In the HOT SEAT

Richard was always going to be a farming boy from the moment he was evacuated from South London to a tiny village in Berkshire – the village that became the centre of his evacuee book, Six Spoons of Sugar.  As soon as he was old enough he spent his school holidays working for Farmer Collins (he turns up in Six Spoons), then after leaving school he went straight to being a farm trainee at an estate in Englefield before gaining his diplomas at Berkshire Agricultural College in Burchetts Green, Maidenhead.

After college it was onto one of the finest herds of stud Beef Shorthorns and picking up very special skills from Ernie Ford regarded as the best herdsman in the country. And this brought Richard to the attention of Dalgety and Company, stock agents recruiting capable lads seeking adventure on the high seas – a deckhand?  No Richard was put in charge of priceless stud cattle and horses on their way to new owners in Australia. What Richard didn’t bargain for was stumbling across stowaway with a knife in his hand. “Split on me Pommie bastard and I’ll do for ya…”

Down Under he was entrusted with an up-and-coming stud herd and brought out the Supreme Champion at the Royal Adelaide Show – only for the stud owner to say, “Thanks, I don’t need your services any more.” A stint as a Jackeroo (Jack of all trades) in the Outback after which his luck changed and he was offered a start as a journalist roaming the wide open spaces of Outback Australia turning his experiences into fine words. The words were so fine, in fact, that after four years they brought him to the attention of the big-time papers of Melbourne.

Richard interviewed the great and good; Prime Ministers and Premiers, land owners with “a couple of back paddocks…” that turned out to be larger than England and Wales put together. He confronted death on the notorious Birdsville Track and came face-to-face with the realities of the Min-Min lights – lights of Aboriginal warriors from the grave.

In between times he raced a Porsche, got himself into hot water in the Red Light district of Sydney and rounded up a few thousand head of sheep destined for markets in the big cities.

No wonder the big-time newspaper in Melbourne gave him credit. Not that life was always smooth. The English cricketers were touring at the time and when Geoff Boycott scored another century his Editor took it out on his Pommie journalist. “Get out of my office and get that bloody story, Holdsworth. I don’t want to hear from you or that Geoff Boycott again today…”

And it was the big time paper in Melbourne where he found and won his Aussie bride, Heather.

In the HOT SEAT chronicles all this. Plus an extensive travel section bringing the reader up-to-date with Australia as it is today. As Richard’s book puts it: “Here’s where you start planning the trip of a lifetime Down Under… Or if you are an Aussie, go out and explore your great country.”

Click here to read an extract from In the HOT SEAT


RADIO INTERVIEW WITH DENIS WALTER

While in Oz, Richard was interviewed on the radio by Denis Walter. Click the forward arrow on the media player below to listen to the inteview.