Thursday, March 31, 2022


A rare insight into the life of a wasp was revealed when a nest built on the side of the above metal garden panel of insects  was accidently knocked off ,revealing what could be the birth chamber, bottom right, with a following close up .

Visible inside the membrane lined  second space  from the  right  was a  young wasp, seemingly  not  yet  fully  developed ,  which  wriggled  about , emerged  tail first ,  eventually  fell  out 

Hunched up , it appeared to be trying to straighten its body, open  the  wings .

Placed back on the nest, it clawed its way into the womb-like space it had occupied . Left  there  overnight , it  was  gone  the  next  morning . 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


 Townsville to  Cairns 


Former sober Foreign Editor on The Australian newspaper , Greg Sheridan , above, in his new  important post as head of  the Australian Hotels Association delivered shock  news  today on Sky Television. He warned the nation  against rampaging , drunken  pink elephants, faulty beer barrel bungs and angry short soup slurping  penguins , the  ill-equipped  Royal  Australian Navy  having  no  defensive  weapons  against   the  latter . 

Sky  and Newscorp  immediately  launched  a  nation-wide smokescreen  to   cover  ScoMo's  derriere over defence  shortcomings  and  disorientate  the hordes  of  squawking  penguins  massing  on  our border, close to Samoa , lusting  after our  barbecue  shrimps  and   women .  

Tuesday, March 29, 2022


The  last Australian commando to serve in Timor in WW2, Jim Elwood, died  last December, short of  his 100th birthday.  Recently ,  the   last Timorese  to  serve  with  Australian commandos, Cancio dos Reis Noronha , fourth from the  left  in the above photo,  died at  the age of  98.

With his brother Bernadino, second from the left,  and other Timorese, he was selected for Z Special Force training  on Fraser Island  and  in Cairns ,Queensland, and  Richmond , NSW.


After the  Budget  bombast , wise  election racecourse stewards  predict a  gruesome  knackery outcome  for  the  Coalition , despite the  cash  splash  by  the  Fine  Cotton   race  fixers  .



Abra  photos  from Castle Hill  taking  in Townsville and Magnetic Island.

Monday, March 28, 2022


 A visit to a North Queensland cattle station in l908  greatly  influenced  the   future career of  an artist , renowned overseas for religious work , who became  acclaimed  as  the  greatest  painter of   Australia  racehorses  and was  also  highly  regarded in   American  racing circles.

He was  Martin Frank  Stainforth  (1866-1957), born in Worcestershire ,England, one of  11 children  of  Reverend  Frederick Stainforth  and  his wife , Ann, nee Shepherd . 

Madonnas galore

Having been taught  wood engraving by  the German  artist  and draughtsman ,Baron Moritz Klinkicht , Martin lived in London , mostly turning out  Madonnas  based on old Italian masters,  at the Royal Academy of  Arts , selected  for  exhibitions  in  Paris , Berlin and Brussels . 

He switch to freelance magazine and book illustration when wood engraving was superseded.

In the early 20th century, he visited a cousin's cattle station in North Queensland and  sketched animals.   Deciding to stay in Australia , he more  or  less took over from another English  artist, Douglas Fry , an illustrator  and animal painter, mainly of  horses, who came to Sydney  in  1899  and died in 1911.  

A  racecourse dandy 

Stainforth set up a studio in Sydney,  immersed himself in the  racing scene , mixing with jockeys, horses and owners. The Dictionary of Australian Biography says he  deliberately  set out  to upset the  tradition of  racehorse portraiture in  which  horses had " ridiculously  small " heads, tapered legs and  tiny feet.

He went to Melbourne for the spring  carnival and  painted  many Melbourne Cup winners in their full , impressive glory . Small, a dapper dresser , with a  bowtie , an impressive  moustache, he  sported  a  Stetson. He  often included himself  in racecourse crowd  scenes  he painted , according to the Dictionary of Biography.

King George and Carbine 

He became known as  probably the  finest painter of racehorses in Australia, In 1922 he provided illustrations for Racehorses in Australia . Off to New Zealand he went  and then  back to England in l930, where he was commissioned  to  paint Limelight  for King  George V . There he  also painted the famous New Zealand bred Carbine , winner of 30 major Australasian  races , from  photographs .

