I was able to interview some of the old people who knew him in person before he passed away, many of them are now also passed on.
As I told it to a dear friend, the tapestry of suffering and victory and his pure heart burning through, brought tears to both our eyes. It was as if we sat around the camp fire under the stars that Fred himself rode with his brother George even though the closest thing to outdoors in the room was our carpet of green leaves and earth colours.
It amazed me how vivid the story had become to me over its dormant time in files and folders, my memory, and earlier attempts to do it justice.
I found some precious letters, photographs and stories people sent me about their own time with Uncle Fred and am going to scan them all. A week ago I thought I had lost them and was mad with myself for not keeping the originals of historical documents I had received safe. I was glad I had given a copy of the documents to National Archives and emailed them to check if they could send them to me seeing as I had lost them.
Then I found them in a box! What a relief!
To my delight I had managed to hold onto it all this time without losing anything. Now as extra insurance I will scan and save and send them to them digitally.
All the questions I had about how to proceed with this project in the past are beginning to become clear.
I have already written it up as an article. I was able to locate a copy of that article at the National Archives. A big thank you to Margaret – you are a treasure. I didn’t have a copy because we moved when it was posted out to me years ago. Rereading it again I realised the article, slightly expanded, could have formed the basis of a book all those years ago. It is still moving to read it after all this time.
One thing I was always sad about was that I didn’t find any of Fred’s descendants. But I am going to try again and see if there are any, as they would be delighted to know the story of this precious Baha’i and how much he means to the Australian community.
Tonight I was rereading one of the letters from his friend Howard Harwood. Howard was lying in a nursing home with a lot of time to think about the past was surprised and happy to receive my query letter wanting to know more about Uncle Fred.
He told me not to give up in my task or let anyone discourage me. ‘Don’t let anyone stop you in your project’ and said he would be pleased to have my family visit. How happy I am that we made that visit and listened to him speak of his friend.
It’s a long story of why I put this project aside for such a long time. Many of those stories of why are embedded in my blogs. They’re not excuses, but rather the getting of the wisdom to tell this story in a way that shows respect and has an atmosphere that fits it.
Now I am confident to tell this story because it belongs to the Australian Baha’i and World Baha’i community. It’s time to tell it – as if under the stars, yarning style, in a way to capture the spirit of the man. It has so many special moments Howard always thought it would make ‘a great movie.’
Uncle Fred was always free from hate, searching for a knowledge of Aboriginal lore, seeking out other spiritual knowledge and bringing it all together in unity. A truly amazing story which I will soon write up for a Baha’i chronicles project, but which I feel needs a longer retelling as well.
I admire Uncle Fred and Howard because their humble pamphlet led me examine the story and fill in some of the blanks. They knew the power of the spoken transcribed into written word. Now it’s time for me to honour them both and finish what I began so many years ago – a quest to find out more about Uncle Fred and to honour and tell his story and also a little of the stories of those that met him.
This time I see a book – rather than a pamphlet.
(c) June Perkins