Ancient Zodiacs, Star
Names, and Constellations: Essays and Annotated Bibliographies
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The portrait above was hurriedly sketched by an American art student, Earl Sipes, in near darkness at
the White Horse Pub, Oxford, England, in 1978. (It appears Earl Sipes is
presently (2014) a Senior Associate at Brown Craig Turner (a multi-disciplinary
design studio). Also, he is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of
I am since 2015 a retired occupational health and safety professional
(almost 40 years experience), and also amateur historian,
amateur astronomer, writer, public speaker, skeptic, atheist, book collector, and bookworm
(and music and movie buff). Since my early teens I have been consumed with a
passion for knowledge. Though having 2 postgraduate degree qualifications and
having been a sessional lecturer (off and on) over a period of some 15 years,
and published on OHS, I have declined to refer to myself as an academic and
(now, since retirement in 2015) independent researcher/scholar.
Me at Sorrento Beach. Date
unknown. Too young to remember details.
I was born in Geelong, Victoria on 31/10/47.
Geelong is situated on the shores of Corio Bay in Port Phillip, approximately 75
kilometres (45 miles) southwest of Melbourne. My father Thomas [Tom] William Thompson
(17.06.1908-13.06.1988) was a maintenance painter/sign-writer
with Elders Woolstore (Elder Smith / Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort (Elders GM)).
He was a gliding enthusiast, keen photographer, and very much interested in the
early history of aviation.
(He was also a projectionist, showing films at children's parties, etc.) My mother Elsie Mavis Thompson [nee Ricketts] was a housewife who made (very good)
wedding cakes for extra income. (She had 1 sister (who also remained in
Geelong), who managed to survive cancer through opting for radical surgery.) Historically our family originated from Ireland
and England. I recollect that my father had 1 brother (Arthur) and 1 sister
(Dorothy who was known as "Doff," because young children couldn't
When I was in my early teens his brother, Arthur Thompson (who lived in
Melbourne), suicided by drowning. His wife's name was Edith Eyleene May Dunbier. From memory his
she was called by her second name Eyleene. They
had 3 sons, Graeme (the eldest), Richard, and Peter.
When I was born my parents were living at 92
Elizabeth Street, Geelong West. After my sister was born we moved. After living in Central Geelong
(in Little Malop Street (now part of Cultural & Civic Precinct), next to the Police Station
(with Police Lane dividing the police building from a side fence) and opposite the Geelong Regional Library,
and Johnstone Park), then
Western Beach Road very near the corner of
Gheringhap Street, near Cunningham Pier (on the Beach Front 10-15 minutes walk from Central Geelong), we moved
92 Elizabeth Street, Geelong West. That is how I recall the sequence. A brief
description of the Geelong West house:
Weatherboard period home on an allotment of
450sqm/4,842sqft approx. The home comprises L-shaped Baltic Pine hallway, living
room, sunroom/study, three bedrooms, kitchen/meals (walk in pantry), bathroom
with claw-foot bath, closed-in porch and bathroom/laundry with separate toilet,
plus off street parking for 2 cars. In November 2011 it sold for $327,000.
(Geelong West is now a much sought after residential
suburb. In 1922 Geelong
West became a town and in 1929 Geelong West was proclaimed a city. In 1992,
Geelong West city became part of Greater Geelong city. The name continues,
however, as a suburb.) I cannot recall what school or schools were attended when living in the
city and at Western Beach. We may have lived in Geelong West originally. (The
sequence of where I lived in Geelong until just after my mid teens is now
difficult to recall. On reflection the sequence of locations may have been (1)
Geelong West (perhaps 6-8 years), (2) Western Beach Road (for a few years only),
(3) City (for a few years only), and (4) Geelong West again (perhaps 4-6 years.
I have only a vague recollection of catching buses to school from Western Beach
and the City. I think the fare was 5 pence for the distance I travelled.)
At the other end of Elizabeth Street in Geelong West was the
(independent) Pix Theatre. It operated from the 1950s through until the early
1990s. (Before being a theatre there was a biscuit factory on the site.) I can remember for 10 pence getting 2 movies, a newsreel or two, a serial
or two, and a cartoon or two. The Saturday Matinee was the best deal. (My favourite serial was Captain Video.)
The Pix Theatre also showed films that fitted school curriculums. I can remember
seeing Joan of Arc. Village Cinemas purchased the Pix Theatre and closed it
activity was collecting and swapping comics. A large number of comics were
usually taken to a movie theatre for swapping. The Pix Theatre was a friendly
place with a tolerant owner. Cinemas in the city employed 'bullies' to quiz
young patrons about their age and the price of the ticket paid. From memory if
you were under 12 years the ticket was a cheaper price. If it was thought you
were over 12 years but had purchased an under 12 ticket you were refused
admittance unless you had a regular ticket. It was very subjective.
Among the most exciting comics
for me was The Australian Chucklers' Weekly (which has recently been reprinted,
original copies are rare). It covered a
wide variety of topics and readers advertised things to sell and swap. I was
disappointed I never had a complete Meccano Set. I can remember sighting Sputnik 1 from the backyard in Central
Geelong. (The date for this would have been October 1957.) The date 1956/1957 is
also recalled because sometimes in the early evening I would walk a few blocks
into the city centre and watch, for an hour or two, the newly introduced
television through shop windows. Changing shop windows equaled changing
channels. Television was introduced into Australia in 1956/1957.
My favourite early television show was The Mavis Branston Show which aired on
the Seven Network from 1964 to 1968. It was a weekly one hour satirical sketch
comedy revue series with a regular cast of actors.
I can remember George Hooper & Company nearby on the southwest corner of Ryrie
Street and Gheringhap Street, opposite the Post Office. It was a counter service
grocery store. It was always good for 'broken biscuits' (which were far
cheaper). If they didn’t have any
then they would unhesitatingly go out the back and break some whole biscuits to suit the size of the
order. My first experience of a self service grocer was when living in Geelong
West. The house in Central Geelong - perhaps
likely constructed pre 1920s - was demolished and a small arts theatre
was constructed (now the Geelong Performing Arts Centre). The house at Western Beach (and the adjoining house which my
father also owned) was demolished to enable the Elders Wool Store to be extended (if
still existing today the combined value of both houses would be around
$3,000,000). The beach address was 92(?) Western Beach (Road), Western Beach;
near the corner of Western Beach (Road) and Gheringhap Street. (Dalgety's
Woolstore was located on the opposite corner.) None of these houses had an indoor toilet. At Geelong West I can
remember a wood burning stove for cooking, initially an ice box (ice block
refrigerator) being used to keep
food cool, and also use of a wood heated copper tub and wringer to wash clothes
and squeeze the water from them.
