Poles & Wires
The Voyage
Rust & Rivets



 (Preface: The �Light Horse Interchange� is a sculpture that sits between the lanes of the M4 & M7
Motorways in Sydney�s West. It is a memorial to the Light Horse Regiments of WW1 and their valiant horses)

 I was driving back from Gulgong, through the Goldfield�s Central West,
and for days I had been lonely on the road.
I was headed back to Sydney down the mountain�s winding crest,
and from Penrith on the traffic�s pace had slowed.

 See I didn�t know what time it was. I�m vague along that way,
and the date was even dimmer in my mind.
When the voice spoke on the radio and said �Remembrance Day�.
I had missed the minute�s silence I would find.

 I had hit the morning peak hour of the workers� laboured rush,
as the freeway on my right raced by at speed.
So I pushed the music silent as I sought a calming hush,
for I found I had an overwhelming need.

 I had had enough of idling so I turned the car to rest,
as I pulled off on the Wallgrove�s north south track.
So to stretch my legs and saunter and to light a smoke at best,
with the Light Horse Interchange now at my back.

For I stood there at the crossroads where the 4 & 7 meet,
at the junctions where the road�s expressways cross.
And I looked down at the sculpture stretching out in rows complete,
that we dedicate to servicemen and loss.

 For the Light Horse and their riders they were trained at Eastern Creek.
All those regiments of mounted infantry.
And this sculpture bears a witness to the debt of which we speak,
as a prompt recall for memories reveille.

 So I wandered down the pathway to the broad expressway�s flanks,
as I slipped beneath the knotted wire fence.
So to walk amongst the sculpture where it stands between the banks,
so to truly make of it some commonsense.

 For when pelting down the motorway it�s sure to catch your eye,
with its metal markers painted poppy red.
With their strands of sliver wire sprouting upwards to the sky,
in a solemn fitting tribute to the dead.

 Of that Sinai desert battle in the war to end all war.
In that mighty charge of 1917.
When the proud Australian Regiments that numbered 12 & 4,
at the storming of Beersheba they were seen.

 So now here along the highway stand some fifteen hundred poles,
with a centerpiece a 50 metre mast.
Ranked in squadrons like a sea of marching soldiers� long lost souls,
who had finally found their way back home at last.

 And the height of them is 18 hands. A rider and his horse.
Those old remounts killed so never to return.
Shot in thousands by their riders due to quarantine of course,
in a lesson hard that life�s not meant to learn.

 They are absent here those �walers� bred at home and sent abroad,
from a mix of draught and scattered pony breeds.
They are missing from this tableau as a form of mute reward,
so we reflect on their brave and sterling deeds.

 And those baked enamel struts are glazed a Flanders shade of hue,
as a legacy of sacrifice supreme.
And each represents a soldier that�s departed from our view,
that are held now in the highest of esteem.

For the artist drew a parallel �tween present and the past.
In the construct there are figures and there�s facts.
So the setting tells a story that was written hard and fast,
in the annals of our history and its acts.

 For in detail they are mirrors of our army�s circumstance.
Poles are grouped in sets of 4, 5 yards apart.
In the format just as troopers rode in cavalry�s advance,
from the South East to the North West as per chart.

And the poles are crowned by plumage like the khaki diggers� hats,
with their emu feathers fixed upon by hand.
And there circled by these white reflective collars or cravats.
And they glint like bayonets at the command.

 There is method in the madness of an artist�s driven mind,
for he helped me understand or so it seems.
As he led me to the battlefields of Palestine to find,
how our nationhood was forged by soldiers� dreams.

So next time that you are driving down that thoroughfare so fast,
with those poles and wires flashing by at speed.
Take a moment to remember they are echoes of our past,
and our freedom wrought by mans� unselfish deed.

Graeme Johnson 1133 Victoria Road West Ryde NSW 2114 (2006)

 1ST Place Henry Lawson Adult Literary Awards 2007



 (Preface: As part of the Man from Snowy River Festival (Corryong, Vic) an event is held called �The Stockman�s Challenge�.
One section of the Challenge is called �The Brumby Catch� where riders attempt to subdue wild brumbies caught
in the Snowy Mountains National Park. This is a fictional story based on the background of this event.)


