Sunday, October 31, 2021


 Our  Shipping  Reporter applied the  Sherlock  Holmes  forensic  approach  to  the   battered   pianola   rolls  which surfaced at  a  garage sale on  Magnetic Island  and   came   up   with  some  elementary but very  surprising   deductions   .

With the aid of  a  magnifying glass , he closely examined  each of  the  six  nibbled  and  taped  rolls , did   some  follow up  research  online and  in  books.

Attached  to  one  roll was  a  tattered   trade  sticker  for  Winkworth and  Son, Sydney.  Charles Robert  Winkworth came to Australia from  Essex, England, when  he  was  17. He became involved  with  an early music shop in  Sydney  and eventually set up his own  business  in  Annandale  , which  flourished . 

At  one stage  he was  the  mayor of Annandale .  He died in 1933, aged  67, a  set of  stairs  apparently  named   after  him .  The tunes played on the above rolls  were by  E. Murn , on the left ,  and  L. Pardey , on the  right . 

They were two  prominent  musicians ,  the  so  called   Katoomba  Girls,  sisters  Edith   and  Laurel  Pardey  , who  developed a   huge  repertoire  of   waltzes  and  foxtrots  in  the  l920-30s.

Edith married  Frank Baker  Murn , Director of Posts  and Telegraph , NSW,  who  also  wrote  poetry and  lyrics  for  pianola  rolls .  Some of  the  pianola  rolls  listed   her  by   her  married   name,  E. Murn . Laurel  wowed  people by driving  a  flash  Chrysler 770 coupe .

Another   prominent   woman   in   the Australian   pianola   roll  world , Lettie  Keyes , teamed up with  Eileen Foley in  the early 1930s  and they played on  radio and  for  Radio Luxembourg . Before the outbreak of  WWll, they  were  also  the  musical directors for  SS Kanimbla which sailed about  Australia .    

Our waterfront roundsman said   that when he  was researching the Kanimbla , he unexpectedly came across  a  picture of  Sydney Harbour  which  included  waterfront  buildings  in  the  background   at   Kirribilli , where he  had   lived  in  a  flat  in  one  building  , with a harbour view, when  he was  a  snotty-nosed  boy.  His mother had received  a  shock   the   night  of  the June  1942  attack  by  Japanese  midget submarines  on Sydney  Harbour .

The Japanese failed to destroy  the heavy cruiser USS Chicago , but killed  21 men when the converted ferry  HMAS  Kuttabul , providing accommodation  at  Garden Island , was  torpedoed .   

In the aftermath of the attack ,which shocked the  nation, coming after the devastating attack on Darwin , the Shipping Reporter said he was taken by his  uncle to see  a   submarine  put  on public  display . 

Meanwhile, back at the motley pianola rolls , our reporter   detected  that  the above  Broadway word roll of   Charmaine! , a waltz , said to have been played by Kaplan and  Rawlings  of the Anglo-American Player Roll Company   has   a  colourful  background . 

It involved Lennard  Luscombe , brought up as a musical genius in Melbourne  by his ambitious mother. About 1916 , he made some of the earliest pianola roll recordings  using brown wrapping paper ,usually cut by hand  with  a  penknife. 

Off to America  he went in 1917 where he became the musical director at the Century Theatre, New York , and  visited  pianola roll  companies  there .

In  1921 , back home in Melbourne , he  founded the  Anglo-American Player Roll Company and was its  sole artist , who used  pseudonyms such as Dan Rawlings, Art Kaplan (see Charmaine! above )  and  Earl Lester  to make out  he  had  a  string of artists.

Our sunstruck  Shipping  Reporter  hopes  to  pick  up  a  pianola  player  at a garage  sale  in  the near  future .   


 An overdue dusting  of bookshelves resulted in the discovery  of  this long  forgotten 1975 booklet  in a  batch of  slim, buckling  volumes , including  what it  was  like in  the Concentration Camp at Dachau ,translated from the German ; 1968 selected poems of Yehuda Amichai, translated by Assia Gutmann, a Hebrew holograph on the cover ; the  l970  Concept poetry ,No.1, edited by David Rees,  published  in  Edinburgh . 

Makes you wonder  what other forgotten interesting items are tucked away gathering  dust on  the  shelves, in  boxes, filing cabinets. Makes one weak just  thinking  about  it .

By  Peter  Simon 

The 70 page ,illustrated  handbook, published with a grant from the NSW Council of Social Services , was  written and prepared by the Community Action Exchange  which  operated  between  January  and  May 1975. It was  written and prepared by  21  concerned  people, Eva Cox, Rob Tickner among those  whose name rings a bell. Peter Manning was probably a reporter with whom i worked on the  Sun- Herald .

In describing citizen participation , early in the text , it ran an extract from the Journal of the American Institute of Planners  ,July 1969, entitled  A ladder of Citizen  Participation  in the  USA   by Sherry Arnstein .