On going to America in 1934 , he frequented racetracks and was commissioned to  paint  top horses.  Living in a New York Hotel , he visited  studs in  Kentucky.  Examples of  his extensive   equine artwork  are  held in the Australian Jockey Club and the National Museum of Racing, Saratoga Springs , New York .

Another side of his  work is the following romantic  watercolour entitled The Shepherd's surprise , of  a young maiden lost in the  woods , currently offered  by  Douglas  Stewart  Fine  Books  , Melbourne , for  $1100.


 It can be exclusively  revealed that Darwin activist Robert Wesley-Smith  has  several  redundant owls  with  an  inglorious track  record , and  he  is  currently   entertaining  a  flock  of squatter ducks .  He  is shown  here  instructing   one of  the  failed high tech owls- looking suspiciously  like a  disguised Dalek- to  go out  and  frighten  plant  eating  birds  and  blankety-blank possums  on  his  fertile  rural  property  at   Howard  Springs ,  some  years   ago  .

It seems  Rob, a veteran agronomist,  bought  the  owls  in  a  bid to  win   the annual  largest  pumpkin  competition  run  in conjunction with the Darwin Show .  His  ambition is  to  grow  a 100  kilo pumpkin , his best effort so far 80kilos .

It  would  be  an owl's  feather in  his cap  if  he  produced  a  winning  whopper  pumpkin , enabling him to  boast  about  it  at  Friday  Club luncheons in  the Noodle House  and other important gatherings , where  the Territory's  future  is  shaped . Some of  the  owls  were  battery driven  and  had flashing eyes , the  theory being they would  frighten off  birds  likely to peck  his  pumpkin  plants  and  voracious possums .

Of course , the batteries ran flat , the marauding birds and possums   picked  the  pumpkin  plants  to  pieces. This  year , the  seed   appears  not  to  have  germinated , and  the sightless , teetering  owls  are  mouldering  about  the  estate , almost  composting .

It is interesting  to  note that the water police launch Brett Irwin  in Townsville   long  ago  abandoned using  fake owls  and  another bogus  bird of prey aboard   ship  to  try and prevent  birds, Seagulls especially,  from messing  all  over  the  vessel .

 It is plain to see that  the  defunct  Darwin  owls do not scare ducks as a  flock of  them have moved into  Wesley-Smith's watery  block  after   recent  stormy  weather   and  will   probably   fertilise  his  canoe . 



Nelly  Bay, Magnetic Island . Vallis photos .

Sunday, March 27, 2022



Owls are very collectable , inspire a wide range of  jewellery , pottery,   clocks , decorate handbags  and  have even been used in  bank  advertisements  stressing  the need for the  wise  investment of your money .

Peter Simon 

They  frequently  figure  in  necklaces  as  these  photographs from  a  diverse   collection   clearly  illustrate . 

A  person  who  had an eclectic collection of  art , pottery , fashion garments  ,jewellery , perfume bottles and  books  was  the  late  art  historian , document  researcher ,  and   opera  lover , Margaret Vine , who lived on  Magnetic Island . One  of  her  paintings , below,  was  of  an  owl   by   painter, sculptor and designer  in  stained glass, Nevil  Matthews , from   Ayr, Queensland .

 Matthews (1930-2013) , studied under Jon Molvig and Clement Meadmore in Brisbane and in  Europe . His  work is in the  Queensland Art Gallery and  the Heide Museum of  Modern  Art. Awards included a gold medal at the International Exhibition of  Fine  Arts, Saigon l962 ; Australian  Fabric  Design Award, 1966.  

Vine, who  had  worked at the National Gallery of Australia  , Canberra , in 1977 wrote a book about emigre artists in Australia 1930-1960, which accompanied  the exhibition , Jewellers and Jewellery : European trained, made in  Australia .

She had an impressive collection of jewellery herself  , much of which she gave  to  friends on  the  island  and  elsewhere  who  had  helped  her  during  her  battle with  cancer . 

 Margaret  had  a  Clifton Pugh  wombat  painting  which   kept  company  with  the  above  owl. 

The  base of her  bed , on which there was a foam mattress, consisted of about  20  boxes  of  books, which I  helped  her  sort out , resulting in  more comfortable  slumbering.

Barking Owl  figurine , above, believed  made  on  Magnetic  Island . It kept company with a  white cat .

