Monday Memories: Flying and travel

postcard-1242616_1280Yes, it’s Tuesday, but unfortunately my internet was on strike yesterday.

This (Monday) morning, I was reflecting on the changes over the decades to flying and travelling internationally (and domestic).

My mother-in-law had a mantra which we maintain: “tickets, passport, wallets, kids”. Now that the latter are adults and we’re empty nesters, we can automatically tick one box at least. Of the other three, perhaps passports have changed the least, but we’ve seen a great many other changes. I wonder how many you remember?

1974 Europe tvl001.jpg

Many of our early international trips were on Boeing 707s.

  • Tickets were multi-leaved flimsy documents and each page or leaf covered one sector of your flight booking. As you checked in, that leaf was torn out.
  • You were checked in by real humans -some scary (if you were worried about luggage allowances) and some all smiley and happy. The check-in process didn’t yet make you feel like a rat in a maze.
  • The in-flight cabin crew were usually men and women but the women were always young and beautiful. Qantas was renowned for having many male stewards. Of course there were no female pilots on any of the airlines at the time.
  • Economy was still cattle-class but at least it hadn’t progressed to chicken-coop-class (3C) where your knees are against the seat in front (if you’re more than 5ft 4ins) or your hips are wedged against the armrests (if you’re not a stick insect any more).
  • You were plied with large meals at every turn and received a glossy printed menu for each meal. The rationale that it’s better to have small, infrequent meals seems to have a lot less to do with health, than business economics.
  • There were no long-haul flights per se. Aircraft had not yet been developed to fly Australia to Europe in two hops, or even one, with the new Dreamliner. Our most memorable trip in 1977 was Port Moresby, Manila, Bangkok, Karachi, Teheran, Rome. Kangaroo flight indeed. It got very tedious when you’d just got your kids to sleep then had to wake them up at that transit stop.
  • In-flight entertainment was a whole other ballpark. The crew would offer you a variety of newspapers and magazines – of course the women were automatically offered “women’s” mags and the men the business papers and magazines. You carried the books you thought you’d read en route but obviously weight was an issue. Tiny packs of playing cards were sometimes handed out and the children got kid’s packs of colouring books etc. If they were lucky they were (rarely) taken up to the see the flight deck.
  • FrommerYou carried your Frommer’s “Europe on $5/$10 a day” because there was a limit to how much pre-planning and pre-booking you could do in advance. What’s the internet? What’s a computer?
  • If you worried about safety it was more to do with weather and potential crashes (especially flying in Papua New Guinea). While terrorist attacks happened in those days, they seemed less of a threat than they do since 9/11….or perhaps the powers-that-be have hyped up this fear.
  • Smoking was permitted on the aircraft and even when there was a no-smoking section it did little to improve the overall air quality.
  • Alcohol was free (I think) and many people made sure they took advantage. I was not impressed with the family behind us en route to Rome when the couple drank and drank, leaving their children to pester those in neighbouring seats.
  • The toilet facilities had toiletries even in economy – but then I guess they were long flights!
  • You received a proper in-flight pack of socks, eyeshade, ear plugs and toothbrush.
  • You could carry water through check-in and on board.
  • You had no clue where you were between transit stops – there were no in-flight maps or camera in the aircraft nose etc – but you looked out the windows and gained a sense of the world. I still remember flying over vast tracts of north-west India into Pakistan and seeing little villages lit-up in a sea of darkness.
  • There were no in-flight TVs (or streamed to an iPad – what’s that?) hence no music, TV shows, movies, games etc.
  • There were no eye-scanners at Passport control.
  • Vaccinations were still required for smallpox and cholera, even for trips to Europe.
  • International flights were something many people could only dream of because of the expense. We were lucky that our PNG employment conditions enabled us to convert our Australian flight entitlement to a (partial) overseas fare.
  • We’ve paid for cheaper fares and accessibility to overseas flights with many of the economic cost-cutting measures the airlines have implemented: fewer meals, more squashed seats, paying for checked-in luggage etc.
  • Of course the truly brave souls, including some of our friends, backpacked from London to Australia through many of the countries that are now international hotspots.

After 30 odd hours you arrived

  • On the ground in Europe, your passport was stamped as you crossed each border. If you were on an overnight train, you were regularly woken by immigration and train officials for ticket and passport inspections. This could get very tedious.
  • You had to check you had visas for the relevant countries you were visiting and also, for us, re-Entry Permits back to Papua New Guinea.
  • Every country had its own currency so it gave your mental arithmetic a work-out. Credit cards took weeks for payments to be processed. You carried travellers’ cheques as there were no ATMs or bank cash cards.
  • 1974 Europe tvl035 (2)You wrote aerogrammes home and sent postcards, not emails. If you needed to get in touch with home, you went to a large post office, booked an international call, and were sent to a particular cubicle.
  • You took slides or photos and sent the film home to be developed.
  • And when you flew back into Australia, before you could disembark, two men would come up the aisles with spray cans aloft spraying any wayward insects that had tried to hitch a free ride to Australia.

I did a rough tally of the airlines we’ve flown with internationally since 1974: Qantas, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Scandinavian (SAS), Air Nuigini, Malaysian, Philippines Airlines, Royal Nepal, British Airways/BOAC, United, Air Canada, Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Japan Airlines (JAL), SwissAir, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Jetstar and others I’ve probably forgotten.

I’ve only flown Business internationally twice: once when we went finish[i] from Papua New Guinea and on a Los Angeles-Brisbane flight in 1989, thanks to a dodgy move they tried on. I look at the cost, then at what we can use that for in other travel and back to chicken-coop-class we go. Maybe one day when we’re older and grey-er.

