Trove Tuesday: the tragic tale of Lizzie Brophy

On a cool autumn day, 31 May 1881, Elizabeth Brophy was in her home at Jeffcott St, Melbourne with her six year old daughter Sarah and her other daughter, Lizzie, aged four[i]. Lizzie was handicapped and could neither speak nor walk. Her usual place was tied in her chair near the fireplace where “she rocked herself about and cried continually[ii], no doubt to her mother’s aggravation. That morning, William McKenna, Elizabeth’s father and the children’s grandfather, visited and later stated that all was well. He returned around midday and while Elizabeth may have had drink taken, all was well, so he reported. Later in the day it seems Elizabeth’s mother, Bridget McKenna, and some other women had been drinking in the house though subsequent news stories make no further reference to this[iii].

William returned around dusk by which stage Elizabeth was rather the worse for wear from the drink and was aggressive and vocal. At this stage, there are conflicting stories. Lizzie was crying and her mother shook the chair and the child fell to the floor with her head near the fire. Young Sarah would later report that William was sitting by a chair near the fire and arguing with Elizabeth. William suggested he would go and get some (wood) chips for the fire but Elizabeth said she’d burn her apron, which she did. Being both drunk and aggressive…and annoyed…she went to pick up the boiling kettle to throw it over her father. Unsurprisingly, he pushed it away and the water spilled over the child on the floor as well as on the fire. William was to state that he didn’t look at the child, whom he described as an “idiot”, nor did he see if any water had been spilled on her, though he acknowledged she was screaming. His daughter Elizabeth “was in such a temper that (he) was glad to leave the house at once[iv].

Six-year-old Sarah, “was frightened and ran into the street[v], heading next door to get the neighbour, Thomas Hill, who arrived at their home about 6pm – against Elizabeth’s vociferous objections. He could hear Lizzie crying and found her outside in the yard, brought her into the house and he gave evidence that “the child’s clothes were all quite wet and she appeared to be in great agony[vi]. Hill gave Lizzie to her mother, who put her on the floor. Meanwhile Elizabeth had filled the fireplace with paper and said she was setting fire to the house… a literal fire this time for Mr Hill to extinguish. In the midst of the drama, John Brophy returned home to the domestic disaster to discover his youngest child was scalded severely. He was an engine driver with Victorian Railways so he held a responsible position and presumably had been on shift work during the day.

Around this time the local constable, Frederick Maitland, appeared, having been sent for by Hill. Once again there are conflicts, or just confusion, in the testimony. The constable said he found Elizabeth Brophy on the pavement about 100 yards from her house and arrested her because she was aggressive. Hill stated that Brophy had asked him to help tie Elizabeth’s hands in front of her because she was drunk and violent, which they did. Which came first is unclear. John Brophy took Lizzie to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in the late evening where the poor child died of her injuries a few hours later. The resident surgeon, Dr Robert Stewart testified that, based on his post mortem, she had died of shock from the scalds[vii]. Further news comment was that “her arms, legs, and part of the chest were severely burned[viii], she was “badly nourished and unable to walk although four years old[ix]. The doctor indicated that the results “had she been stronger the results would likely not have been fatal[x]….or perhaps if she’d received medical care more promptly?

Elizabeth Brophy was taken into custody pending the outcome of a coronial enquiry by Dr Youl which commenced on 2nd June and was completed on Monday 6th June. Sub-Inspector Larner posed the question many of us would like to have asked “Why did you leave the house when you saw the child scalded? Was it not your duty as a grandfather to protect the child?” William replied “I left because the woman was in a temper”. The Coroner enquired: “And do you mean to say that you left this poor unfortunate decrepit child unprotected with a woman of whom you yourself were afraid”. William “I left”.

Sarah was asked for her testimony and the coroner assessed that had given an intelligent response. Her mother, however, objected saying that it “was not fair to cross examine the child like an old person. The child would answer in the affirmative to any questions put to her. She was only two years older than the deceased baby[xi].

