Sepia Saturday 204: Royalty and Ceremony Business

This week’s Sepia Saturday 204 features royalty doing what is their core business: turning on a ceremony. It also ties to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.Sepia Saturday 204

My photos this week come from our personal collection from our time in Papua New Guinea during the 1970s. When I look at these photos now, what strikes me forcibly is the apparent lack of security. We could get within a very close distance of them without any hassle. It also impresses me in this day and age, that they are courageous enough to move through the crowds with minimal security where other world leaders have constant high security protection from the crowds who might want to see them.

Queen and family GKA 1974 copy

Queen Elizabeth II on arrival at Goroka airport, February 1974. Prince Philip, Capt Mark Phillips and Lord Louis Mountbatten near vehicle. Scout groups were highly profiled during this visit.

Queen Elizabeth II and her family visited Goroka in the PNG highlands in February 1974 while we were living there. She did various “meet and greet” activities and inspected a huge crowd of PNG nationals at the Show Grounds before travelling to Port Moresby. I also wrote about this visit in an A to Z post, using the same photo.

Queens Visit GKA Princess Anne and Mountbatten

Princess Anne, Capt Mark Phillips and Lord Louis Mountbatten in Goroka 1974

The other reason this feature photo has relevance to the theme is that it includes Lord Louis Mountbatten who was assassinated six years later when an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb was planted in his fishing boat.

Queens visit GKA

Capt Phillips, Barry Holloway MP, Prince Philip,Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II, Goroka 1974.

Barry Holloway was the local member of Parliament and later Minister for Finance.

Why not visit Sepia Saturday to see what other Sepians are featuring this week?

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 27 Christmases Past

4 x 7UP collageAs this series was all about my early years and those of our own family, I had to include some Christmas photos. I’m not going to write much about the different Christmases here because I’ve written extensively about them in the Advent Series a year ago.

So without further ado, here are some family snaps from that period, some not great photographically but good family memories. I’ve substituted the collage photo with a similar one with both girls in it.

Xmas delight

Xmas delight

Miss-Nearly-Three and the joy of seeing the Christmas tree in all its glory.

Peter Louisa Rach open presents Xmas 1973

This year the Xmas tree was a casuarina.

This year the Xmas tree was a casuarina.

The little one was very miserable with an ear ache for her first Christmas -we had to put them in the car and go for a drive to settle her down. Poor possum. If you’re wondering why all the long sleeves and jumpers, it’s because Goroka is at an altitude of 1600m or 5249ft, so it can be chilly overnight and in the morning.

Louisa and Rach Xmas pres 1977 or 76

And then we moved on to a gum tree (eucalyptus)

And then we moved on to a gum tree (eucalyptus)

Apparently by the end of our stay in Moresby we had bought the artificial tree which we kept for many years, but first there was the gum tree version.

The clowns were presents from my parents.

That same year Mr Cassmob excelled himself (with a little help from Mrs Claus) in the making of a dolls’ house. It was a good home for the Fisher Price dolls!

This is the house that Mr Cassmob (aka Santa) built.

This is the house that Mr Cassmob (aka Santa) built.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 21 Family Christenings

4 x 7UP collageIt will come as no surprise after my Day 5 Collage post, that our children were all christened.  Eldest daughter was baptised in my home parish in Brisbane shortly before we returned to Alotau a few weeks after her birth. My paternal grandmother was still alive, and I feel there should be a photo of the two of them together, even though she didn’t come to the church. If it exists, where is it, that is the question?!

Our children's christening frock.

Our children’s christening frock.

Her christening frock was one of the earliest creations on my new Bernina. The beautiful hand smocking was done by my mother and I have the notion that I did the crochet despite my lack of expertise. I should check to see if Mum can remember, perhaps she did it.. I checked with her today and she’s not sure either. I’m thinking now it’s more likely to have been her work. She also had a special crocheted coat, bonnet and bootees outfit that I think my parents bought her for the occasion. Our other daughters wore the christening robe also in their turn, one in Goroka and one in Brisbane.

Daughter 2's christening at home in West Goroka.

Daughter 2’s christening at home in West Goroka.

I just had to include this photo of Daughter #2’s christening, mainly for the joy of knowing how much this photo stirs them up! So much paisley in evidence: his shirt, his tie, and my dress. I’m surprised that I hadn’t also made Miss 2 a paisley outfit for good measure <smile>. This christening was in our home rather than the local parish church, from memory because we wanted a priest, who was a good friend, to do the ceremony. It was also very ecumenical as many of the attendees were non-Catholics.

My christening dress. What was my thing with handbags, at this age!

My christening dress. What was my thing with handbags, at this age!

