This Moment




This time of joy or anguish

within this lifetime

is nothing more than

a moment

within a moment

within eternity.


A teardrop

that falls into a river

that flows into an ocean.

A flame

that becomes a firestorm

that quickly burns itself out.


I can choose to stand outside of this moment

and see it from a distant future

I feel it as a gift from time

only another ticking of the clock.


We dwell on the past

We plan and fear the future

When all we really have

is just this moment.


And all we need is now…


This moment

within a moment

within eternity.


© Michael Young 2019

Shurri 2




spirit-vs-matter 1

We are in a state of separation between spirit and matter, between our very souls and materialism. We are half-awake with our toys and technology. We don’t hear our souls crying to be recognised as part of creation, so we will wake up. The world we have made and live in does not bear witness to the divine. It bears witness to our greed, our delusions of power, and to the righteous of religion. We kill for the determination of our religious power. We kill for the individual’s democratic right to plunder the Earth as we separate ourselves more and more from the Earth’s divinity. We live separate from our true selves.


The Buddhists speak of non-attachment, which is different to detachment. I was beginning to see the difference. Our attachment to so many things makes us forget why we are here and what we are supposed to be learning about ourselves…


Shirley MacLaine 2011.




Shurri 1






I always thought SHIRLEY MacLAINE was a nutter. (I’m sure that’s what “they” wanted me to think!)

Now I realise that she is just a few steps ahead of me on the same spiritual journey as millions of others.

I’ve just started reading her 2011 book “I’m Over All That”.


This book has sat on the shelf in my bedroom for a long time.  The shelf where I have a collection of books for “future reading”.  In fact, it’s been there for so long I have no idea where it came from or when it was purchased… or how it got there at all. Late last week I was walking past the shelf, and “saw” the book for the first time… like it had not been there until that moment when it suddenly caught my attention.

I love how the universe provides me with an endless supply of “the right book at the right time” to help me along my spiritual/life journey.  The book I was previously reading was one that had to be digested in slow portions because it was way beyond average daily reading… “Catastrophobia” by Barbara Hand Clow, which I now realise is a book that Shirley would definitely have read herself.  (That magical “one degree of separation” appears again in my life.)

My initial thought at seeing “I’m Over All That” was, ‘that sounds like me talking, I’m over it all too,’ followed by ‘this will at least be something light to contrast with the heaviness Catastrophobia.’ As I started to read, I realised it was actually necessary for me to have read the two previous books so I could appreciate all the wisdom that was waiting for me in this new book.

The timing was simply beyond what I would expect for my life, but as always, it was perfect.  I’d been struggling with a cold/cough/sinus infection for over six weeks. I caught it at the Cher concert we recently attended, probably because I’ve worked from home for over a year my immunity to minor bugs has lowered, so it was easy to pick up something form all those “germy people breathing all over me” in the crowded venue.  I was getting depressed from the long illness and didn’t understand why it was hanging around when all my blood etc tests showed me to be healthier than any average person. 

I read a comment in Shirley’s book that suggested illness is often a sign that we need to change something in our life. Long story short that led me to ask my “people” (guides, angels whatever you prefer) who gave me an immediate answer, which I then started to question, so I consulted my Angel Cards which, in only ONE selection pounded home the same point… that I had to re-balance a certain distracting obsession in my life immediately.  So I made the agreement with them and, with the help of my doctor, I began to see an immediate release from the illness. 

No, I won’t tell you the specifics, but suffice to say it was one of those very “human” situations where you know the obsession or addiction to some distraction is taking over your life, but you just keep ignoring all the signs… until the universe has to back you into a corner and MAKE you see what you are pretending to ignore.  This time I was backed into the corner and handed a book written by Shirley MacLaine published seven years ago to slap me back to reality… and get me writing again as well!

There’s so much in “I’m Over All That” that resonates with me, it’s like I’m becoming more and more like Shirley without even knowing her… or put more simply, we are on the same spiritual journey through a very similar list of life lessons. (By the way, if you want to know why I’ve called this post “Shurri” you’ll have to read the book 😉  )

Shurri 1

Here’s just one of those passages:

I’m Over Fear Taught In The Name Of Religion. (Page 28).

