Monday, January 31, 2022


 Priced at $2400 this  circa 1874 carte de visite  of  Sydenham Bowden and his young servant in Melbourne is   one of  several  items of  interest   i n  the  latest    list    from   Douglas  Stewart Fine  Books ,Melbourne .

Sydenham Bowden was born in London in January 1847 to James Bowden and Louisa Sydney Graves. As a young man he travelled to the South Seas, and for several years he owned and managed a sugar cane plantation on Urnoue in the Lau group in the Fijian Islands. 

When he arrived in Melbourne in 1873, he was still only 26 years old. A notice in the Kilmore Free Press, 9 October 1873, names Sydenham Bowden, occupation “Gentleman”, of Melbourne, as a major shareholder in the newly registered Murchison and Antimony Mining Company.

It seems, however, that Bowden was a profligate who led an extravagant lifestyle (hinted at in this enigmatic studio portrait in which Bowden comes across as the epitome of colonial arrogance), for barely a year later, at the end of 1874, he was declared bankrupt. The following notice appeared in The Age on 3 December 1874: ‘In liquidation, Sydenham Bowden, of Melbourne. Liabilities £6237 19s. Id.; assets, £5684 ; deficiency, £553 19s. Id. Mr. Lempriere, trustee.

There  is much more about Bowden  in  the book list along with the suggestion  that  the  "servant"  in the photo  could  have been Fijian .

The above souvenir of the  1901 federation of Australia , at $600, attracted this blog's attention because of  our  coverage  of the life of English   sculptor  Nelson Illingworth (1862-1926), involved  with  politicians  including   Sir Henry Parkes , the  so called  father of  federation. Illingworth    was  connected with  the  Sydney celebrations and also  influenced New Zealand art .     


Shortly   after  sunrise, still half comatose in  bed  , this writer  has  been  disturbed of  late  by  the constant, loud , irritating  cry of  a   bird , officially described as  being "Poor devil, poor devil." Hearing this over and over does not put  you in a positive  frame of mind  to face  the day . In fact , the pillow has  often  been  placed over  the  head  to stop  the dirge .

Sensing it  was  a noisy  Helmeted Friarbird ,it was decided to  find out why  it  sings such a  sad   song. 

During  recent windy weather  two baby Friarbirds  had fallen out of their nest and died . Gazing about  the property , other   cup- shaped   Friarbird  nests  were  spotted  high  up  in  palm trees  which self cleanse  , dropping    fronds   with  great  frequency .

 One such  clump  in which there was a nest fell to the ground a few days ago.

Just this morning another  nest was sighted hanging precariously from a palm  tree  which could dump  foliage at any  moment , clobbering  the  vicar should  he  make an  unexpected  call  . 

Friarbirds are an interesting family .The Little Friarbird, also known as  the Little Leatherhead, found in a large part of Australia, has  a  monotonous call-note , "Ar-coo".

Needless to say , the Noisy Friarbird ,kicks up a racket ,has an extraordinary jumble of  notes, according to What Bird is That?, one being ,"Four o'clock". Then there is the mysterious Melville Island Friarbird  of the Northern Territory  about  which  very little  is  known . 

Saturday, January 29, 2022


 Grounded  Aeronautical Correspondent   Abra  on  Magnetic  Island . 

Friday, January 28, 2022



Magnetic Island . Abra series .

Thursday, January 27, 2022


 It is a medical fact that during the  Wet season in the Northern  Territory some people crack up, suffer Mango Madness . This   illness   obviously  applies   in  North Queensland . During  a break in the  torrential monsoonal  weather  on Magnetic Island , photographer Vallis  was seen running about  in  his  dressing gown shouting , Woop! Woop! Woop! Woop !

It appeared to  be a  classic case of  Mango Madness  . However , he insists it  was due to the fact that he was trying to attract the  attention of  a  Coucal  atop a high tree , preening itself  after  an  overnight drenching . He  produced a series of photos of the bird , also known as a  Swamp Pheasant  and  Swamp Cuckoo , to prove  he  is  not bonkers, several  shown  here . 

Vallis said  he  had  Wooped  it  up with  the  Coucal,  which  peered at the strange, scruffy  apparition  down  below  ,  then  went  on  spreading  its  feathers , shaking   and   preening .

