A Moderately Indulgent Life

This is a draft of a memoir.  Originally imagined to be a reflection on my life through the senses of smell, touch, hear, taste and seeing it kinda morphed into:

1 Running, Jumping, Standing Still, 2 Hunting and Gathering, 3 Aural Gluttony, 4 Silence is Golden, 5 Touchy Feeley, 6 Smelly, 7 Vistas, 8 Songlines, 9 Work and Leisure, 10 Politics and Philosophy

Running, Jumping, Standing Still


At best I would describe myself as an enthusiastic sportsman.  From a very early age I loved sport and physical activity, but I was never more than mediocre at anything.  In fact, I perversely took pride in my mediocrity.


For years I kept the newspaper clipping from the state swimming carnival held at the North Sydney Baths.  Appropriately, the baths are no more than a good cricket ball throw away from the grinning face at the entrance to Luna Park.  Well, not my throw.  My sister could probably have thrown that far, but not I.  Anyway, mine was a stunning performance in the final heat of the 100 yard butterfly (pre metric in those days of the late 1950’s.).  Most people would have thought that it was a typographical error which recorded that my time in winning that heat was twice the time of the winners of every other of the seven heats.  No, no error.   Fortunately there was no report on the degree to which I struggled to stay afloat and flail my way for the two lengths of the pool.


Then there was the regional athletics carnival held at the Sports Ground (what has since been replaced by the Sydney Football Stadium) and the Sydney Cricket Ground.  My cousin Dianne Coggan was a genuine athlete.  A runner, coached by Betty Cuthbert, the recently retired Commonwealth Games and Olympic champion, Dianne was serious.  I discovered tobacco around the age of 15, so was never going to have the “wind” to seriously compete.


At our school athletic carnival when in year 11, I had surprised everyone except myself when I finished in the top three in both the 110 yards and 220 yards sprints.  I had always fancied myself as a sprinter.  At Vaucluse Primary School, there was just one class per year and therefore this big fish in a very small pond was the fastest boy in the class.  I was also a very big boy.  At primary school there were 5 stone 7 lb and a 6 stone 7 lb rugby league teams.  By the time I reached year 6, I was already over 6 stone 7 lb and could only play when there were no weight scales at the ground and they could “ring” me in.  I was big, fast and strong.  I could sprint when in clear space, I could also drag two or three tacklers many meters and I could hand off the ball to team mates when under pressure.  I drove all the coaches mad because I preferred to play rugby union.


More of rugby later.   Back to athletics.


Being big, it took me around 80 yards to get to full speed.  In the final of the 110 yards race, I reached top speed 30 yards from the finishing tape and flashed into 2nd place behind the school champion Hal Hermann.   I know it’s hard to believer but there was a time when two people held a tape stretched at chest height across the finish line and the winner was determined by judging who’s body touched the tape first.   In the final of the 220 yard race, I powered on at 80 yards, took the lead at the 200 yard mark and died over the last 20 yards.  Nicotine constituted 50% of my sweat and my lungs were in danger of exploding.  I finished third; again to Hal Hermann.  I crossed the line, did a right hand turn and continued running into the toilet where I threw up.


When it came time to select representatives for the school in the regional championships, it was decided that as I had done so well in the sprints but only the first place runners could compete, I would represent the school in the discus and javelin.  Neither Doody Wiggins or myself had ever thrown either a discus or javelin.  We were both big strong kids, approaching 17 years old.  Neither of us was particularly bright.  Neither of us considered that two weeks training in “field” events was insufficient to compete at an elite level.  Doody finished last in the discus and second last in the javelin.  I finished last in the javelin and second last in the discus.  Actually, Doody was a bright kid, but more of that later.


When it came to a decision between rugby league or rugby union, there really was no contest.  I ended up playing both; but only one with any real enjoyment.  My uncle Kevin was a great rugby union player.  He played 148 1st Grade games for Eastern Suburbs in the 50’s and 60’s.  He was a Waratah playing 2 games in 1952 and 1953 scoring a try in one game.  He played for Sydney in one of the first games against the Fijians, and was selected to tour South Africa with the 1953 Wallabies.  In those days when Rugby Union was amateur, he had to decide between going on an unpaid tour or marrying Aunty June.  When he withdrew from the Wallabies, his arch rival Peter Johnson was chosen instead.  In those days, the contest for the ball in the scrum was furious.  Peter Johnson and Ken Catchpole were the Randwick and Australian combination of Hooker and Halfback.  Uncle Kevin was never selected again.  He played out his career at Easts in bloody confrontations with his brother Don (Sydney University and Eastwood), Peter Johnson and anyone who played for Gordon.  As a country sales representative he was on the road most weeks and eventually had to retire just two games short of the major 150 game milestone.


My father Bruce was from Melbourne and while his sports had been tennis, golf, sailing, lacrosse and Aussie rules football (the Demons were his team), exposure to Uncle Kevin had made him a passionate convert to Rugby.  So was I. At a very early age I was taken to the Saturday fixtures at Woollahra Oval.  I even have an early memory of Uncle Kevin taking me to Sydney University Oval for one of his games.  All I really remember is driving through the Carillon Ave gates in his car with a blanket over the front bench seat (cars rarely had bucket seats in those days).  On the seat between us was a radio made of brown bakelite with two hinged doors that when opened switched the radio on.  It was about the size of a champagne bottle box, so must have been an early version of the transistor radio.  I also remember that the ground, like all rugby grounds was surrounded by a hessian fence.  The hessian was strung on wire, stored  in boxes every 50 meters or so and on game day strung out around the ground.  Being amateur, money was scarce and the game was screened off from the public.  At Sydney University, there were brick ticket boxes and turnstiles.  As sophisticated as the Cricket Ground.  The ticket boxes are still there today, stacked with corner posts and goal post pads, reduced to storage facilities.


It was also an era when women played very little organised team sport.  They were to be found spectating.  The absolute best looking women were at the rugby.  All dressed up and made up.  Sydney University versus Easts was a smorgasboard.


It wasn’t just that I came from a Rugby family that drew me to Union over League.  The main factor was that Rugby was a weight based game while rugby was aged based.  By the time I started at Vaucluse Boys High School, I was as big as boys two years older than I and only eligible for the 8 stone 7 lb teams.  I remember the sports master Mr Gill setting up the antipodean version of a sauna in the storeroom adjoining his office on the main assembly quadrangle.  Here he had heaters to raise the temperature into the high 30’s and we boys who were within a pound or so of making the correct weight would don army greatcoats and sweat off the weight on game day (Wednesdays).


For two or three years in high school, I always had to play with boys who were my size but so much older and emotionally and physically tougher.  In the front row, there were head clashes.  Deliberate head clashes as we testosterone driven deer fought with our antlers.  I had heavily padded head gear to survive.  We also played against the toughest kids from the all the other eastern, southern and inner west schools of Sydney, and many regarded it as an opportunity to beat-up the soft eastern suburbs boys.  Petersham were only on the field for the fighting and football was secondary.


Most of the Watson’s Bay boys were league players.  Mr Wolfe and his son Peter were fanatical leaguies, and provided coaching for all the weekend teams in the Watsons Bay and Vaucluse area.  They always had their eye on me.  They figured I would always attract two or three defenders because of my size and speed and coupled with my ability to pass the ball even when in the grasp of the tackle, I was a natural.  The only thing I lacked was ticker.  If truth be told, I wasn’t particularly fond of pain.  I didn’t have a problem with catching, passing, running and kicking, but front on tackling was never a skill that came naturally.  It invariable involved pain.  In those days, front on tackling was never a skill taught in Rugby Union.  It’s a strange thing that I had no problem in being tackled.  I could brace myself and allow two or three players to hit me and still maintain my feet and drive forward, but having to put myself into the position of being run over or having to dive and make a tackle that would remove all the skin from my hip to my knee was a real problem.  I spent weeks every season with a weeping scabby graze that would generate so much pain when I took the top off in making another tackle, that I became expert in avoiding any field position that would necessitate me having to tackle.


What I lacked in substance I made up for in style.  From a very early age, I adopted a number of rituals.  I was always the last player to run on the field (David Campese adopted this affectation many years after I ceased playing).  When challenged by any other player who wanted to run on last I always responded’ “last on first off”.  I always had polished boots and I laced on my boots with 2 meter long linen tape that was always freshly washed and ironed.  I would wrap the tape around under the boot and then loop around the heel and back to loop through the horizontal to then pull down back under the foot and back to the top to tie, which would lock the boot onto my foot so tight that it could never come off in a tackle.


So, it was rugby league every Wednesday at school and rugby union every Saturday.  Dad and Uncle Norm (Wilson) assembled a team to play every Saturday.  I don’t remember anyone coaching us, but I do remember Dad and Norm scrounging together 15 players every Saturday and organising transport.  I remember playing in Eastern Suburbs/Randwick rep. teams at state carnivals; getting walloped by Manly by 50 points in the days when a try was only worth 3 points.  We lost a lot.  Amazingly, I was at a loss at the end of every season and couldn’t wait for the next one to start.


In between two competition games per week, we played touch football on the lawnie every day after school and for hours on Sunday afternoon.  We couldn’t get enough football.


The lawnie was the park in Cove St., just 20 meters down from our house.  Two giant Moreton Bay Fig Trees and a set of swings took up a third of the space on the left hand side and a row of shrubs surrounded by mesh cages down the right hand side.  In summer, the mesh cage around one of the shrubs served as a wicket and we played cricket.  I couldn’t bowl or bat, got bored easily in the field after around 3 minutes, and consequently have few memories of any summer fun at the lawnie.  Dave Gibson went on to play grade cricket and it became such a passion that when he won the lottery in his fifties, and never having married he spent much of it on his beloved Waverly Cricket Club.


I had many fond memories of playing touch at the lawnie.  A crowd of us boys would spend hours playing a strategic game of touch, working the ball backwards and forwards and manipulating a gap between the defence and the nail and charcoal strewn patch in the centre of the lawnie.  This was the hearth of our annual bonfire.  On the Empire Day weekend in May, we would have a massive bonfire.  For months before hand, we would collect branches in the forest between Cliff St. and the army barracks on South Head.  We also collected driftwood and anything else flammable and stored them in backyards around the neighbourhood.  As the week before bonfire night approached, we would add to the bonfire till on the eve it was the biggest in Sydney.  The core was always the heavy timber and the bulk eventually made up of the fronds from the palm trees that lined the path down the middle of MacRobertson Park.


Eventually the bonfires became so big that the fire brigade would arrive late afternoon and hose it down before we could even light it.  Our response was to dress one of the boys up as Guy Faulkes, and pull him around the street in a billy cart to collect money.  Then it was off to the service station to buy petrol to pour on the bonfire and counteract the water.  We had no idea who Guy Faulkes was, he was just a dress up character synonymous with cracker night.  Later we learnt that he was a man who had tried to blow up the British House of Parliament.  Australian’s being on the side of the underdog or anti-establishment, had adopted him.


Dinner was so hard to endure as we just wanted to be off down to the park for the lighting of the ‘bonnie’.  I don’t think I ever made it.  Someone always had it lit before mum and dad allowed us out to the front of the house with our boxes and bags of fireworks.  While it seemed that every other kid in the neighbourhood was allowed to run riot all night, throwing bungers at each other and generally terrorising the neighbourhood, I was firmly under my parents control.  Restricted to the street in front of the house, dad would set up the skyrockets and various roman candles.  Minimal explosives and lots of pretty show.  A bunger was about the largest explosive I was allowed; certainly not the double bungers or black and red monsters that it seemed every other kid had.  There wasn’t a lot of them either, so we would unpick sheets of ‘tom thumbs’, to set them off individually rather than as they were designed.  A sheet of tom thumbs would jump around the street as the wicks burnt down and each tom thumb went off individually.  A single tom thumb could even be held by the tips of two fingers to let off, with minimal damage to the fingers and only the occasional burn.  Little did we know that across the city boys were blinding themselves and damaging their fingers as they fired rockets at each other, threw bungers indiscriminately and generally took risks with what were basically explosives.  Eventually the government banned the bonfires because of the week of pollution that followed, and then the fireworks themselves.


What it meant to the lawnie was that the bonfire took two to three weeks to finally burn itself out.  The council probably took a few more weeks before they came to clear away the remnants of charcoal and bits of nails and metal that had fallen out of the timber.  Touch was played around and occasionally through this smouldering ash strewn circle in the middle of the lawnie.  We never wore shoes in the 50’s and 60’s, unless we were at school.  Touch was played in bare feet that became tougher and tougher.  A side step and two long strides could carry you through the middle of the rubble and off to score at the other end of the park.


I had a great side step from either foot, and I was fast.  I loved playing touch.  I could have played it all year. When I revisited the lawnie in my 50’s I was surprised at how much the park had shrunk.  The Moreton Bay Figs had always been big, but now they are so massive that the council has had to install posts under the main branches to keep them from collapsing.  The two trees must have always taken up a third of the park, but now it seems like half the park.  As the park is only around 50 meters square, we must have been playing touch on a field that was only 20m wide by 50m long.  How in the hell had we ever managed to score a try playing on such a small field?  Who was it that had played?  There was Robbie (Basha) McGann, Robert Newton, Greg and Peter Blake, Dave Gibson and myself.  Occasionally there might be Peter or Dave Abbott, but being Waverly College boys, they weren’t home from school till late in the day.  So, those titanic struggles were often just three on three. No wonder we developed great ball handling and support skills; we were always either carrying the ball, passing it or receiving it.


Those Moreton Bay Fig trees also had a big role to play in our lives.  By the time I moved to the Bay at 6 years of age, there was already a rope tied onto a branch way up high and an old car tyre attached to the end around two meters up from the ground, with a rope tail that reached the ground.  The older boys, and there was a wild group around five years older than us, would climb out along the branch that is parallel with the ground.  That’s the branch that today is supported by a post.  It is around three meters from the ground (to the top of the branch) and extends around 20 meters out from the trunk.  Once in position, someone on the ground would grab the tail and walk it across to the boy on the branch.  He would stand and climb into the tyre and then let go, swinging wide across the ground.  We graduated to this swing by the time that the older boys had moved on to brawling and daring each other to jump the blowhole at the Gap. We never made a similar transition when we reached our late teens.   We also used to cut notches in the bark of the tree trunks to milk the sap for chewing gum.  It tasted nothing like Wrigleys, but the gum if left to set for a week or so at least had the consistency of chewing gum.  The taste was quite bitter; but that’s for another chapter.


We’ve already established that I wasn’t much of a swimmer.  In fact, butterfly would have been my worst stroke.  I had been taught to swim by an ex Olympic coach Alf Vokler at the Watson’s Bay baths.  They’re still there today. Weed and shellfish encrusted bars formed a rectangular  swimming pool.  A timber deck above the bars provided a walkway around the pool and at low tide this was probable (and still is) 2 to 3 meters above the water.  Alf would strap a harness around my waist.  This was attached to a rope.  I would climb down a ladder into the water, feel the kelp brushing my feet and descend into the depths of fear and terror.  Meanwhile Alf would instruct me to let go of the ladder and swim the 15 meters or so to the next ladder.  I’d ignore him.  He’d insist.  I’d cling to the ladder.  With the rope, he’d drag me off the ladder.  In shear terror I’d attempt to flail to the next ladder.  In time Alf decided I was a waste of his time and Mum that it was a waste of her money.  She bought me a set of fins instead, and with the added buoyancy that came from kicking and actually moving across the surface of the water, I learnt to swim.


My sister Lesley was an asthmatic, and at some point toward the end of primary school, mum and dad decided that swimming would help Lesley and we should therefore swim competitively.  I can’t remember how many years we swam at the Bondi pool.  All I really remember were the memorable days when the surf was so big that it broke over the wall of the pool and made every race like a competition in a washing machine.


I loved being in the water, but just to muck around.  I spent hours every afternoon and all weekends in the water at Camp Cove.  Just mucking around.


Come summer at school, I’d spent years playing house cricket.  Basically everyone who couldn’t play cricket, would form teams to represent their “house”.  I believe mine was Phillip (after Captain Arthur Phillip).  For someone who was easily bored playing cricket, wicket keeping seemed like a position where you were at least always handling the ball and part of the action.  I couldn’t bowl or bat, had no sort of throwing arm, but how hard could it be to catch a ball when wearing gloves?  I had difficulty sitting behind the nets at lunchtime while my mates practiced their bowling.  I flinched at every ball, unable to convince my brain that there was a net between me and the ball.


I only had one memorable experience playing cricket.  Playing house cricket on what’s now the Colleagues Rugby Ground beside Woollahra Oval, some idiot actually hooked the ball.  Now that sort of stroke in House Cricket was unheard of.  I was only fielding 15 meters or so from the batsman.  The ball came like a rocket; so fast that in my attempt at self defence, I caught the ball with a combination of hands and stomach.  I asked if I could field at Long Stop in future.


Thank god I was finally saved from having to play cricket by the introduction of Water Polo to school sport.  Now this was serious mucking about in the water.  All my mates were in the team, we got to travel to schools all around the harbour and training also involved mucking around in the water.  The only down side was that a large part of training involved kicking my legs and attempting to keep my upper body out of the water up to my waist.


Most of the players for us and all the other schools we played were competition swimmers, but hey, water polo wasn’t about being the fastest.  It was about ball control and teamwork.  It was also about stamina and staying on the surface.  I had little stamina and spent most of the time being dunked and struggling to avoid drowning.   I was only used off the bench when we were either getting well and truly beaten or so far in front that we could afford to play virtually one short.  Nevertheless, I still loved being part of the action.


Slightly more serious mucking about in the water was how I experienced sailing.  Actually it began with just mucking around in the water.  The path that runs diagonally across Robertson Park used to be lined with palm trees.  As the outer fronds died and dried out, they would droop and hang down the trunk.  A strong wind would bring dozens of them down on the ground.  We would take them down to McGann’s  boatshed where we used a saw to cut off the fronds from the stump.  They always looked like the old sailing ships with a very high stern and a long pointy bow.  We would slip a piece of wood into the bottom to act as a keel, a piece of straight driftwood for a mast and then some stiff cardboard with a slot top and bottom to slide down over the mast, like an old square sail.  We would sail these across the bay in front of Doyles, and on occasions if the wind shifted, they would set sail up the harbour.  Never to be seen again.


Toward the end of primary school, dad built us a sabot.  There are still a few sabots sailing in Sydney today, but back in the early 60’s, there were large fleets of these training skiffs.  The Vaucluse 12ft Sailing Club was one of the first to introduce these boats to Australia.  They were only about 8ft long, had just the one main sail and a blunt bow.   No buoyancy tanks as this was really controversial.  When you capsized, that was it.  The time taken for a club launch to come along side, turn the boat vertical and drag it bow first out of the water to drain the water over the stern and refloat was such that you would never get back in the race.  Buoyancy tanks were seen to be not really skiff sailing and it was well into the sixties before they even allowed them in the evolving 12’, 16’ and 18’ skiffs.


Dad had to wait some time for the “mold” to become available.  This was a timber model of the boat that the frame of the boat was built around.  At that time, our home at 23 Cove St. Watsons Bay consisted of the original cottage and workshop built by my great grandfather Tom Coggan.  Tom was born in Bristol in 1865.  He learnt his trade with his father and uncles.  They were painters who specialised in painting timber to look like marble and all sorts of decorative and advertising painting.  He married a catholic girl (Mary Josephine Calli) in 1888 and was ostracised by his family and therefore moved to Cardiff.  When she died, he emigrated to Australia in the 1890’s and married Minnie Weeks.