What are your memories of those flights of our youth? Fond and rose-coloured, or tinged with horrors?

[i] “Going finish” was the term used by expats in Papua New Guinea when they left the country for good. It could be a very emotional and pivotal time for each family.

Monday Memories, NFHM and Milne Bay

postcard-1242616_1280Over the years I’ve often written about battles and family members who have fought in them. Today is a little more personal. As a young bride, I went to the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea with my newly-minted husband. Nothing all that strange in that perhaps, as many young women made the same migration for love, curiosity or a sense of adventure. The difference for me was that we were going to Milne Bay, my husband’s “place” in the indigenous sense, or in Pidgin “as (=arse) ples bilong en” where he lived for 10 years….at the time his longest residence anywhere. For him it was home, familiar, and in his emotional blood.

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For me it was confronting, exciting, confusing and isolated. My family and other friends were thousands of kilometres away, not as today at the end of a phone or an email, Facetime or Skype. Our communications were mid-20th century: snail mail letters (and sometimes the snail would be faster!) and radio telephone calls when the weather didn’t interfere, over, over. Everyday conversation was scattered with a proliferation of acronyms, wonderfully clear to those in the know but bewildering to the newcomer (the ADC said to the DC that the ETA on the DC3 was 0900, for example).

Alotau 1960s house1 1968

THEN: The Cass family’s first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

But all this took place in the most wondrous geographical environment. We lived for a few months in the government home of my parents-in-law who were in Port Moresby for work. The house had a magnificent view over Milne Bay and was near the school where my mother-in-law taught. Mr Cassmob’s father had chosen the site as he sailed up the bay in the Education Department trawler – perhaps the only site with a better view was the District Commissioner (the head honcho for the district administration). If that all sounds rather colonial, I suppose it was, after all that was the world they were living in, as was I briefly, though the tides of change were already coming. We were, after all, a tiny minority population responsible to Australia for its governance of an emerging nation.

NFHM Blogging challengeThe local people of Milne Bay are among the nicest you could meet in PNG – open and friendly. However, only 74 years ago their world was turned on its head with the invasion of Australian troops sent to defend the then-territory of Papua against the wave of Japanese invasion. Milne Bay was to be the first place on land that the Japanese troops would be defeated, and yet it has long been overshadowed and forgotten in a similar way to the predominance of Gallipoli in our nation’s military historiography.

Plane Milne Bay fighting 026648

n.d. Milne Bay, Papua. 1942-09. Fellow pilots of 76 Squadron RAAF, lend a hand to push Squadron Leader Truscott’s plane back into the dispersal bay, as he steps out of the cockpit. Australian War Memorial image. (The plane is on marsden matting)

You have to have seen the jungles of Milne Bay (or north Queensland) to have an appreciation of how dense it can be. And you have to have lived there in a Wet Season to know how muddy and claggy the red clay could get, or how fiercely the creeks and rivers run. The clouds come down over the ranges that encircle Milne Bay and take up residence over the bay foreshortening the view and making flying hazardous today, let alone in the thick of battle. Pilot skills and aircraft readiness are challenged to the maximum and when we were there, a small aircraft was lost with all souls including people we knew. This brings home earlier realities for those at war.

Milne Bay ships war

Argus (Melbourne, Vic) & Australia. Department of Information 1943, NEW GUINEA. Milne Bay. State Library of Victoria collection.

Between Alotau (the district capital) and the airport, you could see the remains of war – marsden matting on the bridges or elsewhere, and the remains of boats half-buried. The Australians were stationed near the current-day airport (only an airstrip when we were there) and as a teenager Mr Cassmob worked on the adjacent coconut plantation, Gili Gili. One day at work he found an old street sign for Sadds Ridge Road which we’ve had on our houses at various times. It was some years before we found it came from Charters Towers and we still wonder who took it with them as a souvenir or reminder of home.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

There is something that cuts to the heart of your understanding when you live near where the Australians fought for their lives, and quite genuinely, for the safety of their own country and that of PNG. And nearby, a Queenslander, Corporal John French from Crows Nest, won his Victoria Cross.

Milne Bay during World War II ca. 1942

Unidentified 1942, Milne Bay during World War II, ca. 1942, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

I’ve written many times about Alotau, Milne Bay and the battle that was fought there, so I’ll just include the links and those who wish to can (re-)visit them. If you’re looking for a better understanding of jungle fighting, you can read The Last Blue Sea which gives you sense of what fighting was like in PNG. Current Australian author, Peter Watt, also writes a fictional series which includes a family who lives in Papua and fights during the war.

Those genealogists taking the Unlock the Past cruise to PNG and Milne Bay in 2017 will get a taste of the place – but beware, like family history, it can be addictive. Thanks Alex from Family Tree Frog for this prompt in National Family History Month.

Return to Milne Bay

Milne Bay: the people and old and new friends

Home again

The Battle of Milne Bay remembered in stained glass

The Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay

Lest We Forget: The Battle of Milne Bay

Unravelling the McKenna family

It has long been thought in the Cass family that James McKenna, aged 17.5 yrs, arrived Marion 1848 was part of this family even though it was a leap from Melbourn, Cambridge to Newcastle where he was tried in January 1845 for stealing a hank of worsted. Then sent to Millbank & Parkhurst, thence to prison hulk before being sent to Oz as an “exile”. Sentence was 7 yrs, and pardon granted immediately on arrival.  (Various documents are available on Ancestry).

