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.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 14 Young Love

4 x 7UP collageI just had to rejig my sequence of photos so I could accommodate Valentine’s Day!

In the 60s and 70s, Valentine’s Day was a non-event in Australia but as a devoted reader of Seventeen magazine from the USA I’d caught the “love bug”! Of course having titled this post “Young Love” I also had Cliff Richard on my mind –ironically our children are even greater fans of his movie, Summer Holiday. Who knows why?!

Wasn't he cute?

Wasn’t he cute?

Mr Cassmob and I met during my first year at Uni, and after that for various reasons we spent long blocks of time apart. Having distracted each other enough to need to repeat part of Year 1 at Uni, he returned to TPNG to supervise the labour line at Gili Gili Plantation. As I said previously I’m sure they loved being under the supervision of a teenager.

During his year back in PNG and sometime after his family relocated to Alotau, the new district headquarters, Mr Cassmob sent me the featured collage photo. I’m sure you can see why it promptly became one of my treasured items.

Photo of Mr Cassmob's family home in Alotau taken from much the same place as the old one. P Cass 2012

Photo of Mr Cassmob’s family home in Alotau taken from much the same place as the old one. P Cass 2012

Hearts and flowersI also couldn’t resist the self-indulgence of including this photo of us out to dinner at a theatre restaurant (remember when they were in vogue) in our “courting” days. We’d planned to go a couple of years earlier but we did eventually make it there. Haven’t a clue what the theatre aspect was, or indeed the food, but obviously the company was worth it <wink>. Were we young, or what?!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr Cassmob!

Out to dinner.

Out to dinner.

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 12: Cousins, aunts and uncles

4 x 7UP collageI’m not going to change the image I’ve posted in this collage but I am going off on a lateral tangent yet again. I had thought to write (even more!) about Magnetic Island but then I thought “why? I’ve done that to death”. Then in another of my midnight mental rambles I was thinking about relatives and so this post is about cousins and aunts and uncles.

Kunkels and Farrahers Cairns

My aunt and uncle, my parents and I, Cairns, Qld.

In the collage photo we were standing outside the Sunlander train, probably leaving Cairns for Brisbane. Earlier we had visited my aunt and uncle and cousins in Cairns where they were then living at the time. My uncle had something of a habit of changing bosses jobs and they moved from out west (Augathella comes to mind), to Far North Queensland, Tugun on the Gold Coast and Brisbane where my grandfather lived with them. At each move my uncle would chuck out my cousin’s toys and dolls…not exactly a therapeutic way of dealing with relocation.

army friends

Why is someone always doing rabbit ears?? My uncle is the cook in the middle (and possibly Mr Rabbit Ears).

Uncle Pat had been an Army cook for some time and been in Papua New Guinea during WWII. I’m lucky to have some of his photos which I found after my aunt died and without looking on the reverse (not all were annotated) I quickly realised they were from PNG. I hope to put these on my Tropical Territory blog in the near future.

My aunt and cousins

My aunt and two of my 8 cousins

His wife, Aunty Mary, was my favourite aunt. Sweet, kind with a quirky, cheeky sense of humour I always liked her. Mary’s daughter predeceased her and her son was far from well for many years and is now also deceased. As the eldest daughter, Aunty Mary was also privy to some of the family stories and shared (some of ?) them with me. Both before and after Mary’s death I was able to get scanned images of many of the family photos as well as my grandmother’s address book. As I cleared Mary’s house after her death I was able to ensure quite a few family “heirlooms” did not end up in the skip.

 Are you close to your cousins?

My grandchildren are enamoured with their cousins, and will hug and greet each other as if they haven’t seen each other for months, rather than only days before, regularly saying “I love my cousin.”

 My cousinly relationships are rather more haphazard. I was close enough to Aunty Mary’s daughter though she was a fair bit older than me. She used to paint my nails (purple) and let me have sleepovers at her boarding house when I was about 12 or 13.

My cousin Patsy (Patricia), named for her father.

My cousin Patsy (Patricia), named for her father.

Two of my cousins I have probably only seen three or five times. I wouldn’t recognise them if they walked through the door tomorrow. Their mother I would have seen only a few times more, though I would have recognised her if I came upon her. Her husband, again, I wouldn’t know from Adam.

