08. 12. 2015

Ailee McHughes – Ancestors & Descendants

Ailee McHughes. photo by Richard Hodges

As I stood in the middle of the church that my ancestor, William McHughes built many decades ago, I felt an overwhelming sense of connection. I never met my great-great grandfather but as soon as I stepped into that sacred place of worship full of pigeon poo and dusty scaffolding, I felt welcomed.
The land my ancestor called his home recognized me and embraced me warmly as if we had met before, the church and I.
Emotions that made no sense coursed through my body, making goosebumps rise all over my skin. It was cold as all the windows were boarded up and yet, I was warm. Like someone was rubbing my arms to keep me from feeling the chill of the stone building. As I closed my eyes to allow the sensation to wash over me, I felt grief, anguish, loss and pain.
I felt great energy and passion and effort in the walls and stone.
I felt the presence of my ancestor in the limestone and wooden floorboards, telling me that I was welcome here as his descedant; that I may humbly call this place my land.
I felt how he laboured to build such a place, in memory of his Sarah.
His wife and mother to his children.
I felt how much of his loss and mourning went into every single stone, how his tears and blood turned to stone and added to the significance of this magnificent place of worship.
I am honoured and proud to say that William McHughes is my ancestor and can say with absolute certainty that he is looking over me and is glad to see his descendants connecting with his land the way he did.

Grief, anguish, loss
mourning, anger, frustration
hard work, blood sweat and tears
in memory
out of helplessness
passion and injustice
she was taken from me
my wife
the mother of my children
she was taken from me
and building a place of worship
was all I could do
my Sarah
my darling, resign here, this is for you
i pray and plead that you find peace
I bled
i cried
i laboured
to honour you to our land
to our people
this is for you


-Ailee McHughes


Michelle Murray

Country Arts SA recognises and respects that we are living and creating on Aboriginal Lands and we are committed to working together to honour their living cultures.