Perth to provide a better education and future employment opportunities. John attended Perth Boys High School but was 'all at sea' in the metropolis and his heart was always far away. He left school after completing just one year although he was still only thirteen years of age. He lied about his age to obtain employment at a brass finishing factory but he was not content in the city.

His sister Dorothy had left home to pursue a career in nursing and was doing her training at the Northam hospital. His brother Harry who had been working at Sullivans timber mill, headed North and was working on Wilf Bryants farm at Waddi Forest.

His father, Arthur Smith was doing some part-time building in the bush and offered John a job as his off-sider in the August of 1952. They went to Lake Varley to renovate and extend buildings on the property belonging to the Barron family. Whilst they were there his father was taken ill and had to return to the city, however John stayed on to help with the chores. It was only a brief interlude, but the fresh air, wide open plains, animal life and the waving wheat fields captured his heart and this was the life he desired.

When his father returned, they finished the contract and John told his father of his desire to live and work in the bush. Although his father tried to dissuade him and told him of the harsh elements and hard work, John was adamant. His father found work for him on the Pelham farm 12 miles east of Lake Grace and some 230 miles from the city. This is where his apprenticeship in farming began and though not yet 15 years of age, John experienced his first harvest, driving a tractor and operating machinery.

The work was hard, the hours long and the climate harsh, but there was always relief after a long, summer's day as the Albany doctor, a distant breeze from the South coast drifted across the hot, dusty plains. The next three years found John working for various farmers around the district, increasing his knowledge in stock and machinery.

When he was seventeen his brother Harry came down from Waddi Forest and they went contract fencing. They both played cricket for North Lake Grace and football for the Lake Grace 'B' team, this gave them the opportunity to travel to adjoining country towns and meet new faces. John usually returned home to Perth to visit his mother after harvest, but two weeks in the city was long enough before he returned to the bush.

Toward the end of 1954 his stepfather wrote asking if the family could pool resources and go share farming in the Ballidu district. So a few days before Christmas in 1954 John arrived in Ballidu with his bedroll, dog and about six months wages he had saved. Brother Harry arrived a month later and their new project began in earnest. A local farmer, Austin Kimber leased them 1200 acres of virgin bush which they had to clear and thereby they would have the use of that land for three years. From 1955 through to December 1957 they cleared most of the land and although they worked tirelessly their reward was but a pittance.

During 1956 they decided to take up land 17 miles east of Kalannie, which was 35 miles from their present location. The land was more suitable for raising crops. Whilst they were at East Ballidu they lived in a corrugated iron shack measuring 24 feet by 12 feet, with a hessian lean-to on one side. They also had a bough shed as a summer residence. They travelled to and from their Ninghan location 3505 of 2443 acres. They began clearing their block and boundary lines between seasons. They would camp out for six days, then return with a load of fence posts to sell to the local farmers to help pay their way.

While they were at East Ballidu they helped to get the Burakin Cricket Club started, which had been abandoned during the depression years. In January of 1958 they moved their plant, a few meagre possessions to East Kalannie, to try again. Because they had only a small portion of their land cleared they used some of the neighbours land in exchange for labour. They were now classified as isolated settlers, so fresh bread and mail was delivered to them each Monday afternoon. The bread came from Dalwallinu some 50 miles away and the mail came from Kalannie.

1958 Proved to be an outstanding year and so they were finally rewarded for all their hard work. Wheat and wool prices were buoyant and the farm slowly developed and they increased their holdings to 6250 acres. In 1963 John married a city girl, Anne Lynette Powell, who was only 19 years of age. She came to live at the Barlina homestead 200 miles away from her family. Johns parents decided it was now time for them to stand aside and allow the younger generation to take over.

More land was cleared and the farm was paying a good dividend. Their first daughter, Kerry Anne, was born in 1963 followed by Jennifer Lee in 1966. During the 1966 harvest season Anne was injured when the car she was driving, left the road and overturned. This caused her to lose four of her toes and about a third of her left foot, fortunately the children were not seriously harmed.