Home delivery of blocks of ice was not uncommon up till the 1950s. As was home
delivery of bread and milk using horse pulled carts. The Elders Wool
Store at the beach address has been demolished and the land is currently used as
a car park for the Deakin University Campus located at 12 Gheringhap Street.
Geelong had an extensive tramway system from
1912 to 1956, when the service was replaced by buses. All tram tracks were
View of Geelong Harbour from our
weatherboard house in Western Beach Road. The rear of the house led to a
laneway. Date of photograph unknown bur perhaps circa 1955. (If so then we lived
at Western Beach Road before moving to Little Malop Street. I viewed the
Russian Sputnik from the backyard of Little Malop Street.) There are 2 piers
visible in the background. The most distant pier is Cunningham Pier (The Pier
Geelong) - which is still not suitable to receive cruise ships. The photograph appears to have been taken with a Kodak Box Camera or
similar. I forget the date I was given a Kodak Box Camera. The persons in the
photograph are mother, brother or myself, and sister.
The white arrowhead (top left)
points to our house in Little Malop Street next to Police Lane, Central Geelong.
Date of photograph is unknown but perhaps circa 1950. The 'central' building in
Johnstone Park comprised the Art Gallery and Regional Library.
92 Elizabeth Street, Geelong
West, circa 2010. The concreted driveway is 'recent.' The concrete footpath that
was in front of the house has gone.
Elizabeth Street, Geelong West milk bar 1950
(approximately number 64) -
located a very short distance from our house. Diagonally opposite at the time
was a butcher's shop (which later became a fish and chip shop).
The Palais Royal Theatre (Palais)
on Moorabool Street hill, (297 Moorabool Street) was - at one time - the main
dance venue in Geelong. The
parquetry dance floor was thought to have been one of the biggest in Australia.
The Palais was also one of
Geelong's few live music venues in the 1960s.
At one time the Palais was
also used as a cinema.
The brothers Don and Laurie Slack
ran the Palais until they sold it in 1972.
It is presently (2016) a Bingo Centre but is undergoing redevelopment.
I attended (the still existing) Manifold Heights Primary School (when class rooms were
still heated by log fireplaces) and then Geelong West Technical School (now
closed, and the premises established as Western Heights College). I recall
living in Geelong West when attending Primary School and also when attending
Technical School. Whilst
at Technical School the astronomy display I made (including a display board and a small handwritten book) and the
refractor telescope I put together won a science competition initiated by the
school. For a number of years I had a stutter.
The display board and refractor
telescope. The exercise book is not visible. The small refractor telescope was
constructed from a variety of items.
My father was a pioneer of gliding in Australia (his
close friend Percy Pratt (a New Zealander was another) and helped to found the Geelong
Gliding Club (the first gliding club in Australia) in 1929. Percy Pratt was the
driving force for founding the Geelong Gliding Club and my father Thomas/Tom
(Tommy) W. Thompson was one of the founding members. He remained a gliding
instructor and club official all his life, with the various Geelong-based
gliding clubs that came and went. The Geelong Gliding Club was formed in June
1929 but lapsed circa the mid 1930s. In 1941 the Geelong Sailplane Club was
formed but it became inactive during the early 1950s. The Geelong Gliding Club
was formed in 1954. Air strips variously used were Belmont Common, Little River
and Bacchus Marsh. (Also, I recall, Lovely Banks and Batesford.)
Tommy Thompson slope soaring with
a Zogling Primary Glider at Tower Hill, Easter 1931. The image is a edited
photograph of a more complete photograph displayed in a locked glass cabinet at the Australian Gliding
Museum, Bruce Brockoff Annexe, Bacchus Marsh Airfield. I have been informed that
a short movie record exists of the event. It is somewhere in the Australian
Gliding Museum Archives.
See the complete image of Tommy Thompson slope
soaring at Tower Hill, Easter 1931:
A wonderful portrait of my father seated in an
early glider appears in Gliding in Australia by Allan Ash (1990).
Percy Pratt (23.7.1888, Wellington-22.5.1968
(also erroneously given as 1969),
Auckland) was also an aircraft
designer. He designed, built (at Belmont Common in Geelong) and sold, at least 1
single-seat monoplane. Percy Pratt was, for some time a market gardener and
had, if I recall correctly, a small farm at Bacchus Marsh circa the 1950s. (He lived for a short time at Geelong West in a house on
an adjoining block owned by my father. He spent some of his remaining years as caretaker at the Black
Stump (?) Caravan Park (on the Victorian coast?) but finally returned to New
Zealand.) The Geelong Gliding Club closed down in the mid 1930s.
During World War II my father was part of the Australian Army units involved in the defence of Darwin. He was part of the historic army truck convoy to Darwin.
the Geelong Gliding Club was restarted in 1954 my father was an instructor
there. He spent a lot of weekends gliding in Victoria (including Benalla), and even South Australia
(which had a sophisticated gliding centre) on occasions. His 2 great interests
were gliding and photography. A lot of my early teens were spent involved with activities with the
Geelong Gliding Club. Another involvement was amateur astronomy.
I became an avid reader of books when I was in my early teens and joined
several libraries. It was in my teens that I also started my passion for
In 1975 I attended what was to be the last
Sunbury Music Festival (Sunbury Rock Concert). It was a 3-day concert but I left
prior to Deep Purple appearing on the last day. It was cold, wet, and muddy, and
this limited the crowd size. This meant that the concert organisers could not
pay their bills. Deep Purple had the sense to require up-front payment in order
to appear (and literally flew in, played their gig, and flew out).
Father: Thomas William Thompson (17.6.1909,
North Brighton (Melbourne)-13.6.1988, Geelong West); married my mother 14 July,
1945 in Geelong. My father's occupation was Painter & Decorator & Signwriter.
His parents: Robert Thompson (1.7.1872, Duck Pond (Lovely Banks)-1945, Geelong),
and Ellen Lavinia Groves (1883-1964, Geelong). Both Robert Thompson and Ellen
Thompson are buried in Geelong West Cemetery. Their children were: (1) Thomas
William Thompson (1909-1988), (2) Dorothy Mavis Thompson (1.12.1911,
Geelong-27.8.1985, Chelsea), and (3) Arthur John Thompson (16.9.1914, Cowies
Creek, Corio-11.1.1964, Flinders (by drowning)). In 1935 Dorothy Thompson
married Stanley Thomas Hill (1906-1978) in Melbourne and it appears they had no
children, and they were later divorced. In 1970 she remarried to George James
Wisseman (1911-1997), who had a son (and daughter?) from a previous marriage.
