Sidharta Books & Print

Sidharta Books & Print

Book Publishers

If you want to read about the real Australia, the country that our grandparents grew up in, then I can't recall a better piece

Wendy O-Hanlon

The Wisdom of Snowy Dalton
By Reg Mounsey

WHAT an incredible book about an incredible life! Octogenarian Reg Mounsey has such meticulous and colourful recall of a very more-than-ordinary life. While families today bemoan the effects of the GFC, spare a thought for Reg Mounsey and his family - now those were hard times. No social security, families ripped apart "sheer survival" and all this in early 20th Century Australia "the lucky country".

Mr Mounsey is a tenacious man, an innovative man, a clever wheeler and dealer (spurred by pure necessity), a hard worker, a good bloke. He started life in Victoria "behind the eight-ball" - sent to a children's home at the age of three with his two older brothers and sister after his mother died. At the age of 13, he and his siblings briefly enjoyed family life with his father again after he had remarried.

Living in a family home was so foreign to young Reg. All those years in the children's home, he had never read a book, handled money, been to a shop, caught a tram, seen a film or known a mother's love.

But these were the Depression Years, the World War 2 years. His father also did it tough, couldn?t raise his family alone and so did his best.

The book?s title, The Wisdom of Snowy Dalton, refers to an old bloke that teenager Reg met when he was working part-time during high school. Snowy, desperate for work to feed his family, just accepted his hard working conditions on the chin. His patience and attitude on life came back to Reg during the rest of his life when he was unfairly treated and his patience and pride sorely tested.

There are so many memorable scenes in this book as young Reg grows from a toddler to an old man. Even as a teenager, Reg always knew how to earn a buck after school hours ? delivering newspapers, selling chickens, pushbikes, rabbits ? even a cow. Over the years he turned his hand to so many different types of work around Australia ? farming, cray fishing, a cook in the Navy, shopkeeping, timber felling, a fireman and so much more.

He had many times of bad luck. His first block of land, that he was buying as a teenager during World War 2, was compulsorily acquired by the Australian Government while he was volunteering his services in the Navy in New Guinea. This was a bitter pill that he has never swallowed - even to this day at the grand-old age of 84. Later, he contributed a third of the cost to buy a family farm with his father and step-mother, only to learn that his name was not put on the deed and he would work for wages on the farm.

There are so many instances where a bloke would just give up ? but not Reg. He ends his book with this verse from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem

"Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait."

If you want to read about the real Australia, the country that our grandparents grew up in, then I can't recall a better piece of work - all 600-plus pages. This is the gritty Australia, the young country defiantly growing up. Reg has meet many characters during his life - most kind and memorable, others tough as nails.

Yes, his is a remarkable life. And for a man who had to teach himself to read and write, this is an Australian classic, penned by hand, every night for three years. I suppose even that effort sums up this bloke - tenacious, resilient, grateful for the Gift of Life, a brilliant mind and a caring soul. His book is a great legacy for all Australians.