But it was my male cousin from another aunt, with whom I have the closest long-term relationship rather than with his sister who was a year younger than me. We used to go ice skating together with our spouses and kids, and I’ve forgiven him for deconstructing my childhood Xmas toys to see how they worked. <smile> Their two much younger sisters, for one of whom I was the godmother, I also know a little, but life has taken us in different directions and to different places.

My non-cousin, daughter of my uncle’s widow’s second marriage, lived with us for medical reasons for about six months, but again we never persevered with our relationship. In many ways I think our longish time in PNG affected many of these family bonds.

(I do have photos of these cousins, but I don’t have permission to use them here as they are still alive).

Among my cousins, I was the only one of the first-born not named for their father.

For similar reasons Mr Cassmob has an even worse track record in the cousin stakes. In the decades that I’ve known him we’ve seen one of his cousins twice, some others only once: a consequence of his living far away from them. Another we met up with in Dublin years ago: they both thought “how will I know him” and found it no problem because both so resembled their fathers!

 Did you have close relationships with aunts, uncles and cousins? Are you still friends rather than just relatives?

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

Trove Tuesday: Christopher Robinson

While we were visiting Samarai in the Milne Bay District (PNG) a couple of months ago we saw the memorial which appears on Tropical Territory today. Apparently there was quite a lot of conflict over it when it was erected, and couldn’t be placed anywhere else so it was eventually placed on Samarai even though there was no specific connection.

Mr Cassmob remembers his father saying the miners (why??) wanted to have the comment “killed by the missionaries” on the memorial and that the Robinson issue was about the killing of some “natives”. Now plainly this was all quite intriguing so I turned to my good friend Trove to see what it could tell me about the background event.

My Trove reading suggests that there were a number of complicating factors surrounding this event:

  1. In 1901 Australia became an independent federation and nation.
  2. In 1902 Papua, or the British Protectorate of New Guinea, had become the responsibility of Australia
  3. In 1905, it became the Territory of Papua.
  4. Australia’s federal election in December 1903.

The events we’re looking at straddle this time frame and affect how they was seen.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/918589. The Advertiser 19 March 1903.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/918589. The Advertiser 19 March 1903.

Early in 1904 Christopher Robinson, a Brisbane solicitor, was appointed acting Administrator and Judicial Officer of British New Guinea, pending the implementation of legislation formalising the Territory of Papua under Australian control. Soon afterwards Robinson set sail on the ship the Merrie England, to the Gulf Province (west of Port Moresby) where two missionaries, Rev James Chalmers and Rev OF Tomkins, had been massacred on Goaribari Island (now in the Gulf Province, PNG) in 1901. On the face of it this was not unreasonable, but in the event, the local people approached the ship, firing arrows from their canoes, apparently in retaliation for the arrest of some of the men believed to have taken part in the killing of the missionaries. Shots were fired from the ship and an undefined number of “natives” were killed. This “Goaribari incident”, as it was euphemistically called, occurred in March 1904. While one could hardly expect the ship’s crew to ignore being fired at, it appears that the response was ill-considered and due to panic.

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

Robinson’s reputation was under a very dark cloud as a Royal Commission of Enquiry was instigated, of which Judge Murray (presumably Sir Hubert Murray) was in charge. Shortly before the enquiry commenced, Christopher Robinson put a gun to his head and killed himself, leaving behind a note which was not released (according to the papers). It is through the reports of the enquiry that we learn that at least eight men were killed, three possibly by Robinson.

Perhaps the simple fact is that, with no prior experience of New Guinea, or of the risks associated with working there, he simply panicked and imagined himself massacred as had been the missionaries in 1901. This in no way excuses what happened, whether by him or by others, but he was also human, and perhaps in fear of his life after the decision to capture some of the locals who may/may not have been part of the original massacre.

Western Mail, 17 September 1904 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3767552

Western Mail, 17 September 1904 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3767552

When we lived in Papua in the 1970s, 70 years later, there were patrol officers who had encountered tribes meeting their first white men, and where cannibalism still occasionally occurred. From the local side they felt betrayed by what had initially seemed like a positive interaction with the Europeans. In short, a major conflict of culture and loss of judgement, with consequent loss of life.