It now seems unlikely this is the case. I also suspect the Melbourn Cambridgeshire may be a mistake against the shipping records obtained by my father-in-law some 30 odd years ago. Another immigration document on Ancestry shows Catherine and Peter coming from Monaghan but immediately under someone from Melbourn and I suspect this may have muddled the picture.

McKENNY aka MCKENNA Cath and Peter 1848 per Adelaide

Catherine and Peter McKenna at the bottom of image, on the Adelaide to Melbourne in 1848.

The situation now seems to be that the family most likely stayed in Ireland the whole time before emigrating some time after Elizabeth’s husband (Owen or Bryan?) died, pre 1848.

Elizabeth’s immigration says she’s leaving on her own account and looking for her son James McKenny.[i] Other researchers suggest that James McKenna who died in 1907 was part of this family.

McKENNA Elizabeth to Jas McKenny

Disposal list of immigrants on the Adelaide 1848, extract for Elizabeth McKenna, William and Catherine.

The immigration records also show that the family comes from Arragall Monaghan. This is neither a townland or a place and we have concluded that it is actually Errigal, Monaghan. Some family trees indicate that it is in the townland of Mullanacross aka Mullinacross in the Errigal Trough Civil Parish, but I can find no source for this information, which doesn’t mean it isn’t correct.

On the immigration records obtained by Les Cass back in the late 1980s, the family is shown together under the surname McKenny. The two youngest, Catherine 13 and Peter 12, are listed as having been born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. As per above I now believe this may have been an error. This is further reinforced by the fact that I’ve been unable to find Elizabeth, Peter or Catherine on the 1841 English census, even searching by first name and age.

So what was the family which arrived in Australia per the ship Adelaide on 22 June 1848. They had sailed from Plymouth on 1 March 1848[ii].They had been enumerated on the nominal lists as follows:

McKenna Elizabeth 44    house servant    neither

McKenna William 22       farm labourer    both read & write

McKenna Sarah 20           farm servant      both

McKenna Mary 17            housemaid         both

McKenna Catherine 13   daughter             read

McKenna Peter 12           son                         read

All were Roman Catholic and depending on which immigration documents, all state their home place as Monaghan.

Now let’s look at which James McKenna might have been the son who Elizabeth was looking for. We’ve discounted (at least for now), the convict from the Marion.

And in an oops moment I missed this notation on the bottom of the disposal lists.

McKENNA Elizabeth see re children 1848

Ancestry trees suggest that James McKenna arrived ahead of the rest of the family (which fits with the annotation mentioned). There are two possibilities then:  the George Fyfe on 23 July 1841 or the Frankfield also in July 1841.  James McKenna on the George Fyfe is aged 21, a labourer and a Catholic, who can neither read nor write. He is travelling with a Sally McKenna also aged 21, a dairymaid who could read and is also Catholic. At 21 he would be the eldest of Elizabeth’s children that we know about.

The James McKenna on the Frankfield is 19 and is Presbyterian. Given the religion of the rest of the family, it suggests to me that he is likely not the right one.

The James McKenna on the George Fyfe is 21 and is accompanied by his wife, Sally (not his sister as some seem to think[iii]) also 21, both Catholic and both from Monaghan[iv].  Sally is a nickname for Sarah so I went searching for (1) children and (2) her death. I was also puzzled (still am, really) about the listing of marriage details and children for James McKenna and Mary Tyrell. Is this the same James McKenna or a different one?

MCKENNA Sarah and Mary per Adelaide 1848

James and Sally McKenna on the George Fyfe, 1841

 

But first let’s look at Sarah McKenna. I found her death, aged 77, in Purnim shire, Warrnambool, Victoria on 20 October 1894. Her parents were Arthur McElmeal, farmer and Margaret Hacket. The informant is her grandson whose name is illegible due to fading. She is stated to have married in Donagh, Co Monaghan, Ireland at age 22 years to James McKenna[v].

James McKENNA & McELEEL Sarah Donagh parish Monaghan

I then looked at the Ancestry Catholic marriage records for Donagh (from the National Library of Ireland registers). I found the marriage by banns of James McKenna and Sarah McElmeel of Donagh on 17 February 1841 in the Catholic parish[vi].  It’s unclear to me whether it’s James or Sarah who comes from Donagh. The marriage had taken place just under a month from when the couple would sail on 15 March ex Plymouth.

Victorian indexes and Sarah’s death certificate provide the names of children to this couple: James 1841, Sarah (later McDonald) c1844, Mary Ann 1846, Susan (later McGrath) 1848, John 1849-1864, Peter c1852, Eugene c1855 and Margaret c1857. To confound things further, Sarah is stated to have spent three years in Tasmania and 50 years in Victoria – the initial year of arrival fits but not the stint in Tasmania for which I can find no records. I also can’t find the death of Sarah’s husband James in Warrnambool or buried in the cemetery.

Returning to the second option for James McKenna. There is a marriage for James McKenna in Victoria in 1846 to Mary Tyrell (various spellings in indexes). From the death certificate and the Victorian indexes their children are: William 1845, Elizabeth 1846, Sarah 1846, Thomas 1850, Owen c1852 , Peter c1852, Catherine c1860, Mary c1864, and James 1848 deceased. James died, aged 85, in 1907 at Penshurt, Victoria and was buried in the Boram Boram Cemetery by Rev Fr Walsh. James had been born in Monaghan and spent 66 years in Victoria (making his arrival c1841).  His father is stated as Owen and his mother as unknown.