Among my baby book photo is this one of me wearing my own christening dress. It certainly wasn’t taken when I was christened so it must have been a good deal larger than necessary when I first wore it. I also have this frock in my possession even though it’s quite fragile being made of a type of chiffon.  Mum tells me my Aunty Mary (whom you met last week) made this dress for me, with specially covered seams to meet my grandmother’s critical professional dressmaking standards.

As far as I know we have no photos of Mr Cassmob’s christening or any of the earlier generations.

I would regard both these christening frocks, and the bonnets, as family heirlooms which I hope will be treasured whether or not they’re ever worn again.

A trio of hand-crafted baby bonnets.

A trio of hand-crafted baby bonnets.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 20 Papua New Guinea

4 x 7UP collage

Imagine if you will a country with spectacular, awe-inspiring scenery from fierce mountain ranges clothed in almost impenetrable jungle to deep aquamarine seas with an abundance of tropical fish.

Highlands children on a pit-pit fence near Lufa, Eastern Highlands, PNG © P Cass 1972

Highlands children on a pit-pit fence near Lufa, Eastern Highlands, PNG © P Cass 1972

Imagine a country with hundreds of tribal groups, languages and specific cultures. Imagine the potential for clashes between those tribal groups, the payback[i] and potential for inter-clan fighting, and the translation of traditional sorcery into the recent horrors of witch-burning.

The Asaro Mudmen at the Goroka Show. © Pauleen Cass 1972

The Asaro Mudmen at the Goroka Show. © Pauleen Cass 1972

Imagine the variety of costumes and sounds when thousands of warriors come together from diverse places for a sing-sing, or music and dance. Where even other clans and tribal groups look on astonished at what they’re seeing. This can either be in a traditional environment or replicated from traditional practices into a form of performance for visitors eg the Goroka Show or the Kenu and Kundu Festival which we recently visited.

Wahgi warriors at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1972

Wahgi warriors at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1972

I think this was 1973. The showground was a tad muddy, as you can see. © Pauleen Cass 1972

I think this was 1973. The showground was a tad muddy, as you can see. © Pauleen Cass 1972

This truly unique place is Papua New Guinea, venue of A Million Different Journeys. When I moved there only weeks after my marriage it was still the Territory of Papua New Guinea, under the jurisdiction and administration of the Australian government.

What an amazing experience, so incredibly different from suburban Australia, and where sights and sounds are like nothing ever before experienced. For close to a decade, this country was home. For my husband it will always be home as apart from his earliest years, and school absences, this was his place which very much shaped who he is and how he sees the world.

Memories of coastal villages, mountains and mountain valleys and passes, semi-naked people dressed in elaborate costumes. The unique smell of pig-grease spread on the skin to keep out the cold, blended with smoke from a chimney-less hut. Women loaded down with kau-kau[ii] in their bilums[iii]. The blood-red stain of buai spit on the ground. The sounds of the kundu and the ululation of chanting during a sing-sing.

Milne Bay women at the 2012 Kenu and Kundu festival. © Pauleen Cass 2012

Milne Bay women at the 2012 Kenu and Kundu festival. © Pauleen Cass 2012

I feel very privileged to have lived in PNG and come to love it. In my heart it’s like a good friend who I’ve lost contact with, and from whom I’ve grown apart, but is treasured for how it shaped my view of the world, and myself, turning me into a very different person from the one I’d have been if I had stayed in Australia. I’m privileged too that it’s enabled me to understand my husband’s formative years.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge


[i] The practice of exacting punishment from another person or clan, for injury to the pigs or people of another clan or village.  Punishment may be exacted by payment of fines or by physical violence.

[ii] Kau-kau is the Tok Pisin name for sweet potato.

[iii] A bilum is a string bag worn by women with the strap over the head, and carrying the load (or the baby) leaning against their back.

G goes to Goroka, Gorey and Glasgow

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

G requires grit to get to the end!

G is for Goroka (Papua New Guinea)

Some places are larger than life and offer experiences beyond your imagination. Goroka, headquarters of the Eastern Highlands District/Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one such place. We lived there for a few years in the 1970s arriving from the tiny town of Alotau and being bedazzled by the shops and variety on offer. Before you get the wrong idea, Goroka was not a thriving urban metropolis with glittering shops…not at all, it was just that we’d become accustomed to shopping by post/catalogue, ordering food in by trawler, or shopping at one of the four trade stores in Alotau.

Young Highland women seen around Goroka. © P Cass 1973

Nothing about Goroka was mundane or familiar to anyone who grew up elsewhere (which included me, but not my husband). When you live in PNG, you become accustomed to people wandering around almost naked: warriors in beads and loin cloths, women in beads and slightly larger loin cloths and almost always a child at the breast, men and women shiny with pig grease to keep the cold out, and smelling of smoke from living in a hut with only a tiny gap in the roof for ventilation. We had a village at the back of our government-issued house and a squatter settlement down the end of the street…anything left under the house had a habit of going walkabout. Yet strangely our vegetable patch survived untouched.