In the early morning stillness of the mountain�s waking vista
In the V shaped gullies valleys of the Great Dividing Range.
Breaths of mist caress the treetops with their icy voices calling.
Drafts and currents blowing softly give a lifting and a falling,
as the Alpine regions herald the fresh dawning of a change.

 It was Summer�s turn of season that had settled Kosciusko.
It was Spring that had turned running from the heat that came its way.
It was Winter relegated to a six month hibernation,
that drew forth the bursts of colour found in nature�s liberation,
as the flora and the fauna sought the warmth of the new day.

 There the brumby herd moved slowly from the �Montane�* forest cover.
Through the Stringybark and White Gum and the thicket laden trees.
They were headed for a cooling sip of water from the Murray.
They had bonded close through leaner months and had no need to worry,
for their kingdom was their freedom and they did just as they please.

 At the rear to guide them forward was old �One Eye� their lead stallion.
And the mare that taught life�s lessons mingled freely with the mob.
As young Graystar broke the ranks and trotted swiftly to the river,
wise old �One Eye� neighed a warning that one day he would deliver,
a stern lesson with a hoof print that would make the youngster throb.

 For the colt it had a nature that was spirited and brazen,
as the 5 star splash of silver he had shaped upon his breast.
He would ignore intuition that was common to his breeding.
He was prone to misadventure and to sound advice un-heeding,
as the patience of old �One Eye� with a daily trial he�d test.

 Now the �salting runs�* of humans ran like paths through Snow Lease Country.
Through the Cascades up to Dead Horse. From Mt Blackjack to Longplain.
They are tracks forged by the cattlemen who�ve lived for generations,
in the isolated loneliness of far flung droving stations.
As for livelihood they trap the feral steer and horse for gain.

Now the brumbies are so hungry for the salt they find it tempting,
and young Graystar sniffed the night air as his instincts told him to.
As he wandered to the clearing and the �salt camp�* so enquiring,
unaware the wily cattlemen were overnight conspiring,
so to catch the untamed brumbies in the trap that would ensue.

Now for nights he had been sneaking to the �salt camp� under moonlight,
through the Alpine Ash and Candlebark. Past gorge and waterfall.
Whilst by day the humans built their muster yard with timber railing,
round the salt block with a tripwire to the swing gate it was trailing,
when one hoof beat from young Graystar shut the gate on prison�s stall.

 In the morning as the sun�s rays split the seam of the horizon,
he was frightened by the coming of some humans that were strange.
How they grunted and they shouted as it seemed their inclination.
And young Graystar at their mercy was then marked for transportation,
to the little town of Corryong, far from his well loved range.

 What new trial faced young Graystar as he quivered in the stockyard?
In the pens behind the Showground near the main arena�s ring.
There were people by the thousands. They were clapping. They were cheering.
There was noise and there was chaos �midst their staring and their leering.
In this most disturbing atmosphere what future would it bring?

Then the speakers started blaring with a voice that was commanding,
as the ground announcer spoke instructions for the coming round.
�Now the finals of the challenge for the stockmen are beginning,
and the �Brumby Catch�* is next one up. There�s only one man winning.�
As young Graystar pawed and whinnied, thumping hoof beats to the ground.

 �Now here time is of the essence and the clock it says four minutes,
and the horse and rider have but only five throws if they will.�
With their green hide halters handy round the brumby�s neck they�re slinging,
and the colts unto their horse�s side the stockmen will be bringing,
as they lead them for the judges in a show of their great skill.

 Now young Graystar had a notion he would vex and fox his rider.
He knew tricks that only brumbies knew to break free from the chase.
As the ringers pushed young Graystar through the maze of rusty railing,
Graystar wedged between the sections of the chute gate, started flailing,
�till he broke free from his confines and exploded into space.

 In a wild eyed flash of movement Graystar raced around the Show Ring,
with the horse and rider closing in so quickly from the rear.
Graystar bucked and then he kicked so as to �shake hands�* with the rider.
Then he spun and then he doubled back to brace for the decider,
and he shook his mane with courage just to show he had no fear.

Then the minute bell rang twice as Graystar halted in a heartbeat,
as the rider�s horse then clipped the heels of Graystar as he stalled.
But the rider he was focused as he blocked out the distraction,
of the voices that were yelling and the fairground�s loud attraction.
Now he turned his horse and steadied as he heard �three minutes� called.

