Looking back: October 2015

The year is almost gone…

Random Friday memory 34: RAM 32k was cool in 1993!

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Neil

In the unlikely event of your sighting a copy of The teaching of reading in the Botany Cluster [compiled by: Neil Whitfield], note that all 111 pages were personally typeset by me in 1993 on the dining room table at my then Elizabeth Street Surry Hills residence with much changing of daisy wheels on a beast like this:


The good people at the Disadvantaged Schools Project at Erskineville had to work from my printouts because their computers could not read my Brother floppy disks.

The Brother WP-80 was “the typewriter that wanted to be a computer” – obsolescent when, thanks to M, I obtained one c. 1993. I chose it because I was terrified still of computers – a condition that lasted until around 1999 – but did understand typewriters…

Other Friday memory posts: Random Friday memory 33: three from October 2005, Random Friday memory 32: my dramatic debut — 1965, Random Friday memory 31 — Ian.

I’m off to Surry Hills shortly, so decided to post here something that really belongs to tomorrow—and it isn’t a memory as much as memories. You see, my brother, who now lives in Tasmania…

turns 80 tomorrow!


That trip to Surry Hills: To Surry Hills again — 1 and To Surry Hills again – 2: Belmore Park. And then there was NRL Grand Final.

Among my reading:

Anzac revisited and how one thing leads to another…

Posted on October 22, 2015 by Neil

Currently I am reading Gallipoli (2011, pb 2013) by Peter Hart.


I am only up to Chapter 5, but that for an Australian is one of the most interesting as it deals with the first landing at Anzac Cove between moonset and dawn, 3.30 am on 25 April 1915. One of the book’s best features, as this review says, is “a trove of primary source material, in particular soldiers’ accounts of their experiences. Gallipoli is replete with lengthy and compelling quotations by Australian, British, French and Turkish soldiers, most never before published.” Indeed they are fascinating.

Most of us have pictured the landing as met with Turkish machine gun fire as the first boats landed, but apparently this was not the case as at that point the relevant Turkish regiment had only one machine gun company of four guns which was being held in reserve some distance away during that first Anzac landing. (See Hart p.84.) Compare Chris Roberts Wartime 50 Feature Article: Turkish machine-guns at the landing.


That is the earliest known photo of the Anzac landing: “Captain Harry Charles Davies went ashore with the 15th Battalion on 25 April 1915. Harry took this photograph at the landing and authorised a patent attorney as his agent. His copyright application was approved. He was shot in the ankle during the charge from the 4th Brigade lines on 28 April and returned to Australia on 10 June 1915. [Item 3791, A1861/1, National Archives of Australia.]” I found that in an article The Battle of the Landing, 25 April – 3 May 1915 on the official Australian commemorative site. It is by one Richard Reid – and that is where one thing leads to another!

Dr Richard Reid,  Irish born and educated, worked for more than 40 years as a high school teacher, museum educator, historian and museum curator. Thirty of those years were spent in Canberra, in institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the Senate and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In 2011, he was the Senior Curator for the National Museum’s exhibition on the Irish in Australia, ‘Not just Ned’.

Richard has written widely on the subject of Australia at war and of the story of the Irish in Australia and has led tours to Ireland, the Western Front and Gallipoli. Recently retired from the Australian Public Service, he is still involved in a major archaeological and historical survey of the Anzac area on the Gallipoli peninsula and various projects on the emigration of the Irish to Australia during the 19th century.

Among Richard’s publications are “A Decent Set of Girls”: The Irish Famine Orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot, 1849-1850 (with Cheryl Mongan), Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia, 1848-1870, Bomber Command: Australians in World War II and Sinners, Saints and Settlers: A Journey through Irish Australia (with Brendon Kelson).

And it was as a high school teacher in Wollongong that I recall Richard from the 1970s to early 1980s. I particularly recall a talk he gave a Year 12 Study Day on W B Yeats.

At that time I did not know my own family hailed originally (1820s) from County Cavan, County Armagh and nearby in Ireland – I had no idea whatsoever! That knowledge only came my way 15 or so years ago, believe it or not. If only I had known! …

I have only just finished Gallipoli, reading it on and off over the past months. I strongly recommend it. October ended on a military note:

Drinks with the Major-General…

Posted on October 31, 2015 by Neil

After lunch at City Diggers yesterday I was joined at my table by one of the RSL types. I had no idea who he was, but he was a most pleasant companion, a few years older than me. The penny dropped as he told me he had been a soldier for thirty years or so and mentioned some places he had been. When I asked what his rank was when he retired he said “Major-General”… Oh… The chats you can have here in The Gong!

In 2008: “At Victoria Barracks, Sydney, the Governor-General, as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, and Mr Bryce, as guests of the Colonel Commandant, Major General Hori Howard AO MC ESM, attended a parade…”


And there he is last Anzac Day: Centenary of Anzac marches on in Wollongong: photos…

I see the YouTube I embedded there has gone already. The impermanence of so many YouTubes is a problem.

This post – thanks to Dion’s bus service!

Posted on October 29, 2015 by Neil

Dion’s Bus Service is a living legend in the Illawarra.

Dion’s Bus Service was founded in 1923 when Thomas Dion commenced operating a service from Wollongong to Balgownie followed by a service to Bellambi. It is currently the oldest operating bus operator in the Illawarra.

From December 1927 until 1931 a coach service was operated to Sydney. In January 1928 it commenced operating route 1 services from Wollongong to Austinmer, along with five other operators. In August 1929, Barney Dion commenced operating a service from Wollongong to Kiama…

That Kiama run has long ceased, but there is a story about it my father told me. It is recounted here….