The jury on the coronial inquest concluded that Elizabeth Brophy was guilty of manslaughter. The coroner committed her for trial at the next Criminal sessions on 15th June 1881. Bail was then allowed.

The Criminal Trial was held and testimony taken from the same witnesses. His Honour Mr Justice Higinbotham concluded that “if the jury accepted the evidence of the daughter Sarah, the prisoner was guilty of manslaughter, but if they believed the testimony of McKenna, she ought to be acquitted”. This jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” and Elizabeth was discharged[xii].

Was their decision affected by the fact that Lizzie was handicapped? Would the outcome have been different if they’d known another daughter had died only four months earlier from diarrhoea after suffering for two weeks?[xiii]

One also can’t help wondering what reception Sarah received from her mother on her return home from prison and if she was punished for her involvement in the trials. I also wonder whether William’s four visits on this day were typical, and if so, why he went so often.

A truly heart-wrenching story of a family’s dysfunction.

When next visiting Melbourne it will be interesting to see the primary documents relating to this event.

On the positive side I can find no evidence of Elizabeth in later Trove news stories or in the Victorian Prison Records, so perhaps this caused her to mend her ways and swear off alcohol.

———————————————————–

[i] Elizabeth Brophy daughter of Elizabeth McKenna and John Silvester Brophy, born 1877 reference 23712 / 1877 and died 1881 reference 5262/1881. I have called her Lizzie throughout this story to avoid confusion with her mother, Elizabeth Brophy, nee McKenna.

[ii] INQUEST. (1881, June 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5977084

[iii] “THURSDAY, JUNE 2, 1881.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 2 June 1881: 5. Web. 29 Sep 2019 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5984419&gt;.

[iv] INQUEST. (1881, June 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5977084

[v] ibid

[vi] SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A CHILD. (1881, June 4). Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), p. 21. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196566183

[vii] INQUEST. (1881, June 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5977084

[viii] A Doubtful Case. (1881, June 4). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), p. 21. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article219425980

[ix] SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A CHILD. (1881, June 4). Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), p. 21. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196566183

[x] CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT. (1881, June 18). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 21. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137815924

[xi] INQUEST. (1881, June 6). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article241329167

[xii] CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT. (1881, June 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 3. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5987754

[xiii] Baby Catherine, a one-year-old infant died on 15 February 1881. Victorian Death Certificate 454/1881

Zany, Quirky or Weird?

AtoZ2019ZThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea?

 

The ground crew rush to the aircraft

“Take this box to Hagen”

“What’s in it?”

“Mosquitoes from the coast”

Aghast the tourist asks

“What happens if those things get loose in here?”

 

tiger-mosquito-49141_1920

zzzzzz zzzzz I suck your blood! Image from Pixabay.

Zzzzzzzz the annoying whine of a mozzie round your ears

Hope you’ve taken your Camoquin.

Ours is stored in a maxi Pablo jar –

To avoid the risk of poisoning –

Rationed out each Sunday.

——————–

Tinka and Tabitha

The dachsund and the acrobatic cat

Enliven our early mornings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A PNG butterfly. Image from Wikipedia

Shredded tissues from one

Shredded butterflies the other

A colourful snowstorm in the bedroom.

————————-

Now an adult cat, Tabitha decides to wake me up

And my eyes open to a kitten emerging onto my chest

No respecter of the delivering fur-mum

She is deposited promptly on the floor

My memory is that it was near Anzac Day…why?

—————

A Goroka event draws crowds

Meet up with Aunty Lee and

Let’s go see the gumithon…

Inner tubes and crazy passengers

Hurtle down the chilly river.

Family657

Ferry crossing PNG style – between Kerema and Malalaua (Gulf District). All government vehicles were spray-painted (or bought) in this dark blue colour.

—————-

A late night phone call frightens us

News of a colleague’s murder and

Name confusion in the panic

Anxiety and sadness follow.

————–

We head to the movies

To See Easy Rider

(Of which I remember nothing)

Family669

What did the bishop say to the Prince? I’m lost for words! Independence ceremony at the Catholic Cathedral, Port Moresby 1975.

