The 70th Anniversary of Max Brown’s 'Australian Son'
It was just the other night that I was scrolling through Facebook, when I was delighted to receive a message from Ms. Lloyd. She was reminding me of the upcoming event to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Max Brown’s iconic book, Australian Son. Mr. Webb, the El Supremo of the premiere Ned Kelly website, IronOutlaw Dot Com, was promoting the event, with a special appearance of Max Brown’s good chum, Chester Eagle. Now Chester Eagle is a legend in his own right, and has written more books than I’ve had hot dinners. I just couldn’t wait to meet him.
When Ms. Lloyd asked me if I would like to do a reading from Max Brown’s book I was beside myself. She must have known I was the right fellow up to the task. I felt humbled; until she proceeded to tell me she had tried several others, but they were all unavailable, including the postman and some well heeled bugger from Summer Bay. I told Ms. Lloyd I would need time to think about it. As I am a proud man, I was hurt, and would make her wait. Summer Bay indeed! I messaged her back three seconds later and told her I would do it for the sake of Max and Australian Son. She then asked what part of the book I would like to read. This time it took just a second to reply. ‘I wants to read Chapter Nine’. It was the chapter that involved that lying scoundrel, Constable Alexander Wilson Fitzpatrick when he fitted Ned up for attempted murder of a police officer. There was much I wanted to say.
At 9 o’clock on the morning of the event, in the company of my good neighbours, Lyn and Bruno, we made our way south from Chiltern. Whilst on route, with Bruno driving, and me as his navigator, he asked if I knew where the Greta Hall was. I replied confidently, ‘Of course I do mate. How big do you think Greta is?’ That would be my first mistake. All was going well along the Hume Freeway until we turned off to Wangaratta. It was not until I realised that Greta didn’t have the three cemeteries we had passed, that I knew we were some what in trouble. Eventually, and with great relief, the hall came to sight. The parking spaces seemed all filled until I noticed a large grassed spare block nearby. After reassuring Bruno that parking would be allowed, it was but seconds when a fellow in what seemed to be a white uniform of sort, came running towards the car, waving a fist, and shouting obscenities. It was not long before he was joined by another dozen angry men dressed exactly the same as the first. As I soon explained to him, if we had known we had parked on the Greta cricket oval we would not have parked there. After telling Bruno he should have realised he couldn’t park there, we at last found a spare park a little further from the hall.
Making my way into the hall, I scanned the entry room looking for our host Ms Lloyd. Finally our eyes met, and I could see she was impressed. Dressed in my moleskins, leather waistcoat, and larrikin heels, she simply could not resist. With arms outstretched, she danced her way across the room and embraced me tightly. ‘Thank you so much for coming, Alan, she cried excitedly. Have you paid your entry fee yet?’ Bugger, I thought she might have forgotten. I rummaged around in my purse for a good few minutes and handed over my fifteen dollars in silver coin. The wall of the entry room I must say, was filled with framed prints of collectable quality, and hardcover, latest editions of Max Brown’s iconic book, Australian Son, for just a mere pittance of twenty five dollars. Ned’s armour stood proudly in the corner, overseeing all that was happening. Ms Lloyd’s supermodel daughter, Kelly, was selling the raffle tickets, and was doing a roaring trade. The Greta Heritage Association was in full swing. Ladies were gliding across the floor, serving up cups of tea and coffee for the arriving patrons, and trays over flowing with cakes and biscuits. I now knew we were in for one hell of a good day.
Ms. Lloyd then led me into the hall’s auditorium, with its pressed metal ceiling stretching high above the timber floor, which would not look out of place in any stately homestead. I was feeling quite confident thinking there would be only around thirty patrons attending, but when I saw the number of seats laid out in the hall, some seventy at a rough count, my confidence, talking in front of so many, soon took a quick dive. I thought to myself, if that bloody Brad Webb can do it, so can I. I’ve gotta be better than that well heeled bugger from Summer Bay. It wasn’t long before Mr. Webb arrived with our Guest of Honour, Mr. Chester Eagle. I said a quick g’day to Mr. Webb, and quickly pushed him aside so that I could give Chester a hearty welcome. I could see immediately he was a man of culture and good taste like myself. He was dressed in a crisp white shirt with silk ‘kerchief tied appropriately around his collar fit for a noted author. His fine silver hair brushed neatly back from what looked like the face of a forty year old. His skin was smooth and well nourished, and his eyes looked clear and as sharp as a razor. How could this possibly be the man I have heard of for so long, I thought? This is Max Brown’s mate. This is the bloke who helped Max sort through piles of notes when Max was getting Australian Son together. This is the editor of the latest edition of Max’s iconic work. I was truly humbled to meet him. Chester’s first words to me were … ‘It’s nice to see a man dressed in a waistcoat.’ I knew all along he was a man of impeccable taste, but I was surprised that he needed no spectacles for a man forty years older than myself. He then continued to tell me why. He said he had an operation for a pair of new eyes, and he now had the eyes of an eagle. I thought for a moment, and then asked him what they did with the old ones. He looked at me for a few seconds, slowly shook his head, and continued to tell me that he had special lenses fitted over his eyes and that his eyes were not removed. I thanked him for his time and quickly moved to my seat.
