Tuesday, April 30, 2024


Darwin.  Petros photo.

Monday, April 29, 2024


 Included   in  the   superb  two volume  cased   set of  books on  Australian  Book  Collectors , edited by   Charles Stitz,  recently  found  in  Townsville , was   reference  to  historian  and   writer  Isadore  Brodsky , one  of   his  many  books  about  Sydney   covered   its    early  bookshops . 

By  Peter Simon

When I  was  a copyboy  and  cadet reporter on The Sun, Sydney, in the l950s ,  I often  saw  Brodsky  in  the  newspaper   building  with  journalist, poet and  official  war correspondent  , Kenneth  Slessor ( 1901-1971).

Slessor, who handled the  literary pages  and wrote leaders, always neatly dressed  , sported a bowtie, and  appeared to be an albino to me because of his  pallor.

Brodsky always seemed to be laughing  and  both men may have been going  to or  coming  back  from  the  nearby Journalists' Club  of  which  Slessor was  vice- president,  later  president .

Slessor  was  fond of  roasted peanuts  and  I  found him   face   down , asleep in a  parcel  of  shelled   peanuts ,  while  dropping  off  various   documents, magazines  and photos  in  the building   on   the  copyboy  delivery  run. 

Born   at  Orange , NSW , he was  named  Kenneth Adolphe Schloesser, his father a  Jewish mining  engineer , whose  father and grandfather had been distinguished  musicians in  Germany . As a  young boy, Kenneth  spent time in  England  with   his  parents. The  family name was changed to Slessor in  1914, the  start  of   WW1.

Brodsky  was   also   seen  conversing - and laughing -  with sartorially dressed  man  about  town  journalist   Jim  Macdougall  who  wrote  the  highly   popular   daily  Contact  column  in  The  Sun, based on one in America.

Macdougall's start in journalism  was due to the fact that a poem he wrote   while he  was  droving  sheep was shown  to Keith Murdoch, who liked it , and  called  him  in  to  work on the   Melbourn Herald .  He even  sent him  to the  London Bureau  to  get  further experience. 

From memory, Brodsky also spent time in The Sun  Feature  Bureau, probably discussing syndication of  his  numerous  articles about   Sydney, which  became  books  dealing  with  the Sydney  Press Gang, bookshops  The Rocks  area, the streets of  Sydney,   the   Aborigine   Bennelong ,  crusading nurses , Woolloomooloo , early  theatrical  productions  . 

The  Australian Dictionary of   Biography  states that in the early l920s  Slessor helped edit  the short lived   Vision : a Literary Quarterly,  which "tried to jolt Australian writing out  of the bush and into the city ". Slessor dismissed  the  poetry of  Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and  all the  bush balladists. 

His  poetic output included  Five Bells —relating to Sydney Harbour, an elegy  in memory of  artist  and  friend  Joe Lynch , who fell  overboard  from a  ferry  while  drunk  and  drowned,  dragged   to  the bottom by bottles of  beer  in  his  overcoat pocket.  Another  highly regarded  poem , Beach Burial, was  a  tribute to  Australian  troops  who  fought  in  World War II.

In l970 Slessor  published  Bread and Wine, a selection of his articles, literary  essays , comments  on his own poetry  and  his war dispatches.  

Sunday, April 28, 2024



In  recent  months  eight   books  dealing with  the   fabulous, boisterous   goldrush  past  of  Queensland's    Charters  Towers  and  its  modern  literary output  have been collected   by  this  blog. The two books shown here, both signed  by  the  author , Michael  Brumby ,were  in a  cluster of   four .

The Charters Towers  goldrush kicked off   on Christmas  Eve  1871   when  a prospecting  party  which included   Hugh Mosman , from  Sydney,  who  had   an  Aboriginal "  horse  boy ", Jupiter , found  gold  nuggets in a stream.  Many  years  later,  a  casino  in  Townsville  was  named  Jupitor's .

 An early mine was  called  Washington  and  men , overseas  money  and machinery  poured  in  .