Discussions around the event were very much focused on Australia’s image, and the need to see it as not condoning the hapless killing of the very people under its protection.

Christopher Robinson’s body was returned to Australia on board a boat accompanied by a missionary Mr Jekyll, who had been present at the killings, a coincidence which seems quite ironic to me.

The mystery of why the “miners” blamed the missionaries remains unknown, as does the question of why the memorial to Christopher Robinson is on Samarai Island many miles from where the “Goaribari incident” occurred, but, also ironically, not far from Killerton Island where missionaries had been cannibalised. It’s also ironic that it remains on an island which is now entirely settled by local Milne Bay people yet they tolerate its presence.

The full story behind this event would merit further investigation as well.

Some Further Reading

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld) 23 June 1904

The Register (Adelaide, SA ), 24 June 1904.

Kalgoorlie Miner 5 May 1904

The Register (Adelaide, SA) 14 September 1904 “The Merrie England began it”.

The Mercury (Hobart) 14 September 1904

Home again

In case you’ve been wondering why my responses to comments have been a bit slow lately it’s because we’ve been having a great adventure: our first return to Papua New Guinea since we left in August 1978.

We had an absolutely fantastic time and met lots of people including some who knew Mr Cassmob’s parents or his brother and one lady who he knew on Samarai.

We spent most of our time in Alotau in the Milne Bay Province which I wrote about back in the alphabet series in April here. It was such fun we’re wondering why we haven’t been back before.

I’ll be sharing some of the stories and photos soon on this blog or on Tropical Territory 

but for now I just wanted to say I’m back in Darwin and looking forward to catching up on other people’s blog writing from the past couple of weeks.

Talk soon.

Pauleen

Mapping family places in Papua New Guinea

I’ve been talking about a few places in Papua New Guinea as part of the A to Z challenge but not making allowance that their location is probably all “Double Dutch” to most people. For those who are interested this is a tailored map from Google of the places I’ve mentioned plus a few more. You can click on each blue pin to see what it says, drag the map right or left, or click on “View Larger Map” on the bottom to enlarge it.

P presents Popondetta, Port Moresby and Peel Island

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). Today we have a guest post from Mr Cassmob on Popondetta, a place I’ve never visited. I divert into a sort of pathetic poetry on Port Moresby, and tell of tragedy on Peel Island.

P is for POPONDETTA (Papua New Guinea)

Mr Cassmob as a small boy with his Dad and big sister in Popondetta outside house #2. © Les Cass 1954.

This guest post is brought to you by Mr Cassmob who lived in Popondetta as a small boy.

Popondetta, capital of the Oro Province of Paua New Guinea, sits on the north Papuan plains, between Buna and Gona on the coast and Kokoda in the mountains; the area was the scene of vicious fighting when the Japanese invaded in the Second World War. In 1953, when Mr Cassmob’s parents, both teachers, arrived with their two small children, Popondetta was a very small town being established as the new administrative headquarters of the Northern District. Nearby Mt Lamington had erupted in January 1951, killing about 5,000 people and destroying the previous township at Higaturu.

Our first house in Popondetta had a coconut frond thatched roof, woven pit-pit (local cane/grass) walls and split bamboo floor, shutters, palm rats and a carpet snake in the rafters, and a long-drop toilet or thunder-box outside the back door. We thought we were the bee’s knees when we moved into our third house, a brand-new wooden high-set with louvres, internal doors, and an inside flush toilet attached to a septic tank. On the concrete slab under the house – very much our outdoor living area – Mum and Dad installed a cane-furniture bar complete with illuminated sign that said “Cass Bar”. For those who remember 1950s movies about Morocco, they greatly enjoyed saying ”Come wiz me to ze Cass Bar”.

School children, Northern District c1954 © Les Cass. Mould is what you get on your slides in the tropics!

