Thursday, March 23, 2017


Another  in  our  Hong  Kong  series  by  ace photographer Michael .


Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Sporting  a  stunning new hairstyle ,  angry  President Donald  Trump  is shown in the White House rose and prickle  garden , warning his press secretary , Sean "The Sheep "  Spicer ,  he  will  be  fired  and   replaced  with a  smart  Australian Merino  if  he cannot stop  the  media  from  writing  factual  stories about the  chaos  and cock ups in the  Trump Circus .   Our exclusive photograph, taken  by an FBI  spy camera inside  an Abe Lincoln   garden  gnome , was  received  when  the  microwave  oven was  switched on  to  heat  up  a genuine, imported, duty free   Chinese  spring roll  in the Little Darwin  greasy  spoon  canteen.


TOP :  Pedestrians . Followed  by two shots  of  sign makers in the open  with examples of their handiwork  and   assorted  stencils   on display  next  to heavy traffic . Photos by Michael .

Monday, March 20, 2017


When you  are at  the age of  this  blogger  you   try  to    dodge  the  Grim Reaper's  knockout   blow ,  roll  with  his  punches ,  so  end  up  on  a  seemingly  never  ending  medical  treadmill  with  bits cut out , blood tests , pants  dropping ,  CT  scans , ultrasound  probes, a variety of  pills , etc .    In  this  writer's   case , it   involves occasional   trips  to  the   Townsville   Hospital  where  the  packed waiting   rooms  usually  feature  a   mind  numbing   commercial  TV  channel   polluting  the  freezing   air , the screen  spewing   godawful  adverts  for  exercise gadgets,  weight reducing  offers ,   idiotic   interviews  and   utterings .   

There  is , however,   one positive side  of  such  ordeals  - the  chance to  peruse  two  trolleys  of   books   on  the  ground    floor  of the  building, said to have been  designed in  Canada, capable of  withstanding  a   record snowstorm , which is good to know ,  and  also  protection  from   marauding   polar  bears . Only  joking  re  the  bears  -  dingoes  have  been sighted   in  the  parking  area .   

 While  most  of  the  books  for  sale   are  ubiquitous  crime  paperbacks ,  some   delightful non-fiction  hardbacks  have  been  unearthed...the  Barry Humphries  autobiography , More Please , in a  silver fished  dustjacket , the  opening  piece  headed  Alzheimer Remembers ;  a  large , lavishly illustrated  tome on the  world's mythology (subsequently presented to the  artistic  Queen of the Jungle  ) ; most  recently ,   a real treasure, Blood and TinselThe Miegunyah Press,  Melbourne, 2008,   a memoir   of  the  Australian  director of plays, musicals, films  and  operas  here  and  overseas ,  Jim Sharman . The    very   sighting  of   his  name on  the  dustjacket  sent  my  blood  pressure  up  with  the  strong belief   that   it  would   contain     information   about  a  number of  subjects  of   interest . 
In particular , I hoped it would  contain something  about  boxer    Rud Key ,  the  subject   of  a post  in  this blog    on  December  1  last , headed  CHINESE  BOXING CHAMPION  OF  THE   AUSTRALIAN  UNDERWORLD  .
That yarn  told how  in a  slim booklet , Ravenswood Remembered , by  Mary Crow , born 1915,  there  was  mention  of   a Chinese family which   ran  Lee Gow's bakery in the Queensland  mining  town  . One  child ,  "Choonga ", keen on boxing , had joined   the  famous touring  Sharman Boxing Troupe , fighting under the name  Rud Key  ,  his  ashes  supposedly   returned   and   scattered  about  the   town   by   his  brother . 

Following up  this  intriguing  story  , a search of the  Chinese  section of the Ravenswood Cemetery  listed  storekeeper  Key Jung , 56, who had died   in  1927, a possible  relative ?  

 Further  research  in Trove and  boxing   books  provided  additional  information, unfortunately not very extensive ,   about  Rud  Key / Kee , even billed as the  Champion  of  All  China , fighting   in  numerous  places  in  Australia , including Tasmania . He  had  been with the  Sharman Boxing Troupe  for  35  years  , in various roles , including beating  the  drum  to  attract  people  to   the   fight  tent  at  shows  and  ticket  seller .

On taking   the  Sharman  memoir  home   from  the  hospital , I  stretched out on the bed and began to  read  . On  reaching   page 9 , I  gave a yell , which  caused   my wife   to  ask  what was  wrong . It  was  a cry of exultation , not agony ,  nor  my last gasp  ,  for there  was mention  of   "  Rud  Kee" , described as  the Sharman  ticket seller  and  troupe manager ,  in  print.     It went on to  affectionately  call  him " Old  Rud, " who had been with the organisation   since  1911, through two wars and the Depression ,  his  little  known real   name   Cheong  Lee.  

