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South West Arts is supported by the
NSW Government
through Create NSW

William Rumsey Jones

 

RUNNING ALL THIS TIME was written by Kerry-Anne Jones. It was narrated by Spencer McGill and produced by The Shack Studios, Deniliquin.

 

The story was inspired by the experiences of Kerry-Anne's Great Great Grand-Father, William Rumsay Jones from Mathoura, during the Crimean War.

The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.

 

By Kerry-Anne Jones

 

I am 13 and I’m afraid to go home.

“WILLIAM RUMSAY JONES …… TAKE YOUR SEAT”

 (WACK) the sound of a cane hitting a wooden desk

 

I look up in shock at the sound of my name and hold my breath.  My heart is beating so loudly I can hear its thumping in my ears. I can’t comprehend what the teacher is saying, his lips are constricted and barely moving, his face bloated and bright red and his eyes look like they are going to pop.  I know he is yelling at me, but I can’t hear the words with the buzzing in my ears.  I feel like I’m under water and I can’t breathe. 

Oh god he is holding his cane so tightly his knuckles are white.

A rush of adrenaline and from my hand the inkwell hurtles through the air before I know I’ve thrown it, striking the school master above the eye.  “Balls” I say to no-one in particular as I turn and run leaving the stunned, ink stained and bleeding school master gasping. 

Run, get out of here, is all I can think of, my mind is a blur.  Just run, run … run!

Music interlude – ‘Feel Good March’

 

Looking back, I guess I’ve been running all of this time.

 

I sailed to the Crimea as boson on the Royal Navy gun battleship, H.M.S Agamemnon. The beach at Alma appeared barren and desolate but as we drew closer I could see it was swarming with the flags, banners and colours of British, French and Turkish soldiers.

There were corpses everywhere!

It reminded me of the pile of fish at the port market at home in Caernarfon - bodies stained with shining red streaks, piled high on top of each other, limp and wide eyed.

But here, the salty sea air was mixed with the metallic smell of human blood.

 

Cannon fire was exploding all around me and there was a chorus of muskets being fired in a rhythmic beat that accompanied the cannon.  It was hell.  All fire, smoke and noise.  Screams of dying men punctuated the sounds of the canon in a crescendo to the opus that was being played.

 

I was just 20 years old when I returned from the Crimea, still a lad, but an old man in many respects.

The Port, in Caernarfon is shadowed by the medieval turrets and walls of a castle.  It was swarming with people when I arrived yet I could still hear the guns and cannons pounding in my ears. The air was crisp and pleasantly laced with the smells of burning coal, rotting fish, tobacco and the sweat of quarry men.

My Pa was more than happy to see me, he had forgotten all about the school master. It had been seven years since I ran away.  He was so proud of me, standing in line with my shipmates as the little Queen Vicky pinned a medal on his best jacket that I borrowed for the occasion.  The deep scar on my head and the musket hole in my chest also clouded his recollections of the trouble I caused.    

 

I was never able to settle, I felt at home at sea, even though it transported me into countless wars and conflicts. The American Civil war and the oppression from slavery, the Indian rebellion and first War of Independence against the rule of the British East India Company and the 1000-man invasion of Sicily for the unification of Italy. Different countries, different cultures different reasons for battle, but all thinking that a bloody fight was the only answer.

 

I finally stopped running when I arrived at the wharf in Echuca. The soft thud of the paddle wheels thrashing the grey water was soothing and I found my heart was soon beating in rhythm.  The melancholy whistles and the muffled yells and bustle on the wharf felt like home even though the ale was cold, and the rum was hot.

 

My brother Albert sailed with me from Wales this time and together we headed 20 miles to the north of Echuca to a place called Mathoura. It was easy to make the decision to turn my sea legs into land pegs and have a go at fighting the plague of rabbits and foxes and to leave behind the wars that seem to plague men.

 

 

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