Pioneering Families of Australia



cartwheels & wimlics



old jean mcgilticrumb

whistled on her craggy thumb.

shriek & squeak, & shrill, & blare

on she went without a care.


oh to tramp the twimpy sand!!

finding wimlics in my hand!!

curse your thumb, a madam said,

your noise turns cartwheels in my head.


sang froid is what you need said jean,

for noise i do not care a bean.

i can tootle, cromp, & roar,

shattering any swunkbang door.


oh the dame said try it on

you’ll see whose franticose is gone.

it might be yours, it won’t be mine,

I twingle mine in cherry wine.


oh said jean you witch-cum-shrew,

you’re the fungliust thrum I ever knew.

with that she blew a furious blast,

Certain it will not be the last.



                      September 1st, 1986

                                Aged 88

Love Song


For Marion (1928 – 1989)



Sweet daughter, in my troubled sleep

I bring you flowers for your joy,

And if cannot see you now

Dream time sends me full employ.


In what lone and silent land

Does your bright spirit lie?

Into your weak and nerveless hand

I put not mine:  nor said goodbye.


Suffer me to touch your arm,

To place a kiss upon your brow.

Your life and mine will mingle still

Though I do not see you now.


May, 1991    Aged 93

The Venerable Steven



The Venerable Steven

smiled in his beard;

none knew the secret

he had just heard.


He never consorted

with aught but the wind,

but the Venerable Steven

was everyone’s friend.


He sometimes gave utterance

and shot off his mouth:

blew up with the east wind,

west, north, and south.


Though he snarled at the earwig,

“You buggarly beast,

of all God’s creatures

I like you the least!”


He nodded and whispered,

and laughed as he turned,

“You don’t know the secret

I have just learned.”


He gathered up toys

that were left on the grass,

he’d the finest collection

from here to Madras.


He flattened the gastropods

with a bash from the spade,

then whispered “I’m sorry,

why were you made?”


Though he cursed and he swore

with a hell-splitting blast,

the hollyhocks curtsied

as he walked past.


The pansies shed tears

as their eyes followed him,

they thought of the winter,

the dark and the dim.


The Venerable Steven

is near eighty-three

but he picked all the apples

that grew on the tree.


He preserved them in parchment,

pressed lovingly,

collecting the cider

for posterity.


Then the Venerable Steven

shook his old head

he nodded and whispered

(I heard what he said)


“All the flowers are out

in the heat of the sun,

they’re wanting a drink,

I must go give them one.”



January, 1969

Aged 70

“Male and Female Created He Them”


Women (odd bodies) choose instinctively their metier

Intuitive divining rod in hand,

Oblivious to all but their female sufficiency.

Indulging as they do, you know, in frivolous loquacity,

They do not understand the opposite of the species

Who labour heavily in tremendous seas

Where raging billows threaten the drowning world.

While women who are full of outrageous inconsistencies

Pursue a rather more erratic course – men say,

Busy all the time with such trivial frivolities

As bringing up the children, keeping down expenses,

Gloating over scandal, getting dinner under way.


Men (queer cattle) say women have no logic,

Cannot reason, give inconsequential answers,

Interrupt with trifles grave philosophical continuum,

Draw false conclusions, live in fluffy hibernation,

(They do become broody, that they freely own!)

While men give careful, prolonged consideration,

Carefully scrutinising circumstantial evidence,

Searching diligently for facts which don’t exist.


Entering the same maze, they take respective passage-ways,

The woman’s diving rod sways, bends and tips.

Man methodically explores all the intricacies,

Calculates the angles, presents formal premises,

Draws logical conclusions which guide him on his way,

Reaching the centre where the woman has been waiting

Patient and receptive for innumerable years.


Enters then with flourish, this supercharged anatomy,

Wearing his panache on his chest,

Logically concluding that he has led the way.

Halting, stares with incredulous astonishment,

“What! You here first?   (nonplussed, chagrined)

How did you arrive?   Eh?   Eh?  Which way?

Without logic, or reasoning, or circumstantial evidence,

Only a rod to point the way.”


The woman smiles, or even gives a belly laugh,

(Insulting sense of humour!  What’s so peculiar?)

Gives the feminine reply with no apparent reason,

No circumstantial evidence, no logical conclusion,

“Oh!  Calculating angles, exploring all intricacies,

Digesting masses of scientific pabulum,

Probing hypothetic problems, mathematical formulae,

Computing facts which don’t exist

Bogged your incalculable way!”



December, 1968

Aged 70

   Notes on Poems


These works were written between the ages of 68 and 93.  They range in mood from deeply spiritual to wry (but compassionate) observations of human behaviour.  Music and words themselves feature frequently in the poems, including a poem (Cartwheels and Wimlicks” written in an invented language called “Jawsauce”.


“The Venerable Steven” is a portrait of her husband, Stevenson (too many syllables to suit the metre!), a gentle, impractical dreamer whose love of flowers became family legend.  His garden was his world, and it was sometimes invaded by two small grandsons, whose discarded toys were an offence to the established order.  The apples he picked and preserved in parchment were the names of his ancestors hung on the diagrammatic branches of his painstakingly cultivated family tree.


On 19th August, 1989, Jean’s second daughter, Marion died of cancer.  There could be no direct communication between mother and daughter in the last weeks of Marion’s life, because the cancer had invaded her lungs and she was unable to talk or move away from her oxygen cylinder, while Jean, afflicted with severe osteoporosis, was unable to travel.  They were therefore denied the chance to say goodbye to each other.  The poignant poem, “Love Song”, was written 21 months later (in Marion’s birth month, May) and is Jean’s attempt to come to grips with the finality of the parting.  


Jean herself died in a nursing home in Melbourne on 4 February 1997, aged 98 and 10 months.    


                               Erica McGilchrist


b. 6 April, 1898 in Adelaide

Poetry by Jean McGilchrist (nee Mitton)