THE BALLAD OF BORELLA
By Rupert McCall
In the lifeblood of this nation and its first inhabitation
From the journey of the dreamtime and its great nomadic spear
To the magical expanses where the wide horizon dances
With the monumental challenge of the early pioneer
There has always been a mission in the greater expedition
With an aura of adventure rising proudly from the fray
In this land of truth and beauty, there exists a sense of duty
To explore the possibilities and somehow find a way
We regale the ride of Archer on his Melbourne Cup departure
And the tale of terra firma in the book of Burke and Wills
Then the shivers that deliver with the Man from Snowy River
Not to mention good old Smithy and his aeronautic skills!
On a theme of epic distance, they are stories of persistence
Now emerging from the legend, here’s another Aussie fella
With an unsung mantra measured as a true Australian treasure
In this year of proud centenary, I give you Bert Borella!
From the graft of Borung granges where he served the local Rangers
On the farmlands of Victoria, his shooting skills were laid
With his father to inspire, then went north to till at Tyrah
But returned to put out fires for the Eastern Hill Brigade
Well regarded, able-handed, it was there the notice landed
Of a farming opportunity the Territory spun
With a pair of pals beside him so the Daly River tied him
To a life of flood and hardship when the banking day was done
For the story and its teller, this is where we find Borella
In the middle of a quandary to repay the loans he took
Heading south with frontier players in a party of surveyors
Where he acted in employment as their charismatic cook!
But the job was unfulfilling and his restlessness was spilling
Into something else that called him with its patriotic fist
“Bugger this!” he mumbled (as the war in Europe rumbled)
“For my King and for my country, I’m a man who must enlist”
When the plan came to fruition, Tennant Creek marked his position
With his native tribal tracking mate, old Charlie by his side
And with Darwin’s distant station as the newfound destination
Lace your boots and saddle up, we’re goin’ for a ride!
No Barkly Highway paving, No, it’s bush that we’ll be braving!
Though the lines installed for telegraph provide a solid course
And the 89 miles walking has the cockatoo’s tongue talking
With a blister and some sunburn then you borrow someone’s horse!
And it’s not a time for stalling – there’s a foreign battle calling!
So it’s on the path at Powell’s Creek, the mode of transport shifts
To the gallop and the banter with the kangaroos in canter
Over troughs and peaks and flooded creeks, the daily drama drifts!
But the horses’ passion tires when another plan conspires
It’s the mailman who delivers and, on him, you can depend
Yes it’s hot and wet and muggy, so we climb up on his buggy
And we hitch a lift to Pine Creek where the railhead tracks extend!
A thousand Ks were travelled when this escapade unravelled
As with modesty, he conquered every hurdle that he met
But if Darwin’s due arrival seemed a story of survival
For Borella, it was just a place to settle up his debt
What also made him nervous – here, he couldn’t sign for service
No, he’d have to sail to Townsville for his right to fight the foe
And a song of good will started when the Aldenham departed
Yes the crowd sang Tipperary was a long, long way to go…
But I guess they didn’t figure that the picture here was bigger
They had no way of knowing how unspeakable that war
Nor the future of the fella known as Albert C Borella
Nor the bloodshed he’d encounter, nor the horror that he saw
You can mark it on his visa from the pyramids of Giza
To the trenches of Gallipoli where hell was commandeered
He emerged with reassurance as a soul of great endurance
As a soldier, as a sergeant and lieutenant most revered
Yet for gallantry judicious in a courage most conspicuous
The war was on the Western Front, the year Nineteen Eighteen
And with zero inclination for his own self preservation
In a stoush at Villers-Bretonneux, his quality was seen
Now the history book determines that he cleared a post of Germans
Through the chaos of a bullet storm, defiantly he strives
And with every instinct heeded, then he captures what was needed…
His comrades swear profoundly that he saved their bloody lives!
So with gratitude accorded, immortality awarded
When the highest act of valour pinned a VC to his chest
Yet beneath that medal’s lustre and the fanfare and the bluster
The truth of what he fought for is eternally possessed
At a soldier’s great insistence, for his mates, he went the distance
For the freedom of his country, he was selfless in his aim
For the values that were feeding from the grass roots of his breeding
In the famous Anzac spirit, lives the honour of his name
And, with that, I give my blessing to the pride that you’re possessing
As you emulate his passage on the road that folklore tars
Travel safely as you motion with commitment and devotion
For his legacy, rejoice beneath that Cross of Southern stars
May they shine as something stellar for the grace of Bert Borella
May his ghost be at your shoulder as your guardian and guide
And with inspiration piling, may Australia keep on smiling
In other words, go forth my friends and please… enjoy the ride!
Rupert McCall 2015