It would suggest that there are two different James McKennas from Monaghan yet they don’t match up with the immigration records. I remain befuddled. There is nothing on either certificate to indicate whether Sarah was a widow or James a widower.

So which James McKenna is which, and does either belong to the family of Elizabeth McKenna?

Does it even matter, given that Mr Cassmob’s ancestry is through William McKenna from the Adelaide?  A further subject for analysis.

Thanks for listening. I’ll be back with Part 2 of my ruminations.

[i] Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kingdom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502) on Ancestry

[ii] 1848 ‘Shipping Intelligence.’, The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser (Vic. : 1845 – 1848), 20 June, p. 2. , viewed 23 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226354034

[iii] James and Sally are among the couples and families, the unmarried males and females are listed separately and neither name appears there.

[iv] Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kindom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502) Original data from Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports). Microfiche VPRS 7666, copy of VRPS 947. Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Victoria.

[v] Victorian death certificate 116/1894 #14731.

[vi] Through Ancestry or Findmypast from registers held at National Library of Ireland and digitised at registers.nli.gov.ie Catholic Parish Registers, The National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 05574 / 09

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Honouring the Fallen of Fromelles

One hundred years ago, Australian soldiers were fighting the desperate battle for their lives near the tiny French hamlet of Fromelles. That 24 hours from the evening of the 19th July 1916 was to be the bloodiest and most disastrous day in Australia’s military history to date (and may it so remain). And yet, when I began my research nearly 30 years ago, this battle was poorly known and rarely mentioned.

Enlistment photo of Photograph of James Gavin in The Queenslander of 2 October 1915, page 24.

Enlistment photo of Photograph of James Gavin in The Queenslander of 2 October 1915, page 24.

In the beginning hours of his first battle, my grandfather’s cousin, James Augustus Gavin, was among the early, and perhaps fortunate, fatalities in this deadly and bloody nursery of war. His would be the first death among my grandfather’s cousins in World War I.

“Not as many lost as first feared…only 5533” wrote Lt Col Walter Edmund Cass. How I fumed as I read those words in the Australian War Memorial back in 1990. How dare this officer be so glib about such horrendous loss!

This number counted the casualties (killed, wounded and missing) but not the mental anguish to the men, who were sacrificed wastefully.

Cass was an experienced officer, a career soldier who’d been on Gallipoli and in the Boer War. He had been in the thick of this battle, in a forward position, so exposed that it was a bulge in the line, surrounded by Germans and exposed to their higher position.

A studio photo of Lt Col Cass perhaps around the time of his posting to France. AWM photograph A01470, copyright expired. The photo is shown as Lt Col ERH Cass CMG so it appears the initials are a mistake.

A studio photo of Lt Col Cass perhaps around the time of his posting to France. AWM photograph A01470, copyright expired.

Despite his experience, or perhaps even because of it, this battle was the last he’d ever fight in war. He was broken by the loss of so many of his men’s lives. “My boys, my boys! They’ve murdered my boys!”.  He was talking about the actions of the more senior “British” officers, not the Germans, and in acts of insubordination that may have seen him shot in the British Army (or perhaps without the medals he already held), he argued fiercely with his superiors.

Fromelles Pheasant Wood

The Pheasant Wood cemetery 2014. The Germans had lookouts in the church tower.

The Germans had offered a short truce so that bodies could be recovered (alive or dead), but knowing the British refusal to accept even this level of accord, McCay had refused. And so the men, who had managed to fall back, could hear their mates calling for help and pleading “don’t forget me, cobber“. How many men might have returned to their families if a different decision was made? How many men might have carried a lesser mental burden had they been permitted to help their mates?

This was how the Germans came to bury some of the Australian fallen in Pheasant Wood, below Fromelles. It would be over 80 years later that the men were found – the farmer’s crops never flourished in that area. The determination of individuals revealed this forgotten burial ground, German records confirmed it, and the modern science of DNA revealed the identities of the men.

Memorial plaque on the Cobbers sculpture.

Memorial plaque on the Cobbers sculpture.

Today, those visiting Fromelles can see the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) memorial with its beautifully maintained war graves. The Cobbers Memorial (do read the link) honours the fallen and the mates they fought with.

Peter stands beside the memorial which stands on the German bunker where his great-uncle WEH Cass fought with his battalion.

Mr Cassmob stands beside the memorial which is where his great-uncle WEH Cass fought with the 54th battalion.

 

And yet, for me, the cemetery at Rue Petillon near Fleurbaix tells the tale more starkly. The gravestones stand like teeth, tight side by side. Surrounding the cemetery are farmhouses and the fields for which the men fought, now so tranquil.

The location of James Gavin's grave in Rue Petillon cemetery November 1992.

The location of James Gavin’s grave in Rue Petillon cemetery November 1992.

L/Cpl James Gavin's gravestone in Rue Petillon cemetery: the family's inscription can be read.

L/Cpl James Gavin’s gravestone in Rue Petillon cemetery includes the family’s inscription.

Among them lies the grave of James Augustus Gavin. It was a privilege to visit him in 1992 and it remains a privilege today to remember him. You have not been forgotten cobber.

Lest We Forget.

You might like to read these earlier posts about Fromelles, Gavin and Cass:

The Battle of Fromelles: In Memoriam L/Cpl James Augustus Gavin KIA

Fromelles, Lt Col WEH Cass and family collections

F is for the Fifteen Mile, Fromelles and Fleurbaix

Brigadier General Walter Edmund Hutchinson Cass

And a commemoration of military mate ship here.

