Wednesday, July 24, 2024


 Believe  it or not,  the lightweight  pumpkin  agronomist  Robert Wesley-Smith grew , hoping to win the monster melon  section  at  the   Darwin Show , could  actually come  out  on  top.

The  about 80 kg  melon  is  shown   above  having just been loaded into Wes's  little Honda Jazz  sedan, with the help  of  Ted  Whiteaker , despite him  having recently  had a  hernia operation.  

Whiteaker  then drove  Wes and  the pumpkin  to the showground  to   make  a  late  entry .

Upon arrival at the  busy  showground  ,it was hard to find a  spot to unload  because   there  apparently were no other   pumpkins  entered  so far ! This  could  result  in  Wes , at  long  last , taking  out  the equivalent of an  Olympic  Games  gold  medal. 

A show official  said  people  had  experienced  difficulty  growing  melons  this  year , 

It took two men to  place  the pumpkin on  a  bale of hay.  

As reported in an earlier  post, Wes had become   downcast because  a  240 kg pumpkin had  won   the  recent  Katherine  Show.

Unless there is  a sudden rush of  people  descending on the  showground  with melons  at this late stage, Wes could  become  the  default  king  of  the Top  End  pumpkin  patch . 

Tuesday, July 23, 2024


 This sensational  prediction is backed up  by  the following   postcard  of  a   cute  Australian  Green Tree  Frog  in  a  White House  dunny !!! 

In  an exclusive French  retirement village  interview  with  Nostradamus  , the wise old gentleman  warned , "God  help and  defend  America  if  Trump  gets the  keys  to  the  White  House  ablution  block ."     

However,  he  hastily  added  that  due to the  new  beaut  Maggie Beer  catering service at the  retirement home, which does not include tasteless  croissants, he   keeps on  getting  vivid  visions  of  Trump croaking  hysterically and  clapping ( repeat clapping )  madly   as  he  is  sucked  down  the  tubes  in   the   presidential election. 

Nostradamus kindly  revealed  the   following  battered and dessicated  torso  of  Trump  as  he  will  look  after  the  vital  election .  

The  exclusive  postcard   shown  at the top of  this report , from the   Paul Arnold Bush Photos  series, proudly published by Coleman Printing , Darwin , was  discovered  in  Townsville  by our  Shipping Reporter,   who   flushes out  many  oddities . 

He  has  had many close encounters  with  green  tree  frogs in  Darwin conveniences, going back as far as  1958 . On one occasion  he did  battle with a  deadly brown snake which slithered into his  toilet  and  began eating  the  loudly  protesting  frogs  that   lived  under the lip of  the  toilet bowl . 

This literary gem  is  dedicated to the memory of Sydney's high class   King's  Cross  Whisper  team , especially  Peter and Terry Blake , Jim Ramsay , Jim Oram,  Maori Barry , Max Cullen  and  others .   

(Spoof, Trump , Nostradamus .)


Possibly a  Striated  Heron .  Abra  photo.


 Northern Territory  postcards  recently captured  by  our snap-happy Shipping  Reporter.  

The top  dramatic  photo came from the Northern Territory News , the caption opening , Snapped! It shows a startled and agile backpacker on a South Alligator River fishing trip discovering that  teasing a four metre crocodile  has explosive  results.  

The  crocs in the following two postcards are from the  Paul Arnold  Bush  Photos series , Coleman's  Printing, Darwin . 

Monday, July 22, 2024


 A  passenger  on   the  Empress  of   Tasmania, above ,  possibly a  tourist  from  North  Queensland with  an apparent interest  in cooking and baking , in  October  l966  had   a  nice cruise up the Tamar  River . However,  she  was not  impressed by the "ghastly"  cakes   displayed  at  the  Launceston  Show.  A  message on the back of a postcard sent to her mother and  father contained the following  critical comments :

The 10,000 ton  passenger and  vehicle liner Empress of Tasmania was the largest passenger ship to have been built in Australia and was on the   Sydney to  Tasmania run, carrying 250 passengers  in cabins, space for 91 cars  in  the  vehicle deck . 

Another postcard  sent  October 10, l972  by a  traveller, after a  trip to Magnetic Island , Queensland ,  said a  bakery had  been visited  which made 41,000 loaves of bread , 18,000 dozen  rolls  and   buns  every  week .  