Dorothy Thompson is buried in Geelong West Cemetery. Arthur Thompson married
Edith Dunbier in Melbourne (7.12.1940). They had 3 children, Graeme John
Thompson (1941- , a motor mechanic), Richard John Thompson (1947-2008, an
accountant), and Peter Leonard Thompson
(1948- ). Arthur Thompson served with the RAAF (fighter pilot?/maintenance
ground crew?) during WWII, and afterwards worked as a Aircraft Mechanical
Engineer with Trans Australia Airways. He is buried in the Geelong West
Cemetery. The parents of Ellen Groves were Henry Mark Groves (1837-1924) and
Ellen Knight (1845-1925). The parents of Henry Groves were Mark Groves and
Caroline Styles. The parents of Ellen Knight were Henry Knight and Hannah Dean
Mother: Elsie Mavis Ricketts (29.6.1913,
Newtown-21-3-1990, Geelong Hospital). Her parents: Arthur William Ricketts
(14.1.1885, Ceres-22.7.1964, East Geelong (buried in Ballarat), and Elsie Amy
Rowe (1886 Ballarat-1960). Their children were: (1) Elsie Mavis Ricketts (1913-1990); (2)
Olive Ricketts (1915-2010); John William Ricketts (1917-?); Beryl Ricketts
(1919-2009) (married Ian Wood? a motor mechanic/service station proprietor?); Arthur Colin Ricketts (1921-1923). The usual residence was 30
Marshall Street, Chilwell (Geelong). Arthur Ricketts was a Boiler Attendant at
the State Electricity Commission. (Arthur Ricketts had at least 1 brother,
Leonard George Ricketts.) The parents of Arthur Ricketts (and Leonard Ricketts) were William
Walter Ricketts (1859-1945) and Sarah Wood (1862-1939). The parents of William
Ricketts were Joseph Ricketts and Mary Ann Weaver. The parents of Sarah Wood
were William Wood and Elizabeth Aitchison. The parents of Elsie Amy Rowe were John
Rowe (1862 Ballarat East-1900) and Mary Ann Morsehead (1867 Ballarat East-1930
130 Fyans Street, Chilwell, Geelong).
John Rowe, engine driver, married Mary Ann Morsehead, tailoress, 6 Aug 1885 King
Street, Ballarat East. (Mary Ann
Morsehead remarried to John Hocking Sampson in 1909, and they had 4 children.) The parents of John Rowe
were James Rowe and Jane Lugg. The parents of Mary Morsehead were James B.
Morsehead and Amy Stevens.
Jane Lugg (born circa 13 Dec 1834 St Buryan-?), daughter of John Lugg and
Thomasine Trezise Grenfell, married James Rowe (born circa 3 Jul 1834 St Just in
Penwith), son of John Rowe and Elizabeth Clements), gold miner, 13 Mar 1861
Wesley Chapel, Melbourne. Thomasine Trezise Grenfell (born circa 24 Jun 1808 St
Just in Penwith), daughter of John Grenfell and Jane Trezise, married John Lugg,
shoemaker, 12 Jul 1834 St Buryan, Cornwall in the presence of William Lugg and
Thomas Jelbart. Jane Trezise (born circa 2 Nov 1778 St Just in Penwith),
daughter of John Tresise and Elizabeth Williams, married Jakeh "John" Grenfell,
miner, 21 July 1804 St Just in Penwith in the presence of Thomas Tregear and
John Tregear. John Tresise (born circa 5 Aug 1750 St Just in Penwith), son of
John Tresise and Mary Edwards, married Elizabeth Williams (born circa 25
December 1742 St Just in Penwith; daughter of George Williams and Faith Rowe, 9
January 1774 St Just in Penwith by banns [?], both of this parish, in the
presence of Thomas Tregear and George Williams. (The genealogy information for
Elsie Amy Rowe was kindly provided by David Trezise.)
David Trezise (Brisbane) has kindly informed me
"Jane Lugg is descended from a John Trezise who
lived in the most westerly town in England, St Just in Penwith, Cornwall. ... [T]housands
of Cornish people ... sailed away to make a better life for themselves overseas.
The great Geelong rover Nipper Trezise and his son Ian have similar St Just
roots.... . My [David's] ancestors went to South Australia in 1877 and settled
in Moonta (little Cornwall) where Thomas Trezise was an engine driver for the
copper mine. Nipper's family went to Ballarat to mine gold. We ... all have some
... DNA from our St Just connection but our common ancestor must be six
generations back." Also (15-June-2016): "Using DNA research I] I have found
that I descend from a people that lived in what is now Denmark 4200 odd years
ago. They were most likely Bell Beaker folk who travelled around Europe trading,
perhaps amber from the Baltic area for tin and gold in Britain. ..." Up till the
Norman conquest Britain was part of Scandinavian culture. Britain only became
part of European culture with the Norman conquest in 1066 CE. The Bell-Beaker
culture (circa 2800-1800 BCE) is the term for a widely scattered 'archaeological
culture' of prehistoric western Europe. The origin of the Bell-Beaker culture is
presently thought to have been the Iberian Peninsula (what is now Spain and
Leonard George Ricketts was the paternal
grandfather of Jean White (née Ricketts). Beryl Ricketts (Wood), my mother's
youngest sister, had 2 daughters, Janice (eldest daughter) and Margaret.
Brother: Robert William Thompson (1945/1946- ).
Sister: Marilyn Ann Thompson (1951- ).
Robert Thompson (1.7.1872-21.7.1945) was born in
Duck Pond, Lovely Banks, Geelong, and died in Geelong. He was the 9th child born
to James and Margaret Thompson. From 1899 to 1904 he worked as a Farmer, Farm
Worker, and Gardner in Western Australia. In 1904 (13 June) he married Ellen
Groves in Perth. Their first child Margery was born in 1905 and died in 1906.
From 1905 to 1906 he worked as a Miner in Boulder. From 1907 to 1909 he worked
in Geelong and Melbourne (Victoria) as a Gardener. In 1909 their second child
(my father) was born at South Road, Brighton (Melbourne). In 1919 he was working
at the Geelong Cement Works; first as a Labourer and then as a Timekeeper. By
1936 at least he was living at 92 Elizabeth Street, Geelong West. He died in
1945 in the Geelong Hospital. (From memory he was severely injured in a major
accident at the Geelong Cement Works.) The parents of Robert Thompson were James Thompson
(17.3.1829-27.5.1911) and Margaret Davidson (1.5.1837-19.4.1908). James Thompson
was born in Moy, Parish Clonfeacle, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and died in
Geelong (Geelong Hospital), Victoria, Australia. He is buried in Geelong Western
Cemetery. James Thompson and Margaret Davidson were married 1856 (7 August), and
immigrated to Australia. Margaret Davidson was born in Charlemont, Parish
Clonfeacle, County Amagh, Northern Ireland, and died at 104 Hope Street, Geelong
West, Victoria, Australia. It is thought that James and his wife Margaret moved
into the home of their son George Thompson (1879-1958) in 1907. She is buried in
Geelong Western Cemetery. They sailed from Liverpool (England) to Geelong
(Australia) on 25.12.1856 and arrived on 7.4.1857. They had 12 children; 4 girls
and 8 boys. James Thompson's father was John Thompson (1798-1879). Margaret
Davidson's father was Walter Davidson.