I have happy memories of three years in Popondetta. It was, quite clearly, a colonial experience, but children could go anywhere in town, spending all day at the pool until dark drove us home; seeing flying foxes in columns half a kilometre wide and stretching from horizon to horizon pouring out of the jungle at dusk; checking Mt Lamington every morning to see if it was still smoking – if not, it might be trouble! Officially starting school flowed naturally from home because our mother was our teacher. The air link to Port Moresby (no roads) was through the Kokoda Gap in the Owen Stanley Ranges in a war-service Avro Anson flown by Papuan Air Transport. The Dutch pilot completed his flight preparations by walking out onto the tarmac, squinting at the clouds over the ranges and saying “Looks OK. We’ll have a go.”

I was saddened this morning to look at Popondetta on Google and see reports of raskol gangs, gambling, cyclone damage – in short, a town in collapse with no great reason for anyone to go there. Here are some recent insights into Popondetta life these days: Stranded in Popondetta and  SteveinPNG (unbelievable prices for betel nut).

P is for PORT MORESBY (PNG)

Poetry isn’t normally my thing, but for a change of pace I thought I’d present my impressions of (Port) Moresby in a different way.

At Jacksons Airport, Mr Cassmob's parents leave PNG after 23 years service (called "going finish") © P Cass 1976.


MEMORIES OF MORESBY

Bereft of family and friends

arriving at Jacksons Airport

humid heat slams like a truck

ground staff in lap-laps

a sea of different faces.

Betel nut sellers Port Moresby © P Cass 1974.

People sit around town

lime bags at their feet

mixed with betel nut to chew

mouths turn bright red with

blood-red globs of spit.

Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach, Port Moresby. © P Cass 1975

Cathedral with indigenous art

becomes my refuge

a bastion of familiarity

flee, fly to Alotau and

our new home.

Returning to Moresby years later

we learn its other faces

children, jobs, a different life

Family and friends sit on the fence, Variarata. © P Cass 1975.

new friends, old friends

Gerehu greetings.

Ela Beach swimming, picnics

take the dog, leave the cat

adventures at Variarata

family photos on a fence.

At Christmas in Moresby

Santa arrives by plane or fire engine

Gerehuligans gather together,

a new tradition.

The Prince and the Bishop at a loss for words.on Independence. © P Cass 1975.

Independence for PNG arrives at last

watch the visitors, princes and chiefs

lower the old flag, raise the new,

commemorate our contribution

celebrate the start of a new country.

P is for PEEL ISLAND (Queensland)

It is late 1876 and a husband, his young wife and infant child set forth on the 869 ton Woodlark for the long voyage to Queensland. He is bred to the sea, but she is not. The voyage passes uneventfully thanks to the care and attention paid to the emigrants, and the cleanliness of their persons, berths and clothes[i]. The ship’s arrival in Moreton Bay is announced by the newspapers in January 1877. Among the 295 immigrants on board is a suspected case of enteric fever, also known as typhoid fever.  The ship is not granted pratique and the immigrants and other passengers are detained while those who are ill are placed in quarantine.

After a week most of the passengers were brought up to Brisbane but the case of a young woman remained doubtful. Six weeks later the young woman dies on Peel Island, in quarantine, but not of an infectious illness. The question has to be asked whether if she had been brought into the hospital she might have survived. There is some consolation in knowing her husband was with her throughout but her younger brother had probably been sent ashore previously. How did they write to tell her father the terrible news of his daughter’s death?

Janet Melvin nee Peterkin was barely 22 years old and she was my great-grandfather’s first wife.

For today’s A to Z challenge link, why not pop over to Stephen Tremp’s intriguing posts on astrological matters or Like a bump on a blog on blogging tips.

A feisty blog from someone living in PNG now is A Goddess in the Jungle, interesting insights into today’s expat lifestyle.


[i] Letter to the Editor, The Brisbane Courier, 25 January 1877, page 3.

K is captivated by Kathmandu, Kildare and Kavieng

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). Today’s “K” post mixes long-ago family history with recent family history and travelogue.

K is for Kathmandu (Nepal)

Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

Kathmandu was on my husband’s bucket list long before the expression had been invented. When friends and colleagues from Port Moresby got a posting to Kathmandu to work at the airport, he was quick to take advantage of their offer of a visit….something we’d have been unlikely to do otherwise with a six year old and a four year old in tow. We tacked the detour onto the kids’ first trip to Europe and as the plane came into land amidst lightning and murky wet season weather, we were very pleased to know our friend was in charge of the airport’s electrical systems.

