"LEN BEADELL".....A poem by Tim Borthwick
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Biography by Harper Collins Publishing Australia (Link to Website)
"Tim Borthwick is a Bronze Swagman Award-winning writer of original bush poetry. From a young age he loved to read the poems of Banjo Peterson and Henry Lawson, captivated by their ability to tell a story through rhyme and rhythm. Born on a sheep and cattle station in western Queensland, Tim has spent most of his life on the land, and has a great love for the people and stories of the Australian outback. Tim lives in Toowoomba, Queensland, and gets out to the bush whenever he can."
Postscript - Sadly, Tim died on 26 July 2018, aged 48, a few weeks after he emailed us this wonderful poem. Copies of his 2017 published work, "Waltzing Australia" can be obtained online, a series of 50 poems & stories capturing the flavour and uniqueness of living and working in the bush. There is also an audio version available narrated by Jack Thompson.
A collection of his poems, many of them unpublished till now, can be found on the website Waltzing Australia: Featuring The Bush Poetry Works of Tim Borthwick australianbushpoetry.com.au
The poem below is reproduced with permission from Tim and more recently, his family.
4000 miles of dusty roads is how he rose to fame Along with other accolades to be a household name Through desert scrub and rock and sand he pioneered the way And left behind a legacy we still admire today
Surveyor, bushman, artist, he was charged with building roads A small construction party with no proper fixed abodes From camps out in the mulga where the men would nightly doss To undulating ridges where they built their roads across
"The last of the explorers" in a truly special line His roads still stretch forever as an everlasting sign That Len Beadell has been here and it’s pretty plain to see That most of his endeavours were for folk like you and me
His office was the outback and his hours mostly late A dinner camp out in the scrub where hungry drivers ate A swag beneath the canopy of half a million stars The Southern Cross in situ sending down her silver bars
He opened up the country through Australia’s arid heart Ambition for adventure and commitment from the start Part bushman, part surveyor, he was thinking on the run While taking precious readings from the stars and from the sun
And one of his successes was a road ‘gunbarrel’ straight So straight in fact that label has been added to its fate For now that great long "highway" is an avid punter’s dream Another great achievement for his small construction team
The ‘highways’ he constructed would be given family names Another road of dirt and dust that modestly proclaims Another family member who’s remembered for all time Another dedication done one day at dinner time
The "Gary", the "Gunbarrel", then he built the "Anne Beadell" And then the "Jackie Junction" for his youngest girl as well All roads that led to somewhere all strategically aligned The course was roughly settled and then cleverly refined
There wouldn’t be a single doubt of what he used to do And some of that is seen today along the "Connie Sue" Another of his "highways" with another daughter’s name Another job completed with his family in the frame
And other roads and landmarks were all christened by Beadell Appearing on the maps today and documented well His legacy’s still written on the pathways that he blazed A sterling contribution that’s astounded and amazed
With breakdowns by the dozen and with punctures by the score That figure in his hob nailed boots and socks he never wore Would propagate a legend that has quickly grown legs He’d deviate his "highways" to avoid a nest of eggs
A nice old white gum in the way would be left standing still The road may be diverted to take in a pretty hill But mostly it was straight ahead, by far the quickest route Where Len Beadell would plot the path then find a road to suit
He’d reconnoitre on ahead to see what he could find And flash his little mirror to the men who came behind He’d forge on through the mulga scrub and spinifex and sand In both a broad and beautiful but unforgiving land
That little flashing mirror was the sign to alter course The dozer and the grader men would follow to its source With Len out in the distance in his faded old khaki The old Land Rover lurching as she bounced from tree to tree
So very quick at humour and a whiz at pulling teeth A master bush mechanic both on top and underneath An author and an artist he was clever and astute A pioneer of modern times and family man to boot
Now Len Beadell has made his camp where old road builders go But sometimes on those starry nights I see a fire’s glow I see an old Land Rover in amongst the scrub and rocks A smiling chap in hob nailed boots, with never any socks
For Len’s construction party has departed in the breeze But sometimes I hear voices as they whisper through the trees From camps out on the "highways" when another day is done Another stretch completed by the setting of the sun
And Len returning later from his sojourn up ahead To fix a few more tyres when the camp has gone to bed Then calculate his readings to ensure he is on track For errors in this country meant a very long way back
I hear the tractors roaring as they penetrate the scrub Then engines idled backwards as their drivers grab some grub A dinner camp for half an hour then off they go again To open up another path through difficult terrain
I hear the jokes and laughter as another road is made Another "highway" opened with a really lovely grade 500 miles from here to there was often its extent And most of it "gunbarrel" straight and very seldom bent
He was a mighty character, of that there’s little doubt His name’s become a legend for his efforts further out With fortitude and enterprise he built each dusty mile With courage and conviction and with that laconic smile
The evidence is out there in the centre of our land In all those roads and "highways" he meticulously planned And when we come together with a yarn or tale to tell From camp to dinner table we’ll remember Len Beadell.
Copyright -: family of Tim Borthwick