Goroka is at 1600 metres (about 5200 ft) and sits among high mountains. It has a fantastic climate: about 21C daily all year, and cool enough for blankets at night. Heaven! The local Seventh Day Adventist Mission at nearby Kabiufa grew fresh vegetables and flowers and we’d drive there each Sunday after Mass to buy up for the week. Until then I’d never eaten broccoli or cauliflower, for example, and these were miniature versions, so cute. We had a great system going where we sent fresh vegetables in an esky to my in-laws on the coast, and they sent us fresh crayfish tails in return. I can’t tell you how much our friends loved us when the flight came in, and how much we all enjoyed the delicious crayfish curry.

Highlands scenery around Goroka © P Cass 1973.

Goroka was accessible by road to other places via the Highlands Highway which was an adventure in itself. We drove to Lae one year with my parents, something of a challenge to our little Datsun 1200. We took day trips up to Daulo Pass or down to Lufa for a picnic: something that always drew a crowd in the Highlands..no chance of going anywhere without someone watching you. On one return drive to Daulo, we came around a corner with a small cluster of warriors running towards us, spears in hand, and “singing”, plainly intent on some stoush or other. We locked the car doors, made no eye contact and kept our fingers crossed. Mercifully they had other issues to deal with and were not interested in us. Payback is huge in PNG, over the loss of a pig, issues with women, perceived slights etc. Best not to be around when that happens!

Wahgi men at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1974

And then there was the Goroka Show! Imagine thousands of warriors in one large football area all dressed in their specific dress-styles, armed with arrows, spears etc, all coming together in peace for a massive singsing (singing and dancing). Truly if you haven’t seen it you can’t imagine it…do click on the link above to get an idea. There was the year when there was a bit of a stoush somewhere on field and the Police let off tear gas and the crowd stampeded, knocking down the fence. Or the year when the mud at the Show came up to your ankles. Shoes were useless and you just had to hope you didn’t catch anything infectious.

Where else would you forever wonder if your beautiful cat had wound up in someone’s cooking pot or as a new hat.

Or the day the helicopter barely cleared the power lines near our “new” house to bring someone into the hospital. As they brought him out on a stretcher, he still had the spear sticking up out of him.  Or the flying in general, in steep mountainous country prone to sudden cloud cover. I could go on…

Queen Elizabeth II visited Goroka in PNG in early 1974. Not a superb photo but can you imagine being allowed to get this close today? © P Cass 1974

In early 1974, Queen Elizabeth II came to visit Goroka, along with Prince Philip and Princess Anne and Capt Phillips and Lord Mountbatten. Nowhere else in the world would you be likely to get so close to royalty, even in those days. As I clicked and clicked, from one location to another, I swear Philip looked at me as if to say “not you again”.

PNG gained self-government in September 1974, and we were a little fearful given how bloody this event had been in many African nations in the preceding decade. Our fears were unfounded and all we heard were some rubbish-bin-lid banging (something of a local tradition) and yelling. This was great because when Independence came along a few years later we were able to fully enjoy it.

G is for Glasgow (Scotland)

I wonder just how many Aussies can trace their Scottish roots back to Glasgow, however briefly. My guess would be an enormous number because Glasgow was the transit point for those displaced from the Highlands and country areas, the source of work in the increasingly industrial age, and a point of departure by bus, train or ship.

Bolton Tce, Glasgow where Duncan McCorkindale died. © P Cass 2010

My McCorkindale family are no different. Duncan McCorkindale left his birthplace at Cairndow on Loch Fyne, to head to Glasgow some time between 1851 (aged 9) and 1861 (aged 19). On the latter census Duncan is living in Central Glasgow (probably Albert St) and is a lodger with the family of Thomas and Elizabeth Logie (also from Argyll). He is listed as a joiner, as is Thomas Logie, which suggests to me that Duncan has already completed his apprenticeship, or perhaps was training with Thomas. In 1864 when he married his first wife, Annie Tweedie Law, he states his occupation as journeyman joiner. Over the years the family moved from pillar to post around Glasgow. It’s hard to know why this was so, perhaps just because of a growing family, perhaps to get work.

Duncan died in 1906 and in 1910, his widow and their children, one of whom was my grandmother, Catherine (whom I wrote about recently here), emigrated to Australia presumably for a better life and to rejoin their eldest sons who’d emigrated in 1900.

An overview of the Glasgow Heritage displays in the Council Chambers. © P Cass 2010.

