Old Father Pat! They’ll tell you still with mingled love and pride
Of stirring deeds that live and thrill the quiet country-side;
And when they praise his tours-de-force, be sure it won’t be long
Before they talk about his horse — the old gray Currajong.
For twenty years he drove him through the bush and round the town,
Until the old white stager knew the parish upside down;
He’d take his time, and calculate, and have his wilful way,
And stop at every Catholic gate to bid them all good day.
But well I mind the stories told when Father Pat was young —
At least, when he was not so old — his scattered flock among;
When health and strength were on his side, you’d see him swing along
With that clean, easy, sweeping stride that marked old Currajong.
Through all the years he ne’er was late the second Mass to say,
And twenty miles he’d “duplicate,” and pass us on the way.
Hard-held and beating clean tattoos, the old gray, stepping kind,
Like gravel from his twinkling shoes would fling the miles behind.
And often some too daring lad, a turn of speed to show,
Would straighten up his sleepy prad and give the priest a “go”.
But, faith, he found what others found, and held the lesson long,
That nothing in the country round could move with Currajong.
And, oh, the din! and, oh, the fuss! mere words were vain to tell
Of how they stopped the night with us; and don’t I mind it well?
The boree log ablaze “inside,” and gay with rug and mat;
The “front-room,” to the world denied, made snug for Father Pat.
We knew his distant hoof-beats; ay, and grief they could forebode;
So, when we heard a horse go by, clean-stepping down the road,
Round many a log-fire burning bright there passed the word along,
“There’s someone sick and sore the night; I’ll bet that’s Currajong.”
Whereat you’d hear the old men tell — perhaps a trifle add —
Of some sick-call remembered well, when “so-and-so took bad.”
“You couldn’t see your hand in front.” “’Twas rainin’ pitchforks, too.”
“The doctor jibbed, to put it blunt — but Father Pat went through.”
Ay, he went through in shine or shade; so, when the days were fair,
And at our simple sports we played, ’twas good to see him there;
And under troubled, angry skies, when all the world went wrong,
With aching hearts and misted eyes we watched for Currajong.
We watched, and never watched in vain, whatever might befall.
When summoned to the bed of pain, he answered to the call,
He came through rain or storm or heat; and in the darkest night
We heard his hoofs the music beat, we saw the welcome light.
And when again, with plumes ahead and horses stepping slow,
We followed on, behind our dead, the road all men must go,
A loitering line, with knots and gaps, the funeral passed along,
And half a mile of lurching traps was led by Currajong.
But, as the good priest older grew, and aches and troubles came,
His buggy and the white horse, too, were stricken much the same.
The springs went down the side he sat, and altar-boys and such
Kept sliding in on Father Pat, and woke him at the touch.
Then, pensioned off at last and done, a sorry thing it stood,
With sagging cobwebs round it spun, and nest-eggs in the hood.
Just once a year it lived again, and groaned and creaked along
To fetch the bishop from the train with limping Currajong.
Ah, newer methods, younger men! the times are moving fast,
And but in dreams we tread again the wheel-ruts of the past;
The eyes are filmed that watched of old, the kindly hearts are still,
And silent tombstones white and cold are glimmering on the hill.
While scorching up the road, belike, with singing gears alive
The curate on his motor-bike hits up his forty-five;
But tender, tingling memories swell, and love will linger long
In all the stirring yarns they tell about Old Currajong.
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921
prad = horse
tours de force = plural of “tour de force” (French for “feat of strength”), an impressive performance or achievement that has been accomplished with great strength, skill, or ingenuity