Thorn Birds
The novel, The Thorn Birds, is a very well written story about a family living
in a poorer section of New Zealand whose livelihood is shearing sheep. The money
for the family depends almost solely on the sheep. In the family, there is

Padraic Cleary (Paddy), the father of the clan. He is a likable man who commands
respect from his children and from those who know him. His wife, Fiona Cleary
(Fee), is a woman with a past who loves her children, respects her husband but
is living in a world that she did not want, but accepted it as her only possible
way of life. Then there are Fee and Paddy's children, Frank, Meghann (Meggie),

Hughie, Jack, Stuart (Stu), Bob, and the twins, Jims and Patsy, but the story
revolves almost entirely around their only girl, Meggie. When Meggie was about

10 years old, Paddy's older sister, Mary Carson, beckoned Paddy to come work for
her on her very large, very wealthy ranch in New South Wales, Australia,

Drogheda. The family fell in love with Drogheda, even though they had to put up
with drought, fire, and a climate that they were not used to. The boys in the
family lived for Drogheda, and were the main work force of the ranch, herding
sheep and cattle from one paddock to another, and working very hard during the
most profitable time of the year, the shearing season, and the most hectic, the
lambing season. Paddy was an immigrant from Ireland to New Zealand and was a
devout Catholic, along with most Australians. Upon arriving to Drogheda, the

Cleary family met Father Ralph, a friend of Mary Carson, a constant visitor to

Drogheda, and the local priest of the closest town to Drogheda, Gillabon. The
rest of the story rotates around the relationship between Father Ralph who later
became Bishop Ralph and finally, Cardinal Ralph, and Meggie. The Cleary family
lived through one of the worst droughts in Australia, and the terrible fire that
followed, destroying most of Drogheda's outer pastures and killing Paddy, and

Stuart in the process. They also had to deal with the problem of rabbits. The
rabbits were foreigners to Australia, and once introduced, reproduced out of
control due to the fact that there were no natural predators in Australia to
kill them. The rabbits, along with the kangaroos, were devouring most of

Drogheda's grazing land. Through it all though, Drogheda remained a constant
source of pleasure and money for the Cleary family. Meggie had two children,

Justine and Dane. Both very different in personality, and in looks. Meggie
marries a shearer turned stockman fo Drogheda, Luke O'Neill, and from their
marriage, Justine was born. Dane was from another man, but, the father, nor Dane
or Justine knew who it was, only Fee and Meggie knew that secret. The author of

Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough, is a highly talented writer. Throughout the
novel, she describes the scenery with much detail. She should be an expert on
the topic, since New South Wales, Australia is her home. The detail and
description of the people and the places, which she goes deeply into, makes the
reader feel as if she is actually experiencing the same things as the
characters. She goes explains throughly as to how Drogheda is managed and how it
looks. Mrs. McCullough definitely knows what she's talking about and her writing
shows it. For work with the sheep never, never ended; as one job finished it
became time for another. They were mustered and graded, moved from one paddock
to another, bred and unbred, shorn and crutched, dipped and drenched,
slaughtered and shipped off to be sold. Drogheda carried about a thousand head
of prime beef cattle as well as its sheep, but sheep were far more profitable,
so in good times Drogheda carried about one sheep for every two acres of its
land, or about 125,000 altogether. Being merinos, they were never sold for meat;
at the end of a merino's wool-producing years it was shipped off to become
skins, lanolin, tallow and glue, useful only to the tanneries and the
knackeries. Mrs. McCullough's purpose for writing The Thorn Birds is not
entirely clear. She could have written the book to tell about the ways of the

Australian people like the outback stockmen. She could have intended to explain
what life in Australia is really like, the climate, the animals, etc. Another
alternative is that she could have written this novel to talk about the Catholic

Church and how man's desires are no match for