I was born in England [in 1907], but when I was five years old, my father decided that The City of Dreadful Night (London) was not a fit place to bring up a family, and he migrated to Australia, settling first in Sydney, then in Melbourne and finally on a small farm in Northeast Victoria, a short ride from the Kelly country. I was the youngest, and when I was twelve, having fulfilled the State education requirements, I left school. But as I was too small for heavy work, I used to spend time on the property, and help the teacher part-time with her eight grades of thirty pupils. I wanted to go to high school, and there was some talk of the possibility of a scholarship; but Father said that the living away from home would be more than he could afford; and the rest of the family said I was needed on the farm.
Father had bought the property in the flush of the season. Followed the abundant autumn fruits; grape, peach and apricot. Followed by three years of drought when the rabbits moved at night over the hillside, eating out the roots of the grasses, baring earth’s Bosom. There was not a living spring of water anywhere.
Father was a travelling man with an all-lines Gold Pass for a reputable London insurance firm. He loved books for their own sake. He loved the theatre for its own sake. He had a facile pen — which included a genius for limericks. One weekend Father came home and told us he had bought a second-hand bookshop in Melbourne, and would have not further use for the farm. The Irish in me took this betrayal but lightly: deep down within me another Dreaming was beginning its dream; but the Anglo-Saxon which was Mother was wondering where the next loaf of bread was to come from. We (the family) arrived in the city at the same time as the Depression… There was absolutely nothing for a boy from the country to do — except read. And that’s what I did — ten years of it.
Then a new world broke over my head — the world of sound and music. I put the books back neatly on the shelves; they had given me their message. Out of this were created new Song-forms, and out of them new ways of sweeping a floor, new ways of boiling a potato.
There was a Man people were calling “The Avatar”. He had a shack in Love Street and was a dispenser of Sufic vintages. He used to make his disciples just a little bit drunk, and then tell them about the divine Beloved who lives in their hearts. Such was the human glory which shone from his eyes that the young men started to flock around him, picking up the Choruses of the divine melodies… There’s no end to this biographical tale; especially since in my case there has not yet been a real beginning.
– Francis Brabazon
From THE GOLDEN BOOK OF PRAISE, © 1982.