Acknowledging Hanrahan’s contribution to climate change science

It’s a little known fact that the first climate change scientist was an Australian man by the name of Hanrahan.

Hanrahan lived a century ago and hailed from regional New South Wales. As a farmer, Hanrahan was acutely aware of the impact the changing climate wrought on his livelihood and was well placed to raise his concerns. If makes little difference if the motivation for his research was to save the world (which it was not) or to protect his work (which it was). Hanrahan’s livelihood was the canary in the coal mine and he was not going to listen to its warning without speaking up.

An investigative journalist who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘John O’Brien’ picked up on Hanrahan’s research and published the first article about climate change in 1921. It graphically detailed the pervasive nature of global warming and its impact through drought, flood and fire. It would not be unfair to argue, therefore, that O’Brien’s article was one of the most historically important journalistic works of the 20th Century.

This is particularly so, as O’Brien’s report did much more than just detail the vengeful nature of climate change on the land. It also looked into its devastating impact on the mental well being of those who tilled it.

That’s because O’Brien’s real name was Patrick Hartigan and he was a Catholic priest. So while Hanrahan was concerned that climate change would make the soil barren, Father Hartigan was concerned that it would cause humanity itself to wither and die.

As such, to read Hartigan’s article is to look into a soul that has been depressingly laid bare by climate change. Hope is gone. Furthermore, this work was clearly ahead of its time. Indeed, it must be noted that the wording of recent scientific and journalistic reports on climate change is eerily similar to the language used by Hartigan and Hanrahan a century ago.

Unfortunately, this remarkable work was not covered by the mainstream media and it has never been properly recognised. Both Hartigan and Hanrahan remain unacknowledged, even as their scientific research on the pervasive impact of climate change on the land and the soul is regurgitated decades later.

Indeed, just yesterday the International Panel on Climate Change reported that global warming has already shaped the lives of every person living today. And the ABC almost plagiarised Hanrahan’s key finding, reporting in the last 24 hours that ‘Climate change will impact everything everywhere’.

Then there is this dire warning from the University of Canberra’s Professor Helen Berry. Yesterday she stated that climate change even poses a threat to human survival. It’s almost as if Hanrahan had peer-reviewed her work from the grave.

Yet Hanrahan remains forgotten and Hartigan’s groundbreaking journalism is not mentioned anywhere by the IPCC. Neither men are given the credit they deserve. This is unfair to both personally. More importantly, it is also a failure to acknowledge cutting-edge Australian scientific research into the physical world and the human mind.

As such, I have reproduced Father Hartigan’s article in its entirety below. I am sure you will agree with me that the scientific reporting of climate change today has not really changed all that much from what was first written about climate change in 1921.

Said Hanrahan

“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

“It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.”

“It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.

“The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.

“They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry.”
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.”

“If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak–
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If rain don’t come this week.”

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

“We want a inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
To put the danger past.

“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o’Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

And stop it did, in God’s good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”


Father Hartigan’s poetry was written under the name of ‘John O’Brien’. ‘Said Hanrahan’ was first published in the anthology Around the Boree Log and other verses.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of nine children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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  1. I’m a little late to see this article
    Love it. I too had a vague memory of Hanrahan, the poem. As you say, he was truly insightful. Could he also be the inspiration for the Green party.

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  2. Brilliant piece, Bernard. I recognised “Hanrahan” immediately, before I even scrolled down to the poem – being a big fan of Australian bush poetry – so was in tune with the nature of your article.
    Yes, I agree that Father Hartigan’s “article” does make a very astute observation of the nature of climate-change “science”. Didn’t someone called Henny-Penny make a similar observation?

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