“Frank Byrne was a gentleman in every sense. He spoke softly with great authority about those things he knew of stock work, family and resilience and much much more. He loved his family and wanted to share with them his journey to give them a sense of perspective of “living with hope” as he had managed to do despite the adversity he had faced. He was a lovely singer and musician and we very much enjoyed the nights he’d sing with us and friends. He is deeply missed by his families and friends” (Jo Dutton – author and founding member of Ptilotus Press).
Photo by Chris Hallet, 18 August 2015. On the road between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing.
In 2015, Frank Byrne journeyed from Alice Springs through to the Kimberley with Frances Coughlan & Gerard Waterford to retrace his childhood steps & write his life story. Driving west on the Tanami Highway, he would say "those rosary beads keeping us safe". Photo by Chris Hallett,15 August 2015.
Writing on the road. Frank Byrne sits with Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford in their 'office' at Gnylmarung, just north of Beagle Bay mission on 21 August 2015. The son of a Gooniyandi woman and Irish stockman, Frank was born on Christmas Creek station in the Kimberley on 20 July 1937. He is a child of the Stolen Generations, taken from his mother at the age of six. Frank spent the next nine years at Moola Bulla settlement and Beagle Bay mission.
Frank Byrne visits Beagle Bay Mission 69 years after being taken there with other stolen children. He describes on page 27: "One day, without any warning, Alf George got us all together and picked all of these kids out from the mob. Like he was culling cattle. He just rounded up a few of us half-caste boys and girls, got us on the truck and away we went. It was 2 September 1946. I was nine years old. We just left Moola Bulla this day. I did not say goodbye to anyone, not any of the old people who had cared for me for the last three years, nobody. None of us said goodbye". Photo by Chris Hallett. 24 August 2015.
Frank Byrne sketches an early draft of Living In Hope in his own handwriting
Whilst retracing his childhood steps through the Kimberley, Frank meets Johnny Cooper again. Johnny was three years old when he was stolen from Lamboo Station and taken with the Moola Bulla kids to Beagle Bay mission. Frank describes on page 28, "I don't remember seeing little Johnny's mother that day. Maybe she could not face it. We just picked Johnny up and took him, no clothes, no blanket, no goodbye. We did not see anyone there to support the little guy. The blackfellas were all too scared. They feared the government, they just come and take the kids away, they had no say in it".
In the church at Beagle Bay mission, Frank and his mother's story is found on p202 of 'From Patrons to Partners: And the Separated Children of the Kimberley' by M. Zucker (2005.
Roadside consultations with Frank whilst writing Living In Hope. Photo by Chris Hallett, August 2015.