Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Rout  with  Kiwi soldiers in  lemon squeezer  hats  relaxing  in Egypt .
In July 1915, during the Gallipoli campaign, activist  Ettie Rout set up the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood and invited women between the ages of 30 and 50 to go to Egypt to care for New Zealand soldiers, the first batch of 12 volunteers sent to  Cairo. Becoming aware of  the  soldiers' high venereal disease rate,she  saw this as a medical, not a moral, problem and  recommended the issue of prophylactic kits and the establishment of inspected brothels.

The  New Zealand  Medical Corps  opposed her  views as  did other  groups, churchmen . She opened the Tel El Kebir Soldiers' Club, and later a canteen at El Qantara, to provide better rest and recreation facilities and  better food. For this work she was mentioned in dispatches and in the Australian official war history.

In June 1917   she went to London to push the New Zealand Medical Corps into adopting prophylactic measures. She combined the work of several researchers to produce her own prophylactic kit, containing calomel ointment, condoms and Condy's crystals (potassium permanganate). She sold these at the New Zealand Medical Soldiers Club, which she set up at Hornchurch near  the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital.

At the end of 1917 the New Zealand Expeditionary Force adopted her kit and made it a free and compulsory distribution to soldiers going on leave. Ettie Rout received no credit for her role in the kit's development and adoption, and for the duration of the war the Cabinet banned her from New Zealand newspapers under the War Regulations. Mention of her brought a potential £100 fine after one of her letters, suggesting kits and hygienic brothels, had been published in the New Zealand Times. This letter was responsible for the  Minister of Defence, James Allen,  approving  the issue of the kit. Others, particularly women's groups, accused her of trying to make vice safe. Lady Stout led a deputation of women to ask the Prime Minister, William Massey, to put an end to Rout's club.

Born in Tasmania , Rout was  a court shorthand typist in New Zealand, ran the Maoriland Worker  for the shearers union, suicided  in   the Cook Islands. 

Monday, March 30, 2015


Producer  Gary Hunn  outside  the house where Ned Kelly spent the  first four years of  his short life. 
With  40 hours of  film  shot in  two expeditions  following in the footsteps   of  Australian  bushrangers , Magnetic Island  musician,  songwriter  and   roving  honorary   ambassador  for  the American state of  South Dakota ( he composed  a  special song  for them )  ,  Gary  Hunn   is  bubbling  over  with enthusiasm  about  his  project . He spends hours sitting   in  a  darkened  room   editing  the  exciting   footage .
Film crew :  Director of Photography , son Kelly Hunn , with camera ,  and Mitchell Booth , audio engineer, at John Dunn's grave ,  Pioneer Park ,  Eastern Suburbs Cemetery , Sydney .
More relentless than a bounty hunter  , his   exhaustive  research  has  involved  interviews with authors of books on  bushrangers, visits to various  state  memorials, access to  locked up very important sites , even with instructions to watch out for a  bull  ,   several  museums ,  astounding  leads ,  hundreds  of   pages of  old  court  and  family  documents .  Currently  he  is  reading  the  death  cell  letters  of   Captain   Moonlight .
Death mask of Andrew George Scott, aka Captain Moonlight . His head was removed while his body was  still  warm   and  the  mask  made.
By  the way, do you know that  the acknowledged world  authority on  Ned  Kelly  is  an  American woman  in North Carolina  who  has  never  been  to Australia  ?
It is surprising  that  some  major television network here or overseas  has not  contacted   Gary  as  he plans ,  at  this  stage , to produce  two   films  on   bushrangers  and  has another major project in mind . There is  an  international  and   particularly  strong   American  connection   in  the  series.  His  research  is  being   carried  out  at  his  own  expense.
He  advances the  theme that  there is a direct line from the French Revolution, the Irish rebellions, the  brutal  treatment  of  convicts  in  Australia , the  Eureka Stockade ,  through to  the present day political system , the  Australian  Labor  Party , even  Paul Keating ,  and  unions . 
Without a doubt , he says , the brutal treatment of convicts   played a  big part   in  men  becoming bushrangers  .  Three  million  lashes  were given to  convicts  in  three  years  during  the  reign  of Governor  Darling.
A raconteur  par excellence  , Gary's  enthusiasm  for the  project  and his  knowledge on the  subject  produced  incredible  anecdote  after  anecdote  during an interview  with  Little  Darwin.

