From a Riverland fruit block George Woolmer attended Roseworthy Agricultural College and at various times a number of universities part time or by distance education. He has been on the land, an infantry officer in the CMF, a teacher and a State secondary adviser in Aboriginal education.
He has given much voluntary effort to the conservation of historical places, including the gaining of historical Overland Corner Hotel for the National Trust, established a museum and archives, and has had published a number of local histories. In the field of nature conservation he established a number of National Trust nature reserves, and led the Riverland branch of the Natural History Society of South Australia which established the Moorundie Wildlife Reserve for hairy nosed wombats. For these works he was awarded the Order of Australia.
His poetry centers on enduring themes, rhyme and rhythm, cast in forms from the old Anglo-Saxon to the modern, and the profound to the comic. He has been represented in Friendly Street Readers since 1993.
1996 George Woolmer won the Satura Prize for his poem “Winter Night”.
My orchard is set on the side of a hill,
Not very steep, but sufficiently chill
For the good of the trees when setting’s begun;
Although sometimes I think they could do with more sun.
There’s drystone for walling, to keep out the cows,
To stop them from stripping the bark from the boughs,
But stones keep on tumbling, at any pretence,
And to back it in places I’ve built a wire fence.
And that’s all there is, if you don’t count the weeds,
Which keep coming up, as from magical seeds,
And a couple of crows, which are keeping an eye
On everything moving, afar and nearby.
Below there’s a field that runs down to a creek,
And there I go sometimes, to hear water speak;
But above there’s a wood that looms up to my wall,
And beside it my orchard seems nothing at all.
Its trees sally over the hill and around,
They’re crowded so much that you can’t see the ground;
There’s blazes of yellow where wattle trees flare:
But mainly it’s closed, with a darkness in there.
It’s the orchard, however, that’s of interest now,
Though sometimes it seems to have shrunk, I allow,
But when picking begins it will double, I know,
With trees seeming endless, in row after row.
But now I must leave it alone to the dark
And the chill that seeps into the bough and the bark;
With the moon rising over the hill I must go:
There’s things in the night only orchards should know.
From Friendly Street No. 21
Ninety Mile Beach Capriccio
Along that immaculate strand of hazy faraway reach,
Tang of salt and Clare where sea and sky meet,
Squall of gulls gyring the bountiful beach,
Endlessly glittering sea,
Rollers’ continuous roar;
Sand and my tangible feet.
I and the hare on the pathway wending to Clare,
Winding through dunes to the holiday house with a view:
Apricot dawns, evenings of tangerine flare,
Buttercup sun in her hair.
I quicken my pace where she jogs;
A sky of white lace under blue.
Clare in shimmering waves, skimming the twisters,
Cutting the curlers; that curvaceous creature of cream,
That oil-glowing girl, outriding the board jockey misters,
Out-heeing the he-men;
You magnificent merwoman, you!
You midshipman’s prodigal dream!
Fresh from the shower, you delectable filly in whites,
A stroll in the dunes, black galloping stallion, at dusk
Deck chairs on the porch, lush nectarine-gloaming delights;
Sipping iced orange juice,
Clare in that enviable chair,
With night all jasmine and musk.
How brilliantly I shall pursue you, you glorious girl!
O Clare, O how I shall dashingly dazzle you!
O how you shall find yourself whizzed in a wonderful whirl!
Beach! Sky! Bay!
And then one marvelous magnolia day
In whites you will say, ‘I do!’
From Friendly Street No. 22
Taking Cows To The North Paddock
The milking done, taking the steaming cows
To the north paddock, through early mists and gloom,
The air chill, snapping, cracking, and I cold,
Despite my coat and pulled down woolen cap.
The cows lumbering hulks, stumbling, lurching
Like old trolls looming from some miasmal swamp,
And I a plodding bog herder, lost in time.
Hooves trudge the waiting earth with muffled grumblings,
As of hoary giants’ mumblings; what they mumble
Only the earth knows, and she gives no sign.
From Friendly Street No. 26