It was then decided it would be in the best interest of all that the property should be leased until it could be sold. John and his young family came to live in Perth and purchased their first home in Crawford Road, Inglewood. After six months in hospital and numerous skin grafts, Anne was able to walk again, though it was a long road back to total recovery. Anne's mother helped care for the children through these difficult times.

Meantime John was employed by S.T.W. Channel 9 as a gardener and security guard. He transferred to the engineering department to train as a telecine operator, a position he held for a further two years. However, he found it difficult to improve his position so he resigned. He went to work at the local race tracks for six months and then applied for a job with Philips vending machines. He stayed there for 5 years and eventually was put in charge of the service division.

In 1977 he bought a lunch bar, which did not provide a good income, however it was at this time his eldest daughter was attending high school and asked him if he would help her write a poem about life in the country, for her high school project. This is where it all began. Some of the early poems were an assortment of scribbled notes but these soon were turned into verses of poetry and all his farming days came to life, the people, places and events of the mid twentieth century were slowly but surely recorded.

He compiled about 30 poems in three months, then he showed them to Bob Jackson who was also an avid fan of Australiana. Bob was quite impressed and as time passed he gave constructive advice and criticism. John also had support from his immediate family. Joan and Dave Beagley were also great supporters of his works. Joan did quite a lot of typing and editing of the early verses. She also provided sixteen sketches for his first book, 'Till the Soil'.

The first edition was published in 1984 by Access Press which was owned by Artlook. Although he had his first book published, selling the book was another matter and he was not a person that was attuned to marketing. The bookshops took a few of his books on sale or return and their share of the proceeds was 40%. John decided to sell the books himself while he travelled and recited around campfires. After four years he had sold all of his books.

A couple of years later he recorded 17 poems on a cassette at Shelter Studios in Wanneroo. They were poems of rural areas and a story accompanied each verse. The background music was written and played by Aaron Beagley. Though it was not a commercial success, he gained invaluable experience from the project.

He sold his lunch bar business and went to work for Woodside Offshore Petroleum as a security guard. Whilst he was here he continued with his writing when on night shift. However, he became ill and his writing was shelved for a few years. He retired from the company in 1992 and when his health improved in 1995 he began compiling his second edition, 'Fireside Reflections'.

It was his desire to publish a book of 100 poems covering the 100 years from 1896 until 1996. He wanted this book to be totally West Australian and to be published in this State. His niece and nephew assisted him in providing the computer technology and did the typesetting and layout of the book. Once again Joan Beagley provided the sketches and husband Dave helped with the proof reading and presentation. Bob and Helen Jackson also did proof reading and contributed many useful ideas. So in December 1995 his second book 'Fireside Reflections' was printed by Lamb Printing of East Perth.

Over the past few years, John's reciting technique improved a great deal and this helped to boost the sale of his book. It is always his wife Anne that conducts the sale of books, whilst John is engaged discussing writing and book publication to those who are interested. He has made numerous public appearances on a charitable basis, as this helps to promote his work and at the same time helps him improve his presentation. He has also given lectures to primary school children in the art of creative writing.

He also appeared at the Dalwallinu Wattle Festival Bush breakfast and the Kalannie Gravel Pit Concert for a recital, which he considered to be highlights of his career. This is the area where he had been farming thirty years ago and many of his verses revolved about the events and people of that era. The reception he received was overwhelming and it was as though he had never been away. John is always willing to recite or be a guest speaker to present Australian ballads, or just give people an insight to life through the eyes of a bush poet.

'Fireside Reflections' is available from the author by writing to:

Mr. John Hayes
28 Morley Drive
Hampton 6062
Western Australia.

Doing the Round

'Twas back in the days of the night cart round,
when a loo was a pan or a hole in the ground.
I was doing the round for a bloke called Heald
as I needed a job quite desperately.
It was at Wongan Hills we began our run,
we arrived in the town 'bout half past one.
Through streets we idled, down lanes we ran,
collecting our load of 'dunny pans'.

They were stacked on the tray in six by twos,
if you caught a whiff, well I'm telling you.
But Phil and Buzz had learned to ride
on the running board, out on the leeward side.

We crawled out of town in the dead of the night
there wasn't a sound or soul in sight.
O'er the railway crossing we lurched and swayed
then without warning, the load gave way.