On  the Norfolk  Island  penal  settlement , for example, he tells   how  a special  wooden  cage  was  built in the  centre of   the  compound   and  the  troops were  instructed   from White Hall, London ,   that in the event  that  a French or  Russian   vessel  loomed off  the  island and   an invasion  appeared imminent   Irish  prisoners  were  to be  put in  the  cage and  burnt , because  it was felt  they  would  help  any  force  fighting the   British .
NEXT : Ned Kelly discoveries and  the  buried treasure of  Frank Gardiner  who  married  a  sheriff’s  widow  in America and knocked about with  famous  Wild West  identities  Wyatt   Earp  and  Bat  Masterson

Sunday, March 29, 2015


No names or clues to the location are given in this scenario. Three  mature  age  people  in  an Australian supermarket  were  recently  trying to work out  what the  initials  H C B meant on a shopping list  drawn up by one  of  them, who had forgotten what was intended . The  male  in  the group was treated with scorn and told not  to be a fool when  he  helpfully suggested Hoadley’s Crumble Bars, not eaten for many decades .  H C B?  As the  trio shuffled about the aisles they pondered over the  problem of those three letters, H C B ?  The  supermarket’s   specials  sheet  was  consulted, the penny finally dropped : Hot  Cross  Buns .  


Another  Little  Darwin special  to mark WWl
 Another  Malcolm Fraser on war notice .
The   Canterbury Times , Christchurch , New Zealand ,1916 special  Christmas number , in the midst of  the grotesque war ,  contained  a  poem , SING A  SONG OF SANTA CLAUS, the  last few verses forced to acknowledge the war ... Somewhere beyond the angry battle’s din /Beyond  the  clash of  bayonet and  shelling/ Some nations must bear witness that within /Their   hearts  the love of  brotherhood is  dwelling...


Extensive  coverage  was  given  to charges of sedition against miners' inspector, Robert " Bob" Semple ,who started work at  the  age of nine in a  Lithgow, NSW, coal mine and then  goldfields ; black banned on Australian  minefields because of his activism, he  moved to New Zealand  under an assumed name .

A large crowd, including prominent "Socialists,"  packed  the Christchurch Magistrate’s Court  on December 12  when  Semple was charged with having on November 26, at Wellington, expressed a  seditious intention , contrary to a regulation made on September 20,1915, under the War Regulation Act, 1914.

Semple , who had participated in the successful No Conscription  campaign in  Australia speaking against Prime Minister Billy "the Little Digger " Hughes , opened by saying he conveyed fraternal greetings  from  Australia  from  those who put up a great fight .  It  was  their wish  that  New Zealand    should show  some kind of  manly resistance  against the coercion  of  the Military Service Act ,1916.  The democracy of Australia, he said , had  risen to the occasion and  rejected  conscription, a most glorious victory.

"Under our glorious British government that we hear so much about we have 80,000 soldiers today engaged and permanently kept  in Ireland to keep the Irish peasants  noses to the grindstone, to keep the land for the monopolists. They are paid Government assassins  kept there to strangle the ambitions of  the Irish. As far as Australia was concerned ,the conscription issue  was not fought by the capitalists to win the war, but to screw the workers industrially and smash their organisation."

Semple said Broken Hill ,NSW, miners and other Australian  working class people were not going to be bound and gagged by proclamation and  reactionary law.In British countries there was going to be an awakening of the working class , bound in chains for ages , slowly and surely their liberties taken away in New Zealand , as shown by recent laws passed  by parliament .

"Wealthy monopolists of this country  are taking advantage of  the war  to steal the people’s liberty in the name of patriotism and some day the masses  will wake up and find themselves  bound and fettered,"the court was  told  he said , according  to his speech taken down in shorthand by a reporter  hired  by  police .

Soundly condemned were the Shylocks, the bloodhounds , the bloody  demons who bled  their  workers and cast the  world’s civilisation into the melting pot because of their greed for gold and private lust for place and power, though men and women  may drop dead  with the shock of  their last boy being murdered .

