Thursday, December 31, 2009

New England Story - Leslie Hubert Holden and the DH 61 Giant Moth Canberra

Holden DH61 Armidale John Caling kindly sent me this photo taken by Leslie Henderson, his mother's step-brother and a keen amateur photographer.

John wrote:

Hi Jim,

The above attachment is a scan of a pic of a de Havilland DH61 Giant Moth taken at Armidale. I am afraid I do not know where or when. My Mum told me that this was the first passenger aircraft to land in Armidale. I do know that QANTAS purchased two of these aircraft but withdrew them from service in 1935 because of unreliability problems. These two aircraft operated out of Longreach so the one in the pic is obviously not from QANTAS.

The picture made me curious. If you look at the clothes, you can see it's quite early. Men's hats remained relatively constant. However, the women's and especially the girls' hats suggest late twenties or early thirties. So I started doing some digging.

The plane in question - VH-UHW - was purchased by Leslie Hubert Holden in 1928.

L H Holden was very much in the tradition of the early fliers well summarised in the song:     

Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines.
They Go Up, Tiddly, Up, Up.
They Go Down, Tiddly, Down, Down.

According to Carl Bridge's entry In the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Holden enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915 and went to Egypt as a motor driver. In December 1916, now in France, he was one of the first batch of 200 volunteers to train in England for the Australian Flying Corps.

Carl suggests that Holden's mechanical sense and his calm but adventurous nature made him a natural pilot and he quickly won his wings as a lieutenant. Flying a D.H.5 in No.2 Squadron, A.F.C., he saw the first Australian air action of the war over St Quentin on 2 October 1917.

Throughout the battle of Cambrai in November he strafed the enemy front line from a height of fifty feet (15 m); three of his machines were 'written off' under him. In one encounter, the famous von Richthofen fired at him from below; the bullets ripped up through the floor and tore his leggings. Holden nursed the badly damaged plane home, losing a wing on landing. His ability to return alive in wrecked aeroplanes earned him the nicknames of 'the homing pigeon' and 'Lucky Les'.

After returning to Australia in June 1919, he became Sydney manager of Holden's Motor Body Builders, the Adelaide company formed by his uncle H. J. Holden, with his son (Sir) Edward W. Holden. However, bitten by aviation bug and with financial support from friends, he bought a D.H.61 biplane in 1928 which he named Canberra.

Flying the Canberra, Holden operated charter flights from Mascot, Sydney. In April 1929, he was engaged by the Sydney Citizens' Relief Committee to fly to north-western Australia in search of (Sir) Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm who had disappeared while flying to England. Holden found them on a mud-flat on the Glenelg River near the Kimberleys and returned a hero. However, when newspapers accused Kingsford Smith and Ulm of a publicity stunt, the Sydney committee refused to cover his expenses!

In 1926 gold was discovered at Wau in the then Australian mandated territory of New Guinea. A rush began. Attracted by the aviation opportunities, in September 1931 Holden and the Canberra made what was probably the first flight from Sydney to New Guinea to begin a successful air-freight business.  

Returning to the Armidale photo, if we look at the dates it must have been taken between 1928 and the September 1931 flight to New Guinea. My feeling is that the photo may actually have been taken on the flight to New Guinea.

In 1932, Holden returned to Sydney to purchase extra aircraft and to form Holden Air Transport.  Tragedy now intervened.

In September 1932 Holden joined a New England Airways plane in Sydney to fly to Brisbane. He was killed on Sunday 18 September 1932 when the New England Airways Puss Moth crashed near Byron Bay.

This was not quite the end of the story. In New Guinea, the locals raised 25,000 pounds to continue Holden Air Transport.

And what happened to the Canberra itself? On 2 November 1934, it hit a building in Rabaul and was destroyed by fire.


This story is drawn especially from Carl Bridge's entry on L H Holden in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. The Australian National Library has a number of photos of the Canberra. A fascinating picture of aviation in New Guinea at the time can be found here. You can see a Holden Air Transport badge featuring the Canberra here. The De Haviland archives have details of the fate of all DH planes. For posts on New England aviation including New England Airways click here.      

