Friday, July 21, 2017


One of the many  attractions of  Cairns is  the  Cairns City Library Literary Trail  which  honours  26 authors, who either wrote about or were residents   of North Queensland , with  a range of artworks . One of those featured  is  the late  Xavier Herbert (1901-1984) , above , who  wrote  the  Australian  l938 Sesqui-Centenary Award  novel  Capricornia,  about  the Northern  Territory .

 It  is in  a prominent  position against  a  wall  near the drive through   book  returns slot.   Designed and executed    by  Sarah Austin  , it  is white  stoneware  clay cut to incorporate  the design , using  underglaze  colours fired to 1220 degrees  Celsius.

Austin  explained  the  artwork  combined neo-classic elements  of the library building   and the almost classic  nature of  Xavier Herbert's writings. It light-heartedly  depicts  the reading public  catching the words and messages  contained  in  his books .  Issues such as nationalism, Aboriginal land  rights  and other social issues . An owl in a  tree  represented   his "wiseness",  parrots repeating  those  wise words . 

 Books depicted  are  Capricornia another novel set in the Territory  Seven Emus  ,  his part autobiography  Disturbing  Element, a collection of short stories  Larger Than Life , Dream Road  illustrated  by Ray Crooke   and  the epic  Poor Fellow My Country , winner of  the Miles Franklin Award   for  Australian  literature , at the time said to be the largest novel  ever written in the  nation.  Not included   is  the novel  Soldiers' Women which  Herbert  said  was  inspired by his observations of liberated  women  in Sydney   during  WWll.  
The Cairns  libraries  website  includes   an alphabetical  guide to the  Literary Trail in which  his   first name ,  Xavier ,  is  presented  as  his  surname , so that he appears  to  be   Herbert   Xavier ,  before  William Yang  and Desmond Zwar .  More  posts  about  the  Cairns  Literary Trail  authors to come , including  the  well known Territorian  whose memorial was  stolen .    


In another   interesting  Darwin talk  on August 3    Thomas Barttelot Kelly   will retrace the steps of his great-grandfather from England to Australia and  later to Gallipoli and  Persia. Walter Barttelot was appointed  Aide de Camp to Lord Denman, Governor General of Australia , in 1911 .

A member of the 1912 Federal Parliamentary Party  which visited  the Territory , he was a talented  writer who   kept a diary  of  his  travels,  including a visit to the  Batchelor Demonstration Farm, south of Darwin ,  which  closed  in 1919. The  farm was  the  pet project of  Dr  John  Gilruth , controversial Administrator of  the Northern Territory during  this time ,  forced to  leave  Darwin  by  angry  residents  . 
 In l914 Barttelot  travelled overland back to  England where he joined his regiment  and  served  with  distinction in  France, Mesopotamia , Gallipoli  and Persia , where he was  killed in 1918.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Tucked away in Townsville, North Queensland,  is the Cat's  Meow Café in what used  to be an old wares shop , part of  its  stock displayed  about  the  surprising  interior. Our  S(h)ipping  Reporter, looking for maritime  oddities,  recently ventured  into the  vintage  café and   soon  had  latte on his  whiskers , watched  by  a  shelf  of  cats .
The table  he sat at sipping  his latte, gazing about at the old bottles,  assorted china , Toby jugs , a variety of  bric-a-brac ,  was covered  with  pages  from  an action comic . A  fire truck  pedal car , below , was  inspected
 There  were  flights  of    ducks  and  a  pheasant  on a wall ,  early photographs .
The  café  is  located  in  shop 7, 262 Charters Towers  Road, Hermit Park  and is near a bookshop .  There is also a large  Lifeline store close by  from which our floating S(h)ipping  Reporter discovered  interesting  old  sheet  music which  will  feature  in  future  posts . 
The  expression  the   cat's whiskers  means   excellent , superior  or better  than  anyone .