I never cease to be amazed at how far some religious people will go to turn their destinies over to god rather than take charge of them for themselves. If the devil really does exist, he would beat his chest with pride at how significant we humans have made him. More movies and books have been made heralding his existence than anything else… because the FEAR of him makes so much MONEY. Fear seems to be the most common human emotion and the easiest to exploit. Fear of god, fear of the devil, fear of terrorists, fear of death, fear of life, fear of race, (fear of authority), fear, fear, fear. Learn how to propagandise FEAR, and you can control a civilisation and make a LOT of MONEY…

 In fact, everywhere I have traveled in the world, the conflicts I’ve seen stemmed from organised religion in one way or another…  

 What I was learning about religion around the world as I traveled was that it afforded each denomination and culture an opportunity to BYPASS RESPONSIBILITY for itself and assign that task to god. (Also creating their devil in the image of their longtime cultural enemy or their “imagined” enemy, also declaring them an enemy of their god to justify their godless hatred and war.)…

Therefore, I gave up religion a long time ago. I’m over all that religion thing and have been ever since I put my experiences with my own karma together with my strong sense of SELF-RESPONSIBILITY…

Shirley MacLaine 2011.  

(Emphasis is mine… Michael Young)

Problem Two


Problems? Don’t talk to me about problems…

Went to pre-book our seats online for MAMMA MIA Here We Go Again in GOLD CLASS at the local cinema. We rarely go to the movies, usually wait for the Blu-ray or Netflix options.  We had two gift cards that we have struggled to use, so hard to find a movie we will both love.

Found two perfect seats for the Tuesday session. Was disappointed to see that the “Cheap-arse Tuesday” sessions are only $32 not $42… we won’t get the full value of the gift cards. Then the damn online booking system said the gift cards were invalid… AND they want to charge a $7 booking fee… to book it ONLINE where it costs them NOTHING! OMG!

So I had to take the damn 5-minute drive to the Pacific Werribee shopping centre to pre-book the tickets in person. Then I couldn’t find a car park space close to the cinema and had to walk in the cold for a few 100 metres to get to the entrance… at least I had my hoodie to cover my head.

I was concerned I may have had to wait because it was the busy time, but a staff member came up to the desk right away and served me. We looked for seats on the Tuesday, but she could only see ones along the side, not in the middle like I prefer, so decided to try Thursday instead. The Gold Class cinemas have 8 seats across and six rows of seats but I like to be somewhere in the middle four seats. After a bit of umming and eerring I decided to compromise and go for two side seats on the Tuesday.

When she went to select the seats for me, she discovered that the two seats I originally wanted on the Tuesday were actually available, the ones I tried to book online. So I booked them. There was no booking fee either! Just think how much it cost them for her to do that booking compared to me booking online which cost them nothing.


Please, Mr Postman



Please, Mr Postman

This morning I stumbled across an email notifying that a package would be delivered for my partner today.  It included the option to select “safe delivery” so I responded that it could be left at the front door.  I was then out of the house for the rest of the morning, thinking it would be delivered regardless of me being there to sign for it.

When I get home after midday I see a card in the letter box saying the parcel can be collected from the local Post Shop after 4pm today.  Damn!  I had just been at that very shop half an hour before, how annoying to have to go back there tomorrow when I already said to leave it at the door.  (It was actually small enough to go in the letter box anyway).

I walked back into the garage and was about to close the door when I see the postman come around the corner and stop to deliver something to the house across the road.  So, with the collection card in hand, I crossed the street and asked if he had the item with him.  (Sometimes they are delivered by a separate van service).  He did, now I have it and I don’t have to make a special trip to the Post Shop tomorrow.  (No, I didn’t complain about the disregarded delivery instructions!)

Yes, PERFECT timing … the magic of SYNCHRONICITY strikes again… I must be still on the right path for my life and making the right choices!  🙂  


Postman 1





All is in control but control is really freedom and peace comes from believing that the Universe is the one who orders every footprint in the sand.  The footprints in the sand before you are there from your future but the future, the past, the present are all one.  We are ‘in time’ but time is a created illusion and that illusion is shared by us all.  We need to step out of the illusion and walk in the realisation that we are all one, we are all starlight, we are all free to be and to live and to exist in our pure state of existence …that of peace and love.


As we first learn to exist in only peace and love we can begin to walk in that state through our world around us and spread that powerful reality of our new existence to those around us.  To those who we encounter every day and also to those we do not see face to face or in our physical locality but to anyone we hold in our mind and reach out to with our heart.  No matter how near or how far they may be we can still reach them, touch them with our spirit and our love, share our light across any distance or indeed across any time line.