 Now the stockman and his horse �set up�* to make another passing.
He saw Graystar as a colt that he would catch at any cost.
As he slung his halter round the neck of Graystar he was racing.
As the noose slipped free and hit the ground he swore it cost a placing.
Then the timing bell rang four times and he knew the game was lost.

 As they shunted and they hurried to herd Graystar through the end gate.
Then the brumby wild as ever started rearing in defence.
As he crashed down on the railings so to cause a wild commotion,
his young brumby�s heart was strengthened by this show of bold emotion.
Then he surged and knocked the ringer from his �possie� on the fence.

 As the startled man fell backwards open swung the gates of freedom,
and young Graystar seized the moment and in seconds he had fled.
�Cross the dusty tracks and paddocks at a racing pace was running.
He had seen the world of man and he had triumphed with his cunning.
As to mountains he was flying, thoughts of �One Eye� filled his head.

Graeme Johnson 1133 Victoria Road West Ryde NSW 2114 (2006)


 (1)�Montane� : The lower vegetation belt of the Snowy Mountains region.

 (2) �salting runs�: Mountain cattlemen set salting stations (i.e. an actual salt block or the like) along established routes of stock movement, to attract brumbies & cattle to their muster yard traps.

 (3)�salt camp�: The actual site at which the trap is built & set.

 (4)�Brumby Catch�: Is one of the 10 overall events that comprise the �Stockman�s Challenge� section of the Man from Snowy River Festival held in Corryong, Victoria, on an annual basis. Once the wild brumby is released into the ring the stockman & his horse have no more than 5 attempts in 4 minutes to halter the brumby and bring it alongside his own trained horse to show control of the beast. Extra points can be awarded for �leading� the haltered brumby beside his own horse, a signal of established trust.

(5)�shake hands�: a colloquial expression referring to the brumby�s attempt to introduce himself to his aggressors by kicking.

(6)�set up�: A term referring to the stockman in the event who may have to re-position his horse & his equipment before attempting another capture of said brumby.

2ND Place NSW Bush Poetry Championships Original Performance Section 2007
HC Crookwell Woolwagon Awards Written Section 2007
HC Ipswich Poetry Feast Written Section 2008
HC Dunedoo Bush Poetry Festival Written Section 2009



 (Convict transportation between England & Australia occurred between the years 1788-1868-almost a century of shame.
It is estimated that during this time over 160,000 prisoners were brought to Australia to begin their new life.
This poem tells of the rigours & harships faced on such a journey by way of a letter home to a sweetheart)

*NB: The poem is written in the language of the time & uses spelling as such. These are not errors.


When you read this O� remember me Rose,
and bear me up well in your mind.

Think of me daily well held in your arms,

as I leave you so sadly behind.
For I�m lag�d for me sins off to Botany Bay.
Far away from your body and kind.

 Led to the judge at the Bristol Assize,
and cast up for death for me crime.
Then to be spared and put out of this town,
for fourteen dead years is me time.
I�ve been marked for to suffer the penal reform,
of harsh fatal shore�s foreign climes.

 O� how I fret for the sight of your face.
The life that together we made.
Mine is the fault and our chance it has past,
and the last of me cards has been played.
For our Prison Cart stops at the old Portsmouth docks,
where I fear that me hide will be flayed.

 Heckled and shamed on these dark cobbled streets.
How cruelly they taunt and guffaw.
But nothing compares to the horror that rose
When I sighted the old �Man O� War�.
Our Prison Hulk moored at the docks like a slum.
I feign could believe what I saw.

 Struck then to muster and held to account.
We huddled and shivered on deck.
Called then to answer, Thom Spicer me name.
Me pitiful body a wreck.
From the gawk and the leer of the ship�s motley crew,
Stripped naked for them to inspect.

 We are the carcass they seek to devour,
as stifled we cram down below.
Brutally beaten and treated like dogs.
So into the hammocks we throw.
Stacked like sardines in the foul stinking air,
in three layered bunks head to toe.

 Pray for me Rose for me health does decline.
For I perish and rot in this hold.
Black swollen gums from the scurvy�s red mange.
I despair that me strength is not bold.
For the plagues and the poxes and vermin abound,
and death and the shadows are cold.

