Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Monday, January 30, 2023



Cape  York  special  series  by  Abra. 


An  interesting  insight   into   the   early   Australian   art   scene  is  revealed   in  the   latest  acquisitions  list  of  Douglas Stewart   Fine  Books , Melbourne .  One  offering  is  the  above  79 pp  catalogue  for  a   2007-2008  exhibition  at the   Bendigo  Art  Gallery, which examined   the  experiences  of  expatriate  Australian  living  and  working  in  France , 

Artists  illustrated  include   Robert Campbell, Bessie Davidson, Agnes Goodsir, Rupert Bunny, Kate O’Connor, Max Meldrum, Ethel Carrick Fox, Bessie Gibson, Stella Bowen, Will Ashton, Hilda Rix Nicholas  and  others.

The catalogue, priced at  $75,  is  from  the library of  art curator   and  author  David Thomas, former  Keeper  Pictorial  Collections , National Library  of   Australia   and    other   important   art     positions. 

The  above  circa  1910  publication by  Irish artist  Ponsonby  May  Carew -Smith  , published by  Whitcombe  and  Tombs, Melbourne ,  was designed to  encourage   Australians  to   become  artistic . 

Carew-Smith (1860-1939) , trained in art and teaching  at  Belfast , attended the National Art Training  School, London  in 1855.  He  and  wife  migrated to   Australia   where  he   became the  first  teacher of art  at  the Ballarat  School  of  Mines. He went on to   play a  large part   in  Victorian  art and education.   

In 1899 he was  appointed  inspector of drawing by the Department of Education . He  designed commemorative  WW l  wall  plaques  placed in schools ; designed  the  art  teachers' certificate ; wrote  notes on the decorative arts  for  the  Argus ;  in  1936 he  was  made  Acting Director of the   National  Gallery   of  Victoria .

Sunday, January 29, 2023


 State of the art   deep water  marine research vessel Pangaea Ocean Explorer , owned by WA  mining magnate Twiggy Forrest, which costs  $4 million  a  year   to run , spotted  in  Cairns by  our  Shipping  Reporter .Wonder if this vessel would  be involved  in  the  proposed  grand  venture  to run power by  cable  from  the  Territory  to Singapore, now under a  cloud ?

Forrest was reported  ages ago as  saying  the superyacht was involved with the  Minderoo   Foundation's  $100 million  Flourishing Oceans  study  to protect  global  marine  life  .

Flourishing Oceans , the report continued , was  intended to track global fishing patterns, fund research into ocean plastics pollution and develop a world-class research facility at Exmouth ,in West Australia , to study the  migration of  sea  life through the Indian Ocean. 

 News  tip  for  local  media :  What    is   the  ship    doing  in  Cairns  ?  

Saturday, January 28, 2023


Anecdotes  and   photographs  of   the  redoubtable   Shirley Shackleton , widow of  newsman Greg Shackleton ,  one of the   Balibo Five newsmen    murdered  during the  l975 Indonesian invasion  , who died recently in Melbourne ,  aged   91,  are  surfacing .

 The above  historic   photo  shows  Shirley , centre ,  with  author  Michele Turner   next to her , who  wrote  extensively   about    East Timor   under  the   heading  TELLING - East  Timor : Personal Testimonies  1942-1992 .

Turner,  born  Hobart , Tasmania ,  attended La Trobe University , Melbourne , wrote  the  best selling  book  Stuck, about  Australia's unemployed , Her grandfather had been an Australian commando in  Timor  during  WW  ll, helped  survive   by   the Timorese  during   the  Japanese   invasion of what was  then  a  Portuguese  colony . 

After the  Indonesian  invasion ,she  spent  10 years  working on  the book  ,which  involved  contact with  Shirley Shackleton.   Her  wide  ranging  testimonies   included   details   of   Japanese   atrocities   and   the  help and assistance given  other   Australian servicemen, apart  from the commandoes .  

She  publicly denounced Gough Whitlam for failing to support Timor's struggle for independence against Indonesia, and said she suffered psychologically  from   fears  of  aggravating the  situation for the Timorese by  exposing  Indonesian  atrocities.

Some  material  from the book  was used by  the  ABC's  Social  History  Unit  to produce   East Timor: A Debt to Repay,  which won  the 1991 Human Rights Award for  the  best  radio  documentary.

Turner's involvement in the  East Timor struggle included promoting Midnight Oil’s use  of  the Timorese Choir in Sydney  . Martin Wesley Smith joined in the  recording of the  choir , played  a  guitar   and  added his voice to the  singing .  Turner   backed   journalist John Pilger’s  visit  to  East Timor to  film  Death of a Nation. 