We can heal the hurts from the past and even reach into the future to heal those we will encounter along the path ahead of us.  Outside of our ‘reality’ time does not exist, so we can move from here to there as if we are walking from one room to the next, as if we are stepping from this current moment in our timeline to any other moment before or after what we perceive as ‘now’.  Our body may be locked into this linear journey of time like a train on a pre-laid track but our spirit and our love never need to obey that limitation.


As we grow stronger in our spirit-deep realisation of all these truths we can then start to run, not just walk, with an awe-inspiring sense of freedom and peace that others will long to attain.  Others around us will be swept up in the breathtaking power of our freedom and motion and inspired to find what we have.  Their journey will be their journey, our journey will be our journey, but the sheer force of forward moving freedom will raise those around us up onto their feet, like they were once lame but through a miracle they can walk again.  The child within them, the innocent, free, powerful child they were born as will recognise what they had, what they were, what they again can be and what they unquestionably are destined to be.


We find our freedom, our path and we walk and then run for ourselves because we are driven by our spirit to achieve the freedom we were born with.  The result of us doing what we must for ourselves is that it empowers and inspires and releases and uplifts others to do the same for themselves.


We spent much of our life sitting, waiting, fearing, hoping, trying, failing, questioning, doubting only because the world has been programming us to stay downtrodden and controlled and limited and restricted and abused for all of our lives.  We simply must CHOOSE to look up, to stand up, to walk and then to run.  Then we realise that we can fly and that our wings have always been there, they are our faith, and once we can dare to spread our faith and use it we realise that we can fly … that we always could … we simple chose to believe we couldn’t.


As simply as we can choose to believe … WE CAN!





The piece above was created through an ‘automatic writing’ exercise in a wonderful spiritual workshop conducted by DEREK BARKER.  Werribee 8Oct2017.


Gold Coast


We recently spent a week on the Gold Coast, a last minute arrangement to get some sun and relaxation.  We arrived on Saturday afternoon, checked in to our room then went for a walk to the main shopping area about 20 minutes away.

After checking out where the restaurants were, we found the local Woolworths to buy a few supplies for our unit.  Supplies in hand, we decided to take the long way out of the shopping complex, then walked back up the main mall to check out the restaurants in that area.

As we were about to head back home we noticed a couple of faces heading our way that looked familiar.  At that very moment, taking the other exit from the supermarket we chose not to, were two friend from Melbourne we had not seen in a couple of years.  They live on the other side of the city and we travelled thousands of kilometres to The Gold Coast to run into them!  They were there for the weekend.

We organised to meet on the Monday and had a lovely afternoon catching up … all thanks to the amazing SYNCHRONICITY in my universe.

Preview Selection


This is the original INTRODUCTION from 2013 to my memoir ABBA, DR WHO & MEN which will be re-written soon. 




Imagine this…

Before we are born we’re presented with a number of “life stories” to choose from.  A number of options for the path we’ll take in our life.

Would we choose the easiest life story?  Would we choose the one with the greatest fame or fortune?   If this was real then most of us would wonder why the hell we chose the life we have now with the struggles and pain we go through.  Such choices would come from a very “human” way of thinking.

However, at the time we are still able to see things from a “universal” perspective instead of the more limited perspective of our human experience.  So in this circumstance what “life story” would we choose?

The real question is…

Would I choose the life story I’m currently living?  If you asked me this 40 years ago, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago I would have said no!

If you ask me the same question today then yes, I would choose this life story.  I would choose all the hell I went through… the fear, self doubt, pain and failure… the joy, happiness, fun and victories.

The revelation I have come to is I am who I am today only because of all I went through over the past 50+ years.  Without fire, heat, pressure and time there would be no diamonds!

Now, looking back from here, I can see why I’d choose this life.

Come with me and I’ll show you why …   





“I close my eyes and my twilight images go by all too soon, like an angel passing through my room”  –  ABBA


These are the days of my life … from when I was young and restless to feeling bold and beautiful!

That’s a little joke my mum would appreciate, if she were still here.  In fact, this project is dedicated to my mum, Wanda Young.  In many ways she was responsible for all the different periods and what even feel like different lives I’ve lived within this particular life … the ABBA time, the Doctor Who time, she even influenced the current GLBTIQ Community Group that I started.