 Four lonely months we sat tied to the coast,
�til our Brigantine came into sight.
Transporting us to the land New South Wales,
to Bayside to further our plight.
For me past it is blighted as England expels,
the dross of its prisons from sight.

 High on the water from Portsmouth we sail.
The Marquis of Court our new boat.
Hoisting the flag red and white called the whip,
that warns of the prisoners afloat.

I scarcely can fathom the gamble we take
as we grab the trade winds by the throat.

 Better not think all the voyage is fine.
There�s time for to swear at this hell.
Heat from the sun melts the tar from the boards,
to burn off me flesh as it fell.
For when seas they do boil and when winds they do stir.
O� the Oceans of Neptune do swell.

 Six months at sea finds me now dumb of speech.
How stunning this Bright Sidney Isle.
I gaze like a fool at the wonders I see.
This harbour that charms and beguiles.
The trials and terrors I now put behind.

The voyage undertaken worthwhile.

 I stare like a mute as I seek to explain,
a land none could dare to invent.
Billowing sails push us by sunken coves.
Past a landscape so strange and so bent.
For the bush and the flowers have shapes of their own,
when such strangeness to nature is lent.

 There I was claimed by the master John Wells.
Assigned as a government man.
Sent there to work of the bulk of me time,
at the governments leisure and plan.
At the forge of a Blacksmith I sweat out me term.
I work hard to shorten me span.

 But then came a pardon from Governor Bourke.
A �Ticket of Leave� by their laws.
Free I am now to establish a trade,
and Master be I of me chores.
Now me burden and strife has been cut by six years.
Me past into history withdraws.

 Though by strict terms me new freedom is bound,
for me �Ticket� they quick can revoke.
Chances are plenty to prosper and thrive.
Ring the words that the Magistrate spoke.
But I can�t bring you back to my side me sweet Rose.
I bear up this sorrowful yoke.

I write to you now of the man I shall be.
From this letter you�ll soon understand.
That I�m drawn to this Country and all that it holds.
The gifts of this bountiful land.
For me future and fortune and fate lie ahead.
As a man re-invented I stand.

Graeme Johnson 1133 Victoria Road West Ryde NSW 2114 (2005)

 3RD Place Tamworth Country Music Festival 2008
�Blackened Billy� Written Competiton





(Dedicated to the working men of Cockatoo Island & inspired by the recollections of
Walker-Engineering Patternmaker Cockatoo Island
1948-58 & my own visit to the site
in 2005 for The Great Escape Music Festival).


I saw the old man stumble as he tripped upon the ground.
He made a decent thud of it. A mournful sort of sound.
A sight well dressed with hat and tie and trousers checked with tweed.
But like all men caught in a fall he fell with decent speed.
I think �twould be a man of age, some four score years or more.
I ran to offer help at once so shocked with what I saw.

  �God bless you son,� he blurted out as sweat formed on his brow.
�It�s not the sort of help that one expects to get much now.�
I�d seen him trundle up the path all broken up and rough.
With walking stick and gammy leg, by Christ he did it tough.
But there was passion in his eyes and purpose in his heart.
He had a quest to now fulfill that long ago did start.

 I�d noticed him among the crowd as I had wandered �round.
The Carnival was in full swing and it was pumping sound.
An island in the harbour that was christened �Cockatoo�.*                              1
Just eight miles west of Sydney Heads now occupied my view.
They called the show �The Great Escape�. An Easter music fest.*                 2
One man amongst the thousands that stood out may I suggest.

 Amongst the party revellers there were a few like him.
He straightened up and shook my hand and said his name was Jim.
The island had been closed to public use for ninety years.
The dirt he�d scraped upon his cheek now ran with watered tears.
�It used to be my island son in Nineteen Forty Eight.
Indentured here I learnt my trade for 5 years bloomin� straight.�

 His wizened wrist now wore a band all fluoro and bright green.
He tugged at it and said it was the strangest thing he�d seen.
I wore one too, though my intent to his was clearly plain.
He sighed, �I�ve waited fifty years to walk this earth again.
I�m feeling rather shaky. Can you help an old boy sit?�
All men they say are made of dust, but Jim was made of grit.

