Maldon, Old Mining Town
A breakdown at six a.m. and no garage till seven; reminisce pick at stillness, among the ranks of bullock-drays and the old diggers pegged to their shadows – my great-grandfather who just missed a mine here, couldn’t go deep enough to crack the golden rib, and the others like him who started and stopped in the overnight of a few years until the reef went quiet. Everything’s stage-set for history and tourists as the miners pass again in the early morning chill, spendthrift with ragged success and celebrated: the town clinging to a oneness that was theirs – hood-nosed verandahs over stone-slab footpaths with relics of the Then when six million stirred the Banks. And you listen, touch their golden- wheel: it spins in your dream as they come driving up the street from an age when they chipped the year on everything – the ‘54 Bakery, Dabb’s Store, the Hospital and a line of churches... Then their voices trail off – gone like the gold they chased. And you wait, hold your breath... Carry their clip-clops under glass.
Katherine Gallagher is a leading Australian poet living in London. She was born in the Victorian Goldfields town of Maldon and grew up on a farm in the nearby Eastville district, where she attended a one-teacher school. She gained her BA and Diploma of Education from Melbourne University, and left Australia in 1969, moving first to London, then to Paris, where she taught English. She returned to London in 1979, where she has lived since.
Gallagher retains strong connections to Australia, as “an Australian poet resident in the UK”. Among her many publications have been eight collections of poetry, published in both the UK and Australia, and her translations of French poet Jean-Jacques Celly. Among her awards have been an Australian Literature Board Fellowship in 1978, a Royal Literary Fund Award in 2000, and a London Society of Authors’ Foundation Award in 2008. Gallagher is active in poetry mentoring in London, and more of her work can be found at her website www.katherine-gallagher.com.