Until recently we’d never really spent time in Glasgow, rather using it as a transit point like so many of the emigrants. In 2010 we flew into Glasgow and prioritised having a look around. We did the tourist thing and checked out various tourist sights and took the city bus tour. By sheer coincidence there was a Glasgow heritage event, which was really interesting.  This event was held in the Glasgow City Chambers and if you’re ever in Glasgow I can highly recommend taking their free tour just to see the fabulous architectural features. I’d also wanted to refer to some shipping business records in the University of Glasgow Archives tucked away in a funny little building, and fit in a visit to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society who were very helpful. Of course we also did the drive-around checking out the family’s addresses, learned from certificates and censuses. Many of the buildings were no longer standing, demolished and replaced by new businesses, but we did manage to find two of their homes. As always, never enough time, including the opportunity to visit the Mitchell Library, and I wish for a longer visit in the future when we can hopefully afford to stay in the same fabulous B&B…the perfect antidote to jetlag…thank heavens for a strong Aussie dollar.

G is for Gorey (Ireland)

St Michael's Catholic Church, Gorey, Co Wexford where my Sherry family were married and baptised. © P Cass 1992.

Gorey in County Wexford has lots of significance in my McSherry family who lived there for over 15 years. My great-grandparents Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan were married there and their first two children were born there. It was from here that the family would leave for Australia in 1883, a year after Peter’s parents and siblings had also emigrated. James and Bridget McSharry (then Sherry) lived in the townland of Knockina. I’ve recently told the story of Bridget’s life here.

When I visited Gorey in the late 1980s, St Michael’s Catholic Church, was of course a focus. The priest was amazingly kind, and let us peruse the church registers to find the various family events. I wonder if there were any I missed due to lack of experience?

Gorey also has a high profile in Irish history being involved in the 1798 uprisings. I’ve not researched this in detail so will leave that to anyone with a specific interest. Rebelhand’s blog talks about the 1798 Wexford and family history.

I’m following some of my genealogy buddies on this A to Z voyage:

Julie at Anglers Rest who tempted me onto the A to Z path and is posting about her experiences in Australia and her Aussie genealogical connections.

Susan on Family History Fun whose posts I thoroughly enjoy each and every time.

Ros at GenWestUK came recommended by Susan and I’m enjoying learning completely new things…who knew Englishry was a word, I didn’t.

And for a change of genealogy pace here are a couple of new-to-me A to Z blogs I’ve popped into:

Holly Michael’s Writing Straight. Holly commented on my blog posts and I enjoyed looking at her posts. I especially liked that she is “nodding” to other blogs and has inspired me to try this too.

Seams Inspired is writing about sewing terms: lots of memories for me on this one.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2011: 1st December: The Christmas Tree

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers is encouraging us to celebrate the 2011 Christmas season with a series of posts called the Advent Calendar of Memories. This is today’s entry.

Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

As a child we always had a live tree – in fact I’m not sure artificial trees were even available then in Australia. However our live tree was nothing like what anyone in the northern hemisphere would imagine. It wasn’t a fir of any sort, tall and thick with a pine-needle smell. Instead in the week before Christmas my father would go down to the creek bank near us and select a small gum (eucalyptus) tree which he’d cut and bring to the house. I don’t know how common this was as I honestly can’t recall other people’s trees. As soon as the gum tree was in the house there would be the pervasive smell of eucalyptus throughout.

"Onion bagging" Christmas trees in Miltenberg, Bavaria, 1992

The tree would last till a bit after Christmas before it started dropping all its leaves.

In my adult family we’ve mostly had an artificial tree as we’ve often been in places where there are limited other choices. I remember when we first visited Europe near Christmas-time being intrigued by those weird contraptions that wrap your tree in what I think of as onion-bag netting. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like that in Australia anywhere…but perhaps it happens in the southern states? Anyone want to comment?

Our first own-family tree was a casuarina which my husband said was collected from near the club at Alotau in the Milne Bay District of Papua (as it was then).

Similarly when we moved to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands we also had a casuarina.

Long ago and far away: Christmas in Goroka, PNG. Eldest daughter and her first "big girl" Christmas.

When we moved to Port Moresby we bought an artificial tree which was quite sizable…probably close to 2 metres, and lasted throughout our children’s growing-up years.

When we downsized to Darwin, we left the big tree with the family in Brisbane and downsized our tree as well. Now we have grandchildren in the family, last year we upsized again.…the cycles of life. Besides which the cat, who loves to climb in the tree and remove decorations, needed a bigger tree to mangle! The small one had taken a battering over the past few years.

