Return to the Source Anne Skyvington

My Writer’s Voice Linked to A Childhood Spent in the NSW Clarence Valley


The historical photograph of my hometown, with the Clarence River and Susan Island across the water, bring me back to long-forgotten memories of childhood evenings underneath a balmy star-spangled sky in South Grafton next to the water’s edge. I wonder now whether this is the source of my writer’s voice: the places and storytellers from childhood that I carry within till this day?  And for me, nature played—and still plays—a large part.

Is it the past that gives birth to the special voice within all of us, the one that reappears when narrating stories in written form? This throws up other questions for me, to do with the the relationship of voice to person, character and narration, and how “written voice” touches vicariously on an assumed reader and an assumed listener.

We were an unruly composite of uncles, aunts, siblings and neighbours, as a dark-skinned man that we kids knew as “Uncle Sammy” kept us spell-bound with tales from the Arabian Nights. His deep voice wove magic on us, retouching millenia-old yarns with an Aussie flavour that pulled us into the caves of Ancient Syria, whilst sitting on manicured lawn on the banks of the Clarence River in Grafton. Or riding on a cow’s back with the Hooley kids.


Other story-tellers from childhood were on the Irish side of my family: my mother and her mother, Grandma Walker; the Walker uncles, especially Uncle Bargy (pronounced /bah-ghee/), who was a stutterer. When Bargy told a story, his stutter magically disappeared during the telling of the tale.

And of course there were my teachers, many of whom were experts or naturals when it came to telling a good story. I remember the fairy stories that filled me with dread or longing in kindergarten, “Hansel and Gretel” and “Cinderella”, and later on, the stories of explorers, such as Burke and Wills, who perished in the desert. Then there was the teacher who recited “The Forsaken Merman”, reducing me to tears for the family of mer people abandoned forever by the human wife and mother.

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