At  one stage in its  booming  history  Charters Towers was  called The  World ,  described in  l898   as being superior in wealth, equal in  commerce  ,culture  and  refinement  to  any  city  of  the same population in  the  Empire.

This  included  35  hotels , one  needing  30 barmaids  to  handle the Saturday  night   rush .

In 1886 the Charters Towers  goldfield was a   feature in London  at  the Colonial  and  Indian  Exhibition , resulting  in  many investment  companies being  floated .  

A number of lively newspapers   were produced  in Charters Towers  , the editors of which  were  colourful  , combative and  vociferous . The Australian  Republican  was  the official  Labor   organ ,  replaced  by  The  Eagle  and  The New Eagle. Other  papers were The Northern Mining Register, the weekly edition  of the  Northern Miner ,  and   The North Queensland  Register .

The editor, publisher ,  historian, artist  and columnist , the late Glenville Park,  literally  struck  gold  in  Charters  Towers when he moved there in 1957  to  research  its  old  newspapers  going back to 1891 ,  stored  away  in  the  town  hall .

He went to the Northern Miner office and  the editor showed him a box which included  wooden  type, large letters  used  for  making headings and posters.

Pike  aptly described the  newspaper trove  as   a goldmine, some  of  it bound in, some loose, torn, knocked about , eventually ending up in the  Oxley Library , Brisbane. 

He  recalled  that  there  was  a choral  group  in town called  The Curlews  .  

A horse was said to  have  shoes  made from  gold, fortunes were made  and  lost  in  its   own  stock  exchange , two books  found dealing with the exchange,   which   had   three    daily  calls . 

The arcade in which the  exchange was located   has been   restored and is one of the  many  attractions of  Charters  Towers , where  mining coninues

Saturday, April 27, 2024




Friday, April 26, 2024


 A  recent  Eureka ! find was this boxed two volume set  edited and signed by Charles Stitz, a retired  lawyer and  Albury ,NSW,  bookseller .
By Peter Simon

The books were  a  presentation to Dear Lindsay  from a  person identified   as "Auntie Edna", an obvious lover of  books, a  handwritten inscription in one  quotes  John Muir,1838-1914:  "  Handle a book as a bee does a flower ,extract  its  sweetness  but do not  damage it ."  

The volume on the left displays the steel-engraved  armorial bookplate which  incorporated  the  family crest  of  Bernard Gore Brett (1901-l996)  , whose  grandfather arrived in Melbourne in 1853 and the next year was appointed the  First  Deputy  Sheriff, at Beechworth, later made Sheriff and gold receiver. 

He was  present at the capture of  bushranger Ned  Kelly and in office at the time of his hanging . Bernard   Gore built up  a  massive  collection of  Australiana .

The other  volume  sports  the armorial bookplate of Dr  John Orde Poynton (1906-2001) who came from a family who back in England used to buy  up large amounts of books , art   and  prints  for very little.  An ancestor is said to  have contributed  books to  the  early Harvard University library in America . 

It was only natural  therefore  that John Poyton inherited  a deep interest in  books and  collectthg  . While at  Cambridge  he read economics under  John Maynard  Keynes and studied   bibliography  under Keyne's younger brother , Geoffrey ;  obtaining a medical degree, he went to sea as a ship's doctor on  various  liners and  travelled  far  and  wide .

He lobbed  in  Malaya in l936  where he  became  involved in the health system and did research on tropical diseases  While there  he   collected  Chinese  art  and  antiquities .

With  the  outbreak of   war  , in the British  Army , he  was  sent  to  Australia in l940 to give lectures on tropical diseases .  Captured   by  the Japanese in the fall of Singapore, he  spent  more than three years in  Changi  prison in which the Changi  Gaol Literary Society was  started  by  Sergeant  David Griffin  of  the  AIF, later Lord Mayor of Sydney  and  a  lawyer.