 Later on  in the  book  , the author   said his  paternal grandmother  may have made an unexpected  cruise on  the Mariposa  to  Hong  Kong and  Japan     due to "wise old Rud Kee  ".   She came back   with  lots  of watches strapped to her body , under  her  corsets .  It  is  a  wonder  brilliant  Jim Sharman  did  not turn Rud  into  a fabulous stage  show  or  musical .      There  is  clearly a  bigger story   to   be   dug   up  about  this   character  Rud  ;  the  hunt goes on .  
Building  from  early  days  of  Ravenswood  where  the  boxer's ashes  could still be blowing in the wind . Stepped  up   mining  in  the   town  will  require removal of  old  chimney  stacks  in   the  area . 
The   palpitations   caused  by   the  Rud  Kee  revelations  in  the book were  minor   compared  to   the  surprise  on  reading  further   that   Sharman's   father   had  sent packing  a  crooked  cop -Terry Lewis -who  became the   Queensland  Commissioner  of   Police ,  eventually   jailed  , stripped  of   his  knighthood.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Like Darwin , in the Northern Territory  of Australia, Horn Island , in the Torres Strait , off  the  tip of Queensland, recently  marked the  75th  anniversary   of  commencement   of    Japanese  WWll   attacks  .
By  Peter  Simon  

Situated  800  kilometres north of  Cairns ,  the island's airstrip enabled Allied attacks  on Papua New Guinea and  other  Pacific  targets  . As a  result , it became  the  second most  attacked  Australian  target  after  Darwin .

A  longtime  Territory  resident ,  the  late  Les Penhall , was not only in Darwin the day of  the first attack , he   later served  on  Horn  Island   as  a  signaller   with  the 74th Mobile Anti-Aircraft  Searchlight  Battery on  Horn Island .
I met Penhall  in Darwin in the late  1950s when I covered the Darwin Police  Courts and the  Supreme Court   for  the Northern Territory News  and  Les  worked  for  the ( Aboriginal )  Welfare Department, appearing  regularly at  the Monday morning  court  call  over ,  representing   Aboriginal  clients. 

Penhall  first   came to  Darwin from  Adelaide  on November 29,1941 ,  an 18 year old   clerk with the  Native Affairs Branch , his work involving contact with  bushman  Bill  Harney,  later a  popular author ,  the first caretaker of Ayers  Rock (Uluru).

On the morning of  February 19 , 1942 ,  he made  arrangements   with  Iris Bald and two of  her  girlfriends  to   attend The Star Theatre  in  the  evening .While sitting  at his desk , the drone  of  planes was heard   and  the bombing began . He ran  out of   the office  , past  the police station-bombed  , heading for a  cliff which fell away to the beach . As he  raced   for  his life  , he saw a bomb  fall on the  Post  Office ,  killing   nine staff  ,  including , Iris Bald   and  her  parents.
A piece of shrapnel   tore  a  hole in his shirt  and caused a minor  cut .  One  vivid memory was  seeing the USS Peary  sinking  , an anti-aircraft gun  still firing  as   it  sank  from  view.  Bullets  from   Zeros   could be heard  zipping through the foliage , there were   violent ,  deafening explosions   
He travelled  overland in a police party  in a truck loaded with rescued  Works  Department  files  and  ended up  in Alice Springs  where one of his many jobs was to sort out the files brought  down  from  Darwin . He also helped draw up a list of  crewmembers    from  ships sunk in Darwin  who  were evacuated  south in road convoys , many of  them Chinese and Malays  , who wore name tags .

General  MacArthur  in  Alice  Springs
During the month he spent in  Alice he had  meals at the Stuart Arms  Hotel and was there when  General Douglas MacArthur , his wife   and  son , passed through , having  fled the  Philippines. The son, about   four , had  a three wheeler  bike   and "made a nuisance of himself " by  riding it  round  and  round  inside the hotel, running  into  people's legs and   sideboards.
Drafted  into the  Army, Les  went  by train  to  Adelaide, underwent  training , and was  sent to Horn  Island ,  which the  Japanese  first bombed  on March 14, 1942.  The main airstrip  had been completed in 1940   and work then  started on a  cross  trip.
Penhall arrived aboard the   SS Islander  which was  later  sunk  by  the Japanese  . The feeling at the time was that  the Japanese, in  New Guinea ,  would island hop  down through the  islands to the mainland .  Allied bomber and fighter raids were launched  from  the island , which  resulted  in  stepped up  attacks  by  the  enemy .   
Searchlights , he said , were  set up on  nearby Tuesday and  Wednesday islands  to help   protect  Horn Island  from  attack . When   planes made  night raids on  Japanese targets  , a  searchlight was positioned   vertically into the sky  as a  beacon  to  guide returning  pilots.  Each searchlight group  consisted of 12 men .  
The 2002 book, Horn Island 1939-1945 , by Vanessa and Arthur Liberty SeeKee  , mentioned  Penhall . In a  special  presentation  copy  to Les ,  the inscription read :  Thank you  for what you did  here in Horn island  during  World War Two . The 74th Mob SL Bty  and yourself  won't  be  forgotten .

