I thought those interested in my recent post on public liability insurance
might enjoy the poem below. Public liability insurance might place the
ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but it doesn¹t necessarily aid
An Ambulance Down in The Valley
By Joseph Malins, 1895
?Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its edge was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, ³Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,²
Some, ³An ambulance down in the valley.²
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
³For the cliff is all right, if you¹re careful,² they said,
³And if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn¹t the slipping that hurts them so much,
As the shock down below when they¹re stopping.²
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would these rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off of the cliff,
With the ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: ³It¹s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they¹d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,² cried he,
³Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.²
Oh, he¹s a fanatic,² the others rejoined,
³Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He¹d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We¹ll support them forever.
Aren¹t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?²
But a sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling,
³To rescue the fallen is good, but ?tis best
To prevent other people from falling.²
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow B.A. Grad.Dip.Arts
1/7 Songlark Street, Bakewell NT 0832, AUSTRALIA
Ph. 61 08 89 328306
Mobile: 04 386 50 835
Birdwatching and Indigenous tourism consultant
PhD Candidate (Southern Cross University, NSW)
Interpreter/transcriber, Lonely Planet Guide to Aboriginal Australia
Vice-chair, Wildlife Tourism Australia
For copies of Birds of Australia¹s Top End or Quiet Snake Dreaming, visit
"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him
to hold in higher regard those who think alike
than those who think differently."
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