Works on paper

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Same River 2011



“You cannot step in the same river twice, because other waters are continually flowing in.”
Heraclitus of Ephesus (500 BC)



My grandparents, Fred and Nell Annand, moved to Brisbane from Toowoomba in 1901 with their eldest child, my father Geoff, then one year old. They had another five children – Rob, Doug, Jean, Nellie and Fred.

All my parents’ and my generation, except Doug and his family in Sydney, lived close to the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay. Fred and Nell’s great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren are more widely dispersed.

In December 1915, when young Fred was two, my grandfather sailed with the Australian army to the war in France. He led a unit building and repairing roads, bridges, trenches and other works. He was wounded and hospitalised in England, then returned to France until the war ended in 1919. He received several awards for bravery. My grandparents kept all the letters the family exchanged while he was away, including drawings, photographs and other ephemera.

Through these letters I have got to know better my grandparents, aunts and uncles and, in particular my father, who died when I was eight. I have been privileged to share every word, drawing and photograph that my father shared with his father from age 15 to 20 and everything that my grandfather (then aged 44 to 49) shared with his family. When you consider that I did not open the letters until I was over 60, you will appreciate what a remarkable experience this has been, and how strongly it has challenged my conception of time.

Although the narrative can never be complete, each moment which they so vividly felt and expressed in words, drawing or photography, stands out from the flow of time as clearly as syllables of a haiku. We can identify not only with the images in their mind, but physically as we follow their handwriting.

For me, the river, bay, ocean and other waters around Brisbane are full of images through which to reflect on the members of this family, the times and places and the webs of connections around us.



  • VOYAGE. Fred to Nell, 5 December 1915  - <br /><em><br />(Text: </em> <em>I have worn the soles of my rubber shoes somewhat </em><em>pacing the boat deck </em><em>in the long twilight)</em><br />
    VOYAGE. Fred to Nell, 5 December 1915
  • ZERO, THE PHYSICS TEACHER. Rob to Fred, 29 February 1916  - (Text: My Dear Dad, I am writing this in bed having had an attack of some sort of cross between dengue and biliousness. I had to come home from school today, but it is the first time I have been away and it is only half a day at that. Zero remarked to me at Physics the other day,
    ZERO, THE PHYSICS TEACHER. Rob to Fred, 29 February 1916
  • COOKS. J. Bergin, Enoggera Army Kitchen, to Fred, 21 November 1916.  - <em>(Text: Cooks wish you a Happy New Year and a safe return)</em><br /><br />
    COOKS. J. Bergin, Enoggera Army Kitchen, to Fred, 21 November 1916.
  • HOSPITAL. Cassie Nash to Nell, 11 December 1916.  - <em>(Text: in a lovely English hospital instead of in the cold French field)</em>
    HOSPITAL. Cassie Nash to Nell, 11 December 1916.
  • SAND. Geoff to Fred, 7 January 1917.  - <em>(Text: I will enclose some of the photos which I took at Southport)</em>
    SAND. Geoff to Fred, 7 January 1917.
  • DREAMER. Geoff to Fred, 9 February 1917.  - <em>(Text: Just now I sketched the milling machine. (I often draw machines in the middle of writing letters).  I will put it in.)</em><br /><br />
    DREAMER. Geoff to Fred, 9 February 1917.
  • PICKING WILD STRAWBERRIES. Fred to young Fred, 14 June 1917  - <em>(Text:  I wished so much to have you with me.)</em>
    PICKING WILD STRAWBERRIES. Fred to young Fred, 14 June 1917
  • CHEERS FOR THE KING. Fred to Nell, 14 June 1917 - <p><em>(Text:  I was very shocked and saddened yesterday by the astounding suicide of one of my young officers.  He always spoke proudly and fondly of the young wife, whose portrait he carried in a pocket wallet. </em></p><p><em>I cannot imagine what could have been the motive, as he seemed so very sane.)<br /></em></p>
    CHEERS FOR THE KING. Fred to Nell, 14 June 1917
  • AUNTIES. Jean to Fred, 3 July 1917.  - <em>(Text: The aunties say all my dresses are much too short)</em>
    AUNTIES. Jean to Fred, 3 July 1917.
  • BOATBUILDING. Geoff to Fred, 17 August 1918. - <em>(Text:  The first plank will have a rather sharp bend at the bow (turns through about 70 degrees in four feet) So I suppose I will have to use a good bit of boiling water on it just there to stop it splitting.)</em>
    BOATBUILDING. Geoff to Fred, 17 August 1918.
  • ROOSTER, SHIP AND HOUSE. Nellie to Fred, 13 October 1918  - <em>(Text: Nellie annand)</em>
    ROOSTER, SHIP AND HOUSE. Nellie to Fred, 13 October 1918
  • FLAME TREE. Nell to Fred, 6 December 1918.  - <p><em>(Text: I would love you to see their ponciana tree. </em></p><p><em>There are branches 10 to 15 feet long with the dark brown of the wood only visible here and there for a few inches through the blaze of color, and every branch is covered with large blossoms . . . <br /> </em></p><p><em>it made me feel quite excited – as if a peal of joy-bells were ringing inside me from head to feet.)</em></p>
    FLAME TREE. Nell to Fred, 6 December 1918.
  • CHRISTMAS EVE. Jean to Fred, 28 December 1918  - <p><em>(Text: Mum and I acted Santy. . .</em><em>we nearly put the show away . . .</em><em>laughing at Fred’s Charlie Chaplin jack-in-the-box squeaking while I was carrying the stocking from the dining room to the bed room.)</em></p>
    CHRISTMAS EVE. Jean to Fred, 28 December 1918
  • TYPEWRITING. Doug to Fred, 14 February 1919.  - <em>(Text: THURSDAY . . . My dear Dad . . . This is . . . my third lesson in . . . Typewriting)</em>
    TYPEWRITING. Doug to Fred, 14 February 1919.