Western Riverina Arts published 'How Stumpy Made the Weight' in 2014, a poetry booklet featuring a previously unpublished poem by John O' Brien, as well as works by local poets responding to O'Briens piece.
It’s important to celebrate and learn from poetry of the past, as well as to
support and encourage the efforts of contemporary regional poets. This is the rationale underpinning the publication of the John O’Brien poem How Stumpy Made the Weight and its companion pieces.
Stumpy was May Elizabeth Bishop (nee Knobel), born 1896 and died in 1990. She was a tireless charity worker (Legacy, Mercy Hospital, St V de P) and well known in Albury area. She was awarded a British Empire Medal for this work.
John O'Brien (Patrick Hartigan) was the School Inspector for the Goulbourne Diocese early in the 20thCentury, based in Thurgoona (Albury). May lived in Thurgoona and her family would have entertained the local parish priest Father Hartigan. The poem would have been written about May when she was 14 or 15 years old suggesting it was written around 1910. It has been in May’s family ever since this time, and we thank Janine Agzarian (May’s granddaughter) for bringing the work to our attention and suggesting that it be shown to the public.
The poem is in typical O’Brien style: humorous, rollicking and yet human. Local poets from the Western Riverina Region–who have read and responded to the piece–have taken the work in a number of interesting directions. Within the book we are proud to be foregrounding the previously unpublished O’Brien poem, as well as new contemporary poems of five regional poets.
The book was launched with a performance at the festival named after the famous poet in Narrandera. The John O’Brien Festival is an annual event in Narrandera.