Turner  , who died  tragically  in Tasmania , aged 43,  is commemorated   by  the    Michele  Turner  Collection , an extensive ,wide ranging  bibliography  dealing  with    Timor , Japan , West Papua ,  available  on  the   A  Fairer  World social  justice  hub, Tasmania ,  Global  Resource  Library .

In  the photograph at the head  of this post , beIieved to  be in Sydney ,  the person  holding  bottles  next   to  Shirley Shackleton is   the  late  Martin Wesley-Smith,  a  lecturer  at  Sydney Conservatorium of  Music  and  an electronic  music  pioneer,   who  assisted  Turner   when  she was writing her  book ..  

Shackleton and Turner  are  both  sporting   Timor  Tais  hand  woven  cloth across a  shoulder  

Standing at the back of Shirley  is twin brother  Peter Wesley-Smith, a onetime  Hong Kong law  lecturer  and librettist . The twins , with  agronomist brother   Robert  Wesley-Smith, of Darwin,  far right in the  snap , were all  awarded  the Ordem de Timor Leste   for  their support  over  the years . 

UPCOMING  :   The  search  for  Shirley  Shackleton's  song  .

Friday, January 27, 2023

Thursday, January 26, 2023


 A  strong contender for  the   Mango  Madness  Award   of   2023  must surely be  the  following   yarn   from   Darwin .   It  involves  a   considerate  resident  who  has  been taking  rain  readings  for  decades  , a   friendly  green  tree  frog   and  two  rain gauges . 

The  gauges  are fastened   to  a  sturdy  pole  , the contents  checked and    recorded  at  9am  after   rain , which  can  be  often  during  the  Wet .

A  frog has developed  the habit of  hopping into the  older, open top , triangular  gauge. It  hangs on  as  an  attempt  is  made  to  tip  it  out  in the laundry.   

An aggregate of  the  two gauges  is  made,  taking into account any possible   body  fluids  or other matter  from  the  frog .  The  frog  keeps on  coming  back , but cannot  access  the  later  model  gauge   which  has  a   round funnel  inlet  top .

When  not  swimming about like Esther Williams in the gauge , it  frolics and croaks  in  nearby  Happy  Plants  or  Palms . 

The  veteran  recorder  said  there  is a Bureau of   Meteorology electronic  recording  device    about  2km   up the  road  , which can get   more or  less  readings ,

When Cyclone Helen went past some years ago, more than 150mm were recorded  by   him  in  one  spell,  some 60mm more than BOM .   



Vallis  photos.



Wednesday, January 25, 2023


The Australian    Prime  Minister  , dubbed LIttle Johnny , kept company with  the  famous Mona Lisa  ,seen   here   having  a  spasm  after  listening to   him   explain   the   rules  of   cricket  and  demonstrating  how  to  bowl   a  yorker  in   Pakistan ,  which  rocketed  up   her   undergarments .    

 Award  winning political reporter  Argus Tuft  today exclusively revealed  that   Mona  Lisa and  John  W.  Howard  featured  in  a   2005  supersize  MAD   magazine . 

Across two pages, MAD   detailed  the  startling  deception  by  which  a  number of   John  Howard  look- alikes  gave  the  impression that  he   appeared  on  the  nightly news  -bagging war  protestors ,mixing  with the political elite , even  jogging  about  the  White House in sneakers- when  he  had  actually   been  in  the   bowels  of  the  Canberra  fallout   shelter  for   years .

To continue the   deception , a number   of  Howard   doubles  were  being considered , including  Chopper Read, Andrew Denton , Rove  McManus ,SpongeBob Squarepants , cricketer Brett Lee ,  even  Dame Edna  Everage  and  Nicole  Kidman . 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


 While  checking  the  latest condition of   Magnetic Island's  mysterious  mutilated   mermaid , our Shipping Reporter, the only one  north  of the   Bass Strait  ,  became  caught  up  in  a  secret   Army  helicopter  operation.  

A  photographic promotion , it  seemed  to  consist  of   snapping  the  chopper   in   and   from  57  positions , an  athletic    cameraman  in   radio contact   with the  pilot  .  

 Most  of the  action  took  place   near  and  on   the  island's   medical  evacuation  helipad.

The Shipping  Reporter  said  one glance at the nearby   mistreated mermaid,  ,on   rocks at the entrance  to  the  safe harbour,  and it was obvious she  should be   choppered  out  for  urgent  medical treatment, once   more  her   head  missing , as   well   as   her  arms , an elongated neck visible,  down  which   a  hat   seemed  to have  been   pushed . 

