Scabby Days

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 in Comment | 1 comment

Mt Scabby – its ‘peak’ to the left, the source of the Cotter River centre-frame


Mt Scabby, at 1790m among the highest of ACT peaks, lies on the border with New South Wales in a remote region of the Namadgi and Kosciuszko National Parks. Less a peak than a flat U-shaped plateau, it is here the Cotter River begins to flow – its three dams supplying Canberra’s water.


First ‘waterfall’ on the Cotter


A long one day walk from vehicular access, another to return, Scabby receives relatively few visitors. The effort though has its rewards – like the occasion two wedge tail eagles circled in and out of fast moving clouds with bases scarcely a dozen metres above our heads.


Scabby outlook




Why leave us alone

On the mountain with wedge tails,

Silly clouds scudding?


I’ve camped there several times; once in April 1989 with Jim McPherson on a walk around the ACT border to raise funds for the sanctuary window Regeneration, by glass artist David Wright, in St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Kambah, ACT where Jim was rector.


David Wright, sanctuary window “Regeneration”, 1989, in St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Kambah, ACT


On Scabby, Jim’s stomach reacted badly to our evening meal of Thai fish cakes, and he beat a hasty, if reluctant, retreat from our tent out into the mist and rain, seeking another place of sanctuary.


In October 2017 I wrote this poem when Jim and his wife were our guests in Canberra and, as it happened, just when another fund-raising ‘around-the-ACT-border walk’ began. It rekindled old memories. Some may see the poem as blasphemous, which is a shame – rather it is intended as a song of praise, an affirmation of the Divine. Others may detect my nod to the less well-known trinity of Thomas, Jung and William Blake, in references to Mr Pugh’s “Lives of the Great Saints” from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood, to Carl Jung’s youthful imaginings of God’s judgment and the roof of Basel cathedral, and to Blake’s Tent of the Eternals from his Urizon.





For Jim McPherson


Out there (O where?) slant slab 


inevitable oddity.

ssh! fish cake 

vipers and scalds, Pugh-like,

on Scabby.


In here, tent Eternal


insignificant sanctuary.

ssh! light mist 

softens and falls, Christ-like,

on Scabby.


Below, deep rumbling


indubitable evacuee.

ssh! as torch

headed he trawls, Ghost-like,

on Scabby.


In, out, up, down – in all


inexhaustible deity.

ssh! when shit

happens God calls, I AM-like,

on Scabby. 



I think “Holy shit” and “Shit happens”, two borrowings from our more recent vernacular, are expressions worthy of serious theological reflection. Perhaps on retreat to Scabby.


Scabby camp site


Scabby is anything but scabby. And it casts creatures, along with its spells.


Scabby snowgum creature

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  1. Jim McPherson

    Many thx, David! I remember it well … how could I ever forget it!

    And it is indeed a wonderful place, deeply mystical in its many moods. Poetic.

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