I’m calling this book “ABBA, Doctor Who and Men!”, because that basically summarises my life up to now.  That journey was mainly focussed around three particular areas … ABBA Fan Club times, Doctor Who and the Doctor Who Fan Club time, the many years of my “big gay adventure” that all started in 1975.

In 2012 I started a local GLBTIQ social and support group here in Wyndham, in the west of Melbourne, with the help of Wyndham City Council.  Wyndham covers Werribee and surrounding suburbs and is the fastest growing area in Australia.  At the time there was nothing here in the west specifically for GLBTI residents.

We planned our very first event for “Meet Your GLBTIQ Neighbours” to be held at Cafe Aroma in Watton Street, Werribee.  Mum was unwell so I flew up to Maitland to visit her the weekend before this event.  I didn’t explain to her specifically when the event was or how important it was to me but she must have sensed it.

She’d been very sick in one way or another for a long time.  Arthritis and skin cancers that needed to be cut out, one had recently been removed from her face that was not healing well and had resulted in some medical issues that put her back in hospital.  She had lost a lot of weight and was no longer “full of life” as she would usually seem.

That weekend, as I said goodbye and stepped out of her room into the corridor, I began to cry because I had an overwhelming sense that it was the last time I would see her in that frail 83 year old body that was now failing her.  On my way out, I stopped up on the hill beside the wing of the hospital where her room was, under a beautiful old tree, I could see the window of her room.  With tears in my eyes I waved goodbye.

I turned and walked to the car, drove to the airport and got on the plane.  Somehow, feeling numb and disconnected from any real emotions I arrived back in Melbourne, drove the 45 minutes from the airport back home, got in the door, was greeted by my partner David and our two fur kids, Merlin and Millie, went up to David, hugged him and absolutely burst into tears.  I told him I felt that was the last time I would see mum.   And it was…

When I saw her that last time she had said to me twice: “I’ve had enough, Mickey, I don’t think I can put up with any more of this”, and I said to her: “Mum, you’ve had an amazing life, you’ve raised three very strong and responsible children, you  have three amazing grandchildren, you’ve survived a very difficult life, you should be so proud of everything you’ve done in this life, but if you’ve had enough, if you really want to go, then just … let go! Because I promise you, that you’ll simply leave here and it’ll be just like you walked across the room.  You’ll be fine, you’ll be happy, you’ll be free of the pain, free of the struggle, free of the body that’s giving out and letting you down even though your spirit could go on forever, because your spirit does go on forever.”

So it was the very day after our first hugely successful event for “Meet Your GLBTIQ Neighbours” or “Wyndham Rainbow Neighbours Inc” as we are now called, that I got the news she had passed.  If we lost her the day before or even on the day of the event I would never have been able to do what I did that day with so many people there, the things we had to do to encourage, inspire and begin this process of a new community group.  So, her timing was perfect, she must have sensed it literally hanging on that extra day and putting herself second right to the end.  Another fallen hero!



 At the moment I’m sitting in the backyard of our home in Werribee.  Everyone who comes here says how beautiful and peaceful our yard and our home is, surrounded by trees and tall hedges, the birds, the water fountains, the flowers, plants, the buddas (we are not Buddhist by the way) and it’s a beautiful summer day here in Melbourne.  A new year, a new phase in my life and it feels the right time to start this process of looking back over the first 50+ years of this life.

So this book will cover thoughts, recollections, memories and stories initially sorted into various years because that’s really the easiest way for me to remember.  As with most things in life, the end result may be a little different to what I initially planned.

As I became a teenager, the two things that I became interested in, and passionate about, were ABBA and Doctor Who.  ABBA was the first music that really captured my attention and resonated with me, and it still does.  I’ve listened to ABBA since 1975 and I still love their music after 40+ years.  The ABBA phenomenon will always be part of my life, and the four of them, Frida, Agnetha, Benny and Bjorn are like extended family.  It feels like they’ve always been around and the day one of them passes will be absolutely devastating, just as it has been for me when some of the Doctor Who people have passed.

Liz Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) passed unexpectedly about a year and a half ago now.  That was very difficult because she had been in my life since 1975 as someone I enjoyed watching and had always brought happiness to my life, just as ABBA and Doctor Who have always been a source of great happiness and escape from life’s stresses.  However, there have been times when some of the fans have also been a source of those stresses.

