Happy Christmas from the Newell



When I as in second year at the University of Queensland my parents left home. They moved from Oakey on the Darling Downs to Eudunda in South Australia. My brother and I finished our studies in Brisbane; two other brothers went to Adelaide Uni.

So for 30 years we have been a family divided by 2000 kilometres.

I reckon at least once a year for those 30 years I have driven between Brisbane and Adelaide, or in recent times, Melbourne and Adelaide.

I know the Newell Highway very well: every tiny siding, every creek and crossing, every hamburger joint, every banana milkshake maker. Indeed, when I was popping on to the Breakfasters at 3RRR with Squaredy, 3G and Tinsel Tony Wilson, I wanted to do a segment called Know Your Newell. It didn’t quite get up. Instead we did Harmsy’s Highway which was great fun anyway.

The Handicapper is also a Queenslander so, in recent years, we have driven to visit her family (and my brother and his family, and a lot of old friends) for Christmas. The Newell is still wonderful.

On Monday and Tuesday The Handicapper and I and the three kids (Theo, 6; Anna, 4; and Evie, 2) travelled north. Leaving far too late on Monday we only made it to West Wyalong.

Yesterday (Christmas Eve) we just kept heading north. The kids were fantastic.

There was this great sense of people heading in the direction of loved ones.

Nanna had given us a new Christmas carols CD – very traditional choral music which resonates very deeply with my own childhood experience (and beyond).

At the same time, Damian Callinan gave us three CDs from his wedding – each is an excellent compilation of music from different eras. The first CD opens with Run Rabbit and the second track is Teddy Bear’s Picnic – both are in the style of early production which evoke memories of Movietone news and men and women in hats. Given the last two days, these two songs will have a place in Harms Family folklore forever. It is these simple things which carry complex meanings, whether we have words for them or not.

We made it through Goondi at about six last evening. There was a small storm to the south-east. Then on through Yelarbon and Inglewood. This is the bush. The kids were singing Away in a Manger. That memory will also last, the pipe organ swelling, the car filled with the voices of innocence.

We will be going to a Lutheran Christmas service in the city this morning and on to Christmas lunch with the extended family of The Handicapper.

Two days crossing the country with your own gives you time to contemplate – if you can ignore the chaos in the back seat.

Dashing through the bush

In a rusty Holden ute

Kelpie by my side

Esky in the boot.

The kids love it. Shocking hyperbole I know! But, in a secular and parochial sense, somehow appropriate for the trip.

Thanks to everyone who has been part of the life of www.footyalmanac.com.au this year.

The Handicapper and the tribe and I wish you all a very happy Christmas Day, whatever it means to you. I hope you find as something as deeply satisfying as I will: people around, Victorian sparkling, High country Riesling, Rockford  Shiraz, (Mickey Randall’s) chook, mango salsa salad, and pav.

I also hope that, however you understand the world, you will experience the momentary paradox of simplicity and complexity, and feel that some things transcend the life of the mind.

Happy Christmas.


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Cat ftom the Country says

    Happy Christmas to you and yours. We have fond memories of the Newell. 1988; one bus on way to Expo, breaks a stub axle. All ferried on the other bus to Coonabloodybarabran and wait for the next 8 hours!
    2013; 14 cyclists 46-68 years of age riding from Maryborough Victoria to Maryborough Queensland to raise funds for Alzheimers had to use the Newell for a few kms. Trucks would not slow down for them even though the bus driver tried to make them aware. $25,000 raised on the 2100km ride.
    Merry Christmas too all. I have enjoyed my first part year with the Almanackers.

  2. G’day John and greeting to the family as you travel north. Starting to make a move on lunch. I’m cooking the prawns oysters and lobster tails. Not sure what anyone else is having although there are some tasty snags in the fridge. Christmas CD on. Winter Wonderland make me think of Phil Taylor and pissed poms at the darts. Safe travel and all the best for 2014

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    All the best , The Harms that big a drive with that ages of kids you are better than me ,

  4. Christmas best wishes to John, Susan, your kids and all the Knackery.
    From PeterB, the Avenging Eagle and Shandy the Wonder Dog (its a wonder he’s a dog).
    “With Santa looking down
    upon the gathered Knackery,
    He said quit all your bullshit
    I’ve heard all your flattery;
    I know you’ve all been naughty
    stop pretending you’ve been nice,
    Just get some hay for Rudolph
    and put the beer on ice;
    God bless your wife and children
    for putting up with you Knackers,
    Its time to carve the ham
    and pull your Christmas crackers.

  5. Happy Christmas to the Harms clan. I have fond childhood memories of drives up the Newell in the Kingswood. Thanks for reigniting them.

  6. Sean Gorman says

    GO well Harmsy clan. I notice John you did not divulge where the best hamburger joint was or the best banana shake!!!

  7. Sean, hamburgers with the lot and banana milkshakes are like children, the concept of favourite does not apply.

    However, on the banana milshakes distant cousin, the banana smoothie, I am a harsh critic of honey and cinnamon, and I prefer them made with bananas just on the green side of perfectly ripe. Best smoothies are in northern NSW, around the Murwillumbah-Mooball-Brunswick Heads region.

  8. Thanks Harmsy, and best of the season to you and yours. Yes, that’s a Hawker extending best wishes to a Catter!

    In reference to your piece can I add the following songs to the Xmas mix?


    That’s one for believers, one for unbelievers and one for country music fans (me). Oh, and here’s another, for the saucy:


  9. Sean Gorman says

    I hear you Harmsy – I prefer a frosty mango smoothy myself. However on such an important sporting day is there anything better than a freshly brewed cup of tea watching the first over of an Ashes test. I think not.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Lovely stuff John. Hope the Harms family had a great Xmas. Safe trip home.

  11. The Newell ? West Wyalong ? Well John, you’re not too far from Ardlethan, though about three months early for their wonderful, annual picnic meeting. Safe travel, happy 2014.


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