Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover was sent from W.H. Pethard of Northcote South, Melbourne and the orange 2d KGV Head stamp was postmarked with a roller cancel of MELBOURNE/ 430AM/ 26 APR/ 1935/ VICTORIA with a slogan AIR MAIL/ SAVES TIME. It was sent to The Rev. A. Leyland Bird B.G.S., The Rectory, Brewarrina, N.S.W. There was a reception postmark of BREWARRINA/ 29 AP 35/ N.S.W and it was redirected to Angledool Stn, via Goodooga. The reverse was not seen. (Figure 1).

Angledool Station was a large property in the north west of New South Wales and the map’s green arrow shows Brewarrina, the red arrow Goodooga, and the blue arrow, Angledool, which is partially obscured by the red balloon. The two other places named later to be in his area of involvement, Cumborah and Lightning Ridge, are circled in green (Figure 2).

Reverend Bird was surprisingly difficult to research for there were only 2 entries in the NLA newspapers beta website, one about his marriage in Australia, the other about the married couple’s departure to England, as well as a State Library of N.S.W. (S.L.N.S.W.) website headlined Brewarrina, 1932-37/ photographed collection of 87 negatives, by Reverend Canon A. Leyland Bird which could not be accessed. The flood gates opened when I received a response to my email from the S.L.N.S.W. The following information was derived from articles in The Bush Brother, a quarterly paper conducted by the members of the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd. The frontispiece of the December 1, 1930 issue is shown, but this predates Leyland’s sojourn in N.S.W. (Figure 3).

The first piece of information was found in the December 1, 1931 copy of ‘The Bush Brother’: “The Rev. Arthur Leyland Bird – now to be known as Brother Ley – has at last arrived in Australia , and is at work in the Brewarrina District. We are indeed happy to have him with us, and look forward to his ministry in the bush.” In the same issue, Brother Ley contributed on pages 214-216 an article which I summarised: “I sailed from Liverpool on board the s.s. Balranald on October 3rd, the fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I had been appointed Voyage Chaplain ….there were two archdeacons and another priest on board to act as my curates!” He then described his future chaplain duties on board, and documented the Bay of Biscay, Gibraltar, Valetta Malta, Port Said, Suez Canal, and the Red Sea…. “I was elected sports committee secretary…and helped to run deck games tournaments” ….”I was about the only person who had not entered the Southern Hemisphere before”…. He goes on to describing his ducking ceremony involvement in which he gave as good as he got….” I was met (in Sydney by) the secretary and treasurer of the B.G.S. Women’s Committee … and one of the probationer brothers, who took me off to St. James’ Rectory where I was the guest of Dr. Micklem for the weekend.”

“I left the next day by train for Bathurst, where I stayed at Bishopscourt for two days. Here I was licensed and ‘sworn in.’ From Bathurst the Bishop took me to Dubbo to meet Brother Tom for the first time, and on to Bourke for the weekend”… and I was to go on to Brewarina, but the rain decided otherwise, and I stayed for a week in Gilgandra.  I had an experience of being stuck in black soil with Bishop Wylde. “However, his (the Bishop’s) gallant pushing soon got us out, but not before he had measured his length in the mud!  I am looking forward to a happy ministry in the West, especially at Brewarrina – when the rain allows me to get out there.”

The next information was found in The Bush Brother March 25, 1937 written by an unsigned person under the heading DEPARTURES. The Reverend A.L. Bird (Brother Ley). “Five years ago, last November, arrived from England one who quickly became a keen ‘Bushman.’ He had served an assistant curacy in a crowded Yorkshire parish on the outskirts of Middlesborough. The transition from an industrial parish to the widespread district of Brewarrina was no slight change, but brother Ley quickly adapted himself to the vastly altered circumstances. His fondness for the motor car as a means of travel stood him in good stead. For almost two years he was the assistant to the brother in charge (The Rev. L.C.S. Walker) of the Brewarrina district.”

” During that time he had primarily the pastoral oversight of the northern district, whivh included Angledool, Goodooga, Cumborah, and Lightning Ridge. He discovered people off the beaten track, and seldom, if ever was really bushed. Never did he travel without his camera, and his snapshots so often appeared in the ‘Bush Brother’ that he was almost regarded as the official B.G.S. photographer.”

“He threw himself into headquarter’s work; he became Chapter Clerk and Assistant Editor of the ‘Bush Brother’, making himself responsible for the collecting and acknowledging suscriptions. He carried through successfully the extensive restoration of Christ Church, Brewarrina, and was able last year, to see the central church of his district made more fitting for worship, and re-opened free of debt. He has sailed for England with an Australian bride, well known in the Brewarrina district for her devoted work for the West.”

The wedding of the Rev. A.L. Bird and Miss Dulcie M.G. Tarbolton is recorded in 1½ pages of the same issue of ‘The Bush Brother’ at St. James’, King Street, Sydney. Bishop Wylde celebrated the marriage on February 6, 1937. The bride and groom had a brief stay in Canberra prior to sailing for England on February 13, 1937. The last word heard of the couple was from Fremantle, Western Australia on the way to England. Their address in England will be: c/o the Rev. G.S. Bird, Farnham, Surrey, England. A picture of The Rev. A.L. Bird B.G.S. 1931-1937 taken from the supplement of the same ‘The Bush Brother’ is seen in Figure 4.

Certainly not the usual conventional biography, but it provides an insight of a fine “bush man” who could relate well to people and adapt to difficult circumstances.