At the Goroka Cinema

Next to the Zokozoi Hotel.

And our truly weird movie experience

Papillon – for our anniversary

The only time we’ve walked out of a movie, I think.

—————

“Mummy, there’s bugs in my room”

“No there’s not, go to sleep”

Afternoon nap time in Moresby

Eventually I check it out

He is sound asleep with the small fan

Whirring away in flames, sending black specks

Over the space to their bedroom. Whoops, good save.

————-

 

You might think there’d be a zoo in PNG

Instead we took friends to the croc farm

Where we also saw cassowaries and

Magnificent Birds of Paradise

Day to Day we saw little fauna (frogs, snakes, geckos, possums)

And some ordinary birds

It may that many zoological specimens wound up as costumes.

Perhaps more quirky and weird than zany, but life was never dull in PNG.

 

 

Yumi bung wantaim

AtoZ2019YThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

The start of our life together in Papua New Guinea brought many adventures and experiences, and challenges.

Mitupela: At our reception as we start our new life wantaim.

 

Peters 21st Tower Mill 1970

The newly weds soon after our honeymoon. Dinner at the Tower Mill with his family and mine. Sadly, half of this group have already left us.

 

Tripela Time with the family. Above left: Great-grandmother Cass, Great aunt Olive Cass, maternal Grandma and spoiled baby. Lower left: Happy to be with dad and Aunty Lee. Right: Sending Uncle Philip home for Christmas.

Tripela: My dad with the grandchildren.  Tupela: I always loved this photo.

Kaye and Les Cass with Louisa and Rach 1976

Fopela: Cass grandparents and the grandchildren. The dog was a visitor.

Grandparents Joan and Norman Kunkel with Louisa and Rach 1976

Fopela: In Brisbane with their maternal grandparents at a cousin’s christening.

 

Peter Pauleen and girls c1978

This photo was taken not long before we left Papua New Guinea permanently. Before the year was out we would be faipela.

Tok Pisin:

Yumi bung wantaim – we come together

mitupela – the two of us

wantaim – together

tupela – two people

tripela – three people

fopela – four people

faipela – five people

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X is for PNG Xmases

AtoZ2019XThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

Every year the Christmas food

Includes my grandmother’s pudding

And her Scottish shortbread

My mother’s Christmas cake

A traditional hot Christmas dinner

In the tropics! Were we mad?

Louisa Xmas at Kelvin Grove 1972

Christmas in Brisbane. This little one’s first – presents were for eating apparently.

On our first married Xmas

We visited the trade store

Bought a Mouskouri LP

And some baubles for our gum tree

Rain had socked us in

Alotau expats desperate for Xmas treats

Arriving at the last minute – PMF’s meat

Dinner with the Strangs.

——-

On our second married Xmas

On leave in Brisbane

Our baby’s first Christmas

Lots of small gifts and fun

Louisa and Xmas tree Goroka 1973

Her second Christmas – in North Goroka.

With her grandparents

Sadness at a family death.

——–

On our third married Xmas

Now in North Goroka

The little one is enthralled

Her eyes sparkle at the tree

———-

On our fourth married Xmas

Our family has grown larger

A sad little chicken greets her first Xmas

With very sore ears

A drive is needed to calm her down

Before gifts can be found

 

—-

On our fifth married Xmas

We’re in another town now

Our tree another gum

Smiles are seen all round

——

 

Our sixth married Xmas

Two sets of grandparents are now in town

A larger family Christmas

With our friends from all around.

—–

 

Our seventh married Xmas

We’re on our own again

Santa has brought a dolls house

Oh what fun!

—–

Xmas 1977 at Casses

Gerehuligans gather.

Our eighth married Xmas

Will be our last here

New T-shirts proudly state

Ima Gerehuligan

Friends come from Brisbane

Family875Escorted by our little travellers

Fully confident flying solo.