There is an extensive section dealing  with how to use the media  and using your own media sources .

Of particular interest   to  this writer  is  the  section headed Media Contacts which names  journalists in  media  outlets  and suburban  newspapers along with their  telephone numbers  and   particular interests.

One name in the suburban  newspaper list   jumped out : Juanita Nielsen, owner of the Kings Cross newspaper, said  to be  interested in property owners , rate payers,  tenants .

Nielsen , shown above at her  newspaper, NOWwho vanished without trace, thought to have been murdered because  of  her opposition to high rise  projects ,  was the  subject of a recent  ABC series , which  was pulled . In that series , which included  footage of  people   opposing  the  projects , the author Frank  Hardy was sighted  without mention.  Hardy  described  the  Northern Territory News editor, Jim  Bowditch , as  the  last  of  the   great  crusading editors.   

The handbook contains the above  photograph of  what seems  to be a protest at  Kings Cross , media present, about  the  demolition   of  buildings . Another illustration touched on the   relationship between developers and councils

A whimsical note  was  introduced to the  handbook in the section dealing with Action Groups and  what could happen at  meetings with the use of a  Leunig  cartoon . 

The Environmental Action section mainly  deals   with  air and  noise pollution by  factories and cars .

The  Direct Action section  contains  the  above   illustration .  How to investigate  private enterprise  is outlined  in  detail .

Saturday, October 30, 2021


Cairns Botanical  Gardens   and  waterfront ; Magnetic Island Kookaburra .

Torres Strait Pigeon.

Abra and Vallis photos.



Top three photographs taken by Vallis in North Queensland ; above  view of Esperance on West Australian south coast by Robert Wesley-Smith , who says the  view is different  to  the one looking  out across  the  placid  Darwin  Harbour.  


Cairns waterfront.  Abra photograph.


 Annoyed at  himself for not buying all the Halloween  gear at a  recent  Magnetic Island  garage sale , our  Shipping Reporter  made another raid on the  island   when  he heard   there  was  another garage sale there, possibly  two .

Revealing  his  obvious  peculiar  interests , he  surprisingly made known to one and  all   that  at   one  large  garage sale  he   had  scooped up and put in his  smelly  kitbag   the   above  six   old   pianola   rolls  in  silverfished  and  worn  boxes. 

 It  tickled his fancy , while  researching  pianola   rolls    on   Google ,  to   discover  that  the  Australian  internationally renowned  pianist  and composer , Percy Grainger,  1882-1961, not  only  had  a   pianola , but  promoted   their   sale  and   the  perforated   paper  rolls  used  in  them .

The University of  Melbourne  Percy Grainger   Museum  includes the  above photo of Grainger posing with a  pianola . The Rare Music Curator  at the  university , Jennifer Hill , provides  interesting information about   Grainger  and  its  pianola  roll collection . 

While Grainger   had recorded piano rolls overseas  ,most of the  collection  donated to   Rare Music  was all  Australian , traced back  to 1947 when it was   located in an outbuilding on a  Euroa, Victoria, property, at  the time it changed  hands.

The Shipping Reporter  was  delighted    to read that  some of the   rolls he  bought  were  obviously made by  Australian   companies. Hill  wrote:

The Australian rolls in our new acquisition were produced by the Anglo-American Player Roll Co. (Melbourne) and Mastertouch Piano Roll Co. (Sydney). The former business, producing Broadway Word Rolls, was essentially, a “one man show”, established around 1921 by Len Luscombe (1(1893-1957), who was both the sole recording artist and business owner. 

 His taste and interest was in popular dance music and our collection is dominated by fox trots plus a handful of waltzes and one-steps. Luscombe used a number of aliases to give the impression of a larger enterprise. “Word rolls”, by the way, have the lyrics written on the paper, parallel to the lines of perforations, and reveal themselves gradually as the roll turns–ready  for singing along—very much as do the lyrics during karaoke.

Sydney’s Mastertouch Company was a little different, involving a larger number of recording artists, including in-house “pianola pianists”.  The firm was established by George Horton in 1919 and closed as recently as 2005.  Lettie Keyes from Nathalia (near Shepparton) and Katoomba sisters Laurel and Edith Pardey (later Edith Murn) dominate the performer list.

 Keyes (active for Mastertouch from 1923-29, and from 1961) was both an accomplished pianist and a highly skilled arranger of music and editor of rolls. Keyes’s speciality was opera arrangements and our collection includes her selections from RigolettoFaust and Martha, which exploit that potential for a liberally “edited” piano roll to deliver a complex, almost orchestral texture.

