Wednesday, January 31, 2024


 Renowned   Melbourne  activist , editor, publisher, media commentator ,once dubbed  Australia's Federal politician of  the  year,   Pete  Steedman, 82,  has been  given  six  to 12 months  to  live, palliative care discussed.

The above poster , featuring   hairy Steedman, armed , holding the son of internationally  respected   Australian  art criic  Robert Hughes, with   a gun toting model , was a send up  of  an  American university  magazine ,   appeared  in  London , circa l970.

In typical Steedman  fashion, his colourful repartee , on  being  informed of the  time   line, caused  the  medico  delivering  the   grim  news  to  laugh .  

Following  an  operation  for cancer  last year, it is again spreading   through his  body. In addition , he   also  has  emphysema.

Mind you there  was  a time   when this battle scarred  warrior  , who dressed in  black,   and   famously  nearly cut Bob Dylan's life short  in Melbourne , seeming   rose  from   near  death,

In Melbourne in  2006 , he  suffered liver failure , traced  to  Hepatitis B he  had picked up in South East Asia  40 years  earlier , which had been dormant in his system .

He weighed  just 45 kilos and was orange in colour . So ill  was he that  the word went out that he was soon to die.   A transplant was refused    and his body  recovered  over  several  years .

 In recent days  Pete has been  continuing to  sort out  his  wide ranging  files, a  large part of  which  is  already with the    Victorian  state  library.

Much to his surprise , up surfaced a postcard  he  received  when he was a young boy  from an Australian   in  a  German prisoner of  war  camp.

Pete   read   to Little Darwin  parts of  the  faded   pencil  message , dated  July 3, 1944,  from Tracy  Rowley,   who  wrote  he  knew Pete's mother and father and hoped to  tell him about  his  parents   at  some  time  in the  future.

UPDATES  from  time to  time .

Tuesday, January 30, 2024



Townsville  waterfront and Magnetic Island . Abra pix.


 Precariously perched  on  the  high  outside  ledge of a  Townsville gymnasium, two young  birds  face   a flight  fraught  with  danger  in these  photos by  muscular  Aeronautical Correspondent , Abra .

Concerned parents.

Monday, January 29, 2024



In a children's playground  littered with   branches brought  down by Cyclone Kirrily in Townsville  ,noisy Red-tailed Black Cockatoos  feed on  tasty nuts.

Sunday, January 28, 2024



Yacht aground  on The Strand, Townsville. Abra pix.


 Australia's best  known dung beetle, Doug, above, surrounded by  debris from Cyclone Kirrily, in  Townsville's  Anderson  Park Botanic Gardens  .

In an exclusive inteview , Doug told  a  Little Darwin  reporter  he nearly lost his grip on the giant  ball of  dung during the  cyclone and it could have careered through the Queen city of  the North , growing in size ,splatteriing everything  in  its  path.  

Our reporter and his carer were forced to terminate  the  interview  because of the many mosquitoes  , which users of  the  popular park  will have to guard against  to  avoid  Ross River  and  Dengue  Fever. 

A tour of the area  revealed many trees down and  several  reduced to a stump, like   the  one  above.. 
(Spoof,dung, Doug)



Fishing in  Ross River in  the  overflow  from  barramundi stocked  Aplin's Weir, Townsville.

NEXT: Celebrity's uphill  battle  in   Cyclone  Kirrily. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024


 Repeat of August 9,2018 article.

 Reverend   Alan   Renton , 90,  and  his  wife , Shirley, 85 ,  above,  at the   farewell   service  for  them  in  the  Uniting  Church , Magnetic Island  , shortly  before  they  flew   to  Tasmania  to  retire , in  a  fashion . 

They have  had  an  heroic life  together, fighting  the  good  fight on many fronts .  During the church morning  tea , they told me how they  first met . Her  life threatened  by  severe asthma  attacks  , Shirley , an  accomplished  pianist , living  in  Tasmania , was  sent to stay with  a  penfriend  in  outback  Queensland.

By Peter Simon 

While there , Alan Renton , B.Sci., D.D.,  living in Brisbane , a newly qualified   Presbyterian  minister , asked  church   authorities   where they would like him  to   go  to commence spreading  the   word .  Much  to   his   surprise  ,  they   nominated a place way out west,  near  Emerald ,  starting   almost  immediately .

Given   a  month  to  clear  the  deck  in  Brisbane  , he   took up the post   and  was invited to deliver a sermon, perhaps his second ,  on   the verandah  of  a  property where  graziers   gathered .

Arriving at  the  venue , he  walked in ... there  was a  young woman playing the  piano-Shirley.  He explained what  transpired : There and then  he decided  to marry that  wonderful  woman.  Shirley  chuckled , recalling   that fateful  musical moment,   adding  that  he had  " chased " her   for  two  years , she moving  back  to  Tasmania ,   before   popping   the   question .