 The  above  ornamental   fan ,  on sale for $12,000,  made  in Australia in  the l880s  from  the red tail feathers of  Black Cockatoos, with a carved  ivory handle , may  have   been  produced  and  sold  in   Darwin's  Chinatown .  

It is one of  the unusual  items  that  will be offered  by  Douglas Stewart Fine  Books  at the weekend's  Melbourne  Rare  Books Fair .

The  fan  , with  a maximum diameter of 622mm  open  , has an original camphor wood box , a hinged  lid with  relief  carved decorations, the interior  lined  with  blue  silk  and  red  paper . 

The  bookshop says the  fan was made in Australia in the 1880s by Chinese artisans, probably produced and sold by a Chinese commercial enterprise in the Chinatown district of Palmerston (Darwin), the cockatoo feathers being traded from local Indigenous people.

It is described as  a rare survivor that interweaves Chinese artisanal and social  traditions , indigenous culture and European cultural  taste .  

Another unusual  offering  in the bookshop list  is a  water colour portrait and snuff box  of  Midshipman William  Harvey , a  sailor   on all three  voyages  of  Captain Cook,   $48,000. 

Other important  maritime  items   are   a First  Fleet  manuscript  map showing  the  route  of Scarborough on its  return  1788  voyage  from  Port  Jackson , $275,000 ; an autographed  letter  by  First  Fleet  Midshipman  Newton Powell, at sea, off  Rio  de Janiero , August 6, 1787, sent to his father , $150,000 ; William Bligh  ( of  the  Bounty ) 1754-1817, his  personal  copy , $95,000.

One of only three extremely rare known publisher's  copies  of   Patrick White's  The  Ploughman and other poems is  priced  at  $35,000..

Sunday, July 21, 2024


Although  agronomist  Robert Wesley-Smith has a  calloused  green  thumb,  knows a lot about fertiizers and the nutritional value of cycads ,  don't  expect  him to  win  the   giant   pumpkin  section  at   the  looming  Darwin Show .  He  is  despondent  after hearing a  woman  recently  won  the  Katherine  Show   melon  event  with  one  that  weighed   a  whopping  240kgs.  

Wes is  shown above seemingly  putting  the  boot   into  his "puny pumpkin"- which  he admits  is  only about 70-80 kilos. As  he  can no longer  drive  because  of   the  disputed  loss of his licence  , he recently bought  an  Ebike, not   designed  for   transporting  farm  produce . 

Needing to  get a  lift  to the   showground,  Wes  asked a  friend   with  a station wagon  to   come  to  his rural  property  and  help  load   the  awkward  pumpkin   aboard.  It seems  the  request  for  the  two-way  lift  date   got  mixed  up  as  his  friend responded  by  saying  he  was to have a hernia  operation  on  or  about  that  day.

Therefore it  would not be advisable  to  go rolling  and  lifting  the  blessed  pumpkin all over Darwin .  Wes  informed  his  mate operation pumpkin uplift  would not  clash  with his  hernia op .   In any case ,the mediocre melon  will end up being donated  to  an organisation  which  supplies  meals  for   locals   in  need  of   tucker.

On  display above  is a variety of  motley melons Wes grew in the past. Needless to say, none of them won a prize at the show .         


Sent  from  America  to  a woman in  Sydney , then redirected to Dimbulah , North  Queensland ( Cairns misspelt ),  the  above  postcard ,  found by  our   rummaging  Shipping  Reporter,  shows a speedboat on  Otsego Lake  ,Cooperstown ,  New  York .

The sender , C.? F. Hogg ,wrote that  the Susquehanna  River ,which begins in the lake, is at the back of  the  house .  Rainfall could  be  heavy there , but  not in the last three years. The message   continued : " I  hope  the news that  you  hear is  not  all  bad  from  this  country ."

There  appears to be   first  day cover postal history information  on the postcard -to the left of  the stamps.   


Vallis .



Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula . Abra  series .

Saturday, July 20, 2024


In  a  Townsville market  , our  Shipping  Reporter  discovered a   batch  of  interesting  nautical  postcards  sent  from  America , Japan , Gibraltar ,  Italy ,  various   Australian ports . One  is  the following   l962  shot  of  the Italian  Cogesar Line  Aurelia which in its  59 years  of  service  included, starting in l958, a   decade of  bringing  immigrants  to  Australia.