Sensitive readers of  this  blog will recall , with horror ,  that  in  a previous  grotesque attack on the mermaid  , her   head was   ripped  off  and  replaced    with  a  cardboard  cut out  of  Prime  Minister  Scott  Morrison , who seems to  have  lost his  voice  since  being  booted out .  The poor mermaid has  suffered  other  indignities ,without the mainland media realising  this is an unsual story  that  deserves  coverage  , even-dare it be mentioned-  following  up . 


Abra photo.

Monday, January 23, 2023


 A  special  service  was  held  at  the  weekend  in  the Holy Family Catholic Church ,  Karama, Darwin ,  above,  for   Shirley  Shackleton ,9l, who died in Melbourne on  January  15 .  The widow of   reporter  Greg  Shackleton ,one of  five   media  people  killed  during the  Indonesian invasion of Balibo in l975 ,  she  fought  long and hard   to  get  to  the  truth of  the   event  , writing  a  book, taking part in films , strongly supporting    East Timor's     battle   for   freedom .

Messages   about    Shirley    flooded   in    to   Darwin  agronomist   and activist  Robert Wesley-Smith , long  involved  in  the  East  Timor  Struggle  .

He   recalled  taking  part  in  a tree planting  ceremony  with   Shirley Shackleton  at  Balibo  where  she gave  him  one  to  plant  to  honour  journalist   Roger   East ,  who  had   gone from  Darwin  to   Dili  to  support   Fretilin  and  investigate  the  Balibo deaths , ending up   murdered  .

East  is  arrowed  in  the above  photograph at  a  Darwin Reconstruction Commission  arranged  media  conference  . The   reporter  to  East's right  is   Peter  Blake ,  later  employed  in   New  York .

Wesley-Smith  subsequently  played   East   in  the re-enactment of  him being  shot  and  thrown into  the  harbour  at  Dili.  

 American  political  activist , Noam Chomsky,  who strongly condemned the  East Timor invasion , expressed   sorrow at   the news of   Shirley Shackleton's   death ,  saying  she   had been " a wonderful person."

A  few days before she  died  she  had been  sent a   Free  Julian  Assange   badge  , having   long   admired   the  Wikileaks founder's    exposes,  truth   telling .  

 In  the   emails  forwarded  to Wesley-Smith was  one  containing part of the transcript  of  a  British television  film ,  Balibo . The Final Chapter ,  in which   Shirley  Shackleton  rails  against  the  cover  up  by  governments , the  lies  .

 A  film version  of  Shackleton's 2010 book, Circle of Silence . A Personal testimony  before , during and  after   Balibo , was  made by  Luigi  and Stella   Acquisto  and  Lurder  Pires ,

Extracts  from  an  email  sent by  Luigi and  Pires   included  the  following background  information :

Shirley Shackleton came into our lives when we started making the documentary Circle of Silence, inspired by her rich life, fierce and uncompromising  drive to uncover the truth about the Balibo murders and the subsequent invasion of East Timor.

Shirley's husband Greg Shackleton and four other Australian based journalists, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie  were murdered in  Balibo on October 16, 1975. Stella and I  worked on  the  film with Lurdes  Pires  who'd  first met Shirley in Darwin in the late 1970s.

Shirley became a great collaborator on the film. We travelled twice to East Timor and Indonesia, and to Perth and Canberra to investigate the murders.

She later wrote and recorded the narration for the film and was able to attend a private screening before her death.  During her illness she never lost her spirit, her fight to know what 'really happened' in Balibo and why the crime was covered up by every Australian Government since. 

Circle of Silence exposes some of the fictions created by the Australian and Indonesian Governments to hide the truth about the mass killings and the role Australia played in the invasion of East Timor and the subsequent genocide. More needs to be done as called for  by Jose Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste.

Circle of  Silence was  screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival and will have a limited release in Australian cinemas early this year. It is a Fair Trade  Films  Production in  association with  Dili Film Works...

A funeral service was held  in  Melbourne and viewed by many around the world . The  following  display in the Darwin church was set  up  on  Timorese  Tais   woven  cloth .



Sunday, January 22, 2023


The  Curlew  sitting on two eggs  at  the Little Darwin menagerie  , protected  by   an  old    John   Ring   ALP  election  corflute  for  the federal seat of   Herbert  ,  has  just  produced  a   chick  , with  the  provisional   name  of   Ringo .  Mother  and   offspring  are  both well,  shown under  the  protective shield .