What a fascinating place Kathmandu was, not on the 1970s hippie trail, but as parents with small children. Our friends made it so much easier being able to have good accommodation, safe food and triply-distilled water. All of us were overwhelmed by our couple of days in New Delhi with its crowds, begging and understandable confrontational style. Our main regret is that jet lag and culture shock meant we didn’t have the energy to do a day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal as we’d hoped.

Kathmandu craftsmen -tinsmiths or silversmiths (I can't recall) © P Cass 1977.

Life tough for the Nepali people but they seemed somehow more happy and less aggressive, and mostly we enjoyed Kathmandu. Leprosy and deformities were rife: confronting sights even for those accustomed to life in Papua New Guinea and not a first world country.

Pashupatinath Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

The sights and memories are many: the little cubbyholes in which people worked at tin or silver smithing, or sari-making; Durba Square; the toothache shrine, the nearby smell unbelievable; a man reading the newspaper to a crowd of men sitting on the steps; the sacred cows everywhere on the road; the  monks and faithful spinning the prayer wheels at Boudhanath or Swayambunath; monkeys in Pashupatinatheven seeing a cremation by the river there. Our friends encouraged us to let the children watch and they seemed quite mesmerised and not at all traumatised by it.

The Himalaya from the air: meringue mountains. © P Cass 1977

Our friend’s work took him to various outstations and we were able to travel with him in the truck to sightsee. I clearly remember driving through a village where the grain was laid out in the street to be threshed by the passing vehicles running over it. Far too often for my liking the vehicle was far too close to the precipitous edge of a road due the narrowness, not the driving.

We even managed a tourist flight to Mt Everest despite bad weather cancelling our first planned flight. Special memories of a truly unusual place and one we were privileged to visit.

K is for County Kildare (Ireland)

Ballymore Eustace Catholic Church, Co Kildare © P Cass 1992

My Denis Gavin, who you’ve heard about lately, says he was from Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. Mind you he’s also stated on his second marriage certificate that he was born in Dublin. On his immigration record[i] he said that his parents were Denis and Mary Gavin, that his father was dead but his mother was in Kildare. You can see there’s some ambiguity here for family history research.

Nearly 20 years ago I tried to resolve this problem by visiting the parish church at Ballymore Eustace looking for his baptism circa 1834 (his age maths tends to be a bit arbitrary), but got no results. I thought I’d struck it lucky when I found a Denis Gavin listed on the Griffith Valuations and with a probate entry, but apparently not. That particular Denis Gavin was a single man with no family other than a sister to whom he left his estate. I keep checking the indexes (IrishGenealogy.ie or RootsIreland.ie) but to no avail.

Where does this leave me? All these years later I’m still uncertain as to whether Denis came from Co Kildare or Co Dublin or where his family had lived. I’m not quite willing to call it a brick wall but it is something of a commando-standard challenge. Perhaps I’m too close to it and can no longer see the genealogical woods for the family history forest.

K is for Kavieng (Papua New Guinea)

Legur Beach, Kavieng © P Cass 1973

Kavieng, New Ireland Province, is where my husband’s parents lived in the early 1970s.  I’ve talked about how we swapped our fresh veg for their fresh crayfish, a winning exchange in my book. We visited them for a long weekend (possibly Easter) and enjoyed being able to swim in the sea after a few years in the Highlands, though it was a long walk out over the crushed coral to get far enough into the water to swim. Neither of us has many memories of the place, other than that it was quite flat, with a lot of coconut plantations and we saw war-time wreckage and bomb craters as we flew in. Mr Cassmob’s comment when asked for inspiration: Em tasol – sori long lusim tingting (Pidgin for that’s all, sorry I can’t remember).

K is for Korea

McDonald's Corner at the start of the Kokoda Track © P Cass 1976.

My father’s cousin went missing in action in Korea, aged 22. His family were devastated and over the years continued to try to learn more about what happened to him. I told his storylast year in an Anzac Day blog post. If anyone reading this post is related to his friends on his final patrol I’d love to hear from you.

