eBooks again

I hadn’t been looking at eBooks lately until this new computer and the excellent Calibre reader prompted me to take them up again. I did have a Kobo reader, but as I reported in 2014 it finally died. Fortunately I had my books stored also on a “My Passport” portable hard drive. I have been loading them up to this computer: nearly 2000 so far!


There are so many sources of free eBooks. I am sure you have heard of Gutenberg, but there are some good local ones to check too, for example Free eBooks from University of Adelaide. There are amazing specialist, thoroughly up-to-date books and journals from the Australian National University Press.

What was I up to in March 2012?

Five years on from the post before last.

The Cock House at Fellsgarth

Given this is Mardi Gras weekend you may well wonder, but in fact this is a school story by Talbot Baines Reed which I have just read as an eBook. More years ago than I care to admit to I read his The Fifth Form at St Dominic’s but had never encountered The Cock House before, so naturally I was curious. In brief it is tosh and rubbish, but not entirely a waste of time. Having been a teacher for so long I would have to fail Reed on mere educational grounds. The schools he describes would never cut it in NAPLAN! They really are quite awful places really, seriously…

I see there is a Facebook page for the COOK House at Felsgarth… Hmmm.

Much more worthwhile is Alec Waugh’s The Loom of Youth, which I am currently reading on Baby Toshiba.

My eBook collection of freebies now exceeds 500 titles!

Alas poor Baby Toshiba

My companion in hospital last year, and a faithful little servant in the tail end of my tuition in Chinatown, latterly to be seen in my company in clubs and pubs from Surry Hills to The Gong.


Oh Baby Toshiba, why won’t you boot up any more? You just turn on and almost instantly turn off again…!

Only on the Internet: back to 1954

Had an email the other day from the son of my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Boys Primary in 1954. He had found 09 — My Teachers in my Ninglun’s Specials archive.

Grade 6 1954

The second principle Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game derive from their corpus of interviews is:

Good teaching recognises the unique potential of each student. This is not the same as an expectation or a prediction; it is seeing students in their wholeness, as they are now. The teacher’s responsibility is to nurture students and draw out their potential by opening them to new worlds. Thus teaching is inherently ethical, allowing students to find their place in and to contribute to the world.

I would like to name Mister O’Neil, my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Public School (or Sutherland Boys Primary as it was then, now a “special” school) in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit. I still vividly remember (among other things) going with my maternal grandfather — another inspiring teacher — through the fence and beside the track to wait for the (then) sheer magic of seeing the Royal Train go through, and Mister O’Neil rehearsed us over and over to perform appropriate songs, including a late Vera Lynn called “She’s the Queen of Everyone’s Hearts”, at the Sutherland School of Arts, where my mother won an electric jug in a raffle.

World War II was after all less than ten years before; indeed I was enrolled at Sutherland in 1949. My father had been in the RAAF.

The thing about Mister O’Neil is that he had a class of fifty or so students, all in a portable class room that baked in summer. Hardly any of the boys had shoes. Cast-off bits of military uniform were fashionable; no such thing as a school uniform, or (I may add indelicately) underpants. There were a few quite talented kids in 6A; I was a bit up myself, I’m afraid, because even though I took every August off to have bronchitis, and also that year had mumps followed by orchitis (nasty) and pancreatitis, I still managed to top the class, despite my rather alarming (and continuing) innumeracy. He let us have our heads, really. We produced school newspapers, in which I wrote and illustrated serials that were rather like Biggles, and also devised crossword puzzles. Every Friday we “broadcast” our plays over the school’s PA system.

When I was selected to go to Sydney Boys High my parents were against it, mainly because of the travelling which, combined with my absent-mindedness that led to my once almost being run over at a pedestrian crossing, they felt would not suit me. I guess they were also worried about my health. My mother at that time, I might add, was invalided with a clot in the leg, so I was also cooking dinner every night, following instructions emanating from my mother’s bedroom. She used to say what I cooked for the dogs smelt more appetising than what I made for the family — chops and three veg usually. Can’t go too wrong with that. Well, Mister O’Neil I found one afternoon when I came in from playing with the Dawson boys down the road sitting by my Mum’s bed in earnest conversation. Result: I went to Sydney Boys High. Apparently I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Primary to that point… That may not be saying too much, of course, and I certainly found myself a small fish in a big pond at SBHS the following year.