Memo Vallis : The authoritative book What Bird Is That ? , by Neville W. Cayley, states the  call of a  Coucal is a loud whooping one which resembles "Coop ,coop" , or "Book,book", repeated over and  over .

Therefore, Vallis had  better utter the  correct call ,  stop upsetting Coucals,  or else his weird  Woopsies  could result in  him being  attacked by  a flock  of Dodos . 


 From the Little Darwin jumbled files come  extracts  from   the   October 20,1945  last  issue of  Mulga , a  news sheet  which  was  produced for troops  in  Alice Springs during WWll. It provided a wide range of information  and even included  tips  for  interstate  horse races. 

It had started about  four years previously when   the Army Amenities Officer , Captain C .J. White,   decided a daily, single-sided  news  sheet  should be  produced, called Daily News Sheet .  A competition was held for an apt title, Mulga  selected .

It was essentially an Army paper  turned out on a  duplicator . As such it was undesirable to express any form of political opinion in the pages. Because of this, many interesting  articles and news items which would have appeared in an  ordinary newspaper  did not get a run .    

Mulga , with a staff of four or  five , appeared six days a week, with double issues three times a week .Subjects covered the local Sunday sporting events  and  the  latest " racing  gossip" from Melbourne and Sydney .

There was an occasional book review  and  articles from overseas  magazines were  reprinted. Overseas news and home news always took pride of place  .The last edition paid tribute  to  two race tipsters "Gloming" and his successor , "Beauford", said to be as good  as  many southern papers .They were George Newman from the Military Post Office  and Sergeant Cliff Werner of the 25 Employment Company .

News from Home , in the last edition, started by the race tips ,  included  a short piece stating  Dominion Monarch of the Shaw Savill Line  was due in Perth  that day with service personnel returning  from  the  islands .

Another one of note  reported that the Minister for Defence , Mr Beasley, had stated his department was not directly concerned with the Court of Inquiry by three  generals  into Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett's escape from Singapore. It had been ordered by the Commander-in-Chief, General Blamey.The  report  would  be  submitted  to  the  department . 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


 Enjoying more rain and overcast conditions following  an overnight  deluge on Magnetic Island , which dumped at least 100mm , is our resident Yellow-breasted Sunbird,  who  only a  few days ago was  photographed, below,  in its  nest , again  gasping  in   the  afternoon   sun .

 With the rain bucketing down, the Sunbird snuggled into its protected nest and stared at the  soggy  backyard where the Curlews were standing out in the open.  


Riding it out in Cleveland Bay .Vallis photo.

Townsville from Magnetic Island .Vallis photo .

Cloud over  Magnetic Island . Abra photograph .

Monday, January 24, 2022


One of  the many  important  stories broken  by  tenacious reporter , the late   John  Loizou , recently mentioned in  this blog,  was the  treatment   of  workers at  a  jeans  manufacturing business , Hangyeng Darwin , a  subsidiary of  a  Hong Kong company , in  the  Darwin free trade  zone

The   zone was  set up in 1985 with glowing  predictions it   would boost   the Northern Territory's manufacturing  base and stimulate the north.

However, five years later , after  expenditure of  $45million , it was showing signs of  becoming  an  economic disaster .

A 21-year-old Chinese guest worker, Huang Hanying , from Guangdong province in southern  China, flew to Melbourne, blew the whistle , exposed the  exploitation of  guest workers  in the  zone .

She claimed  they were not allowed to strike ,had no right to ask for higher wages and  were told that  their "guarantor", usually a  family member in China, could  be  punished  if  the  rules were broken .

The Federal Department of Industrial Relations investigated the   situation and  found that one employee had received $42.69 net for a  77-hour week. Outside  the  workplace,"Dickensian conditions " applied.

Company accommodation, a two bedroom flat , was shared by eight people. Their  leisure time  was  subject  to a curfew and they were not allowed to  gamble  and  drink  alcohol.

In a file  kept on the  trade  zone , it said when the story first  broke  about conditions ,  the   NT Industries and  Development   Minister , Barry Coulter, strangely  blamed  Fretilin ( the East Timor  freedom fighter  strugglers ) and  the left  wing of the Labor Party . 