K is for Kokoda Track or Trail (Papua New Guinea)

The Kokoda Track/Trail[ii]was a pivotal battleground of World War II in PNG and is now something of a pilgrimage site for Australians. When we went to Papua New Guinea soon after being married, my husband took me for a drive out of Port Moresby to Sogeri, where he’d lived for a while, and McDonald’s Corner, the southern gateway to the Track. I found it quite sobering to stand at a place which had become famous in Australian folklore.

A to Z Challenge suggestions:

You might fancy a dip into Italy with Lady Reader’s Bookstuff or Someone has to say it on intellectual property rights for books or a heartfelt post by A Common Sea.


[i] NSW Board Immigrant’s Lists for Fortune 1855, microfilm 2469.

[ii] The terminology has been hotly debated. The Australian War Memorial explains it here.

A is for Ardkinglas in Argyll, and Alotau (Papua New Guinea).

 Let me explain my plan for the A-Z blogging theme for April. Given that family history is my focus generally, there are a number of paths I could have taken. I’ve opted to use each letter to highlight a place/places of some ancestral significance. Hopefully they’ll also be interesting from a travel point of view. I’ll try to keep them relatively short on words (good luck with that!), and where possible, illustrate them with photos. Where I’m defeated by a particular letter (eg X), I may write about a place I’ve visited. (X still has me stumped). I’m already behind the eight ball having just learned about the challenge so I’ll do two tomorrow to catch up.

A is for Ardkinglas in Argyll, and Alotau (Papua New Guinea).

Ardkinglas on Loch Fyne.

Ardkinglas is an estate in Argyllshire, Scotland. Technically Argyll is in the Highlands but very close, by sea, to the metropolis of Glasgow. In this way eastern Argyll bridged the cultural divide with the Lowlands as in the mid-19th century more and more Scots found their way to Glasgow to look for work as their traditional rural roles disappeared. My McCorkindale ancestors lived on the Ardkinglas estate for many years as evidenced by the census returns. However don’t begin to imagine my family offers a re-run of Monarch of the Glen, despite its physical similarity. Unfortunately my family, like most other Scottish emigrants, were labourers or workmen on the estate, not the laird.

The sixpenny gatehouse for Ardkinglas estate.

Not only that, the current “pile” is not the one that James McCorkindale knew when he worked as a sawyer on the estate in his younger years. As he aged he seems to have become more of a general labourer and in old age, the census reports him living in the sixpenny gate house at the entrance to the estate. Ardkinglas offers one of Scotland’s beautiful gardens with magnificent conifers from around the world and a fantastic array of Rhododendrons. It’s a delight to wander around even in chilly weather but absolutely gorgeous in spring. My husband has just learned to his peril that they now have accommodation available in the old butler’s quarters….he’s so in trouble now.

Alotau is the headquarters, albeit a small town, in the Milne Bay district of Papua New Guinea. It’s family history links are modern rather than historic, with three generations of our family having lived there. You can read about my in-laws’ contributions to Papua New Guinea here and here.

When I went to Alotau as a young bride it had only recently taken over the role of district headquarters from the island settlement of Samarai, another site of family history heritage of which my husband has many fond memories. We had radio telephones, slow combustion stoves, 18 hour power, and more red clay than you’d care to see in your washing. Most of our groceries came in from Samarai or Port Moresby, and the pilot’s success at landing depended on the weather. You can read about my 1st Papua New Guinea Christmas here.

The airstrip for Alotau is some miles away at Gurney, the site of a major World War II Australian base. The Battle of Milne Bay in 1942 was pivotal in turning the tide of the Japanese advance. While less well known than Kokoda it was arguably even more important in the overall scheme of the war’s outcome, as it was the first time the Japanese military had experienced defeat. Milne Bay is U-shaped, and in the Wet Season the cloud descends over the surrounding mountains obscuring everything until you can barely see further than 20 metres away and keeping aircraft from landing –very inconvenient.  It’s unforgiving flying country which challenges all a pilot’s skills. One plane crash, soon after I arrived, killed a young family who we knew, as well as others[i]. The sound of choppers and planes searching through the clouds and mist for a downed aircraft is an eerie and sobering one. My husband was the last person to see this plane take off and I had farewelled some who had stayed at Glyn Wort’s guesthouse (where I worked) that morning. It’s surprising that the incident was not more well-known among his colleagues.

