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Remarkable historic account

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April 26, 2018

(bookreview) Lee Stephenson said we are lucky to have Bert Facey’s first-hand account of early Australia, A Fortunate Life.

A Fortunate Life

by A.B. Facey

In the early years of the twentieth century, there was no Social Service safety net. Unless a family was successful and wealthy, children often became members of the workforce long before they were 10 years old.

Albert Facey was one of them.

He had no schooling whatsoever. But he did have a wonderful memory, and lived long enough to use it to tell the tale of his life, which was probably not remarkable for the period, but it certainly is remarkable for people today to read about it.

Set mostly in rural Western Australia, the most common modes of transport were provided by the horse. Certainly there were trains, but they did not make it to the real outback until much later, and it was quite usual for people to walk more than 10 to 20 or 30 miles between properties.

Bert Facey worked continuously from the age of seven at difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs, until the outbreak of World War One. It was sometimes a miracle he survived; in one shocking case being horse-whipped to within a millimetre of his life.

He does not make much mention of the military training and you get the feeling that recruits at Gallipoli just learned as they went — and survived or not.

Repatriated home, his working life went on, manning the trams, driving trucks, trying to make a go of it on the land, and surviving the Great Depression.

He must have had more than 50 jobs once he was back home, and moved house for almost all of them.

He married and had children, and gradually became literate enough to write his history.

How fortunate we are to have this first-hand history of early Australia.

— Lee Stephenson

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