Let me tell you about yesterday and the Austinmer bus – possibly this one:


I had spent some time with friends at Steelers but rather than lunching there I went over to The Brewery. After an excellent lunch I wandered out to the old Catholic cemetery to pay my respects to the memorial of William Smith, who arrived in 1822 on the “Isabella 1” with my convict ancestor Jacob. See Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”.


I then wandered over to City Beach…

Returning to the bus stop nearest The Brewery I saw that the 2.30 Dion’s Austinmer bus was about to go. I decided to catch it back as far as City Diggers, where I alighted.

No sooner was I off the bus than I realised my mobile phone and my camera were no longer in my pocket. Tragedy! I contemplated what to do over a glass of red at Diggers, then went down to the bus stop near the Greater Union cinema and waited for Dion’s buses returning to Wollongong. The driver of the one I stopped rang the depot and reported my loss. About ten minutes later as that same driver was outward bound up Burelli Street he called to me out the driver’s window: “They’ve been found!” and told me to go to the Depot in Fairy Meadow.

I did so – by Dion’s bus of course. No phone or camera handed in yet though. The woman at the desk contacted the driver of the bus I had been on originally, which happened to be returning to Wollongong at that precise moment – and yes, he had my things. As soon as I reached the stop near the Depot he arrived, gave me back my belongings, and a free ride back to Wollongong. So around two hours after my loss all was restored!

So you see, if it wasn’t for the lovely people at Dion’s those photos above (and a few more) would have gone forever! But Dion’s have a reputation for kindness. The story goes that during the Depression they often gave battlers free rides.

Sad events raised the spectre of Islamist violence again. I tried for perspective.

Adults in charge now?

Posted on October 13, 2015 by Neil

This is the Cathy Wilcox cartoon I referred to on Sunday.

Screenshot - 13_10_2015 , 7_59_24 AM

Spot on — not too fawning on Turnbull either. The point about the language Tony Abbott chose is very well made. His folly here really did have consequences.

If you Google death cult ISIS you will find that it seems Tony Abbott was the ONLY world leader to use this term. It may have gone down well with certain parts of the more elderly media, but it clearly didn’t work as part of “deradicalisation”. The trouble is that it infantalises. It precludes any kind of mature response to what ISIS actually is. See also Rachel Olding’s May 2015 Tony Abbott’s obsessive use of the phrase ‘death cult’ fails to resonate with half of Australians.

The obsessive use of the phrase “death cult” to describe Islamic State has failed to resonate with at least half of all Australians taking part in a series of national focus groups.

“Death cult” has emerged as Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s favoured term for the terror group that is usually referred to as ISIL, ISIS or Islamic State.

He has used the term 346 times since September in federal parliament and in press releases, interviews, transcripts and videos released by his office…

Nick O’Brien, the former head of International Counter Terrorism in Special Branch at New Scotland Yard and an academic at Charles Sturt University, said it was important to examine the terms being used for Islamic State because the messaging needed to be consistent.

He said Mr Abbott’s repetitive use of “death cult” added to the confusing labels that muddle the message about Islamic State.

“He seems to be the only world leader that uses this phrase. The Brits certainly don’t use it, the Americans adopted a policy of using ISIL,” he said. “A lot of people won’t know exactly what organisation he’s referring to. There is some amount of confusion.”…

Well, long may Tony Abbott languish on the back bench – or far away — and let the adults get on with running things.

Recently I bought for $5 at el cheapo books Wollongong The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State (ISIS) and the Redrawing of the Middle East by Loretta Napoleoni.

From its birth in the late 1990s as the jihadist dream of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the Islamic State (known by a variety of names, including ISIS, ISIL, and al Qaeda in Iraq) has grown into a massive enterprise, redrawing national borders across the Middle East and subjecting an area larger than the United Kingdom to its own vicious brand of Sharia law.

In The Islamist Phoenix, world-renowned terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni takes us beyond the headlines, demonstrating that while Western media portrays the Islamic State as little more than a gang of thugs on a winning streak, the organization is proposing a new model for nation building. Waging a traditional war of conquest to carve out the 21st-century version of the original Caliphate, IS uses modern technology to recruit and fundraise while engaging the local population in the day-to-day running of the new state. Rising from the ashes of failing jihadist enterprises, the Islamic State has shown a deep understanding of Middle Eastern politics, fully exploiting proxy war and shell-state tactics. This is not another terrorist network but a formidable enemy in tune with the new modernity of the current world disorder.

As Napoleoni writes, “Ignoring these facts is more than misleading and superficial, it is dangerous. ‘Know your enemy’ remains the most important adage in the fight against terrorism.”

See her Lateline interview. Read the Introduction to the book. I have found the book very clear. It has also helped me bridge from what I learned ten years or so back (when my everyday work led me into the world of “radicalisation”) to what we confront today, including tragedies like that at Parramatta.

See also: Some thoughts on the Parramatta tragedy, Class of 95 remembered, and Muslim students today and Recent viewing, uplifting and depressing.

A TV and local history highlight in October:

Restoration Australia: Keera Vale

Posted on October 14, 2015 by Neil

Great to see Keera Vale featured in last night’s Restoration Australia. The house itself I see every day.


Image Illawarra Mercury

As I posted in Oldest house in Wollongong?

See also Joe Davis (2011) Pitfalls of rewriting history.


From my window