 After the war,  Dr Poynton  came  to  Australia , made a pile investing   and  built up a  massive, highly  valuable  collection  of  books and  prints,  much of  which  was  given to  the   Melbourne University,   along  with large   financial   bequests.


 Old   playing  cards   stripped  Jack  and  Oz   naked .

Featuring crossed  Australian  and British flags, the  above  illustrated  pack of   cards  presented  a land in which there were Aborigines , lots of  cattle, crocodiles ,  koalas, kangaroos , hedgehogs, several deserts, Ayer's Rock ,perhaps cacti , and  a   bland  looking  Tasmania   which  only boasted not one  but  two  apples  , it   known  as   the  Apple  Isle .

Another Hong Kong  designed and   produced  pack , above,   highlighted in  greater detail   Beautiful  Tasmania  , inserted in a giant apple , and    its  noisy, snarling    Tasmanian   Devils . Jovial  Jokers  and a court jester Ace of  Spades  were  also  included  in  the   plastic  coated  pack  of  54  cards.   


Thursday, April 25, 2024




Waterlogged   matchbook   throws   light   on  the  Port Line, a passenger and cargo  shipping company,   which  served  Australia  and  New  Zealand  .  Initially formed  in 1914 as the Commonwealth and Dominion line , an amalgamation  of four shipping  companies, which operated routes to Australia and New Zealand, it operated  in  one form  or  another  until  1982. 

House flag of the Port Line ..

The  company's  large  fleet. 

Its many offices  and agents  included one in Townsville, and one of its fleet was  Port Townsville , where this  link with the line was found by our Shipping Reporter. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Chinooks, Townsville 


 Next  to  LIttle  Darwin's  pet headless bulldog  is another  recently added oddity - a flag-waving  seemingly headless   wooden  sheep   bearing  the  name  of   the    American  Wool.  Co. 

The  critter was  found  tucked away  in a  Townsville  garage  sale  by  our  Shipping Reporter  who  discovered the American Woolen Company was established in  l899 ,which by l920 owned 60 mills ,  one the largest in the world. 

One  mill had  a  four-sided clocktower  which  was  a foot shorter than London's  Big  Ben  tower .

The  company- like Australian wool growers  -  thrived  during  the  cold   Korean War   which  created  a  big  demand  for warm   woollen clothing . However,  at  the end of the  war  and the loss of government   contracts , the  company was  taken  over. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Special  from  Aeronautical  Correspondent   Abra.

Monday, April 22, 2024


Lock up  your  bedsheets , duvet and doona covers  - creative  new age   clothesline  snafflers  are  roaming   about  eager  to  grab  material  to  rip  up  and    turn  into  a  wide  range  of  attractive   rag   rugs  .  

A  small sample of  creations  made  by  Rita ,  a  renowned  rampaging   rag  rugger .                                    


Markets  are  many  and  their  offerings  diverse  in   North  Australia . At  a  recent  monthly  market  in  Townsville   a  stall  grabbed  this  book and ephemera  addicted  blogger's  attention   through  its  sign... ANTI - CAPITALIST  COMMUNITY  HUB .

Apart from sporting a range of interesting books , all priced,  it  offered   free  food to overcome poverty  ,  a  variety  on  display . Rummaging  through  the  books, several were found  dealing  with "the  Red " influence  in  early  North Queensland.

A standout  was  the Motorcycle Diaries of  Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che  Guevera , an account of  his  l952  travels, he then a medical student,  through Latin America   on  a  l939  Norton motorbike ,  which became known as  Das  Kapito   Meets  Easy   Rider.

Also noticed was  an old  volume  dealing  with Polish  born , German naturalised   Rosa  Luxemburg , a  key figure in the revolutionary  socialist movement , a   Marxist  and  anti-war  activist  in  WWl. 

Socialist  writers  were represented  as  well  as raconteur and author Bill  Harney  who spent much  time in the Northern Territory  and  ran  Ayer's Rock settlement - Uluru.   He also lived at a place called Two Fellah  Creek, across   Darwin  Harbour .   Maori   legends   were  covered. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Saturday, April 20, 2024


Cairns .  Abra  photo.