But hats off to Mr O’Neil. Not only was he just a fascinating teacher, but so dedicated. By his complexion I suspect he may have enjoyed the odd bevvie too… At a time when many schools, especially boys schools, were “houses of swinging bamboo”, I can’t recall seeing him actually cane anyone either. I remember him with gratitude. Mind you, I don’t think I ever have quite fulfilled that potential, and at going on 65 it may be a bit late…

You will see the use Michael O’Neil made of my reminiscence on his family site: Edgar Ronald O’Neill (1918-1994) & Sheila Hudson (1919-1948)

Eddie on playground

There he is: Eddie O’Neil, my Year 6 1954 teacher – in 1957

Gives you a good idea of what school in The Shire was like back then too…

Check the dunnies behind him… Yes, pans!

Only on the Internet, eh! What would the chances have been of making this sort of contact before the Net came along?

Back from Sydney

Sirdan came down from Gympie today, just for part of the day! He, P and I dined at a swank Italian place in the old GPO.


Sirdan had to be on the 2.30 plane back to Queensland, and P to work I assume. I decided to revisit old haunts.


Sydney Boys High this afternoon.

I have nothing against a good belly button…


Don’t know them, but they are Aussies…

But this guy elevated the belly button to cosmic heights…


Wikipedia: “Philip Henry Gosse (6 April 1810 – 23 August 1888) was an English naturalist and popularizer of natural science, virtually the inventor of the seawater aquarium, and a painstaking innovator in the study of marine biology. Gosse is perhaps best known today as the author of Omphalos, an attempt to reconcile the immense geological ages presupposed by Charles Lyell with the biblical account of creation.

After his death, Gosse was portrayed as a despotic and fanatically religious father in Father and Son (1907), the literary masterpiece of his son, poet and critic Edmund Gosse

The gist of the Omphalos theory is that just as Adam. though not “born”, would have had a false history stamped on him via his belly button – think about it – so the fossil record etc represents a false history preloaded, as we might say today, by God at the time of creation. Ingenious, except that there is nothing to say the false history began two seconds ago and this entry was preloaded by God….

At the moment I am reading Father and Son. Just how true it is people have disputed, but whatever the case the book is a real treasure. Thanks to Project Gutenberg and my Kobo.

Meanwhile, capable as I was of reading, I found my greatest pleasure in the pages of books. The range of these was limited, for story-books of every description were sternly excluded. No fiction of any kind, religious or secular, was admitted into the house. In this it was to my Mother, not to my Father, that the prohibition was due. She had a remarkable, I confess to me still somewhat unaccountable impression that to ‘tell a story’, that is, to compose fictitious narrative of any kind, was a sin. She carried this conviction to extreme lengths. My Father, in later years, gave me some interesting examples of her firmness. As a young man in America, he had been deeply impressed by ‘Salathiel’, a pious prose romance by that then popular writer, the Rev. George Croly. When he first met my Mother, he recommended it to her, but she would not consent to open it. Nor would she read the chivalrous tales in verse of Sir Walter Scott, obstinately alleging that they were not ‘true’. She would read none but lyrical and subjective poetry. Her secret diary reveals the history of this singular aversion to the fictitious, although it cannot be said to explain the cause of it. As a child, however, she had possessed a passion for making up stories, and so considerable a skill in it that she was constantly being begged to indulge others with its exercise. But I will, on so curious a point, leave her to speak for herself:

‘When I was a very little child, I used to amuse myself and my brothers with inventing stories, such as I read. Having, as I suppose, naturally a restless mind and busy imagination, this soon became the chief pleasure of my life. Unfortunately, my brothers were always fond of encouraging this propensity, and I found in Taylor, my maid, a still greater tempter. I had not known there was any harm in it, until Miss Shore [a Calvinist governess], finding it out, lectured me severely, and told me it was wicked. From that time forth I considered that to invent a story of any kind was a sin. But the desire to do so was too deeply rooted in my affections to be resisted in my own strength [she was at that time nine years of age], and unfortunately I knew neither my corruption nor my weakness, nor did I know where to gain strength. The longing to invent stories grew with violence; everything I heard or read became food for my distemper. The simplicity of truth was not sufficient for me; I must needs embroider imagination upon it, and the folly, vanity and wickedness which disgraced my heart are more than I am able to express. Even now [at the age of twenty-nine], tho’ watched, prayed and striven against, this is still the sin that most easily besets me. It has hindered my prayers and prevented my improvement, and therefore, has humbled me very much.’

This is, surely, a very painful instance of the repression of an instinct. There seems to have been, in this case, a vocation such as is rarely heard, and still less often wilfully disregarded and silenced. Was my Mother intended by nature to be a novelist? I have often thought so, and her talents and vigour of purpose, directed along the line which was ready to form ‘the chief pleasure of her life’, could hardly have failed to conduct her to great success. She was a little younger than Bulwer Lytton, a little older than Mrs. Gaskell—but these are vain and trivial speculations!