Eventually they built the cottage and workshop at Watsons Bay.  His son, my grandfather Tom “Coge” Coggan eventually became a food chemist and worked for Sweetacres, the makers of Minties, Fantales and Jaffas.  We’ll come back to him later.  I guess through his connection with Sweetacres, his father was contracted to paint the Minties advertising signage on shops all over Sydney.  He also made the dials for AWA Radios.  These were glass with a hole drilled in the centre for the tuning arm and the stations lettered in gold leaf.   Unbeknown to Sweetacres, “Coge” was making biscuits on the side.  He had a bakery in City Rd close to Sydney University and was making the greaseproof  paper to wrap “Dad’s Cookies” in the Cove St. workshop.  Two large timber, metal lined vats were used to melt the wax through which the paper was rolled to coat it.  I assume the paper was then hung to drip dry.  What I do remember was that the floor had a centimetre deep coating of wax even when we moved there in 1954.


When great grandmother and great grandfather died, Uncle Donald, Aunty Vi and cousin Dianne moved there.  Dinie and I attended kindergaten and 1st class at Vaucluse Public School together, before they moved to Beecroft and we followed them in to Cove St.


When we arrived, the workshop was just as it always had been; a large unlined corrugated iron and fibro room with the corner walled off to enclose a claw footed bath tub (the bathroom).  The ceiling was simply a frame to hold timber offcuts.  The laundry was built In the side passage and consisted of a set of concrete tubs, a copper (gas heated) to boil and wash the clothes, a wringer to squeeze the water out of the clothes after rinsing in the tubs and a large timber cabinet for putting the dirty clothes waiting for the weekly wash day.


This was going to kill two birds with the one stone.  The workshop was ideal for building the boat and the laundry cabinet would provide much of the timber.  This was a project that would take months as dad could only work on it on weekends and of an evening after work.  If memory serves me correctly, the frame had to be built fairly quickly so it could be taken off the mold and passed on to the next family waiting to build their boat.  The bow and stern were made of thick marine ply, the ribs from the same marine ply shaped to be curved and rounded with no sharp edges on the inside but flat and square on the outside, to attach the sheets of thin marine ply to form the skin.  Once the frame was built, it could be removed from the mould and all the rest attached while it sat on three saw horses.  Dad was a perfectionist.  The final boat named “Gull” was a masterpiece.  The timber used to make the centreboard and rudder and various other bits and pieces came from the old laundry cabinet.  Black with layers of lacquer and old age when dad broke it up, it turned out to be a deep red cedar, absolutely glorious when coated with marine varnish.  Gull was the prettiest boat in the fleet of 30 or so.


What a shame we never did it justice in our sailing of it.  My sister Lesley crewed while I skippered.  We had always been  argumentative siblings.  Putting us in a confined space at sea was a recipe for disaster.  We were given the maximum handicap and never improved upon it.  Our only chance was on days with a really strong wind.  Starting 25 minutes ahead of the back markers and being heavy enough to keep our boat stable in a strong wind, we finished in the first three occasionally.  Often we found ourselves either becalmed in light breezes or being dragged out of the water after capsizing.  The boats were light enough that the club launch that shepherded us around the course could pull alongside us in the water, turn the boat upright and drag it up on the side of the launch as the water drained over the stern.  They would then slip it back into the water, we would re-board and continue on sailing.


That all came to an end when I graduated to sailing 12ft skiffs and VS’s.  A friend of mum’s, Geoff Batchelor, had bought a VS and wanted to race it at the Vaucluse Yacht Club.  Back in the 1930’s someone designed the Vaucluse Junior “VJ” and the Vaucluse Senior “VS”.  Both were beautiful, fast, unique and probably years ahead of their time.  I never got to sail the VJ but always wanted to.  They were around 10 foot long with a short bow sprit.  They had a fixed size main sail, jib and spinnaker.  They were fully enclosed and you sat on the deck.  Kind of like a floating coffin, but only around 9” deep.  In even a light breeze they skimmed across the water and to keep them flat you sat out on a plank that extended out over the water.  They had been designed to teach boys to sail at a time when boys were still pretty small.  Post WW2 our diets were much healthier and I suspect boys were much bigger than they had been in the 30’s.  Whatever, I was too heavy to make up a crew on a VJ and they couldn’t be sailed single handed.


The VS on the other hand was 15’ long with buoyancy tanks fore and aft and again fixed size sails.  To keep these on an even keel, there was a trapeze; a wire from near the top of the mast clipped on to a harness worn around the hips with straps through the legs.  This was for me.  Now my weight could be of use.  I controlled the jib and spinnaker at the same time as swinging out on the trapeze with my toes gripping the gunwale, feet several feet apart and knees slightly bent to ride the bucking boat as we flew across the waves.


Unfortunately there were always more lighter wind days than big blows.  We were competitive in a small fleet of 5 or so boats that raced at the Vaucluse Yacht Club, but really came into our own in strong winds.  There came the day when every other sailing club in Sydney decided that the storm was just too severe for racing.  All the other classes of boat at our club also decided to give it a miss.  No O.K. dingies, VJ’s or the Bluebird yachts that my father sailed.


We sailed a course that started from a line set up between Green Point and the wharf.  Looking back, I don’t remember ever having started from this point any other race.  We thought we would be smart and save our energy by just letting our sails off and just drifting behind the line waiting for the start.  Well it wasn’t exactly drifting, as the seas were high and the wind was buffeting us severely.  We were just too clever, and a gust of wind capsized us.  By the time Jeff, his son Michael and I had righted the boat and bailed it out, the rest of the fleet were almost down to the marker in Parsley Bay.  We set out in pursuit.  By the time we rounded in Parsley Bay, the rest of the fleet were scattered in the water between there and the marker back in Watsons Bay.  We rounded in the lead and set off on a shy run out past the Sow and Pigs across the harbour to the marker off Obelisk Beach.  As we flew past the pigs, I was out on trapeze with my head turned back toward the stern.  The water coming off the bow was blinding me, so I had to turn my head away.  As I looked back at Geoff, I heard an almighty “bang” and watched the rudder break away from the stern and slam down on the back deck.  The bottom bracket had broken and the 300mm long and 15mm thick stainless steel pin that held the rudder in place was twisted like it was made of liquorice.  The boat was careering out of control so I dropped my feet off the gunnel and swung down into the water, grabbed a stay and swung the boat into the wind while Geoff and Mick dropped the sails.


I had to stay in the water, holding the bow.  As usual, I was terrified of sharks so I kept my legs wrapped around the bottom of the boat as we drifted across the heads.  Actually it was the wind driving us across the heads and into Quarantine Beach.  Once we had dragged the boat up onto the sand, Geoff set off to find a public telephone.  He called back to the yacht club.  “it’s Geoff Batchelor” he said.  “Sorry, he’s not here, he’s out sailing” was the reply.  “No he’s not” said Geoff, “he’s over at Quarantine, can you send the club launch to tow us back.”


That’s how I had fun on Saturdays in summer.  On Sundays I now sailed in a 12’ skiff.  Like 16’ and 18’ skiffs, each boat had an emblem on their sale to identify them.  Almost all boats and yachts had numbers to identify them, but skiffs had emblems.  The most famous at the time were the oval in red and blue on each side of the diagonal for Yandoo sailed by Choco Winning, and a Blue Exclamation mark for Trivial sailed by his brother.  Skiffs had evolved from the 20’s or even earlier.  Hanging on the walls of the 12’ Sailing Club were photographs of these old boats, built out of timber planks, with bow sprits 6’ or longer and massive sails.  Often it took 6 or 7 men to crew them.  By the time I started sailing, first in an old “clinker” built boat with a crew of 4, the boat was evolving rapidly from light weigh ply to fibreglass hulls with a crew of 2.


Dennis Dignan was a builder and also the Interdominion Champion.  Every 2 years or so, Australian 12’ skiffs would compete with N.Z. 12’ Cherubs.  Dennis began building lighter and lighter boats.  When fully evolved, the skin consisted of just two layers of very thin ply cut into strips and bent into shape from gunwale to keel.  I always thought that if I slipped off the gunwale while coming in off the trapeze that I would put my foot through the bottom.


We would sand and varnish the bottom of the boat, coat after coat till it had the gloss of glass and could slip through the water.  Gone were the old venturi’s on the bottom of the boat.  These metal tubes were designed so that when moving at speed through the water the vacuum created in the tube would suck the water out of the bottom of the boat.  Now there were sleek plastic venturi’s that you could pop down when needed.  Also gone were the 6’ bow sprits, now just 3’.  But we still had the 18’ spinnaker poll; now three aluminium poles joined together when needed.


I spent my final year of 12’ racing on a brand new Dennis Dignan built boat “Action” owned by a mate Ian Sparrow.  Ian’s grandfather or uncle was Charles Sparrow a marine architect  who designed the VJ (Vaucluse Junior).  Ian had to have the absolute biggest and best of everything.  At the same time as the boats were getting lighter, so were the sails.  Ian had a new spinnaker made that consisted of little squares, designed so that if a hole was punched in the sail it wouldn’t rip.  It was light in weight and absolutely massive in size.  For weeks we would spend every race day folding it into a long tube tied with wool.  The idea is that when all folded into a long thin tube we could hoist it up the mast and push it out on the end of the spinnaker  pole, set the lines to hold the pole in place and then pull on the sheet.  The wool would snap at the bottom, the wind enter the sail and then all the other woollen ties would snap as the sail filled with wind.  For weeks we never got to use it; it was always a little too windy for the size.  Finally the day came when we were in a drifting race.  Ian called for the big spinnaker.  I hoisted it, set the lines, pulled on the sheet and the spinnaker opened, spread out and around the boat and completely enveloped us.  Everywhere we looked, 360 degrees there was just that massive big blue spinnaker.  I don’t think we ever tried to use it again.


The other memorable race was again in a big blow.  As we raced back down the harbour from Rose Bay, passing Neilsen Park, someone on the club launch photographed us.  Both Ian and I were as far back in the stern as we could fit.  The boat was flying and in the seconds after the photograph was taken, they say we were air-born and they could actually see under the boat.  The trouble was that in landing we hit a wave and just buried the bow.  Ian and I were pitched forward and landed out in front of the capsized boat.  It was the equivalent of going over the handlebars on a bike.


Two other “big blow” races were memorable, but I wasn’t involved in either.  Both involved “Southerly Busters”.  These massive blows occurred late in the day after a very hot and humid day.  With great speed, these southerly wind changes roared up the coast and caught the fleet by surprise.   I witnessed the first event when standing on the end of the Watson’s Bay jetty.  The 12’ fleet was down in Parsley Bay and heading back to the clubhouse to finish the race when the storm hit.  Every boat flew back across the bay and as they came, masts exploded and sails ripped to shreds.  The smarter ones deliberately capsized.  The masts were still made of laminated wood in those days and the pressure as they bent became so great they just exploded and bits and pieces flew in all directions.


The other big blow involved the 18’ Skiff fleet.  It hit them near the “wedding cake”, the harbours southern channel marker just out from Green Point.  All boats flew down the harbour and smashed into either the “Sow and Pigs” or the rocks off Green Point.  The photographs in the paper the next morning showed just how much damage had been done to the skiffs.  The story was all about the cost of the boats and the likely repair bill.  The 18footers were the only professional racing skiffs.  Sponsored by companies just as they are today, they used to attract a large fleet of ferries carrying spectators.  All packed on to one side of the ferry to watch the race, they were in danger of capsizing.  The attraction was that there was gambling on the results and there were many stories told by the 12footer sailors about the illegal tactics used by the 18footers.  Like deliberately throwing a bailing bucket over the stern to drag and slow the boat down (if they had to throw the race), or throwing crew overboard to lighten the boat on the final leg or if the winds had dropped and they didn’t need as many crew to sail the boat.


I never really got into board surfing.  It first became really big in the early 60’s.  Half of the school were into board surfing by 1963.  I bought all the surf magazines and read about surfing the exotic new surfing spots all around Australia.  The closest I came was to make myself a “hand board”.  About 25cm long and 15cm wide, rounded on the corners with fins glued on the bottom and a leather strap to slip my hand through.  We didn’t use swim fins or what we called “flippers” in those days but had to kick like fury to get into the wave and then do a push up off the hand board to get the upper body out of the water and then cut across the wave with just the hips and legs in the water.  As the wave finally broke over us, we would roll forward and let the wave pass us by and swim out for the next wave.


I also was among the first to ride a skateboard.  Using a piece of red cedar off-cut, left over from building the sabot, I shaped a surfboard about 60cm long and 15cm wide.  I then stole one of my sisters roller skates, separated the front and back wheels and attached them to the bottom of the board.   We rode our skateboards down many  of the rough roads around the “Bay”; trying to do big looping turns from one side of the road to the other.  Potholes made it a risky ride.  The footpaths were smoother, but they made for a straight line high speed run that could end in severe grazing if you came off at the bottom of the hill.  The best rides were to be had on the smoothly tarred roads up into the Army barracks.  We would sneak up in the bush beside the road, as close as we could get to the security gates before being seen by the guards, then out onto the road and take off down the hill.  Here we could do the big sweeping turns from side to side and if we came unstuck on the turn could dive off into the grass and bush beside the road.  No helmets or elbow and knee guards.  Just lots of bruises and grazes.


That reminds me that we had also gone through a “billy cart” phase in the late 50’s.  Originally they were timber frames with a vegetable or fruit crate attached to sit in, and the wheels and axles were from old family prams.  No wonder few of the antique prams from the first 50 years of the 20th century survived.  By the 60’s, the best were very light weight frames with just a flat board big enough to fit your bum on, rope tied through the front axle to steer and wheels made from Ball Bearings.  God they were noisy, but so much faster than our old billy carts.  In those days, ball bearings were hard to come by and they greatest envy was a mate who managed to get a set that were new rather than those that were worn from use in some factory or whatever.


Toward the end of my last year at Vaucluse Boy’s High School, a sportsmaster who was involved with the Watson’s Bay Church of England youth group invited me to join them in a spring trip to Smiggins Hole.  The church had a chalet and the plan was for us to do hiking trips around the snowy and to canoe the upper reaches of the Murray River.  So, In September/October  1964 (at the height of the Beatles tour of Australia) I set off to the Snowy.  We had a fantastic experience in canoeing through rapids in the higher reaches of the Murray and eventually a near disaster when one of the canoes was sucked under on one of the bends in the river and wedged in among all the driftwood caught some 2 meters down.  Standing on the bank, we could see the canoe.   The water was so clear, even though moving so fast on the bend.  It took us hours to free the canoe and resume a much more cautious paddle down the river.


On one of the early hikes, we discovered that there were still some patches of snow and that there was quite a lot on the top of Mt Kosciusko.  Back at the chalet, I found a piece of timber around 50 cm long and 15 cm wide.  I shaped it like a surfboard, chiselled the front to that it sloped up to the point and drilled holes along both sides to insert boot laces to strap one foot onto the board.  Someone told me that skis had a groove down the middle to help steer, so I used a chisel to cut a groove into the bottom of my board.  Off we went to Mount Kosciusko.  There I strapped my left foot to the board, pushed off with my right foot and then put it on the back of the board.  I snow boarded slowly down the snow into the rubble at the snowline.  It was probably only a 50 metre run, but I’m still claiming it as the first snow board run in Australia.  I know that there are two records of snowboards in America.  The first was made in 1939, and the second in 1963.  I was right up there with the inventors.


Somewhere in amongst all this, I found time to take Tennis lessons on a Saturday morning.  Initially on a backyard clay court in Dover Heights and later at Rose Bay near the Flying Boat base, next to the Wintergarden picture theatre; also on clay courts.  These were the days when tennis racquets where made of wood and the head of the racket was around half the size of the modern racket.  Like all my sporting endeavours, I was a mediocre tennis player, but at least it was a sport that I could go back to for the rest of my life and play “socially” and for a period in my 40’s use as an excuse to drink beer with mates on a Saturday afternoon.


Golf was another incidental sporting activity from when I was around 15.  The thing with golf is that it is such a “mind” game, that at 15 I could step up and drive the ball a fair way down the fairway and reasonably consistently.  Putting wasn’t much more than aim at the hole and hit the ball, with no allowance for slope or speed of the green; but hell, three puts didn’t seem so bad.  The older I got and the more I thought about my game the worse my distance and accuracy.  It was even beginning to desert me before I turned 17 with one memorable drive at the Bondi course slicing across Military Rd and off down a side street for around half a kilometre.  Today I play a consistently mediocre game.  If I have one par 3 hole that I can par, I’m happy, one par 5 hole I can bogey I’m ecstatic, and the rest I except double and triple bogies as the norm.  I leave all my best shots at the driving range.


In my final year at Vaucluse Boys High, they introduced Rugby Union.  A rather pretentious principal, Mr Harris had always styled the school on the private school model.  He was the founding principal when I started 1st year in 1960. In 1965 the NSW Rugby Union began a schools competition and this suited Mr Harris’s pretensions. It also suited me because this was my game.  What a disappointment to find myself  on the reserves bench while all these leaguies like Basha McGann and Aussie Rules converts like Ken Robertson were selected ahead of me.  Both took to the game like ducks to water, went on to play 1st Grade for Easts,  and to this day Basha is a stalwart of the Eastern Suburbs club.  As to why I couldn’t get a starting run?  Well I guess that brings me back to nicotine and the athletics carnival.  With no history of playing Rugby Union, the school simply selected their League team and Hal Hermann took my wing spot.  Too late, the athletics carnival had demonstrated my speed, but by then smoking had destroyed my fitness.  An early childhood bout of three simultaneous infectious diseases had probably already damaged my lungs, but a smoking habit that escalated to 60 cigarettes a day over the next twenty years meant I never really had the stamina to play a solid and fast 80 minutes of football.


The highlight that year however was playing in the Wallaroos Under 18’s.  Colts rugby in the 1960’s consisted of Under 18’s and Under 21’s.  Easts had three Under 21 teams and the one Under 18’s, playing as the Wallaroos.  One of the oldest rugby clubs in Australia wearing the traditional strip of black shorts, black socks with gold tops and a black jumper with two gold V’s on the chest, rather than the East Tricolour. Even then, Randwick was our main rival.


I played in the centres and on the wing, and we won the championship.  If only my school had given me a chance.  What might have been.  Still, winning the championship was something special.  Dad took me off to buy a navy blazer.  That’s the traditional sports blazer with the brass buttons and the embroidered  championship badge attached to the breast pocket.  Very smart.  When they saw me off to attend University in Melbourne, many said they expected to see me back in Sydney playing for Victoria at national championships.


In 1966 I joined the Monash University Rugby Club.  The club colours are almost identical to Argentina.  Here I was playing Outside Centre and occasionally Wing.  I was known as “The Big Fella” in the weekly newsletters and revelled in being an experienced rugby player in a city where Aussie Rules was the only football.


I have three wonderful memories from my two years at Monash.  Surprisingly, one of the best games I ever played was in a match we lost to Geelong.  Both teams played a hard and fast game and at the end we had lost narrowly.  Neither team could have played another five minutes.  It was one of those rare games where neither team deserved to lose.