I started watching Doctor Who in 1975 and Tom Baker was my first and favourite Doctor.  The day that he passes will also be devastating and I hope that’s a long time away.  We have lost far too many Who people in 2011/2012.  To name a few, we lost Liz Sladen, Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier), Mary Tamm (the first Romana) and also Directors, Producers and others, which is made even sadder now because 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and we won’t have them as part of the celebrations.

Apart from ABBA and Doctor Who this book will also cover my “born again” times in various Pentecostal Churches, my spiritual journey, and my struggle with being gay which are all neatly wrapped up under the “men” part of the title.

Looking back, all that’s happened in my life is clearly part of the spiritual journey that I’m on this time around.  I’m amazed that I became the person I am today.  I am proud of who I am today.  Just as I’m sure mum and all those who have gone before are proud of me.

But enough about death … this is about life!

So let’s move on to when things really start to change … 1975!





SYNCHRONICITY can still happen even when you feel physically out of synch…

Yesterday, I had the sudden thought to pick up my phone and send my partner an SMS at 9:26am:

“R U a NO for exercise tonight?”

He replied at 9:28am (unusual because he normally does not answer his phone at work):

“OMG!  I literally thought to just pick up my phone to let you know about that …  No, I will give it a miss until I regain my strength.  I was about to suggest you should Give it a miss as well…”

I replied:

“Yes, I will … but at least the synchronicity still works … the rest is a real struggle today …  😦 ” 


The magic of the universe! 





Preview Selection


The following is a selection from my gay-themed Historical novel “BLOOD ON COTTON” which I am currently writing…





Sitting here on the balcony on this warm autumn afternoon, I feel it is no small miracle.

This has been my favourite place to read and take tea for most of my life.  I put down my latest book, another of the many in our library that were printed over a hundred years ago, one of the many I want to enjoy before I go.  I pour more tea, raise the cup, sip the comforting black brew and hold it before me in both hands as I look out through the grand old trees to the fields beyond.  The rising steam makes the distant view and lengthening shadows seem to dance and shimmer as if time was losing its tenacious grip on the endless forward procession of my days.  As I smell the familiar aroma of the blackcurrant flavoured Ceylon tea, I am suddenly and magically transported.  No longer here but there, not now but then…




Mammy Jane enters the library from the main hall.  The sound of our giggles echoing around the grand room warms her heart.  She treasures the sound of children playing happily and believes the innocence of youth must be protected, as long as possible, from the harsh realities of the adult world.

“Massa James” she calls “Will I be bringin’ your teas and cakes now?”

Henry looks down over the railing from the mezzanine level of the library, “I’m famished.”

“Yes, Mammy, we’ll take it on the balcony as usual,” I inform her as I make my way up the spiral iron staircase to join my younger brother.

“Thank you, Massa James, I be bringin’ it to you directly,” she says, but I stop to correct her.

“Remember what I taught you?”

She repeats, “I – will – bring it to you directly,” as she heads to the kitchen.

I smile and turn my attention to my younger brother as I reach the top of the stairs, “Henry, have you chosen a new book yet?”

“There are so many to choose from, do you think father has read them all?

“I suspect it would take more than one lifetime to read all of these books,” I suggest to him,

“Father doesn’t appreciate books like we do; to him, they are just another way to show his wealth and success.  Well, that’s what mother told me anyway.”

“When will they be back?” Henry asked.

“Another two days I believe, at least we can enjoy being the men of the house for a while longer,” I said pretentiously, which made him burst out with laughter and an entertaining display of rather pompous gestures.

“Make your selection, little brother, and join me out here,” I instructed him as I made my grand exit through the French doors onto the balcony.

A few minutes later he sat down on the cane chair near me as Mammy arrived with our tea and cakes.  She placed the tray on the small table between us and poured for us.  Henry always liked to take his with milk but I prefer mine black.

“I hope you haven’t eaten any of our cakes on the way up here, Mammy?” said Henry, “Father will have you horsewhipped when he returns.”

“Oh, no Massa, no, I would never does that, no, not’s me, oh Lordy, no!”

“Stop it, boy, don’t tease her like that!” I snapped at him.

“Don’t call me “boy”, I’m no Nigger” he cast back at me.