From my week’s reading: Edmund Gosse, “Father and Son” — 1907

Still relevant after all those years.

My holidays, however, and all my personal relations with my Father were poisoned by this insistency. I was never at my ease in his company; I never knew when I might not be subjected to a series of searching questions which I should not be allowed to evade. Meanwhile, on every other stage of experience I was gaining the reliance upon self and the respect for the opinion of others which come naturally to a young man of sober habits who earns his own living and lives his own life. For this kind of independence my Father had no respect or consideration, when questions of religion were introduced, although he handsomely conceded it on other points. And now first there occurred to me the reflection, which in years to come I was to repeat over and over, with an ever sadder emphasis,—what a charming companion, what a delightful parent, what a courteous and engaging friend my Father would have been, and would pre-eminently have been to me, if it had not been for this stringent piety which ruined it all.

Let me speak plainly. After my long experience, after my patience and forbearance, I have surely the right to protest against the untruth (would that I could apply to it any other word!) that evangelical religion, or any religion in a violent form, is a wholesome or valuable or desirable adjunct to human life. It divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain, chimerical ideal, in the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections, all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative. It encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation; it throws altogether out of gear the healthy movement of the conscience; it invents virtues which are sterile and cruel; it invents sins which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent joy with futile clouds of remorse. There is something horrible, if we will bring ourselves to face it, in the fanaticism that can do nothing with this pathetic and fugitive existence of ours but treat it as if it were the uncomfortable ante-chamber to a palace which no one has explored and of the plan of which we know absolutely nothing. My Father, it is true, believed that he was intimately acquainted with the form and furniture of this habitation, and he wished me to think of nothing else but of the advantages of an eternal residence in it.

Then came a moment when my self-sufficiency revolted against the police-inspection to which my ‘views’ were incessantly subjected. There was a morning, in the hot-house at home, among the gorgeous waxen orchids which reminded my Father of the tropics in his youth, when my forbearance or my timidity gave way. The enervated air, soaked with the intoxicating perfumes of all those voluptuous flowers, may have been partly responsible for my outburst. My Father had once more put to me the customary interrogatory. Was I ‘walking closely with God’? Was my sense of the efficacy of the Atonement clear and sound? Had the Holy Scriptures still their full authority with me? My replies on this occasion were violent and hysterical. I have no clear recollection what it was that I said,—I desire not to recall the whimpering sentences in which I begged to be let alone, in which I demanded the right to think for myself, in which I repudiated the idea that my Father was responsible to God for my secret thoughts and my most intimate convictions.

He made no answer; I broke from the odorous furnace of the conservatory, and buried my face in the cold grass upon the lawn. My visit to Devonshire, already near its close, was hurried to an end. …

“Gosse’s Father and Son is a superb and sometimes quite beautiful book…” — Brian A. Oard


Interesting pictures from the Gallipoli campaign


A French Senegalese at Mudros


Transports off Anzac Cove on April 25


Courtney’s Post

One of the best photographs taken of an Anzac trench system. The front line is just over the crest; the reserve trenches are near the lop left hand corner; the white earth spilled down the cliffside is from the mines running out to the front; the zig-zag track up the steep cliff is clearly shown.

Source: New Zealanders at Gallipoli by Major Fred Waite, Project Gutenberg April 2014. Originally 2nd edition Printed and Published under the Authority of the New Zealand Government by WHITCOMBE AND TOMBS LIMITED, AUCKLAND, CHRISTCHURCH, DUNEDIN AND WELLINGTON, 1921.

I sincerely wish all my old comrades happiness and success. None of us are ever likely to forget the times we spent together on Gallipoli. We sincerely mourn for those who so willingly gave their lives for the great cause in which we were fighting; but we know they have not died in vain, for they have ensured freedom and right for our children and our children’s children. New Zealand may well be—as I am sure she is—justly proud of her magnificent sons, who so bravely upheld her flag and fought for her honour on the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula.


What amused me sixty years ago

Sixty years ago (1955) I was in my first year at Sydney Boys High School.


That’s my mother and I in Vermont Street, Sutherland, 16 April 1955 – GPS Regatta Day. I hated the hat… And Sydney Grammar won that year.


Among my borrowings from the school library – or Sutherland Library – of which there were many would have been:





First Edition May, 1922.
Second Impression October, 1922.
Third Impression January, 1923.
Fourth Impression February, 1923.
Fifth Impression May, 1923.
Sixth Impression September, 1923.
Seventh Impression December, 1923.
Eighth Impression February, 1924.
Ninth Impression May, 1924.

