BACKGROUND TO RAEWYN
Lachlan Dew was a 23 year old bloke who worked for
me at the farm. He was the caretaker at a growing out property we
have so his job was principally concerned with the health and
welfare of the cows, however his other job was the care and
maintenance of a 40 acre block of tree's we planted around 4-5
years ago. Lachie as he was known, had a degree in forestry, he
was a sweet and funny guy who knew how to do a days work. He came
up to the farm one day because he'd heard in the village that I
was looking for an extra hand to help out the manager.
After he had finished his degree he had applied, he said, for over
100 jobs to do with forestry, the only thing he ever got offered
was tree planting, something he'd already done a massive amount of
while doing his course. He wanted something more challenging. In
one of life's ironic turns, with no job in his chosen career
materializing, he found himself doing the only job he could get in
the area for a decent wage, working at a sawmill.
How incredibly frustrating that must have been, someone who was
dedicated to the care and protection of tree's cutting lumber.
With a touch of desperation in his voice, he told me he was the
only bloke at the sawmill who still had all his fingers, and he'd
really like to keep them, but working at the mill, it was only a
matter of time.
I gave him a job on the spot and told him about the eucalypt
plantation, he was very excited about that part of the job.
He set about examining them, tree by tree, uprooted 1000 or so he
thought hadn't quite struck well, went into the bush, collected
the seeds of the types of trees he wanted, and replanted, they are
all doing fine.
Tragically, while I was in Canada, Lachlan Dew lost his life. A
car accident, late at night on a country road, a tragedy all too
common in the bush.
I enjoyed his company so much I took it very hard. I was a long
way from home and I knew the whole valley would be grieving, he
was very well liked. His mum and dad are pillars of the community
and he had a brood of loving and affectionate sisters that he
would sometimes talk about. I've been told it was the biggest
funeral the valley had ever experienced.
So that's where I was when I started writing Raewyn.
I started thinking about Lachie's sisters and the senseless loss
of their baby brother.
I started to think how awful my life growing up would have been
without my brother.
I realised, something I knew, but perhaps had never connected.
Both my parents had lost a sibling.
My mother's sister Raewyn committed suicide at 21.Slashed her
wrists in the bath.
My Father's younger brother, the youngest of four, Charles died at
17 in a scuba diving accident. He was with my grandfather Jack at
I started to understand how my father might of been able to
comfort my mother because of sharing the tragedy of losing their
younger siblings, and also how powerful a bond it must be.
I started to understand the guilt that must of racked my
grandfather for the rest of his days.
And the simmering anger that a lot of the women folk in my family
seemed to feel for Jack whenever he was around, my mother
And, I realized that I too had that anger toward him, I'd not been
too fussed when he died, we had not spent that much time with him
for years. He was very provocative company. He would always manage
to get my mother upset, make jokes about her cooking etc,she was a
caterer, used to serving hundreds at a very high level and it
would irk her that he always found fault. Other people have told
me that it was his sense of humour that my mother didn't
understand. I've been told by many relatives that I attack my life
in a similar way to him and may have inherited the same sense of
provocation in my humour.
The first time I really saw and heard my Father cry was at Jacks
funeral. One of the reasons we had moved back to New Zealand was
to be closer to our relatives, but he died soon after we had got
back, a matter of months perhaps, so we really hadn't gotten into
the rhythm of life in New Zealand yet ,new school, living in a
house for the first time since we had left New Zealand, and we
just hadn't spent that much time with him. Then one day he was
gone. No warning, heart attack while mowing the lawns.
That funeral has haunted me throughout my life. Here was someone
who I didn't feel I knew or understood, he was dead and his death
was tearing apart my father, literally tearing him apart in front
of me, the deepest soul wrenching grief that made me cry for days
afterwards, and I felt so guilty that I didn't feel love for my
grandfather. I knew I had loved him once, when I was little, he
was always full of stories, but between 6 or 7 and 14 I had hardly
Suddenly after all this time, something had changed in my life and
my grandfather and I, he being dead for 26 years , had something
in common, a son called Charlie.
I'm not sure of the year of my uncle Charlie's death. It may have
been before I was born or just after. I'll ask my Father again
tomorrow, It's too late at night, he'll be in bed now.
Charles Spencer Crowe was christened on the 7th of April 2005
at the chapel on the farm in Nana Glen. The congregation sang
"Raindrops keep falling on my head". The Baptism was
performed by Bishop Phillip Huggins.
Russell Crowe Index