A birth in the bush

The following is an excerpt from the book McAllister, written by Jenny Old.


Sleep did not come easily that night. I was exhausted, the baby was very active and I ached all over. I lay awake feeling a million emotions, I was so far from my home, my family and now I was going to be waving my husband goodbye the following day. I felt miserable. Rick slept soundly, unaware of my troubled thoughts.

The following morning, nature took a stand and decided this baby had had enough of the rough roads and treatment given by it’s busy mother. It was going to make an early entry into the world. Rick had not read the father’s hand book but did a bit of speed reading to find the chapter on the symptoms available.

“Ahhhh … we have about ten days then?”

“No … maybe ten hours,” I replied.

He leapt into action after a phone call to Dr. McAdam who said, “Bring her in straight away.”

My plans for a relaxing time to prepare for the baby were dashed. I found myself in the Maternity ward, with an anxious husband ready to hand me over to the experts.

I was not ready to face labour. I was physically and emotionally exhausted after the preparation to leave home for three months and the long, uncomfortable drive to Mt Isa.

“I just want a rest … ” I pleaded with my body. Again, nature took a hand by delaying things for eight hours, allowing me to sleep the sleep of the exhausted until awoken by serious labour pains at eight pm.

Dr. McAdam was a modern gynecoelogist and encouraged Rick to be present at the birth, quite rare in that era. Rick was with me for the final hour.

“Pant like a puppy dog … pant like a puppy dog,” he advised with great authority.

He had obviously read the chapter for supporting fathers that that was good advice.

“You are not helping … why don’t YOU pant like a b…  puppy dog?” I gasped in between contractions.

“I read that you may become abusive,” he cautioned me.

“Bleep … bleep … bleep …” I screamed at him.

I gave birth to a perfect six pound ten ounce baby boy at four o’clock in the morning. Dr. McAdam handed the baby to Rick and stood up to shake my hand between my suspended legs. He made us feel we were the only couple who had ever given birth. It was very special. I will never forget the look of wonderment on Rick’s face as he held our baby son. We were overcome with emotion that we had created this perfect, beautiful little person.

Thankfully there were no problems with the early delivery. All my fears of my ability to be maternal dissipated. I felt an overwhelming love for our little boy. I was thankful we had left McAllister in time for me to deliver in a hospital.

Rick had been planning to return to McAllister that day. A telegram was dispatched to Paul and Rhonda which meant the entire Gulf Country knew of our good news. Rick began phoning family and friends to pass on the news with the luxury of a real telephone. We wanted the world to know!


 At twenty-two, Jenny fell in love with Rick Old and went to live and work with him on his property, McAllister, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. There, she faced incredible hardship, living in a hut with not even basic necessities. Her only contact with the outside world was a two-way radio.

In this vast empty landscape, she battled drought, flood, fire, and cyclones. For eighteen years she and Rick struggled to stay on in the Gulf, eventually triumphantly turning McAllister into a thriving oasis. 

This extraordinary story of one indomitable Australian woman is told in her own words with skill and humour. A story of the bush people and their generosity, filled with wonderful characters. Most of all, the story of one woman’s love for her man and the adventure it took her on.

McAllister, the story of Jenny Old’s amazing life in the outback, will captivate and enthrall. 

To find stockists, and where to purchase the book online, visit http://www.jennyold.com/

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