The yearly muster of brumbies goes on, with Matthew O’Riordan (John O’Malley) riding with other local graziers. At home, his wife Jane (Thelma Scott) takes care of the youngest children, including Cathie McAllister (Charmian Young). Jane’s youngest boy, Michael (Jimmy White), wonders why she has to look after somebody else’s baby. Michael says his prayers, as eldest boy Shane (Tom Collins) looks on.
The scene’s mixture of heroic action outdoors and tender maternal love indoors contains Chauvel’s distillation of family virtues – physical courage, combined with great compassion, all bound together by love and religious piety. The sentimentalism is leavened by the use of humour, when young Michael refuses to be deflected from squandering his prayers on his brother. Jimmy White, who plays Michael, was the son of a farmer from Penrith, west of Sydney, and one of Chauvel’s best casting decisions. He speaks with an earthy country accent that has all but disappeared from Australian speech. Chauvel added the scene of a woman washing her baby on the kitchen table after seeing a farming woman doing just that, when he was growing up in the Fassifern Valley, south-east Queensland.
These scenes depict the usual gender roles of wife-mother-kitchen and husband-father-outdoors, but Sons of Matthew never really sticks to them. Cathie McAllister grows up to be a fine horsewoman, and a fearless, pioneering spirit (see her ride in clip three). There are many examples of such women in Australian cinema of the 1930s – particularly in the films of Ken G Hall (see Tall Timbers, 1937). There’s someone like Cathie McAllister in most of Chauvel’s films – although often she’s more of a temptress. Cathie remains a virtuous beauty and an idealised picture of Australian womanhood – athletic, beautiful, brave and steadfast.