Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A river runs through it: John Fairfax, his canoe journey to Wagga

“ Next day we paddled on to Oura, a little village, and bought eggs from a lady who lived in a mud house which was beautifully made in blocks and whitewashed with the result that it looked, and was, cool.
                        Waterway to Wagga, p. 38, Run o’ waters

John Fitzgerald Fairfax, 1904 – 1951, of the Fairfax news empire, visited Wagga Wagga on one of his car and canoe journeys through the New South Wales countryside. 
Starting at Gundagai, John and his travelling companion Stephen, paddled down the Murrumbidgee, camping on the riverbanks by night, and following the river to Wagga Wagga by day. Their progress along the river is given in enough detail so that anyone interested in recreating the journey could do so, as they passed by local stations and landmarks and eventually ended up on Wagga beach.
There were many such trips around New South Wales, through the Illawarra, along the coast to Kiama, Bateman’s Bay ( via the Clyde River) and luckily for us  Fairfax wrote about his experiences which were then compiled into “Run o’ waters”, illustrated by Cedric Emanuel. These essays were originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Walkabout, and the Bega District News.  
John Fairfax was a journalist in the Fairfax newspaper business, served in the AIF during world war two, and after the war resigned from the Fairfax board and retired from journalism. Fairfax committed suicide in 1951, on his property at Gocup, near Tumut in New South Wales. 
A copy of  Run o' waters is available in the Wagga City Library local studies collection and can be read within the library. It's a great travel read and particularly interesting with so many local references. 

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