 Shipping  Reporter  corners  fag  end   market.

At a secret Townsville location ,  our  waterfront  scavenger could not believe his luck when he  stumbled  upon  a  large , admittedly fairly soiled, collection of  old  matchbooks, also known as matchcovers, issued in Britain , the  USA  and  Canada , carrying adverts  for  cigarettes,  tobacco,  cigars , whisky,  nightclubs ,  shipping ,  insurance  companies and many other  businesses  and  products . 

A surprise  inclusion   features  the  above   drawing  ,a  play  on a  renowned  one  by   WWl   humourist  and  cartoonist  Bruce  Bairnsfather which had appeared in The Bystander . Wounded  during the  war,  Bairnsfather  became famous for  his  many  cartoons  depicting Old Bill and  his  pals ,Bert and   Alf,  in the trenches. 

They contributed to the British war effort  and  were compiled  into  a book  Life in the Trenches  and another , Fragments  From  France  1914.

In WWll , Bairnsfather was made official photographer to  the  American troops  in  Europe and  contributed  to Stars and Stripes and Yank . He  also   drew  what  was  called   nose  art  on  aircraft.

The Shipping Reporter   said  there were many other  surprises in the  collection, including   a  comment by  literary legend   Rudyard Kipling about the difference between  a woman  and  a  fag,   which seems  to  indicate  he  was   hooked   on  nicotine .  

The first matchbook, containing a quantity of matches  and a coarse striking  surface on the exterior , each match torn away before use , is  said   to have been  produced in  the USA in the l890s. A matchbook  handed out at a dinner for pioneer American aviator Charles Lindbergh in  June  1927, was bought  by  a rich   phillumenist   for  US$6000.

Unfortuntely , no  links with  famous  aviators or other persons of  note were detected in  the above   mixed  lot , each one   carefully removed from  a  packet   and  cleaned up somewhat .  However , the Bermuda Club may have had  some  notable entrepreneurs, tax  dodgers, aspirants to  high office in  US  politics,   top America's Cup   yachtsmen  in  its   membership.

It is hard  to  believe anybody would   board  the  London to Edinburgh    Coronation  Express  in  its   dirty , rundown  state. 

Beneath  the accumulated  grime , adverts were  sighted for  Ardath State Express , Toefani ,Churchman's and Barney's cigarettes , imported  Miss India cigars which were  probably puffed on  by  Kipling  due to his connections  with  India  , the Curzon Cinema, Garter Club , Schweppes  , cognac , R.E.Jones  English chain of  hotels and  restaurants  bearing the  drawing of man dressed like an American  Pilgrim , the  Sun  Life  Building  in  Montreal, Canada.  

Friday, April 19, 2024


 Little Darwin's resident arty owls looking with askance at latest odd  acquisitions  by a blog member , a  braying donkey and  a  cackling  chook , both   made  in  Japan . 


 Boxed, made in Canada   metal  souvenir , with ribbon ,  for  the  One World Observatory atop  New  York's  World  Trade  Centre with   a 360 degree  panoramic view of  the  city.  Found  in a mixed  batch  of   bits  and  pieces  in  Queenland, thought to have been obtained  long  before the attack on  the   Centre .

Thursday, April 18, 2024


Deceased  estate  First  World  War  publications 

The  above  extraordinary  1916  publication ,170pp , minus covers , foxed , well  illustrated with photographs and  cartoons, was put together in a dug-out  overlooking  Anzac Cove,  Gallipoli, in  the  closing  weeks  of   l915.

It was meant to have been a New Year Magazine for the troops, but was delayed  by  the  evacuation .   The  missing  cover  was  as  follows .  

Several cover  designs were considered , four  others  included in the magazine  .

It contains lighthearted classified  advertisements , some  full  page , a  farcical  one   for  the  German  munitions  manufacturer, KRUPP.