The  youngster  was  quickly  moved  to a  more  secluded  location , the flighty  father  emerged  from  the  wings  and  sat  on  the  remaining  egg .



Trying  to  predict  the  weather  is  difficult , especially when  you  look  about  for  signs in nature   that  indicate  a  change  is  on  the  way .   Right now, there  are  conflicting  signs- Desert Rose   seedpods are bursting open, the  contents   blown  about  like  puffballs, below ,  attracting  the  attention  of  Sunbirds , possibly  as   food  and  or  soft  lining  for   a new   nest . 

 Rain  Orchids , once more  are  covered in a   mass of white  flowers  , supposed to indicate  rain  within a  short period of  time .   A Curlew was photographed checking out  the   orchids

The  interest  in the weather   has   been  heightened  since  the  discovery of  a  waterlogged   bundle  of  newspapers  relating   to cyclonic  rain  and   extensive  floods  in   North  Queensland  , extracts  from  which  will  be  run  in  the  blog.  

Saturday, January 21, 2023



British born   adventurer, journalist , poet  and  author , Frank Morton , who wrote the  above  futuristic novel    had   an  impact   on   journalism,   newspapers   and   magazines  on   both   sides  of   the  Tasman,  mentioned   in   this   blog   in   bygone  years . 

By Peter Simon 

 A  prolific   writer ,  with  a  vivid imagination ,  his  book , published by Atlas Press, Melbourne  in  1909, 99 pages, with  some advertisements,  limited to 3oo copies  , is set  in  the year  1960  in the New Zealand capital of Wellington   where  the  survivor  of  an earthquake   recounts his experiences   and    rescue . 

The  book  includes  a  short story, The Joy of Arcady , set  in  the  afterlife.  This copy, listed for $350 in the  latest  acquisitions by  Douglas Stewart Fine Books, Melbourne , includes   manuscript  corrections  in  pen by  the  author.

Morton , brought to Sydney by his parents when he was  16, travelled to Singapore where  he  worked  on  the Straits Times as a journalist . In  India,    where he also reported  ,  he  covered  the  expedition  by the British India  Foreign Secretary ,Sir  Mortimer  Durand, which drew up the contentious border between  India  and  Afghanistan . 

Returning to Sydney in 1894, he contributed  to  The Bulletin magazine,went to  Queensland ,Tasmania and  New  Zealand .

In NZ he worked on several papers and  then  became the assistant editor  to  the feared editor of the controversial  magazine ,The Triad, Charles Nalder   Baeyertz, a  Belgian,   described   as  the  critic  from  Hell.

Baeyertz's reviews in Triad were said to  verge on  the brutal . Morton, also said to  have  enjoyed  making people squirm ,  wrote many columns under  a  variety  of   pseudonyms , covered French writers.   

Started in l893 in Dunedin by Baeyertz, , The Triad  ,  60 pages devoted to the arts, music ,literature and  science, moved to  Sydney in WWl and went into competition against  The  Bulletin , with  the help  of   Morton . 

It was said that  the Triad  was a better wrtten publication which broke down the  parochialism  of  a  false  Australian setiment  portrayed in  the  Bulletin

Some 75 years after they were written , in  Abra-Card-Dabra  Roycroft  Booksellers ,  Melbourne ,  I  had  the  extreme  good  luck   to find  letters  from  Baeyertz  . One discussed  the  death of Morton, who died of acute nephritis on  December 15,1923. 

Baeyertz, a cigar choping editor , who  wore pince nez ,  said  the death of  "poor  Morton  "  and  a  fire  had  added to the  work  load  on  Triad.

He lost control of the  publication  , with a circulation of more than 23,000, and  left to take  up the editorship   of   a new Sydney  Sunday newspaper, the  Sunday  Times. 

The magazine changed hands   several  times , was modernised , became the  New  Triad , but  folded  in  July 1928. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Wednesday, January 18, 2023


 Our Shipping Reporter   discovered  this  framed  picture  in  North  Queensand  which   graphically   highlights   the   toll   on   brave  men  who  went   to  the  rescue  of   people  in  peril  at    sea .  It  is  of  Henry Freeman , a lifeboatman, the   only  survivor  of  the  February 9 , 1861  Whitby  West  Pier   lifeboat  disaster  in  which  12  crew  drowned.

A wild storm saw some 200  vessels get into difficulties and the Whitby lifeboat station , established in  1802 ,  made  several  rescues  , finally overturning  on  its  sixth  rescue  run.   