I can still hear the sound of those dunny pans
as they hit the ground and away they ran.
Some veered left, the others right,
Then the lids sprung loose, oh! what a sight.

We covered our tracks with sand and gravel
but my heart goes out to those who travelled,
the main road entering Wongan town
the morning after the load came down.

By John Hayes

The King and Queen of Hearts

He was born in the days of the pioneer age when the goldfields rush was new.
His parents came from New South Wales, so he was an Aussie too.
His name was Smith, not Jones or Brown, common enough it's true.
His Christian names were Arthur James, his laughing eyes were blue.

He lived out on the Boulder block, where many diggers dwell,
and served his time in company mines, down in the pits of hell.
He toiled in tunnels deep and black and plied his tools of trade
side by side in the carbide light with a mate named Snowy Hayes.

'Twas in the year of thirty-nine, that Snowy passed away
with pneumonia on the lungs and a spot of dust they say.
He lies to rest in a lonely place, out where the gumtrees sigh
as the sun goes down with a burning glow, away in the western sky.

'Smithy' married the widow Hayes, in forty-one or two,
to me he was the king of all and the only dad I knew.
Mother was proud as she always was, for her love was strong and true.
They began their life as husband and wife, in search of horizons new.

They turned him down in forty-eight because of dusted lungs.
And said as they paid him out in full, "You're mining days are done."
He didn't drop his bundle though, or bitterly complain.
But packed his family lock and stock, and started life again.

They took up land beyond the call of city's hue and cry,
away from the dreaded dust that haunts the depths of a goldfields mine.
Where the air was clear as crystal and sun in summer blazed
where dark clouds raced before the wind, with scent of winter's rain.

A fortune though he never made, from fields of gold or grain,
a treasure though he surely found, when mother took his name.
With faith and hope she stood by him seeking not reward
he was the man who won her heart, the man that she adored.

I could tell you many stories friend, true they mostly are
but the feats that they accomplished are too numerous by far
and though they live their allotted days, pass three-score years and ten
it's hard to believe that we'll not see their faces e'er again.

And now I count my blessings, not in silver or in gold
but in the store of memories, forever that I hold.
And these treasures now I fondly keep though we are far apart
for I dearly loved mum and dad, the 'King and Queen of Hearts'.

By John Hayes

Longing for My Homeland

Take me back to my homeland I've been away too long.
I'm yearning for the fragrance of eucalyptus gums
and kookaburras laughter through virgin timber tall,
take me back to Australia, the land where I was born.

I have travelled mountain passes across the fields of snow,
through the Valley of one Hundred Valleys where rampant rivers flow.
I heard the voice of many and every tongue was strange.
I am longing for my homeland that is far away.

For I picture, blood red sunsets or soft pink flush of dawn,
lighting flashing o'er the ridges where there's a thunderstorm.
The pattering of raindrops on strickened earth of draught
and muddy torrents flooding her arid plains throughout.
Where boundaries of solitude reach to eternity.
The silence of my heartland is crying out to me.

Above the clouds suspended across the ocean wide,
the ebb and flow as I go with the changing tides.
Where Northern lights are glowing, where winds sigh through the glen.
I'm wishing in my heart that I was home again.

To hear the magpies' chorus, I love their sweet refrain.
Where kangaroos go bounding across the red soil plains.
To hear the breakers crashing along the endless shore.
When my heart is in Australia, I'm home again once more.

Footsteps I have followed along the Roman roads,
to ancient cities fortified paved with cobblestone.
That wound back through the ages where primitive mankind,
carved dwellings from the mountains in the dawn of time.
As these visions expanded across a league of nations,
I was enchanted by the scenes that bridged the generations.

But my heart was not contented for my thoughts elsewhere reside.
South of the Equator where my homeland lies.
Where desert wind is whispering across an ancient land.
The words of dreamtime stories from beneath the shifting sands.
Where a yellow moon is rising on velvet wings of night,
and the Southern Cross is shining from a galaxy of light.
Where I can hump my bluey in the early morning air,
and hear the voices singing, ‘Advance Australia Fair’.

By John Hayes

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