“Ignore him, Mammy, he’s just being evil, we both know you would never do such a thing”

“Oh, thanks you, Massa James,” exclaimed Mammy as she bowed and headed back downstairs.

“What book are you reading?” asked Henry.

“It’s called Innocents Abroad by a new writer, Mark Twain.”

“What’s it about?”

“I have to read it before I can tell you that so read yours and stop distracting me.  Or at least put one of those cakes in your mouth so I can read in peace.”

With an amusingly dirty look, he did just that.

After some tea and a cake, I looked out to the cotton fields in the distance where the Negro workers were busy with the planting.  I took a deep breath of the sweet spring air, returned to my book, and felt that all was right with the world.

* * *

Down in the fields, the spring sun was starting to get a sting to it.  It was early afternoon, the supervisor, Riley, was nowhere to be seen and only a few of the adult Negros were still working on planting the last of the cotton seeds for this first field.  They were singing among themselves as they worked.  Their voices resonated with deep emotion born from struggle, sorrow, pain and hope as if they were expressing what they held in the depths of their souls.  A depth of emotion that I never understood at that time but often wondered what was the source of it.  It was not religion, their words far more profound than the dull hymns we sang in church.  It was not from poverty, their life was not without its basic comforts of shelter, food, companionship and a hard day’s work.    It also seemed that their singing and the expressing of the deep emotion provided them with a healing release.  If only I was permitted to express myself so freely.  Father always demanded we behave so properly, so “stiff upper lip” and so grown up.

* * *

Our reading was suddenly interrupted by the sound of feet running up the main staircase.  Our two dogs, Shakespeare and Avon, burst onto the balcony followed closely behind by our younger sister, Mary.

“Hello, you two, what are you up to?” asked Mary, cheerfully.

“What have YOU been up to is more the question,” I responded.

“I was out for a walk with the hounds and spent a while by the river watching the Nigger children playing and swimming,” she answered, cautiously, “I didn’t get too close to the water, I promise, I was very careful.”

“You know that father would be furious if he found out.  He told you to never go down there unsupervised.  He would blame me if something had happened to you,” I scolded her.

“Your lemonade, Miss” announced Mammy as she appeared through the door.

“I was fine, James,” protested Mary.

“I told my Jacob to watch over her, Master James,” explained Mammy Jane.

“He was there with me all the time,” Mary added.

“Thank you, Mammy, that is appreciated,” I confirmed.

“Father would not think so,” interjected Henry.

“Well, father is not here, is he?” I snapped as I stood and dropped my book onto my chair, “I’m    going for a walk. Are you two coming?” I asked the dogs, but Shakespeare just whimpered as he looked longingly at the uneaten cakes still on the plate.

“That was a no,” advised Mary.  So I left them to it and headed down the stairs.  I heard Mammy call after me, “Wears your hat, Massa James,” which I collected from the hallway then headed through the front door and out into the sunshine.

* * *

I walked alone with my thoughts as the afternoon shadows grew longer.  My head was always so full of ideas, questions, doubts and dreams.  After some time I realized I was near the river.  As I approached I could see someone through the low trees.  It was Jacob, he was there alone now.  He had been swimming and was just emerging from the water.  The sun was glistening off his wet, dark skin and it highlighted the muscles in his shoulders, arms and chest.  I knew he was my age but I was struck by how he was much more manly looking than me.  I envied him in that way.

He sat down on the riverbank and I could clearly see the strength of his back muscles under his black skin.  I wanted to speak to him, I was about to ask, “Do you come here often?” which would surely make him laugh, as we both knew full well that he loved coming here.  In fact, we had known each other all our lives, but I suddenly, strangely, felt self-conscious and uncomfortable.  I decided not to disturb him and quietly made my way back to the house.  It would be time for dinner soon, I reasoned.

* * *

The next day started out like a typical Sunday.  Up early, washed and dressed in our best clothes then the long buggy ride to the local church that served the many plantations and farms in our   Parish.

With mother and father away, Mammy Jane and her man, Moses, were responsible for making sure we attended and stayed on our best behaviour. It would never do for the children of Patrick Edward Andrews-O’Malley to be seen disgracing him in public!

The ride to church took over an hour and would normally be a very boring and sombre journey since we were expected to behave piously on the Lord’s Day.  Except on days like this when we were without our parents and Mammy, Moses & Jacob all rode in the carriage with us.

