Jon Vagg was born in Hillston in 1959, spending his early years on the family property, “Maxwell’s Braes”, Hillston. Being schooled through Blackfriars Correspondence, Hillston Central and Yanco Ag School, he then went on to the University of New England, not studying nearly as much as he should have, concentrating more on football, cricket and partying, until finally settling down and completing an economics degree.
In 1983 he came home and went into a grazing partnership with his parents to run the properties. After marrying Naomi in 1988, Jon continues to graze sheep and cattle in partnership with his children Allan and Bonnie and their partners, Jenna and Andrew.
In 2016 he moved north to the property “Wangaroa”, in the Roto district, trying his hand at grazing stock on the red scrub country as distinct from the black soil Riverina plains.
Jon has always been fond of poetry, reading a lot and writing since his earliest school years. It is natural that bush poetry would be Jon’s preferred genre, given his upbringing and lifestyle.
Moc Parker was born at Hillston in 1958, and grew up on the family cropping and grazing property "Long Plain". He was schooled and worked locally, before spending 2 years at Longreach Pastoral College in 1975-6.
After marrying Sheree Anthony and whilst raising 3 sons, Moc and family moved on to manage "Currawinya" near Hungerford, where he learnt to fly before moving onto "Bootra" near White Cliffs.
Moc & Sheree then spent 10 years in the bush pub business, running the Hungerford and Wanaaring pubs during that time, where Moc was able to indulge his passion for poetry, regularly entertaining travellers with his verses whilst pulling a beer.
Moc later worked for the Wild Dog Destruction Board patrolling the longest fence in the world, and he's now back in his old stomping ground at the Currawinya National Park happily working as a Park Ranger.
Moc's always enjoyed reading, listening to and reciting poetry. His wide range of life experiences, the interesting characters that he's met as well as the significant events of his life have been incorporated into many of his poems.
Born in 1989, Allan Vagg grew up on the family’s sheep and cattle grazing property “Furlong”, between Hillston and Booligal. Along with younger sister Bonnie, he was taken through primary and half of secondary schooling at home by his mother, Naomi Vagg, via School-of-the-Air until Year 9.
After boarding school in the Central West and University in the New England, he spent several years working in the Hay/Deniliquin districts before returning to the family operation in 2014. Allan currently lives on "Furlong" with his wife Jenna and 2 young children, running sheep and cattle.
Allan loves his poetry and reciting, being just at home reciting from plastic chairs and ute tailgates as he is on the stage. However, after many years of reciting other people’s material, Allan decided it was bloody well time that he wrote some of his own.
Allan’s style of poetry is a flowing, conversational-rhythm that lends itself to recitation, on topics inspired by country living, the livestock production industries and the characters associated with it.
Prior to the Back Block Bards, Allan’s media highlight was appearing in The Land’s ‘Hunks and Spunks’ competition in 2009.
Heather Frewin (nee Vagg) grew up at the family properties "Maxwell's Braes" and later "Tallawanta", West of Hillston. For the 25km dirt road commute to catch the Hillston school bus, it wasn't unusual for Albert, Heather's father, to carry 13 of his own and neighbouring children in the Land Rover on wet days so they could attend school.
After working on Tallawanta and studying at UNE in Armidale, Heather along with her husband-to-be Les Frewin spent time in Sydney working for BHP Steel, before a year-long honeymoon took them around Australia in a secondhand converted campervan.
A move with her family to the village of Tooraweenah, at the foothills of the Warrumbungle Mountains, saw Heather develop a passion for education and teaching.
After returning to study to complete a Teaching degree, Heather is currently a Special Education Teacher at Coonabarabran Public School.
Joan Vagg was born in 1929 and her early years were spent on a Mallee farm in the Hillston district, which her father had drawn in a ballot in 1928. Joan’s childhood was happy and carefree, playing and roaming in the bush with her younger brother. Joan and her bother rode their push bikes five miles to the small one-teacher school surrounded by Mallee scrub.
In 1951, Joan married Albert and moved to live on her husband's family property, “Maxwell’s Braes”, located on the vast western division plains of NSW.
Joan and Albert raised four children, who Joan home-schooled during their primary education. When they had all gone to boarding school, Joan had the opportunity to study Art for seven years, and since then she has combined her art with bush poetry, drawing inspiration from the flora and fauna of the wonderful areas in which she has lived. The family has had a long tradition of expressing thoughts and ideas in verse.
IN LOVING MEMORY Graham "Whisper" Vagg, 1960-2019
Graham was born in Griffith NSW in June 1960.
Growing up on the family property “Wing Ding” Ivanhoe with nine siblings (seven younger) all his primary schooling was done through Correspondence lessons with his mother Ann as teacher.
His first five years of secondary schooling was done as a boarder student at St. Stanislaus College Bathurst. Finally, his last year was at Griffith (NSW) High School whilst boarding at the youth hostel which at that time provided accommodation for school and Tafe students.
Following leaving school he spent a bit longer than a year working at various jobs in Sydney before returning to “Wing Ding” to work on the property. Well known as a lover of yarn-spinning, farming and the Ivanhoe Roosters Rugby League footy club, 'Whispers' was a much loved founding member of the Back Block Bards.
IN LOVING MEMORY James Bryant, 1892-1915
James Henry Bryant, the eldest of five children, was born on the goldfields, known as “The Welcome”, between Parkes and Forbes, in 1892.
When his father was killed in a mining accident, Jim, as he was known, left school at an early age, seeking work to help his mother eke out a spartan existence selling butter and eggs to the miners.
By the time he was fourteen he was riding a pushbike from station to station to work in the shearing sheds around western NSW.
At the outbreak of WWI he enlisted in the army, and it wasn’t long before he was in the Middle East.
He was wounded at Gallipoli, shortly after the debacle of the landing, and was shipped back to Egypt, and hospital. It was at his time Jim wrote some of his best and most moving poetry. We are fortunate that he posted these works back to his mother in Australia, where they become a treasured part of the family collection.
Some of his war verses from this period are included in this book – a moving description of the horrors he encountered.
Jim was never in the Light Horse Brigade, so it seems likely that the verse “An Aussies Farewell to his Horse” was written for an army mate.
A couple of months later, on recovering, he was back on the Gallipoli Peninsula and was killed a few days later during the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915.
He has left us with a wonderful legacy in his regular letters to his mother, and especially in his verse, which has remained a constant inspiration to our family’s poetic endeavours.
Uncle Jim, may you never be forgotten!