Four-handed arrangements were the specialty of the Pardey sisters, full-time employees of Mastertouch, specialising, like Luscombe, in popular music. The sisters recorded some Australian compositions, such as “After the Dawn: Waltz” by Jack O’Hagan (of Along the Road to Gundagai fame). The collection also includes a “Gippsland March”. Our collection also includes some “classical” repertoire, recorded by, for example, Russian pianist Paul Vinogradoff. Well-known pianists would simply visit and record, leaving staffers to edit for them.

Hill went on  to say the Stanford University  in  America , which has a  Piano Player Project,  acquired a  massive collection - 7540 rolls-, from  Australian Denis Condon.  The  university recently  featured  Percy Grainger per pianola rolls .

Upcoming : More about the Shipping Reporter's  rolls  and other oddities . 

Friday, October 29, 2021



Vallis  gardening  series.


 More  timber  talk  from  roving correspondent   Robert Wesley-Smith.

After meeting Grandma Tingle , not thought to be related  to ABC political reporter Laura  Tingle, Wesley-Smith  went walking in the  treetops ,40 metres above  the forest floor . 

His  latest report was sent  from  the  port city of  , Albany.It is where European  settlers first landed  and the site of  a  former  whaling station, now  a  museum.


 The  death  of  legendary  stand  up  comedian  , Mort Sahl , in  America  at  the age  of 94  has  just  been announced . He  is  pictured  above  in   the  clutches  of   journalist , publisher , one time  politician ,  Pete Steedman , in    Melbourne, Victoria,   Australia .

Steedman  alerted   Little Darwin  to  Sahl's passing , so  we  retrieved   the  above  photo  from  our   collection . 

Pete said Sahl, born in Quebec ,Canada, came to Melbourne to perform at  the Comedy Festival

He was famous for getting inspiration for his distinctive ,highly political  comedy ,  from  newspaper  headlines

In Melbourne, Sahl  was  taken to  see Steedman at  his  rural  abode at Hurstbridge ,the  former residence of  Australian playwright David Williamson.who gave him a three- hour rundown on  the Australian political scene  and  major issue to help  him prepare for   the  Comedy Festival.

( Fact check : It was more like  five  and  a half hours...a well  lubricated session .

Steedman , known as the Black Knight  of ALP politics because of  his leather  jacket  attire  ,  had  been  the  editor of  university  publications ,  the  Victorian  ALP newspaper  and   a  new  national magazine , Broadside, before going to London , becoming influential in  media  and   politics  there.

 Returning to Australia , he  became  the ALP  Member for  Casey in  the House of  Representatives .

Steedman had  been a  fan of  Stahl's  dealing  with   matters  political  and  had  collected  his comedy  records , which  he  got  him to  autograph  while  at   Hurstbridge . He   still  has  those records, signed in  now faded biro .

Recalling   Sahl's  subsequent    performance in  the  Astor  Theatre , Saint Kilda, Pete  said   the comedian  told  the  audience, which included members of the Jewish community,  that  they had not been  paying attention  to  Pete Steedman's  warning   about  the   rise of  the right  and  anti-Semitic comments   in   Australia .Steedman  and his first  wife, Julie,  in  the audience, were  surprised  to hear  him  mention  Steedman  several  times ,  unaware  that  he  intended  to  do  so . 

In his lively one term in parliament , during which he was  named politician of  the  year by  a newspaper , Steedman  used parliamentary provilege  to  allege  that  some members  of  the  Liberal and  National  parties  were  neo-Nazis .

He  "notably accused "  Senator  Florence  Bjelke-Petersen of associating with a  man  he  described as "one of  Australia's  most  notorious  Nazis and  Hitler  lovers."  

Commenting on his  wild hairstyle in the  photograph, Steedman  said it  could have  been  shaggy  due to  the fact that he  was  executive director of  AusMusic   at  the time .      

 At the height of his fame ,Stahl appeared on the cover of Time magazine . He also worked  as a  joke writer  for  John  F. Kennedy's  1960 presidential campaign .

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


 Word  has  come through that British journalist and  filmmaker   Max Stahl , above, who captured  on  film  the  Indonesian massacre  in  the Santa Cruz Cemetery , Dili, East Timor, on  November 12 , l991  , has  died.

 Darwin activist  Robert Wesley-Smith, deeply involved in the East Timor struggle , has  written  a  moving  eulogy  graphically describing the  massacre  and  how  the  film had  been  hidden , smuggled out .

Stahl  and  two  American journalists , Amy Goodman  and  Allan Nairn , witnessed  the  atrocities.  Nairn was bashed about the head while trying to protect  Goodman. 

To mark last  year's anniversary of  the  massacre , Stahl  provided  a  detailed  account of  the event, which  was  run  in   this   blog .

When news of  the slaughter came  through  to Darwin in 1991  there were  demonstrations.  There  is  a  memorial  to  the  massacre in  the  Darwin Cemetery . 

Stahl   had    received   treatment  for   cancer  in   Brisbane .     