Great tech resources for Family History: Scanners: film, slide and Flip-Pal

Prompted by a friend’s request I’ve recently been on something of a mission to scan some of the slides from our family’s days in Papua New Guinea. Back in the day we used slides rather than photos and have literally thousands of both family and places.  Some time ago I had the “Top 100” travel and PNG scenery photos put onto a Kodak CD which brings its own technological warning:  I can only open these now by buying a program online which says it can read these files. I think I’ll just settle for rescanning them.

Cassmobs including cat: government house in the backgound. Goroka PNG

The current focus has been on people, trying to find evocative pictures of family and friends from PNG. While it’s all been about the people, it’s also amazing how important a role the background plays in describing the scene, so tempting as it can sometimes be, I didn’t crop the photo. The background can tell you about furniture and fittings (Oh those 70s curtains with wild geometric patterns!), and show the surroundings be it the back garden, a remote picnic, scenery etc, not to mention fashions (those “hello officer” super-short minis). But they also evoke the memories behind the film –what happened on the way, the crowds of locals sitting watching us picnicking etc, warriors passing us en route.  It can also be a vaguely depressing experience as you see family and friends who are immortalised on film but are no longer with us in the world.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Goroka in PNG in early 1974. Not a superb photo but can you imagine being allowed to get this close today?

Having discovered that my old Canon scanner’s film feature was no longer working, I thought I’d best strike while someone wanted the images from me. In the end I bought an Epson Perfection V500 after reading online reviews for its film scanning capacities. Last weekend I scanned about 1000 slides with an emphasis on people photos, especially our family. The scanning turned out well and the colours were very faithful. There are some that could do with a trip to Photoshop® but that’s because of the original photo. This is particularly good considering these slides have lived most their lives in hot humid conditions subject to mould. Scanning also meant I could also adjust the exposure for those where the flash hadn’t worked properly.

It was kind of freaky to see some photos where my grand-daughter looks just like her mother at the same age and even more so realising how much my youngest looks like me at a similar age (don’t tell her, kids hate that!).  There are still lots of photos of PNG places and scenery from overseas trips but at least I have the key family ones done – and backed up!  And before the cyclone season as well, now to send a copy out of Darwin.

The other lovely thing that’s come out of all this scanning is that this Gerehuligan[i]group, most of whom had lost touch for many years, have been swapping emails and photos which we hadn’t seen the first time round. It’s been good fun.

A decades-old baby photo has come up well with the scanner.

Another of the reasons to buy this scanner was that it could do old size negatives. I had negatives that I’d taken as a young girl as well as negatives from my own baby photos and my parents’ wedding. I’m absolutely delighted that these have come up perfectly. Despite being decades old they look as good as new and true to the original standard.  I’m absolutely delighted to have recovered these childhood photos in particular as I have very few actual photos.

I can’t say the Epson manual is much use – if you can’t use the scanner intuitively I think you’d be in for a difficult time. It has performed well despite the fact my laptop runs on Vista 64 bit which can cause other programs to have a hernia. There have been a few “fun” moments along the way as each “weird” negative size brings its own challenges, but I’ve managed to figure out how to get what I want from it. What I’ve found posting this story, is that the image sizes are too large so I may need to rescan them at lower res. Even feeding the photos from these old negatives through Photoshop® does not reduce the size sufficiently. Overall it’s a big thumbs up for the Epson scanner.

Turning briefly to the Flip-Pal scanner, which is currently not available in Australia unless you have someone in the USA willing to take delivery of it. Luckily my daughter went to the USA for work so I was able to order one through Amazon and have it sent to her hotel (letting them know first that it was coming)[ii]. It’s not too heavy or large so not onerous to carry. I love the fact that it’s so portable and I can just quickly scan something without having to go back and connect to the flatbed scanner. The results are fantastic and it’s super easy to use. I really love it and it will definitely be going with me whenever I travel for family history.

Now for all those photos!


[i] Named for where we lived.

[ii] You can’t order through the company and have an Australian billing address even if the delivery address is in the States. Using Amazon got around this as I could use my current account and just add a new address.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 22: Secrets: Independence comes to PNG

The topic for Week 22 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is Secrets. Describe something about yourself that won’t be found on any record 100 years from now.

Well my first thought was that if it was a secret it wouldn’t be so any longer once I blogged about it!

So what will future descendants of mine miss about my life if they rely on the records? In 100 years it will be all too easy for my great-great-granddaughter to wonder where I got to for about 8 years in the 1970s. They will find my marriage and the birth of two of my daughters in Queensland and possibly assume that I had continued to live in Queensland all my life. The Australian-based records, assuming they’re all digitized and indexed by then will let them trace me and my “migrations” and events. They will even, with a bit of luck, reveal some details of my working life and hobby (sorry, obsession) of family history. But they will have missed a very formative part of my adult life.