Semple made a similar speech in Auckland in which he said his involvement in the Australian anti conscription campaign had kindled a spirit of rebellion in his soul, and  he was prepared to go to jail. He told the gathering he had in his pocket  a telegram saying miners could be exempted from conscription, but  they would not accept this bribe .The political system was rooted in hell, the churches infamous dens administering  chloroform and  dope .

He was sentenced  to 12 months’ imprisonment . At the time of the court hearing the Canterbury Times  ran reports of  meetings  in various parts of  the country for and against  conscription. One from Greymouth Patriotic Society  applauded the government  over  conscription, the chairman of  the meeting quoted as saying those against were   against  everything .

When the war broke out in 1914  it was claimed it would be over  by Christmas  that year and a large number of men volunteered  for service.  As  the war dragged on with a rapidly  rising  death and  wounded  toll , it was difficult to find replacements in sufficient numbers. Thus conscription was  brought in , only opposed by four politicians.
The Canterbury Times edition mentioned here contained a Roll of Honour , a broadsheet page, full of dead and injured, including the names of some in  two lists issued in Sydney 

By  the end of 1918 , 30,00 men  had  been conscripted . At first it only applied to Pakehas (Europeans) but was extended to include Maoris .  Semple was elected to parliament in that year, a little  more than a year after he had served  his prison sentence . In the first  Labor  Government in New Zealand in 1935 he  was  Minister  for  Public Works and  later Minister  for Railways , becoming the  party’s  face  of  infrastructure building .   

The  veteran Kiwi  Labour politician and author , John A. Lee, who lost an arm in WWl, was critical of Semple , saying  he  had  been a physical dynamo in earlier years but  had  become " an extinct volcano," wearing a  top hat  to Cabinet meetings . 

In 1948 Semple backed compulsory military training  and even  drew the  first marble for that  service  which  in the eyes of left wing critics was  an  act of  betrayal.  Semple  said it was necessary because of  the threat from Communism  and that year wrote a pamphlet,Why I Fight Communism.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Barnaby  in Vestal Virgin-proof  box in bushland  
CANBERRA : The  nation  is in a state of  shock after dynamic Agriculture Minister Barnaby  Joyce  revealed  a  secret  gang of  women   who lounge about here eating grapes , regularly barbecue   shrimps on  the sacred  flame of Vesta ,  swim  in  the   High  Court  fountain  in bikinis  and smoke expensive imported cigars    can  veto  any  white  papers  designed  to  benefit  the country.  Somehow, the Canberra media  rat  pack  did not  know  about  this  all  powerful  group .

 Twitching  and speaking on the subversive   ABC   Insiders , brave   Barnaby  told  Barrie Cassidy  the  Razor  Gang    should examine  the  government’s  massive   funding of  the  Vestal  Virgins, only  six in number , and  cut back on their luxurious, privileged  life  style . 

The Virgins, he added , wear   shoes made from the  skins  of  sacrificed Koala  Bears and get about in  long  white  robes  which give the impression that they  are pure in heart, thought  and  deed.In reality they were  like  omnipotent  Roman Caesars  who  give the thumbs up or down on  anything  or anyone  they  dislike, for  no sound  reason at  all. 

Barnaby  implied  the  Vestal Virgins  should  be dragged out into a public place ,   the  Prime  Minister's courtyard  suggested , stripped  of their  white  gowns,  their hair cut  and  then decked out  in pink  jump suits like  Queensland  bikies  and   forced  to work on  the  rodeo circuit selling Kingaroy roasted peanuts  and  popcorn to  boost  LNP slush funds.
PREDICTION : Umpteen  cartoons  about Canberra virgins will  appear in national  newspapers.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Wormed ,faded, bumped, foxed , gored by a bull? , this unusual 1925  novel  Murty Brown ,  written   by  Edward Sylvester  Sorenson ,  illustrated  by  Percy Lindsay , was  unearthed  at  a North  Queensland  book  fair  and is an example  of  the kind of offbeat  items  this  blog  likes...rudely  described  by  an  antique dealer  as “ poop.”

Despite that unkind assessment , researching  purchases  such  as  this  keeps  you  off  the streets . Often it reveals  quaint , informative  and  reprehensible attitudes in  early Australia...in  this case giving opium  to Aborigines  as payment  for  a scheme to get rich killing and skinning   wallabies   in  Queensland . 

