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History – The boxing bush brother of Bourke

Bourke’s Brother John bogged out back o’Bourke in the 1920’s Photo supplied

Contributed by Bourke Historian Dr Paul Roe

“You go out to Bourke, my boy, as the first Australian priest they have ever had,” the bishop told the 22-year-old in the spring of 1924, “you are the Anglican Bush Brother in charge of Bourke and the 25,000 square miles beyond.”

It was a daunting challenge for a youthful, city-bred man whose main gifts were music and sport. But John grabbed with both hands the chance to join what he described as, “A real, living brotherhood to reach every man, woman and child in the outback!”

The bush is a tough teacher. In his first week, the young pastor found himself spread- eagled in the mud of the main street of his new parish, much to the delight of the crowd of locals leaving the local theatre.

Brother John was to have many close encounters with more than mud over the next five years when visiting his far-flung flock. Searing heat, flies, sand-flies, mosquitoes, snakes, dust storms, rain, bogs, floods, water-filled engines, blown tyres – all combined to turn the boy into a man.

Read more in the printed edition of the Western Herald.

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