A Fortunate Life - Wickepin

A few weeks ago while looking round a second hand book shop for some reading material relating to Australia we came across a book by a man called A. B. Facey. Albert Facey was born in 1894 and grew up in the wheatbelt of Western Australia (where we are now). His father died before he was two and he was deserted by his mother. He was looked after by his grandmother up to the age of eight when he had to go out to work. He worked for several of the early English settlers helping them to reclaim their land and build their first houses. Unfortunately he was often badly treated. He had no formal education but taught himself to read and write. He fought at Gallipoli where two of his brothers were killed, himself being seriously injured. He met and married Evelyn who was the only woman in his life and went on to have five children. He met Evelyn under extraordinary circumstances – while in Gallipoli he received a present of a pair of socks from a charity. There was a note in the package wishing whoever received them all the best. It was signed Evelyn. After the war he was in town with a friend when they bumped into two girls. He asked them their names and one was the same Evelyn. The rest is history. They themselves bought their own farm under the soldier settlement scheme but were forced off the land during the great depression.

Albert had made copious notes over the years and eventually after being urged by his children he submitted the hand written notes to the Fremantle Arts Centre Press. He died in 1982, nine months after his book was published. It went on to become an Australian bestseller. When asked what he wanted to call his book Albert said ‘‘A Fortunate Life’. Despite enduring hardships we can hardly imagine today Albert always saw his life as a ‘fortunate’ one.

Albert Facey’s grandmother lived near a place called Wickepin and that is where his farm was. As we were passing not too far from there we did a detour to see the homestead which he built and lived in and is now a museum. Wickepin is still just a collection of a few buildings similar to how Albert described it and the house just as we expected. As we read through the visitors book it was obvious that so many people from all over the world had been so touched by his book that they too had to visit.

While we didn’t quite get the goldfield thing Albert has brought to life the way the early settlers lived. Driving through what are now rolling fields of wheat with lovely original architecture in the small towns it’s hard to believe that this land was all bush inhabited only by dingoes and kangaroos not many generations ago.

This really is a beautiful area to drive through with so many lovely towns to pass through.

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