(My thanks to Anonymous in the Murray Region,
NSW who kindly sent me detailed ancestry information (taken from the web) in early October, 2013. The
information has been immensely helpful. From memory it was Richard Thompson
(1947-2008) who began detailed investigations (circa the 1970s) into the
genealogy of the Thompson family. Richard Thompson died in May 2008 of cancer.)
World War II service details for
Thomas Thompson. Why he was in Perth in 1941 (at least) is unclear. He was in
Geelong in 1937 (at least). The 2nd Cavalry Division (which was established in 1942 and
which was based in Victoria) quickly became the 2nd Motor Division and then
quickly became the 2nd Armoured Division. It appears the name conversions
occurred in a matter of a few months.
Booklet on the WW2 history of the
2nd Cavalry Division Australian Army Service Corps. It eventually became the 2nd
Armoured Division. The 2nd Armoured Division was retained in Australia.
Regarding the controversial topic
of "genetic genealogy." Thanks to the courtesy of
David Trezise (Brisbane) the following information for
distant family on my mother's
results from my DNA profiling done in the later half of 2016 through a
reputable laboratory in Texas, USA (Family
Tree DNA, Houston, Texas).
John Tresise (born circa 5 August 1750, St Just
in Penwith, son of John Tresise and Mary Edwards) married Elizabeth Williams
(born circa 25 December 1742, St Just in Penwith; daughter of George Williams
and Faith Rowe) 9 January 1774, St Just in Penwith. Children: John born circa 30
January 1774, St Just in Penwith; Jane born circa 2 November 1778, St Just in
Penwith. Jane married Jakeh (or John) Grenfell (born circa 9 June 1761, St Just
in Penwith) 21 July 1804, St Just in Penwith. My line is through Jane Grenfell.
Her brother John married Elizabeth Hicks, 13 February, 1808 St Just in
Penwith, and they had children. Some of his ancestors ended up in Western
Australia, South Australia and Victoria. One of John's sons, baptised in 1811,
is buried in Moonta Cemetery. (St
Just is a town and civil parish in the Penwith district of Cornwall, England.
The town of St Just is the most westerly town in mainland Britain.
Regarding ethnicity results. I have European DNA. A breakdown of places in
Europe my DNA has come from: (1) Country: Britain, Spain, Italy, Greece, Norway,
and Finland. (2) Region: North Atlantic, Baltic, West Mediterranean, and a small
amount of West Asian DNA is suggested. (2) Primary population source: West
Scottish; secondary population source: Spanish.
Results of SNP tests undertaken
A1141-, A1539-, A1541-,
A2116-, A2117-, A2118-, A2119-, A2120-, A2296-, A2297-, A33-, A34-, A35-, A37-,
A5291-, A5306-, A5911-, A5919-, A718-, A7367-, A848-, A849-, A850-, A851-,
A853-, A855-, A856-, A859-, A861-, A953-, BY144-, BY150-, BY153-, BY154-,
BY2747-, BY3133-, BY3134-, BY3135-, BY3136-, BY3137-, BY3138-, BY3139-, BY3140-,
BY3141-, BY3142-, BY3143-, BY3144-, BY3145-, BY3147-, BY3148-, BY3149-, BY65-,
CTS4554-, CTS4931-, CTS6838+, F144-, FGC10116-, FGC10117-, FGC10121-, FGC10124-,
FGC10125-, FGC10127-, FGC17059-, FGC17603-, FGC17830-, FGC18441-, FGC18447-,
FGC18451-, FGC19437-, FGC19633-, FGC19637-, FGC19639-, FGC19642-, FGC19643-,
FGC19782-, FGC20021-, FGC21480-, FGC21484-, FGC21491-, FGC23770-, FGC25396-,
FGC28987-, FGC28989-, FGC28993-, FGC28994-, FGC28995-, FGC28998-, FGC31128-,
FGC32576-, FGC32902-, FGC32904-, FGC32905-, FGC32907-, FGC32910-, L1065+, L743-,
PF5236-, PF5721-, S6198-, S690-, S691-, S695-, S697-, S701
S709-, S7361-, S7362-, S7364-, S7367-, S7370-, S7372-, S744-, S756-, S764-,
S9767-, Y12534-, Y15102-, Y15476-, Y15477-, Y15478-, Y16252-, Y17075-, Z16325-,
Z16326-, Z16328-, Z16329+, Z16330+, Z16331-, Z17611-, Z17612-, Z17613-, Z17614-,
Z17615-, Z17617-, Z17619-, Z17620-, Z18058-, Z8432-
DNA markers comprising
make up of Y chromosome
For me the L1065 marker
formed circa 3600 years ago and the Z16329 marker formed circa 1050 years ago.
Males having the R-L1065 marker are related along their paternal lines and share
a common Late Bronze Age ancestor from circa 3600 years ago. The R-L1065
haplogroup is very common in Scotland but may have come originally from Ireland.
It is indicated I may be distantly related to Kenneth McAlpine (King Kenneth
McAlpin (born 810-died 858), a Scottish king).
Due to the paucity of ancient records almost nothing is known about persons living between MacAlpine's reign and
about 1100 CE.
I am part of this branch
on the haplogroup tree: R-P312 > L21 > DF13 > Z39589 > L1335 > L1065 > Z16329.
(R1b-L21 Haplogroup.) (Marker L1335 (also known as
S530) is a branch of haplogroup R1b (also known as haplogroup R-M343). What constitutes an association between a
marker and a population is not settled. Markers are not necessarily population
specific. Scottish DNA Project Blog: "This SNP
(Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) is a marker which notates the group commonly
known as STR47-Scots or the 'Scots Cluster'. The marker is found particularly in
western Scotland, but also as far north as the Orkney Islands and Sutherland.
There is also a cluster emerging in Wales.") As I have tested negative for Z16331 the only surname in the block with exactly
the same subclade (a subgroup of a genetic haplogroup) as me is
"Murray from Ireland." John
Murray, Los Angeles, whose results appear, informs me (October 2016) that his great grandfather was
Scots Irish from Ireland. Because I don’t have his DYS426=13 he judges that our
most common ancestor has to be beyond 300 years back. A Thompson ancestral
village in Ireland does not readily appear in records. Also, the SNPs are odd because there
are very few people who are positive for all 3 and even fewer that are positive
for the first 2, but not the 3rd.