My Alotau memories are quite shell-shocked, having come from a familiar urban environment to a very different environment, but within the year it felt like home. I’ve always wanted to revisit Milne Bay to refresh my memories.


[i] Also see http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/the-kiaps-honour-roll.html. The plane had reportedly stalled the day before when another kiap (later murdered) was on the flight.  In PNG, we lived with the philosophy that “when your number’s up, your number’s up”.

Week 2 of Sharing Memories 2012: First flight(s)

OliveTree Genealogy is celebrating the 3rd year of Sharing Memories – A Genealogy Journey with the goal of writing our memoirs and childhood memories for our descendants. The topic for Week 2 is “First flight”.

This seems like such a simple question doesn’t it, yet for me there were three flights that fitted this description. As this theme is intended as a memoir for my descendants I’m going to take some authorial licence and write about each of my first flights.

One of my first occurrences in the bureaucratic record as a married woman was my entry permit to the Territory of Papua New Guinea. This is the second one that was issued to me.

When I was at university a friend was in the Air Force cadets and as part of his training he’d been taught to fly. For some reason he invited me to take an early flight with him from Brisbane’s general-aircraft airport at Archerfield. This was the first time I’d ever flown and it was fabulous to be up in the air and see the world from above (Thanks Matt!). I don’t remember being scared at all as I’d always had a fascination with flying perhaps attributable to my mother’s enthusiasm – she’d been a volunteer aircraft spotter in Brisbane during the War.

A few years later I took my first “real” commercial flight. We had been married less than two weeks and were heading to the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea where my husband had lived for many years and was just starting work with the government. Leaving Brisbane where I’d grown up meant leaving behind my family and many close uni friends so there was lots to be sad about, as well as excited about the life ahead. I remember there were many tears on all sides at that departure as we knew it would be likely be two years before I’d see them again. When I think about my ancestors setting sail from Ireland, England, Scotland and Germany, never to see their families again, my paltry two year absence is quite miniscule and irrelevant. But it wasn’t for me or my family. To my parents’ great credit they did not place pressure on me at this very difficult time of separation even though I know how much it cost them.

My hubbie's baggage tag from our first flight to my new home in TPNG. We flew in a Patair Piaggio: six seater from memory.

In those pre-security days Brisbane airport was just fenced and farewelling friends could stand at the fences to wave goodbye as those departing walked across the tarmac. I recall one of our very good male friends standing at the fence with two of my closest girlfriends draped on his neck, having a really good cry. I was no better and shed more than a few tears. For my husband, this was like taking a bus trip across town as he’d been doing the same flight a couple of times a year for about 15 years. As we disembarked at Jackson’s Airport in Port Moresby my first impressions were the wall of tropical heat and the ground crew with dark faces and curly hair and dressed in lap-laps or sulus with the initials of TAA down the side. My life had irrevocably changed in a few short hours. I had left my familiar life and family behind to start a new life…perhaps a tiny glimpse of life as an immigrant. It’s not the thrill of flying that I remember from that first commercial flight but the all-encompassing emotional rollercoaster.

This little book is my student pilot's licence. Currently in my archives, I hope it survives into the future.

By the time I took my final “first flight”, I’d notched up many hours on commercial flights in an array of aircraft. I’d had an urge to learn to fly for some time and as I headed into my 30th year, my husband decided it was time for me to take the plunge. I remember in my first lesson being inundated with diverse technical information before taking to the air. Do you remember when you first learned to drive and you struggled to assimilate all the skills required of you? Learning to fly was like that…I couldn’t begin to imagine how I would manage the controls, radio the tower and watch the skies, let alone get that little Grumman Tiger (code-sign VH-SPG) into the air or down to earth again safely. I vividly remember watching from mid-flight as an early Qantas jumbo took off into Moresby’s skies with effortless ease like a pelican getting airborne.  Although I enjoyed learning the skills and feeling slowly more competent, I eventually reached the conclusion that I would never be a natural pilot and gave up my lessons when I was pregnant. I have no regrets about giving it away, I was pleased I’d given it a go, but I don’t think I ever felt sufficiently confident or competent to be a good pilot. The 3D world is an unforgiving space as Papua New Guinea’s flying history testifies.