|Allan Alfred Childs was born at OB Flat in the south-east of South Australia where Adam Lindsay Gordon spent 14 years of his short life. Since taking on the caretaker/curator role at Dingley Dell Cottage and Museum, Port MacDonnell, Allan and Jenny Childs have devoted more than 26 years to promulgating the life and works of Adam Lindsay Gordon.
However, Allan admitted than when they took on the lease of Dingley Dell in 1997, they knew nothing about Gordon but, as he had to talk to people while showing them through the cottage, he did some research. With the help of his grandchildren, he was introduced to the computer and the internet … and that was it! He became a walking encyclopedia about Gordon, even taking on the persona of the poet when talking to visitors, and he loved reciting the poet’s work!
Allan was instrumental in forming the group Friends of Dingley Dell to raise money for the betterment of Dingley Dell Cottage, and both he and Jenny maintained and improved the surrounding gardens and grounds, earning them the Port MacDonnell Red Cross Award for gardens. Then, in 2001, the cottage received a High Commendation for its gardens in the KESAB (Keep South Australia Beautiful) awards.
Dingley Dell Cottage and Museum, the first building to be listed on the South Australian Heritage Register (on 24 July 1980), in 2002 received a $15,000 heritage grant to undertake restorative maintenance work on the cottage, grounds, and the nature trail. Also that year, for his efforts in restoring the cottage and the ongoing preservation of its history and that of Adam Lindsay Gordon, Allan Childs received an Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award.
Phone calls to Dingley Dell would always be met with Allan’s greeting, ‘Adam Lindsay Gordon here’!
Allan and the late John Adams were instrumental in organising through the auspices of the Penola Cultural Fund and several other local benefactors, a replica bust to that in Westminster Abbey being installed in Penola, in the district where Gordon spent many years. The bust was unveiled in Church Street, Penola, on 26 October 2005 by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr. This became the Poets’ Corner of Penola, with the addition of the busts of two other Penola poets – John Shaw Neilson and William Henry Ogilvie – unveiled on 2 December 2018.
Allan Childs was an inaugural member of the Adam Lindsay Gordon Commemorative Committee formed on 26 January 2006. Its first meeting was held at Dingley Dell on 7 October 2006, when Allan was elected the first President. In June that year was also the inaugural Froth and Bubble Festival at Federation Square, Melbourne, promoted by the Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. This began an annual tribute of laying wattle sprigs at the Adam Lindsay Gordon statue in Spring Street, Melbourne, each June on the
Saturday closest to the date of the poet’s death.
Allan and Jenny Childs were made Life Members of the Adam Lindsay Gordon
Commemorative Committee in 2020, at the end of which year they reluctantly retired from Dingley Dell due to health issues, having served on the committee for more than 14 years.
Thanks to their daughter Shelley, Allan and Jenny were able to enjoy a day at the Coleraine races last August, a memorable day for those attending who knew him, and saw him so happy.
For Allan’s 80th birthday in 2021, a loving granddaughter Eboni penned a beautiful tribute to him:
“80!!! How bloody good are you Paradara?*
You’ve shown your 3 children, 8 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren what it’s like to kick ass!
You’re a fighter, the head of the family, the leader of your pack.
You’ve taught us about the ghost with one black eye, the giant gorilla on the walking track and the bird that couldn’t fly.
About how life is mostly froth and bubble, the right way to back a trailer back and to always head to Pa’s when we’re about to get in trouble.
But most of all you’ve taught us how to live life to the fullest even when it’s telling you to sit this one out.
You’re an inspiration to everyone and there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t proud of you!
I hope you have the most amazing day and celebrate your 80th birthday in style!
I love you always and forever! Eboni.”
* Hindi for ‘one who watches over, to keep safe from harm or danger, protector’.
Paradara is at rest now, he no longer has pain, but he will be forever remembered.
But Allan’s soul will only rest when Dingley Dell Cottage and Museum, which he and Jenny watched over and protected for 23 years, is once again in the hands of genuine custodians who will preserve and promote their legacy, and that of Adam Lindsay Gordon as Australia’s national poet.
– Lorraine Day