Matheson's birth index study of the 1890 census, with the number of 1890 births
cited following the name (in parentheses), the counties with the highest result
for Thompson are: County Antrim (101); County Down (55); and County Armagh (23).
Thompson means "son of Thomas." Thompson DNA Project Website: "DNA testing is
making connections between families with Thompson surname variants used in
different areas of the world including Thomson, Thomsen, Thomason, Thomazin,
Taweson, MacThomas, MacTavish, MacCavish, Macomish, Macomb, McComas, McComb,
MacCombie, and reasonable spelling variations." John Murray advised (October
2016): "Here is the L1335 list. I am listed with a McCormick and a Stevenson. In
addition, I know of a Greer from both the Murray and McGregor list. Finally,
there is a Murray on the y-12 list and a Murrin on the Murrin list who must have
these as well because I share close STRs with them. ... I am pretty certain that
our common ancestor has to be beyond 300 years because you don't have my
DYS426=13. Only the other Murray and maybe the Murrin ... do." From MacLysaght, The Surnames
of Ireland: "Thom(p)son Though of comparatively recent introduction this is
the second most numerous purely non-Irish name in Ireland. It is mainly found in
Ulster. Without the intrusive P, Thompson is Scottish." From Black, The
Surnames of Scotland: "THOMPSON, 'son of THOM,' q.v. with intrusive p. This
spelling is more commonly found in England." From Bardsley, A Dictionary of
English and Welsh Surnames With Special American Instances: "Thomson,
Thompson.--Bapt. 'the son of Thome,' i.e. Thomas (v.Thom). The p in Thompson is,
of course, intrusive."
According to DNA test results
Jennifer Bush (Melbourne) is my second cousin. Her
grandparents' lines are Urquhart,
Hughes, Newling and Swann. One Newling married a Thompson. The Newling/Thompson
David Trezise (Brisbane)):
James Thompson (1829-1911) married Margaret Davidson (1837-1908) 7 August
1856 Moy Church, Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Their daughter Mary Jane Thompson
(1863-1937) married Arthur Edgar Newling (1866-1946) 5 August 1891 Geelong. Mary
Jane’s brother Robert Thompson (1872-1945) married Ellen Lavinia Groves
(1883-1964) 13 June 1904 Perth, WA. Their son Thomas William Thompson (1909
North Brighton, Melbourne-1988 Geelong West) was my father.
I went to Manifold Heights State School (Strachan
Avenue, Manifold Heights, and then
to Geelong West Technical School (Minerva Road, Herne
Hill). Corporeal punishment was frequently used by some teachers. A
leather strap was used to strike a hand or both hands. I remember that the eccentric (and controversial) Percy Cerutty
(1895-1975, a world leader in athletics coaching) gave a talk to students. It
was given outdoors to groups of students. I studied electrical
engineering at the Gordon Institute of Technology but didn't like
it that much. After a second attempt involving several years of studying lighting engineering in the late 1970s
(at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) I
decided to look for a more interesting career path. I later obtained 2
post-graduate qualifications in OHS (plus an undergraduate qualification).
One job I had was working on the Westgate Bridge
project (after the collapse when the construction project was restarted). I
worked there for some 3 years. One of the more intriguing social activities was
known as 'cabaret.' They were held regularly, usually on a Friday. It was rare
to return to the same hotel lounge twice to hold a 'cabaret.'
Circa 1980 I changed careers and started working
in occupational health and safety. My first job in OHS was at the Williamstown
Naval Dockyard. It was a very convenient job location. I was living in a Flat in
Nolan Avenue, Brooklyn at the time. (Williamstown Naval Dockyard was similar to the 'Wild West.' The continual high rate of
misuse/abuse of safety and related equipment by the workforce was disappointing.
Also, I found the conduct of the unions to OHS disappointing. My support for unions
being influential in OHS largely disappeared. In spite of this the maintenance of safety and relate equipment provided, and
instruction/training on its use, always exceeded the relevant Australian
Standards.) I remained there longer
than any other OHS person (approximately 3.5 years). At that time the dockyard
was finishing with the half-life refits of the old WWII type of River Class
frigate and was involved in the construction of several Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG
7) Class guided missile frigates. These well designed and impressive warships
became used more as a general purpose destroyer than as an escort vessel. I was the OHS Coordinator
at Carlton and United Brewery, and also the National OHS and Security
Coordinator at W. R. Grace and Company, later taken over by Sealed Air
Corporation. I left some months after the takeover even though my job was
secure, and returned to VECCI. During the early 1990's I
lived in a Flat in Adelaide (Birchmore Close, Plympton), South Australia for several years and taught
(sessional lecturer) occupational health and safety at several Technical and Further
Education Colleges (including Douglas Mawson Institute of TAFE). I also worked as an OHS Consultant for the South Australian
Employers' Federation, the South Australian Employers' Chamber, and the National
Safety Council (South Australian Division). My senior degree (MAppSc(OHS))
obtained from University of Ballarat) is in occupational health
and safety (and consisted of both course work and research). I also have tertiary qualifications in computer
technology, and workplace training. My focus is implementing simple, direct strategies to
reduce high injury rates in large organisations. The strategies I implemented at
CUB resulted in an expectation of only 4-5 lost-time injuries per year (from 150
lost-time injuries per year). The
strategies I later implemented for the Australian operations of W. R. Grace and
Company resulted in similar outcomes. My basic approach was to identify what was
commonly going wrong and then implement design, engineering, ergonomic, and
systems solutions. Having to deal with aggressive and incompetent/inept
management people whose prime concern was business profitability was also
problematic. Many people still believe that workplace health and safety is a
personal responsibility and a behaviour problem rather than understand it is an
employer/management responsibility for effective hazard management to ensure
people are not exposed to risk of harm. Some people still believe that injury is
a "punishment" for doing something wrong - and blame the injured person for the
circumstances of their injury.