There are a number of books available now on the battle of Fromelles:

Don’t forget me cobber by Robin Corfield

The Anzacs by Peter Pedersen

Fromelles and Pozieres by Peter Fitzsimons (includes quite a few quotes on Cass drawn from his letters and diaries, now held by State Library Victoria)

Our darkest day: Fromelles by Patrick Lindsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Memories: Weekend picnics

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Hiking and picnicing at Brookfield c1965.

I’ve recently come to realise that one aspect of our family’s traditional life has faded into obscurity, due to a blend of improved circumstances, general disorganisation, and a social trend to eating out in cafes and restaurants. In our case, I suspect that it was the move to Darwin’s hot humid climate that contributed as well. So where are my memories taking me today? Why, on a picnic in the fresh air and sunshine on a day which once would have seen us desperate to pack an al fresco meal and escape.

We didn’t often do picnics in my own family as Dad worked shift work which wasn’t very family-friendly for school-aged children. We didn’t own a car so we were mostly dependent on the bus, train, or an outing with the neighbour down the back. I don’t recall ever eating out in a café on these outings – it was always a packed lunch of some sort.

Over the years we’ve picnicked in all sorts of places depending where we lived, and the age of our children. When Mr Cassmob and I lived in Papua New Guinea we picnicked rather more often, usually to explore some new place, and quite often with an entourage of interested villagers who would sit at a distance from us. Not entirely conducive to lolling around with a book, not that there was much time for lolling with a toddler!

Peter and girls at Buck Palace

We didn’t invite QEII to our picnic near Buckingham Palace in 1977.

 

After we moved to Port Moresby, on the coast, our weekend trips took us often to Ela Beach as we’d take the dog and check our mail box en route. We’d even hear the Police Band if we were there early-ish in the morning, or watch the beach-volley-ball players.

Our other favourite, but more distant spot, was  Varirata National Park. This involved the longer drive up towards the Owen Stanley Range and Sogeri, near where the Kokoda Track ends (or starts). The national park was such fun with open spaces, BBQ areas, and the tree house. All the family enjoyed the outing and we always took visitors there when they came to town. We have quite a few photos of groups of smiling families perched like starlings on a fence.

Variarata picnic view

Back in the Land of Oz, picnics were either by the beach (Sunshine Coast or Hastings Point) or in the ranges. One of our faves was Lamington National Park where we could camp as well. It could be chilly and you could have a camp fire at night. During the day there were bush walk and the chance to see the beautiful rosellas (birds) and regent and satin bowerbirds.

Depending on where we were going, the picnic would be fresh bread, cheese, ham and tomatoes (and a thermos of coffee!) Other times we’d take sausages (aka snags) and the portable BBQ. Last weekend we drove past one of the spots where we’d had a BBQ on the river bank. The name always amused us because Obi Obi Creek has multiple crossings. Our picnics were pretty lazy affairs – taking it easy, having a book or magazine to read – a way for the family to recuperate after the busyness of the workday week. None of those energetic cricket or footy games, unless we were camping…our best effort was a bush walk.

Peter and Louisa BBQ Obi Obi Ck

A creek-side BBQ at Obi Obi Creek.

Did your family go on picnics? What food did you take? Were you energetic or lazy like us?

Sepia Saturday PNG Merry Makers

Sepia Sat 337From the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to the coast, the people celebrate culture and make merry with dances and traditional costumes. For some reason these warriors from Wahgi came to mind when I looked at the Sepia Saturday merry makers. They were at the enormously popular Goroka Show in, I think, 1972. Seeing thousands of warriors gathered together is a spectacular sight, and that’s without walking in mud up to your ankles, and before a “stoush” led to the Police firing tear gas into the crowd, which promptly knocked down the wire fence trying to get out of the showgrounds! Lively!

Goroka sing sing Wahgi men edit

Our two older daughters grew up with similar sights as part of their daily life. However an experience in New Zealand in 1975 revealed they had assimilated the potential for violence behind all the costumes and sing-sings. We took them to a cultural exhibition in Rotorua one evening…as the Maori warriors came out with their traditional war cries, our two let out their own version of blood curdling yells. Exit of Cass mob promptly followed!

More recently we returned to Papua New Guinea for a visit and these merry makers from Milne Bay District show their traditional splendour at the annual Kenu and Kundu (canoe and drum) festival.

It’s likely that those genealogists travelling on next year’s Unlock the Past Cruise to Papua New Guinea will see some version of these celebrations by the welcoming and open Milne Bay people.

447 Women dancing 2012 PNG

I wonder what merry making the other Sepians have been up to this week.Or are they waiting around for the fun to start like these competitive young men in their canoes.

434 Men in boats PNG

 

Tura Lura Lura – hush little bubba

Today is another Sepia Saturday– Monday Memories combined post. The theme this week is sleeping babies, reading and related memories.

Sepia Saturday Header

The image prompt shows a woman reading quietly while her baby sleeps tranquilly. Most mothers would roll their eyes at this, thinking of how tired and busy they were with small children. Perhaps I was lucky, or just plain selfish and stubborn, but I took to heart the advice I received, to rest when the baby rested. My memory tells me that I would indeed sometimes read while they slept, though I certainly didn’t look like this immaculate woman. On the other hand somehow I seemed to fit far more into the day then than I manage now with sewing, cooking, freezing and other household chores.  Whatever I did while they slept, it appears not to have been take their photos!

Plainly here I was replicating a baby photo from my own baby-book with our eldest, though the two places were thousands of kilometres apart. If you could see the background of mine it was in a surburban garden, and I think that’s a clothes prop in the background. If we could see the background in the second photo you’d see a village with people, pigs and a pit-pit fence round the gardens…a vast cultural difference apart.