When a Japanese Navy team visited Melbourne in August 1966 they decided to play a combined Universities team.  To ensure there was continuity, they decided to play the Melbourne Uni. pack with the Monash back line.  I had a fantastic Fijian team mate Konrad Ismell (reportedly a tribal prince!!!) at inside centre.  Late in the second half the game was well and truly won.  We were ahead by some 50 points.  Konrad made a break and only had the fullback to beat.  I had trailed him through the gap and loomed up alongside him and called for the ball as he drew the fullback.  Konrad looked across at me, then tucked the ball back under his arm as he approached the fullback who leapt into the air and delivered a karate chop to drop him in his tracks.  Later I asked Konrad why he hadn’t passed the ball to me.  He replied that as I already had seven tries and he only six, it was his turn to score.  It was the funniest thing I had ever seen on a football field.  Oh, and tries were only worth 3 points back then.


I travelled to Brisbane to play in the Intervarsity Rugby carnival.  This was in the days when it was a serious competition rather than an undergraduate party.  I was carrying an injury; my knee swollen and held in place by an elastic knee guard.  In those days there were no doctors and physiotherapists.  Elastic tubes over elbows and knees and elasticised bandages to hold loose joints or sprained muscles together was about it.  Also lots of liniment and Vaseline petroleum jelly.  The liniment to heat sore muscles and the petroleum jelly to protect thighs from grass burn.  There I was playing for Monash University against Queensland University; my knee encased in an elastic tube and restricted in movement and speed.  I’d been moved in to inside centre.  I took the ball, and was flattened by a 10 ton truck.  I had never been hit so hard in a tackle.  I had no idea that Wallaby Jules Guerisimof was in the Queensland University team.  One of the smallest flankers in world rugby, he was a punishing tackler.  My teeth are still loose 42 years later.


Rupert Rosenblum was a Waratah and Sydney University 5/8.  To this day, he still coaches kicking at Sydney Uni.  In 1965, his father bought our home in Cove St. Watsons Bay for him.  Now here he was in 1966 playing for Sydney University at the intervarsity rugby carnival.  He had already well and truly established his reputation as a “Kicking” 5/8.  In the big game between Sydney Uni and Queensland Uni, with the sidelines packed with every other player at the carnival, every time the ball was passed to him by the halfback they would all kick in unison with him.  It was the worlds biggest chorus line.


Other memories of playing rugby in Melbourne are of playing in rain so cold that all feeling in my hands was lost and catching and passing almost impossible and a memorable game in which one of our team mates, a Frenchman kicked an opponent while he was on the ground.  In those days of fairly frequent all in brawls, not one of our players ran in to help.  We were absolutely disgusted that anyone would kick and opponent.  While it was fairly common in any game involving the French back in the 60’s, we were staggered to see it first hand.


I only ever played Australian Rules once, and that was a cameo 5 minute appearance for Monash Teachers College against Bendigo Teachers College.  I have only two memories.  One is off burning lungs from the continuous running and the other of my only touch of the ball.  I secured the ball and turned, only to confront two defenders closing on me at pace.  I ran at the gap between them and when they closed the gap, bounced the ball at their feet and attempted to bust between them and regain the ball.  Now I thought that to be a reasonable strategy, but the umpire disagreed; I was penalised for throwing the ball.  As we drove back to Melbourne late that afternoon, the news came over the car radio that Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.


By 1968, my cigarette consumption was up around 40 a day and my weight had ballooned to 17 stone 7lb  (112 kilos).  I was so unfit that I retired from rugby and pretty much all physical activity.  For the two years we lived back in Sydney from 1971 to 1972, my sole sport was squash.  Not the athletic form of squash where you fight for possession of the centre of the court and manoeuvre your opponent around but the blast and destroy form.  Again, racquets were made of wood with small heads.  If I didn’t win the point after two hits of the ball I never did win the point and within five hits my opponent would have run me ragged and finished me off.  It was fun, social and at least rigorous exercise.


It was only when we moved to Redcliffe, Queensland in 1973 that I returned to Rugby.  Redcliffe played in the 2nd Division Brisbane competition and fielded just two teams.  I decided to turn out for the trials in late February.  It must have been a 30 degree day and humidity around 90%.  By half time, I was sun and heat struck.  Apparently the field had been built on the site of an old rubbish tip and there was so much charcoal just a foot below the surface, that it was just soaking up the heat and radiating it back up.  I almost retired again.


We used to travel long distances for games; down to the Gold Coast and out to Ipswich in the days when there were no motorways and it was 2 hours or more each way.  The grounds were still very hard with sparse grass and very uneven playing surfaces.  By my second season I was captain/coach of the second grade side and in a very selfish decision moved to 5/8.  I figured I wouldn’t have to run as far or as fast, and when buggered, could simply move the ball along the backline, or kick it aimlessly down field.  No finesse to my game.


The memorable moments in my five seasons at Redcliffe:


In my second season, I spent half of it on the sidelines.  I only ever threw one punch in all my years as a player, and was only once on the receiving end of a punch.  In a game against Queensland Institute of Technology, I came up against the manager of the QIT Bookshop. He was a client of mine and someone I had come to know reasonably well.  At some point during the game, I was trailing in support of one of our young players (18 y.o.).  As he ran through the QIT backline,  Bob threw an elbow at his head which barely missed.  Following a metre behind, I grabbed Bob’s collar and took a swing at him.  I was so unbalance that I fell back on my leg and you could hear the sound as it broke.


I lay in the middle of the field while they drove a station wagon out to me.  The removed the hinges on the clubhouse door and used it as a stretcher and loaded the door and me into the back of the wagon.  Off we drove to Redcliffe Hospital on an Easter Saturday with me hanging on to the tailgates struts to avoiding sliding out onto the road.


At the hospital I was moved to a gurney  and parked in a dead end corridor near the emergency department.  For four hours I lay on the gurney staring at the blank wall and ceiling.  It was four hours because the radiographer was entertaining guests at home and said he would rather finish his meal before coming in.  So, hours later after the x-ray confirmed the break, the real fun began.  The doctor was an American recently arrived in Australia.  He revealed that it was years since he had set a broken limb.  Now, the idea is that you soak plaster of paris impregnated bandages in water and then starting with the foot, unroll and wrap steadily progressing from the toes to just below the knee.  The first roll stopped around my ankle and the second half way up my leg.  At this point the doctor realised that he was the victim of a practical joke; the nurses had soaked wrist plasters.   Actually, I was the victim as I ended up with a cast with bumps and lumps that eventually  broke around the ankle several weeks later and required additional plasters to keep it together.


In 1975, Dick Marks, an ex-Wallaby, headed up a team to develop a national coaching scheme and ran the first Level 11  Coaching Course at Enogera Army Barracks.   In those days tobacco company advertising was still dominant in sport and therefore I was awarded the Rothmans Coaching Badge    Clive Rowland, the Welsh coach made a guest appearance.  He had standardised coaching in Wales and in five years coached the worlds dominant international team.  I remember three main things from his session; a coach should dress like a coach and set the highest standards in everything, that with low body height a small player could dominate a larger opponent and that hands on hips or clasped behind the head sent a message to the opposition that you were buggered, so don’t allow it.  He contributed a hell of a lot more to Australian rugby.  He had played for Wales, became a school teacher, coached Wales and eventually became President of the Welsh Rugby Union.  He provided the framework for the Australian coaching programme  and Queensland even more than NSW took it to heart and over the next five years or so they beat most New Zealand provincial teams by big scores and probably became the dominant provincial team in the southern hemisphere.


At Enogera we spent three days of intensive instruction in how to coach almost all elements of the game.  We packed scrums against the Queensland pack and held our own, we worked from sun up to sun down and really earned  our coaching badges.  I  still have my badge today, proudly  sewed to a training jacket.


In 1976, we decided to push fror promotion to 1st division.  We raised money through “pig in a barrow” raffles, pub meat trays and many social functions at the club.  The “Pig in a Barrow”  was the most amazing thing I have ever been involved with.  We would buy a pig from the butcher and a wheel barrow from the local hardware store.  We then loaded the pig into the barrow and set off down the two streets of the Redcliffe shopping centre selling raffle tickets.  We raised hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  When all sold, we would draw the winner, return the pig to the butcher for butchering and packaging and then deliver the wheel barrow and meat to the lucky winner.


With the money, we recruited Fijian players.  We were probably the first to recruit players from Fiji.  There were a few Fijians who had moved to Australia toward the end of their careers and who joined Sydney and Brisbane clubs, but not many.  The only one in Brisbane was the ex-Fijian half back Taito Rauluni who was playing for QIT (now QUT).  One of the members of our club was married to a Fijian, so he and Taito put together a list of potential recruits.  Our first three recruits were Fijian internationals Peni Nasolo (Flanker), Kini Nolatu (5/8 or inside centre) and the never to be forgotten 2nd rower, Petero Civoniceva.  He arrived on an early evening flight from Fiji and we arranged for someone to collect him from the airport and bring him back to the club to meet the players.  We were packed into our small club like sardines, all drinking and talking.  You couldn’t hear yourself think.  And then silence spread from the front door across the room as we all turned to witness Petero’s arrival.  He had to turn his head on its side to fit below the door frame, his shoulders brushed either side of the door frame and his body filled the entire space.


I have a slightly different memory of Petero to Wayne Smith.  Petero was an erratic player; at times so docile as to be almost a passenger in the team.  On those occasions, someone from our own team would eventually give him a belt in the head in the middle of a maul or ruck.  That would stir him up and he’d get stuck into the opposition.



Petero Civoniceva has one fan swelling with pride. Wayne Smith reports

| September 30, 2006

Article from:  The Australian


PETERO CIVONICEVA paused the television replay just after that tackle on Sonny Bill Williams and, shaking his head, stood up.

The perfect host, he offered a coffee but said he wouldn’t be having one himself. What he felt like was a beer and so beer it was. It was grand final week, Wayne Bennett was nowhere in sight and some things are best discussed over a cold glass.


“That tackle wasn’t so bad,” Civoniceva said at last, having sunk his powerful frame into an understandably complaining bar stool. “I’ve put in worse tackles. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I thought it was maybe worth a penalty but Sonny Bill got up straight away.”


Thankfully, the NRL had assessed it pretty much the same way, rating it only a grade one offence, not enough to necessitate any late, unwanted changes to the Broncos’ front row for tomorrow’s premiership decider against Melbourne. He was going to be there, he said, even if he had to drive to Sydney. No way was he going to miss Shane Webcke’s final match.


To his right, on the circular bar that dominates his garage, sit two framed photos: one of Muhammad Ali unleashing that incomparable left jab, the other of Civoniceva in full cry, Broncos jersey straining to accommodate rippling muscles, tacklers being shed left and right.


Vanity? No. Paternal pride. For this is not the home of Petero Civoniceva, the Broncos’ grand final prop, but of his father, also Petero, the former Fijian rugby international. This interview had been hastily arranged. He really was driving to Sydney for the grand final and there was not much time to waste. Time enough to reminisce, however.


It was 29 years ago that Civoniceva Snr had first come to Australia, first come to the Redcliffe peninsula, just north of Brisbane, his then wife Tima and their seven-month-old son following a few months later. He should have made the journey to the Big Island one year earlier, with the Fijian team, but injury cost him his place in the touring party and so he had missed one of the most controversial incidents in Australian rugby history, the walk-off of the Fijian side in the third Test at the SCG after its captain had been sent off.


Still, Civoniceva Snr was to experience more than his fair share of controversy during his turbulent decade as the star Fijian recruit in a Redcliffe side promoted to first grade the year after he arrived. Without question, he became the most feared player in the Brisbane premiership, this in an age when such hard men as Tony Shaw, Stan Pilecki, Chris Handy and Mark Loane regularly turned out for their clubs when not playing for Queensland or the Wallabies.


Mostly, Civoniceva Snr was feared for his ferocious play. A 115kg Test second-rower at a time when 100kg was considered huge – his son now plays at 106kg – he revelled in the hand-to-hand combat of the forwards’ battle and, ball-in-hand, was an almost unstoppable runner, 200cm of towering, gym-toned aggression. But there was also another reason opposing players were extremely wary of him.


“I had a short fuse,” he admitted, drawing on his beer. “It was the main weakness in my game. Young Petero is totally different to me. He’s very disciplined. You have to have that tough mental approach to survive at the level he has. He has had to have that strength.”


The years have helped him to assess his flaws. Back in the 1980s, however, Civoniceva’s lack of discipline was something every opposing side was keenly aware of. Brothers in particular, Shaw, the Brothers and Australia captain, most especially so.


“Shawry was one of the most intelligent footballers I ever played against and the toughest,” he recalled. “He was so cunning. He’d bait me and bait me until I cracked. I’d get my marching orders and then he’d stand there laughing at me.”


Still, it was generally a serious business, winding-up Civoniceva Snr. Yes, it was quite possible it would end with him being sent-off but more than once he was accompanied to the sideline by his stretcher-borne baiter, knocked unconscious. Like the other proud black man in the picture frame, Civoniceva Snr had fists of steel.


Rod McCall was to play 40 Tests for Australia, partnering John Eales in the second row when Australia beat England in the 1991 World Cup final at Twickenham, all the while revelling in the intimidating nickname of ‘Sergeant Slaughter’. Yet when he was 24 and the next big thing in Australian rugby, he happened to fall foul of Civoniceva’s finely-attuned sense of justice while playing for Brothers in a 1988 pre-season trial.


One punch was all it took. McCall was out cold by the time he hit the ground, landing so hard he dislocated a bone in his leg and spending 10 weeks on the sidelines, delaying by a year his Test debut. Civoniceva, who recalls the “unfortunate incident” as being triggered by “an adrenalin rush”, was suspended for seven weeks.


McCall’s lip was split so badly he required plastic surgery and for a time even considered taking legal action against his assailant. Ultimately he didn’t but he understandably still was a very wary man when Brothers met Redcliffe later that same season, a match that fortunately passed without incident.


“Afterwards Petero came over to me and said, ‘I think I owe you a beer’,” McCall remembered. “So we had one – or two. He was actually a gentle giant. You just didn’t want to be within arm’s length of him when he snapped. There are no ill-feelings. I probably did the same thing to other people in my career. I just didn’t have the same punch.”



In those days, the Tongans and Fijians didn’t get on particularly well.  In fact the rivalry between each of the island nations was such that they didn’t make good team mates.  We had just the one Tongan in the club, and with three or more Fijian in 1st’s, I took him into the 2nds.  On one of the outside grounds at Ballymore we were within 10 minutes of the end of the game when two opposition players sandwiched me with the ball.  With my arms pinned, a third player approached and I watched as time slowed to slow motion as he clenched his fist and swung a punch into the middle of my face.


I was immediately taken to the doctor under the main stand and he began taping up my broken nose.  All of a sudden one of my team mates rushed in and told me I would have to return to the field because all hell had broken loose.  When the referee whistled full time, the players approached each other to shake hands, as was the done thing.  Tony the Tongan approached the player who had broken my nose and instead of a shake, he belted him in the head.  As Tony explained, a cheap shot by the opposition player in breaking my nose, wasn’t the sort of act you just forgot about because the ref. had blown full time.




Eventually in 1978 we were promoted to the 1st division of the Brisbane competition.  For several years, we had been running the Redcliffe 7’s as a preseason carnival and fund raiser.  The 7’s was the baby of Les Fry a Welshman and our 1st grade coach.  With promotion to 1st division, we decided to really kick the 7’s up a gear and invited the Ella Brothers and Wally Lewis to form a schoolboys team and compete.  The QRU pressured to have the event moved to Ballymore, however we had a strong committee and retained control.


The schoolboys attracted a massive amount of publicity and they lined up against Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland 1st grade teams.  In their first game, they were very cautious and lost.  Having lost and appreciating that a large crowd had come to watch them, they threw caution to the wind and played spectacular football for the rest of the carnival.  No one will ever forget the three Ella brothers backing each other up and playing a mesmerising style of football.  There seemed to be six brothers on the field, as they would each handle the ball three or four times in a single phase of play and score under the posts.


I had decided to get serious for our promotion to 1st division.  I spent the entire off season working out at a Gym four times a week and joined Cheryl on the Weight Watchers programme.  By pre-season, I was amazingly fit and muscled up.  I had shed all my fat, had strength and speed.  Unfortunately  I still smoked.

Then again, I was shifting from the backs to Prop, so maybe I didn’t need as much “wind”.


In my 1st game and 1st competitive scrum (a trial match) as prop, I packed down, the ball came in, my neck bent, my bum went skyward, my feet lifted 20cm off the ground and I thought I was going to die.  Chris “Buddha” Handy, the retired Wallaby prop was delivering my first lesson in scrummaging.  For the rest of the game, I kept my feet well back, my head up and locked, my back and legs in a straight line and locked and my right arm out straight gripping Buddha’s jumper and turned to lock my elbow.  I just locked up in every scrum and survived.  It was the longest game I ever played and I cursed every back how knocked on or dropped the ball.  In fact I even cursed them if they juggled the ball when catching it because in those days that constituted a knock on.  You had to catch the ball cleanly.


When you stop to think about it, what would the Ellas have been like in an era when you could actually juggle the ball when catching it.  I remember one of the rare occasions when Mark Ella dropped a pass.  It made the headlines


At training the following week, one of the flankers forgot his boots and trained in his runners.  Being early autumn, there was a heavy dew and his feet slipped on the wet grass.  The whole scrum pivoted on my back and I dropped to the ground with disc damage.  It was so bad that despite several weeks of physiotherapy and treatment, it remained a chronic problem for the next five years or so.  It also meant that I was out of the 1st grade team.


Our 1st game in  the 1st grade competition was against GPS (I think).  What I do remember is that the team spent all day psyching up for the game and the last hour in the clubhouse with the theme from Rocky playing continuously.  They burst from the club onto the ground all fired up.  The game was very physical and became even more physical as the Fijians responded to racial taunts.  These taunts were unrelenting and so provocative that eventually all hell broke loose.  At least three GPS players were knocked out in separate incidents and the most memorable was by our 5/8 Penni Vola Vola.  When provoked, he threw a punch no further than 20cm.  It was the most devastating punch I have ever seen.  Just a short jab to the jaw and the GPS player was out cold and off to hospital with another team mate almost as concussed where they spent the night under observation.  Word spread around the other clubs.  The next week against Souths, I overheard their pre-match talk in the dressing shed and it was all about concentrating on the game and not saying a word to the Fijians that might provoke a response.









Mucking Around (Vaucluse and Watsons Bay)


Apart from organised and semi-organised sport, there was also “mucking around”.  Watsons Bay and Vaucluse were great for mucking around in the 1950’s and 60’S.


Until I was in 2nd class (1955) we lived with my grandmother Claire Coggan at Clarke St., Vaucluse.  Tucked in between the cemetery, Christison Park and Rosa Gully, it provided great opportunities for mucking about.


At the northern end of Christison park there was swampy ground and ponds among the sandstone rocks which was a great breeding ground for frogs.  Like most kids, it wasn’t enough to leave them where they were.  I would take home jars of tadpoles and watch them grow legs and shed tails as they evolved into  frogs before releasing them back into the swamp.


At the southern end of the park was the “tip”.  This was the Woollahra answer to disposing of their tree loppings.  As far as I remember, it was never designed for disposing of either household rubbish or junk.  Locals obviously used it because I remember some of my most cherished possessions came from digging through the tip.  There was the stack of manuscripts for a radio drama about a newspaper reporter working the “Night Beat”.  This was either an adaptation of the American radio drama or something similar.  An actor who lived at the end of Clarke St. closest to the cliffs, dumped his manuscript at the tip and I cherished them … for a while.  Then there was the box of exotic feathers.  They were probably used to decorate hats, or to make fishing flies.  Just little colourful feathers.