Our turn for Xmas lunch

The Gerehu-ligans bring their share

Sitting round the garden

The sangria is well received

The peach daiquiris are a treat

Fruit sent up from mum and dad.

Three women in matching dresses

In a local printed design

(where did that photo go?).

The kids play games

The adults chat

An excellent day all round.

 

 

 

 

Wewak Wandering

AtoZ2019WThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

His father had two postings in Wewak

On the first, the headmaster

Brandi High School

Family662

Himself with his dad – they didn’t look alike at all. Tinka the dachshund takes pride of place.

For him, a new sibling and

Religious education for boarding school.

 

On the second posting

His dad was District Superintendent

East Sepik District.

We were able to visit their house on the hill

And spend time with the family.

 

Tok Pisin:

wantok – friend or relation

wanem – what

wanpela – one person/thing

wantaim – together

waswas – shower/wash/bath

 

 

 

V is for Variata Outings

AtoZ2019VThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

Our most popular weekend outing

To Varirata National Park

Or as we called it, Variarata,

Did it change or were we wrong all along?

Cass family and friends at Variarata copy

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

It was another go-to place

For our visitors to Moresby

Out past Ilimo Farm,

Then Rouna Falls

To see if it was in flood.

All the kids loved to run and play

In the open spaces or across creeks

Or climb up the rickety stairs

To the bush materials tree house.

One Boxing Day, all the Gerehu-igans,

Adults and children, travelled in convoy

A barbeque in the bush

Variarata picnic view

To share with our Christmas visitors.

De rigeur was a photo of the crowd

Sitting on the fence

Overlooking the distant harbour.

Simple, happy times and memories.

view from Variarata

The view from Variarata.

vanimo png

This beautiful image is one taken by himself on an audit trip to Vanimo.

 

 

 

War in PNG – Anzac Day 2019

AtoZ2019WThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

No, I haven’t forgotten my alphabetical order, but today is Anzac Day in Australia so I’ve jumped over V to post W today.

Lest we forget

The meaning of war in the tropics

Comes home when you live there.

DSC_0586

The Battle of Milne Bay Memorial at Alotau.

The pounding rain, the heavy clouds

The dense jungle obscuring villages.

No wonder some men were overtaken by fear

As the leaves closed in on them

(do read this link and the comments especially)

This poem by David Campbell captures it also –

An extract from Men in Green:

Their eyes were bright, their looks were dull

Their skin had turned to clay

Nature had met them in the night

dsc_0783-crop

Stained glass memorial in the Catholic church at Alotau. Photo P Cass 2012

And stalked them in the day.

And I think still of men in green

On the Soputa track

With fifteen spitting tommy-guns

To keep a jungle back.

Soon after my arrival in Milne Bay

Planes were searching through the clouds

For a crashed aircraft missing on a mountain of dense jungle

This sound on Anzac Day evoked a sense of war and danger

Bringing it home to me in a real way, not theoretical.

The Battle of Milne Bay should rank with Kokoka or Gallipoli

The first land defeat of the Japanese during the war

Needs to gain more prominence

A Victoria Cross won not far from our home

By Corporal John French from Crows Nest, Queensland.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

The allied airfield at Gurney was adjacent to Gili Gili Plantation

Where my husband worked before our marriage

An old street sign found there is a proud heirloom

A reminder of some ANZAC

For whom it was a little bit of home.

 

 

 

French and so many other men who gave their lives

Are buried in Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby

A site where we took our visitors.

Kokoka Track memorial

Owers’ Corner

Another historic location for us to visit was Owers’ Corner

Near Sogeri, on the Moresby side of the Kokoda Track.

Last week I talked about my husband’s early days in Popondetta

Less than a decade from the war

It had been near the northern end of Kokoda

So many men would have succumbed without their own courage

Or that of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who supported them.

My uncle was an Army cook in PNG and I inherited his photographs. They do say an Army marches on its stomach.

 

 

Lest we forget

I have written two posts about Anzac Day as part of previous A to Z challenges:

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux

V is for our Valiant Indigenous Anzacs.