  On a cold  day , Darwin agronomist  Robert  Wesley-Smith  turns piratical  in  West  Australian  Jarrah  and   Karri  forests.

The  above  snap was  taken  at  Manjimup  . He pointed out  that  while  Jarrah   is hardwood , Darwin termites love it .

At Pemberton , still  shivering, he took photographs of  the  Karri trees  , much taken  by the fire spotters cabin  way  up  high on  a  giant  .

To get to  the  look out , there is  an  amazing  ladder , below , which Wes  claims  he  intended  to climb,   but a  younger person pushed  in  front  of him  and  met  two people  coming  down ! 

In  the series of photos he sent  was  the following one showing how the large logs  are  rolled  onto  a  railway  wagon .


Tuesday, October 26, 2021


 It was  a case of  all hands on  deck  when  our   resident  Bush Stone - Curlews screeched loudly late at night .  Rushing outside  to   find   the  cause of  the  uproar , the  adult  Curlews , puffed up ,  wings fully extended, were  seen  looking  up at  the  rotary clothesline . Perched atop  was a Barking Owl ,  known as  the  Murderbird  and the Screaming-woman  Bird  .

After frightening the owl off  by yelling, clapping  hands and  barking  like  a  guard  dog , a quick check was made to  find the two Curlew chicks  , which  owls  eat . With  the  aid  of  a powerful torch, they were found hiding, safe and sound . They are shown below at the backdoor  wanting  breakfast 

With one or more owls  about , what  could  be done to try  and   protect  the young  birds  the  remainder of  the  long night?

Hanging on the back veranda , in a vain bid to frighten away Cockatoos  which  had  stripped the mandarin tree in  the past , was  a  worn  wetsuit  used  for  swimming,  diving on  the  reef . 

It was  hastily  attached, above,  to  the  clothesline, the arms  spread out  in scarecrow  fashion . A   Mopoke  was heard  calling in the  distance . There  were  no  further  sightings  or  blood- curdling screams  of  the  owl  that  night .

  The  alert  Queen of the  Jungle  confirmed that   Barking Owls  were about .   Several  nights  passed  without  alarums  until   about  3.20  one  morning. .

The  Curlews  screeched  loudly , causing a  tumble out of  bed .  No  Owl could be  seen near  the  clothesline .Then  Wuk-wuk, its distinctive  call   was  heard , several  times .  It  seemed like an  age  before  the dreaded  bird could  be  located  with  the aid of  the  torch.

It was  at  the top of  a  high  neighbouring   tree.  Flicking  the beam about and  making   pistol  shot  sounds  by  clapping  hands   sent  it  flying.

Sat in the darkness for half an hour  , but there was no sign of it returning to  what could  have  been   the scene of  a  crime  .  


Just  received  from  our roaming  correspondent , Darwin agronomist Robert Wesley-Smith , is an email  which  included   photographs of  the Cape  Leeuwin  Lighthouse  in  Western Australia .

When he  took the  snaps , his car had clocked  up 5000 kms  since  leaving  Darwin .

Rocks  viewed  from lighthouse .


 The  ashes of  Toni  Belo , who  helped  run   the  Darwin  end  of  Radio Maubere, which  communicated  with  Fretilin freedom  fighters  in  East Timor  during  the early part of  the Indonesian  invasion , were recently  scattered  in  Baucau , Timor-Leste, according to information received from  Robert Wesley-Smith ,  in   Perth , Western  Australia .

 Belo was mentioned in the 2005 book  Last Flight out of Dili Memoirs of an accidental activist in the triumph of East Timor , by David Scott ,which described  how  the  important  radio  operated  from  September 1975 to December 1978.

The  National Film and  Sound Archive (NFSA)   in Canberra   has  a  Radio  Maubere  section  which  includes  the   Darwin receiver  and the photo, below , showing  Wesley-Smith , right , with Laurentino Pires  , talking to Timor,  from  a   location  near  Darwin . 

For years ,the receiver ,below,  with a home made antenna constructed around an empty  Goulburn Valley fruit can ,  was  kept  in  Wesley-Smith's Darwin  flat . 

Radio Maubere broadcasts were in a mixture of  English, Portuguese and Tetum, the native language of Timor Leste. Many broadcasts contained coded messages from  Fretilin. 

These broadcasts were recorded on audio cassettes in Darwin by the Darwin-based members of the Campaign for an Independent East Timor. The cassettes were then passed on to the journalist Denis Freney (1936-95). Some of  the 192 analogue cassettes, over 50 hours of broadcasts, were later lodged with the NFSA in January 2002 by John Waddingham,  the Perth-based  archivist and early publisher of the Timor Information Service.

The  Darwin  equipment was donated to the  National  Film  and Sound  Archive by  the  late   Martin Wesley-Smith , another  activist .