Cal Flyn’s book is a personal and psychological insight into family history. She tells the tale of her forebear Angus McMillan who migrated from Scotland in the 1840’s. His life was shaped by The Clearances when he was forced to turn his back on destroyed crofters cottages and the ravaged land that had been his world. He, along with many others, fled to create a new life in Australia.
Angus ultimately found his way to the as yet unsettled Gippsland, an area ignored by colonists due to its inaccessible terrain and lack of any safe anchorage. Nevertheless he loved this new environment and thrived on the task of opening it up to farming despite the emerging problems presented by the displaced native population.
Angus’ reaction to and his behaviour toward the Aboriginal people are what Cal Flyn confronts, physically and emotionally, through a myriad of issues. Her travels across the landscape to understand and ultimately face the truth provide a revealing and enriching tale.
In a country where the ongoing relationship between the indigenous population and European colonial descendants is still so unresolved, this is a valuable assessment of a troubled and troubling interaction. As a history it gives us more depth and poignancy to a tragic story than any text book.