During  their 60  years together  they were  avid  book  collectors ; I often literally bumped  into  Alan  at  garage sales  on  the island  , both   looking  for   new  volumes   to  add  to  our  shelves ,  piles  ,  office  disorder .  
The extent of  his library  is  evident  in  this  photograph , which had to be cleared as their house, in  which they had  lived for 25 years ,  is on the market  . Apart from  an  extensive  religious  reference  section , it included  many Penguin paperbacks ,  French  literature , Greek classics  , Australiana.  Missionary work in the Pacific ,  inland  Australia  and  China  were  also   covered .
Shirley built up her  own   extensive   library  on  Australian politics . Born in Port August , South Australia , she  developed  an  interest in politics from the age of  nine when she  had to read  the content   of   newspapers  to her mother who suffered  from glaucoma.  Her mother  had been  a supporter of  the  wartime ALP  prime minister , John  Curtin . 
Both  the  Rentons  are  ALP stalwarts, Alan  the president of the  Magnetic Island  ALP branch   for  many years .   During  their   lifetime of  devout  religious  and   political   involvement  they  were  forced  to  leave  Queensland  and  go to Tasmania to live  because of   their  stance against  the  Joh  Bjelke-Petersen Government  over  such  matters as  moving  Aborigines  off   bauxite  deposits,  on  Cape York ,   land rights , the Springboks  tour of  Australia ,  the Queensland declaration of  a state of  emergency. 

In 1983 , Reverend  Renton received a  card  from a religious organisation  with a printed  question  on the back : WHAT  DID  YOU DO TO  GET  SENT  TO  TASMANIA ! ( Obviously a tongue in cheek  query , recalling the days when convicts were sent to  Van Diemen's  Land , now Tasmania ,  from England    for  minor  crimes ). Alan  replied : Had an argument with the Qld  Govt  about  the  Aboriginal issue .
Once  he and Shirley    attended  a  major   religious protest   meeting  in  Brisbane  , watched  by   police, paddy wagons  parked  nearby into which they  could  have  been  thrown .  
Shirley kept  a  large scrapbook  of   those  dark  days  in  Australia , which  she  gave  me  to  keep .  As  the result  of  a  quick  look through the contents , a letter addressed  to Alan   attracted attention . It  accused him of being  neither  a sportsman nor a Christian  by supporting  demonstrations  against the South African Springboks rugby   tour. These  demonstrations, it  charged , were  organised by Communists .
It took him to task for not speaking out about the Russian treatment of Jews   and  failing  to demonstrate against  the "All  Black " West  Indies cricketers , the American  Harlem Globetrotters  basketball  team  and an "All White " South African  singing   group  currently  touring  Australia .

During their time in  Tasmania , the  Rentons   were  both  deeply involved in  church work . Alan became  the  editor  of  Crosscurents,  official magazine of the Division of  Christian Education ,Uniting Church, Synod Tasmania.

Shirley, with  a  wide   interest  in  music , did  extensive  reviews  of  religious  music , injecting much of  her knowledge  into  her work ; in one, Sing Out With Joy ,  sighted  by  me,   she  recalled   the   background  of   the  Cantus Chorus, formed in  Melbourne,  with  reference  to  Haydn   and    praise for  one of Australia's top organists , Norman Kaye.
Shirley's impressive collection of   political books  were  distributed   among   ALP  members  on   the  island  and  a  large  part  went  to  a  reference  /  reading  room   library   in  Townsville .
 Books from  Alan's  collection have  also  been  distributed  far and wide . He asked me  to come  by  and   help  him  pack  suitcases and   boxes  of  books  which  will  be  distributed  to  settlements  across  the top of North Queensland  and  into   the  Northern Territory .

During  his  last few weeks on  the island , a busy and stressful period  for them ,  he  asked me to help him make contact with a mother  to arrange  the  baptism  of  a  baby girl .  While assisting    him  clear  out  the contents of a large wardrobe , he  gave me   a number of   cardboard  boxes dealing with  various  aspects  of   their  life in  which they  fought   for   Aboriginal  land rights , helped numerous  people  in  difficulties . 

 I  have witnessed  Alan   and  Shirley involved  in   selfless  action helping  people . One  memorable event, some  15 years ago,   involved me assisting   Alan   to   move a large  refrigerator into  a   house on  the island  to  help  a  young  woman, in  a  difficult  situation.   It  was  heavy work ... I went to  hospital  for a  triple  bypass  the  following week ,   the  exertion  said  to have   contributed to  me   blowing  a valve , or  some other  vital   component  .   