The main purpose of the tip however was to dispose of the tree loppings.  For much of the year they would lop the branches around the telegraph wires and dump them at the tip.  They would sit there to dry out and then be burnt and bulldozed off the cliff.  While I wouldn’t say that there were plague proportions of rats, there were certainly enough to keep you on your toes as you dug around.


There was certainly one too many however.  Colin Suttle was a local kid a few years older than I.  I remember him most for his fanaticism for the game of “Test Match”.  He lived in a pokey dirty little cottage near the bus terminal.  One day, while being chased along the cliff outside the fence just down from the tip, he stood in the stomach of a dead “drunk”  This man had passed out while drinking and rats had started eating at his stomach.  As David Addison chased Colin , he stepped in the guy, looked down and took off for home.  I seem to remember he couldn’t speak for some time.   Now, I didn’t witness the event, so I can’t swear for certain that it happened, but I’m pretty certain it did.


Over the years I spent a fair amount of time at my grandmothers.  I can’t remember why.  Initially it was because we lived with her.  Later I lived with her while my mother was in a hospital at Picton recovering from Tuberculosis, and later still when my parents moved to Melbourne and I was doing my Leaving Certificate at Sydney Tech.  At other times I must have stayed overnight when I was at Vaucluse Boy’s High just around the corner.  However long I did live with her or how often I stayed at her place, I have far too many memories of playing with the kids around that part of Vaucluse.


There was the Lewis kid who was memorable for two things. His family holidayed at Surfers Paradise when it was “THE” place to holiday in the late 50’s early 60’s and he had a dog who was run over by a tram.  The dogs hind legs were so badly damaged he couldn’t walk and in time learnt to walk on its front legs occasionally but most of the time just dragged it’s hind legs around.  I also seem to remember watching the Rocky and Bullwinkle show on TV  at their house.


Then there was Jimmy Elfick who’s father was a bank manager.  He was “shell shocked” from WW1 and therefore when at home we had to keep quiet.  That was O.K. because most of the time at Jimmies was spent in his bedroom building model airplanes out of balsa.  We would buy kits which contained blocks and sheets of balsa wood with a set of plans and “decals’ to stick on when finished.  The main tools were razor blades and sandpaper.  We would cut out the plan for the fuselage.  First the  side on view.  We would stick it onto the top of the balsa block and then carefully carve the shape with the razor blade.  Next was the side view.  Then we would use the sandpaper to round it off and complete the shaping.  Then the wings and tail were shaped and attached with “Tarzans Grip”.  I’ve got to wonder if the appeal of making balsa models was purely  the excitement of recreating war time plane models or the smell of the “Tarzans Grip”.  Once assembled, we then painted the planes and attached the decals which were the insignia of the aircraft; the red, white and blue circles of the air force or the swastika of the Germans.  Finally, fishing line was used to hang the planes from the ceiling.  At the Addisons next door, with the three boys sharing a bedroom, the ceiling was a crowded war zone with every make and model aircraft from WW2 involved in a mass dogfight.


Warwick and John Addison were considerable older so I don’t remember much more than John taking apart clocks and things and trying to reassemble them and Warwick returning from a years long round Australia holiday with tales of exotic beers such as Swan Larger and XXXX and the party lifestyle of Coolangatta.  David was a year  ahead at school, and we knocked around together more than any one lese in the area.


David was the one who dared me to cross the garage roof when it was being built; and I fell through the canvas onto the garage floor.  He was the one who lost his temper and chased me mercilessly until he took a shot at me with a big wooden scrubbing brush as I rounded the corner in their backyard.  The brush cracked me on the ankle and I limped for days.  It was at a party in their garage where we danced to the music of Buddy Holly when he was killed.  It was where we had the best BBQ’s.  His father, Uncle Doug was the butcher who home delivered throughout Vaucluse and Watsons Bay, and made the absolute best big fat beef sausages.


When Uncle Doug wasn’t working, he was leaning on the bench in their kitchen with form guides spread around him and listening to every race on the radio.  I suspect his bets were placed with the local SP bookie.  This was a little “foreign” guy who had a hole in the wall shop at the bus terminus.  For the life of me I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget my naiveté.  I must have been well and truly into my teens before I found out.  I couldn’t understand what this guy was about.  His shop was maybe 10 meters long and 2 meters wide.  It consisted of a bank of shelves with fruit and veg., a couple of shelves of jars of lollies and a big ice chest stocked with soft drink.  Here I developed a passion for “Passiona”.  God that was an exotic drink for a kid.  At the end of the shop was a door that opened into a wardrobe where he had a desk, chair and telephone.  He spent so much time in there that as kids we occasionally helped ourselves in the shop.  We were thieves.  He was a “starting price” bookie.  What business he didn’t do on the phone, he did with the constant stream of bus drivers.


Uncle Doug really wanted to be a firemen.  Any time there was a fire engine siren in the area he was off to his car and chased them to the fire.  Mum and Dad played Canasta with Uncle Doug and Aunty Merle on Saturday nights, and on occasions it would come to an end when Uncle Doug took off to chase a fire engine.


I don’t know for how many years they played Canaster on Saturday nights.  It must have been long enough for me to grow from an age where I would be carried to the car in the middle of the night  to return home to my own bed, to being old enough to lie on the floor of the boys bedroom listening to the Saturday night serials and dramas on the radio till late at night and then walking to the car for the drive home.  The only other memories I retain from those Canasta nights is that the women drank  “Pims” , they played at a card table and Aunty Merle was a stunner.  She had a large dressing table in their bedroom and was often still putting on her makeup when we arrived.  It had a massive mirror and was well lit, almost like a theatre make up mirror.


Aunty Merle died of cancer when I was in my mid teens.  Uncle Doug was never the same again.  He just seemed to go through the motions for the rest of his life.


The cliffs never held much appeal to me.   I loved to sit and look out on the ocean or even along the rugged coast, but as for climbing or walking close to the edge, no way.  Colin Suttle’s experience probably started the slide, seeing bodies being retrieved from the base of “The Gap” continued the slide and when one of our school mates was killed while climbing down the cliff at Rosa Gully finished me off.  He was climbing down a rope when another boy dislodged a rock which hit him and knocked him off the cliff face.


“The Gap” was infamous in the 1950’s and 60’s as the main suicide jump in Sydney.  For us kids, the attraction was the famous police cliff rescue squad.  They would erect a tripod on the edge of the cliff and with a block and tackle, lower a policeman on a stretcher to the base of the cliff.  This was all manual work with a team of police lowering and pulling the stretcher back up the cliff.  They wore white overalls with the traditional navy blue police cap.  Often, the body would be so badly broken that they would put some body parts in a sack and cover it and the body with a blanket before bringing it back up.  Only once did I accidentally see a body,  when I walked past the back of the ambulance as I headed back home.  I haven’t been able to stand the sight of blood since.













We learnt how to do it in primary school at Vaucluse Public School and on the way home.  In those pre T.V. days, we only had books and movies to feed our imagination and provide the theme for play.  The movie Rob Roy sparked a long period of lunch time play  in which we would act out the fighting between the Scots and English by running around the playground sword fighting and either hiding or trying to ambush each other.  The Sunday Newspaper comics provided the inspiration for making swords and shields.  Prince Valliant was the model for a great shield with the horses head emblazoned in red paint.


Robin Hood inspired bows and arrows made of bamboo which was in plentiful supply , and I suspect that one episode lead to the addition of the shanghai (sling shot) to our armoury.  What with fire works, bows and arrows, shanghais and BB Guns, it was a wonder non of us lost an eye or suffered a major wound.


In those innocent days, we used to walk home from school without parents.  They would only  have got in the way of our fun.  If we had walked straight home, we would have been there in 15 minutes.  Unless we had an urgent  game of touch to play on the lawnie, we usually took an hour to get home.  There were distractions every 50 yards or so.  In those days, there were still a number of bushy areas to play in, there was the beach to walk along, hail storms to shelter from, pinball to play in Tommy Marinados




















The most primal sense: Smell




Have you ever wondered why food loses its flavor when you have a cold? It’s not your taste buds’ fault. Blame your stuffed-up nose. Seventy to seventy-five percent of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Taste buds allow us to perceive only bitter, salty, sweet, and sour flavors. It’s the odor molecules from food that give us most of our taste sensation.


When you put food in your mouth, odor molecules from that food travel through the passage between your nose and mouth to olfactory receptor cells at the top of your nasal cavity, just beneath the brain and behind the bridge of the nose. If mucus in your nasal passages becomes too thick, air and odor molecules can’t reach your olfactory receptor cells. Thus, your brain receives no signal identifying the odor, and everything you eat tastes much the same. You can feel the texture and temperature of the food, but no messengers can tell your brain, “This cool, milky substance is chocolate ice cream.” The odor molecules remain trapped in your mouth. The pathway has been blocked off to those powerful perceivers of smell–the olfactory bulbs.


Of all our senses, smell is our most primal. Animals need the sense of smell to survive. Although a blind rat might survive, a rat without its sense of smell can’t mate or find food. For humans, the sense of smell communicates many of the pleasures in life–the aroma of a pot roast in the oven, fresh-cut hay, a rose garden. Smells can also signal danger, fear, or dread.


Although our sense of smell is our most primal, it is also very complex. To identify the smell of a rose, the brain analyzes over 300 odor molecules. The average person can discriminate between 4,000 to 10,000 different odor molecules. Much is unknown about exactly how we detect and discriminate between various odors. But researchers have discovered that an odor can only be detected in liquid form. We breathe in airborne molecules that travel to and combine with receptors in nasal cells. The cilia, hairlike receptors that extend from cells inside the nose, are covered with a thin, clear mucus that dissolves odor molecules not already in vapor form. When the mucus becomes too thick, it can no longer dissolve the molecules.


Animals depend on odors secreted from their bodies to communicate. For humans, odors communicate a variety of messages, depending on the odor and the person receiving it. The aroma of a baking apple pie sends one message when someone is hungry and quite another when that person has just finished a six-course meal!


I also remember reading that in the Amazon, Indians have dozens of words to describe smells, whereas in the western world, most of the words we use are derived from the other senses.  Our sense of smell has become so subliminal, that we don’t rate it as highly as sight or sound, or even touch and taste.  I also recollect Proust writing the the smell of a bakery took him back to his youth and a visit to a cake shop with his grandmother.




Shigeyuki Ito




“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory” -Marcel Proust “The Remembrance of Things Past”(1)


Last week when I was in New York there was this good smell coming out of this restaurant and right when I smelled it, the smell brought back memories of this one festival I went to in Japan almost 3 years ago. On another occasion this perfume a girl was wearing brought back memories of a girlfriend in high school. Of all the senses I would say that smell is the sense that is best at bringing back memories. When you smell a certain scent it feels as though you slipped back in time and that you are actually at that scene again. If it was not for the other senses of your body, you might really feel as though you are back there again. But why is it that smell has this ability to instantaneously trigger memories of events, places or people that you usually would not “think” of?


Despite the tendency of humans to underestimate the role of smell in our every day lives, for most mammals, smell is the most important sense. Dogs are probably the most obvious example of this, it is through the use of the olfactory system that animals are able to find food, reproduce, and even communicate. While being one of the oldest and important parts of the brain, our failure to fully realize the importance of the olfactory system resulted in it being surrounded by numerous questions (2). How does it work? How do we identify smells? While these are only a few questions out of a whole list, research has progressed in recent years that we know much more about the olfactory system than before, but the fact remains that much remains to be found.


Through research conducted on mice, it is approximated that humans have 1000 different sensors in their nose (3). While this might seem like a large amount of sensors, it is not enough considering mice and humans can identify about 10,000 odors. The mystery surrounding this ratio can be explained through the unique features of the olfactory system. Odors are molecular so the method used is different from light or sound that come in waves (4).


Inside your nose about the level of your eyes, is a small patch of tissue containing millions of nerve cells. The odor receptors (sensors) lie on these nerve cells. Each of the receptors recognizes several odors, and likewise a single odor could be recognized by several receptors. Thus similar to codes, what happens is that different combinations of the 1,000 receptors result in our ability to identify 10,000 different odors. Linda Buck, an associate professor at Harvard, makes an analogy of this quite efficient system to letters being used in different combinations to make individual words. She goes on to say that this system ‘greatly reduces the number of sensors needed to code for the smells” (3).


The process that takes place is quite complex. After an odor molecule enters the nose and are recognized by the olfactory sensors, the signals are eventually sent to the olfactory bulb that is located right above the eyes (3). The signals only go to two areas in the olfactory bulb, and signals from different sensors are targeted to different spots that then form a sensory map. From there the signals reach the olfactory area of the cortex (smell sensory cortex) (5).


An important quality of the olfactory system is that information travels both to the limbic system and cortex. The limbic system is the primitive part of the brain that include areas that control emotions, memory and behavior. In comparison the cortex is the outer part of the brain that has to do with conscious thought. In addition to these two areas, information also travels to the taste sensory cortex to create the sense of flavor (2). Because olfactory information goes to both the primitive and complex part of the brain it effects our actions in more ways than we think.


Many wonder how certain smells able to trigger memories of events taking place several years ago despite the fact that sensory neurons in the epithelium survive for about only 60 days (1). The answer is that the neurons in the epithelium actually have successors. As the olfactory neurons die, new olfactory neurons generated by the layer of stem cells beneath them, which eventually takes the role of the old neuron as it dies. Linda Buck points out that the key point to the answer is that “memories survive because the axons of neurons that express the same receptor always go to the same place” (1). The memories are stored in the hippocampus, and through relational memory certain smells trigger memories.


Another popular question is the reason behind smell having such a strong role in instantaneously recalling memory. Despite our belief that sight and hearing are the two most important senses to our survival, from an evolutionary perspective smell is one of the most important senses. To recognize food or to detect poison, smell is the sense that almost all other mammals use. Because of this basic feature yet vital role, smell is one of the oldest parts of our brain. Trygg Engen, a psychology professor at Brown University notes that smells serve as “index keys” to quickly retrieve certain memories in our brain. This primitive yet essential role is probably why smells trigger memory more than does seeing or hearing.


Professor Engen goes on in attempting to further explain the relation of odor and memory. His controversial views basically states that the way we sense odors are all results of “nurture” and not “nature” (6). He says that initially all smells are neutral, and that whether a odor is pleasant or unpleasant has to do with the initial condition in which the smell is perceived. It follows from this that when we smell odors, it triggers a certain memory that has to do with that particular odor and thus is decided whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Engen’s views are controversial because of the lack of convincing data to back his views up. Although certain points about Engen seem to make sense, such as how odor serve to trigger memories like index keys, his views about the “nurture” vs “nature” are a little harder to understand. If odors are decided by “nurture”, it leaves the question of how so many people have a similar view towards many odors. There is probably nobody who would say that the smell of rotten food is good. Yet Engen’s views are definitely worth considering because for some odors like gasoline, some people say it is good while others detest it.


It is said that people can identify about 10,000 different smells, but have many smells can you name off the top of your head (3)? In comparison, look at how many colors there are in a crayon box, or the many varieties of music existing. This lack of understanding and appreciation of odors is a result of our over reliance on our eyes and ears, even to the extent that we suppress our awareness of what our nose tells us. Our underestimation of the role of smell results in our lack of extensive knowledge concerning many aspects of the olfactory system. But as Proust stated, smell has such a strong power to vividly bring back memories, it is definitely more important than we realize. To a large extent smell is more personal than other senses so it brings back memories of people, not just places, or things.



I labour the point because smell has always been the sense I was most aware of, because I’ve only had it occasionally.  In my late 20’s a broken nose (playing rugby) compounded a propensity to grow polyps






Vaucluse Tip

Tempe Tip


Chicken poo Redcliffe

Broom in Italy


Countdown to departure

We’re off to Europe and UK next Wednesday for a 7 week holiday. We begin in Vienna for three days before the Christmas Markets cruise to Nuremberg and then on 23rd fly to Southampton for Christmas and London for New Year. On the 2nd we drive to Moushole (Mozzle) in Cornwall for ten days, then Dartmouth for a week before returning to Southampton till the 31st January when we return home.

Just as a teaser and to get this blog started, I’m sharing a photograph of the Royal Castle Hotel in Dartmouth. We’ll be having dinner (or lunch) with a cousin who lives nearby. Margaret and I share a 5th Great Grandfather from Grantown in Scotland. While my family moved to Ireland and then Australia and back to Scotland and the U.S., hers moved south to London and then one line to South Africa. I’ve been in touch with Margaret and my South African cousins for some years now.

The Royal Castle was built in 1639, but there was evidently a previous hotel or inn on the site because Sir Francis Drake reputedly stayed there. Many of the mistresses of Charles 11 were said to have stayed at the hotel. In 1688, Mary stayed at the hotel after she and her husband William (who later became William 111 of England) arrived in England from the Netherlands to claim the throne.240px-The_Royal_Castle_Hotel,_Dartmouth


This chapter has been revised significantly.  I am working toward a less academic style.

The people say that Australia always was, and always will be, their land.  The also claim that they have been here forever.

Scientists are still to confirm if Homo sapiens evolved 200,000 years ago in East Africa or 300,000 years ago in Morocco, however recent archaeological studies have determined that they migrated into the Australian continent between 65,000 and 80,000 years ago.  Or did they?

The story of Watsons Bay is also the story of Courmangara.  It’s a story of European written knowledge and research and indigenous oral knowledge and evolution, it’s a story of two cultures and societies. For every western scientific explanation, there is a 65,000 year old story, and they are both very similar and often the same.

14,000 million  years ago the Big Bang created the universe and 4,600 million years ago, Galeru, the Rainbow Serpent created “Sahul” (the continent of Australia, Tasmania and PNG).

As Galeru moves across the country, it raises mountains, ridges and gorges as it pushes its way to the surface of the earth. It is an immense creature, and inhabits all the deep stores of water on and beneath the surface, creating gullies and deep channels filled with water as it slithers across the landscape.

Some time later, Barnumbirr, the creator-spirit, guided the first humans, the two Djanggawul sisters and their brother, to “Sahul”.  Barnambirr and the Djanggawuls lived on Baralku, the island of the dead.  Barnumbirr rises every day into the sky as Venus and one day, after crossing the coastline, Barnumbirr flew across the land from East to West, creating a songline which named and created the animals, plants, and natural features of the land. He brought the two sisters and brother to people the land.

As they travelled in country, the older of the Dianggawul sisters gave birth to a child and her blood flowed into a water hole. Galeru emerged from the water hole and ate the sisters, however when bitten by an ant, it regurgitated the sisters.   The Serpent was then able to speak in the sisters’ voices and taught sacred ritual to the people of that land.

These first people were the Yolngu of north-eastern Arnhem Land.  Just as the people of coastal Sydney were called Eora by the early Europeans, both mean “people”.