Formerly a German freighter, it was seized after  WWll and awarded to Canada. it  was then   sold to  Cogesar who  converted  it to  a smart  cruise ship  and  used  on  the  Australia run.

It was  later  sold to the  Chandris  Line, and on October 4 , l997 , near Cyprus , a fire broke out  in the engine room which spread rapidly, the vessel   developing a  list of  20 degrees to starboard .  To prevent  it from  capsizing,  tanks  were  flooded. 

British helicopters  took part  in the rescue of the 482 passengers and 182 crew . The   badly damaged  ship  , see  below, was  towed to Alexandria, Egypt, where  it was  broken up . 

UPCOMING: More offbeat items dredged up by the waterfront roundsman.  

Friday, July 19, 2024


WASHINGTON : It can be   revealed  that   President   Joe Biden    and    Donald   Trump   will  not  run  in the   mad , mad  election campaign - much  to  the  relief  of  God   Almighty .

President  Biden  has secretly agreed   to  take up  the star  part of a  confused   Santa  Claus   in  an  hilarious   new  Kiwi  Christmas  movie  to  be  filmed  on  New Zealand's  oyster  encrusted  Stuart  Island , where it is understood he will also undergo an extensive course of crustacean injections to  improve  his  stamina  and staying  power on  his  Knucklehead   Harley   Davidson. 
Stumbling  Biden rehearsing Santa with a  star spangled cricket  ball .

Convicted  felon Donald   Trump  decided to  withdraw from the  election  after he  was offered  the lucrative  part of  a  beach inspector  in   a new  Down Under  television   series   of  Bondi Rescue . In  it  he will be in charge of  checking  the   modesty  of   bikinis  worn  by  beach  babes .

The  Russian Buggerup  America  Bureau is about to post the  above  repulsive  scoop  photograph of  Trump's  naked body  , sans the daily  44 gallon drum of imitation suntan spray,  the  scars from  at least  57 cosmetic surgery operations  clearly visible , minus  his  latest made in  China  wig , which  shows  him  about  to slip  into  a  neck  to   ankle  fake Mr Universe  blow  up   bathing  suit   on  the   Bondi  Rescue  film  set  . 

(Spoof,Trump, Bondi).


Included on the  l904  Adelaide farewell luncheon  by  South Australian  politicians for Australia's second  Governor-General ,  Hallam Lord  Tennyson , whose father was the poet laureate Alfred Tennyson , who  wrote the   Charge of the Light Brigade  , was   Beche de  Mer  soup .

Also known as  trepang , and sea cucumber , the  marine  slug   was regarded  as  a  culinary delight and an aphrodisiac by the Chinese .

Tennyson had been  the South Australian Governor from 1899-1902 and  had only  served  as  the GG  for one year and  12 days . 

Hallam  had  written a  children's book , Jack and the Beanstalk, in 1886  and a two volume Alfred Lord Tennyson : A Memoir by His Son , London ,  1897.    He later edited a collection of his father's poems  and published  Tennyson  and His Friends ,1911.

In addition, he was  president of the  Royal Literary Fund and the  Folklore Society .

The  farewell luncheon  was   prepared by the  parliamentary caterer , C.W. Lester, who received praise over the years for the  many  great  beanos he  arranged  for   important  gatherings , including  for delegates at a  conference  on  the  future of  forestry . 

The gravy stained  menu shown here is from  the Little Darwin Collection.


Cold morning in Sunny Queensland. Snaps by shivering Vallis.

Thursday, July 18, 2024


 A circa l916  greetings card  featuring  the  popular  May Gibbs  Gumnut Babies going  off  to war  is  included in the  Australian art and artists latest list from   Douglas  Stewart  Fine  Books , Melbourne. It has the printed signature  of  Gibbs , the renowned  author and ilustrator of children's books , including Snugglepot and  Cuddlepie . 

The offering includes the 1984  British Museum Press  descriptive catalogue , a scholarly and well illustrated  work covering   material  collected  by ethnologist  and anthropologist  Alfred  Cort  Haddon   during   expeditions  in    l888  and  l898.