After 10 long years in occupational health
and safety consulting and training (Principal Consultant/Team Leader) at the Victorian Employers'
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) (during which I introduced numerous
improvements and consolidated their reputation
- during that period - for quality OHS services). I was glad to join ERGOSH Safety Management Services in
September 2007. From circa 2012 I remained there on a part-time basis due to
semi-retirement - but finally quit in September 2015. For the last 5 years I had been providing
regular consulting and training services to Vasey RSL Care but that ended when I
The degree to which a lack of professionalism,
lack of competence, and lack of ethics exists within
the sphere of OHS is concerning. I have been surprised by how many OHS
students/practitioners/consultants settled for mediocrity. Another concern is that OHS
is becoming heavily
bureaucratised and modified by non-safety systems such as quality
assurance. Also, people with no 'hands on' experience in reducing workplace
injuries are dominating approaches to OHS. We are seeing a return to the 1920s 'philosopher's stone' of complex
safety systems and complex safety audits. The belief seems to be that an
effective "trickle down" outcome will necessarily occur. "Folklore" approaches
to OHS management have still not been eliminated and seem to be quite
confidently held by people (including OHS practitioners). Many people involved
on OHS never extend themselves beyond what they are exposed to in academic
courses, training courses, and attendance at seminars. That is a real problem as
a lot of the information is dubious or not practical for achieving
effectiveness. Most people can't do effective analysis to know if they are being
effective beyond chance expectation. Being harmed at work is a crime of violence. It is
the employer who controls the design of the workplace, the systems of work, and
the budget and resources for activities. The situation is not helped by managers
who only care about how things look, not how they really are.
Within the sphere of OHS consulting and training, the
and approaches I have developed have been quickly adopted by other persons
involved in delivering OHS consulting and training. A training concept I
developed at VECCI for the WorkSafe Victoria 5-day OHS course - involving the
training activities being constructed around scenarios in a fictional workplace
- has now been taken up WorkSafe Victoria for this course. Unfortunately the
design of it is clumsy.
I disliked living in Geelong and currently
live close to Melbourne.
Geelong was proclaimed a town in 1838.
is a waterfront/port city located on Corio Bay and the Barwon River. By 1936
Geelong had displaced Ballarat as Victoria's 2nd largest city. In the mid
1960s it had a population of 100,000. Two key industries were the Ford Motor
Works and the multitude of Wool Stores. Wool became Geelong's most important
industry. It was a major wool-shipping port for
the wool industry of the Western District until the collapse of the wool market.
Two other early industries were a fertilizer plant (Incitec Pivot's phosphate
fertilizer factory) and a whiskey distillery (Corio
Later major industry were the Alcoa Alumina Refinery and textile industries and
a salt works. During the 1970s I lived in Queensland twice; once for 1 year
in Townsville (late 1960s) and then for a shorter time in Brisbane (early 1970s).
Later I lived in Adelaide for several years (early 1990s). In Geelong, the
Ford Motor Works (built 1925), the multitude of Wool Stores, the Alcoa Alumina Refinery, and
the textile industries are now all closed.
During my teens I spent many hours browsing in
Griffiths Book Store (W. J. Griffiths Pty. Ltd. Booksellers, Stationers, Office
Supplies), 96-98 Ryrie Street, Geelong. This marvellous book store has ample
space and well stocked shelves. It was established by William Griffiths by at
least 1930 and closed perhaps circa 2000. It had very friendly staff but not the
cheapest prices. At that period Ryrie Street and nearby Moorabool Street were a
hub of activity. The centre of Geelong is no longer busy - business and shopping
activity has transferred to Belmont.
During the Vietnam war era I was conscripted (1969) into the Australian
Military for 2 years. Date of so-called "enlistment" was 9 July 1969 and date of
discharge was 8 July 1971. When the army first set eyes on me I was immediately
sent from the back of the hair cut queue to the front. During 1970/71 (29/4/1970 to 1/5/1971) I served as a combat soldier in South
Vietnam and also didn't like it that much. My recollection is that I was on
leave until my discharge date once I returned from South Vietnam.
The Vietnam war was an utter
waste of human lives.
My 3 months recruit training was at Puckapunyal Army Base (near Seymour) and
my unit training (2RAR (ANZAC Battalion)) was at Lavarack Barracks (Townsville).
During recruit training I declined the opportunity to undertake officer training
at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, ACT. Unit training lasted for 9 months and involved extensive exercises at Canungra
and Shoal Water Bay. High Range outside Townsville was another training area. Training at Townsville was carried out by 4 RAR. I received training as a machine gunner (M60 Light Machine
Gun) and as a signaller. I also
discovered that I was a very good shot, which meant for nothing when your body
was shaking. I was one of the few to pass through Canungra training with a
perfect score for rifle shooting. The 12 months of training in Australian for a tour of duty in South Vietnam
mismatched actual requirements. Particularly lacking was suitable training in small section tactics. Also, equipment was not the best quality. It was
not unusual for a platoon to operate at half strength. It is true that you never
forget you military identification number.
By the summer of 1967 there were over 500,000 US
military personnel in south Vietnam. Over the course of the undeclared war over
50,000 US military personnel were killed. The South Vietnamese troops were
poorly trained (infantry field skills were lacking) and equipped, and often not
regularly paid. Also, they were retained in the military for the duration of the
war. The US military operated mainly from huge bases situated along the coast
from the Mekong Delta to the Demilitarized zone in the north (some 1600
kilometres (1000 miles)). The usual tactic was to launch "search and destroy"
missions against the Viet Cong. Usual Viet Cong activities included tax
collection, recruitment, terrorism against peasants (including killing of
particular people - including children), selective attacks (which usually showed
great determination), placement of mines/booby-traps, and construction of bunker
systems and tunnel systems.
At the time of my service in South Vietnam the
1st Austalian Task Force in Phuc Tuy Province basically comprised 2 infantry
battalions, an artillery regiment, an APC squadron, a tank squadron, a Special
Air Service Squadron, a reinforcement wing (basically infantry), and service
support elements. The basic strategy involved nonstop patrolling from the Nui
Dat base camp, staying out for long periods and aiming to dominate the
countryside. Fire support bases were also established with patrols operating
from them. The Australian base at Nui Dat was considered to be in the middle of
Viet Cong territory in Phuoc Tuy province. Any American aircraft landing at the
air field kept is engines running and stayed no longer than 2 minutes. The 2
nearest villages, Long Tan and Long Phuoc were both considered to be Viet Cong
I served with
2 RAR (on their 2nd tour, May 1970 to May 1971) for 1 year in South
Vietnam. 2 RAR had the title of ANZAC Battalion, with New Zealanders serving
with the Battalion. 2
RAR arrived in South Vietnam with 3 rifle companies 'A, B and C'. 'W' Company
Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR), already halfway through its tour,
and 'V' Company arrived from Singapore in May 1970, completed the 5-company
ANZAC Battalion. 'Support' Company was augmented by 2 New Zealand mortar
sections, 2 pioneer sections and a Kiwi Second-in-Command.