 

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Uniformity in housing

AtoZ2019U

This series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

Public Servants and expats in PNG

Were provided with housing

Fibro external walls mostly

Louvres in all the windows for the breeze

Basic furniture and appliances

Maintenance by the Public Works Department.

21 Alotau house Cass

Our first home was the AR16 allocated to Mr Cassmob’s parents, who were in Moresby for a few months. Photo probably 1968 before his mother worked her magic in the garden.

Standard designs meant we always knew

Where all the rooms were –

No confusion over bathroom trips.

No matter that we would have the same layout

The residents’ personality was displayed

In their own possessions and styling

Visiting new friends could be quite fascinating

Looking at books and souvenirs.

Alotau 1960s view house 1

The view of Milne Bay from the relaxation area house #1, taken circa 1968.

The size house you were allocated,

And the location,

Often depended on status as well as

Family size and general availability.

We had three houses in Alotau

Two were three-bedroom AR16s

High set with concrete underneath for entertaining

Or just a cool breeze and an evening drink.

Our house at Nth Goroka 1971

Our north Goroka AR20 with the laundry downstairs, a vegie patch in the back corner, and a village over the fence.

Our final house was an AR10, two bedrooms, low-set

Quite the pain in the Wet Season with an infant’s nappies.

All had slow combustion stoves for heating and cooking

Chopping wood was part of the day’s ritual.

In North Goroka our home was a highset AR20

The laundry in the open downstairs, dirt “floor”

Baby’s playpen was a packing case near me.

Twin tub washing machines meant lengthy laundry sessions

No wonder, I suppose, that many expats had local house staff

Louisa and Rach with Les Goroka 1973

My father-in-law with the kids outside our West Goroka house. Big bear had been very sick.

I feared that if I started married life like that I’d never readjust.

We moved to West Goroka just the week before #2 child was born

A Dillingham, three bedrooms, low set

Across from the hospital and on the PMV route

Self-government came while we lived there.

Brandi in lounge room in Moresby c1978

Our Gerehu house – lounge room. Don’t have a hangover with those 70s curtains!

Our move to Gerehu in Port Moresby

Came with an M-type house, three bedrooms, low set

Trapdoors in the bedroom required a bookcase on top

A favourite point of entry for raskols

We acquire an automatic machine and a water bed

Not the government issued metal frame

We must be grown-ups now.

Neighbours became good friends.

Some now deceased, others are like family.

Alotau, Milne Bay wharf

The view from house #3 in Alotau spoiled us forever – what else could come close?

 

 

 

Travel and the Trobriands

AtoZ2019TThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea was my  introduction to travel

Not just for work relocations

But on charter flights or

Trips Down South to family and friends.

Photos taken by Les Cass at the Trobs, probably from the 1960s.

Charter flights for government work

Meant surplus seats offered to others

Anthropology 101 and Malinowski

Brought to life

On my first adventure to the Trobriands –

Painted gourds with pig tusks

Carvings of all sorts

Near naked men in loin cloths

You’re not in Brisbane now, Pauleen.

He is on a work trip and I get to joy ride

Off to Woodlark Island where I see surfPauleen and Peter Amsterdam

Then making it back to Losuia – just

Confound that 100 foot hill in the clouds.

A working-class girl from suburban Brisbane

I never anticipated travelling to Europe

Despite my enthusiasm and aspirations

Employment conditions change all that.

On leave every two years at first then every year

Airfare Goroka to Melbourne goes a long way

Towards Port Moresby to Europe.

Acropolis si

Acropolis 1974.

We tell the kids “go Rome, Athens?”

Then the offer comes…

“Go grandma’s?”. “No, Athens!”.

Now I can’t believe we left them so long

Thinking this would be “once in a lifetime”.

On another leave we introduce them

To New Zealand and interstate Australia

Visiting friends along the way.

High on a mountain Louisa Rach and Peter NZ 1975

In NZ….Those grins suggest they’re having fun! Himself is even wearing woollies!