 An attentive and thorough researcher who buys the certificates may get a clue that I left the country for a few years and that my husband’s then place of residence, Territory of Papua New Guinea (TPNG), may provide the clues they need. However it’s quite likely this will still not disclose much about my life there because unless things change, records in Papua New Guinea are very difficult to come by. However if that does change, they may get lucky and may find our little “Gehuka”, born in the PNG Highlands, from the official records and may even find her baptism records. They may even get very lucky and find our employment records and so be able to trace our movements around the country, and my in-laws before us.

However they will have no real sense of the amazing sights that we lived with: the magnificent scenery, the power of a football-field filled with tribal warriors in full traditional attire and armed with spears and other weapons, the singing and drums, the hazardous flying conditions, the isolated villages or a small band of warriors armed with spears intent on “payback”.

The timeline of our life there will clue them in that we lived through self-government (1973) and Independence (1975) as the former Australian Territory became an independent country. Official documentation will not tell them that we were anxious going into self-government given the bloodshed and riots that had accompanied so many African nations recently gaining their autonomy. Our descendants won’t know that at self-government we lived opposite the Goroka hospital and listened to much noise, bottle-crashing and rubbish-bin-lid-banging that night but that we were at no risk.

By the time Independence came around we were living in Port Moresby and were able to participate in the many celebrations. The stores were decorated with red, black and gold streamers and the official banners were black birds of paradise on contrasting fabric, one of which we still treasure.

We went to the Catholic Cathedral and saw Prince Charles (much younger then, like the rest of us!) arrive to be greeted by the Bishop, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, other dignitaries, and school children in traditional sing-sing attire. In a short report I wrote at the time for my family in Australia, I mentioned that Mr Cassmob had heard murmurs of dislike for Whitlam when he arrived while Andrew Peacock, formerly Foreign Minister was well received. Michael Somare, the first Prime Minister, drew a spontaneous burst of applause.

There were other ceremonies to celebrate Independence and we were at Hubert Murray Stadium (in the grandstand and “on the hill”) and saw the amazing diversity of local dress, colour, and dance, with the Manus Islanders inevitably dominating the rhythm. The Australian Navy was nowhere near as precision-drilled as the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) which had nary a step out of place. Prince Charles arrived in stately fashion in the British Embassy Daimler flanked by traditionally-dressed dancers. Our eldest daughter then only a youngster and visiting the ceremony with her crèche/child-care called him “the man in white who was going to be king”. Prince Charles did the requisite inspection of the troops to the Skye Boat Song, some even forgetting their training long enough to take photos, and then did the rounds in an open-backed jeep.

Daimler

Prince Charles arrives in the Daimler

The colour and diversity of the local people and their traditions were among the wonderful features of PNG. We were also very moved at the lowering of the (Australian) flag ceremony to the traditional bugler’s lament, “day is done”, and an impressive gun salute by the armed forces. We were proud to be part of such an important part of the country’s life and to have contributed in some way to its development. The new Governor General, Sir John Guise (aka Doctor John) from my husband’s “home” province of Milne Bay gave a well-toned speech about lowering the flag not tearing it down. A tinge of sadness was covered by pride and enthusiasm for the new country, especially when they paraded the flag to Auld Lang Syne, accompanied by the bagpipes. The PNG nationals were looking equally solemn during this moving ceremony.

Parading the Australian flag at Independence.

On Independence Day, 16 September 1975, our family went to Independence Hill and watched as the young high school students in their multi-coloured “uniforms” formed an honour guard and the new national flag was raised with much jubilation accompanied by a fly-over of military aircraft. While our family was part of the huge crowd photographed that day and appearing in the local Post Courier newspaper, there is no way our great-great-granddaughter could pick us out –unless she knew of my “signature” habit of wearing my sunglasses on my head, though even then I’m obscured by my blonde sunnies-wearing friend.Traditional dress at Independence Hill, 16 September 1975

So much of this secret would have been lost had we not written some notes soon after these amazing events – our memories recall only the highlights, not the level of detail that the notes have once again revealed.

Part of the crowd at Independence Hill on 16 September 1975.

Most of our photos are on slides and Super 8 films and really need to be scanned and the films converted…more jobs.

Other photos from PNG’s Independence celebrations can be found here (mostly copyrighted) http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Search/Home?filter%5B%5D=pi%3Anla.pic*&type=all&lookfor=independence+papua+new+guinea&x=15&y=6

52 weeks of personal genealogy and history: Week 18 Weather

The topic for Week 18 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is”Weather”: Do you have any memorable weather memories from your childhood? How did your family cope and pass the time with adverse weather? When faced with bad weather in the present day, what do you do when you’re stuck at home?

For me this topic overlapped with those on seasons and also disasters, so I had to think about short term weather patterns.