During the Vietnam war the military base of the 1st Australian
Task Force was located at
Nui Dat (a hill surrounded by rubber trees), in Phuoc Tuy
Province. It was considered an ideal location.The 2nd tour by 2 RAR was focused mainly upon 'pacification', which sought to
provide security for the South Vietnamese state by seeking out and destroying
the Viet Cong in their bases areas and also isolating them from the ordinary
In 12 months
of operations against the Viet Cong (including D440 and D445 Viet Cong
Battalions), 2 RAR lost 13 soldiers killed and 68 wounded. For a brief time I
operated with 1 Platoon, 'A' Company, which in March 1971 engaged 2 companies of
D445 Battalion for 4 hours in the Tan Ru area of Xuyen Moc. 2 RAR had its
origins as 66 Australian Infantry Battalion, which was raised on 16 October,
1945, at Labuan in Borneo (South West Pacific) before joining 34 Australian
Infantry Brigade on the island of Morotai in the Molluccas archipelago of
Indonesia. The Battalion was raised by volunteers
who came mostly
from the 9th Division, 2nd AIF.
One of the great Australian infantry
battalions serving in South Vietnam was 5 RAR. Their unit books regarding their
2 tours explain all that they went through.
Among the finest military personnel
to serve in the Vietnam war were the American 'Dustoff' crews - helicopter
medical evacuation crews.
The unarmed medevac version of the Huey UH-1 helicopter were called "Dust Offs."
They had a crew of 4. It was not unusual for them to be fired upon.
They would unhesitatingly fly into a 'fire fight'
(hot landing zone) -
shooting from 'small arms' as they did so (they usually had no gunship support) - and hover in order to begin winching up a casualty
on a Stokes Litter.
Once the winch wire was deemed connected (a casualty was in the Stokes Litter), it was never cut
free because of any incoming fire. Needless to say the the "Dustoff" crews were
shot/shot down on a number of occasions. About 30 percent of personal forming "Dustoff"
crews (including medics) became casualties. Not well known -
and likely long forgotten - is that Spain had a 'Dustoff' helicopter operating
in the Vietnam war. However, no major Western allies supported America's
involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
Most of my experiences were with patrolling, ambushes, and 'road blocks.'
Major concerns when patrolling or moving to an overnight ambush position were
mines, booby traps (punji sticks placed in concealed pits) and walking into
ambushes. The suspicion of walking into an ambush only occurred once on a
clearing patrol. There was a quick decision to withdraw before an ambush could
be successfully initiated. Road blocks were interesting for seizing prohibited amounts of rice (exceeding
personal quotas) that likely formed part of movement of Viet Cong food supplies.
The most interesting 'road block' involved sighting another one operating in the
distance. Our interpreter later informed us it was being operated by the Viet
Cong as a 'tax' collecting operation. Near the end of the tour I was again
involved in operations in the Nui Dinh and Nui Thi Vai Hills. My 7.62 SLR rifle had constant gas regulator problems and would only
operate on a gas setting of 9. To compensate I also usually carried a M79 40mm
Grenade Launcher. It was a rather flimsy item.
The deemed ideal posture when patrolling was to
move with your feet constantly slightly above the ground (avoiding contact with
the ground altogether) and having you head lower than your toes.
During service in South Vietnam I was involved in the largest mine incident
in Phuoc Tuy province during 2 RARs tour of duty 1970/1971. This occurred during
the course of Australian troops providing an escort for a fire mission by
American M109 self-propelled 155-mm howitzer vehicles. The fire trail we moved
down was mined and the mines (specifically designed and packed with quantities
of explosive to destroy heavy vehicles) had pressure sensitive switches designed
to be triggered by heavy vehicles. The right track of the lead Armoured Personnel Carrier I was on went
over a mine but only the M109 vehicle immediately following in our right track
had the weight to trigger the mine. It was effectively destroyed by the
explosion and ensuing fire. The particular incident temporarily halted our
movements as sweeps were conducted in an attempt to locate further mines. Also,
surprisingly, a Little Bird (Loach) light helicopter landed amongst us - the
American officer on board wanting to make a first hand appraisal of the
situation. His appraisal was: You are on your own - good luck. Later that day another M109 vehicle and also an
escort vehicle were destroyed by mines, when we were moving back up the fire
trail. Later during the tour I was
involved in the capture (toward nightfall) and destruction (the next day) of a
large D445 hospital bunker system in the Rung Sat swamps bordering Phuoc Tuy province.
During the pursuit of one group of a small force of Viet Cong withdrawing from the bunker system I
had the unpleasant experience of being drawn into a 'killing ground' designed
into the bunker system. The tunnel entrances inside the bunkers (and likely the
tunnels also) were so narrow that only the leanest people would be able to
wiggle through. Equally concerning was the fact a large group of D445
remained close to the bunker system and our group until we were extracted by
helicopters the following day. The bunker system was destroyed with 'plastic
explosive' charges brought in early the next morning by engineers. Half of the
bunker system was destroyed whilst we remained in the other half - the size and
weight of debris raining down was concerning - and then time delay charges were
set so we could be a considerable distance away when the remaining half of the
bunker system was destroyed.
During the process of extraction from one area, and
my laying coloured smoke to indicate our position for extraction, the response
from one helicopter pilot was he could see 2 instances of the particular coloured
smoke in the area. It was my first and only experience of the Viet Cong
throwing matching coloured smoke. I promptly threw another coloured smoke. To
add to matters the helicopters were overloaded - too few sent for the number of
persons to be extracted - and could not gain altitude. (The helicopters were
overloaded with crew and door mounted machine guns and ammunition and could only
take limited other personnel. Another limiting issue for helicopters was air
density due to heat and humidity.) The pilots wanted to set
us down again but promptly realised how immediately hostile we were to that
Our withdrawal from one patrolling area was based
on the Americans dropping napalm to a time schedule, regardless.
Whilst anti-personnel mines and booby-traps were
a constant concern, the greatest danger was 'friendly fire,' - especially when operating in 'free fire zones.'
Fear of friendly fire was constant when patrolling. I
experienced several episodes of this involving helicopter gunships, artillery,
and heavy calibre machine gun fire. Such episodes contribute to fine tuning
one's understanding of fear. Losing contact between people when patrolling and
then moving to meet up again was also highly dangerous. Curfews meant little and
increased risks. On one occasion when at a Fire-Support Base (Night Defence
Position?), and assigned to be part of a small road block at a nearby main road
until nightfall, a bus travelling after curfew ignored all signals to stop and
accelerated past. One of the crew of a Centurion tank that was assigned to be
with us simply began firing with either a 50-calibre or 30-calibre machine gun
into the back of the disappearing bus. We were later told that a civilian bus
had reported being attacked (by Viet Cong) as it was racing to beat the curfew.
Nobody on the bus was injured but the bus was badly damaged.
