16 February 2019, Barringun, New South Wales, Australia
A few nights ago something happened that I’ve always known was coming, but it was always impossible to consider. Our family has lost its matriarch and outback Australia lost one of its best. Mary Crawley’s reign at the Barringun Hotel may have ended but for anyone that met her there, she’ll be etched into their mind forever. A women of amazing intelligence, quick wit, unconquerable toughness, fierce loyalty and a believer that at all times and no matter the consequences you must always do what is right. ‘What’ll ya have?’ gave no warning to the unsuspecting punter walking into the pub that they were about to be engaged in some of the most intelligent and free flowing conversation they’d likely ever have. Sharp minded and well informed she was at ease talking to well to do and well educated people from the high end of town, but she always preferred the company of her ‘mates’. Her mates were a band of rough edged shearers, drovers, truckies or outback workers, sometimes troubled souls, often people who may have made decisions in their lives they probably weren’t proud of, done the wrong thing - people others would call rouges or criminals. Dare question them to her and you’d be met with a stern ‘you shut up! He’s a mate of mine’ dare question her to them and it would probably be the last thing you ever did. Some of my most endearing memories growing up were of these same hard men breaking down in tears to her; she might have given them a tune up about something they’d done (‘sorry Mrs Crawley’ was a common phrase), maybe told them she was proud of them; quite often ‘don’t worry, I’ll say a prayer for you tonight’ was enough to do it. It was like we shared our Grandmother with a bunch of other people that needed one, the perfect example of how absolutely everyone was equal in her eyes. She might be gone but I know how I’ll always remember her. Sitting in her armchair on the front verandah, she’s got a view across to the stock slowly stringing, of the Emus and Roos. In that harsh country that most think is desolate and ugly, where few people can survive, she saw profound beauty and enjoyed amazing contentment (‘if I won a million dollars I wouldn’t move anywhere’). Gidgee the dog is by her side, she’s got the form guide in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, she’s holding court to her family and closest mates, and maybe theres a caravaner looking for a ‘free shit’ for her to complain about. She’s got that cheeky glint in her eye and she’s just passionately told someone to ‘go to buggery’ cause they’re ‘full of bullshit’. I reckon that’s what heaven would be like for her. She really was one of a kind, and a lot of people, including me, are going to do it bloody tough without her. Farewell Grandmother, send me some winners from up there will ya?
RIP Mary Crawley ~ The best person I ever met.