Publisher: Endless Summer Publishing
Review by Hazel Barker
The Spirit of O’Reillys is a history of the guest house and also a family history, as both are interwoven. Written in a colloquial style, it can best be appreciated around a campfire, listening to the author as he pushes back his akubra and reveals his hair, now bleached by the sun and the passing of time.
Peter takes us from the family’s pioneering days on the McPherson Range in 1911 through to contemporary times. Eight O’Reilly boys establish a dynasty in the rainforest-covered ridges. They clear the land, build roads, construct bark huts, plant grass seeds for dairy cattle and lay the foundations for the Guest House.
The boys contend with financial hardships and the prospect of their land being requisitioned by the newly-established National Park. The situation improves when the author’s uncle, Bernard O’Reilly, finds the crashed Stinton, and his book, Green Mountains, is published. Both events bring fame, and firmly establish the O’Reilly Guest House.
The Spirit of O’Reillys is a sequel to Green Mountains. Peter’s description of the Stinson episode makes me feel I’m there in that summer of 1937. The campfire nights and mountain-walks bring to mind my campfire nights in the Snowy Mountains during the early years of my marriage.
The book is peppered with anecdotes like the Old Blitz, the Ford V8 that ‘could be cranky at times’ and ‘had no doors so it was easy to bale out.’ Then the author, ‘lost a finger in the mincing machine,’ and it ‘made the guests wary the next time there was mince on the menu.’
Many more interesting tales dot the pages of Peter’s book – a bower bird and the blue car, the stinging tree, and the blue cray in the blocked pipe. But best of all, the escaped murderers who serve as cooks.
The writer’s second son, Danny, is born with a disability. The author’s wife, Karma, establishes an association for handicapped children, and receives the Citizen of the Year Award in 1982, for her work within the organisation.
When lapsing into the conditional past tense, frequent use of the word, ‘would,’ tends to wear one down, but I urge the reader to read on, because the book gathers speed as it progresses, when the author drops into a pleasing narrative style.
Anyone who enjoys hiking will relate to the story of the O’Reilly’s. The Spirit of O’Reillys is essential reading for lovers of history and visitors of the Guest House. I have no doubt it will be treasured by family members, and be preserved within our national archives.
The Spirit of O’Reillys ends in a true Irish vein, with the author’s blessing.
Published in QWC Magazine 2009