He was  quoted as saying thus . "Labor  is plotting against the government and the  trade zone. It is a sordid story of  political manipulation."

However,  Minister Coulter's press secretary, Neil Dibbs, whose death was recently reported in Little Darwin,  later  told  journalists  the company was at fault. "What we've  got  is  factory management who  are operating under  the most clumsy , mediaeval circumstances : bullying  people, intimidating them, behaving in  a totally inappropriate manner."

Apart from starting the South East Asian Times in Darwin, still run online by his partner , Christine Pas, in Vietnam ,  John Loizou , adept at shorthand , spent time in Indonesia ,  was  so  highly regarded  by the  Vietnam  government that it  gave him a card which  allowed him to  interview  officials . There  he  was  closely  involved  with  up  and   coming   reporters .  

Sunday, January 23, 2022


Vallis  photo, Magnetic Island.

Saturday, January 22, 2022


 At long last , work has started  on   an  Australian   epic of   activism , the  action  packed  life  of  Darwin agronomist Robert  Wesley-Smith .  Refreshed  by  an occasional   dip  in his  man-made  lagoon , Lake Weslee  , below , gradually filling  during  the  Wet , hopefully out of  bounds to crocodiles ,  his   desk  almost cleared  for  action  ,  more  than  50   diaries  at  hand  ,  he   is  writing   his memoirs , tentatively  entitled  Rural  Rebel   Rob.

 The  desirable    project  comes after  his  E-book  , 117  Days  in  East  Timor which  covered   the   struggle  for   freedom  from  Indonesia  in which he played  a  big  part ,  involving his  twin brothers , all three  decorated by the  East Timor  government . 

Little Darwin understands  RRR  will  cover his  life in a prominent  Adelaide  family  , during which his mother  described  him  as a  bit of a rebel , his  involvement in  Aboriginal issues and  working  in  primary industry  in  the Northern Territory.

 While discussing RRR  with him , Wes  had a chuckle over Little  Darwin's  post  about   a former editor of the  NT News, John  Hogan , complaining about  a piece   written  in  the Darwin Star .

Wes  said , as a joke, he had once written to  Hogan suggesting that the paper should   run  stories   on  subjects   in which he - Wesley -Smith-  was interested  or  mentioned , next   to  each  other .

This , he wrote ,would overcome  him   mutilating   so  many  pages  and   papers  .

Through his contacts in the reporting staff at the News, Wes  heard that Hogan had  read out  the letter  in the office , and made derogatory remarks  about  him.

 When a  later   editor at the  News angered  Wesley-Smith with erroneous  comments about  the  East Timor   situation, he went to the newspaper to  put   him  straight. 

Given five  minutes to  state  his  case , Wes  said the discussion  became heated  and  he was  told to leave  after about two minutes  or he would  be removed from the premises .

Recalling the episode , laughing in the process, Wes said he had   felt like hitting  the  editor, but , luckily , he  later  discovered  he  had  a  Black  Belt in unarmed   combat .  

Friday, January 21, 2022


 Following  the recent  post sparked by the in memoriam  notice  for   journalist  John  Loizou , who  died  nine years  ago ,  a   January  1980  file  emerged   about  the  managing  editor  of  the   Northern  Territory  News, John Hogan , complaining  about  an  item  in Scurrilous, a column for political  aficionados , in   the   independent   Darwin  Star , of  which  Loizou  was  editor  at  the   time .

 Scurrilous  upset  Hogan  by saying  he  had decided  to set  an  example for  his  staff  back at the  factory (newspaper)  by  dropping out of the  Friday Club, a " select team of   Darwin  businessmen and  upper echelon public servants " who  had  a leisurely lunch on that day  when  two  editions of  the paper-the  daily and  the  weekender- were  being  produced . 

It went on to say :  Thoughtfully , Mr Hogan  has decided that it is not proper for him to be enjoying  the fleshpots while  his workers  gobble takeaways at  their desks  and  slip out  for a  furtive  shot  of  the  old kickapoo ...if lucky.

Another member of the Friday Club , a top public servant, Martyn Finger, was also reported to be  thinking about  foregoing  the  Friday happy hour . 

