Tuesday, July 2, 2024



From  deep  inside dusty  files  bounced  this  l985  first  day cover  marking the  reopening of the  Lawn Tennis  Museum , Wimbledon.  It  was sent to  former  Townsville   schoolteacher   Verne  Jack  ,  a  keen   sportsman ,who when  he  lived  on   Magnetic Island , ran  cane toad  races, fed wallabies , had  a vegetable stall . 

Upon  his death in 2019, the Townsville  Bulletin decribed him as a great  North Queensland  character  who  even kissed  cane toads . He  encouraged children to  capture  toads , which he bought and  auctioned  at races held  at  the Arcadia Village Hotel , proceeds going  to the local surf club .  

Those races  are still   staged  and have   been going for  40 years.  It must be said  that  not everyone was  happy about   the  noxious pests,imported from Hawaii,  a threat  to  native  wildlife, being  promoted  on  the  island.

During his  time as a  Townsville teacher , Jack  encouraged many children to become  involved in a wide range of sports, including   softball  and  swimming . He  went to  Wimbledon and  is even said to have attended  international  golfing  events .      

On  Magnetic Island  he was involved in many  communty events  and regularly  fed  wild rock  wallabies , there  being  a memorial   to  him  in  this respect.    

He revealed  that when  he was a  schoolboy he was caught in a  police raid on an SP betting shop and  was named  and   listed  as  Verne Jack, student .  Modern  day  children  were  lucky  , he  pointed out, not  named in  court  reports .

Apart from running  a vegetable stall on the  island , Verne also occasionally sold  odd  items of  interest from  his collections  - one being  the postal cover for the "Can-Tiki" first beer can boat  expedition from Darwin to Singapore in 1977.

The daring 2500 mile  voyage  , in rough seas, was  made by the  former  Darwin Reconstruction Commission chairman and ALP ex-  Brisbane Mayor , Clem Jones,  Darwin used car dealer Lutz  Frankenfeld ,originator of the  Darwin Beer Can Regatta , and  Sydney yachtsman  Paul  Harding . The signatures of  all  three are on the  Singapore  stamped  envelope.