Author  Sorenson ( 1869-1939 ), was  born  in the  small town of Dryaaba, near Casino , in the northern  rivers  region of   NSW.   He   left school  aged  14, prospected for gold in Queensland and worked on sheep stations ; after numerous jobs  in South Australia , Victoria and  NSW, he settled in Sydney and took up a course to become a writer, drawing on his  wide experiences in the bush , resulting in  several books , ballads , poems  and  other  works , likened to   Henry Lawson and Steele Rudd  . His urge to write was  encouraged by one of the  founders of  The Bulletin , J. F. Archibald , and he became one of  the  most  prolific  writers about the Australian  bush . 
Sorenson's   wife , Alice ,  a widow when he married her , was the daughter of a bush worker on big pastoral runs  and was  said to be  welcoming to  any visitor  from  North Queensland .

Seemingly showing  elements of  Mark Twain’s adventures of  Tom Sawyer and  Huckleberry Finn, the rollicking  novel opens  with an account of  a  man  who transports   cedar logs  on  a raft down the Richmond River  ;  Murty Brown and  knock about mates enter  the scene , he , it is revealed ,  has  a  map for   a mysterious  island  in a  lake on which some documents of importance are buried , location unsure ,that could make Murty  rich. 

In  the travels, a ragtag  army of men  is encountered  , armed with an array of weapons-breech loaders, muzzle loaders , pistols, revolvers , pea rifles , muskets , blunderbusses and  tomahawks , spears and  boomerangs - led  by  an Aborigine , Saucepan , in  top hat and  frock coat ,  under the command of  Dick Daghorn.
Called the  Flying  Fox  Extermination Society,  the "regiment"  included a  barefooted  bugle boy  armed  with a  catapult, his musical instrument made  from  a  polished  cow horn.
The intention  is  to slaughter  as  many unsuspecting   flying  foxes  as possible in a colony of some 40,000 .The actual killing of the bats is described in gleefull  detail, there being talk of wounded and flapping foxes  being  clubbed with waddy and  gun . In the “battle”, some of the  army were  injured.

In a later  chapter  headed: "THE QUEENSLAND MARSUPIAL COMPANY”, it tells how Murty and others get  involved in the   get rich scheme involving  paying Aborigines with  opium bought from a Chinaman  to hunt and skin wallabies. The person who puts forward the scheme  to Murty turns out to be a conman and stated that “blacks” will do anything   for opium.

Wandering about the outback , Murty eventually  receives information  which seems to indicate the place he is searching for  is Koponey’s Island, where a  valuable cargo was  reputedly  hidden by  Koponey (a play on American gangster  Al Capone ?)  when he was dodging police.   

On the island  the search for the cache proceeds but Murty and  a mate are  chased  by a scrub bull they nicknamed Pugnacity, see mutilated illustration  below, eventually  killed with a hatchet. Needless to say, no hidden  trove  is found . 

However there is a subsequent twist involving a Chinaman with much gold ,  becoming sick,  floating down the river on a raft of logs, his gold and bones buried  on...Koponey's  Island .  Murty, 47 ,  and  others   retrieve the gold and the  bones of  the Chinaman, troopers step in  and  there is  a court  case in Toowoomba , Queensland , which collapses.   Murty, as sentimental as an axe handle ,  somehow  ends  up with a reward  and   the  wherewithal  to  have his  own   homestead.  
In  several  places throughout the book appears the name D.J.Cracknell of “Monzone”, 97 Willison  Road, Carlton, Sydney,  a builder , awarded NSW government  contracts in the l930s for a new pathology building at the Coast Hospital and alterations  and renovations to Primrose House, the St. George  District Hospital convalescent  home . His wife , nee Minnie Munds, gave birth to a daughter  at their residence on March 4,1914.  It may be an extreme  flight of fantasy  to suggest  that  mention of  the Muddle family ,with two daughters , on the Richmond  River , in  the book  in some way  could be  linked with  Minnie Munds . Murty  Brown  was  Sorenson's last  novel  and is available  online  on the  Project Gutenberg  Australia home page .