There were two carriages of Negros following behind us as they were also expected to attend church at least once every four weeks.  Father said the plantation couldn’t be left unattended, not even for the Lord’s Day, but insisted that they all needed to get a share of Christian education to temper their wild ways, so they took it in turns.  At least this trip we were all enjoying a moving sing-along together and their voices were a gift that I believed God should never be denied hearing.

The silliest thing was how they all looked.  They were all dressed up in bright colours like my sister’s dolls, but with black faces.  They reminded me of those dancing monkeys that would perform with the travelling amusement shows, so uncomfortable and unnatural, which I came to learn was exactly how they felt.

When we arrived at the church, Dr Lawson, his wife, his daughters and his sister were waiting for us.  They lived on a farm less than an hour from us.  They were family as Dr Lawson had married my mother’s sister, Elizabeth and they would naturally keep an eye on things when mother and father were away.  We sat with them because the Negros were never allowed inside the church; they would gather outside by the windows and hear the sermon from there.  Usually, a message about how evil and sinful we all were and only Jesus could wash that away.

After church, we travelled back to the Lawson farm for a wonderful lunch.  The Negros went back to our plantation but Mammy, Moses and Jacob came with us as we followed the Lawsons home. Miss Anne, Dr Lawson’s sister, was also our school teacher so along the way she would call out questions for us to answer, mostly spelling and sums which we would fight to see who could get the right answer first.  I sometimes let the others win.

By the time we arrived back at the plantation both Henry and Mary were struggling to keep their eyes open, the pleasant afternoon air and the results of a big lunch were taking their toll.

Mammy took Mary up to her room to settle her in for an afternoon nap and Henry said he was headed up to his room for the same purpose.  I was not tired so I retreated to the library to entertain myself with some further cataloguing of the hundreds of books we kept there.  Mother had an idea of the content of many of the volumes in our bookcases but was pleased that I was making myself a project of creating a full catalogue.  As usual, I quickly lost track of time.

* * *

An hour and a half had passed, though it seemed only a few minutes when I was brought back to reality by the sound of the dogs barking and Jacob shouting from the front of the house.

I ran to see what was wrong.  I found Jacob at the foot of the stairs holding an unconscious Henry in his arms and Mammy in a fit of panic over them.

“Oh lordy, Masser Henry,” she cried, “Whats has happened?”

“I draggs’d him out the river, he is a breathin’ but not awakes,” replied Jacob, breathlessly.

Instinctively I took charge.  “Mammy, can you find Moses and get him to fetch Dr Lawson, tell him to take the fastest horse, and tell Dr Lawson that Henry has had an accident,” I instructed her as many of the other Negros were approaching to see what all the fuss was about.

“That be your father’s horse, Masser, he not be pleased with my Moses for that.”

“Just do as I say, Mammy, I will answer to father. Now hurry, fast as you can,” then turning to Jacob, “Help me get him to his room, Jacob.”

As we carried Henry into the house, Jacob told me what had happened…

He was walking near the river when he suddenly heard the dogs start barking.  It was an unusual and distressed barking that told him something was wrong. He ran to the source of the sound. He could see the dogs standing by the edge of the water and just beyond them he saw Henry floating, face up, in the water.  He called to Henry but there was no response, he was floating lifelessly away from the river bank.  Jacob noticed marks in the mud at the water’s edge that he realised must have been where Henry slipped and fallen in.  There was also a rock there with what looked like a little blood on it so he assumed that Henry must have hit his head when he slipped.  Jacob ran into the river, pulled Henry out onto the river bank and saw blood coming from the back of his head, confirming his thoughts.  Jacob used his shirt to wrap around Henry’s head to slow the bleeding, picked him up, and ran as fast as he could back to the house with Henry over his shoulder.

We were halfway up the stairs now and there was a scream from above us.  The noise had woken Mary; she was at the top of the stairs and saw us carrying her brother.

“Henry!  Henry!” she screamed, “Is he dead?”

“No, Mary, just unconscious,” I reassured her, “Open his door for us and get a clean cloth to put under his head, quickly.”

She had opened the door by the time we reached the room and was returning with a cloth from the upstairs washroom.  We laid Henry on his bed, put the cloth under his head, removed Jacob’s shirt which revealed dried blood at the back of Henry’s head.  I sent Mary to find Mammy and fetch water and bandages to clean up his head wound.

