Playing at the Port Fairy Folk Festival on March 6, 2010 is something I can’t forget. It was the day after Ruby’s funeral [Hunter, Roach’s life and music partner of 35 years].
We were coming from Berri in South Australia Riverland and the folks at the festival contacted me, letting me know they understood if I didn’t want to play.
Well, I thought about it and thought about it, and for some reason – I don’t know if Ruby was talking to me – I felt like I had to do the show, to honor her memory.
So I said to the crowd in the tent, “If there was ever a time when I needed you, I need you more today than ever.
Someone shouted into the crowd, “You got us, bro.
Shane Howard [from folk rock group Goanna] and many other musicians were also seated at the side of the stage. From time to time, I looked towards them. It was a great comfort – they gave me a lot of strength.
My son Amos was playing bass that day. I said to Amos, “You don’t have to get up if you don’t want to, son. He said, “No, I want to get up with you daddy, I have to do it for mommy.”
We’ve been through that; I do not know how. It wasn’t easy, it was quite a moving sight. I think Ruby played a role somewhere. I don’t think about it much, but when I do, I’m amazed at how it happened. It was very surreal – I felt like I wasn’t even there, even though I was talking to the audience and performing as usual. But I felt safe, I think, being at home in the countryside [Port Fairy is on Gunditjmara land in south-western Victoria, where Roach’s mother was born, and where he now resides].
Then there was a feeling of release. Festival MC Derek Guille said to me, “Thank you for doing this Archie.” I said, “Don’t thank me Derek, I had to, for Ruby.” It just fell on my shoulder. He said: “We all have to mourn the loss of Ruby, Archie.”
I understood what she meant to many people that day. They were listening to me, but they were also crying Ruby.
That day, I realized the importance of the people I sing with and tell stories to on stage. They are more than people who come to listen to me sing songs. I needed them, and they gave me back, that’s for sure.