Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000
National Biography Award nomination
Leandro always knew that their corrugated-iron hut near Spring Creek was only a temporary stop on his way. From here he planned to go to Honduras but after his father’s death he gave up this plan. From now on he belonged totally to Australia. And again he realised that the time had come for a change. The children were growing up but, instead of attempting to enrol them in school in Mt Garnet, Leandro surrended his selection in 1922 and began his way deeper into the outback. We do not know why. There were no real job prospects for him — just bailing water, shooting dingoes, fixing fences and driving cattle. Still he chose this way.
They were leaving in a buggy drawn by horses. For the last time they went down the gully in front of their hut where the children had spent so many happy hours playing, where they had parted with Nicholas and Alexandra forever. The horses slowly pulled up the slope and started their way along the dusty red road. Leandro rode ahead. He was leaving the place for good but he left there something very important — his name. That nameless, dry gully hidden among gum trees and boxwood, which filled with water only after heavy rains, had acquired his name — Illin’s Gully.
This name does not exist on the maps, there are no signboards along the road with this name. Instead, the maps show two Spring Creeks joining each other not far from the place where Leandro’s hut stood. But Frank Gertz, husband of Leandro’s granddaughter Margaret, who knows the locality intimately, says, ‘This gully was known under those two names — Illin’s Gully and Spring Creek. Because people respected the Illins, they knew that they lived here years ago and they referred to it as Illin’s Gully.’ Indeed, this name does still exist. Bim, grandson of Thomas Atkinson, head of the Gunnawarra station, pointed to the right Spring Creek on the map and told me: ‘That is Illin’s Gully actually, they got it wrong. It flows down into Spring Creek. Illin’s Gully is dry most of the year, but it flows a bit under the sand. My father always told that it starts from a spring in the swamp to the west.’46
It still flows under the sand. Invisible, the water is always there. But you have to know the concealed nature of Illin’s Gully to dig the sandy bottom to obtain its cold water on a hot day. It never stops along its way, first it flows to Spring Creek, then to Return Creek, and finally to Herbert River, which meets the ocean in Ingham. It was there, on Herbert River in Ingham, that Leandro spent the last years of his life. Twenty-five years of his life would pass between the spring and the mouth of this river. And he would always be like this tiny creek lost in the outback — outwardly unsightly but full of life-giving water to slake the thirst of the suffering. Heed the quiet voices of his children and grandchildren and learn where to dig and then Leandro, simple and sophisticated, passionate and kind, would return to our time, to us, from the yellowish pages of newspapers, from his letters to officials and his children, from his communications to the government and through the family tales. Just dig the dry bottom of the creek on a hot day ...