“Thank god you were there, Jacob, he may have drowned otherwise, I … I …” I started to feel the world dissolving around me and my knees give way.  Jacob rushed over, grabbed me firmly in his arms and lowered me into the nearby chair.  He brought me some water from the bedside table which I sipped and as I recovered I noticed the deep concern in his eyes.  I took hold of his hand and assured him “Thank you, I’m fine.  I cannot thank you enough for saving my foolish brother.”

I told him that he should go outside and get a drink himself after his long run back from the river.  As he left the room Mammy and Mary arrived to fuss over us both.

* * *

Around eleven that morning, mother and father returned.  Miss Anne greeted them.  She had been walking in the garden with Riley who had been in the nearest town, apparently on business, and had also returned earlier that morning.

“Anne,” called mother as their carriage came to a stop at the front of our home, “What brings you here?  Shouldn’t the children be with you in the schoolroom?”

“Welcome back, Ruth,” she began to explain, “Now please, stay calm, there has been an accident.”

“What?” asked father, “What happened? Can’t we ever go away without something going wrong?”

“Let her explain, Patrick!” interrupted mother.

“Where were you, Riley?” snapped father, “You are in charge of the slaves, why weren’t you supervising them?”

“It’s nothing to do with the Negros, Patrick, and nothing to do with Riley either,” Miss Anne corrected him, as only she could.

“No, it’s about the children isn’t it?” reasoned mother.

“Yes, Ruth,” explained Miss Anne, “Henry had an accident yesterday afternoon but he is doing

fine now.  He’s up in his room.  We decided that I should stay here last night to comfort the children and John will be back this afternoon to review his condition.”

“Oh, my poor boy!” cried mother as Riley helped her from the carriage. Then Mary ran out from the house to greet them chattering away with excitement about how her brother had fallen in the river and Jacob had saved him.

“Riley, get these horses seen to,” barked father, as they headed inside, “What happened, Anne”.

I had overheard all this through the upstairs library window and headed for Henry’s room where he was reading, still in bed.  Mother came rushing in first in tears and hugged Henry.

“Mother, I’m alright, just a sore head,” explained Henry. Then father, Miss Anne and Mary came in.

“James, how did this happen, it’s your responsibility to watch out for your brother and sister,”    accused father, “Why was he at the river alone?  Where were you?”

“Henry and Mary had come to their rooms for afternoon nap, I was in the library and had no idea that he had left the house without telling me,” I protested.

“You are always in that damn library or with your head stuck in a book,” he growled, “Get you head back into the real world.”

“Patrick, please, enough!” said mother, “Henry, is it true, you went there without telling anyone?”

“I’m so sorry, father. I wasn’t tired and just decided to go for a walk, the dogs were with me so I thought I would be safe.  I didn’t mean to get hurt.  I’m sorry,” apologised Henry in tears.

“So you slipped and fell in the river?” continued mother, “Henry, you could have drowned.  We are so fortunate that Jacob was there to save you”

“Yes, without him being there it may have been a very different outcome,” confirmed Miss Anne.

“No, no,” protested Henry, “That’s not true, Jacob did it.  He saw me standing by the edge of the river, he hit me with a rock and I fell in”.

“What?” I said angrily, “Why are you lying, Henry?  Jacob saved you.”

“No, father, please believe me. Jacob hit me.”

Mary and mother looked shocked. Miss Anne was lost for words and father exploded with anger.

“How dare he? I knew that boy was trouble.  Where is he? He’s gonna pay for this,” roared father as he stormed out of the room.  The ladies were shouting after him to stop. I ran after him.

I tried to reason with him. “Father, Henry’s lying.  Jacob didn’t hurt Henry, he saved him!”

“Did anyone see what happened?”  he shouted at me,  “No!  So you want me to take the word of a

Nigger over that of my own son?  What is wrong with you boy?  You turning into some nigger lovin’ simpleton or something?  I swear I’ll throw you out of this house!”

I stood in front of him, blocking his way.  “Get out of my way!” he ordered.

“No, Jacob did not hurt Henry, you’re wrong father.  Henry is lying!” I stood my ground.

Then he slapped me across the face so hard it knocked me to the floor.  I heard Mary scream.  As I lay there in shock I heard him shouting Jacob’s name as he headed out the back door…