Louisa in her cot and bedroom nth Goroka 1972They say that you take myriad photos of your first born and that it’s a slippery photographic downward slope from there. We were different from this, mainly because we didn’t have a camera until later in the peace.

We did own a bassinet for each of them, but they quickly grew out of it and into a cot. I have zero recollection of where I bought the cot, but I do recall stripping and painting it on the front verandah of our house in North Goroka, Papua New Guinea. It looked quite smart and her room was jazzed up with some cheap decorative items. Later the cot would be re-painted yellow and recycled for our youngest daughter.

And an interesting theme appears – we seem to take more outdoor photos of our babies, probably because there’s no need to keep them rugged up all the time. I love this photo of my husband as a baby. Don’t you adore that gorgeous crocheted rug? I wonder if his mother made it or perhaps her mother?

Peter as baby 1949 low

Sometimes you just don’t care where your kids sleep, so long as they sleep (that probably accounts for my smile below). The two older daughters looking totally zonked out on the beach at Magnetic Island.

It’s nearly time to go to sleep little baby. Did your mother sing a lullaby to you? Mine always sang Tura lura lura to me, and my children, while she stroked my/their forehead and hair. I carried on the tradition with our girls, but I tried not to traumatise them by singing to them very often, though the forehead “patting” remains a family tradition. The lullaby tradition carries on to the next generation with it being sung by one daughter to her children.

This is a lovely Indigenous bi-lingual lullaby by Territorian Ted Egan . You might like to listen to it before heading over to read about other Sepian sleeping babies before you snooze off, dreaming of angels, fairies and shamrocks.

shamrock angel

Tura lura lura

Over in Killarney,
Many years ago,
Me mother sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low.
Just a simple little ditty,
In her good ould Irish way,
And I’d give the world if she could sing
That song to me this day.
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Hush, now don’t you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
That’s an Irish lullaby.

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Sepia Saturday: Aussie royalty – the koala

Sepia Saturday Header

How could I resist this wonderful Sepia Saturday prompt which had passed me by until I read Jollett Etc’s post today?

koala sign croppedThe koala is, of course, a key icon of Australia – they look cuddly and cute, even if all they do is sleep much of the day and between-times munch on a gum leaf or two. In fact, they’re rarely seen in much of Australia these days though I know LoneTester is lucky enough to have them near her home. Despite the local signs, I haven’t seen any koalas or roos as yet, and I surely don’t want to see them on the road!

One place I used to see them in the wild quite often was when we’d visit Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville. It was a tremendous koala habitat and patience was rewarded with regular sightings. In those days the old Kodak camera just wasn’t up to capturing their images though.

koalas at lone pine 1939 copy

1930. Koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, photographed for Mrs Forgan Smith, October 1939, Queensland State Archives. Copyright expired.

German Shepherd and Koala Lone Pine

Photographed c1960 by P Cass

Brisbane has a long-lived tradition of showing its tourists the cuddly koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. While many similar places have limited access to them, they can still be handled by besotted tourists from Princess Alexandra of Kent(1959) or the Russian Ballet troupe (1961) to The Legal Genealogist (2016).  Luckily for all of them the koalas were on their best behaviour and didn’t piddle on royalty, British or genealogical, although it’s possible they were bored and yawned.

Of course it’s not just the tourists who would make the pilgrimage to see the koala at Brisbane’s iconic tourist spot. Back in the day it was a “special treat” outing for children during school holidays. We would catch the ferry from North Quay and arrive upriver at Lone Pine to be greeted by the German Shepherd with a koala on its back.

pauleen Lone Pine

oh my, look at those freckles!

 

Pauleen Kunkel Valerie Carstens middle and Pauline Morris and brothers Lone Pine

A picnic with family friends by the river at Lone Pine c1960.

You can see from these photos that my family made occasional visits to Lone Pine. While our children didn’t get to go to Lone Pine, they’ve managed to cuddle a koala on a couple of occasions.

Rach Louisa and Bec and koala crop

My small bear is looking a little worried about that ‘bear”..perhaps she knew she was in the “firing line” if it decided to wee.

 

Koalas Lone Pine news fm TroveLone Pine has always been proud of its reputation, boasting proudly back in 1939 of four generations of koalas living there. The trend for popularity is long established as one was named “Princess” and another “Amy Johnson” and our own Aussie genearoyalty, Jill.  I notice that the sanctuary was still referring to koalas as bears, which they’re not.  Don’t you love the photo from our good friend Trove of a whole row of koalas?

So there we have it, one post combining “Trove Tuesday”, “Sepia Saturday” and a planned-for-another-day “Monday Memories” post.

Have you ever cuddled a koala? Are they on your bucket list? If so you might want to think about visiting Australia for Congress 2018, our triennial family history conference.

And if you think they’re always docile, check out this video which has been doing the rounds on Facebook and YouTube.

 

FOUR GENERATIONS OF KOALAS (1935, July 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), , p. 12. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36766724

Here are some photos of my aunt and cousins, Patsy and Jimmy, at Lone Pine. Sadly they are all deceased now.

Mary farraher with koala

Aunty Mary, perhaps circa 1995.

My grandmother with cousin Patsy and koala.

My grandmother with cousin Patsy and koala.

 

My cousin Jimmy being introduced to a koala.

My cousin Jimmy being introduced to a koala.

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Monday Memories: My life in cats

Pauleen in basket with kittenIn my daughter’s memory photo album I wrote “where there’s a Cass, there’s a cat”. Very true, but equally so of my own family as the various photos here will attest.