With such selfless men, Scurrilous said  the Territory's  future was assured. 

Hogan, later to become   editor of the Townsville   Bulletin ,  responded by  writing a letter to the  Australian Press Council complaining about the "insulting and  abusive comment "- disguised  as fact , apparently with the express intention  of  ridiculing  him  and  disrupting  personnel relations  at  the  News.  

He believed the author  was  a member of  the  Australian  Journalists' Association  who had  committed a  serious breach of  the  AJA code of ethics.

The matters  , he  submitted, were  serious enough to warrant  Press Council adjudication. It was  pointed out  to  Hogan  the  Press Council  only dealt with  complaints against  a  newspaper, not  the  author . 

Loizou  was  sent  a copy of  Hogan's  letter... this resulted in  Scurrilous  taking   another  bite  out  of  the   Friday  Club  and  the  NT  News .

It said Scurrilous was busily building a  fallout shelter , convinced there  will be no  peace  in  our  time due  to  Hogan's  response, his letter of complaint run in full .Then it  commented  that  it was amazing  that Mr Hogan  did not know how the  Press Council works. 

Scurrilous could be wrong ,it continued ." Is  Mr  Hogan still attending the Friday Club?" Adding more spice to  the luncheon , Scurrilous  said it was    inclined  to write to  the Press  Council  drawing  attention  to "the moral decadence" displayed  at  the NT News.

The News , it added,  had been accused of  running sexist advertisements  and not so very long ago , the  newspaper  had  used  bits of  fishing line to lift  the skirt  of a  young  girl so  that  her knickers  could  be  photographed. 

Perhaps it was  more  a case   for the Festival of Light than  the toothless  Press Council ? It ended : Ho hum. 


Views  from   atop  Museum of  Tropical Queensland, Townsville . Abra photos.


Vallis flight  of  fancy series.

Thursday, January 20, 2022


 Only recently  having  raised  a  pair of  young  ones , and  seemingly departed for a cooler clime, our resident Yellow-breasted Sunbirds suddenly reappeared  and   began  to  renovate  the  nest  hanging   under   the    hot  back veranda. At  times , it appears  three  birds  are  involved in the energetic  construction , darting in  and  out  with   feathers , grass  and  cobwebs.

The  female  Sunbird   seems  to  be  in  charge  of finally  putting  in  place  all  of  the  items flown  in .  A  male  bird , below , was  seen  collecting  cobwebs   from  window   flyscreens .
It  is a case of  all  hands  on  deck / nest as the  upgrade  continues  , close inspection  of  the  interior  carried  out  as  the  work  progresses .
Our resident  Curlews have  been dive-bombed in  the process  , one of  their old  feathers  picked  up  on   the  grass  .

At  the end  of  the day , the  lady of the  nest settles in  with a contented  look on  her  face. 

Vallis series.


German and Japanese naval activity in Australian waters was relatively quiet at the beginning of World War 2, with a dramatic increase following Pearl Harbour in 1941. Japanese submarines began a campaign in Australian waters in the first half of 1942, bound for the Top End. Four Japanese submarines conducted a mine laying mission in areas surrounding Darwin and the Torres Strait Islands between January  12 - 18 , 1942.

On this day 80 years ago (January 20, 1942), HMAS Deloraine (pictured), Katoomba, Edsall and Lithgow contributed to the sinking of one of these submarine, I-124. This was the first Japanese submarine to be sunk in Australian waters. The attack on the submarine came after an unsuccessful torpedo attack on USS Trinity in the Beagle Guff, 74km west of Darwin.

Throughout the war,  Deloraine was tasked with protecting ships from submarines. Immediately following the 1-124 submarine sinking, the Deloraine protected ships travelling from Darwin to Thursday Island. From July, she continued these escort services down in Sydney protecting merchant ships between Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and New Guinea.

From 1945 to 1948, Deloraine began minesweeping activities along the NSW coast and around New Britain (island of New Guinea), until finishing up at Fremantle. She was eventually sold for scrap to the Delta Shipping Co. in Hong Kong on  August 8, 1956.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022


LONDON : It can be exclusively revealed  that,  in  a  playful gesture, the  Queen sent   mixed  up  One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, above,  a  personal  letter  with   a   card   wishing  her  a happy  100th  birthday!!!!-whenever  that   might  be . 