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Above the ear splitting roar of the V8 racing cars in Townsville, a man who  had just arrived   on  the Spirit of Queensland  train from Cairns  stood out at the taxi rank . He wore  an  eye catching shirt  with  a  pattern  of  guitars , a  sensible  straw  hat , shorts.  Nearby , his  luggage included  what looked like a  large hatbox . On closer examination,  the painted  side  revealed  the  Confederate   flag   and  a  metal strip  which  read  Valiant . Engaged  in  conversation  above  the  roaring  cars,  he  said  he was  a  muso , the metal piece on  the hatbox  off  a  Valiant car  he once owned , his latest auto a  1954 Holden . And  inside  the hatbox was  his  squeezebox . 

In Cairns recently , this scribe discovered  the  place frequently  jumps to ukulele  music , about 40 players  seen   strumming  away  outside  an  hotel  in the  CBD  one  night , a real hoot . Ukulele playing has a  large following in North Queensland  and  groups feature in street  parades  and festivals .

At the ferry terminal in Townsville  a  man  with a  guitar , intent  on getting to  Broome , Western Australia ,  was  waiting  for   a   lift  in a car  going  to Darwin   in the Northern Territory .


Without  any  fanfare  and  unnoticed by the  local media , these new ticket machines, with  more than   20  buttons,   have  been   installed  in  Townsville  buses . They look  like  mini  juke boxes  or  part  of   a  new feminine  touch   to  the  gadgets in   Doctor   Who's  Tardis. The  fashionable space age looking  machine  has a card  swipe facility on the top , but  there are no  cards available , so many buttons  have to be  punched  to produce a  ticket. A bus driver described the  gizmos  as  second  hand ,  from  south  .     

Monday, July 17, 2017


Plastered across  the side of a building diagonally across  from the Murdoch  Townsville Bulletin , apparently unnoticed by the paper and other local  media , is this   sign  for an enterprising   firm , Coral Sea Property  Management , which claims to be  the pirates of  the industry and  flies  the skull and crossbones above its premises .  It features  the kisser of  US President  Donald J. Trump, and mention of a toupee-part of  a slick ( pomaded Brycreem ?)  message , not satisfied , no need to pay .  

Sunday, July 16, 2017


With media companies in North Australia  reducing  staff and shifting  into smaller premises in some  instances ,  this  large  billowing  for lease  banner  on  the Murdoch Townsville  Bulletin office  has  raised  eyebrows  and  questions.   Is  the  paper moving ,  down-sizing ? It is  not very old , built to replace the  former CBD  one found to contain asbestos .   In  recent  weeks   the  Murdoch  owned  Cairns Post  announced  three   experienced  staff members  have  departed .
One , Nick Trompf, had been with  News Corp Australia for   30 years , his latest  role general  manager of regional publishing . Two other "stalwarts" who  went  were  pictorial editor Marc McCormack ,  winner of three Walkley Awards , after  17 years,  and  sub editor Arthur Ingham , after  11 years, who had started his career in  Johannesburg  and  also worked  in  Hong Kong .   
 A while back a  sign on the small  Channel 10 studio in Townsville announced it  was   not closing,  just moving into a smaller office . This  was before   Channel 10 ran  into trouble , its   future now  uncertain . For many months  there has been a for sale sign on the  Cairns  building  in which Channel 7 is  located .
Darwin staff at Channel 9  has been  cut , evening  news   to be  compiled in Queensland. This  resulted in an angry response from locals, one   businessman suggested pulling  advertisements in protest.  In what was  seen as  a defensive  reaction to  the  threat  of  pulling  adverts , the  Murdoch Northern Territory News  said this would be counter productive to survival of  jobs and the station , perhaps fearful  that similar  protest  action could be taken against  the paper if  it scales down  operations  in  the  future ? 
 So what  is  going  on   at the Townsville Bulletin , which it is widely believed will become  a tri-weekly in the near future ?Speak  to  newsagents in   Townsville and  Cairns  and they freely admit they expect  the local Murdoch papers  to   be cut to  three  a week , there eventually being no hard copy newspapers  due to  smart  phones  and   digital  copies. 
While the  Townsville Bulletin recently  stopped  production of the free weekly Townsville  Sun , which became an insert  in the  Bulletin , the  Cairns equivalent is  still  running  as  an  insert . Both   Suns , as  was the original in Darwin  many   decades ago  ,  were  designed  to  stymie  competitors, anyone  thinking of starting  up  a new  publication .