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Belshaw's World - Ampol, New States and Soccer

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday  23 December 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.

I noted with pleasure the decision by Northern NSW Football to reintroduce our own state knockout cup. However, it carried my mind back to the past.

A while back, I was doing some research on the Walkley Awards.

Named after Sir William Walkley, the Walkleys are Australia's top journalism awards. My father-in-law, Jim North, was president of the Australian Journalists Association. The AJA founded the awards, and I just wanted to look at their history.

The research reminded me of a New England linkage and a possible explanation to something that has always puzzled me.

Born in New Zealand, Sir William founded what would become Ampol Petroleum.

While Ampol has faded from the scene now, it was one of Australia’s major petrol chains, proudly asserting its Australian ownership in opposition to the dominance of foreign oil companies.

Now how does this link to New England and to soccer?

In 1961, the New England New State Movement launched Operation Seventh State, a major fund raising campaign to support a new self government drive. I acted as an usher at the launch, wearing my first ever suit borrowed from my Uncle Jim.

Our target was to raise 100,000 pounds, a very large sum in those days. We were successful, leading to a very major campaign culminating in the 1967 self government vote.

As part of the campaign, the Movement decided to mount a major car drive on Sydney. The aim was to flood Sydney with thousands of demonstrators in the domain matched by press advertising. We did indeed do this.

Because it was a car drive and demonstration, the decision was also taken to swamp parking spots around the Domain even though this would incur fines.

The drive was organised with military precision by a team headed by General MacDonald from Wallabadah Station as marshal.

To get to Sydney for the demo, I decided to hitch-hike. Arriving at Maitland late in the afternoon, I realised that I was not going to make Sydney until late. I also had not arranged anywhere to stay.

Checking the train time tables, I found that there was an early morning train to Sydney. I decide to take this.

With that settled, I wandered down to Maitland’s main street and went to the pictures, spending the rest of the time in the Railway Station waiting room. Then, in Sydney, I shaved and washed at Central and on to the demo!

This was, in fact, my second New State demonstration.

I organised the first at the request of ABC Four Corners to provide them with some TV footage. They were doing a story on the New State Movement and needed visual material.

Hastily grabbing a dozen or so friends, we prepared placards and marched up Beardy Street shouting slogans in front of the cameras. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

So what's the linkage in all this with Ampol?

While we were asked not to talk about it, and no-one did, Walkley’s Ampol provided free petrol to cars participating in the New State Drive. As I remember it, the company also offered to pay the parking fines.

The answer to the thing that had puzzled me?

A little later, the Australian Soccer Federation acted to separate New England from NSW, creating a Northern NSW State League.

This survives to today. Only in soccer does New England have a state presence.

I never knew how this happened.

Now that I have read Sir William's ADB entry, I suspect that I have the answer. He was a major driver in the Australian Soccer Federation.

This is my second Christmas as an Express columnist.

Last year I had just started. Now I seem to have settled into it.

I know that some readers at least enjoy my ramblings. That’s why I continue.

To you and yours, I wish you a merry and safe Christmas and a great new year. Let’s see where 2010 takes us!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Belshaw's World - picture a place where the message mattered

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday  16 December 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.

I have always been fascinated by the way people think.

Sometimes this has been useful. You cannot sell consulting services nor bring about effective change if you not understand the thoughts and feelings of those you are dealing with.

At other times, this fascination has been a dratted nuisance. When working professionally, fascination with the way people think may be useful, but if and only if it’s controlled. Become distracted, lose sight of the main objective, and things can crash and burn.

Pretty obviously, getting to understand the way people have thought in the past is important in writing history. It is also very hard to do because the present creates a sometimes unseen and often impenetrable barrier to that past.

Today we live in a world of what I call visual wallpaper. Images submerge us to the point that they blur; only the striking stand out and then only for a short while.

In these circumstances it is easy to forget just how recent this emphasis on the visual is.

