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Dan Byrnes Personal Website

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Personal1 Re: Family History - Personal1

Personal2 Re Family History - Personal2

Personal3 Re Family History - Personal3

Personal4 Re Family History and other - Personal4

Pieces - essays on this that and the other - more to come

Opinions1: Opinions various. Politicians' lack of power today.Opinions1

Opinions2: Civil Wars of the American Imagination Opinions2

Opinions3 Re Political DisconnectsOpinions3

Opinions4: Where is the leading edge of civilization?Opinions4

Opinions5 - Opinions5 - Fooling with software.

Opinions6 - Opinions6

Opinions7 - Opinions7

Opinions8 - Opinions8

Opinions9 - Opinions9

Opinions10 - Opinions 10

Opinions11 - Opinions11

Opinions12 - Opinions12 - Today

fields.htm - - An Obituary for Photographer John Fields (2013).

Opinions3 Re USA late 2012-early 2013 - Opinions3

Poetry old and new by Dan Byrnes - more to come here

Dan Byrnes
Word Factory

Dan Byrnes
Word Factory

Approaching a family history

Dan Byrnes: Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. Now aged 66. Writer, ex-journalist, poet and historian. Still enthusiastic about Linux systems vs Microsoft systems.

To explain a little ... Earlier in 2008 I turned 60, which certainly feels like a watershed, a marker, a hurdle of some kind. (Given that I have almost been killed four times driving on Australian roads, each time, driving alone, as it happened.)

Maybe, turning 60, I feel qualified to say something. Or simply want to say something. But to whom? And about what? It's not that I am short of outlets. I run seven websites.

I've had websites growing on the Net since late 1996, and haven't been short of material for them, but find growing toward a treatment of family history is harder than imagined - where to start? My policy for websites has always been to avoid expressing my own opinion, most of the time, and to report facts, and other people's opinions. This hasn't stopped acquaintances urging me to start blogging, but I enjoy blogging less than creating websites.

So I write poetry? What sort of poetry? Below is a poem I wrote as I turned 60. There are almost 800 poems in my collection by now. But that won't be 800 poems placed on the Net, thank you.

Poem 800 draft 2 on 11/12-4-08

By Dan Byrnes

On re-reading Robert Frost

(Thirty-odd years later)

I've rarely if ever lived in a house I fully controlled,
and I've never had strong feelings about owning land,
or even about having enough money to be rolled for,
(or not), and I apologise it's been so long
since I've gotten back to you,
nothing personal and no offence intended.
Things have happened and life here has been wry.
I moved about and you stayed put.
But I never once thought you ever pretended
anything, not a thing, right down to an individual autumn leaf
and its career, and like you I still hear the echo
of promises made versus the contending need for sleep.
Here's a recent thought I had.
Without people like you, poets and such,
humanity would be much less glad
about its mysteries, and then some,
as they weep.


That went allright. So we'll try another poem, this one dedicated to a friend, and about growing older. (In later posts, I'll post poems by their number-designation in my system. It's just that my system is not lately updated.)

Poem of 19 February 2007 – draft 3

The young know much

(for Scott Hall)

This is where the human conscience always groans,
no part of life ever knows what it owns ...

The unknowably secret life of children
The daughter who'd have been better off as a nun
The fire that gets away and damage-burns
The chance remark, but what's done is done

One too many a drink, one too few a think
So many idiots as the sun goes down
But for that wrong turning, I'd have died that day
And it's mostly not the best man wears the crown

Evil looks less evil from a distance
The present looks to the future, but the favour is not returned
The young know much, but the old just clear their mind
Now I can hardly remember, what it was I thought I yearned

This is where the human conscience always groans,
no part of life ever knows what it owns ...


Cooking at a friend's party one night
Dan Byrnes cooking at a party

But, and it's a big but ... There is not a lot of point in any writer putting original poetry on the Net. There are several reasons for this, all important. One is the way search engines work. Search engines are splendid at indexing specific information such as person names, placenames, addresses, specifications, catalogue numbers, &c. They are less good at finding original sets of words - which is what a poem is. If the writer or poet is not classic or famous, sensible netsurfers are very unlikely to be looking for poetry by any given individual. Secondly, to post original poetry goes down less than well with the managers of literary magazines, who normally have a tough time surviving anyway. So a writer posting original material on the Net might damage their credibility in print media circles. Not that I worry much about this personally. Still, it is a marketing point writers should think about. Thirdly, since a website presence, a Net presence, is very useful for purposes of self-promotion, it isn't necessary at all for a writer to post good-quality original material on the Net. And fourthly, as I recently found when trying to blog on igoogle, standard blog format can be somewhat restrictive, somewhat inflexible, somewhat ponderous, and slower than working on webpages.