The descendants of the Dianggawul siblings grew in number and following the laws laid down by Galeru, formed into a complex society.  In time they spoke 12 different languages and belonged to two Moiety clan groups, the Yirrritja and the Dhuwa.  . The clans of the Yirritja are the Dhalwaŋu (Nuŋburundi), Dhalwaŋu (Narrkala), Gumatj (Gupa), Gumatj (Yarrwidi), Gupapuyngu, Madarrpa, Maŋgalili, Munyuku, Wangurri  and Warramiri.  The clans of the Dhuwa are the Dätiwuy, Djambarrpuyŋu, Dhudi-Djapu, Djapu (Gupa), Djarrwark, Gälpu, Golumala , Marrakulu, Ngaymil and Rirratjiŋu

The two Moiety are two parts of one whole.  Each is responsible for the maintenance of different elements of their shared country.  Within each Moiety, all people must support each other.  To ensure strong bloodlines, marriages must be between clans of different moiety and wherever possible from as distant a geographic location as possible.

Skin names are given at birth and in sequences of 8, 16, 24 or 32.  Members of each clan would memorise the relationship with other clans and moiety going back as many as 32 generations based on skin names.

The skin name is always given in sequence and in a matriarchal society such as the Yolngu, given by the mother to her children.  For example a woman whose moiety is Yirritja and whose skin name is Gotjan, would name her first daughter Ŋarritjan.  Ŋarritjan in turn would name her first daughter Baŋaḏitjan.  Baŋaḏitjan in turn would name her first daughter Buḻanydjan. If Gotjan had a 2nd daughter, she would be named Baŋaḏitjan and 3rd daughter Buḻanydjan.  The three girls are not however regarded as sisters.  Their sisters are all other girls with the same skin name and their parents, the parents of the other girls with the same skin name.

This means that a second daughter from one generation is regarded as a sister of a girl born in the next generation.  Gotjan’s 2nd daughter, Baŋaḏitjan, would be a sister to her elder siblings first daughter.

Similarly, the boys are given masculine versions of the same skin names in the same sequence (Narritj instead of Narritjan, Banadi instead of Banaditjan and Bulany instead of Bulanydjan).

This complex social structure ensured that both the bloodlines remained storing and that “country” was respected and maintained.  It also meant every individual was not an individual but responsible for the livelihood of many other people and they him or her.

Lyn Kelly in her book “The Memory Code” explains how she not only researched the techniques and practices of indigenous peoples across the world, but put the principles into practice and now uses it to memorise vast amounts of information.  In relation to genealogies and totems  she writes   “There is one area of indigenous knowledge that I have failed miserably to replicate other than superficially. Genealogies are recognised as one of the most complicated data sets maintained in memory by oral cultures, recalled through song and a wide range of designs. Somehow, complex networks of relationships within tribes and between them are known. Every person belongs within the network and every kinship is understood. I have seen diagrams from studies done within Australian language groups where every member of the family is identified, from close relatives to those who are only distant kin. The lines crisscross the diagram, which the ethnographer described as a simplified schematic. I cannot imagine how memorising this tapestry is possible.    The research is indisputable, elders the world over do memorise intricate family ties. I know that part of the system involves objects decorated with patterns reflecting clan affiliations, such as the Australian Aboriginal weapons carved with geometric patterns that denote relationships and symbolise the ownership of specific tracts of land. Kinships serve to define land ownership, resource rights and, in some hierarchical societies, status. The genealogies also dictate who an individual may or may not marry, with most cultures banning close blood ties as marriage partners.” (1)

As the population grew, some of the new generation moved on to new country, maintaining the social structures but adopting new songlines and creation stories that applied to the new country.

In time, people occupied country right across the north of the continent and their creator was the Rainbow Serpent.  They passed down their creation stories for over 65,000 years. In 2013  Bradley Moggridge, an indigenous hydrologist,  was employed by the Northern Territory government to map groundwater.  He began by going to meet with each clan across the territory and asking about their creation story.  Joining the stories identified where the rainbow serpent entered the earth (water holes), where he travelled underground (aquifers) and where he emerged (waterholes).  He produced a map that the NT government rejected on the grounds that it didn’t have a scientific foundation.  He then proceeded to drill bore holes that did nothing more than confirm the accuracy of 65,000 year old memories, passed down generation after generation.

Similarly, the Star Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters is one of the most widely distributed ancient stories amongst Aboriginal Australia. The songline for this story covers more than half the width of the continent, from the west coast to Uluru. The songline travels through many different language groups and different sections of the story are recognised in different parts of the country.


The story relates to the journey of the seven sisters that make up the star cluster known as the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus. In central Australia, the Pleiades star group rises above the horizon soon after sunset and keeps a low trajectory above the horizon. Perhaps for this reason this relatively small star cluster takes on extra importance, as it appears to launch from the earth’s surface and make its journey in close proximity to the land.


The group of stars are Napaljarri sisters from one skin group. In the Warlpiri story of this Jukurrpa, the sisters are often represented carrying the Jampijinpa man Wardilyka, who is in love with the women. Then the morning star, Jukurra-jukurra, who is a Jakamarra man and who is also in love with the seven Napaljarri sisters, is shown chasing them across the night sky. They are seen to be running away, fleeing from the man who wants to take one of the sisters for his wife. However under traditional law, the man pursuing the sisters is the wrong skin group and is forbidden to take a Napaljarri wife.

So the Seven Sisters are running away from the Jampijinpa man, they travel across the land, and then from a steep hill they launch themselves into the sky in an attempt to escape. But the Jakamarra man follows the sisters into the sky, travelling in the form of a star seen in the Orion’s Belt star cluster, which is also seen as the base of the Big Dipper. So every night the Seven Sisters launch themselves from earth into the night sky, and every night the Jampijinpa man follows after them across the sky. (2)

The songlines of these stories have guided people to waterholes across the continent for over 50,000 years

According to western science, 65,000 to 80,000 years ago, the sea level throughout the world fluctuated by over 150 metres.  Sometimes, due to various factors such as ice and tectonic movement, sea levels rose and fell.  80,000 years ago, the sea level to the north of Australia was 7 to 30 metres lower. (3)

During that period, between 200 and 300 people emigrated from the north onto the Australian continent.  (4)   By 1788, over 700,000 people populated the continent, and all were related to the original two to three hundred.

In 2017, an archaeological dig in Kakadu established that artefacts including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads were up to 65,000 years old. (5)

Around the same time, archaeological findings, and geological and DNA research have indicated that not only have Aboriginal Australians been in Kakadu from as early as 65,000 years ago, but also in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia from 50,000 years ago, and the Flinders Ranges of South Australia from around 49,000 years ago.  This suggests that the entire continent was populated over a 15,000 year period.  (6)

The original 200-300 people would have had to cross short stretches of sea to reach “Sahul” in the far north west of the continent.  They would have travelled along a chain of islands from the Asian continent, just as the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land have recorded in their origin story. 65,000+ years of oral tradition and western science tell the same story (7)

It is most likely that family groups broke away from their clan, when there were too many people to live by subsistence hunting and gathering on their country.  They would have moved on to new “country”, where again they would establish a new relationship with the land, but still maintain contact with their original clan.  The people moved across and down the continent over the next 15,000 years.


Over that 15,000 years there were some 600+ generations, or 4 or 5 generations every 100 years and they would have only needed to travel 25 km or less every 100 years to travel the 4,000 km from Arnhem Land to Courmangara Watsons Bay).

On the east coast, it is most likely that they moved to the east of the Great Dividing Range and then down the coast which was 20km or so further to the east at that time.  They moved down the coast and up the river valleys into the mountains over that time.  Their migration was so slow, that they would have had time to become part of country, but also to realise what their new country didn’t provide, and so they traded for plant seeds as well as other items when they followed their songlines back to their neighbouring clans.  Today there are plants in New South Wales that share their DNA with those in Cape York. (8)

When they arrived at present day Sydney, they found a river valley that flowed from the valley across a plain to the coast 20km away.  They settled in this river valley and on the banks of the Parramatta River, established a settlement that they occupied for tens of thousands of years.

In 2007, at an archaeological dig on the corner of Charles and George Sts, Parramatta, 20,000 items of charcoal, stone tools and other artefacts were unearthed.  The previously oldest evidence of human habitation around Sydney had been found in the Blue Mountains (14,700 years), at Kurnell (12,500), and near the old Tempe House on the Cooks River (10,700). Furthermore, the artefacts were laid down over a period of 30,735 years give or take 400 years. That’s 30,735 years of permanent occupation of a crescent shaped sandy beach on the Parramatta River. (9)

Baiame created country, and country consisted of everything.  Country is more than just “land”.  Country is earth, mountains, hills, plains, deserts, rivers, lakes, seas, water, animals, vegetation, people. It is the ecosystem; with all elements interdependent on each other.  He not only came down from the sky to create “country” but instructed all living things on how to behave to maintain “country”.  All Nations (language groups), clans and family groups were given “laws” to follow, and incorporated them into their dreaming stories, songs, dance and art.

Baiami created Gadigal country, and the people were given stories to explain the laws.  The stories have many levels of complexity, starting with stories for children which would be retold in more complex form until they instructed the people on reaching adulthood.

The D’harawal people, of whom the Gadigal were a clan, have been telling the following two stories about their “Country” for some 7,000 to 10,000 years.  These are the basic stories for children, but as relevant today to adults of all ages and cultural backgrounds.  When reading them, reflect on the fact that they describe dramatic changes to “country”.

Boora Birra The Story of the Sow and Pigs Reef

A long time ago, when there was no evil in This Land, the sea was further to the east than it is today, and the place called Boora Birra stood high in the deep valley which it guarded. This valley was the home of the Parra Doowee, the Eel Dreaming Spirit. Now Boora Birra was a special place for women, who, when needed, carried out the ceremony called Butoowee there. Every child, when they reached a certain age, was taken to the Boora Birra where they were taught certain things, and received protection from any evil spirits which could enter them and cause them to do evil things. Because the land between the deep valleys and the sea shore was flat and easy walking, with plenty of food, The People preferred to live there, rather than in the highlands or the valleys where food was difficult to gather, and hunting was even more difficult.

The kangaroos and wombats came down on to the flat lands to eat the sweet grass and tender new shoots of the shrubs that grew there. They became fat and lazy and easy to catch. The People became fat and lazy, too. The sea shore was rich with shellfish, the rock pools along the shore teeming with fish, and the flatlands provided fruit and tubers as well. But The People not only became lazy, they also became forgetful. The men no longer honoured the spirits of the animals they hunted and killed, and they wasted much of their prey, eating only the parts they liked most, and leaving the remainder to rot away.

However, it was not only the men who forgot the laws and the ceremonies. The women, too, did not attend to their special duties. They no longer taught their children the ways of The People, they no longer paid their respects to the Earth Mother, or gave thanks for the food they received so easily.  And they became so lazy that they no longer bothered to take the long walk upon the blooming of the Marrai-uo, up to the valley of the Eel Dreaming, where the great bare rock, the Boora Birra guarded the Parra Doowee, and where the special ceremony was performed that protected the children from the evil spirits that caused them to break the laws.

Without the protection of the ceremony, the children became vulnerable to the evil spirits, and they grew to manhood and womanhood without being taught the laws, and why it is necessary to obey those laws. They laughed at the old people who tried to tell them that terrible things would happen if they neglected the ceremony and the laws. And they formed themselves into bands that roamed the flatlands bringing terror to man and animal, young and old alike, destroying the gunyas of the old, stealing fishing spears and hunting weapons, and using them to fight the members of other bands. Gradually the older people and those young ones who still obeyed the laws moved into the Valley of the Parra Doowee, and the highlands beyond the Boora Birra, leaving the flatlands to the lawless ones.

But the lawless ones grew tired of tormenting each other and conducted forays into the valleys. The People heard them coming and would conceal themselves high upon the Boora Birra, and from this vantage point the People watched the bands of lawless ones roam up the valley, and they watched with trepidation as one band approached the home of the Great Eel. Long before this time of which we speak, it had been the custom of each warrior to take his turn to guard the home of the Great Eel, but with the forgetting of the ways of The People, this duty was left to one man, Kamarai, who remembered the old ways. He grew so old carrying out his duties that none of The People remembered him as a warrior.

Kamarai heard the noise of the approaching group, and leaving the meal of berries that he was enjoying, went to welcome his visitors. It had been so long since he had seen another of The People, he was concerned that he remembered the proper protocols. But his smile of welcome faded into a grimace as he was quickly surrounded by the lawless ones who laughed at his clumsy actions as he tried to avoid the jabbing of their spears. Finally, bleeding from many wounds, the old man fell to the ground. Meanwhile, in a deep pool in the river the Great Eel heard the commotion and heard the cries of help from his old friend. It swam up to the surface of the pool, and peered toward the direction of Kamarai’s cries.  The lawless ones saw the Great Eel and threw their spears at him in fear as it pulled itself up out of the water. Its great body moved towards its old friend as the last spear of the lawless ones struck its tail. When it saw that Kamarai had died of his wounds, it cried out in grief and pain, and struck the ground with its great tail, dislodging the spear.

The Earth began to shake violently, and a great chasm opened up in the ground, following the fleeing lawless ones and swallowing them as they fled towards the flatlands. Then a great storm came in from the sea, and the waves crashed across the flatlands until they reached the cliffs that marked the beginning of the highlands.

The waves crashed against the cliffs, crushing those lawless ones who had not been dragged down into the depths by the Sea Spirits and dealt with in a suitable manner.

As the waters rose and invaded the valley, the Great Eel saw the women and children stranded on the Boora Birra, and it told them to climb into his back and it would take them to safety. “Let this be a warning.” The Great Eel said. “The laws of This Land must be obeyed, and the proper ceremonies must be carried out in the proper manner.” It set them down at the place called Banarong. “So that you will not forget this lesson, this place will remind you of what happened” And it gently slapped its tail on the ground so that its blood from the spear wound splashed over the rocks and earth. “This is the place where you will remember that the blood of many of The People was spilt because they forgot to teach the laws to the young.”

It then turned to look at the Boora Birra, slowly being engulfed by the waves. “And the Boora Birra will now be a place where the sea creatures take their children to teach them the laws of the Sea.” The Great Eel said. “But you may visit, safely, from time to time, so that you will remember why the laws must be passed on to the young.” “But because good lessons can always be learned from evil, this place will be safe for The People, to hunt and to fish, and live and teach the laws.” The Great Eel slipped silently into the water, and with a splash of its tail, disappeared beneath the waves. The People watched the waves, hoping for a glimpse of the Great Eel as it made its way to its new home. One of the children, a young boy, went to the water’s edge, then looked back at his mother and smiled. And spoke in a voice that was not his. “Until we forget again.” He said. “Until we forget again.”

Kollgul and how the Tarral’bai Came to Be

 A very long, long time ago, the Eel Dreaming Spirit, Parra’dowee, used to travel down the Great River of the Wirrim’birra to the Boora Birra for a meeting with his old friend, Boo’ambillyee, the Shark Dreaming Spirit. These old friends would often meet to discuss business, and the happenings of their Peoples. But this time, the perceptive Boo’ambillyee could see that Parra’dowee was much troubled and as she nudged a tasty morsel to her old friend she spoke.

“I sense that you are concerned, my friend.” She said. “Why do you not tell me, even if I cannot help you, the telling will make you feel better.

”The Parra’dowee nodded sadly. “I had not meant to weigh you down with my troubles, but I am deeply ashamed of something that I have done.

”Boo’ambillyee looked at her friend in great surprise. She could not imagine the Parra’dowee doing anything of which he could be ashamed, and she would have laughed out loud, if she had not seen the deep shame in the Eel Dreaming Spirit’s eyes. “How can I help?” She asked. Parra’dowee took a deep breath, he had not meant to show his feelings so openly to his friend, but then he realised that the Shark Dreaming Spirit, as with all sharks, had a very sensitive nose, and could smell emotions as easily as one can smell food.

“Many years ago, a young man whose name was Kollgul came down from the mountains to the swamps of Mull’goh. He seemed a sensible young man, who was eager to learn, who was polite, and respectful. He did me many favours, and in return, I taught him many things, more than I should have, without bothering to test his worthiness to learn these things.”

Boo’ambillyee listened silently as Parra’dowee told of a false magician who came from afar and lured Kollgul away from his home in the mountain above the swamps of Mull’goh, who told him of untrue things, of how he could be a great warrior, feared by everyone by using the magic that this false magician would teach him.

Kollgul believed these untruths and told a few of his friends who came to listen to the false magician tell of how Koll’gul was really a great warrior, who could claim all the lands between the mountains and the sea. His friends were greatly impressed, and followed him as he made his way down the Great River.

They were overjoyed and danced and sang as Kollgul caused the old ones to flee in fear of his magical tricks taught to him by the false magician, and as he and his friends marched down the Great River they were joined by others who had been exiled by their own clans.

But the false magician, although he knew of some magic, did not know how to stop the spells once they had been made. Thus, the lands were left spellbound, and unhabitable. Parra’dowee told Boo’ambillyee of how Kollgul had learned of Tarral’bai, the Place of Secrets situated under the Parra’woori, and he wanted to possess the secrets, so that not only The People would fear him, but all creatures, even the Dreaming Spirits.

Boo’ambillyee smiled, and Parra’dowee felt a chill of fear at the sight of those sharp teeth.

“Let him break my laws and I will eat him.” She said. “Slowly.”

Parra’dowee stared at his friend, then suddenly, he too smiled. “We must protect the

Place of Secrets.” He said. “But perhaps we can also trap the false magician, and

Koll’gul and his followers.”

Kollgul, the false magician, and his followers slowly made their way down the Great River, bringing fear to many of those who opposed him, and to those he could not bring fear he caused grave injury, or caused false accusations to be brought against them.

The People of the Sweet Water cried out to Parra’dowee to help them, but Parra’dowee told them to be patient.

Soon Kollgul and his band moved down to the Banarong where they found the Carer of the Well of Secrets trying to hide the well from his eyes. When she tried to protect the well from him Koll’gul grew angry and struck her with his bundi, killing the frail old woman.

When he found only water in the well, he threw her body into the hole so that no other would ever be able to drink from the well. This action not only angered the Spirit of This Land, it also angered all other Spirits that something that was so sacred could be desecrated.

Each of the Spirits hungered for revenge for this action, but Parra’dowee quieted

them.  When there were times that the Spirits needed to take human form they drank from the waters of this well, gently they removed the old woman’s body and gave her the proper rituals, before becoming people and setting up camp right on the northern most part of the Parra’woori to wait for the arrival of Kollgul and his band.

It was not long before Kollgul saw their campfire and, accompanied by the false magician, entered the camp, fully armed. The Spirits feigned horror as the armed men demanded to know where the Place of Secrets was. They cried out loudly as if they were afraid, making so much noise that the false magician could not weave his spell.  Losing his temper, Kollgul raised his spear to kill the nearest one.

At that moment Parra’dowee struck the Banarong with his tail and the earth shook violently. By the time the false magician, and Kollgul and his followers got to their feet the spirits had reverted to their natural form and disappeared.

Kollgul then knew fear. He knew then that he had broken many laws, and he knew that his punishment would be dire. He turned to the false magician. “Help me, this is all your fault.” He said.

But the false magician was also afraid. He saw that the Parra’woori was now separated from the land, where they had walked was now deep, swiftly flowing water. And swimming in those waters they could see the fins of many sharks.

On a small beach near the campfire of the spirits, the Parra’dowee came ashore, and smiled up at Kollgul. “You now have the Place of Secrets in your possession.” Said the Great Eel Dreaming Spirit. “Do with it what you will. If you can find it.” Then he disappeared.

