Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Under  Lucky  Milkwood

There is  an usual  relationship between  the  above large Milkwood tree in the Darwin  CBD  and  agronomist  Rob Wesley-Smith , shown  affectionately  patting   the  tree . Both went through the cyclone  together  and  Wesley-Smith  was  responsible for  the tree  being  Heritage  listed  to prevent it being chopped down when   the  city  rebuilt,  expanded.  A few days  ago,  Wesley-Smith  parked his  car in  the street  near  the  tree and  ate a meat pie ,   memories   of   the  terrible  night  -Christmas Eve 1974-flooding   back. 

Living in one of four units on the block, outside which was  the tree , he spent the night, after the roof was blown off , sitting on the floor  next to the refrigerator  as  the cyclonic winds  tore the city  apart.Through the louvres he could see the tree being stripped of all leaves, branches  breaking . Piles of  paper  and books were blown  out  when  a door blew open .

Emerging in the early morning  to a scene of  total devastation , the nearby Chinese temple flattened ,  he noticed that   a sheet of  corrugated iron was  imbedded  in  the  trunk .

With a camera, Wesley-Smith made his way  up to Smith Street , the main business  centre , and saw cars overturned , tangled wreckage, power lines down .Making his way down the street to the  Anglican Christ  Church , he saw that  it  was   badly  damaged – “gone”.  The distressed Bishop of Darwin, Ken Mason,  surveying  the  wreckage.

Looking over  the harbour , Wesley-Smith   said  there was  much low level grey cloud about  and nothing much could be  seen. His photographs  ended up in the  NT  archives .
Treading on a piece of glass with his heel , he made his way to the Darwin Hospital  where there were a lot of  injured people. He  told a  doctor  that  he obviously  had  a lot to  cope  with  , but  could he  just have a  look at  his  foot.
The  doctor said several  stitches were needed   and proceeded to  go into action. Without anaesthetic, pushing the needle through  the  leathery heel   was  so  painful   after the first  stitch , he chickened out ,  said  thanks,  hopped up and limped off  to make way for  more seriously  injured to receive attention. 

Subsequently, Wes  was informed that a workmate   who three days  before Cyclone Tracy  had  said  he was  not going to  die soon  was  killed by   flying iron, his  wife  scalped.
WES  SAT  HERE : An archaeological dig site in modern Darwin.
Little Darwin  was recently  taken  by  Wesley-Smith  to see the tree  with its heritage tag. It is now on a block being used by builders finishing a  26 storey hotel across  the road in  Wood Street. In pirate  stories  there is  an X  which  marks  the spot where  treasure  is buried. On  this trip he  was able to show  us the  remains of  the toilet  pipe  in  his  unit   that   terrible night , which is  visible on  the  old slab. He is worried by  the fig tree which has grown up next to and could  strangle  the  Milkwood . He will  raise the matter with  authorities to further  protect "his" tree . Wood  Street  resident  Melanie  Goehr has  been campaigning  to  have the block on which the Milkwood stands made into a park for   the  many children  in  surrounding  high rises .