The world's first illustrated weekly, the Illustrated London News, began in 1842. The first crude colour printing dates to 1843, the first photograph appeared in a newspaper in 1880. This is all very recent.

When visual images were rarer, they had far greater power.

Colour reproductions of contemporary French painters greatly influenced the Australian impressionists. The fact that the colours were in fact slightly wrong was neither here nor there.

I don’t know about you, but I now find the constant emphasis on the visual increasingly bland and boring.

The modern Government “policy” document - I put policy in inverted commas because many contain very little policy – with its generally pastel colours and obligatory photos – is instantly recognisable and just plain dull.

I had cause to look at one of these the other day. Stripped of its photos of happy people, design elements and multiple headings, the actual word count was about the length of this column.

This emphasis on the visual has begun to affect the way we think in a variety of ways.

To begin with, in a world of Photoshop and edited images, we no longer trust the visual in the way we used to. The photo that once was a photo is now a creation.

The process of distrust is slow but cumulative.

A month or so back I used a striking photo to illustrate a story. One of my readers pointed out that the photo had been Photoshopped. He was right.

In this case it didn’t matter to the story, but I was still cranky because I had failed to pick it up. It increased my distrust of the visual.

Don’t get me wrong, by the way. I actually like some elements of the emphasis on the visual because it provides new ways of explaining things. It’s just that, for the present at least, it’s becoming an increasing impediment to real thought.

I discussed some of this in an earlier column on the twittering of English.

In a professional sense, a lot of the work that I do requires me to go to the heart of a matter whether it be a policy or a commercial issue. Time is money, and I need to do this as quickly as possible.

The need to strip out the visual is therefore an added nuisance.

I have absolutely no problem with the use of the visual to aid marketing or to provide entertainment. But when words themselves are the core explanatory vehicle, then visual wrapping can actually impede real understanding.

Maybe you think that I am being too harsh? Well, let me encourage you to try an experiment.

The next time you go to a presentation, a conference or information session where visual aids are being used, focus on the words.

Try to find one simple thing that you do not understand. Then ask the presenter to explain it. You will be surprised as to how often you throw them completely!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A happy Christmas to all

I am leaving today for Mt Hotham for a Drummond family Christmas. This is the first time for a long while that this side of the family has got together and I am looking forward to it.

I will not be able to post. When I get back after Christmas, I will bring the latest Express columns up and then resume normal posting.

I have enjoyed this blog over the year, even if posting has sometimes been a little irregular. I have also enjoyed the interaction with readers and fellow bloggers including GordonLynne and Paul. All three have led me to write posts, something important in maintaining a blog as a living animal.

I look forward to continuing and broadening interaction in the new year.

To all my readers, may you have a very happy and safe Christmas and a succesful new year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Northern NSW State Cup revived

One of the interesting side effects of our campaign for self-government for New England was a decision by the then Australian Soccer Federation to give us our own state soccer organisation. While the new state movement is presently quiet, Northern NSW Football has continued as its own state organisation. 

I see that Northern NSW Football has decided to introduce a State 'knockout' Cup competition for next year, the NNSWF State Cup. I do love the fact that New England still has its own state in soccer!

The competition is open to all men's Northern NSW Football Premier competition clubs and senior zone member clubs. Given New England's size, the competition will be divided into two pools, the Northern Pool and Southern Pool.

The Northern Pool will comprise of club teams from Mid North Coast Football, North Coast Football, Northern Inland Football and Football Far North Coast.

I wish them every success.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Belshaw's World - towards a history of the broader New England

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday  9 December 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.

I am really pleased!

I am now an adjunct associate lecturer in the School of Humanities at UNE. I applied for an honorary connection with UNE to provide structure for a major project I am working on. The adjunct position was the outcome.

Given this, I thought that I would talk a little about the project itself, since you keep seeing bits of it in this column.

I am writing a history of the broader New England over the last 50,000 years.

What is now called the Northern or New England Tablelands is Australia’s largest tablelands area. From the Tablelands a series of rivers run to the west, south and east.

