Writing Excerpts

From “Me”

Barry Rugless

Written by Robyn Swanson

June 2013


I contacted the Australian government twice to volunteer my services as an entertainer in Vietnam and both times they knocked me back. Then in 1968, a good friend of mine (who still is), Shirley Simmons, got in touch with me.

“How would you like to go and work in Vietnam for three months, Barry?” she asked.

Shirley was a singer and a clever business woman who put shows together for the American troops. She offered to pay me $200 a week. Of course, I said yes.


After we finished our show in the sergeants’ mess, I walked to the bar at the back and asked for a beer. A young soldier was sitting there, staring into space.

“G’day, chum,” I said. “How are ya?”

He glanced at me with empty eyes and said in a flat voice, “I enjoyed your show.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you all right?” I’ll never forget the answer he gave.

“I killed my first man today,” he said.

What can you say to that? Nothing is appropriate. Nobody knows how hard it is to kill someone. There were a couple of times when I had to hold a gun and I was stuffed if I could pull the trigger. I decided to let him get over his grief in his own time.


From “Grandpa’s Story”

Shirley Dean

Written by Robyn Swanson

September 2014

In 1874 my grandfather John Evans walked up the gangplank and stepped onto the dock in Brisbane, Australia. After three and half months at sea, his legs were feeling unsteady and he looked for something to hold on to. The Immigration Agent, Mr Gray, had cleared all the passengers on board the Darling Downs the day before so he was free to find his trunk and go. He tilted his hat back on his head and wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.
For the last three and a half months, he had listened to the sounds of the wind in the sails, the ocean swell and the sea birds. Now horns, whistles, bells and shouts filled the air and made his ears ring. The river was Brisbane’s lifeblood. Barges lumbered past, loaded with logs, coal and farm produce. The mail boat chugged in to unload its mailbags, jostling with steamers for room at the dock. Tiny skiffs darted in and out like dragonflies in the steamy air.
He looked for his trunk in the luggage pile. As he reached for it, a lad only a few years younger than him grabbed it.
“Looking for a place to stay, sir?” the boy asked. John nodded. “Follow me then,” he said, heaving the trunk onto his back and heading off through the gate at the back of the dock.
Out on the street, John’s eyes hurt. Everything looked gaudy, almost vulgar in the brilliant light. Buildings, people, horses and carts, trees and grass all had a wild and unfamiliar look, like something newly born and not yet sure of what it would become. He was used to how the soft Irish light bathed the landscape of his homeland. Here, colours clashed and jarred under the hot sky.
He had to walk quickly to keep up with the lad. Down the road they headed, past the Gas Works and Mr John Petrie’s Monumental Works, past the Post Office, past Mrs Beazley’s Fruit and Pie Shop, past the Congregational Church and a group of grubby boys playing cricket on the street.
They pulled up at a boarding house in Alice Street. John gave the boy a penny and dragged his trunk up the stairs. The front room was cool and dark. Mrs Lennon, the landlady, was sitting behind a desk fanning herself. He paid a deposit for a room at the back, which he decided would do while he got his bearings. As she handed over the key, Mrs Lennon asked, “Irish?” John nodded.
“From whereabouts?” she asked.
“Doneraile, County Cork,” he said, feeling a lump in his throat at the sound of the words.


“Grandpa’s Story” is the story of John Evans, born in Ireland in 1853, who emigrated to Australia in 1874 and spent his working life as a teacher in rural NSW.

If you would like a copy, please email [email protected].

From “He Died in the Light”

by Leonie Hosey

Edited by Robyn Swanson


In 2005 in a moment of sheer madness, I bought a herd of alpacas. One of my son-in-law’s sister, Kyla, and her husband, Bill, had been breeding alpacas for about ten years. On christenings or other social family events, I would sidle up to them and start talking to them. You know what family events can be like. I’d think who’s interesting to talk to? Ah, there they are – those people who have taken a turn from the normal and embraced their passion. I’ll talk to them.

Over the years I wondered what it would it be like to have one of those ornery, spitting, kicking, loveable animals.  So I asked Bill if I could buy an alpaca, and would he look after it for me. He stupidly said, “Of course!”

An opportunity came to buy one of his animals. He didn’t really want to sell it, but he needed to raise some money, so I bought a share of one, then another. He then informed me that to be a good owner, I needed to show the animals, and as there was a show coming up, he would enter them. Well, lo and behold, they both won ribbons. I was an owner of two champion alpacas!

A couple of shows later, I overheard a woman telling Bill  that she had to sell her herd as she was breaking up with her partner. I jokingly said to Bill, “Ask her how much for the whole herd?” He looked at me and said, “The whole herd?”

“Why not?” I said.

He got back to me a week later to say she had decided not to sell the herd, but then he said, “I’ve found a better herd. The only drawback is they’re up in Inverell.” Of course, that meant a bigger cost to transport.

At this stage, I hadn’t even mentioned any of this to Warren; he had a way of raining on my parade and stopping me doing the things I wanted to do. Now I thought I‘d better tell him. Of course he had a fit, but eventually, after some compromises, we went ahead. ‘Leonie’s folly’ is what he called it; I called it my being independent and letting go of the restrictions I had placed on myself because of my strict upbringing.

“HE DIED IN THE LIGHT” is the story of Leonie Hosey, a medium, spiritual healing channel and homoeopath, and her husband Warren, the head of the School of Computing at the University of Western Sydney. Before he passed away in 2008, he asked Leonie to write their story.

To buy a copy, go to http://www.thegoldenray.net.au/books/he-died-in-the-light-a-love-story-book

I acknowledge and pay my respects to the Dharawal people, the traditional owners and custodians of the land where I work and live.