By Jim Eames

With the entire allure of James Herriot, Hamish Macbeth, Balllykissangel and Heartbeat, this can be a excellent Australian bush yarn to make you giggle and to make you cry.

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Behind its two Shell petrol bowsers on the road verge was my father’s spare parts section and a small, glassed-in office separating the town’s only car showroom from a workshop which stretched for a half a block in an easterly direction up the Jingellic Road. Everything about Nace Kane was big. Over six feet tall, he cut an imposing figure, his hair combed back severely above narrow features which tapered down to a small chin. When he spoke it was in the cultured tones of a man who had come from the best of schools, something which my father soon discovered enabled his boss to mix easily in the rarified atmosphere of the Melbourne establishment, where he did most of his business when taking delivery of a sparkling new Chevrolet or Oldsmobile for one of Holbrook’s landed gentry.

The road then disappeared north towards Sydney, several hundred miles and another world away. Like the highway that divided it, the name Holbrook itself had something of a split personality when you thought about it. They’d originally named it Germanton, after some settlers of German descent. But the call to patriotism which came with World War I saw the name quickly fall out of favour as Australian lads began dying on the fields of Europe. Fortunately, a Royal Navy Commander called Norman Holbrook helped solve the problem 36 *Country Undertaker Pgs 27/5/05 12:31 PM Page 37 Holbrook here we come when he won the Victoria Cross for sinking a Turkish battleship in the Dardanelles, and the local councillors took the opportunity to choose a name more appropriate to the times.

Later, even after they had gone to bed, I could still hear them arguing. Whether the problem was with the Freemasons or the Terminus was never resolved, because it was about that time the tall man from Holbrook turned up with a job offer which was to eventually set my father on his career as a country undertaker. And the fact that the man from Holbrook was a good Catholic probably helped, too. 33 *Country Undertaker Pgs 27/5/05 12:31 PM Page 34 5 Holbrook here we come Like my uncle Dave and his Umpires Association, Ignatius Patrick Kane—Nace—arrived at our house one night with two bottles of beer under his arm, although the reception he got from my mother contrasted markedly with the one she’d given Uncle Dave.

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