Albert Barnett Facey was born in 1894 in a small town in Victoria. When aged 2, his father died as a result of typhoid and two years later, his mother left Albert and his younger siblings in the care of their grandmother to be with her older children in Western Australia. When Albert was 5 and his Grandma was finding it difficult to make ends meet, she took Albert and his three older siblings Eric, Myra and Roy to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Once there, they lived with their aunt and uncle as their mother had remarried and only took Myra with her.
Albert began working from the age of 8 and this involved him living with different families on their properties in rural W.A. He hardly ever lived with his family since then. During his time working, Albert was physically abused by one of the families to the point where he nearly died. The physical scars of this remained for the rest of his life and although Albert eventually escaped and reported this to the police, the abuser never came to justice. He spent a few years with decent families and earned his keep. As he grew older, his mother made contact but it appeared to be more for money. Albert had several jobs on farms, railways, ships and factories. He was also a professional boxer and a star shooter. Eventually, he went to fight in World War I at Gallipoli. Here, he lost two of his brothers Roy and Joseph and he himself was injured by a bomb exploding near him and was sent home to Australia severely ill.
Back in Australia, he met Evelyn Gibson and married her. They had 7 children and were married for 60 years until Evelyn died. During this time, Albert battled his illnesses, had jobs with the Tramway, learnt to read and write (as he had never had any formal schooling during his childhood), set up his own farm and also ran for MP and was part of unions. He also campaigned for improved conditions for returned servicemen. During World War II, Albert and Evelyn lost their oldest son.
I read the book as part of my book club but I must admit, the title always left me intrigued to want to read it when I saw it at the bookshop. This is one of the first autobiographies I’ve read that is not about someone I know and not a cricketer. And I must say, it was an interesting read.
It has been written in very simple language and has to be commended given that the author learnt to read and write only as an adult. While I did think initially, there were pages that dragged on and information that was not necessarily required, it still kept me going. I was fascinated by this man who led a bloody hard life and yet, was able to see how fortunate he was. Today, we have so much more than what he did and yet, all we do is whinge about what we don’t have. If anything, this book and his life give you insight into how to live. It is the relationships that matter. And despite having hard times, these do not necessarily determine your life. Facey could have complained about a zillion things. And yet, in the end, he talks about how fortunate he was. And that, is commendable.
Until next time,