Interested in coral reefs   and marine biology on  his first expedition, he was attracted  to  anthropology .

Wikipedia states  that returning home , he published many papers dealing with the indigenous people, urging the importance of securing all possible information about them and kindred peoples before they were overwhelmed by  civilisation.

It was his belief  objects  he  collected  would have been  destroyed  by  Christian  missionaries  who were determined to  eradicate  the religious   traditions  and  ceremonies  of  the  native  islanders.

He  had filmed ceremonial dances and in 1901 published Head-hunters : Black ,White and  Brown . Other works  included  A History of Anthropology   and  Canoes of  Oceania  ,Honolulu . 

In 1914 he carried  out a three month  survey of the southern coast  of Papua accompanied by his  zoologist  daughter , Kathleen, who  took what were described as  covert  photographs. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Julian Assange Speaks of Terrible Ordeal 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spoken for the first time about the torment of being trapped in a confined space next to Australia’s 26th Prime Minister, saying it almost certainly breached the Geneva Convention.  

Speaking to the media today, Assange said the ordeal had left him exhausted, mentally drained and strangely familiar with Australian fiscal policy between 2007-2009.  

 “I’ve been through a lot these past 14 years. But having to listen to Kevin talk non-stop about himself for the best part of two days while confined to a small aeroplane had me at my breaking point. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said.  

 Assange described the flight as a form of torture that may have breached global charters. “There are only so many deep-dives into the geo-political consequences of 19th Century America foreign policy that one man can take.  

 “At one point he started recounting the history of Australia-Chinese relations between 1901 and 1972, translating key facts into Mandarin for his own benefit, and into Australian slang for the ‘imaginary electorate’s’ benefit as he went. It was excruciating.   

“Eventually I asked if they could turn the plane around and send me back to Belmarsh. But Kevin said that wasn’t possible, or Zhè shì bù kěnéng de in Mandarin.  

 Assange said thankfully Rudd did not dwell on his vendetta with Julia Gillard. “He only mentioned being brutally stabbed in the back by Gillard forty or fifty times. So I think he’s moved on from that”.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2024


 Pete  Steedman  ,  whose chronicles   featured in  this  blog ,   personally  pulled   the  cork on  his  amazing life   with the  help of  dignity in  death palliative care and two bottles of expensive  Grange wine   at  his   Melbourne home  on July 10. 

He did not actually partake of  the  Grange , which he  supplied from his  cellar, for  the small group at  his  farewell, which included family members , but did have  a   final  sip  of pinot  noir  .

A  death notice in The  Age  newspaper included  the  following : Courageous, outrageous, progressive, writer, editor, ALP larrikin, cantankerous and yet generous. Comrade and  a  friend  to  many. 

He had been battling  cancer  . After a private  cremation, there wil be a memorial service  in  the Victorian Trades  Hall  August  31 . 

After his passing , the  report he drew up on Cyclone  Tracy  - which  severely damaged  Darwin in l974 - has been  found in  his  files .  

Knowing  much about  Steedman's involvement with  Darwin  after  the  disaster , the writer of  this  post  told him  about a month  ago over the phone  of  plans  for the  50th anniversary in  December ,

Pete was  having difficulty speaking at the time , but said that if he survived the next fortnight  he  would  book a  flight  to  Darwin  to  participate in the anniversary . 


Exclusive  action  photo by sin-binned  Vallis. 

Sunday, July 14, 2024


Portrait  in Townsville's Perc Tucker Gallery , by  Laurel Foenander , Longwarry ,Victoria. 

The  urgent plea for peace is applicable to  the Middle East ,especially in the monstrous Gaza bloodbath, Putin's criminal attack on the Ukraine, the  long running  Myanmar killings  ,  Haiti ,  various  parts of  the Americas and  Africa  and  other places where  people  are  being opressed , slaughtered,  forced  to   flee in vast  numbers . A  grim global picture . 


Townsville . Shipping  Reporter.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Friday, July 12, 2024


Postcard  sent   from Eden ,  New South Wales, on  January 12 ,  1988  from a  doctor  aboard  the brigantine Eye of the Wind, built in  l911 at  the  German seaport of  Brake , which  was a  support  vessel  for  the  Sydney-Hobart  Yacht  Race  fleet  returning  to  Sydney .