The Tablelands and those rivers form the heart of my story.

Our perceptions of geography are a funny thing.

Look down from high in the air over the Tablelands, the natural pattern stands out. On the ground, however, things are very different.

The creation of Queensland neatly excised the northern tip of the Tablelands. This was not without significance.

The northern portion of the Tablelands become a separate entity, Queensland’s Granite Belt, while down on the coast the new political boundary split the traditional territory of the large Aboriginal Bundjalung language group.

This had quite significant effects that continue to this day; the January 2007 Githabul land rights deal, for example, had to be limited to the NSW portion of traditional Githabul territory.

In recent times, the Tablelands/rivers entity has become very blurred as a consequence of demographic change.

The majority of modern New Englanders are now coast huggers, facing the sea with their backs to the mountains. To many of them, the blue rim of the mountains is a mental boundary.

This is the world that places Armidale, as the ABC so often does, in the North West.

Geography does continue to exercise its influence, you only have to look at the ever-changing NSW agency boundaries to see this, but it is much harder to see.

This means that the introductory chapter to the history will need to include sufficient material on New England’s geography to at least set a framework.

This is also important for readers with no knowledge of the area. I am trying to write a history that will stand alone as a story for the general reader.

The main part of the book will be broken into three parts: Aboriginal New England, Colonial New England and then New England in the twentieth century.

When I did my first outline, I was going to include the section on the arrival of the Europeans and the subsequent Aboriginal responses in the first part of the book. Here I hit a real mental block in that the knowledge of what was to come kept distorting my thinking about what still was and what had been.

To overcome this, the Aboriginal New England section will finish with the arrival of the Europeans. I found this tremendously liberating, because it meant that I could focus on telling the story of Aboriginal New England as it was.

This approach will also, I hope, make it easier for readers to understand just how devastating the subsequent European invasion was and why.

At the other end of the book, I had to decide where to close.

My problem here lay in the fact that the last decades of the twentieth century were a period of fragmentation and decline. I just couldn’t see how to handle this.

The break-through here came with Don Aitkin’s What was it all for?, for the book provides an interesting example of social history pointing and counter-pointing between the local and broader change.

Reading the book, I realised that the general writing I had done on economic and social change in Australia actually provided its own framework.

In a later column I will give you a taste of some of the themes and issues that make the history of New England between the European invasion and the end of the twentieth century so interesting.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lynne's story

In The colours of New England I tried to give you a feel for the pattern of visual differences across New England using a combination of visual material and words. Those variations are matched by differences in life style.

The hot summer morning of the inland when a swim in a dam or creek provides a relief for kids, the mud squelching between toes. The heat of the afternoon when a tree provides blessed relief.

To the east on New England's coastline the style is a little different. The upper valleys can be just as hot at times with the heat shimmering over the rivers and creeks, but further east the sea breezes bring relief, the huge expanses of beaches and estuaries provide a different playground.

I started trying to bring the coast alive in my distant memories of a now vanished North Coast series. As with so many series, this remains a work in progress.

In  Looking at New England life style I mentioned a series of posts that Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite was putting up, I asked you to read them and said I would write a comment in my next post. That next post has been a little delayed, in part because Lynne was putting more material up.

In combination, Lynne's posts provide a story of a life. It hasn't always been an easy life, and the difficulties involved are somewhat understated, inferred. Now while the demons are still there, Lynne has come through to a calmer period in which her successes as a mother, her success in fighting through, have in some ways been rewarded.

Lynne's world and mine may seem very different. I come from a New England academic-political family with extended links. This gave me opportunities whose scope is only now clear in retrospect. Lynne was born in Sydney and came to New England via a different and apparently more complicated path. Yet our lives lap and over-lap in location, experience and indeed even in some shared demons. I read Lynne and understand.

Blogging brought Lynne and I together. Then I saw the resonances. That is the reason why I have so often featured Lynne on this blog.

Lynne's series of posts also provides an unusually good picture of one slice of New England life.

As I suggested at the start of this post, the cadences of life vary across New England.