 �I�d like to tell my story son to some young pup like you.
How �bout we hit the makeshift bar and share a beer or two?�
And truth be told I�d been dumbstruck since I had hit the shore.
A setting surely past its prime that held me in its awe.
A sandstone knoll of Hawkesbury stone within Port Jackson�s Bay.
A home to heavy industry in ruins on display.

 I knew in part its history since Eighteen Thirty Nine.
Three hundred convict prisoners from Norfolk to confine,
were sent to �Biloela�s� shores as it was known by name,*                              3
to carve the sunken silos that in life would be their fame.*                              4
And dug by hand the storehouse sank two fathoms �neath the stone,
to store the grain to feed the fledgling colony so grown.

 And quarried blocks hewn from the cliffs still arc around the Quay.
And Sydney�s Alcatraz became a girl�s reformatory.
Where �Prison Hulks� for wayward youths sat moored beside its rim.*          5
And petty crims and prostitutes lived out their lives so grim.
The docks so built that saw the birth of shipbuilding on site,
saw ghosts of penal servitude consigned to dead of night.

 I must admit I�d drifted some along the line of time.
In lilting tones Jim�s voice returned to illustrate my rhyme.
�A decade long I plied my trade upon the factory floor.
An Engineering Patternmaker was the job I bore.
And not one time in ten long years was I allowed up here.
Those bloody flamin� bureaucrats they had no right to sneer.

  �And segregate the workers by their collars white or blue.
I vowed one day I�d see the world from this grand avenue.

And stand beneath the Moreton Bays and Black Leaved Peppertrees,
and feel my craggy face caressed by swirling harbour breeze.
And gaze down at the ferry wharves of Balmain, Dulwich Hill.
To marvel at the jumble of the suburbs as they spill.

 �In years gone by I took the �Kamarooka� to the isle,
and landed at the �Coaling Wharf� with Gladstone bag and smile.
To stroll down to the guardhouse where I�d catch the Watchman�s eye.
Where tradesmen in their thousands grabbed their �chit� and waved a �Hi!�*           6
From timber boxes row on row your numbered token drew,
and mine, One thousand, One-O-Five, was one that well I knew.

  �And blueprints from the draughtsman would arrive to start the day.
Those seven pounds I earned with sweat to claim my weekly pay.
A chargehand then I ran the shop with iron fist and pride.
With detail and precision measured by the rule and slide.
I�d carve the Sugar Pine and Redwood slow with chiseled hand,
and marvel at the skill that God had put at my command.

 �And then into the Foundry�s bowels the finished pattern went.
Where �moulding boxes� �rammed the sand� till it set like cement.
And Gantry cranes high in the loft swung ladles molten hot,
to pour the �SG� iron at the chosen casting spot.*                                              7
Where smoke and steam and
expelled gas did sizzle from the seams,
and singed the smoky air with fire as �spillings� ran like streams.�*               

 By now we�d walked his story down onto the apron�s bed,*                            9
where monumental factories and shipbuilding were wed.
And stood beneath the piers of Kembla steel�s hallowed halls,
and swore reverberations bore the voice of echoed calls.
And though the faded signs forewarned there was �No Thoroughfare�.
Some ghostly forms in overalls had beckoned me I swear.

 Here pillars rose like monoliths a hundred feet or more.
Supporting cross-braced stanchions and the burden that they bore.
In rows and rows like dominoes of spinal columns stacked.
Where rust and rivets oxidized had split apart and cracked.
A vast engulfing area of sixty thousand feet,
clad in asbestos memories of flaking fibro sheet.

 And old machines of bygone age now stand in idle stance,
and wait there for the thrall of electricity�s advance.
The Bending Press and Rotor Lathe and Plate Rolls double drilled.
In silence now await return of owners highly skilled.
Through Turbine Halls and Boiler Rooms the lockers open wide,
invite new groups of �Vickers� men in whom they can confide.*                    10

 And now upon the southern shore beside the Fitzroy Dock,
the �caisson rollers� trap the harbour�s waters like a loch.*                              11
And moored upon a pontoon pad, the �Titan� floating crane.
Two hundred feet of rigid wire and pulley blocks remain.
�Twas here the Allied shipping came for repairs in the war,
as �Japs� closed on the mainland with the fall of Singapore

