Deeply concerned about the care and protection of Magnetic Island's wildlife, Margaret Vine fed a large number of Wallabies, Kookaburras and Curlews, all of which had names drawn from opera , Shakespeare and the classics.
By Peter Simon
Hanging on her wall was a Clifton Pugh painting of a Wombat, perhaps even his pet one. He illustrated the book Death of a Wombat which showed what bushfires did to the wildlife of Australia. The artist's home in the bush at Dunmoochin , Victoria, became an animal sanctuary and attracted a colony of artists .
Alarmed by the condition of a newly hatched Curlew chick, Margaret contacted an animal carer , dubbed the Queen of the Jungle, who had a long involvement with Curlews and Torres Strait Pigeons .
As it happened , I drove the Queen of the Jungle to the Vine residence to look at the bird . Upon arrival , she was informed it looked as if it had died . Picking it up, after a quick examination, the Queen held the ball of fluff up to her mouth and blew into its beak . Much to the delight of all , the bird moved. The Curlew was transported to the Queen's residence , named Margaret after Margaret Vine , and hand reared .
Eventually the female bird matched up with one named Spikey , became" strange" when another female appeared on the scene , flew away .
Margaret Vine , skilled at editing , assisted the Queen of the Jungle compile an information pamphlet ,The Cry of the Curlew , above , put together over many editorial sessions , at a round table in the open , at Margaret's place, fine champagne , choice cheeses and other delicacies provided .
One of the Curlews which strolled about nearby during these sessions was named Groucho Marx , because he had big eyes, walked like him and Margaret added he was grumpy by nature .Thousands of the Curlew leaflets have been handed out on the island to visitors . Two days ago, the Queen of the Jungle pulled out a plastic wallet containing drafts of the leaflet with many handwritten notes , an unusual bundle of island history .
A Possum which scampered about demanding attention from Margaret bore a name from opera . It could have been the one which reached up and grabbed a delicacy from the hand of a woman , one of two friends from south , Margaret was entertaining , champagne flowing .
During the editorial sessions Margaret pointed out many of the named, inquisitive Wallabies which hopped about in the nearby large granite boulders , able to leap onto the flat roof of the house .
A considerable amount of money was spent by her feeding the wildlife: large bags of mixed seed , pellets , carrots , stir fried steak cut into tiny pieces for the Kookas . Quite some time ago, when she seemed healthier , she told me she felt like writing about her many pets, which included more than 40 Wallabies .
Without him knowing , I offered the services of illustrator , author and film maker Peter Burleigh , who had written the Bulldust Diaries , about a car safari with friends across North Australia in search of the elusive barramundi , for this blog . I am sure, said I , Burleigh would be only to happy to illustrate her wildlife special .
There was a subsequent surprise response to my unauthorised use of Burleigh's brush . Margaret emphatically told me she would not like her pets subjected to any satirical treatment . Taken aback , I wondered what had sparked this statement . I could only surmise she had looked at the Bulldust Diaries and had been shocked by the animal drawings , one shocker below .
NEXT: An insight into Margaret Vine's extensive research into Australian art , Queensland regional history and her strict editorial standards.