John 'Macca' McCaskill

LISTEN to Macca's Poem 

Art Form: bush poetry

Lives: White Cliffs


John 'Macca' McCaskill was born in Mansfield, Victoria. When he retired from 30 years service in the police force he began living and opal mining in White Cliffs for eight months of the year.

Macca self-publishes his poetry. 


What inspired you to move to the opal-mining town of White Cliffs?

I always say, 'West of the Darling the people are great'. It's a beaut community and I feel at home here. 

When I lived in Melbourne years ago I did a lot of flying. I'd go away on safari trips and as soon as I got over the Murray I'd look ahead and say 'this is heaven'.  Miles and miles of nothing. 

When I get up in the morning the only thing I can hear is the ringing in my ears because I'm getting old and that's what happens when there are no other sounds.

What is a 'good time out' in White Cliffs?

We had an art and music festival here in 2010 and I emceed the poet's breakfast. I'd never been to a poet's breakfast before and it was absolutely brilliant. The whole festival impressed everyone so much that we're going to have another one next year.

What effect has living in White Cliffs had on your poetry?

My bush poetry wouldn't have happened if I had not lived here.

In my previous life I would do a bit of a poem about something that happened in my work or whatever, but since I've been here I've had the incentive. The quietness, the bush» I put it toward a bit of bush poetry and mix it with a bit of opal poetry.

Why opal?

It's just so beautiful. When you're mining and you see it in the face of the wall of the mine it shows the most brilliant colours. It's a real buzz to see good opal. If I made one million dollars today, tomorrow I'd still be out digging the damn stuff. It gets you in.

Can you tell us the background to this poem?

I was driving on my way back from Queensland (which I don't usually do as I normally fly). My cousin had passed away and I called in to see an old mate I mined with. He was mining near the Queensland border at the time and the camp was a mess. After I left, when I was back in the mine, I started penning this poem.

Edited from an interview with Andrew Warren, 2 October 2010.