It had  rescued a  yacht  which  had  been   hit by lightning and stranded at sea for three days . The 132 foot  brigantine, with a  sail area of 8000 square feet, had earlier been forced to shelter from a gale  in Oberon Bay, Wilson's Promontory. Seals, whales, sharks and dolphins had been  sighted.    


Peewee chasing insects. 

Thursday, July 11, 2024


Needless   to say,our waterfront roundsman is not in the  pink of  health , long suffering from reflux and other  ailments .  Decades ago , a   Darwin doctor  with  a   range  of colourful    expressions told him reflux is like battery acid which  can  eat  your  aesophagus  away.

Recently, while lurching about Townsville on his walking stick,still suffering from reflux,  it eased the strain / pain when he  discovered the  above  beaut  worn  1986  Octopus  volume .

The  very first story,  by  Alan Coren , once described as the funniest man in Britain,  about a  fellow suffering a  terrible hangover  after a  New Year's  Eve  party , caused the  Shipping Reporter  to  giggle   and guffaw   when  he  read  colourful details   of   the  guy's  suffering , his tongue  said  to  be  lying  on   his  mouth-floor  like  felled cactus .

It  became personal  when   Coren , l938-2007,  a journalist , writer , satirist  and  editor of Punch magazine for nearly  a decade,  wrote  the  man  felt  as if  he  had  a plank across   his  aesophagus .

The   extensive  description of  the  agony of  the poor   chap  struck another accord  when  the area  past his  tonsils  was  vividly  described as  being   like a New Zealand  Rotorua  mud-spring, in constant state of  peristaltic glug.   It  just  so happens that the  Shipping  Reporter  once  lived  in  Rotorua  and oft   threw  his   body  into   the  therapeutic  bubbling   mud  and  hot  water, probably  boiling  his  brain  in  the  process .  

The second story in the  book , by another Pommie   humorist , Michael Green (1927-2018) ,headed  The Art of Coarse  Sailing ,  dealt with the   vexed  problem  of  yachtsmen who  snore .  Green churned out  a  series  of  humorous books  such  as  The  Art of Coarse Rugby, The Art of Coarse  Acting  and The Art  of  Coarse  Sex , plays , autobiographies.   

The  unhealthy-green about the gills - coarse Shipping  Reporter over the years  disrupted sleep and work on several vessels, including a  Northern Territory mission lugger , a  supply boat on a  run from Darwin to  Portuguese Timor , a  NSW  prawn trawler  and a  Kiwi shark fishing launch  by frequent  chundering   due  to  seasickness.   



Magnetic  Island . Abra  photos.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024


 Birthdays are often full of surprises .  A  Little Darwin  researcher , celebrating   four  multiples of  her  21st  birthday , plus a few  years,  received  an  unusual  mixture of presents , which included  artistically  painted  car hubcaps  picked up  off  roads  and  a  circular  wire  frame  , below ,  decorated  with  flowers  made  from  recycled  food tins , including  ones  that  had  contained  sardines.  It  was  placed  on  the  lawn to  be  admired  by   all  and  sundry .

But wait, there was  more. No , not  recycled steak  knives...the flowers   were surprisingly  found to  glow in   the dark as they were solar powered . There  can't  be  many sardines  who  light up  after  the  sun  goes down in Norway.  

A  large number of  artistic  and  technically savvy  great-grandchildren  contributed  to  production of  the   presents.     


The  dramatic  message and possible  bloodstains on  a  folded and  worn  bundle  of  paper  in  a  Townsville recycling shop  grabbed  our attention.  On examination , it proved  to  be   newspaper  stories  about  bushrangers  and  other lawbreakers .   This   prompted   a   review  of   Little  Darwin's   Ned  Kelly  file .

It  includes  the  above circa  l907 Regal postcard photo of  the Kelly Gang - from the  left , Steve Hart ,Dan Kelly and Ned Kelly -  bought in Sydney and sent to  a  woman c/o Miss Neill, Gladston Road, Gisborne , New Zealand .  A handwritten message  says it  was  one  of   three  copies  bought  from boys "trying  to earn  a watch chain ."  

Long forgotten  was the  following  newspaper   cutting  showing Darwin  Constables  Kym  Chilton, left,  and Bill  Stavers  arresting  Mr Edward  (Ned)   Kelly, of Glenrowan, Victoria, who  admitted he was  preparing  for   Australia  Day . 

