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The Avondale Poets

This is an Easter Talk given by Phoebe Mabel McLachlan-Crowe,  in 1958,  at a Women's Christian Meeting  (The Salvation Army - Home League)  held @ Narwee, a suburb of Sydney NSW AUSTRALIA


Tree at Metz nr Hillgrove NSW
Tree at Metz nr Hillgrove NSW

When I said to myself so glibly  "I'll do a meeting on 'Trees'. I love trees," I didn't realise what a great subject I had chosen,  & just how much I could say, & just how much I would have to leave out. Yes I love trees;  & I should think most of you love them too.

There are trees growing right through our Land of Memories, reminding us of happenings & events, trivial perhaps, or not so trivial.  Really the first tree I remember grew in the back yard of  "the house where I was born". All my mother's children were born in their own home; & were none the worse for that.

This tree was a big blue gum tree. It had a swing hanging from a great branch, & there were well worn patches between the roots which protruded above the soil. These patches were swept regularly & vigorously, for they were the  "yards"  belonging to the cubby houses; that were built among the branches overhead.

Chn sent old gum tree - Phoebe & Angus in 1901
Chn sent old gum tree - Phoebe & Angus in 1901

I remember this gum tree particularly well because when we were naughty or just in the way of busy people, we were sent out under the tree; & it was used then as the Jews use their  "Wailing Wall". We buried our heads against its rough bark & wept & meditated on the unfairness of all grown-ups till we felt good again.

It was under this old gum tree,  a brother a little older than myself, & I were hustled one day by a big sister, & told to be  "good & quiet".  We were still in a bewildered state when down the long white path with her little brown bag, came the lady who brought the babies  (& who had brought us, ourselves).

New baby at Metz
New baby at Metz

She greeted us & we shyly greeted her;  but we kept well out of the way of the mysterious lady who brought little brothers & sisters in a little brown bag.  Sure enough, it wasn't long before we were called in to see a lovely rosy little new sister; & my baby days were done.

Years after when I was first married (1933), -  like newly weds of today (1958),  my husband & I were in search of a flat.  A furnished flat I wanted, because I didn't want to buy furniture until we had our very own home. We wanted it near The Salvation Army Hall; & we were  "soldiering" @ Paddington  (a suburb of Sydney) at the time.

forest trees - fla
forest trees - fla

We walked & walked till at last near "Fiveways" (centre of Paddington) of all places,  my husband was attracted by a small forest of trees; & nothing would hold him.  He had to go in to see if they had  "rooms to let".

They had;  & only just vacated - not even swept out or in any way prepared for new tenants. When we looked out the window, down on to a lawn, surrounded by lovely trees, jacarandas, magnolias, flame trees, coral trees, maple trees, - a merry mix of all kinds of trees; & in the middle of the lawn, a round bed of dainty delightful pink & blue delphiniums,  we were enthralled.

Betty nee Johnson  Jones - friend of newly weds - visitor at flat
Betty nee Johnson Jones - friend of newly weds - visitor at flat

But the flat was unfurnished & not exactly what I wanted; & being a new wife whose opinion mattered, I said, "Thank you --- no";  & my husband meekly followed me out.  But he was not meek for long; & he was soon back to engage the flat.  The Landlady was not surprised; she said,  "I knew the TREES would do it."

Our friends who called on us were constantly amazed at the beauty of those trees; & the wonder of finding them in the busy dusty heart of Paddington. I might as well tell you it was right next door to the Scottish Hospital,  whose grounds also had a number of lovely trees.

Veronica - friend of Phoebe  - Alice nee McLachlan  her husband  Fred Rixon -& Phoebe nee McLachlan
Veronica - friend of Phoebe - Alice nee McLachlan her husband Fred Rixon -& Phoebe nee McLachlan

Then there was the Moreton Bay fig tree we grew in the yard of a place we rented in Bexley (suburb of Sydney).  It grew & grew.  It made a lovely shade.  The children had a hammock slung in its branches. Nearby there was a large Wattle Tree in which my small daughter used to climb in order to see things that were further away.  Some time after,  we left that place. One day, my husband came home in great distress & said,  "They've cut down OUR  fig tree."  I supposed that they had to cut it down.  It had probably taken over the whole yard.

