Sunday, December 14, 2014


As a  result of  always  interesting  conversations  with  93- year- old  Vane Lindesay , who lives in  Melbourne ,  following  up  events ,  people , bookshops  , magazines   and   literary  publications    mentioned   in   his   part   autobiography , with  leads   and  additional  information  from    him ,  Little  Darwin  has  been   working  on  a series of  new  posts .  Following  is   one   dealing with  past   prominent   writers  who  had   a   strong    Northern   Territory   involvement .
FRANK HARDY :  As  mentioned  previously  in  this   blog  , Vane,  in  Darwin  the   day  of   the Japanese  bombing ,   came  into  contact  with   Communist  author  Frank  Hardy  during  WWll  when  they   worked   on   the  Army Education   publication  SALT  in  Melbourne .    Also   there  was  the   artist   Ambrose  Dyson , nephew  of internationally known   satirical artist  Will Dyson ,  close  to  Hardy,  who  drew   scraperboard  illustrations  for  Hardy’s  controversial   novel   POWER  WITHOUT GLORY which  saw Hardy  acquitted  on a  charge  of  criminal  libel . Hardy gave Vane  one  of   those  scraperboard   works   which   graced  chapter  six  of  the  book   and  is  still  in  his  possession.  

Vane   later  did   illustrations  for   Hardy’s  Billy  Borker   yarns   , first  made popular  in an  ABC  television series ,  some of   which  were  written   in  the  Northern  Territory .  Hardy  also  became   involved   with  the  Gurindjis  and  wrote  a  book about  their  struggle for  land rights , The Unlucky Australians .

XAVIER  HERBERT :  Famous   for   his  1938  novel   Capricornia , about the  Northern Territory .   One   of  the   many  book  jackets    Vane   designed  while working  for   the publisher F.W. Cheshire    was     for    Herbert’s    1963  part autobiography  , DISTURBING ELEMENT  .The  cover  had  been  discussed with   Herbert   and  he  seemed pleased  with   the   finished  work.

BILL  HARNEY: Author, poet ,  caretaker of Ayers Rock (Uluru ).  Vane did illustrations   for   the  literary magazine  Australian Letters , started in Adelaide  by   Max Harris,    Geoffrey Dutton  and Bryn Davies , which ran for  10 years and commissioned  drawings  and  paintings  by  Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale, Lawrence Daws, Arthur Boyd , Tom Cleghorn , Eric  Smith, John  Perceval and Sidney Nolan.

One of the many writers associated  with the magazine was  Harney . An  early anonymous   piece   heaped   enormous    praise  on   Harney  and  his   book   Life Among  the  Aborigines ,  despite  saying  it   was  a model of abominable writing 
The  author of the extraordinary  Harney  write up,  almost  certainly  Max  Harris , according to  Vane Lindesay , opens     with  the  sweeping statement  that  Bill  Harney   is  one  of the most important human beings  in Australia, “ for  he  belongs  to  a  species  that  is  dying  out  almost as  rapidly as  the  platypus.”  
It  has to be one of the most unusual  book reviews ever published in Australia. Harney, it  said,  was a national myth, a national " character", whose importance consisted  more in the yarns  that are told about him  than the yarns he spins so  magnificently . It continued :-
In the stale little flats of King's Cross, in the coffee shops of Collins Street  urbanised  Australians like myself  who  scarcely could  distinguish  a bull roarer  from a yam, tell the latest about old Bill Harney as if we'd known him for years... with something  of the same kind of self-delusion that can give such an air  of authenticity to the racecourse tout's inside knowledge of "stable plans for the autumn  handicaps ."
 Did you hear about old  Bill  Harney  in London last year ... he  went over about that new book of  his  they're  publishing  there. It seems Bill was  having his  first look at Park Lane. As you know these days  the  Mayfair aristocracy and the French whores  from Wardour Street compete for  footpath space  in Park Lane to exercise the ubiquitous French  poodles that all  seem to own . Bill took one quick look at the dog faeces  fouling  the  pavements, the aimless millings of dogs  and elegance, and commented ,"Cripes! We've walked  in on a black's camp!"
It went on to explore why Australia had made a  Davy Crockett image myth out of the  gravel voiced  corpulent poet ...
There is a simple sociological  explanation which is not quite enough. The age of the real Territorian  is  passing.  Bond's chalets, tourism, U.S.A. scientists, a great army of white-collar workers, air transport, all these  things are rapidly de-tribalising  the Territory, as it were . And the  Territory yesterday is  the urban Australian's dream of escape , a  vast and  timeless Walden . If  any  evidence  this  dream  is needed, one has  only to point  to the insatiable  postwar demand  for outback literature , a demand  for the  indigenous  which has  never developed on such a scale in the history  of the country . This is simply a  very likely consequence  of  industrialisation  and urbanisation , and  the individual's sense  of loss of mental freedom.
So far as I know Harney  is  the only  man who can genuinely articulate the quality of living  we  associate with the Territory. He's the real thing .When he comes  to write  a  book  unlike literary blokes  he  just can't lose , because he is  what he is .  
 The  writer  went  on to say that  Harney, with the known  gift of  the   gab, had used every embarrassing cliché  in his book. It had to be regarded as a mammoth monologue, to be  heard not  read, then  the  full charm emerged . He trembled  to  think  what "the thin blooded litterateur critics of the English book world  would do to our Ayers Rock ranger."
In  his  autobiography, Vane  Lindesay said  the second edition of  Australian letters carried  a  first class article , Camels and Afghans ,   written by a genuine bushman ,  H.M. Barker. Another  article, circa  l958 , covering     Professor A.P. Elkin's  recording   of Arnhem Land music  on   HMV ,  a photograph showing  a bearded   Aborigine  with  music sticks  in a studio  being recorded  for ethnologist Norman   Tindale.
Vane Lindesay  illustrated , above ,  a  short story  by Finke, NT , teacher  Marie Healey. Kadaitja  men  were   killers who wore   boots made  from  feathers held together  by  dried blood  to  hide  their tracks  and  killed   those  who  broke  tribal law . The sub editor  of  the story should have been speared because the artist's surname  was  incorrectly  given  as  Lindsay. Healey ,  a graduate of Perth university,  had done freelance journalism and was  Mrs  Marie  Mahood, wife of  a stock inspector and  artist.