With huge thanks to Bev Stewart who wrote this great poem and posted it on our Facebook page:
The mighty Snowy Mountains Scheme is a wonder to behold,
An electricity bonanza, an irrigator’s liquid gold,
But I still mourn the loss of places I travelled as a child,
Those secluded alpine valleys with their rivers running wild.
With their swimming holes and fishing spots, their rapids, rocks and boulders,
We found respite from heat and dust where the summers were much colder.
Where everlasting daisies bloomed to carpet the high plains
I once walked amid their splendour but I’ll not do that again.
It was up along the Eucumbene I caught my first rainbow trout
And I shattered the mountain stillness with my triumphant shout.
Further down was Kelly’s Plains, home to the corroboree frog,
Where we camped in windswept tussock-grass and woke to frost and fog.
We camped and fished those mountain streams and in their cool waters swam
With never the slightest inkling they could be wiped out by a dam.
It was in a place called Eaglehawk the massive project had its birth.
When bulldozers and giant scrapers came to shape and shift the earth.
Tournapulls and euclids moved both soil and rock
And in mud and dust, rain and snow they worked around the clock.
To labour on construction sites migrants came from many nations.
Some stayed only for a while, some stayed for the duration.
Despite the language barriers and no matter what the weather
They toiled beside each other and all mixed well together.
One by one the dams were built, slow and sure the waters rose.
New chapters would be opened, the old ones, sadly, closed.
Like Adaminaby and Jindabyne, so moved Talbingo town.
I liked the old one better but it too was doomed to drown.
Gone was Talbingo homestead and its orchard, once well-tended.
With the rising of the Jounama, to the waters they surrendered.
Gone was the old Talbingo pub, gone the dance hall right next door,
Gone was the cricket pitch, the picnic ground and the fishing hole what’s more.
We’d swim and fish there all day long below that picnic ground
Then high-tail it to the pub for ice-cold drinks all round.
It was there that fishing tales were told by fishermen from near and far
And a dry-fly man was depicted in a mural in the bar.
That mural took up one whole wall and showed larger than life
The dilemma facing dry-fly men when grasshopper plagues are rife.
The angler’s talk was of their biggest catch and the bait they used that day
And the biggest fish of all was always the one that got away.
We’d sit outside on the verandah in the cooling shade.
Sometimes music wafted up the breezeway as I sipped my lemonade.
The pianola in the parlour would be tinkling out a tune.
If someone trod its pedals the notes would float out from the room.
Then we would soon be lured inside and if we knew the song
We’d gather round the player and we’d all sing along.
I fancy now, some haunting notes from those long-lost songs
Might linger in the magpie’s warble and the call of currawongs.
Brandy Mary’s Flat was next to go, so too the Blowering hall
Where picnics and old-time dances were enjoyed by one and all.
The valley was abandoned, the farming families leaving.
They faced uncertain futures and they’d be a long time grieving
As Blowering Dam slowly filled the Tumut River rose downstream.
I’ll seek out its tranquil places now only in a dream.
Once I could wade out in the shallows, try my hand at skipping stones,
Today I’d be swept off my feet and chilled right to the bone,
From the coldest depths of that dam, water flows out through turbines
Providing power and irrigation in the height of summertime.
The river almost runs a banker, icy-cold and flowing fast
And we can no longer swim in it as we did in the past.
In languid stretch on the edge of town we’d spend lazy afternoons
Leaping from the willows and diving from pontoons.
With dressing sheds and a diving plank it served as our Olympic pool
Where we held swimming carnivals back when I was still at school.
Council built a concrete chlorine pool but no way is it the same.
There’s a price to pay for progress when each wild river’s tamed.
Yes, the completion of the Snowy Scheme came with a lasting cost
And in what seemed the blinking of an eye my paradise was lost.