Saturday, March 18, 2017


 Evacuated  from  Darwin  with   his mother, sister  and three  brothers   aboard the MV Montoro  before the Japanese  first attackEric  Lee , who died recently, resulting in a  huge funeral , was a jovial   raconteur  with  seemingly  endless  yarns  about  wharfies  and colourful  characters  and events .    He  regularly met  with a small group  in  the noisy food hall at Casuarina , Darwin ,  and the  Nightcliff  shopping  centre ,  where  bygone  days were  discussed ,  passers  by  asked  for  racehorse tips.    
 One member of the group   was  frequently  chiacked  about the time , he  firmly declared ,  he  had  a close encounter with a  UFO ; he would  be  asked   to repeat  details  of  the episode from  time to time to liven  proceedings  over cups of   coffee  and  tea .
Fred Corpus 

This blogger sat in on several  such gatherings  at  both  venues .  A person  who chatted with  Eric  was  barrel-chested Fred Corpus , slow in gait, on a walking stick, who carried   in his wallet a  photo of himself as a  young man in a diving suit when he was a famous hard hat  pearl diver , mentioned  in several books .  In the Senate in  October 1952 it was recorded that Corpus and Joe Hunter fished four tons four hundredweight of pearl shell in one neap tide , thus breaking a  pre- war record set by the Japanese . One year, during the Broome Festival of  the  Pearls , , Fred Corpus was the Shinju  Matsuri  Patron  who visited  the  luggers .
A member of the Northern Territory Genealogical  Society, Eric Lee  told me he was seven when evacuated   from Darwin  in January 1942.  He regarded the  voyage as  a n exciting adventure , the  vessel , escorted by mine sweepers ,  calling  at Thursday Island, where  relatives  took  the  family for a car  tour . On January 27, all civilians   on Thursday Island were  given notice   to    be evacuated  the  following  day  on  the  Zealandia and Ormiston    for  Brisbane . The  Zealandia  was   bombed  and sank  with the loss of three lives  when  it returned to Darwin .
When  the Lee  family  went ashore  during the  Montoro  stopover  in  Townsville  he  experienced  jelly , which he regarded as  wonderful tucker ,  for  the  first  time , a  fan  for  life . In Brisbane , the  family stayed at a  place  where the woman who  owned  the property  had  given instructions to hang out a  white  sheet   in the  event of  an  invasion  as  she  wanted  nothing  to  do  with  the  Japanese.
While in Sydney  they went to Luna Park  and that night  the  Japanese    launched  a  midget  submarine attack  on the harbour .
At the age of  17,  Eric returned to Darwin and got a  job as a  wharfie , pretending  to be a  year older .  His love  of  jelly was such that he used to take  jelly crystals  to work , mix  some  with  water  and  put  it  in  the  frig  to  set  for   smoko .
During our  discussions , I raised the  subject of  the well  known  Darwin   civilian who had  been  incredibly   brave  during the   bombing  of  Darwin, driving his truck  up to the wharf ,  saving many lives , on the  waterfront  and  in  the  harbour ,  who   later in life  had  abducted  and  sexually assaulted a   five year old  girl , the  court  proceedings   I  had  covered .  Eric , who knew the  man ,  shook  his head  from  side  to  side , put his  hand  up  to  his  head .   

We discussed  and  compared notes  over an  incident  in which a  man,  who  had obviously had a  heavy  Saturday night and just wanted to sleep it off,  fired a  shot  at  a  wretched  neighbour in Fannie Bay  who was  out mowing  the  lawn  early on  the  Sabbath .  

Friday, March 17, 2017


Viewed  from Magnetic Island . Townsville , in the dry tropics region , adjacent  to the Great Barrier Reef , Australia's largest urban centre north of  the Sunshine Coast,  is  on water restrictions after  another  poor  Wet  season .