When I think of bad weather I tend to think of being caught in tents while camping and having to re-peg the tent as the wind howled around. As a family we would then either read or play board games until the weather returned to normal.

If there was bad weather (usually heavy rain) when we were at home my mother would often bake cakes or sew and Dad and I would read. Sometimes as an adult I’d do some sewing on those wet and dreary days. But overall, bad weather = good reading times. For the kids it would be about board games or reading.

Jim Jim Falls in Kakadu National Park thunders in a big Wet Season but can only be seen from the air.

Heavy rain in Darwin is the norm for about four months of the year, plus a few more months on occasions. It is often accompanied by tremendous thunder and lightning, making it difficult to hear yourself think. On the flip side we have months when we can pretty well guarantee no rain and clear blue skies accompanied by breezes. Delightful!

Brisbane is also rather prone to hail storms, something mercifully missing in Darwin. When the sky turned green it was common for people to dash to their cars and get them under cover, or “run” for home if it was near the end of the working day. Some hail would be the size of golf balls making a severe dent in your car’s paint work. We had some spectacular hailstorms and this picture shows a house in our suburb with a snow-like layer of hail on the ground.

Hail storm in Brisbane

As a child I was staying with my parents in a very basic holiday accommodation on Magnetic Island off Townsville  when a cyclone passed over. It was a biggish one and did some damage so the island was isolated without groceries for a few days as the seas ran high. Ultimately we were all evacuated by the Army on amphibious “ducks”. An adventure but I’ve no recollection of what we did while we waited for the “cavalry”. My mother has not-so-fond memories of the subsequent trip to another island some days later  when the sea was so rough and  the boat pitched from side to side so much that virtually everyone on board was sick, including the captain.

When I was a child, if it was hot I would make a tent under the steps and “chill out” there. It was also common to put a sprinkler on a hose and splash through that to cool down. No backyard swimming pools then. Of course, the many years of water restrictions in Brisbane have curtailed both pools and sprinklers including times for watering plants. Typical of Australia, and rather ironically, these years of drought and fears for diminishing water reserves,  have been closely followed by floods and full dams. Darwin on the other hand has been largely immune from these concerns, partly because of its Wet Season rainfall and partly because of its smaller population.

Another random “weather” memory or two: when we lived in Alotau we had my first earthquake (guria). I had no idea what had happened at first and thought a truck had run into the house so I rushed to get my infant daughter and the kittens and cat. When we moved to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands District I became more accustomed to earthquakes and we have amusing memories of our friends in relation to them: he would rush to save his precious stereo and his wife would save the baby!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 17: Pets

The topic for Week 17 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is “Pets”. Did you have any pets as a child? If so, what types and what were their names. Do you have pets now? Describe them as well.

My life with cats

Cats have been a constant presence in my life. They are not so much pets as part of the family. My life moves off its axis if I don’t have a cat…something that’s only happened for a total of <12 months of my life. Even when my furry friend goes off to his cattery on holidays we miss him for the few hours between his departure and ours, and can’t wait to pick him up on our return.

As a child we also had a budgie (budgerigar) for some years whose name was, innovatively, Bluey. You won’t be astonished to discover he was blue! He could talk a little and his singing would attract the local birds to our yard. The kookaburras which we fed were also in some ways pets though not tame ones.

As adults we’ve had a dog too, one we inherited when friends “went finish”[i] from Papua New Guinea. This bequeathing of pets was a pragmatic solution to a problem when strict quarantine laws meant it was then almost impossible to bring pets home to Australia. Our inherited dog, Whisky, had been dog-napped as a puppy and lived in a squatter’s settlement where she lived on diet of mackerel pike and rice (for ever after she was addicted to mackerel pike tins!). Somehow she came back to her original owners and then subsequently came to live with us. She loved going to Ela Beach in the back of our station wagon and got very excited by the adventure. Although we left her with friends when we in turn left PNG, she chose to go bush again and live with the house staff. We can only hope she lived a happy life.

Cats: so many, so much loved, and so many tears when each one died.

Springer goes fishing

All of our cats have been hybrids, mostly tabby. Our current young man is a long-haired tabby with a fluffy Persian-like tail which he flies like a banner. He prances along when he’s in a good mood, tail flying, earning him the occasional name of Trotsky. He earned the name of Springer for his leaping and springing out at us and for his karate-kicks at our hip height. He is a nervous nelly, but a good watch-cat: his anxiety sends him scurrying inside when stranger-danger arrives, so I know someone is coming towards the house. His downside is that he just doesn’t do cuddles, which is disappointing but he does like to be near us. He’s about the same age as the grandchildren who he doesn’t regard with great affection –gets quite jealous at them invading his space. They’ve learned to be respectful of his quick swipe and nip. I’ve posted previously about his Christmas adventures with us.