 �So there you have it,� Jim replied. �I think you�ve heard my tale.
My memory�s not what it was. It�s sad it has to fail.
So leave me now young friend, I�d like to sit awhile and think,
and revel in the memories as I have one last drink.
I know I�m just a relic now, as I have grown quite old.
But Cockatoo is �in my blood�, and now my story�s told.�

Graeme Johnson 1133 Victoria Road West Ryde NSW 2114 (2007)


  1. Cockatoo Island-A sandstone knoll (island) of 17.9 hectares located 8 miles west of Sydney Heads at the junction of the Parramatta & Lane Cove Rivers. Cockatoo Island is �unincorporated� meaning it does not fall under the jurisdiction of any local Government area.
  2. Great Escape-Over the Easter long-weekend in 2005; Cockatoo Island was opened to the public for the first time in 166 years for the Great Escape Music Festival. It is estimated that over 10,000 people attended this unique event.
  3.  Biloela-Aboriginal word for a cockatoo.
  4. Sunken Silos-As well as the construction of the prison & barracks (convict built) that occurred on the island between 1839-1850 the convicts carved (by hand) a series of sunken silos some 20 feet deep that became the repository for the colony�s grain supplies. Enough wheat could be stored to supply the entire Sydney colony for 2 years. These are the only group of rock cut silos in the country.
  5. Prison Hulks/Girls Reformatory- In 1870 the island ceased to be used as a goal and was used for a variety of different purposes including an �Industrial School for Girls�. This was a thinly veiled attempt to disguise the fact that it was nothing other than a girl�s reformatory. During this time the Prison Hulks �Vernon� & the �Sobroan� were anchored off the island as a home for orphaned/wayward boys & juvenile delinquents. An interesting mix.
  6. Chit-For workers to be permitted to enter the islands precincts to attend their places of work they were allocated a brass chit or token approx 1 inch in diameter on which was stamped their ID number.
  7. SG Iron-A special grade of cast iron.
  8. Spillings-Any metal, ferrous or non-ferrous that spilt onto the factory floor from the casting moulds.
  9. Apron-Cockatoo Island originally only had a land mass of 12.9 hectares. To accommodate the heavy industry that sprang up on the island huge sections of the sloping sandstone knoll were quarried and removed to form the flat apron beds on the north, east & southern sides of the island.
  10. Vickers Men- In 1945 at the conclusion of the Second World War the Cockatoo Island Docks & Engineering Co became part of the worldwide Vickers group.
  11. Caisson rollers- A boat like structure used as a gate for a dock. These were installed on the Sutherland & Fitzroy docks so as the harbour water could be pumped out and the ships worked on in �dry-dock� conditions.

HC Ipswich Poetry Feast Written Section 2008 



(for the Carlton Clydesdales)

 Traditions �Heavy Horses� �clip-clop� down the cobbled street.
Some three abreast they pull the Carlton Dray.
Since 1864 these titans hauled the wooden kegs,
to indicate fresh beer was on the way.

 Renowned for strength & beauty with their bloodline Flemish bred.
For pioneers they toiled in the field.
These handsome powerhouses, ploughing, sowing, cropping too,
To help the farmers maximize their yield.

Distinctive strong & gentle. Standing up to 18 hands.
Their flat boned legs are made for lasting wear.
Taking strain against the harness with their minds set on the task.
These gentle giants stand without compare.

 The team is led by white blazed Ted who take the leaders role.
A Champion of Shows there�s no dispute.
The veteran beast is Barney who has traveled many miles.
Yes to Rosco, Rusty, Stewie we salute.

 And joining them in daily life the �Guardians of the Wheel�.
The black & white of pure Dalmatian dogs.
Whose job protecting Clydesdales from the wild attack of strays,
in olden days earned them the mascot�s job.

 Today the famous Clydesdales of the Carlton Brewers team,
remain a classic icon of the brand.
Reminder of the pride & spirit forged by hard works sweat.
Revered and honoured �cross this wide brown land.

Graeme Johnson 1133 Victoria Road West Ryde NSW 2114 (2009)

1ST Place Tamworth Country Music Festival 2009
Oasis Hotel Written Bush poetry Competition






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