It was sent  by  Royal  Mail  pigeon post -shot upon arrival- to  Queensland's  Flat  Earth Scenic Rim   after  Hanson  caused  confusion  and  disbelief   in  a  Senate debate   by  saying   she   could  not  remember  on   what  day  she  had  turned  67 .

This  had  caused  an outbreak of merriment  in  Buckingham   Palace  court  jesters when it  was  reported in  the British  media .

A palace footman  told  Little Darwin's  Royal Roundsman, Ned  Forelock-Tugger , the Queen  has a great sense of humour, and had giggled hysterically on  reading  reports  about  the  odd  Orstralian  political event.    

 She had immediately dashed off a letter ,using the tail feather of a freshly plucked  Royal Swan  as a  quill , to  Ms. Hanson.

In it ,she  informed   Hanson   that  according to the Down Under Doomsday Book ,  May 27 , 202l  was  the  day  she  had  turned  67 .   

In  the  attached  birthday card ,  Her  Majesty  said she  had included  Hanson's  100th  to  save  all  the  expense  of  a  separate  letter  in 33  years . The  letter  was  whimsically  signed , Your  Ageless  Monarch , Lizzie Two-Stroke .   

Tuesday, January 18, 2022


 Further  extracts from  Australians  in  Vietnam  written  by  Adelaide journalist  Ian Mackay , below, now  residing on Magnetic Island ,Queensland , who   covered the  Indo-China war for   the  Far  East  Bureau  of  Television  News Limited . 

In the first part , we  told  how  the   Americans  praised the   "bloody  Australian"  dare-devil  RAAF   pilots of  Caribou  aircraft   who  flew  in  supplies.   He  was  present at  Duc Co  ,an isolated  outpost , run  by the elite American  Special Forces ,   when   the    base  came  under  fierce  attack as a  Caribou came in  to land   , captured  on  film , made  into a  special  which  won  international   praise .  

During  his  time in  Vietnam , Mackay  lived  with  Australian troops, went on operations with them and saw  the  work of  civilian medical teams . 

There had been a time   when  Australians were an  oddity in Vietnam , the only reporter likely to drop in  being Denis Warner  . However,  when  Ian arrived  in  1965 , there was a 4500-man strong  Australian Task Force  ,   newsmen  by  the score , doctors , nurses, teachers ,salesmen, engineers, crooks, even  Swan and   Fosters  beer . 

The Saigon Press  corps  numbered  about  350, described  by a New York Daily News correspondent  as the same  size as a Vietcong  battalion . Reporters  attended  the " five o'clock follies " -the military press  conferences where  the  U.S. daily  version of  what  had  happened  was   released.  The  book  concentrated  on  actual Australians, men and  women , in  the country .

 Of particular note , near  the end , were  Ian's  comments on  the performance of   conscripted   young  National  Servicemen .They had  fitted  in  well to  the Army , but not many of  the  first batch  had   volunteered to  stay on  as  regulars.

Many he spoke to were glad  they had  gone  to Vietnam, but relieved to be home again , alive.

Some resented the debasement  of discipline and  the necessity  of "having to forget  ideals of  behaviour and thought and  become a cog in a machine  whose duty it was to kill other people."

The average conscript was not a conscientious objector in the legal sense  , accepted  National Service as a job that had to be done .

Many had   returned   appalled , in  retrospect, for  what they had done in Australia's name  .

One young  man he knew ,  an artist , arrived in  a relief column at  the fierce  battle of Long Tan  to see  Australian soldiers  walking through the enemy  dugouts  shooting   any  wounded   they  could  find .

Monday, January 17, 2022


  An   invitation  to   persons interested  in  sharing  a   return  trip  from  Noosa  to   Cape Tribulation  appeared  on  a   Magnetic  Island  public notice board . In  part, it   read : 

Drew, the  guy planning  the trip, said he had done  it several times before , had lots of  suggestions for  where to go,  for  cheap accommodation, good  food  and  cold beer  , "ha ha." It is not known if the  trip took place , one of the proposed  stops  being  Townsville  or Magnetic Island .