Made and Printed in Great Britain.
Wyman & Sons, Ltd., London, Reading and Fakenham.

I remember laughing myself sick over “William” books. Mind you, looking at them again on Project Gutenberg they don’t seem quite as funny as they did at age 11.



It was raining. It had been raining all morning. William was intensely bored with his family.

“What can I do?” he demanded of his father for the tenth time.

Nothing!” said his father fiercely from behind his newspaper.

William followed his mother into the kitchen.

“What can I do?” he said plaintively.

“Couldn’t you just sit quietly?” suggested his mother.

“That’s not doin’ anything,” William said. “I could sit quietly all day,” he went on aggressively, “if I wanted.”

“But you never do.”

“No, ’cause there wouldn’t be any sense in it, would there?”

“Couldn’t you read or draw or something?”

“No, that’s lessons. That’s not doin’ anything!”

“I could teach you to knit if you like.”

With one crushing glance William left her.

He went to the drawing-room, where his sister Ethel was knitting a jumper and talking to a friend.

“And I heard her say to him——” she was saying. She broke off with the sigh of a patient martyr as William came in. He sat down and glared at her. She exchanged a glance of resigned exasperation with her friend.

“What are you doing, William?” said the friend sweetly.

“Nothin’,” said William with a scowl.

“Shut the door after you when you go out, won’t you, William?” said Ethel equally sweetly.

William at that insult rose with dignity and went to the door. At the door he turned.

“I wun’t stay here now,” he said with slow contempt, “not even if—even if—even if,” he paused to consider the most remote contingency, “not even if you wanted me,” he said at last emphatically.

He shut the door behind him and his expression relaxed into a sardonic smile.

“I bet they feel small!” he said to the umbrella-stand…

And back to Sydney Boys High in 1955. I posted this in 2007.

Sydney Boys High School 1955


Yes, fifty-three years ago next February this little boy from Sutherland started at age 11 to go to Sydney Boys High travelling through a Surry Hills Ruth Park would have recognised. The god-like Fifth Form students — High School only went to Year 11 then — included quite a few who became, well, god-like figures.

Did you know that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can trace its origins to the Department of External Affairs that was first established in 1901? Since that date, five old boys of Sydney High have headed the Department with responsibility for foreign or external affairs: Sir John McLaren (1887), 1929-1933 (as Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department); Sir Alan Watt (1918), 1950-1954; Sir James Plimsoll (1933), 1965-1970; Sir Alan Renouf (1936), 1974-1977; and Dr Peter Wilenski (1955), 1992-1993. James Plimsoll and Peter Wilenski have also acted as Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1959-1963 and 1989-1991 respectively…

In fact quite a crop have been through the old SBHS, as you can see. I belong to the much greater ranks of Undistinguished Old Boys…

One of THE most god-like to us in 1955 was Marcus Einfeld, son of Jewish Labor Party politician Sydney (Syd) Einfeld and his wife Billie. He did indeed go on to a distinguished career, and it is sad to read what is befalling him at this time. Just what he did remains to be tested, but if proven it really would make you wonder why on earth he did it, as Legal Eagle does in How the mighty may fall.

It is doubly sad because Einfeld was so often on the side of the angels, as in this talk in 2001.

Go to my original post to read the talk, as that link now leads to a “not found”. You can see the 1955 prefects here.

By the way, 1955 had been very wet.


The February 1955 Maitland floods rank with the 1989 Newcastle earthquake as chief among the news events and natural disasters in the Hunter’s history.

Historia Regum Britanniae

Histories of the Kings of Britain

Geoffry of Monmouth
translated by Sebastian Evans

First published in 1904.