Kollgul looked around him. The Parra’woori was now an island, an island on which there was not a tree large enough to build a canoe to enable them to cross the channel. An island where the only food was a few scrawny roots buried in the shallow soils. An island where oysters did not grow, where birds did not come to roost in the few trees, where only a few lizards lived.  An island guarded by the children of Boo’ambillyee.

Kollgul had got what he had hungered for, The Parra’woori and the Tarral’bai, the Place of Secrets, but it would do him no good. He and his followers were trapped there, left only with two choices, to starve to death on the island, or to take the chance and swim across the channel.

One of his followers, a woman, whose name none remember, jumped into the water, and swam across the channel. They watched her as she swam, followed by the fins of the sharks. Finally she made it on to a rock on the opposite shore. They could hear her laugh with joy as she stood on the rock and waved to them. It was then that a huge shark, bigger than anything they had ever seen before, leapt out of the water, soaring over the rock, taking the woman in one single mouthful.

Kollgul and his followers stared in disbelief as the only sign left of the woman was a few spots of her blood on the rock.

Boo’ambillyee, swam across the channel to where Kollgul and his followers were waiting. She smiled up at them from the water. “I am very patient.” She said. “But I will dine on each of you.” Then she swam off, and disappeared beneath the waves.

Kollgul turned to the false magician and once again blamed him for all that had happened. Then he turned on his followers telling them that if they had truly believed in him, none of this would have happened.

For a long time they lived on the island, getting weaker and weaker, fearing to go down to the small beach for fear of the sharks. They had seen Boo’ambillyee leap from the water to take the Forgotten One, they were not going to risk the same fate.

One by one they died, until only the false magician and Kollgul were left. Each lived on opposite ends of the island, each never speaking to the other, but each cursing the other every day.

Then one day, Kollgul was standing on top of the cliff, watching the sharks swimming

around below him when he saw something. He quickly laid down on the edge of the cliff and looked over.

“The sign!” He cried. “The sign! I have found the Place of Secrets!”

It was then that the great form of the Boo’ambillyee surged up out of the water. Kollgul could only stare at those terrible teeth before they closed around him and dragged him down into the depths of the sea.

Nearby the false magician heard the fearsome scream. He sat down upon a rock on the highest part of the island, and there he died. His body rotted way, until only a black mark was left on the rock, to remind The People of what happens to those who make false claims.

After a while, Parra’dowee and Boo’ambillyee met once again to discuss business. When they were about to part, Parra’dowee turned to Boo’ambillyee. “I think it is about time that we returned the Tarral’bai to The People.” He said. “But this time we will ensure that none can misuse it.”

Boo’ambillyee nodded her agreement. Together they sang the song, and a great storm came.

Copyright 2001. Intellectual Property of the Bodkin-Andrews clan of the D’harawal Peoples.  Soon the channel between the island and Banarong was filled with sand, and once more The People would be able to come to the Parra’woori for ceremony, and to tell the story of Kollgul and the false magician so that their children would know that if one tries to own something that is not truly his, then only evil can befall him. Or her. 4

Geologist have a different story and yet, the same story.  The people who were living on the banks of the Parramatta River at Parramatta 30,735 years ago, and were still there at the time of the invasion, also witnessed the flooding of the river valley at the end of the ice age some 10,000 years ago, and the two stories above account for the initial creation of the harbour.  The second even describes the waters rising so high that they cut off south head from the rest of Sydney, with the sea running from Bondi to Rose Bay.  This accounts for this country today being sandy.


By the late 1700’s, there were around 700,000 people in Australia and between 5,000 and 8,000 of them lived in the Sydney Basin. Often, the people of the Sydney Basin are referred to as being of the Eora Nation.  Eora means “here” or “of this place” and the people didn’t regard themselves as being a “nation”.  In fact, there were many clans (tribes) and sub-clans of three language groups and their names were “of this place”; they referred more to the localities where the language or language group was spoken rather than ancestry.  Around Sydney there were three main groups – Dharug, Kuringgai and Dharawal – each comprising of a number of smaller units called clans or hordes who claimed a common ancestry, have their own land area with its sacred sites. (10) 

The Darug nation was divided up into a number of woodland clans who each tended to live in a certain geographic area. This geographic area would also house descendant clans. Each clan typically included 50 to 100 people. They were Bediagal, Bidjigal, Boolbainora, Burreberongal, Burramattagal, Cabragal, Cannemegal, Cattai, Gommerigal, Kurrajong, Mulgoa,  Murringong, Tugagal, Wandeandegal, Warrawarry  [8)


Dharug Clans or Bands

Cadigal / Kadigal – North Head to Five Dock Wangal / Wanegal – Iron Cove, Concord Burramattagal / Burramedigal – Parramatta Wallumattagal / Walumedegal – Milsons Point / Ryde Mura-ora-dial – Maroubra Kurrajong – Sackville / Portland / Kurrajong Muringong (probably Muringal) – Camden district Kameygal – Rockdale / Kyeemagh / Botany Bay Bool-bain-ora – Wentworthville Mulgoa – Penrith Birrabirragal – Watsons Bay / Vaucluse Bediagal – north of Georges River Toogagal – Toongabbie Cabrogal – Cabramatta / Fairfield Burruberongal / Boorooberongal – Richmond / Windsor Cannemegal – Prospect Gomerrigal-Tongara – South Creek Bidjigal – Castle Hill Cattai – Windsor / Middle Hawkesbury

Kuring-Gai Clans or Bands

Cammeraigal / Kameragal – Chatswood / Cammeray to Lane Cove River Terramerragal – Turramurra / St Ives / Terrey Hills. Carigal – Barrenjoey Peninsula / West Head Cannalagal – Mona Vale / Dee Why / Manly Goruaigal – Fig Tree Point Kayimai or Gayimai – Manly Borogegal – Manly area Gorualgal – Crows Nest / Neutral Bay Borogegal-yuruey – Bradleys Head

Dharawal Clans or Bands

Gweagal – Kurnell / Caringbah Norongerragal or Nongerragal – Menai / Bangor Threawal – Bong Bong / Southern Highlands Tagary or Tagarai – Royal National Park Illawarra – Wollongong  (11)

“gal” meant clan or family and the first part of the clan name indicated their country or location. The people whose country was Cadi were the Cadigal or Gadigal.

As to where “Cadi” was is unsure.  Some claim it was “Camp Cove” itself while others say it was Sydney Cove.  Cadi however was also recorded as the name given to the tree grass plant (Xanthorrhoea species)) which was prolific between South Head and Sydney Cove.  They cut sections of spear shafts from the grass tree stems and cemented them together with its resin.

The Birrabirragal were a sub clan of the Gadigal people.  Their name was taken from their main summer place of habitation near the lagoon behind Camp Cove and near their women’s sacred site, Boora Birra (Sow and Pigs), so the Birrabirragal clan.

Among the invaders were many people who had names derived from their “place”.  In my case, the name Crawford is derived from the Old English words “crawa,” which means “crow,” and “ford,” which means “a river crossing,” and indicates that the original bearer lived near a ford where crows nested.






George Crawford and Family Grantown on Spey 1770 to 1799

George Crawford and Family

Wife’s name unknown and children Samuel, Joseph, Susanna and Walter)

Grantown on Spey 1770 to 1799


The story of our Crawford family begins in the province of Moray, Scotland, in the late 1700’s.   Between 1553 and 1845, records of births, deaths and marriages were recorded in parish church registers.  Church ministers prepared reports on every parish in the 1790’s and 1830’s, and they claim that the recording of births, deaths, and marriages in these books was very thorough from 1780 onward.  Some entries were more detailed than others.


There aren’t many records for Crawfords in the parish of Cromedale and Inverallen.  A historian in Grantown believes that our family possibly came to Grantown around the 1780’s or 90’s to work in the linen factory.


Around two miles from Cromedale, a military road and new stone bridge was built across the Spey in 1754.  The Grants also had their castle just a mile from the bridge, and in 1766, Lord Grant built a new town “Grantown on Spey” beside the river.  It included mills, factories, a school, hospital and an orphanage.





Sir James Grant, like many highland lords at the time was moving the farmers off his land and decided to build a town and linen mill to employ them.  He turned the land over to grazing sheep, tripling his herds, and also planted fir plantations.  Other landowners in the parish also consolidated farms into grazing so that there were some 12,000 sheep and 5,000 black cattle in the parish and the remaining farmers were replacing teams of four draft horses with either just two, or replacing them with oxen as less horses were bred.



Most of the new settlers came from within a 20 mile radius of the new village as most were reluctant to move too far from their family and friends, although those more experienced in the manufacturing trades tended to be recruited from further afield. Like the majority of the new settlements established in the late 1700’s, Grantown grew to house several hundred inhabitants within 20 years and attracted a large amount of migration. As well as relocating displaced people from the old estates, many of whom it must be remembered did not have any choice in the matter, settlers were recruited through adverts in the local press. The adverts provided details of the new site, and highlighted any amenities such as new wide access roads, market squares, employment opportunities, housing etc. and the cost of purchasing or leasing land. Some of the new villagers continued to lease houses, whilst others were able to secure tenure of land and build their own. Village plots were often auctioned off to settlers and to manufacturers at the nearest local inn or on the site of the new village. The establishment of these new villages certainly helped to improve the standard of rural housing.


There was only the one Crawford family in the parish, and they may have come from one of the towns in or close to Elgin, 36 miles away.  It is more likely that George Crawford was recruited from either Lanarkshire/Glasgow or Antrim (Ireland). Both had well established linen industries. Unfortunately the records prior to the 1800’s are scarce.  Traditionally, Scottish families named their children to a pattern.  The first born son was named after his grandfather on his father’s side.  The first born daughter named after her grandmother on her mothers side.  The second son was named after his grandfather on his mother’s side and second daughter after her grandmother on her fathers side.  If a first born male died, later males were often given the same name.  This explains why our Crawfords used Robert, James and John so often down through the generations.  Unfortunately we have had no success in tracing a George, Samuel or Walter Crawford in the area back around 1750, nor a marriage of George Crawford around the 1770’s.  Perhaps George was recruited as a “bleacher” from Glasgow, which had a longer history of linen manufacturing.


It seems that the ministers could elect as to how much detail they wanted to record for each event.  For our Crawfords,  the ministers at Cromedale recorded:

Charles Rose, Shoemaker in Forres and Susanna Crawford in Kirktown of

Inverallan, daughter to George Crawford, Bleacher there married on the 22nd day of May by the Rev. Grigor Grant, Minister of Cromdale.





17 April 1800  George Walter, son to Mr. Joseph Crawford residing at

Kirktown of Inverallan and his spouse Anna Fraser born 11th and bapt 17th April 1800.


In most cases, a wedding took place close to the brides family home, so when Samuel Crawford married, he did so in his wife’s church at Elgin.


8th February 1798

Were married here by the Rev Mr William Gordon one of the Ministers of Elgin Samuel Crawford in the parish of Inverallen & Mary Anderson in this parish before a competent number of witnesses.


There, the minister didn’t bother to record the parents of either the bride or groom, but did record that Samuel Crawford was “in the parish of Inverallen,  That places him as being a brother to Walter, Joseph and Susanna.  As a member of a family of two parents and four children, that was the typical number in the 1700’s.  They all married between 1798 and 1805, so seem to have been around the right ages to be siblings.  The fact that there were no other Crawford families in the area also supports this.


Margaret daughter to Walter Crawford by Margaret Fraser in Fornication, born 12 February 1805.”


Walter Crawford had a daughter by his sister in law Margaret Fraser, and the entry “in fornication”  wasn’t unusual.  On average, of the 60 or so births a year in the parish, seven were illegitimate. In Scotland a marriage, ‘irregular’ but legal, could be constituted simply by the couple consenting to marry, or by a promise to marry followed by sex.

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, which abolished all forms of irregular marriage in England and Wales after 1753, did not apply to Scotland, and Scottish law continued to recognize irregular marriages. If a man denied that he had promised marriage to the woman before she ‘yielded to his embraces’ or ‘granted him all the privileges of a husband’ (the two phrases most commonly used in the records), she could raise a legal action for declarator of marriage and bring evidence that she was his lawful wife. If she feared that the man would lie under oath in court, and she did not have enough evidence to prove a marriage, she could ask for an alternative conclusion of damages for seduction.


Walter Crawford was a bleacher (Elgin) like his father. He married Ann Black in 1809, and later lived in Fordyce where they had 12 children.


So, we have records of these four Crawford children of George Crawford but no record of his wife or parents and grandparents.  Maybe future generations will take up the search.


George Crawford  was a bleacher, and it was at a time when linen manufacturing in Scotland was expanding and relatively profitable. Technical innovations in spinning and weaving made Scottish linen very competitive with German and Irish linen, particularly in selling to England and her colonies.  The technical innovation in bleaching was the use of sulphuric acid and chlorine and in other parts of Scotland, they employed young Irish immigrant girls, but only for six or so years at a time.  To increase the market for linen and make it sustainable, the government decreed that all bodies be wrapped in linen for burial.


In George and Walter’s case, they appear to have bleached in the traditional way. This consisted of soaking the linen in lye and rinsing two or three times and then laying out in the fields for the sun to bleach. The fields were called crofts and hence the origin of the Scottish word “Crofters” for the people eventually cleared from the land for grazing of sheep and cattle that became more profitable for the lords in the 19th century. Both George and Walter (who also worked a bleachfield near Elgin), refer to the “mill” and this would have been a building or structure beside the river from which they would draw the water. It would have driven machines to move the large sheets of linen around in tubs of lye and other tubs of fresh water to rinse and a windlass to move the materials and to roll it up for moving to the “croft”.


In 1756, scientists found that dilute sulfuric acid would work better than buttermilk and the time required for the bleaching process was greatly reduced. An even more dramatic improvement in bleaching technology resulted from the discovery of chlorine in 1774 by Swedish chemist Karl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786). French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) discovered that this gas is a very effective bleaching agent. Berthollet, who was director of a French tapestry factory, developed a method of using chlorine to bleach textiles. In 1785, he introduced a bleaching liquid called lye de Javelle and publicized his technique without patenting it. When James Watt learned of the method, he passed the information on to Scottish chemist and manufacturer Charles Tennant, who began using the bleaching liquid in Glasgow. But the chlorine gas needed for the liquid bleaching process was not readily available, so Tennant invented a more convenient bleaching powder and introduced it in 1799. The solid powder, which was made by combining chlorine with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), was much easier to handle and ship to other fabric manufacturers. When added to a little dilute acid, the powder released the chlorine gas which bleached the cloth very quickly. By the 1830s, factories were churning out huge quantities of bleaching powder for textile use. This abundant supply of chlorine bleach helped stimulate the cotton industry.


The linen was woven in very long lengths and hence the need for large fields in which to bleach. It was then rolled up and officially inspected and stamped to verify the length and that it was all of the same quality.  There was an official inspector who visited all bleach fields to verify that the linen hadn’t been just rolled together in shorter lengths.  He would measure the cloth and check the quality before attaching a stamp.   In both of his letters to Sir James Grant, George Crawford refers to problems in getting the linen stamped.


It is also interesting to note that George refers to farming as well as bleaching.  Like most people of this time, he would have grown as much of the family’s food as possible.


The letters transcribed below are as written, line for line, as spelt.



Sir James


I could not procure a man servant  this summer

which has rendered it difficult to carry on the farm and bleaching with so little help as I have at present.  I had a letter from my son Joseph last post in which he lamented the distress I was in for want of help to carry on the different businesses I was ingaged in & wished me to write to you to see if it would be possible to grant him a furlo for a few months and he would return and assist me untill the businesses of this year would be complete.

was it a thing you could grant with convenience it would

be a singular  …dgement  and if not would  be sorry  to  ask such

a favour and he might have a chance  of  getting  some results the time he would stay.

I am still  labouring   under the dificulty  of

the want of a stamp.  Mr Arthbutnot  wrote me this summer unless it was made appear that there was a considerable quant-

ity of  cloth made for sale about Grantown he would  give

out no stamp and my sons letter was from Hillsea barrack.


I am respectfully

Sir James

Your most obedient servant

Geo Crawford

Grantown Bleachfield

September 15   1795



Elgin Bleachfield    September 12th 1801



Sir James


I  record  difrant  letters  lately  from the  Intaker

Xxxxx from xxxx  annexed  to the  Grantown  Bleachfield

Complaining  that  He had got no return of white cloth the

Owners being  out of all patance  supposing  the Cause  to be my

Being at the field , , as soon as possible I went to the Kirktown  on Saturday last ,,

I planely  Saw that  no person could have done

more than  Walker has done  in the present situation  of the  place

having to labour under the difficulty that would  try the most experien

=ced person of advanced age ,,  I saw twelve cupples bound for the

house which in my humble opinion is on a wrong Construction

for allmost any use ,,  I remember to have often said that the House

at the field was exceedingly —-full  ,,  if that is  to be the case now

would be the time for reparing it accordingly ,, the lower Mill??

is only about sixteen inches from the tower end ,, and to have room

for  the Machinry below ,, from  the loft to the Serting  to my

view would only be about five feet Six inches ,, the most convenient

time  for fixing the Windaser  would be the present ,, from the num

=xxx xxx and adverse dispensations of providenceI have not the least

view of your Honours further indulgence.  I will remember that you

hoped I would not give it up easily The reply was that would be

ingratitude and that I would not until it would do no longer

with me ,, that time looks to be come as I am well persuaded every xx

of Industry   posable was tried to accomplish the end.  I’ll


I am verily  persuaded  there is nothing that I can see at present

to enable the family to do Justice to you and help full  to xxxxxx

than  asending  mill   I observe it here that it’s beneficial and all

ready money the wool  xxx would be helpful to the Bleaching

the Bleaching  account  Can hardly be got in  often  until the new

year and through the Sumer cash is too scarce for  abusnefs

From the small steme of watter at Craggan it will

Not divide to  drive two mill  unless the one desapoints the

other for the most part.  I likewise see it’s the height of folly to

erect acending mill on any part of the Bleaching Machinry

I feel it here by experience that by it alone I am no longer

Capable to Conduct the business of this field to Govenancy  I xxx

and at present is of the mind to leave it  but these need not

be any diffulty of that kind at Craggan there is as can

I here for such a mill  With Some particular advantages un

= observed as far as I think xxxx xxxx xxx which         when there

and fully satisfied myself of its reliability = that and lerning

the Land is most  Certainly the Object to  be proceeded by

whoever occupies the place the wool mill would not cost

so much as I Generaly thought in Such ,, xxxxxx past

there would be a good prospect of help from the Trustees.

Mr Johnston Got Sterling 50  I have  only to  xxx that things

Has turned out so little to  your Satisfaction ,, Watever is your

Honours del..menation will be fully aqu …. by  …..

….. under God to look up to ….. yourself and as I am

advanced in life not fit for much  ……. would wish to cast myself

upon your care it would be esteemed a singular favour

could I know the result as it would be … for my future  oper

ations and perhaps in my staying or leaving this place



I am Respectfully

                                           Sir James

Your Most Humble Servant

Geo Crawford


In the above two letters, George refers to his son Joseph who was in the military.  At the time of the 1895 letter Joseph  was with a military unit that Sir James Grant had raised, and they were at “Hillsea Barracks” (near Porstmouth).  He was with the 97th (Strathspey Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, 1794-1796.  Detachments of this short-lived, rather sickly regiment (ill health seeming to feature heavily in their history) had to serve as marines, some to the West Indies. When the regiment was disbanded, many men transferred permanently to the Marines, others to the Black Watch. In Josephs case, he was either discharged or served his term or deserted (there is a record of a Joseph Crawford deserting around this time).  In either case, by 1799 there are records of his children being born.