I now live in Sydney. There is no time and very little peace. This contrasts with the slice of life that Lynne describes.

My North Coast memories series seeks to capture a vanished world. Lynne's posts describe that world as it is now. There are many similarities.

The world Lynne describes is not for all. Many people like the anonymity and buzz from city life. Yet to me Lynne's world has many attractions because I just like doing the things she describes.

Please read the posts and enjoy.     

Friday, December 11, 2009

India to create 29th state

I see that India is to get its 29th state. In Australia, we still have to see New England gain its own self-government.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Belshaw's World - Armidale’s Greek community

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday  2 December 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.

Column fifty. Hard to believe what I let myself in for when I gaily accepted Christian’s invitation!

This column is an edited version of material John Hamel sent me, reproduced with his permission.

“Hi James,

This is a blast from the past, one of your old MYF mates.

A few years ago I did a talk for the Historical Society on my memories of Beardy Street in the war years and into the fifties. Here are some of the cafes as I remember them, the people connected with them.

Nicks was at the eastern end of Beardy St. It was owned by Nick Feros and run by him, his wife and daughter Maria. They used to live at 130 Marsh St where Kentucky Fried is now.

Maria married John Kouvelis (I`m almost certain of the spelling), and the newly- weds went to the South Coast (possibly Nowra). Nick and his wife sold the café to the Rologas brothers. It then became the Seven Brothers, the winning entry from a competition. This was submitted by the late Bob Herbert, a noted Armidale playwright.

An interesting sidelight is that Jack Feros, Nick`s brother, ran a café in Uralla, and yet another Feros relative (brother or cousin) owned a hotel in Dorrigo. Sons Tasos and Theo Feros are ex-students of Armidale High School.

The next café was midway between Marsh and Faulkner St, about where Dooner`s Furniture is now. Called the Minerva, any packet brought from there used to have ‘Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom’ on it. It was operated by Sam Sourry and family.

The Sourrys eventually sold the café to Mick Calaitsis, a very big dark-complexioned man. The brothers, John and Peter, then opened a men`s wear store at 180 Beardy St that was successful for many years until they sold out and retired to Sydney.

The IXL café (184 Beardy St) was owned by the Comino family. Senior members were George senior, Chris, Manuel and Basil. Members of Chris’s family were Peter (poncho) and George, who were both at AHS when I was there, and their sister Irene (I think that was her name).

Peter and George both became school teachers.

Another Comino (Jack) ran a corner store in West Armidale. His family was Peter, Helen, Leo, Theo, George and Kathleen.

Peter, in my class at at AHS, did his time at Cameron and Kirk before establishing his own practice, P. J. Comino & Co, in Sydney. Sadly, Peter died just over 12 months ago. I think his brothers are still running the business.

Another Comino (Perry) came from Guyra to operate a mixed business almost opposite the Cathedral Hall in Rusden St. His children, another George and Judy, were again AHS students when I was there.

The Nectar was on the northern side of Beardy St, 155, between Faulkner and Dangar.

Operated by bothers Cornelius (Con) and Charlie Tzannes. the shady side of the street meant wasn’t very successful as a café. During the war years it was one of the few places where dark chocolate blocks could be bought. With shortages and food rationing, chocolate was most acceptable. Later, the Tzannes operated a rabbit freezer at the rear of the café.

On the southern side of Beardy St (218) between Dangar and Jessie St, almost opposite the Capitol Theatre, was the Olympic café. This was operated for a time by people named Pearson, and then, in later years, by Charlie Pavlou.

He had quite a successful business, so when Woolworths came and wanted to take over the complete half block in the area, Charlie dug his heels in and refused to move. Woolworths had the other buildings demolished. This left Charlie`s business standing out like a sore thumb. It was dubbed by the local press as ‘Charlie`s last stand’.

Eventually Woolworths built their business around Charlie. Charlie eventually sold out and went to Sydney, as did the Tzannes brothers.

The Blue Grotto operated just up the street at 214 Beardy St. They used to make beautiful iced coffees, and you could also get nice continental chocolates.

