1 9 8 6 (Australia)
4 x 90 minute episodes
This four-part miniseries told the story of Australian author A.B. (Albert Barnett) Facey.
Five actors played Bert Facey – four as a boy and young man (Dominic Sweeney, Scott Bartle, Anthony Richards and Benedict Sweeney) and one as the voice of old Bert looking back on the events of his youth and serving as narrator (Bill Kerr).
Born into a large, impoverished family, uneducated and illiterate, his father died of typhoid fever when Bert was two, and his mother abandoned him to the care of his grandmother shortly afterwards.
With grandmother and assorted brothers and sisters, Bert travelled hundreds of miles to join an aunt and uncle living in a ramshackle corrugated hut in the stiflingly hot and dusty Kalgoorlie gold fields of Western Australia.
The gold was nearly played out, so they moved to a government land settlement to try to carve a farm out of virgin bushland.
But there were too many mouths to feed, and to help pay for his keep, Bert – then aged eight – was sent to work for a family of drunken horsethieves who promised him clothes and wages which never materialised.
Two years later, the boy ran away after being horse-whipped almost to death.
Life seemed to take a better turn when Bert worked for a childless couple who treated him as one of the family and eventually decided to adopt him. But when his mother refused, their attitude to Bert changed, and he once again found himself on the move to another family.
A succession of jobs followed: working on Western Australia’s huge cattle stations, during which he was lost for seven days after a storm and rescued by aborigines; as a farm manager, building dams and fences; and labouring on the spreading railroads.
These years of hard physical labour toughened him up, and when – at 19 – he joined Mickey Finn’s Boxing Troupe as a prizefighter, he toured Australia, taking on and beating all comers in the heavyweight division. But his blooming boxing career was cut short by war.
As a recruit in WWI, he was sent to Gallipoli, where he took part in bayonet charges, hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, and had to bury his own brother, Roy, who was blown to pieces by a shell.
Bert was seriously injured by an exploding shell, which killed all his mates. Army doctors told him he had only two more years to live if he was lucky.
He survived another 66 years, fathered seven children, and had the satisfaction of seeing the rough notebook jottings he had compiled of his extraordinary life turned into a best-selling novel in his native country.
Bert died in 1982, aged 87.
Filming for the mini-seres took place in around 60 locations, covering the years from 1899 to 1916. Costumes, houses and other items used in the production were made as authentic as possible or dated from the actual period.
Young Roy Facey
Bert (aged 5 years)
Bert (aged 9 years)
Bert (aged 14 years)
Young Alice McCall