The  magazine   bears  the trade imprint  of  the Townsville  booksellers and  newsagents  T. W. Willmett  and  Sons  Limited. 


The above  volume, 128pp plus covers  , is mainly pictorial , has many   drawings and some cartoons. A  full page  cartoon  shows  a Scottish soldier  and  an  Australian in  freezing  conditions on  the  battlefield . The Scot asks  the   Aussie - " Frozen Bill "-  what  he   is   going  to  do  after  the war  .The  reply : Spend two years  in  Central  Australia  thawing  out .   

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


An interesting item  in  the  Douglas Stewart  Fine  Books , Melbourne ,  offerings  at  the  fair  which runs for four days from  April 18 in  the  Malvern  Town  Hall , is the  No.1 ,l932 , 96pp,  edition  of   Ink , produced  in   Sydney  by  the  Society of Women  Writers   of  New South  Wales ,containing  two  original  woodcuts  by   Margaret  Preston, $4400

It is described as  an  extraordinary gathering of women writers and artists who are listed on the vibrant cover, including May Gibbs, Katherine Susannah Prichard, M. Barnard Eldershaw, Mary Gilmore, Ethel Turner, Dulcie Deamer, Gladys Owen, Amy Mack, Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor, Zora Cross, Esther Paterson, Pixie O’Harris, Myra Morris, Ella Dwyer, and others, complemented by male compatriots including Kenneth Slessor, Unk White, Harry Julius, Will Mahoney, A. G. Stephens et al.

Provenance : Walter Stone, eminent bibliophile, with a signed letter to him from Helen Frizell, former literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, thanking him for lending her the book, noting ‘It was infinitely more interesting than Ink 2, I’m afraid’, along with a newspaper cutting from the paper on Oct. 5, 1977, where Frizell reviewed Ink No. 2, the second issue published by the Society 45 years after Ink No. 1

Another object of interest in the bookshop list , price reserved ,  is  the following  oval  portrait  miniature ,75 x 60mm , of  Robert, Lord  Hobart , 4th  Earl of Buckinghamshire (1760-1816) , painted  by  Henry Bone , enamel painter  to  the Prince of  Wales .

Early in his career he served in the British army during the American Revolutionary War. From 1784 he served as aide-de-camp to successive Lord Lieutenants of Ireland.

 He sat in both Irish and English Houses of Commons, from 1787 and 1788 respectively, and was appointed to the Privy Council in 1793. He gained valuable experience in colonial service during the period he served as Governor of Madras between 1793-98. After his recall in 1798 he entered the House of Lords after inheriting the Hobart title from his uncle. From 1801 to 1804 Hobart served as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, displaying ‘a better grasp of the local or colonial conditions, and a more active spirit than did some of his successors'.

The bookshop outlines  his significant connection to Australian settler history. In 1803, under instructions from Philip Gidley King, Governor of New South Wales, the recent settlement in Van Diemen’s Land at Risdon Cove on the River Derwent had been named “Hobart” in honour of Lord Hobart, the incumbent Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. 

When the settlement was abandoned a short time later, David Collins, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (then under the jurisdiction of New South Wales) appropriated the name for the new settlement at Sullivan’s Cove, which he called “Hobart Town”. This name first appears in a General Order issued on 15 June, 1804. Hobart was proclaimed a city in 1842 and became the capital of the state of Tasmania at  Federation in 1901. 


 Variety of odd timepieces . On the left , a P&O  shipping  keyring ; centre,  made in China Camry  paperweight ; on right , strange Singapore  made wristlet watch  featuring  the   late  Queen , the  dark hands  on  which  give  the impression that  a seagull  bombarded  Her  Majesty  and  was  flogged and deported  to  Van Diemen's  Land  as  a  result.  None of  the  watches  work-part of  Litle  Darwin's  bower  bird   collection . 

Monday, April 15, 2024


View  from  Rowes  Bay  lookout , Townsville. Dinosaur drinking, Magnetic  Island  in  background .


Sipping soda  on  a  Euphorbia. Vallis pix.