Friday, May 4, 2018


Another grand tour  through  North  Queensland  seeking   books, ephemera  and oddities  resulted in  a  mixed  bag .  The  safari ,  with  No. 2  son at the wheel, took  in  op shops, secondhand establishments  ,  a garage  sale  and a roadside antiques  and old wares  business (closed, unfortunately ) which seemed to have a   giant  cut out of  King  Kong  on  the  premises , which would not have fitted in the car boot anyway .

Son revealed he had always wanted to be photographed with a gorilla, having once been  snapped  sitting on the lap of Frankenstein in Singapore  in the l970s.    
By Peter Simon
At Port Douglas , in  The  Book Lounge , a major  find  was  the slim  21st anniversary  edition  of the  quarterly literary  magazine    Overland , Spring 1975, which  contained  much  interesting content , especially an  account of  Cyclone Tracy   by  the   late  film maker and   longtime activist  , Cec  Holmes.   
Having known Cec  and  also  been  through Cyclone Tracy,  his  account , headed The Night of the Frogs (because they croaked madly as the Christmas eve night progressed  to  the disaster )  , made interesting reading .  He opened the article by recalling  that the first time he came to Darwin was  in 1945  on his way to Hiroshima . In 1960 he had  come back to make  a  film of Doug Lockwood's book , I,the Aboriginal .

In 1964  Cec was made editor  of  a magazine called  The Territorian  and  with his wife, Sandra , also made ethnographic films for the Institute  of Aboriginal Studies. Off to Sydney he went  to work for the  Commonwealth Film Unit , coming back to Darwin from time to time to see his family .
Describing the cyclone  as The Beast , he  graphically  wrote what  took place, Sandra , with glass in an eye, taken to hospital, a  distraught woman arriving with a dead baby in  her arms ,  rows of  dead   bodies .

He came   across a  young girl in the sea holding a dead pony, a  Christmas present from her parents,  which had  taken fright  and fallen down a cliff; the warden at  Fannie Bay gaol  decapitated by a sheet or flying iron .  People are mentioned by name - lawyer Dick (Ward) , dubbed the Clarence Darrow of the North , with a love of literature  and a collection of  first edition leather bound books .

There was the tragic event where a  publican  thought  a man was a looter and shot him dead, only  to discover it was a plumber he  had hired to do repairs.

 The  arrival on New Year's Day  of the naval relief fleet , aircraft  carrier  HMAS Melbourne and  13 other vessels , is covered  and  contains  an  episode in which an admiral spotted a Land Rover being driven erratically near the botanical gardens , no doubt by a drunk , who pulled up, shot at a stray dog , missed and fired again , then  drove  off . 

The driver , in white  ducks, with a  topee , also  had a  cigar and  was identified as  "Tiger Brennan ", the mayor of Darwin ,  who slept through the  cyclone and woke up to  find  the  city  blown away . The admiral reportedly said he should be clapped in irons .  

A sailor who found  the  corpse of a 10 year old girl in a  refrigerator  returned to his ship , went on deck  and  jumped overboard , drowning himself .     

 In the weeks that followed, Cec obtained a job working on the Greek passenger ship Patris which was hired  by the Whitlam Government to  provide accommodation for the  shattered city .  During  that  time Cec   met many  reporters  who  came to Darwin and  told me that  they seemed  to be a soft lot  compared with  yesteryear.  He had heard  them  telephoning  head office  down south  wanting  water  and  food  sent  up  to them .

At the Darwin High School , having a meal, Cec  met  up with Arthur Wright ,who had been  a lino operator  at the union run  Northern Standard and  the  Northern Territory News . 

Entertainers who came to Darwin  to help ease the strain after the cyclone included  Rolf  Harris  and a  Russian troupe.

 Eventually , Cec wrote ,  the frogs  became silent .( More  details  about the interesting  lives  of  Cec  and   Sandra  Holmes and their  daughter Mandy   have  appeared  in  Little Darwin , especially in relation  to  their involvement with the crusading editor of  the  NT News Jim Bowditch  .)

UPCOMING : More finds  along the way .