So that's enough poetry for the time being. I need now to talk about where I come from, which is Tamworth NSW Australia, which is north-west of Sydney. Now I live in Armidale, which is 70 miles (about 130km) north of Tamworth, up the New England Highway and up in terms of altitude. Armidale is 1000 feet higher than Tamworth, has Australia's highest-altitude airport, and is usually about 5 degrees C less in ambient temperature than Tamworth, winter and summer. Tamworth is a commercial town. Armidale being "home of a rural university" and home to various notable schools is comparatively, a teacher's town.

Earliest memories

Can you recall your earliest memory? If you can, and some people can't, how can you be sure you have the timing correct, that the scene did actually occur at any identifiable time?

My own son says he can't recall any earliest memory. What is my own earliest memory? It is this (and of course it's a way to introduce my parents and family). My earliest memory is of sitting under a table while looking into a fire. Beside me is my younger sister, an only sister with her curly blonde hair, very striking, and a frilly white dress. We are two children only in this family; evidently sitting under this table looking at the fire. The fact my sister has on a good dress suggests there might have been a major social occasion for the adults. But whatever, I have no recollection of what I am wearing here. This is all I know, except that we moved into that residence when I was two, so I was aged more than two.

The question of earliest memories intrigues me, and I often ask people about it. My most spectacular interview situation on this is via a friend of 1969 who grew up in Ceylon (before it was Sri Lanka). In say 1950-1951, his father was part of Ceylon's police force. His first memory is of somehow being up high, sitting before his father, who has his arms protectively around his boy, and they are swaying. The reason they are swaying is because they are on an elephant. Which is why they are up high. This is the single-most spectacular first memory I've ever encountered. Riding an elephant! Quite something!

My father (born 11 October 1912) had an astonishingly powerful first memory, as far as his life proceeded, which comparatively seems almost profound. Which he never spoke of, certainly not to me. Which my mother related long after he'd died (he died in 1976). He was a man who sadly had only two years of formal education, who was all his life besotted, fascinated, with motor cars and their machinery, construction, engineering, etc. In later life, his memory on matters of which model of which car makes (Ford vs Holden and so on) had which parts, was phenomenal, quite encyclopedic, and his knowledge of the intricacies of the construction of older-model cars blew away most of his acquaintances on a daily basis, mostly to their benefit- as I as a boy was often there in his workshops to see.

He had unique abilities; a unique ability with memory of car-parts-construction, and unique affinity with his topics. His later adult interest in cars evidently surfaced with his first memory. He came to grief with his abilities after the first computers were put into motor cars; that technology he had no hope of coping with. So he retired.

But with his first memory, he was still in his nappies. These were days when where he lived, in far-west NSW (Tullamore), itinerant movie-showers of the day would be reduced to showing a film on a white bedsheet hung up, say, in the back area of some local hotel. He remembered, seeing movie action of cars driving about, then shitting in his nappies and being taken away to be changed. Which is astonishing! An adult who can still remember soiling his nappie, and also remember something socially novel and technologically interesting (and artificial) that he had seen as an image, from a black-and-white movie of the day, say, 1914? The meaning or interiority of which fascinated him entirely all his life. So my mother thought, or had concluded.

And actually, I think my interest in anyone's earliest memories was further stimulated by my Aunt Phyllis. She once read a poem I wrote about her father, my grandfather. Given that she was well aware of when her parents were at a certain address, in Moncur Street, Wollahra, Sydney, and when they had moved, she was amazed that I had retained such a clear early memory of that house.

Follows the poem in question ...

Poem 75. Draft 5


One memory I have as a small boy
in my grandparents' storied home -
woke with the doves of morning cooing
within the trees of the outside window.
The sun is strewn , let in with
leaves and dust-flecked bars
just flickering across my face.
Just stirring warmly in the wool,
I tossed on light all happy-traced.

Dressed and pounding down the stairs
to breakfast of porridge and eggs,
my grandpa wrapped the day up
with old stories for which I would beg.
Once round dove's tree I dizzied myself
going running around and around
till I fell, head cracked on ashphalt,
hard, and grandpa laughed, looking down
from his high old old man's height.
He seldom spoke, that fine old man,
he sat and smoked and pondered -
from his age, the years he ran down
into a spare taut silent presence
that never faltered or turned.
He presaged the day of his death
bed. He knew what his body had learned.
But grandma then was less forceful,
overshadowed in his larger frame.
She loved him, kept with his silence,
that devotion has ever remained.

Then she was giving and gracious,
counting her brood as it grew,
Now, it is great with diversity.
She follows all that they do.

That gold-dusted morn and warm sunlight,
each time it returns, dove song-borne,
it burns me young in my memory.
I want my childhood, still, to be warm.

Dan Byrnes (otherwise indicated in these pages as -Editor)

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