no previous
no next



  ― liv ―

3. An Appreciation.

(FROM The Daily Telegraph, 9TH JANUARY, 1904.)

IT is about 15 years since I first met John Farrell, and was struck by his quaintly shrewd estimate of all mundane things. From then till the day of his death, without the break of a single moment, it was my privilege to be one of the many hundreds of intimate personal friends who loved him for his simple, manly good-nature, as much as they admired him for his robust intellectuality, softly tinged as it was with the fancifulness of the poet. The curious thing was that on the day I met Farrell it seemed as if I had known him all my life. “Hello; how goes it?” was his method of first introduction, as his big, hard, earnest hand reached out to grasp yours. Whoever you were, from that minute all the boundless good-nature of John Farrell was at your disposal to draw upon for any service that it was in his power to render. During many years of close daily companionship in journalistic work, I made use of this privilege more, perhaps, than most men.




  ― lv ―

Farrell had little or no scholastic training, but in the severe academy of human experience he had learned much. And a lifetime of omnivorous reading had given him a knowledge of the belles lettres such as no college could impart. He had a poet's mind, susceptible of the highest degree of literary polish, which, added to an exceptionally rapid and powerful reasoning faculty, gave him the first essentials of the ideal all-round journalist. Notwithstanding the constant view of the seamy side of things which the more or less behind-the-scenes life of the pressman gives, he retained till his last day on earth a perennial spring of enthusiastic interest in all public affairs. He had a human sympathy that nothing could daunt. Yet from the bizarre glare of the public limelight, Farrell's sensitive poet's nature shrank with an utterly unconquerable aversion. When the land value taxation boom, which carried the Reid Government into power in the middle nineties, was at its height, John Farrell, who by his writings had done more perhaps than any other man to produce that effect, was frequently pressed to go for Parliament. Albury had a standing invitation to him, and whomever the land value tax party nominated there in the old pre-Federal days got the seat. It was amusing to note the peculiar terror with which he used to recoil from the political snare when it was thus set before him. Yet I have known Farrell, after a night of hard journalistic work, when I was leaving the office to go home, commencing to reply at length


  ― lvi ―
to ten or a dozen correspondents in various parts of the State who had written to him for information on doctrinal points connected with the single tax. For years that was a regular thing. And having enlightened each one of them he would continue on during the small hours writing gratuitous contributions to the single tax paper, the publication of which without fee or reward he for years superintended.

He was able to earn a good income as incomes go, and no man down on his luck from whatever cause ever way-laid him on the office steps for “a loan” without getting it. Farrell had no appreciation of the value of money. A man of the most abstemious tastes, he wanted little for himself, and could not understand the passion for wealth-gathering. Although a born Bohemian, he was, however, an intensely domesticated man. His one idea of a day out was to take the children for a romp on the beach at Manly or Brighton-le-Sands. Farrell never seemed to get any older either in his appearance or in his views of life. He was not a healthy man, but in spite of that and fifty-three years' wear and tear in the mill of life, he had up till the day he died all the artless vivacity of an overgrown boy. His was the charity that thinketh no evil and even against the fate which often compelled him to do arduous mental work under severe bodily suffering he had not an unkind word to say or thought to think. His indomitable good humour could extract amusement even out of his own


  ― lvii ―
troubles, and although full of sympathy for every fellow bearer of life's burden and keenly sensitive to suffering in other people, the distressing rheumatic malady that frequently tortured him afforded material for many a quaint and curious jest.

Farrell often used to speak of death, which he regarded in the light of an interesting curiosity. He died as he always wished to die, suddenly, and without fuss. And fate in the end proved kind in sparing him the pain not of passing out into the dark, which would never have troubled him, but of witnessing the grief of those whom he was leaving behind. With John Farrell goes out one of the most unique personalities in Australian literature, and one the memory of whose simple, earnest, unselfish life will amongst those who knew him take long to fade.

THOMAS COURTNEY.
no previous
no next