Monday, July 8, 2024


Following  the sighting of  a  UFO over Darwin , front page news in the Northern Territory News,  the above high- ranking , thong- wearing  survivor of  a  crashed Planet  Zog spaceship was  found  on the  rural property  of  agronomist  Robert  Wesley-Smith.

Over and over  , the obviously stunned    traveller   , finding  difficulty breathing oxygen and  experiencing  a  nasty reaction  to  global  warming ,  repeatedly  babbled  something like , "Take me to  your  leaderless  White House - Planet  Earth and the Cosmos are under threat  from  Trump ! "  

After collapsing, he  was rushed  by  athletic  members of the Friday Club to the Noodle House  for  first  aid  and some  Chinese  tucker.     

Only kidding , dear reader  . It is actually  another   giant pumpkin  Rural Rebel  Rob  has  grown  which will be entered  in the   Darwin Show . He put a hat on  the melon , which looks like a desirable Moonstone instead of a ubiquitous pumpkin , to  protect it from  the sun  and  prevent  any  blemishes forming.

Sunday, July 7, 2024


 In this blog's relentless  hunt for interesting   books , ephemera  galore  ,  old photos , overlooked   Dead Sea scrolls  and  assorted  other flotsam , various editions  of  the  Prickle Farm ,  by former Darwin  ABC journalist , muso   and   radio personality  , the late  Mike  Hayes , have  been  unearthed. This is  an  indication that  the   book and   associated  radio  and newspaper column  were very  popular  with  the  public. 

Two  editions  of  the  Prickle Farm are shown  here, another one  somewhere  in  the   files .    

Born in Redding, England,  his father  suffering tuberculosis ,  Mike came to Australia  , via Sri Lanka, where his mother had been born , with his  parents .

He grew up in Melbourne , started as a journalist  on the  The Age  and moved to the  ABC.

In  Melbourne during the l960s  he  and his brother  formed  Australia's first true bluegrass band , the Hayes Brothers and  their Bluegrass Ramblers Moving   to Darwin with the ABC, Mike played in a band  called Brown Sugar so named  because  its members  were said  to  be coarse  and  unrefined.  

From  the Little  Darwin  jumbled  files  the  above   exclusive  photograph  shows  Mike  ,for some unknown reason  armed  with a bow and arrow, lining up  a large barramundi , a marlin  or  crocodile , perhaps a  marauding goldfish , at  Fannie  Bay , Darwin. 

After  Cyclone Tracy , Mike  and his  family took up residence on a rural property in Gundaroo , New South Wales,  which became the famous Prickle  Farm , near Canberra, where he  headed  the ABC News  team .

In fact , his untimely death at  58 on February 10 , 2003  was  raised in parliament . Senator Ursula Stephens told the house  the Prickle  Farm stories  were yarns of mayhem and mishap on a hobby farm . One reviewer, she  said,  had called them ,"Tales of rebellious dunnies, chooks who thought they  were sheep  and a sheepdog with  no instinct to muster either  sheep or chooks. " 

Hayes  had been  well known to many people working in parliament house—especially those in the Press Gallery  and the people of the Canberra region through his running commentary on the lives and the loves of the people of Gundaroo, which was broadcast on ABC Radio, and through his weekly column about the Prickle Farm, which featured later in his books of the same name.

"He was a hugely entertaining persona. He was certainly larger than life, dry, outrageously caustic and self-deprecating. He was also an extraordinarily astute observer of human nature. He was gruff and generous and he had a huge social and political conscience."

In a Sydney Morning Herald obituary , Ron Miller wrote : What can you say about a man whose writing created a world that spoke to a whole generation of hobby farmers, put the phrase `prickle farm' into the lexicon and put [the] village of Gundaroo on the world stage; whose musical talent should have made him rich; whose Easter jam sessions were legendary; whose choice of dress was somewhere between Johnny Cash and Hagrid; and whose barbecues almost without fail started out by thawing 15 pounds of chops on the hotplate because he'd forgotten to take them out of the freezer?

 The  radio series , a newspaper column  and books had captured  a  lifestyle  that  was  quintessentially  Mike Hayes.