Freeman's    survival  was  attributed  to  the fact that he  was  wearing   an  early  cork  lifejacket , seen here , recently introduced  by  the   Board of  Trade . 

A fisherman, Freeman  carried on as the Whitby  lifeboat  station's   coxswain  for 20  years  and  helped  save  more  than  300  people  . 

The  above  study  was  taken  by  pioneering  photo  artist   Frank  Meadow  Sutcliffe (1853-l941) ,whose  coverage of  the seaside town of  Whitby and surrounding  areas  earned  him  the  title  , the  pictorial  Boswell of   Whitby ,Yorkshire . 

His  father was an amateur photographer and  painter .Young Frank ,one of eight children, slept in  his  father's  studio . 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


 There is excitement  each time an email is received   from a   bookdealer    with   the  latest  acquisitions.  From  Douglas Stewart   Fine  Books , Melbourne ,  came  the    above   1884   cabinet   photograph of   seven    North  Queensland   Aborigines   at   the   Crystal  Palace,  London, part of  the   R. A. Cunningham  international  touring   company .

Information  supplied   says  Cunningham, a Canadian , acting  as  agent  for  the American P. T. Barnum  and Bailey   Circus, came to Australia in l882  and "enticed "  nine  North  Queensland  Aborigines to  travel  to North America  as  part of  a  troupe  Barnum  had  formed. 

They were   displayed  as " ethnological curiosities" , coerced into  performing   acts  such  as  boomerang  throwing  on  stage  .

 Apparently  Cunningham  " assumed control "of  the  group , reduced to  seven  , by  deaths , who   took them to  Europe , where  they appeared  at  the  Crystal Palace, photographed by  Negretti and  Zambra. 

Those  in  the  photo  were , from the  left  to  right- Billy (holding a  rainforest  shield) . Jenny, Toby (Jenny's son ) ,Toby  (Jenny's husband holding a  boomerang and " sword  club " ) ,Sussy,  Jimmy  ( holding two boomerangs ), and Bob  (reclining  at  front , holding  a fighting  club ).

The   group  had been reduced to  four a  year later , only Jenny,  young  Toby  and   Billy  eventually  returned  to   Australia . 
See  reference   Roslyn Poignant. Professional Savages : Captive Lives and Western Spectacle. Sydney : University of  New South Wales  Press, 2004.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


During the  torrential rain which  hit Magnetic Island , the  doctored public  notice  made to  read  slaves were   wanted   to   carry  out  landscaping  and  weeding  at $12.50 an hour  on  a  site  appears  to  have  been blown  away or  pulled down  .  In any  case ,  the  area  where the work was to be done ,  once  known as  the  Pope's Land ,  because it was owned by the  Catholic Church , is  now part of a  fast flowing  waterway  running to  a  drain .



 Townsville's  Anderson  Botanic  Park  after  deluge.

Abra series


Windowsill crash . Vallis photo. 


 Magnetic Island  after  downpour  

Floating gymnasium .

Definitely  not  bore  water .  

Water could be heard pouring  down from the national park ridges,  drains   have been  running swiftly  for  hours , creeks  are   flooded , some beach erosion .  

Saturday, January 14, 2023


In times of  stress ,  border disputes  , bad  weather ,with  blessed  multiple    births  pending , the  Australian Labor  Party  extends  its  protective  arm , a   bit  like  the old   Colgate ring  of   confidence  advertisement  days  , as  the   above   graphic   photograph   clearly   reveals .  

When it  was  noticed  that  one of  this  blog's  resident   Curlews  was  sitting on two eggs in a  spot   that  was  cooked  by  the sun  for several hours, causing the bird   to  pant,  an  old   ALP  election  corflute  for  John  Ring  , in  the  federal seat of  Herbert ,  was   positioned  to   shade    the   mother .

Other  ALP  election corflute , one for  MHR Cathy  O'Toole ,   had  already been placed  about  the yard  to  prevent  border  disputes with  nextdoor  Curlews.   Several other ALP signs were  positioned to  try and prevent  any young   hatchlings   from   escaping  into  dangerous  neighbouring   yards. 

So it can be seen that  caring for   wonderful  Curlews  can be a  real labor of love , especially if you  have  a  shed  with  old  election   corflutes in  dark corners , including ones for LEAN - the  well organised  Labor   Environment   Action   Network. 

While   the  John Ring   sign  did  the  job, along  came   monsoonal    rain , fronds began  to  fall , the  sign almost blew  down  overnight , but  was    placed  back  in  position   because  the sun   began  to  shine . Then it started to   rain   again.  The   big  event  could  take place  any  day  now .