From my earliest days to today I’ve been without a cat for only a few short months – and felt myself off-kilter and at a loss. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, and as a child I’d often pester for one, but Mum was somewhat afraid of dogs. She didn’t greatly like cats either, but on that she was over-ruled. Mum preferred our blue budgie, called – wait for it – Bluey! He would sing away on the back landing and call in the wild birds.

I know that one of our cats had kittens at one stage and I suspect Dad had to drown the kittens in the creek (the way it was done in those days). He would have hated that, because he loved animals, almost more than (most) people.

Pauleen cats and kittens

Which cat had the kittens? Perhaps Tammy or Sooty.

ChippyOne of our cats, Chippy, used to walk down the street with mum and I when she went to ring her best mate in Townsville from the public phone box. I don’t recall how old I was when we got the phone on, but I would have been in my early teens, until then urgent calls came through our friends over the road – as a (railway) engine driver he needed the phone in case he was called in.

Many’s the time I would sneeze my way through Sunday Mass thanks to the cat being curled up beside me – I wasn’t going to let a minor allergy get in my cat-loving way.

One of the big attractions of Mr Cassmob when I first met him at uni was his love of cats – they had a white cat called Wizzle who’d splash in the puddles.

Valerie with Sooty and Tammy

This photo of a family friend with Sooty & Tammy would be about 1960.

After we married and moved to Alotau we acquired a female cat who we named Tabitha. She was a great leaper which was unfortunate given her predilection for catching large tropical butterflies. It wasn’t uncommon to wake up and find scattered butterfly wings on the floor, along with shredded tissues – the latter delivered by my in-laws’ daschund who we were minding. The locals were bemused how her ears would stand out in the wind when we drove along – Er wah, they’d say. Sanguma (magic) and they’d call Tinka “bat dog”.

Louisa in basket and Pedro Nth Goroka 1972

Daughter #1 with Pedro – echoes of the one above of me.

Tabitha excelled herself when she delivered her first litter of kittens. It was Anzac Day 1971, very early, when I woke up the technicolour image of a kitten being ejected right above my face. That was too much even for this cat lover! We left Tabitha and the rest of the kittens behind at the High School when the government decided we needed to be in Goroka “yesterday”, but we took one of the kittens, a handsome boy we called Pedro.

Some years later we suspect Pedro came to a sticky end and wound up either as a hat or in the cooking pot, given our home on the route to various villages and squatter settlements. The bossy neighbourhood cat, Brandi, had pushed him out. Ironically she was to become our next furry feline when her owners “went finish” (leave PNG). It was a common tradition to pass pets on, because in those days the quarantine period was very long -a year or more from recollection. In much the same way we acquired out cattle dog, Whisky, who loved going to the beach with us each weekend. We threatened to get a budgie and call it Rum.

Brandi was a beautiful cat and we all loved her to pieces. She nearly came to a sticky end too, when the neighbourhood dogs caught her one day. Luckily we were able to rescue her, and with lots of TLC she survived. Very sadly we had to have her put to sleep when we left Moresby as, post-Independence, we had fewer friends left still in Moresby, and they weren’t really cat people. We were all in tears and I still regret that we didn’t bring her home to be buried in the garden rather than leave her with the vets. I still worry that dastardly deeds may have been done to my gorgeous girl.

Our lovely Brandi cat

Brandi – our much loved cat in Port Moresby, PNG.

Whisky was handed on to our neighbours when we left, but soon after went off to join the man who had done our ironing. She’d been taken to a village when she was very tiny and had an obsession with Mackerel Pike so I guess she’d have fitted in okay. It was very tough leaving special furry friends behind when we had to leave.

DD1 again with Socks Xmas 1978 with last week's chair in the background and my crocheted poncho effort.

DD1 again with Socks Xmas 1978 with last week’s chair in the background and my crocheted poncho effort.

Around the time we decided to “go finish”, Mum and Dad had adopted three kittens whose mother was completely wild. They kept one, as our old cat Sooty had crossed the rainbow bridge sometime previously. Another was allocated to us, and became another firm favourite (aren’t they all?), Socks. One vet suggested that she may have been part-Burmese – she had a beautiful colouring and a lovely nature.  She had an attitude though, when it suited her. When Ginger Megs came into our lives she swatted him across the face and established who was boss of this household! She also took on a Doberman which wandered into our yard one day – she could be quite fearless. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to a ripe old age but died of cancer aged about 10 years. Another sad day for the Cass mob.

Meanwhile Ginger Megs aka Gemma (AM = ack emma hence GM = Gemma) had arrived. Had we known his temperament in advance we’d have named him Garfield as he was very cheeky…and large. He grew to be about 10kgs (22lbs) and was totally quirky – when he wanted you to get up, he’d bat things progressively off the bedside table. And an afternoon nap was an excuse to lie on your back. He got cancer and he too was put to sleep and also brought home to rest in the garden.

Kizzle and Ginger Megs

A very tiny Kizzle with her mate Ginger Megs.

Kizzle was “just a tabby tat” but was immediately part of our family. At age 10, she came to live with us in Darwin, and boy did she give us heaps about her experience on the 4 hour flight. She had a couple of grand adventures in the drama of the house being packed and us relocating, but those yarns are far too long for here. She got very old (18) and wasn’t well, and we dithered whether to have her put to sleep before we went away to Europe in 2006. Sadly, she deteriorated badly and it was our daughters who had to deal with it. She rests in our Darwin garden.