Not thinking to look behind me, I was unaware the seventy empty seats were now filled, and more patrons standing to the rear of the hall. I was now starting to feel a little anxious, until my good friend Lola Rowe took her seat beside me and settled me down. Ms.Lloyd took to the podium and gave thanks to the patrons and guests, and a summary of what the event was all about re. the 70th Anniversary of Max Brown’s book, Australian Son, and readings by Mr.Webb, my good self, and then Ms.Lloyd. The final speaker would be of course, the guest speaker, Mr. Chester Eagle.
I must mention that Ms. Lloyd did an outstanding job in introducing the speakers, and should be applauded for her tireless efforts and passion in making this event possible, along with my old chum and boss, Mr. Webb from IronOutlaw Dot Com. In her introduction to Mr. Webb, Ms.Lloyd told of his background in the publishing industry, his passion for Max Brown’s work, an author and publisher in his own right, with many books published by his company, Network Creative Services, not to mention his teaching profession. When Ms.Lloyd rattled off the number of degrees he’s got, I thought, ‘Crikey, he’s got more bloody degrees than a thermometer!’ What’s Ms. Lloyd gunna say about me? I tried, but couldn’t think of a thing.
Ms. Lloyd now called Mr. Webb to the microphone. I could see he was an old hand at these events as he stood there, cool as a cucumber, dressed in his Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt. He spoke of his close association with our guest speaker, Chester Eagle, and his passion for the writing of Max Brown and of course, the evolution of Australian Son. Mr. Webb then gave a memorable reading from the foreword of this famous book. As he neared the end of his read, beads of perspiration began to appear on my forehead. Mr. Webb finished with a tumultuous round of applause, and well deserved.
It was now my turn to face the music. I looked for a back door to make my escape, but all was blocked by standing patrons. Ms.Lloyd proceeded to introduce me. She was very kind in what she said of me and I was totally overwhelmed by her oral generosity. Now feeling more confident, I stood behind the microphone and stared aimlessly into the many seated faces. How I can get one up on Mr.Webb, I thought. Then it came to me, and has never failed me yet. ‘I don’t have the degrees of Mr Webb, I said, but I do work part time for Bunnings.’ I couldn’t believe it; the audience had gone crazy; whistling and clapping, standing on their chairs and shouting Bunnings, Bunnings, Bunnings, while another patron was doing back flips all along the middle aisle. I turned slowly to Mr. Webb with a smirk on my face, and thought … Take that you bugger. I turned to face the audience once more and my second of glory had now vanished. The audience was as quiet as a tomb. Their faces were all looking back at me with blank looks. I immediately thought that shelter in the pages of chapter nine in Max’s fine book would be my only way out.
Now as many would know, I have a disliking for Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, and his stories of attempted murder, so I chose the chapter where Fitzpatrick tried to arrest Dan Kelly in his home. The more I read, the more enthusiastic I became. I’m now throwing my arms in the air, making fists in defiance, and pointing my fingers as if they were a pistol. I was just starting to get into things when the chapter abruptly came to an end. My planned finale was to gather ten patrons together in a six square metre area, load up Kevin Lee’s Colt, and fire three shots into the air to prove how ridiculous Fitzpatrick’s claims were. When I ran the idea past Ms.Lloyd she was horrified. I think it’s because she didn’t want any bullet holes in the magnificent pressed metal ceiling of the hall. Oh well, such is life…
Ms.Lloyd now took to the microphone and gave a very moving read of the final moments of Ned’s life. In the passionate way she delivered her read, we all felt we were there, standing beside Ned on his way to eternity. As Ms.Lloyd moved us all closer to the drop, her voice tremors, and tears could be seen slowly welling in her eyes. This was a very personal and moving moment for my good friend, but rest assured dear lady, you were not alone. Your read moved us all, and will definitely not be forgotten. The rousing applause said it all.
The day has been a cracker, but we were all waiting eagerly for our guest of honour, that debonair and living legend, Mr. Chester Eagle. To have Chester there was an honour in itself. Mr. Webb and Chester have been friends for many years, and we must thank Brad for giving us the chance to meet with him. Chester as we know was a close friend of Max Brown, and he gave us all a rare insight into the hundreds of notes and pages that had to be deciphered and then edited to finally deliver to us this brilliant masterpiece, Australian Son. Chester told us of his friendship with Max when he was a young man, and a personal look at Max’s character and the struggle to its final print. To commemorate the 70th Anniversary of Australian Son, Chester wrote and edited his tribute booklet titled … The Armour. At the end of Chester’s talk he was kind and patient enough to sign copies for all and sundry. I must also mention that the booklet was a gift to all who attended this memorable event. I must also admit in closing, that this was indeed one of the most memorable events I have been to in a very long time. For those who missed it … Well, you just gotta suck it up!
To Brad Webb, Noeleen Lloyd, all the volunteers, members of the Greta Heritage Committee, and the patrons, as well as Brendan Fox for the armour, and Kevn Lee his fantastic photography (see below) and of course, last but not least, our very special guest Mr. Chester Eagle, we thank you.