A biography from the internet:

“Richard Daintree was born in Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire in England, the son of Richard Daintree, a farmer, and his wife Elizabeth. He was educated at Bedford School, and started a degree at Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1851, but left after a year due to ill health. Migrating to Australia for a warmer climate, he was briefly a prospector in the Victorian gold rush in 1852.”

Now stop right there.  “Migrating to Australia for a warmer climate”.  1851.  This was not some small trip we are talking about.  This must have been like going to the Moon now; possibly worse, because at least Tim Peake could beam down images to Earth of himself in a rocket enjoying zero gravity.  Not only was Australia in 1851 an unimaginably large distance from here, but it was also a pretty unknown, incredibly hot and often hostile environment.  Our Old Bedfordian hero became a pioneering Geographer and Photographer in Australia; he was the first government geologist for North Queensland and discovered a number of gold fields and coal seams which were later exploited.  Daintree was also one of the first to use photography on field trips and these photographs became well known and remain some of the most important evidence for life in North Queensland in the mid-19th century.

The reason I know all this is because of our own amazing Mr Garrett, who runs the Bedford School Association, which includes overseeing the Old Bedfordian Club.  He is a font of knowledge and fortunately I discovered this before I went to Australia this summer.  I spent two days in far north Queensland in the Daintree National Park, crossing the Daintree River, next to the town of Daintree, and into the Daintree Rainforest.  I was already “Daintree’d out” when I got to the visitor centre to be told that Daintree himself never actually made it that far north – his old mates had simply named these places after him in honour of what he had done for Queensland.  But it is pretty amazing to have an Old Bedfordian quite so well known on the other side of the world 140 years after his death.  Two things struck me about North Queensland; the first is that lots of animals can kill you.  Everybody knows about the crocodiles, the snakes and the spiders; even the wild boar that roam the Daintree are well known animals. But I had not heard of the cassowary, a common bird in those parts, build a bit like an emu, but which can run at 30mph in dense rainforest, jump to 1.5m and claw you to death with the vicious middle claw of its three toed feet.  Apparently a 2003 study of 221 cassowary attacks found that 150 were against humans.  My conclusion is that, as a geographer and photographer, Daintree must have found it a fascinating place; he must also have been incredibly brave.

So why do I tell you all this?  Well, apart from a bit of Bedfordian history, I love Australians.  It is to do with their attitude to life.  They are, and would describe themselves, as a “can do” nation.  They don’t just sit around waiting for things to happen; and in particular, you will never hear an Aussie saying “I can’t”.  If someone asks permission to do something, the regular response is “go for your life, mate”; “don’t die without trying” is another similar phrase.  And they hate sportsmen who do not “give it a go”.  I saw some pretty amazing things when I was there: including, at a country prep school run by a friend of mine, 10-year-old boarders who asked their Housemaster if they could camp out in the bush that night.  The housemaster would make sure they had a billy can, a sleeping bag and a radio (to give them contact with the House) and send them off out to fend for themselves.  They most certainly do “give it a go”.

Daintree, an Englishman and a Bedfordian, must have fitted in well.  This term I encourage you to “give it a go”.  Get stuck in; don’t worry too much about the consequences; try hard; and take a “can do” attitude.  If we all do it together, life will be pretty good fun.

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