Kizzie does Family history 1

Kizzle keeps an eye on the family history progress.

Despite a promise to myself to take “time out”, my cat-addiction took hold and Springer joined us only a couple of months after we returned home. You can read about this king of our universe here, and the follow up here. And yes, it does seem that we have a trend towards tabby tats.

Springer and craft

Springer in Darwin after “sampling” decorations from the Christmas tree.

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My Own Merry Month of May Movies

My Fair Lady programme

The programme cover for My Fair Lady, the film.

Turns out this was a trickier meme than I thought when I amended my own Music Meme. Of course I can never just keep it short and snappy, but here’s my own response.

  1. What’s the earliest movie you can remember: Fantasia – I went to see this with my mum and my great-aunt Emily in the city…those creepy brooms freaked me out! I was about five I think.
  2. Where did you go to the movies (place or type of venue): Mostly in the city but occasionally at the local picture theatre though I have no clear memories of this.
  3. Did you buy movie programs: Most of the block-buster films of the day had programs and I used to have quite a few. I’ve kept some of them but only the covers of others.
  4. Did you take in food and drink (and what did you like): Back in the day it was Fantales, Maltesers or Jaffas. Now it’s coffee <smile>. We only get popcorn with the grandkids.
  5. Movies of your teenage years: Gidget, some Elvis Presley (but which?), original James Bonds, Hawaii, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music
  6. Mischief you got up to in the movies: I was a goody two shoes like Robbie, but when we went as a group in my late teens, the blokes would often roll Jaffas down the floors (something of an Aussie tradition)Movies 1
  7. Did you watch movies at home: We didn’t get TV until late, but the first movie I remember was Three Coins in a Fountain (part of my travel addiction). Our own family often borrowed videos or later DVDs.
  8. What was your favourite movie to watch at home: With our own family: When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride, Top Gun.
  9. Do you prefer to watch movies at home or at the cinema: Some movies are best suited to the big screen which I prefer (for example Sherpa, or Eye in the Sky, which we’ve just seen, or The Water Diviner) but others I don’t mind either way.
  10. Does your family have a special movie memory: Taking the kids to see a Disney movie in the city and having to get tissues half way through because of the tears (we may be the only family that banned Disney); seeing a movie about a cat, Thomasina, days after we had to put our old girl down. One of my daughters letting out a loud sigh/sound during the Top Gun volleyball match – sounded like she was ecstatic rather than repulsed – turned a few heads <wink, wink>. Or seeing Hawaii with an early boyfriend – the birth scene was pretty dramatic from the front rows.movies 2
  11. Movies you fell in love to/with: I loved Out of Africa to the max right from the beginning. I remember I was in the ladies’ room afterwards and everyone was crying about Robert Redford dying and I was crying about her leaving the servant and telling him she’d send for him (haven’t quite forgiven her for that). We fell in love to Elvira Madigan and Dr Zhivago. On my first ever trip to Sydney, on my own, I cried and cried over Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
  12. Favourite romantic movie theme music: I’d have to say Mozart’s 21st, from Elvira Madigan, since we used it for our wedding march and made my mum-in-law cry.
  13. Favourite musical movie: My Fair Lady.
  14. Which movies made you want to dance/sing: Sound of Music, Mamma Mia (pathetic movie mostly), Mad Hot Ballroom.
  15. Do you watch re-runs or DVDs of old movies: We have a stash (thanks Bali for our wide selection!) that we watch regularly. I’m not such a big fan of vintage movies though.movies 3
  16.  Do your children/family enjoy the same movies: Some of them: Summer Holiday (strangely), When Harry Met Sally, Princess Bride. It’s something of a family tradition as adults for us all to go to the movies on Boxing Day.
  17. What’s your favourite movie genre now: A tough one, mostly I go to the movies for escapism so I’m a sucker for a feel-good movie but I also like dramas. (My TV watching is nearly all crime…or house shows or WDYTYA)
  18. Did you read the book before or after the movie: After, definitely. There have been some where the movie captures the book perfectly: The Joy Luck Club; 84 Charing Cross Road.
  19. Which did you enjoy more, the book or the movie: The book mostly, but see above.
  20. What’s the silliest movie you’ve seen: Basically we don’t go to see silly movies so nothing leaps to mind…or perhaps I’ve sublimated them. Then again, one man’s film-596519_1280 moviesgreat movie is another’s person’s silly movie.
  21. Pet hate in movies: A sound track that goes from super-loud to super-quiet; “jumpy” or too “artistic” camera work. In my rebellious teen years it was having to stand for God Save the Queen….so we didn’t. Judy Garland movies. I remember we left the movie Papillon part-way through because it was too freaky for an anniversary outing.
  22. A movie that captures family history for you: Do you know, I can’t think of one – look forward to others’ suggestions. Maybe The Water Diviner since it covers the power of family relationships and the horrors and impact of war.
  23. If you could only play 5 movies for the rest of your life, what would they be: Out of Africa, Hopscotch, 84 Charing Cross Road, Mad Hot Ballroom, The Water Diviner.
  24.  Favourite movie stars (go ahead and list as many as you like): Glenda Jackson, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Meryl Streep (mostly), Hugh Jackman, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Kenneth Brannagh, Morgan Freeman, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Spencer Tracy.

And a late addition:

  1. Other movies that caught my imagination: Reds, Dances with Wolves, Passage to India, Samson and Delilah, Romeo & Juliet (di Caprio and Danes).

And here’s where I wrote about movies in the 52 Weeks of Personal History and Genealogy series a few years back – I wonder how consistent I’ve been?

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