web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide


Book 9

Chapter 12

Arthur at Caerleon, The glories of Caerleon, Guests at Court

When the high festival of Whitsuntide began to draw nigh, Arthur, filled with exceeding great joy at having achieved so great success, was fain to hold high court, and to set the crown of the kingdom upon his head, to convene the Kings and Dukes that were his vassals to the festival so that he might the more worshipfully celebrate the same, and renew his peace more firmly amongst his barons. Howbeit, when he made known his desire unto his familiars, he, by their counsel, made choice of the City of Legions wherein to fulfil his design. For, situate in a passing pleasant position on the river Usk in Glamorgan, not far from the Severn sea, and abounding in wealth above all other cities, it was the place most meet for so high a solemnity. For on the one side thereof flowed the noble river aforesaid whereby the Kings and Princes that should come from oversea might be borne thither in their ships; and on the other side, girdled about with meadows and woods, passing fair was the magnificence of the kingly palaces thereof with the gilded verges of the roofs that imitated Rome. Howbeit, the chiefest glories thereof were the two churches, one raised in honour of the Martyr Julius, that was right fair graced by a convent of virgins that had dedicated them unto God, and the second, founded in the name of the blessed Aaron, his companion, the main pillars whereof were a brotherhood of canons regular, and this was the cathedral church of the third Metropolitan See of Britain. It had, moreover, a school of two hundred philosophers learned in astronomy and in the other arts, that did diligently observe the courses of the stars, and did by true inferences foretell the prodigies which at that time were about to befall unto King Arthur. Such was the city, famed for such abundance of things delightsome, that was now busking her for the festival that had been proclaimed. Messengers were sent forth into the divers kingdoms, and all that owed allegiance throughout the Gauls and the neighbour islands were invited unto the court. Came accordingly Angusel, King of Albany, that is now called Scotland; Urian, King of them of Moray; Cadwallo Lewirh, King of the Venedotians, that now be called the North Welsh; Sater, King of the Demeti, that is, of the South Welsh; Cador, King of Cornwall, the Archbishops of the three Metropolitan Sees, to wit, of London and York, and Dubric of the City of Legions. He, Primate of Britain and Legate of the Apostolic See, was of so meritorious a piety that he could make whole by his prayers any that lay oppressed of any malady. Came also the Earls of noble cities; Morvid, Earl of Gloucester; Mauron of Winchester; Anaraut of Salisbury; Arthgal of Carguet, that is also called Warguit; Jugein from Leicester; Cursal from Caistor; Kimmare, Duke of Dorobernia; Galluc of Salisbury; Urgen from Bath; Jonathal of Dorchester; Boso of Ridoc, that is Oxford. Besides the earls came champions of lesser dignity, Danant map Papo; Cheneus map Coil; Peredur map Elidur; Guisul map Nogoit; Regin map Claut; Eddelein map Cledauc; Kincar map Bagan; Kimmare; Gorbonian map Goit; Clofaut; Rupmaneton; Kimbelim map Trunat; Chatleus map Catel; Kinlich map Neton, and many another beside, the names whereof be too long to tell. From the neighbour islands came likewise Guillamur, King of Ireland; Malvasius, King of Iceland; Doldavy, King of Gothland: Gunvasius, King of the Orkneys; Lot, King of Norway; Aschil, King of the Danes. From the parts oversea came also Holdin, King of the Ruteni; Leodegar, Earl of Boulogne; Bedevere the Butler, Duke of Normandy; Borel of Maine; Kay the Seneschal, Duke of Anjou; Guitard of Poitou; the Twelve Peers of the Gauls whom Guerin of Chartres brought with him; Hoel, Duke of the Armorican Britons, with the barons of his allegiance, who marched along with such magnificence of equipment in trappings and mules and horses as may not easily be told. Besides all these, not a single Prince of any price on this side Spain remained at home and came not upon the proclamation. And no marvel, for Arthur’s bounty was of common report throughout the whole wide world, and all men for his sake were fain to come.


Michael Cronin as Geoffrey

See The Arthurian Game of Origins by Carl Pyrdum.

I’ve obliquely mentioned several times the game that Geoffrey of Monmouth was playing, the outrageousness of his fabrications and his amazing success putting them across, but I’ve not yet gone into precisely what he did. So I guess now’s as good a time as any. So let us meet this Geoffrey of Monmouth head on….

In part, my reticence to dive into the whole story is due to its familiarity, at least among the critical set. The vast majority of the facts that compose the scandal de Monmouth have been known for almost a century, and very little has been added to them in the last fifty. Each new generation of critics takes the scattered remnants that history has offered up about Geoffrey’s life and work, arranges them into clever and interesting patterns, some more compelling and plausible than others, and and pits the new patterns against the earlier iterations. This is not to say that good work has not been done, just that no matter how good the work, it has been done done with the same inadequate supply of raw material as the work that it’s displacing.

Depending on which piece of this raw material we chose to put the emphasis upon we might safely assert, as others have already, that Geoffrey was either a Welsh rabble-rouser, a Cornish patriot, a Breton sympathizer, or a Norman apologist; that during the Anarchy that followed the death of Henry I a supporter of Empress Matilda, or of her rival King Stephen, or a peace-broker between the two; that he was either a sober historian in the model of St. Augustine, Virgil, or Boethius; or that he was merely a faithful compiler, a parodist, or an inveterate liar who lied out of an inordinate love of lying…