You never find what you believe is there....

When I was about 12, I lived in the Adelaide foothills suburb of Mitcham in a rambling old house that was just across the road from historic St. Michael’s Anglican Church. It had a towering square shaped steeple with what, to me, appeared to be battlements on top.

On the eastern side of the steeple, in the box gutter between the two eaves, there was an old iron external ladder leading to the top. And I wanted to know what was up there.

One morning at about 5 am and under the cover of dawn, I crept from my bed and stealthily crossed the road into the churchyard. I snaked my way through the tall grass on the northern side of the church, stood, and scooted across a driveway to the rear of the building and the vestry.

I had always been like a monkey, able to climb almost anything, and the church was made of large freestone blocks. The rain, over the years, had eroded the mortar between each one and I found it relatively easy to scale what appeared from a distance to be a totally smooth wall. It was good practice many years later, when I took up rock-climbing.

Anyway, I clawed my way onto the roof, and then scaled another wall to reach the box gutter, and crawled some 60 feet to the ladder leading to the top of the steeple. I had visions of skeletons and hidden treasures in my mind as I scaled the somewhat rusty old ladder, which must have been about 20 feet high.

Tentatively, I reached the top, gasping from exertion and fear, for the height was somewhat substantial – I reckoned I was probably about 60-70 feet high by this stage – and managed to drag myself over the lip of the battlements.

I tumbled into the recessed bay at the top, yelped and stared in horror. I was covered in foul smelling dried lumps pigeon pooh.

There was nothing in the top at all – apart from more than 75 years of bird shit. I can’t even remember staying to admire the view.

I simply stood, dusted myself down, slid rapidly down the ladder, raced back to the vestry roof, hung from the gutter and dropped to the ground…then fled, expecting the local priest to appear at any moment and hurl bolts of lightning at me….

You never find what you believe is there....

John Mitchell

Kyneton, Australia

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Artist's Description

Tentatively, I reached the top, gasping from exertion and fear, for the height was somewhat substantial – I reckoned I was probably about 60-70 feet high by this stage – and managed to drag myself over the lip of the battlements.

Artwork Comments

  • Lois Romer
  • John Mitchell
  • Wendi Donaldson Laird
  • John Mitchell
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