Britain was at war with France from 1793 to 1815, ending with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The records of the 97th show that a large number of men whose nationality is recorded as being a European country including many Swiss.  In the following document, reference is made to the difficulty in raising the 97th immediately after raising his “fencible” regiment.  The “fencible” regiment was made up of volunteers to train to defend Scotland against a potential invasion by the French.  Most of the healthy farming youth from the Strathspey area joined, and that meant that there weren’t many left to join the 97th.











Sir James Grant, 8th Baronet

James Grant of Grant, John Mytton, the Hon. Thomas Robinson, and Thomas Wynne by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, ca. 1760.


Sir James Grant of Grant, 8th Baronet FRSE FSA(Scot) (19 May 1738, Moray – 18 February 1811, Castle Grant), was a Scottish landowner and politician.[1]

Grant was the son of Sir Ludovick Grant, 7th Baronet, and Lady Margaret Ogilvy, daughter of the statesman James Ogilvy, 1st Earl of Seafield. Born in Moray, Scotland, he was educated at Westminster School and Christ’s College, Cambridge. Grant succeeded his father as Member of Parliament for Elginshire in 1761, a seat he held until 1768. He married Jean Duff, daughter of Alexander Duff, in 1763.

In 1773 Grant succeeded his father as eighth Baronet of Colquhoun. From 1790 to 1795 he was MP for Banffshire. He also served as Lord Lieutenant of Inverness-shire. He died in February 1811, aged 72, and was succeeded by his son Lewis Alexander Grant, who later that year succeeded his second cousin as fifth Earl of Seafield.

A military historian in the 18th century wrote:

Ninety-seventhorStrathspey Regiment1794

I shall have occasion to mention an early offer made by the Laird of Grant, in 1793, along with the Duke of Gordon, the Marchioness of Stafford, and the Earl of Breadalbane, to raise Fencible regiments in the Highlands. As soon as Sir James Grant’s Fencible regiment was embodied, he made further proposals to raise a regiment for general service. After the exertions recently made to complete the Grant Fencibles, this was an arduous undertaking.

The difficulty soon appeared. Though the corps was numerically completed to 1000 men within the stipulated time, all of them were not of that class which formed the Fencible corps. The Lieutenant-Colonel, Major, and others of the officers, were not natives of the North, and without local knowledge or influence; their commissions depending on their success in recruiting, their principal object was to procure a sufficient number capable of passing muster, and, as money in manufacturing towns effected what influence did in the North, many men were recruited whose character and constitutions could bear no comparison with men of regular and hardy habits raised in the agricultural districts. However, there was among them a number of very good men: the flank companies were excellent.

The regiment was inspected and embodied at Elgin by Major-General Sir Hector Munro, and numbered the 97th; and thus a private gentleman added 1300 soldiers to the force of the country, besides those raised by the officers in the Southern districts. From this, and several other instances at this period, we may, without going back to the days of chiefs and clansmen, estimate the great importance of family, territorial, and personal influence. When exercised by such men as the late Sir James Grant—honourable, humane, and hospitable in his private character, as well as a kind and generous landlord to a numerous and grateful tenantry—Great Britain may calculate on commanding the willing services of the youth of the mountains.

The 97th was ordered to the south of England in 1794, served a few months as marines on board Lord Howe’s fleet in the Channel. In autumn 1795, the men and officers were drafted into different regiments, and the two flank companies turned over to the 42d, when preparing to embark for the West Indies.

This date coincides with George’s letter to Sir James


Cromedale was celebrated in song as the site of the major battle between King Williams army and the supporters of James 11.  That battle had been in 1690, and warfare and banditry was still common up till the final battle on Scottish soil when Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated by the Duke of Cumberland in 1746 at Culloden (around 30km from Grantown).


The population declined slightly from the 1790’s to the 1830’s, with the total population being around 3,000 and 1,000 of these living in Grantown.  So, Samuel Crawford probably lived in Grantown at a time that the town was new.  All the buildings and amenities would have been of a good quality and life relatively comfortable.  A writer at the time said “no village in the north of Scotland can compare with Grantown in neatness and regularity, and in beauty of situation”


Both Gaelic and English was spoken, however Samuel and his brothers and sister would have spoken English as they attended the local school.  The boys studied reading, writing, accounts, Latin and French.  Susanna studied writing and “the foundations of the various branches of female education”.  All children received an education.  Sir James Grant paid the salary of the teacher and provided his accommodation while additional funds came from church collections and the “Society for propagating Christian Knowledge”.  Church collections also supported the poor, so that it seems that there were few reduced to begging.


The diet of the family would have been primarily potatoes and oates.  Fifty percent of their diet would have been potatoes, supplemented with oates (porridge) and turnips.  They would also have had barley and bere (a grain like barley), and small quantities of beef, mutton, pork and fowls bought from the town butcher and bread from one of the two bakeries.  There was a town brewery and George Crawford could have frequented one or all of the three “public houses”. The brewery was established to try to keep the people from drinking “spiritous liquors” (whisky).  The family might also have supplemented their diet with meat or fish, obtained by poaching, which was still fairly common.


Being a fairly substantial town, it is likely that there would have been regular dances and entertainment.  Bagpipe and Fiddle (violin) music were extremely popular and widespread in Scotland.  Robbie Burns put hundreds of his own and traditional poetry to music and published them, so that it was the most widespread form of entertainment at the time. There would have been performances by traveling musicians as well as locals performing in the “public houses” for their own entertainment.

The earliest printed collection of non-religious music in Scotland was published in 1662 by John Forbes of Aberdeen. His work was followed by Playford’s Original Scotch Tunes in 1700; David Herd’s Ancient and modern Scottish songs, heroic ballads, etc. in 1776; and the most important collection of all, The Scots Musical Museum which was published in six volumes between 1787 and 1803 by James Johnson and Robert Burns. This also included new words by Burns, who has since become known as Scotland’s national bard.

The fiddles themselves generally carry stories and history with them, and where one received one’s fiddle and how is important. Thus, when the gypsy fiddler, James MacPherson, from the North-East, offered his fiddle to the crowd before being hanged in Banff in 1700, and no-one accepted it, whereupon he smashed it, he was doing much more than destroying the fiddle itself. The destruction of the fiddle is sacrilegious as far as fiddlers are concerned and mirrors James MacPherson’s own fate. By his action, MacPherson risked putting an end to all the legends and lore that would be passed on with the instrument.

The 18th century in Moray


Trade with the continent was increasing now, through the ports of Findhorn and Garmouth, with imports of wine and other luxury goods, and the export of grain, salmon, hides and timber from Moray. By 1703 the contracts were being signed for the building of the new harbour of Elgin at Lossiemouth. Many changes to the structures of the local councils and other aspects of administration were also under way at this time, and there was a great deal of new building work going on in the Burghs. Rural life remained little changed, with the “but and ben” still providing the majority of the accommodation for the agricultural workers.  A “but and ben” was a two roomed house; an outer room “but’ for the kitchen and an inner room “ben” for sleeping.


At the time of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 the Earl of Mar was in control of the area, but the effects on the local people were small, apart from the inconvenience of the military garrisons in the area.


In the 1720’s new schoolmasters and schoolmistresses were appointed in many parishes, and education became within reach of many of the less advantaged classes. Communications were being improved, with extensive work on roads and bridges throughout the county. The Rebellion of 1745-46 caused considerable disturbance, especially to the landowners whose crops and beasts were requisitioned, and the area was divided between the Government and the Jacobite camps, although in actual terms very few Moray men went to fight on the Jacobite side.


Major disputes occurred between various factions of the councils in the Burghs during the middle part of the 18th century, but eventually things settled down and life returned to normal. The state of the towns continued to raise concern, and various plans were put into action to remove the dung-heaps from the main streets and generally to tidy up the towns and villages.


In general the 18th century was not one of much progress, and it closed with severe food shortages bordering on a famine. The trade in the Burghs had gradually declined following the Act of Union in 1707, and the foreign trade almost ceased due to the punitive fiscal laws of England now having been extended to Scotland as well. A developing contraband trade succeeded this. Many of the more prominent old families had left the towns, and there was a gradual decline in population across Moray. To quote Dr. Robert Young, “In short, it [the 18th century] was a time of inactivity and depression”

A Crawford Family

Preface to 1st edition

On Anzac Day in 2007, I knew of no living Crawford relatives. I knew of cousins; the children of my fathers sisters, but no Crawford cousins.

I had begun researching my Crawford family history after a holiday in Scotland in 2004.  While there, we visited Elgin.  My mother had visited Elgin in 1979; a sort of pilgrimage after my father died.  He had always wanted to visit the town from which his family had emigrated to Australia.

My father died in 1977 at the age of 56, when I was 30.  He had left me with many wonderful memories, a little knowledge of our heritage, a collection of books (the fly leaves or inside covers inscribed with the name of his father, Percival Crawford, at various addresses), a collection of brass miners scales, binoculars and telescope, old board games from the 1900’s, education certificates and a box of photographs and newspaper clippings.

Every few years or so, I would read the newspaper clipping from The Maryborough Standard of May 1875 in which there was a lengthy report of the marriage of my Great Grandfather Robert Crawford to Ann Elizabeth Neale.  There was also the clipping from an unknown paper about the opening of the St Andrews War memorial Hospital in Brisbane by Harold Crawford.

In 2005, all enthused after our Elgin visit, I used the Maryborough Standard clipping to locate their wedding certificate.  It listed Robert’s parents as being James and Mary Crawford.  That led me back to their wedding in Geelong in March 1854.  Their wedding certificate recorded James as having been born in Belfast in 1830 and his father as being Robert Crawford.  Now that was a hell of a shock.  What was the family lore about Elgin?  Irish not Scottish?  There had to be a mistake.

If you know anything about genealogical research, you will appreciate that the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) lead the way in recording births deaths and marriages internationally.  From their website, I located James as having been born in Elgin.  It seems that he left home in his early 20’s and settled in Belfast; listed as a “marine” or “mariner” on his son’s wedding certificate.

By now, you will be having trouble with the repetition of James and Robert as the Christian names of the first born into each generation. Hopefully it won’t be as confusing when you come to read the rest of this family history.  You will also have to cope with the name John Hamilton Crawford, passed down in Australia, Ireland, Scotland and the U.S.

Further research lead me back to Robert’s parents, brothers and sister in Elgin and to his grandfather in Inverallan.  That took me back to around 1780 and try as I might, I can’t prove the birth or marriage details of Samuel prior to moving to Grantown in the 1780.  There are several possibilities and I will outline them in the 1st Chapter.

Returning to the Australian family, the Mitchell Libraries genealogical resources allowed me to locate the births of most of the children of Robert and Ann Crawford’s children, including my grandfather Percival Crawford.  Unfortunately, there were no recorded marriages or deaths for any of them, nor for Robert and Ann.  All but my grandfather and father seemed to have vanished.

I spent fruitless hours googling.  I must have spent 40 hours or more, every month for six months or more just googling and trolling through genealogical records without finding any thread to tease out.  In the end, I joined “Genes Reunited” where I posted my family “pine” tree.  I then put it all aside.

Then came Anzac Day 2007.  I had heard that a large number of military records had been scanned and collected by the National Archive.  Previous searches had simply recorded names, place where they had enlisted and next of kin.  Now there were full records.  I started with my father and grandfather.  Pages took forever to download.  The day was dragging on.  I decided to see if any of my grandfather’s brothers had also enlisted in WW1.  Amazing, there was Robert Crawford (the 3rd?)  and Harold Crawford.  What about 2nd World War?  There were Robert’s sons and my father and his brother, Brian.

At days end, I started to actually read some of the documents.  My grandfather Percy listed his next of kin as “Robert Crawford of Carbine Mine, Kalgoorlie”.  What was that all about?  The family address was Mont Albert, Melbourne.  Then there were his brothers, Harold and Robert.  Both had served in Palestine with Light Horse companies.  Robert’s records listed three different Sydney addresses between his discharge and the mid 1920’s., so dad had had an uncle living in Sydney and possible cousins as well.  Whenever I had asked him about family, he had always responded that they were in Victoria.  He never suggested any family in any other state.

A month later, I was attending a conference on the Gold Coast.  During a break, on the spur of the moment, I telephoned the St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane.  I explained who I was and that I had a newspaper clipping from the 1950’s announcing the opening of the hospital by Dr Harold Crawford who I thought might be my great Uncle.  I explained that I understood that with privacy laws they couldn’t give me any information, however if they knew of any descendants, could they contact them with my name and phone number and ask if they could contact me.

Not 10 minutes later, the hospital called me back with the name Margaret Crawford and her phone number.  Several days later I drove up to Buderim to meet Margaret and Douglas Chapman and then to Coorparoo to meet Halle and Don Moreton.  Harold Crawford’s two daughters provided me with the entire Queensland branch of the family tree.

Both Margaret and Halle also suggested that the family story regarding their grandfather Robert was that he was an alchoholic who had left his family in Victoria and gone off to the goldfields of W.A. where he had another equally large second family.

Halle provided the biggest breakthrough in bringing the entire international family together.  I had told her that I couldn’t find any trace of her grandfather’s parents or brothers either dying or marrying in Australia and that I was beginning to think that they might have returned to Scotland or Ireland.  Suddenly Halle remembered that she had been given a page from the family bible by an Aunt she had visited in Comrie, Scotland in 1950.  She had saved the page in a photo album.  Ten minutes of searching and she produced the page in which a family member had recorded the births and deaths of the Australian Crawfords; and there were James and John Hamilton dying in Hopeman (Scotland) and Bradford (England) respectively.  So Robert’s two brothers had moved to Scotland and England.

Now that I had the entire Queensland branch, I returned to trying to track down Robert Crawford in Western Australia.  Various goldfields websites lead me to the marriage of James Miller Crawford, the birth of his son Robert Crawford and a Dept. of Agriculture report prepared in the 1990’s in which Ken Crawford was quoted about the use of Rowles Lagoon in providing water to the Carbine mine and grazing property.  I decided that if I could track down Ken, then he would fill me in on the rest of the W.A. family.  I spent months searching for Ken.

In the meantime, I received an email via. Genes Reunited from Suzanne Matzelburg.  She had posted her family tree and it had matched my tree for a number of Crawfords.  We exchanged emails and a phone call and established that she was a member of the Robert Crawford family; my grandfather’s brother.  So, now we had the entire New South Wales families accounted for.

At the same time, an Elgin Library website produced a link to the local newspapers archived obituaries, and there was a record for a John Hamilton Crawford, son of James Crawford of Hopeman.  Amazingly it was a 1970 obituary and it recorded that John Hamilton Crawford had lived in New York from 1932 till his death in 1970, so we now had an American branch of the family to track down.

Again I was googling “John Hamilton Crawford’s” and “James Crawford’s”, and I came across obituaries for John Hamilton Crawford II and wedding notices for John Hamilton Crawford III.  Pursuing John Hamilton Crawford III lead me to his email address at a bank in New York, but no response.  James Crawford repeatedly led to an obituary for James Leslie Crawford killed in the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001.  I realized that his father was the same Jim Crawford as the brother of John Hamilton Crawford II, so began googling for him.  Eventually I tracked him down and phoned him to confirm that we were cousins.  I wasn’t sure if he realized that his grandfather had been born in Australia and that he had a growing number of relatives here.  Not only was he aware, but he had travelled to Maryborough, Victoria, and had tried to locate his Australian relatives.  He also told me of his cousin John Hamilton Crawford in Edinburgh.  John was the son of James Archibald Crawford, John Hamilton Crawford’s brother.

Jim gave me John’s phone number and I surprised them one Sunday morning.  John and Ann had lived briefly in Perth in the 1970’s and had also made the pilgrimage to Maryborough in search of us Australian Crawfords.  John sent me a number of letters, telegrams and photographs which filled in many gaps and a death certificate from Deniliquin Hospital that revealed that James brother (another Robert) had followed him to Australia but unfortunately died in his early 30’s.

Western Australia remained the missing branch.  After another couple of weeks of retracing all the previous searches, I was desperate.  What else could I do but write to the Gold Fields Historical Society.  Was there any possibility that they might have any knowledge of a Ken Crawford who had lived at the Carbine Mine?  Of course she knew Ken; she had taught him in the 50’s and her mother had taught his father in the 20’s.  Not only could she give me his address at Esperance but she could send me around 20 photographs from 1900 to the 1930’s of the Crawford family, their mine and grazing property. I phoned Ken and he told me that his brother Errol had prepared a family tree and that I should get in touch with him.

I emailed John Crawford in Edinburgh to let him know about the breakthrough.  We had three new cousins, Errol a lawyer (as is John), Ken a grazier and Alan an accountant.  That would be Errol Crawford whom John had met in Perth in the 1970’s and Alan with whom one of his close friends had worked.

When Errol sent across the West Australian tree, I had finally completed the entire tree.  Well, almost.  I am still to trace some of the female lines, although as you can see from the tree, we are making some progress.

The final branch came has a great surprise.  Remember the Queensland cousins had said that they believed that Robert Crawford had another family in W.A.?  They at least had me searching for this family and for some time I had records of a Mary Jane Chenery being a witness at the wedding of James Miller Crawford in W.A.  It was only when I decided to add Robert’s wife Ann Elizabeth Crawford’s family (the Neales) to the tree that the penny dropped.  Robert’s brother in law was William Neale and he had married a Mary Jane Chenery.  When I found the birth records for William and Mary Neale’s children, there was a Stanley Crawford Neale.  William had died and Robert fathered two sons with Mary Chenery in Victoria and a daughter in W.A.

With a largely complete family tree, I decided to write a family history.

Much of the information we can find about out antecedents is limited to birth, marriage and death records.  We know where they lived, when and where they were born, what they did for a living, who they married, who their children were, occasionally what they inherited or what they owned etc. etc.  So far, we don’t have much to tell us about their lives.  In writing this family history, I have tried to reconstruct the place and times in which they lived and imagine their experience of those times and places.  In doing so, I have used just a couple of principles to provide the parameters.  I have always believed that for the most part, mankind hasn’t changed much in 2000 years or so.

Technology or science has changed and our use of it, but we are still much the same in terms of our thought processes, our relationships, our morality or ethics.  We wear different clothes, fashions change, materials change.  We play different games and enjoy different entertainments, but our sense of fun is still much the same.  We engage in business and careers as seriously and with as much commitment and energy as we always have.  We love as passionately and wantonly as always.  We have a sense of history and our place in the modern world.  Every age in which our antecedents lived was modern history to them.  So much was new and exciting for them as it is for us.

I’ve tried to research the life and times in which they lived and imagine their experience of those lives and times.  The other principle I’ve applied, particularly to their early lives, is that most people live in the present and respond to what’s happening and likely to happen in the now.  By this I mean, children and youths don’t tend to have a connection with the past.  Samuel Crawford may have been born only 25 years or so after Culloden, but I can’t help but feel that it would have been ancient history to him.  I don’t think he would have had any real idea what it was like to live in a middle or working class society that was at the constant mercy of the aristocracy or a bandit class, or even a clan that could interrupt the day to day fun of a child or challenges of just getting through life as an adult.  He did live at a time when Scotland was playing a major part in the launching of the industrial revolution, when farming was undergoing major changes, people were moving from farms to towns, villages and cities, when they were coming to terms with rapid change.