A  box   Alan  gave me  last  week  to sift  through   brought to light the surprising  fact that  he had  been  a  ham  radio operator  in Queensland  and  Tasmania . As a   result , there  was  an  unusual   follow  up  revelation .  
Reverend  Renton , in gown ,  officiated,  above ,   when a  dramatic   religious mural,  painted by  Martin Hengeveld , brought from Holland as a child ,  an artist  and  soil conservationist  with the  Department of Primary Industry,  was dedicated at  St. Andrew's Presbyterian  Church , Allora,  Queensland . It depicted Christ reaching out from Heaven to  take Man crushed by  his own inventions  and   placing  him  in  a  better world .
Alan was so inspired by  the  mural  , he incorporated  it  into his ham radio  call card sent out  across  the  world  to   many  other  radio enthusiasts . The two bottom cards  in  the above composite  graphic  are  from  his  radio,VK4AZ, located  in  Presbyterian  manses  at  Allora and   Prosperpine .
While stationed at  Charters Towers in the late 1950s and early 1960s  , he  campaigned  hard to  try and  establish a  hostel  for  Aboriginal children  from  far and  wide  so  that  they  could  be  educated. A  qualified  music teacher , Shirley  taught many  children and  adults  to play the piano . She also participated in theatrical  productions , like The Maid of the Mountains.   Arthritis  ended  her  piano and organ playing . 
One of her  many interests  was  sailing , racing  17ft   dinghies   in the Whitsundays . Even though petite, she  cut a  dashing  figure, like  the  commodore of  a    cruising  yacht  club, when  she strode about the waterfront  in  a naval jacket , with  brass  buttons , a captain's hat ,  an  outfit which  Alan  bought  at  a  garage  sale   in  Tasmania .    

Because of her involvement  in  sailing , she  took a keen  interest  in  Australian Wooden  Boat  Festivals  held  in Tasmania. 
During the farewell  church  morning  tea , after baptising a baby and making a stirring   farewell speech ,  Alan  thanked  ALP  members who attended . He  also  said   that in all  his  60  years  of  involvement  with  ALP  branches  , it surprised him  how   knowledgeable  current  island  branch  members  were ,  interested  in  so   many  subjects   and   issues .
It is to be hoped that  in Tasmania  , after this  salt of the earth   couple  have rested , some  university  group  or  author  will   contact  the   Rentons  and   tape   their  heroic,   inspiring   life  story . Shirley  died  March 20, 2020.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024


 Word just  received  that former  Magnetic Island  resident Reverend Alan Renton  of  the  Uniting  Church  , a longtime ALP member, has  died  in  Tasmania . 


The  Strand , Townsville . Abra photo.


 Postal  cover  carried on the first beer can boat  expedition  from Darwin to Singapore  in September  1977 . Aboard  the  tipsy vessel were  former  Brisbane ALP mayor Clem Jones , seen below waving hat , and Darwin businessman   Lutz Frankenfeld , hanging onto the  rigging, the cover signed by the two adventurers .  The trip was designed to  promote Darwin's annual  beer  can regatte and the fact that the city was   back on  deck after  Cyclone Tracy , keen to  be  part  of  Asia . After a wild  voyage , the Can Tiki  received a  big maritime reception in Singapore.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024


Early morning  Abra  view out to sea from Castle Hill, Townsville.

Meanwhile, Ergon  and  Sun City Tree Service  are  busy  cutting back trees near  power  lines  and  overhanging  houses  and  sheds. Owners  of  the many yachts  in the area  have  been  advised to  check moorings .

On Magnetic Island , where   a watermain burst  at  Nelly Bay,  water is reportedly  being  boiled   at  Picnic Bay.   

And concern has been expressed about the fate of the remains of the  island's   fibreglass , mysterious,   mutilated  mermaid  in  wild  weather.  Now  wide  open  from  the  navel  down, she  is  likely  to  become airborne and  a  hazard  to  aviation,shipping and  lunar landing attempts.

Monday, January 22, 2024


 A South  Australian  man keen on photography with  a  way  with  animals  was  able  to  take  these  unusual   framed , under  glass   shots , bought  at  an Adelaide  garage  sale more than 40 years ago.

In one shot a cockatoo spoonfeeds a cat and a  possum  shares a  plate with a  dog and greedy  cat  in the other.   From memory, the artful cameraman  had been  written  up  in  Walkabout  magazine.

Sunday, January 21, 2024


 Young  bird  falls  from  lemon tree  .

Attempts to climb up the tree in which there are many big thorns in  answer to  calls from parents.

In  an  adjoining  less  harmful  lime  tree. Vallis pix. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024





 Seagull  sipping from  dog  dish  at  foot  of  public water fountain ,Townsville beachfront.



 Flying  from  Townsville  to  Cairns

Photos by Aeronautical Correspondent, Abra .

Friday, January 19, 2024

Thursday, January 18, 2024


Townsville .

Wednesday, January 17, 2024


A battered  collection of  photographs  has yielded the above named  group  thought to have been   taken during  WWll  pilot training  at  the  Royal Air Force  Empire Flying Station ,Ossington, Nottinghampshire. The album, bought in Adelaide,  included  snaps of  Australians   trying  out  a  Royal  Enfield   motorbike  

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Monday, January 15, 2024