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Published on Thursday, November 06, 2014

Behind the Barr

A Rural Women's Story

Five and a half years later, Barham is well and truly our home.

 

I grew up on my parent’s sheep station, west of Hay in western New South Wales and just assumed I’d one day marry a farmer and emulate the life my parents had, working together on the land and raising a family.

 

For a while my life seemed perfectly on track; while I didn’t marry a farmer, I did fall in love and marry a man who wanted a life in rural Australia. We ran our own rural contracting business, specializing in rural fencing on the vast plains surrounding Hay.

 

We had three sons, a home on a few acres and a successful business in a close-knit rural community.

 

In May 2003 my world came crashing down. Suddenly and without warning, I was a deserted wife, a single mother and our rural contracting business collapsed. My eldest son, Max had just turned five, Sam was three and Henry was only nine months old. It was a pretty tough time in my life.

 

The first few years following my divorce I was kept busy looking after the boys fulltime, earning some money doing part-time bookkeeping and swallowing my pride and accepting the single parent pension.

 

The year Henry started school, I moved all of us to Echuca, Victoria, I wanted to attend college fulltime and retrain as a remedial massage therapist. I needed to get my brain working and financially, stand on my own two feet again. Just over a year later I received my diploma and began my new career in the health profession.

 

Looking back over the last eleven years, I’m really proud of what the boys and I have achieved and feel immensely grateful for the opportunities and good fortune we’ve had.

 

We rent a beautiful old home right on the bank of the river, the boys walk or ride their bikes to the local schools and all enjoy having their friends over and going fishing. I enjoy nothing better than a few hours kayaking along the Murray and nearby Gunbower Creek or heading out on the country roads on my touring bike.

In 2011, after one too many letters to the editor of our local paper, I was invited to write a weekly column and “Behind the Barr” was born. I wrote a 600 – 800 word column every week in The Bridge newspaper for the next couple of years, about local events and whatever was going on in my life at the time.

 

Topics ranged from promoting the local food producers and their monthly farmers market to the serious problem of underage drinking to an amazing trip to England in 2012, accompanying local legend and farmer, Squadron Leader Edgar Pickles. A veteran World War II Lancaster pilot with the RAF’s Bomber Command, Edgar and I attended the unveiling by Queen Elizabeth of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London.

 

Although I’ve taken a break from writing the column for The Bridge, I still write on my Behind the Barr blogspot… however, I clearly write better with a weekly deadline, my blog posts have become a bit few and far between of late.

 

Column writing introduced me to a whole new world and for the last two years I have attended the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) annual conference in the United States.


Writing encouraged me to travel solo overseas for the first time in my life, go to places I never dreamed of visiting and hopefully setting an example for my sons that anything is possible, no matter where you live.

 

At the end of the day, in all the world, there is nowhere I would rather live than Barham. Rural Australia is like that.

 

Annie Barr

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