Three years later they have quite an adventure

Pauleen Rach Louisa eat gelati 1st day Rome 1977

Even gelati barely cuts it when you’re tired and jet lagged.

“Go Rome” is not such fun after a long, long flight

Port Moresby – Manila – Bangkok – Karachi-Teheran

Arriving in Rome at “sparrow fart” all tired and frazzled

But we did see Mt Etna with snow and still steaming.

Three Coins in a Fountain becomes one daughter’s obsession

Thereafter all water needs coins!

Building snowmen Lucerne Easter 1977 Pauleen Louisa Rach

Our first snowman albeit a feeble effort.

I still see their faces full of excitement

Peter and girls at Buck Palace

Just a little snack outside Buckingham Palace.

On arrival at the station in Venice.

Stolen passport and money

Make Amsterdam a challenge.

New Delhi was another challenge too far

Those very long-haul flights don’t help.

However, Kathmandu exploring was fine

Supported by our friends who lived there

Louisa and Rach train Scotland

Trains, ferries, buses, cable cars, planes – they had quite an adventure! On the train in the Scottish Highlands.

A flight to see Everest

How many 6 and 4 year children can say that?

Himalaya and Everest

Mt Everest with its characteristic snow whisp.

So many adventures that we would never have had

Without our time in Papua New Guinea.

Tok Pisin:

tambu – forbidden

em tasol – that’s all – regularly used, even now

tenkyu tru – thank you very much

tingting – think

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sogeri, Samarai and Sadness

This series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Homesick and overwhelmed

By sights, sounds and smells

I write lengthy epistles

envelope-3172770_960_720

As blank as my lost letters.

To family and friends far away.

Countless pages about PNG’s

People, places and experiences

Sadly lost to posterity

In the backyard bonfire

Not realising their value to me.

I could weep at the loss

And wish I’d kept a journal instead.

We collate our combined memories:

Collecting a hire car

We drive his sister

From the Davara Motel to UPNG

People wandering home at Waigani

Singing and playing their guitars

Sliding door moments in Darwin

Evoke similar scenes and memories.

We take a day trip to Sogeri, now lost to my memory

His second home in Papua New Guinea.

Up the front steps, not his childhood route

Through the kitchen or windows

Prince Philip and Koitaki club.JPG

I was amused by this story about Prince Philip at the lavish Koitaki Club.  EVERYONE ASKS (1956, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 8.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71767955

 

We meet a missionary who greets us but doesn’t engage.

The concrete water dam out front, now empty,

Once pumped water to wartime army camps.

Then a playground for school kids who teased Shem, the dog

Until he was sent to a plantation at Brown River.

In a drought the water was brought in

The truck misjudged and broke through the septic tank

80 school boys, really young men

Go “Ensa, Huuuup!” and move it off the tank. Job done.

In his day swimming was more posh

At the Koitaki Country Club pool

Pauleen with Louisa and Rachel

Years later on day trips

Our kids would swim in nearby Crystal Rapids.

In the isolation of Alotau, a trip to Samarai

Was our trip to the Big Smoke –

The choice of Burns Philp (BPs) or Steamies (Steamships)

Both places where he worked in school holidays

My first gifts from him were from there.

27-old-bp-store1

All that remained of BPs in 2012. P Cass

Travelling to Samarai on a government trawler

With other government wives offered

Opportunities for shopping indulgence and choices

The travel was tedious, hours long, on the deck, not cabins

The redolent smell of diesel.

The curiosity of those who knew him as a teen

Checking out his new misis.

054-school-and-surrounds

The school where his mother taught.

Decades later we return to see an island lost in time

No longer thriving shops, churches or schools

His home no longer stands but memories remain

Of school, Catalinas, and swimming at Deka Deka or

Rude tourists who raid shells under their house.

He is reconciled, I feel his loss.

You can read more about Samarai and our return trip in 2012 on my Troppont blog.

Tok Pisin:

save – (sounds a bit like savvy), know

sampela – some

samting – something

sodawara – sodawater was the word typically used for soft drinks

susu – milk