These are but a few Trees of Memory. Now we'll pass on to Trees of Use.

 three youngest chn of Lilly nee McLachlan were George & Dorothy & Marie  - regular visitors to newly weds flat
 three youngest chn of Lilly nee McLachlan were George & Dorothy & Marie - regular visitors to newly weds flat

We often hear the phrase, "A dog (or a horse) is a man's best friend." I think that the same could be said for a tree. The tree is said to be much akin to man in many ways.  It has to breathe; & the air is taken into its leaves just as truly as we take it into our lungs. It also has as great a circulation as ours, though slower but exactly on the same principle.  It has a digestive process.  It makes provision for its young to carry on the race. Like man the tree has to battle for a living.  If food is scarce, their roots travel along under the surface in search of it. If water is scarce they send roots down after it.  If crowded they stretch upwards towards the sun. If the situation is windy,  the roots take a firmer grip. A fascinating subject we could go on & on. They nourish & make fertile the soil.  Yet an Anglo-Saxon man's idea of progress is to go forth & cut down trees.

daughters of Alice Jean nee McLachlan
daughters of Alice Jean nee McLachlan

We all have an idea even if it is a vague one, of the value of the rubber-bearing trees.  The story of how the rubber plantations were started is really fantastic.

Originally these trees were found only in Brazil; & although the Brazilians had no idea at the time how many uses rubber could be put to;  or how it could be improved upon, they were very jealous of it; & refused to let any plants or seeds out of the country.

 A Mr Wickham had collected thousands of seeds from the best rubber-producing trees & was trying to smuggle them out of the country;  but it was a long time until an opportunity was created. At length he got them to England, where they were planted in the orchid houses in Kew Gardens. 

Dan McLachlan & Rixon nephews - visitors of newly weds
Dan McLachlan & Rixon nephews - visitors of newly weds

Within a fortnight the gardeners were thrilled to see a forest of over seven thousand little plants. Soon some of these were being sent to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Singapore,  to become the forbears of the thousands & thousands of valuable rubber-bearing trees. The uses of rubber are almost limitless.

The coco-nut tree is said to be of unlimited use also, more diverse than the rubber tree. The Good Lord must have been proud of that tree when He first made it.  He took every precaution to make sure that it would survive.

It is said that a man could clothe,  feed & shelter himself from the coco-nut tree. Mats, ropes, brushes, sails, paper, quilts, are a few of the things made from this fibre.  Huts, handles, oars are a few that can be made from the wood; drinking vessels from the shell.  Margarine, soap, candles are some that are able to be made from the oil --just a few uses of the coco-nut tree. Inside the kernel is one big white seed; & the nut that we eat is the food stored up for its use.  The milk is the moisture reserved for its nourishment.

What we called  "the monkey's beard"  when I was little,  is a protective fibre which acts as a spring; & causes the nut to bounce instead of cracking when it falls from its great height.  Outside the fibre is a green casing,  which we never see,  an added protection.  The three small holes we used to think were features of the monkey's face, one of these holes is an outlet for the root of the new coco-nut tree.

Aus love gum trees - Alison nee Rixon-Page - photo neath gum tree
Aus love gum trees - Alison nee Rixon-Page - photo neath gum tree

Truly God took great pride in his work when He planned the coco-nut tree.  The God who cares for the sparrows evidently cares for the trees too.

The date tree is almost as helpful as the coco-nut tree.  It is called the Arabs' friend.  Its fruit is very nutritious, date-honey can be squeezed from the fruit, palm wine can be made from the sap, the buds form palm-cabbage, the stones are ground to make a substitute for coffee; & they also yield oil. The leaves are made into baskets & mats, the fibre is wound into string; & the wood is used for building huts.

The Palm tree is most helpful to the people of its territory. We are told that the Palm tree, the great friend of the Arabic People, stands with its feet in salt water & its head in the sun.  Often the people cannot drink the water found in the oasis, it is so brackish.  Then they tap the tree & drink the sweet palm wine that runs out of the tree.  The tree by the  "magic" of its inner life changes the elements in the unkindly soil around it; & it helps it with its growth & strength & fruit bearing.

We cannot help but have renewed confidence in our Creator when we think on these miracles; & the wonderful provision that He has made for His people.

Three of the most Useful Trees in the world - now let us move to Trees of Beauty. 

If we started a discussion on Trees of Beauty we would get some very different opinions, for there are so many trees of great & almost unbelievable beauty. After all,  our judgement would be influenced by association or memory, or just by prejudice.

I heard one English lady say that Australians liked the gum trees because they didn't know any better.  Of course,  that was foolish to say the least,  for we Australians have many native trees other than the gum trees that are really beautiful & unusual.

We are told that the chestnut tree in England is one of the most beautiful of all trees, but even so it is really a native of Greece, India, Persia (Iran). It has made itself at home in England for centuries;  so we will allow the English to claim it as their own, - the horse chestnut tree, one of the most beautiful of trees.