Around 1900 when my Great Great Grandfather George Coleman Robinson was in his 70’s, he wrote his memoirs.  He did this at the pleading of his grandchildren.  What he wrote was a wonderfully personal memoir of his life growing up in England, his voyages to Australia (he was shipwrecked on the first voyage), life on the goldfields of Victoria and his later years in Melbourne. I hope to recapture his style of writing and to bring our “Crawfords” back to us.

Preface to 2nd edition, 2017

There have been quite a few changes to the 1st edition.  John Hamilton Crawford in Edinburgh wasn’t sure about a number of things in the 1st edition and emailed me corrections (we also spent some more time together in Ireland where we discussed them).  I had also made a number of assumptions about where and what might have happened to a number of our ancestors.  Hopefully I have corrected all these and there are certainly less assumptions, as recent research has cleared up many of them.  The only speculations remaining are in a new 1st chapter which covers the origins of our Crawfords prior to Grantown in the late 1700’s.

It wasn’t until I made the decision to retire in late 2016 that I returned to some solid research.  I tracked down Karen Williams (ne Crawford) in Sydney.  Her Grandfather was Robert William Crawford, my Grandfathers brother.  She had been researching the family and told me that she had found a record of a court case in Ireland regarding the will and estate of Robert Crawford in the late 1800’s that wasn’t resolved until the early 1900’s.

In researching this court case, I also came across a number of newspaper articles about the family in Ireland.  This has meant that we now know more about some of the individuals, including another John Hamilton Crawford, the earliest with this name, and where and how they lived.

I also spent a lot of time in researching the origin of the name John Hamilton Crawford.  Every John has this middle name and for some strange unknown reason, so did my father and now myself, my sons and my grandson.  In many cases, the middle name is taken from the wife’s maiden name and on some occasions to honour a family respected by your family.  On my mother’s father’s side of the family we have generations of Thomas Colston Coggan.  The “Colston” was adopted in honour of the greatest benefactor, Edward Colston, of Bristol where they lived.

On the assumption that it might be due to the marriage of a Crawford to a Hamilton female, in the 1700’s, I researched all marriage records available and settled on a family in Lanarkshire.  I found that a James Crawford married a Helen Hamilton and had a son George born around the 1750’s.  George’s grandfather was also a James Crawford and was a weaver.  I therefore considered that it was a possible link, assuming that when Sir James Grant established a linen manufacturing business at Grantown, that he would have advertised for experienced people to settle in Grantown, and as the area around Glasgow had an established linen industry, George might have responded.

I was happy with my speculation and ready to move on when I contacted the Grantown Museum again.  I hadn’t been in touch for around 5 years and was surprised when I provided them with details of George Crawford’s letters to Sir James Grant and they responded with the news that they believed he had been recruited from Ireland.

I had wondered how Robert Crawford who died in Ireland in 1869, (having moved from Elgin, Scotland when he was around 20 y.o.) had accumulated so much land around Ballymena and Magherafelt.  I had written to the few Crawfords still living near these towns some months ago.  Non had any knowledge of Robert or his son John Hamilton Crawford who died in 1916 in Magherafelt.

Because there are so few BD&M records for Ireland, I resorted to researching linen manufacturing in and around Magherafelt and Ballymena.  I had already established that the Crawford land at Ballymena was used for growing flax and therefore a connection with the linen industry.  I now discovered a document written in 1916 and digitized in 2010 called “History of Magherafelt”.  In this document it was recorded that in 1760 there were three Crawfords living in Magherafelt Parish; Samuel, James and Robert.  Three names common to our family and therefore the possibility that one of Samuels sons was George who moved to Grantown where he had a son named Samuel who moved to Elgin and in turn had a son called Robert who moved to Ireland around 1820 and eventually lived in Magherafelt where he died in 1869 owning 651 acres of land.

Further research uncovered a book called “The Linen Houses of the Bann Valley: The Story of their Families” by Kathleen Rankin.  In it, there is a chapter about Ballievey House, established by a George Crawford in 1769.  Through marriage the firm of Crawford & Lindsay was created in 1822 and continued till 1919.  Ballydown Weaving Co and bleach works.  Perhaps connected with our Crawfords.

It is still a possibility that the Crawfords originated in Lanarkshire and moved to Ireland in the early 1700’s.  That’s for someone else to research.  For now, I am happy to start our family history with Samuel Crawford in Magherafelt from 1760.

Finally, in 2017 I took my DNA analysis with Ancestry.com.  While this didn’t result in any direct matches with a “Crawford”, it did lead to me connecting with cousins from the “Comrie” line … the Millers.  Many of them have been in Canada and the U.S. for several generations, and they resolved several questions about James and John Hamilton who were taken from Australia to Scotland in the 1870’s.

The DNA matching also connected me to our cousins, descended from Mary Elizabeth Crawford. She was the eldest of Robert Crawford and Ann Neil, born in Maryborough in 1876.  This leaves only the mysterious younger sister, Catherine Crawford to find.

Australian National Anthem

Ever since those young girls protested our national anthem by refusing to stand at school assemblies, I’ve been meaning to contact them and suggest they start a movement to change the national anthem to these lyrics written by Judith Durham (The Seekers). Anyone reading them couldn’t help but agree they are more meaningful and inclusive of all Australians. Surely even Pauline Hansen couldn’t mount an argument. Why wait for a government to make the change. Some things we as a people can change for ourselves. The lyrics should be distributed far and wide, learnt and then sung by us whenever the national anthem is played. In time, governments might discover that the people are singing a national anthem that they believe in. I’ve been posting the lyrics as part of my signature on emails for the last 5 years.

Australia, celebrate as one, with peace and harmony.
Our precious water, soil and sun, grant life for you and me.
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts to love, respect and share,
And honouring the Dreaming, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australia, let us stand as one, upon this sacred land.
A new day dawns, we’re moving on to trust and understand.
Combine our ancient history and cultures everywhere,
To bond together for all time, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australia, let us strive as one, to work with willing hands.
Our Southern Cross will guide us on, as friends with other lands.
While we embrace tomorrow’s world with courage, truth and care,
And all our actions prove the words, advance Australia fair,
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

And when this special land of ours is in our children’s care,
From shore to shore forever more, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance … Australia … fair.


Eora: Courmangara This Place: Watsons Bay & South Head

Eora: Courmangara

This Place: Watsons Bay & South Head

Including Kutti, Metallar (Mit-tă-lā), Bir-ra-bir-ra,  Burrawarre (Burra.wă-rā), Woo-lā-ră (Tar-ral-be)

I have always planned on writing a social history of Watson’s Bay where I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, and where my family had lived from around 1905.

In the 1970’s, I completed an Arts degree in which I had studied only European colonial and economic history and sociology subjects.  I studied the English colonisation of America, South Africa, South Asia, Australia and China, the French colonisation of North America, the Portuguese colonisation of South America and Asia, the Dutch Colonisation of SE Asia, and the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.

For forty years I primarily worked in publishing and bookselling and accumulated a vast history library.  The largest collection was of American Indian and Australian Aboriginal works.  My focus was primarily on social and cultural history, although almost all included references to physical and cultural clashes with the invading European settlers.

It is only in the last three years that I have met indigenous people socially.  I am tempted to say, “made friends with”, however that is not for me to claim.  It has meant however, that I have a more personal understanding of some of the issues that continue to divide our society.  On “Sorry Day” in 2017, I wrote to two of my friends:

“I express my sorrow, apologize and say I’m sorry, to all Australian indigenous people, past, present and future for the destruction and disrespect shown to you as a people and as individuals, and to your society, culture and country.

While our government struggles to define our cultural values and determine the criteria for citizenship, it is obvious that a majority of our people only play lip-service to the concept of a multicultural society.  We are however, a society that has developed over the last 200 years with every wave of immigration and exposure to global communications. 

 Sadly, ours is a society and culture that should be so much richer and uniting.  If we had only learnt from and adopted the societal and cultural values of your people; values developed over 50,000+ years, and values in harmony with our country.

 We are poorer for our continued failure to show respect for your people and culture.”

It was then that I realised that a history of Watsons Bay had to include the history of the Gadigal people and in particular, the Birrabirragal clan.

 I also realised that this history might also help to reconcile.  If future generations are to finally appreciate and respect indigenous people and culture, they need to know more.  They need knowledge, not opinions and bigoted beliefs.  They need to know about how sophisticated indigenous society was and still is.  Perhaps understanding one clan will help them identify with people on a person to person basis rather than as a “race”.

This is therefore a social history, exploring what is described in the Wiradjuri language as ‘Yindyamarra Winhanganha’ – ‘the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’.  Respect, Gentleness, Honor and learning to live doing things slowly.  Living with Yindyamarra, is living in harmony and with respect for each other and country.  It is a history of the Birrabirragal people who lived there for 35,000 years or more and the Europeans who have lived there for the last 230 years

The boundaries for the purpose of this “history’ are close to the current local government boundaries of Watsons Bay, being from a line drawn between the Signal Station on the cliffs at the top of Old South Head Road and Kutti Beach on the harbor.  Occasionally I will stray outside this are only insofar as the people who lived there from the Dreamtime till the 1970’s,  traveled south in their  country as far as Wuganmagulya (Farm Cove).  The Birrabirragel to meet with their Gadigal families and the Europeans to work in the city.

I have settled on the original indigenous name of Courmangara for Watsons Bay rather than Kutti.  This is because D’Arcy Wentworth recorded it in the early 1800’s prior to the record of Kutti   by J Larmer the NSW Surveyor General in 1829.  It is also the only name not specifically associated with a particular part of South Head.  Kutti is a beach within Watsons Bay, where I launched Sabots and 12’ skiffs in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Metallar  or Mit-tă-lā, is Laings Point later named Green Point at the north/western end of  Camp Cove where I played in the WW11 tunnels and gun emplacements.  Bir-ra-bir-ra is the Sow & Pigs reef several hundred meters off Green Point where I witnessed and experienced numerous sailing disasters and mishaps.  Burrawarre  or Burra.wă-rā is inner south head, north of Camp Cove which was  fenced off as a naval base (HMAS Watson), where I watched schools of porpoise fishing close to the cliffs and fished for leather jackets from the wharf.   Woo-lā-ră or Tar-ral-bem is outer south head where we were restricted to playing from “The Gap” up into “The Glenn” toward the signal station.  Occasionally we were allowed onto the cliffs of the naval base to watch the guns shoot at targets towed by aircraft off the coast.

I will not attempt a history from the Dreamtime (60,000 to 80,000 years ago) to the 1970’s but from roughly 200 hundred years either side of the 1st Settlement/Invasion on the 24th January 1788.  The 200 years of Dreaming as lived by the Birrabirragal clan of the Dharug language group, related to the Gadigal (Cadigal) and Dharawal people.  I am also only covering the post invasion period to the 1970’s, by which time the ferry service returned, bringing mass tourism to The Bay, coinciding with the end of the working class social networks with the death of the old fishermen and the influx of an affluent population with no real connection with “Country”.

It is believed that the few Birrabirragal people who survived the infectious diseases that killed many of the Gadigal in the first ten years of European invasion, moved to La Perouse and the European Australians who replaced them, identified with “Country” up till the 1960’s.  Not the same concept of “Country” as the Birrabirragal, but still a connection with the land and the sea.

Like the Birrabirragl before them, many of the fisher families were forced from “Country”.  Not by disease but by high rates and taxes and the pressure from wealthy people who wanted to live at “The Bay”.  They moved to nursing homes where they died more quickly than they would have done if able to stay on and live “In Country”. They would have identified with ‘Yindyamarra Winhanganha’.  I witnessed their practice of   “respect, gentleness, honor, generosity and living  life slowly.

Some history books are thematic.  They deal with elements of politics, society or religion/spirituality and discuss their development or evolution and are basically sociological.  Other histories are chronological.

Writing a history of post 1788 Watsons Bay isn’t difficult.  There is a wealth of written records and my personal memories.  There is so much information that I will be breaking it down into chapters that are chronological in order.

Writing the pre 1788 history is far more of a problem because until 1788 in Australia, there was no concept of time.  There were seasons, so in a sense there were years, however the people didn’t record or pass down stories that specified periods of time.  They referred to “Dreaming”, which is past, present and future.

It is a mistake to think of indigenous society as being the repetition of one year over and over again.  Just as the climate changed over a 65,000 year period, so did the life forms and vegetation.  Even over a ten year period or one hundred years, there would have been fluctuations just as there are today.

I could write a history chronologically based on the seasons, however there would be insufficient information to know what rituals were conducted when or even exactly where people lived.  I will therefore have to adopt a sociological approach.

In regards to  “Dreaming” I am indebted to Jens Korff, owner and author of the Creative Spirits website for the following:

Aboriginal spirituality does not consider the ‘Dreamtime’ as a time past, in fact not as a time at all. Time refers to past, present and future but the ‘Dreamtime’ is none of these. The ‘Dreamtime’ “is there with them, it is not a long way away. The Dreamtime is the environment that the Aboriginal lived in, and it still exists today, all around us,” says Aboriginal author Mudrooroo [2]. It is important to note that the Dreaming always also comprises the significance of place [3].

Hence, if we try to use an English word, we should avoid the term ‘Dreamtime’ and use the word ‘Dreaming’ instead. It expresses better the timeless concept of moving from ‘dream’ to reality which in itself is an act of creation and the basis of many Aboriginal creation myths. None of the hundreds of Aboriginal languages contain a word for time [4].

We are the oldest and the strongest people, we’re here all of the time, we’re constant through the Dreaming which is happening now, there’s no such thing as the Dreamtime.—Karl Telfer, senior culture-bearer for Kaurna people, Adelaide [5]”

2] in: Us Mob, Mudrooroo, 1995, p.34
[3] Penny Tripcony, Manager, Oodgeroo Unit, Queensland University of Technology, http://www.oodgeroo.qut.edu.au/academic_resources/academicpape/tooobviousto.jsp
[4] Voices of the First Day, Robert Lawlor, 1991, p.37
[5] ‘Leader ‘incorrect”, Koori Mail 469 p.15

Source: https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/spirituality/what-is-the-dreamtime-or-the-dreaming#ixzz4gMRalr00

I am not setting out to write a traditional academic history of Courmangara.  In fact, one of my sons is disappointed that I am not prepared to undertake a post graduate doctorate or masters study as a basis for this work.  At 71 years of age, the degree would be of no value and in many respects a hindrance to what I hope to achieve.  He nevertheless sees a benefit in being able to access a wider range of material and assistance and yet I only see constraints.

What I am aiming for is a social history that is accessible to everyone.  I want it to be accurate, however I also want it to be readable and as enjoyable as a novel.  I almost wrote “academically accurate”.  Here in lies the heart of the problem … what is “academically accurate”.  Historians over the last several thousand years have written “academically accurate” histories.  Actually, many haven’t.  They have written histories to justify or glorify the lives and actions of their people and/or rulers.  The most obvious are the historians and authors such as Shakespeare who rewrote the history of Richard the 3rd to justify the actions of the Tudors.  Historians for the next 500 hundred years cite The Croyland Chronicle, Dominic Mancin, Polydore Vergil, Thomas More’s History
Shakespeare’s Richard III and James Gairdner: The Victorian Anti Richard to maintain a false history.

Australian Aboriginal history and as a consequence Australia’s indigenous people have been so abused over the last 229 years, that we are likely to suffer the consequences of a divided society and a poorer culture, for several more centuries.

In researching and writing this history, I refute the argument of many Australian historians who claim that recent histories are exercises in “revisionism”. They use the term pejoratively, to charge that revisionists are deliberately distorting the true historical record.  In the last 10 years in particular, some historians have gathered so much primary source material to actually mount the argument that for 200 years, many historians distorted the true historical record.  Historians such as Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe have gathered so many documents written by the early explorers and settlers that testify to a totally different story, and they are in fact correcting a false historical record that has gone unchallenged for 200 years.

While Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe’s research has provided written primary source material to allow some idea of the Dreaming for some indigenous peoples across the continent, there is none for the Birrabirragal people of Courmangara.  We cannot know if every Birrabirragal died in the first two years of English occupation.  Some may have survived the diseases that ravaged their families and joined up with relatives in Cadigal country.  It is still unknown as to the origin of the smallpox that killed 70% of the aboriginal population.  It was either introduced by the English or the French who arrived a few days after the 1st Fleet.  At Lappa (La Parouse), aboriginal elder Tim Ella believes that the disease was introduced by the French.  Either way, it is highly likely that there are descendants of the Birrabirragal living there today.

In writing a history of  Courmangara I am aware that the Birrabirragal only spent part of the year there, and that Courmangara is only part of their “Country”.  I am also going to have to rely upon the oral history as passed down through generations of Gadigal people.  Unlike other Australians who have relied upon written family histories and written academic and media records, indigenous people have an oral tradition that in many respects is as reliable as our written records.  I make this claim because their oral history in integrated with their “Dreaming” foundation.  The Dreaming “stories” express all elements of their culture and society.  They are the same now as they were perhaps a thousand years ago.  The Birrabirragal would have shared almost all Dreaming with the Gadigal and other Dharawal people.

I am not suggesting that the Birrabirragal had a culture or societal structure that had existed in Courmangara  for  60,000+ years.  Logic dictates that the continent of Australia or Terra Australis as it was referred to, was occupied over a lengthy period.  The indigenous people moved into the northern parts of the continent 60,000+ years ago and spread south and eastward as they adjusted to “country” and as their population expanded and they required new country. Academic studies suggest that the first people arrived from SEAsia 60,000+ years ago and that the climate and vegetation changed quite dramatically (including the drowning of country following the “ice age” over the following 20,000 years.  The earliest datable artifacts found in the Eora country is approx. 40,000 years old, suggesting that it took 20,000 years for the people to move from northern Australia.

My parents lived in Ningy Ningy country (Redcliffe, Queensland).  They came from Boonwurrungm country (my father – South Melbourne)  and Gadigal country (my mother – Vaucluse)

The Ningy Ningy clan was the southernmost clan of the Undambi people.  I was born in 1947, in Turrbal country (Virginia Hospital), some kilometers south , but lived in Ningy Ningy and Wakka Wakka country (Kingaroy) for the first two years of my life.

Around 1950, we moved to my grandparents (mothers parents) house in Birrabirragal (Gadigal) country (Vaucluse) and three years later to Courmangara (Watsons Bay).

In 1966 I moved to the Kulin nations country, living in Boonwurrungm country (Beaumaris).  Over the next 5 years, I lived in other parts of Boonwurrungm country (South Yarra, St Kilda and Chelsea).  For a brief time, I also lived in Boroondara (Camberwell), home of the Wurundjeri clan of Woiwurrung people, and was married there in 1970.

In 1971, I moved back to Gadigal country (Vaucluse and Bondi), where our son Kent was born, before once again moving in 1972, to Ningy Ningy country (Redcliffe) where another son, Drew,  was born.

In 1978, we moved to Darramuragal country (St Ives) and in 1996 again to Gadigal country (Petersham).

For over half my life I have lived in Gadigal country, and Cournmangara is my spiritual home.  It is where my ashes will be buried.

“The wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in … to show respect, to go slowly, to take care and to think before acting. Living with Yindyamarra, is living in harmony and respect with each other and country.”