It's hard work helping Mum with family history -I need a rest -a very little Springer.

At times Springer seems to have channeled our previous old girl, Kizzle, who lived with us for 18 years, dying while we were travelling overseas. Believe me there were no shortage of tears on that occasion. She was a lovely companion and had a nice nature. She had a traumatic experience when she had to be flown to Darwin when we relocated here –she talked about it for ages after we picked her up…very definitely telling us all about the trip. She’d not long been able to miaow….she’d only ever opened her mouth until she had her nose broken by the neighbour’s car days before we left (entirely not their fault) while she was hiding from the packers. After that she could miaow loudly. Go figure. Her other adventures were hiding in our cupboards from burglars and on another occasion, falling down behind the (fixed) kitchen cupboards as she tried to hide while our Brisbane house was on the market. It was an adventure getting her out let me tell you…lying across the sink with a

Kizzie helps with my family history notes.

“fishing rod” with beef bait on it until I could yank her up by the scruff! She really wasn’t into moving house or towns!

Then there was Ginger Megs (aka Gemma for his initials G M): what a character he was! If we’d known about his personality we’d probably have called him Garfield because he was a mischief maker. Totally intimidated by the female felines sharing his house, he knew his place! He arrived as a stray being chased about 30 feet up a gum tree in our yard by some dogs. Skinny and scruffy he proceeded to settle in and eat like he might be back on the road any day. He wound up as a 20lb fellow though he thought he was sylph-like as he’d edge around the bath or through the ornaments on the bookcase! His favourite trick was hitting everything off the bed-side table to wake you up. He had to be put to sleep with cancer after living with us for about 8 years….more tears!

Nanna-napping with Gemma's weight loss program

Our first cat when we returned to Brisbane from PNG was the beautiful Socks. She’d been part of a litter delivered by a totally wild mother at my parents’ place. My parents kept one of the others but we picked out Socks as we knew we’d be returning soon. She had the most beautiful nature, so cuddly and affectionate with all of us including the new baby and children. She was a beautiful colour of grey with white socks (of course) and a vet later told us she probably had Burmese in her. This was one feisty cat: we remember a time when a Doberman came into our yard –she dispatched it with not a qualm in the world.  She faded away with cancer after she’d lived with us for ten years: it was a very sad day.

A very sad sight at the end of her days -our beautiful Socks-cat

Our cats in Papua New Guinea were equally loved and central to our lives. We inherited our last cat there from neighbours who were going finish. She was already called Brandy and as she lived with us along with Whisky the dog, we thought perhaps we should get a bird called “Rum” or “Soda” but we didn’t. Brandy was a beautiful multi-coloured cat, also very affectionate. She loved to tease our cat-fearing friend by immediately sitting beside her on the lounge. Brandy had a lucky escape when she was savaged by a group of Labradors which we had to beat off. She came through after a few days shock and resting. Sadly she was still well and healthy when we left PNG but we had no one to leave her with so she had to be put to sleep. If we cry when we have to have a cat put down for illness, you might imagine there were buckets of tears shed on this occasion. I swear to this day she knew as she sat on my lap, good as gold, just looking at me while I cuddled her and told her how much we loved her.

Ironically the cat previous to Brandy was a little male tabby, not unlike our current Springer. Pedro had come to Goroka with us from Alotau but he was unsettled when we moved across town and not long after Brandy frightened him away. Repeated attempts to find him were unsuccessful and as there was a village and a squatter’s camp close by we ultimately concluded he’d possibly wound up in a cooking pot.

Pedro’s mother, Tabitha, joined us in Alotau soon after I went to live there. Her speciality was catching butterflies by high-flying leaps into the air. We were also minding my in-law’s daschund whose speciality was shredding tissues with her claws. We’d all too often wake up to a bedroom floor littered with tissues and butterflies. Tabitha’s “hall of fame” moment was delivering her litter of kittens (well one of them) straight onto my face on Anzac Day! Believe me the rest were delivered beside the bed!

And so the litany and homage to the cats who shared our adult lives. Both of us have stories of the cats of our childhood.

Sooty, yet another tabby, was my constant companion as a child and teenager. She would walk down the street with us to the phone box and always slept with me. It didn’t matter that this would sometimes make me sneeze…having her there was the important thing. Preceding Sooty was Chips, an old male tomcat, and Tammy who had several litters.

This is my homage to the beautiful, character-ful animals who’ve shared our lives and made them so much richer. Every tear shed over their deaths or loss, has been more then compensated for by the love and uncritical affection they’re given us.


[i] This expression was used to indicate that people were leaving Papua New Guinea for good rather than just on holidays.