Saturday, March 26, 2022


Shivering southerners have a long history of heading to  North Queensland in winter months  to thaw out, which will be covered  in another superb exhibition at the Magnetic Island  Museum, Picnic Bay , to be officially launched  Saturday , April 2 , at 2pm. Included in the many  souvenirs  will be items  related  to the Adelaide Steamship Company coastal passenger liner , MV Manoora ,which  brought  hordes of tourists  north , some  going  to  nearby  Palm  Island .  

The  tropics were reflected in  this  studio photograph of an  Adelaide  baby boy in a  giant clamshell .

Friday, March 25, 2022



The above  proof impression of the front cover  designed  by Charles Conder of  the catalogue for  the   9  By 5  Impression  Exhibition, held in Melbourne  in August 1889 , described as possibly the most famous in Australian art history , has  been offered for sale by Douglas Stewart Fine Books, Melbourne , the  price reserved .

There were 182 paintings in the exhibition, all done on  cigar box lids and cardboard , measuring  9  by 5  inches, marking the first move into art nouveau.

 Condor, one of the three main exhibitors , Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton the  others,   was  aged 20  when  given the  task of  designing  the cover  of the 16 page  catalogue ,  which  sold  for  sixpence .  Additional information supplied  by  Douglas Stewart  Fine  Books  follows .

An  original catalogue from The 9 By 5 Impression Exhibition would be a high point of any collection of Australian art books, the last copy recorded to change hands  being Arthur Streeton’s copy, acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in 2006. 

Conder’s original hand drawn design was transferred to a process block by the printers, and until recently the block remained in a private collection, the original block sold by Sotheby’s Australia in 2014 for $73,200 (Important Australian & International Art AU0792, Sydney, 25 Nov 2014, lot 23).

 A small number of proofs were printed from the block, in the same auction was sold another proof impression, an example signed in pen by Conder (lot 24, $18,300).

The cover on offer is in a hand crafted wooden ,waxed  timber frame by  Phillip  Tregear.


The blooming of rain orchids again  correctly foreshadowed precipitation  within days . As a result , our  resident  moaning  and  barking  frog  emerged  from  the  depths of  a  large garden  pot  when  raindrops  were  heard  and gazed  about  the  domain .  When  the  light  rain stopped, realising  it  was not going to produce swimming conditions, he retreated  into  the dark  underworld .  

Vallis photos.



Roving  Shipping  Reporter 

 Cement  carrier  Luga , registered in  Bahamas , home  port Nassau.


Vallis  photos .

Thursday, March 24, 2022


An   apparent   intent  to  suicide  by  a  woman   at  The Gap,  Sydney  Heads  , seems to be  the  subject  of  a  circa l880  watercolour  on  paper  by the little known colonial artist Ernest Decimus Stocks (1840-1921), recently offered  by  Douglas Stewart  Fine  Books , Melbourne, for $3300.

 Information supplied   drew  attention  to the  ghostly  figure on the lower left of  the picture , beyond  the safety fence , bent  forward  , as  if  about to throw  herself off  the precipice. The first suicide at The Gap , notorious for  such  sad  events , took  place on  October  6, 1863 , when  Anne Harrison, wife of  The Gap Hotel licensee , jumped  to  her death .

Manchester born  Stocks  came to South Australia in the early 1850s , worked as a teacher , travelled to Western Australia , the Whitsunday Islands, New Zealand,Tasmania ,  Melbourne  and   Ballarat .  He  did  many  views of Sydney.  It  is believed  the  above  painting  was  one  of 31 prizes in an 1880 art union he ran in  which  there  were  800 tickets  for  ten  shillings  each  


Rain orchids in flower , Magnetic Island . Rain coming  soon  ?

Bunun  Orchid , Wisdom Line , unloading in Townsville.



Series by  Darwin  agronomist and sky watcher Rural Rebel Rob Wesley-Smith 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


Vallis series-Magnetic Island, Townsville .


Looking like a naval patrol  boat, the eye- catching motor yacht  Infamis , which was on sale for $720,000 in February 2021, photographed by Vallis  in the Magnetic Island  safe  harbour . Built in Japan , it  has a 1500hp Mitsubishi diesel  engine, is capable of cruising for 4000  nautical miles ,accommodates  10 guests in five cabins , with  ensuites . The following  photo  was  taken  in  Cairns by  Abra  some time ago .