David Gilchrist stumbles upon an unforgettable collection of Australian yarns.


The Australian landscape challenges the imagination, saturates the soul and routinely breaks hearts.

Evan McHugh, chronicler of the outback and the bush, knows more than most of us do about the lure of this mesmerising and frustrating country Australia. It is a fascination I first felt when, as a young boy, I discovered Henry Lawson and his tales of the outback in his collection While the Billy Boils before moving on to an edition of Lawson’s Loaded Dog.

As a journalist and author, I have revisited my fascination for the bush many times, most recently when writing my book Life in the Saddle with co-author Alwyn Torenbeek.

However, while my book was a recounting of one man’s story, McHugh’s beautiful offering The Stockmen, The making of an Australian Legend offers a wonderful return to Lawson’s legacy established with While the Billy Boils, continuing through an assortment of collections of Australian yarns that includes recent tomes like Unsung Heroes by Michael Winkler.

Evan McHugh’s book more than provides a voice to Australian yarns of stockmen living in the rugged ranges of the high country and the vast open plains were the horizon shrouds an ancient continent with endless skies. The book is richly illustrated, making it a must have addition to anyone taking time out at home or while touring the open road, the blacktop and the back lane dusty byways.

The Stockmen brings, as McHugh writes "The image of the stockman, a solitary figure etched against an unforgiving landscape" and takes it through stories that traverse time. There are the earliest stockmen finding their way in a largely untamed wilderness; the overlanders trekking the outback arteries known as stock routes; the vast Kimberley, through the so-called dead heart; jilleroos and jackeroos learning their craft; famous stories of cattle doffing, like that of infamous bushranger Harry Redford; stories of the skill of Aboriginal stockmen; and there’s the image of the modern stockman with horse and dog.

As McHugh’s book takes you on a journey in pictures and words from some famous Australian cattle stations throughout the outback from early to modern Australia, you discovery his is a beautiful, thoughtful book that tells the tales of stockmen, women and Aboriginal. These are yarns and striking images that enrich the journey of any travelling bookworm towing a caravan or camper seeking to uncover the romance of the great Australian bush for themselves.

The Stockmen, The making of an Australian Legend by Evan McHugh is published by Viking. RRP $49.99

YOUR SAY: Is there a part of Australian history that you find particularly fascinating? Is there a book or destination that you find yourself drawn towards that occupies a special place in history?