Aus love gum trees - Rodney  Rixon - property Glenroy Duri NSW - photo near gum tree
Aus love gum trees - Rodney Rixon - property Glenroy Duri NSW - photo near gum tree

There is a legend that the dogwood tree was one of the biggest & strongest of timber trees.  It was used in far off days in Palestine (Israel) when needed for some special tool or article of furniture. 

There came a time when a very special cross had to be made for a very special victim.  The carpenter engaged for the work,  looked around for a sufficiently hard & strong wood. The dogwood tree was very proud when it found out that its wood was considered the most suitable of all. But after seeing the sufferings of our Lord, it was ashamed & heart-broken.  Our Lord forgave the tree but it did not grow big & strong ever again.  Its little white flowers came in the form of a cross with the tints of the rusty nails staining its points.

"The Dogwood Legend
A legend says the dogwood tree
A giant of the forest stood.
'Twas used to make the Cross of Christ
So strong & sturdy was its wood.
When this distressed the tree, Christ ruled
Its evil use be changed to good. 
A slender tree now, filled with flowers
Four petals like a cross. They bear
His rusty nail prints stained with blood
His crown of thorns imprinted there.
Above all else their beauty shows
The Risen Life exceeding fair.
In gardens & by winding roads
And lonely shacks, the dogwood tree
Abounds with flowers pink & white.
God plants the trees for all to see
And know the joy of Easter-tide
And His great love for you & me."

I read a story of a Christian sailor on a trading ship which called at the Bay of Desolation off the coast of Africa.  The heat was terrific, dust & sand was blowing off the land. People clothed in rags were wrangling & arguing as they came aboard. The rattle & whine of machinery & the oaths of the men who were working the machinery, made the second mate cry out in disgust,  "Sin, sand, wind, coal & blasphemy; & it's Good Friday."

The Christian sailor paced the deck & thought to himself  "Good Friday & nobody cares."  Just then he heard a scuffling on the darkening deck & called out,  "Who's there?"   In the shadows a ragged lad appeared before him & said uncertainly, "They tell me you are a "Jesus" man.  Long ago I heard them tell about Jesus.  The pantry boy tells me you are a  "Jesus" man. When His dying time comes round I like to think of Him."

The Christian sailor told the questioning lad about Good Friday; & what it meant to him. With more understanding of Jesus & His dying time,  the lad went back to his chores. The Christian sailor was thankful that he had been able to share the Easter story with some one who wished to think of Jesus.

Aus love gum trees - Bill  McLachlan-Simmons & bride at Bingara NSW - photo - neath gum tree
Aus love gum trees - Bill McLachlan-Simmons & bride at Bingara NSW - photo - neath gum tree

In conclusion,  let me read to you this poem,  - "The Trees of the Bible".

 The trees of the Bible have something to say
 Presenting a challenge --- yes even today;
 And the questions they ask are timely & bright
 When put to believers the message is right.
 Is your life like the fig bearing nothing but leaves?
 While over the lost ones, God's Spirit still grieves?
 Or are you a tree whose fruit shall abide
 When our works in the fire of judgment are tried?
 Do you sit like Elijah despairing,  downcast
 'Neath the juniper tree when the battle seems lost?
 'What doest thou here?'  God asks now as then.
 He calls to the faithful,  'Quit you like men!'
 Are you strong like the cedar, spillar, a tower
 To those who are grappling with sin's cursed power?
 Do you stand like a tree that shall never be moved
 Filled with His goodness & daily renewed?
 Do you grope in the dark where the olive trees' shade
 Casts long lonely shadows that make you afraid?
 This is the place where the Saviour fought through
 And under the olives He'll strengthen you too.
 Do you fear,  like Zaccheus,  you'll lose in the race,
 So you start climbling to the very top place?
 The Master still searches Life's sycamore trees ---
 And once you have seen Him,  you'll fall on your knees.
 Do the things of the world hold a charm for you still?
 Keep sight of the Tree raised on Calvary's Hill;
 And in the light of such boundless Infinite Love,
 You will leave what is worthless;  & seek things above.

Easter Talk given @ Narwee, suburb if Sydney NSW
by -  Phoebe Mabel Crowe
researched, compiled & written for Easter 1958 @
146 Morgan Street, Beverly Hills  NSW  AUSTRALIA

Tree stump -original tree - symbol explorers open  Aus - photo - tree stump foot Blue Mtns NSW
Tree stump -original tree - symbol explorers open Aus - photo - tree stump foot Blue Mtns NSW

It is realised that certain changes have happened in connection with science & technology,  trade & commerce,  since this Talk on  "Trees"  was given in 1958. The Talk, however, has been contributed to  "electricscotland"  in its original form.

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