Aged 84, larrikin bush poet Syd publishes his first book of verse

Sid Riley Every bubble has a rainbow book poetry hammondcare at home 2

Central West poet Syd Riley can barely finish a sentence without breaking into one of the hundreds of his memorised original poems and stories. 

Poems about his school days, employment in an air conditioner factory and even recuperating after a gunshot wound – Syd can recite his eccentric observations in rhyme at a moment’s notice.

Now 84, Syd of Rockley near Bathurst, has published his book of memorised verses and recollections, When Every Bubble had a Rainbow, with the assistance of a HammondCare volunteer.

Many of the poems he created as a young dad. It was his way of sharing with his two boys, Paul and Peter, the tales of his boyhood in the Sydney suburb of Caringbah during the war years. “Some of the poems are kid's stuff but there is also plenty in there for adults too,” Syd said.

Syd lives independently with the assistance of care workers from HammondCare At Home and regular visits from HammondCare volunteer Jasmin Hooper. It was Jasmin who realised the wonderful words of this genuine Australian character needed to be published after hearing Syd recite his poems.

Jasmin spent months typing his poems and stories from pieces of paper whenever he recounted one of his recollections. Some poems are even illustrated by his own drawings.

Sid Riley Every bubble has a rainbow book poetry hammondcare at home 3Syd says one of his favourites, 'One Tonner', is all about the varied ways these flatbed utes are used around a farm.

'First Day at School' shows how he felt about his first hours in public education, feeling like a prisoner locked up in a classroom:

   So when the open window came into my sight,

   I quickly scrambled through it and ran with all my might.

An especially quirky poem 'Bloke at the Tip' is about his childhood memories, visiting the local rubbish dump and seeing the abandoned magazines and books on offer for the curious.

Syd’s first book has had an exclusive print run – just 10 intended for family and friends. But there are already plans for a follow-up publication.

Sid Riley Every bubble has a rainbow book poetry hammondcare at home 4

Jasmin said she believed his great poems and recollections had to be put to paper and shared. “I’ve read quite a few of his poems many times – each one can hold you. Some of these poems have brought people near tears,” Jasmin said.

“When I visit he often worries we won’t have anything to talk about. But then as we start to talk about our week – sprinkled in with a few recited poems and stories – before you know it I have to go!”

Head of Pastoral Care and Volunteer Services Andrew Nixon said Jasmin’s commitment to helping Syd publish his work was an example of the extraordinary work done by HammondCare volunteers.

“HammondCare has more than 1100 volunteers who generously give their time to add an extra dimension to the quality of life of our home care clients, aged care residents and patients,” Rev Nixon said. “Sounds ordinary perhaps, but as Syd and Jasmin show us, it is anything but!"