In the Capitol Theatre building Nick Feros of Nicks, used to operate a part-time ice-cream and lolly shop, but it only opened when the Theatre held matinees.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

UNE passings - death of Madge Brown

Many of the older UNE people will remember Madge Brown.

A post on my personal blog, Another shift in personal direction, death of Madge Brown, ageism, reports on Madge's death. The post is drawn in part from Paul Barratt's blog. Apart from personal memories, Paul's post contains links through to several other obituaries.  

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Looking at New England life style

One of the things that I talk about from time to time is the changing New England life style and the way it changes between areas. Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite has just completed a rather nice series of posts that draws out one slice.
The posts follow below in order. I will comment on them in the next post. In the meantime, please read and tell me what you think of them.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Belshaw's World - Just a yarn among friends

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 25 November 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.

I really miss having a beer at the Newie with Uncle Ron and his friends. But then, a fair bit of my life has been marked by beers at various Armidale pubs yarning with friends!

Still, now that I am so far away and in a world remote, let me at least lean against the bar with my beer and yarn with you, my readers.

I suspect that few Armidale people realise what a really big deal the Aboriginal knock-out carnival was, just how well Armidale did in holding it.

For the last few months I have been doing some contract research, mainly ad hoc number crunching stuff mixed with policy advice, for an Aboriginal organisation.

I am still a smoker, so from time to time I gather downstairs for a chat with my smoking colleagues. In the two months before the knock-out, it was a regular topic of conversation, building as the date approached. Many wanted to go, but could not find accommodation.

The search for accommodation was a regular topic, one that I tried to help with by suggesting lesser known possibilities. The news that Council was providing camping spots was welcome, but still left a gap despite the efforts of the Information Centre.

The weekend arrived, and the whole thing went off remarkably well. Narwan, the Council and all those involved well deserved the praise they received. It added to my pride in my home town.

I wonder how many Armidale people know the important role that Armidale has played in Aboriginal advancement.

Some of this has come through tragedy, the death of children that forced reform. Then there is the role of activists and idealists, I use the word idealist advisedly, over many years. Beyond this is the role of UNE academics whose work drew Aboriginal Australia from the mist of the past to a tangible presence that could be touched by all Australians.

I have written of this a little before and will do so more in the future. I think that there is a story here that needs to be well told and better remembered.

One of the things that I love about writing this column is the feedback I get from time to time, including answers to my questions.

Following my last column on the Greeks in Armidale, both Jack Arnold and John Hamel sent me material on Greek cafes in Armidale; before going on, a correction and a question.

The correction: one café I referred to was the Nectar, not the Niagara.

The question: when was the first Greek café established in Armidale?

Retuning to my main theme, my last contact with John Hamel was many years ago. His email carried me back to the now distant days of the Methodist Youth Fellowship.

What an interesting group that was. Some were from Armidale, more from other places, brought to Armidale by education. Then, from Armidale, we dispersed all over the world.

John Coulter is an example.

A year back he contacted me after forty years because of a story I had written. From Teacher’s College and the MYF, John’s life has taken him on many twists and now to semi-permanent residence in Beijing where (among other things) he translates technical articles into Chinese.

Turning to another correspondent, Bev Betts wrote:

“Great article, yesterday on the Greek Cafe…….At Taree, Forster, Armidale, Tamworth, and Moree, great Lebanese Families were wonderful retailers, and still are”.

Bev’s email reminded me of a story. I may have the facts wrong, but this is as I remembered it.

Many years ago Bruce and Vee Halpin were on holiday. Bruce was then a senior executive at Richardson’s, Armidale’s biggest department store.

Sitting on a bus in Lebanon, they fell into conversation with a passenger.

“Where do you come from?” the other passenger asked. “Armidale”, Bruce replied.

“I have a customer in Armidale”, the other passenger said. “Who?” Bruce asked.

“Richardson’s”, said the other passenger!

I would love to write something on the Lebanese connection for Bev once I have finished the Greek theme.