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Carrying American and Australian passengers , a cruise ship pulled into Townsville from  Sydney on St Patrick’s Day and once again our rare old seabird , an actual  shipping reporter ,  scooped the local media . For example , one  passenger had been on 157 cruises , another more than 100 . An Australian passenger who was based in Townsville with the Army in the l970s had honeymooned on nearby Magnetic Island . He wanted to know if they still had Mini Mokes on the island . Yes, not many ... topless cars are now all the rage .  Some passengers visited Magnetic Island . There was a fancy St Patrick’s Day cake display aboard ship, which our reporter was shown on an IPad ... would have made  a  topical pic in the Townsville Bulletin . Attractive to some passengers were the Flinders Street op shops ;  Darwin op shops also toured by  cruise ship  visitors  .  The skipper and passengers were keeping a close watch on the cyclone up the coast as Cairns was the next port of call, then Darwin ...a cyclone angle for the local media , had they thought of it . Our muttering  shipping scribe  failed to find out who won the ship’s St Patrick’s Day bingo . Next time  a cruise ship lobs in port it is strongly suggested the local media ask if it is burning toxic bunker fuel while tied up at the wharf. Bunker fuel got a federal politician kicked out of parliament for dribbling the black stuff in the building. Incidently, the Townsville Bulletin  finally caught up with the shipping reporter's expose  about  the  rusting   hulk  of the former  patrol boat HMAS Townsville , revealing there is a whole lot of  dithering among  landlubbers. 
Rusting and  locked  up ,  HMAS Townsville , like  much of  CBD.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Good to hear dynamic , straight talking  Emeritus   Professor Harry  Messel, 93 , interviewed  on  Radio  National  about  his  pioneering  crocodile  research  in  the  Northern Territory , with additional  forthright  comments about  the Coalition’s proposal to cut back  funds for  scientific research ,  the " dumbing  down of education" in recent years and the likely  end of mankind . Born in  Canada, of Lithuainian parents, he was  a paratrooper  during  WWll. A physicist ,  Messel  took  mighty  steps to promote  science  among   young Australians more than  half  a century  ago  through an  annual   Summer School of  Science  sponsored  by  Ampol  ; he also  wrote a  NSW  school  science textbook , collaborated with  unions to  spread   the message about the  importance of   science  on  jobs  and well being  of  society . 

When he  began  crocodile  research  40 years ago  he  estimated there  were less than 5000 of  them  left  in Australia  after  extensive  hunting  and  shooting . Using his relationship with ALP Attorney-General  Lionel Murphy in the Whitlam Government he  had crococodiles   declared  a  protected  species.   

I met Messel and his wife  in Darwin in the l970s  and he  took me on a crocodile  survey up the  Adelaide  River at  night in a  fast boat  from  his research vessel , which just happened to  be  named the  Harry M. Messel .  A  team member at  the bow  with a spotlight  yelled out  sightings  on  the  banks in the water   along  the way ,    recorded  by  another in the crew.  Snags   and  floating  timber  was  struck  on  these  trips  and  were identified  as  a  “logosaurus”.  A special treat was  a  meal  cooked by  Harry  aboard  the  vessel  named after him.  He also used   a  Cessna   plane  to track  the  movements  of  crocodiles on which transponders  had  been  attached .  

In the recent radio interview he said he covered  some 100,000 kilometres of waterways  during  17 years of research . This research , he told  me , covered   a  large part of North Australia  about   which  the nation  knew very  little.  Observations were  made  about  entire  river systems , including the vital  mangrove species .  I visited  Professor  Messel  at the Sydney University School of Physics ,where  he  conducted solar power  research   and   drew up a report  for  Saudi  Arabia  on  the  future  of  solar  energy .In 1962 he started the International Science School, was chancellor and CEO of  Bond University , and has been honoured for his contributions to  science  and education  in  Australia .
 He  was  interviewed on the ABC in relation to a  book , Biology and  Evolution  of Crocodilians , by Gordon Grigg  and David  Kirshner ,  CSIRO  Publishing ,  dedicated to his part  in  early research .  While  dinosaurs  might   survive   for  aeons  , he  said  he  felt  the  way  humans  were  going , they  might  end  in  1000  years .- (Peter Simon )