Particularly disconcerting is moving by night
into an ambush position only to be then fired upon by someone in the distance
using a heavy calibre machine gun and having several hundred rounds of ammunition
to "spare." The advantage of night is that if you don't move and you
don't return fire (and advertise yourself with rifle flashes) then you can't be
seen. Operating in Free Fire Zones also "invited" random attacks by
helicopter gunships or random artillery fire (even though our presence in the
area was made known to other friendly forces). Having been subject to both
experiences I can assure that they are "eyebrow raising." Being subject to artillery fire is
unforgettable. Any sound resembling it still creates dread. The helicopter to
remain on the friendly side of was the heavily armed Bell AH-1G Hueycobra
gunship. If they saw you and flew closer to investigate it was best to remain
visible to them and signal back. A hands high open stance was most effective.
The daily radio serial (on American Forces Radio) "Chicken Man, The Wonderful White-Winged Week-End
Warrior" would be played loud over speakers at locations down to the size of
Fire-Support Bases. Everything came to a halt for "Chicken Man."
For a while I was a sparring partner for a
private seeking a competition title as a light heavyweight boxer. His arm reach
greatly exceeded mine. Every time he punched me back into the ropes I would
attempt to wrap my arms around them and refuse to step away from the ropes.
Every time people would unfailingly unwrap my arms and push me back out into the
ring saying: "You have him worried killer."
Jungle warfare is particularly difficult and
demanding. A degree of confusion is a natural part of activities. It is basically small-unit war. It is rare to operate in a group that is larger than 12 people. Most
platoons were operating at half strength anyway. It is impossible to see more
than 1-2 metres when operating in actual jungle or thick vegetation. This also
made negotiation and navigation difficult, as well as moving quietly and not
showing evidence of one's presence. The most frequent activity was
small force patrolling by day and small force ambushing at night. The purpose of
patrolling was simply to find the enemy. Reconnaissance patrolling was not
usual. Making contact with an enemy patrol and mines were the common dangers. Guarding the
perimeter at night whether patrolling, ambushing, at a Fire-Support Base/Night
Defence Position, or at Nui Dat was another constant activity. Picket duty could
be nerve-racking, especially when fatigued. Noises were not uncommon and could
be due to animals moving at night. Firing a rifle at night would identify
where you were with muzzle flash - an invitation to be shot. Some people would
actually smoke when on picket duty. Moving at night in open terrain
during the monsoon season was difficult not only to navigate but to stay
together as a group.
Apart from darkness there was intense rainfall and frequent thunder claps and
lightning strikes. The lightning strikes provided the opportunity for people to
check that were still moving with the group. After dark anyone who went outside
the perimeter of the night defence position was in danger of being shot when
returning - even when moving through the picket position. A night defensive
position involved platoon-sized or larger units set-up sleeping and defensive
positions in a circle. Claymore mines and trip flares were positioned outside of
the perimeter and a 2-person picket (guard position, usually rotated every 2
hours) placed where judged best to detect external movement. There was only a
requirement to carry 140 rounds of ammunition (I usually carried 240 rounds). Firing had to be controlled
otherwise ammunition could be expended in a matter of minutes.
Patrols were usually single file columns.
Because of jungle density movement was usually along trails. It was more usual
to run than walk. Training in Australia was about walking off trails and forming
a spread out formation. Patrolling in South Vietnam was about running along
trails and being closely bunched-up. Otherwise it was rather easy to lose the
person ahead when operating in jungle/thick vegetation. In such circumstances it
was usually only possible to see 1 or 2 persons ahead and 1 or 2 persons behind.
Constantly listening for sounds that could indicate nearby enemy movement was
important. Communication was through whispers and hand signals. Operating in swamps was the most disagreeable activity. The
mud and slush made it tedious going. Leeches were a constant issue. It was not
unusual to make stops to remove leeches. One technique for exiting from a
helicopter was to simply leap from a low height onto soft ground. Once I was
first out but landed on very soft ground and both feet became struck in the mud.
No one else followed me out. The helicopter simply flew further on and somebody
else repeated the process - onto firmer ground. It is not a good feeling to be firmly
stuck in mud and isolated from the support of others.
Lack of sleep was a constant issue; especially
when double picket duty was required during the night. When waking another
person for picket duty I would return to the picket position with them to ensure
they didn't simply return to sleep and later claim they were never woken.
An amazing night-time sight, called 'watching
the movies', was watching an AC-47 Specter Gunship operating. They were a WWII
era C-47 transport plane fitted with 3 mini-guns pointing out on their left-hand side. Each
mini-gun fired 2000 rounds per minute and made heavy use of tracers - hence an
aerial light show. The
Gunships were known as Puff the Magic Dragon or Spooky. They mostly operated at
night and would fly in a circle around an area of interest.
At the time of my discharge from the army I had
a serious boot/foot rot affecting both feet. The skin on both feet was splitting
open and separating from the underlying flesh. (It took several years for the
condition and scars to suitably heal.) The condition was caused by
constant damp feet (wet socks and boots) and the frequent need to keep my boots
Due to the kindness of the 2 RAR Operations
Officer, Major 'Tan' Roberts, I was able to fly back to Australia from Saigon. I
marched in the Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade in Sydney in October, 1987
and attended the later concert. It was probably the only occasion when veterans
from all infantry battalions and all tours in South Vietnam assembled together.
Numbers estimates vary but 1 estimate is some 36,000 veterans were present. From
the stage I
made a short thank you speech to the concert crowd on behalf of 2 RAR. In
October, 1992, I also marched at the dedication of the Australian Vietnam forces
National Memorial in Canberra. It is estimated that some 25,000 veterans were
Some 45 years later I am still subject to
hypervigilance - a consequence of their being no 'front line,' a VC could be
anywhere and could appear from anywhere.
Accommodation when at the Task Force
Base at Nui Dat. Hiding beer between the sandbags forming the walls was common.
Also, storage pits were dug under the floor boards as a more secure method
against detection. My own solution was to store beer in the officer's lines in
their accommodation area.
Taken at Task Force Base at Nui
Dat shortly before boarding a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter to go a Fire
Support Base. The flak jacket positioned on the end of the pack makes the pack
look bulkier and heavier than it was. The multiple water bottles add to the
At Essendon after flight from
Saigon via Sydney, 2 May 1971. I am wearing the Vietnam Medal ribbon and the
Vietnamese Campaign Medal ribbon. I was not as yet wearing the Returned from
Active Service Badge, or Infantry Combat
Badge. The Infantry Combat Badge was not issued at the time I left South Vietnam. I am also entitled to
wear the Australian Active
Service Medal 1945-1975 (Clasp - Vietnam).
Prior to military service I spent 6 months
hitchhiking around Australia and New Zealand. As the road to New Zealand
is permanently covered with water I had to fly. My budget was $8.50 per
week. Travelling to New Zealand was like a wonderful trip back in time.
During my visit to Tasmania I visited Hobart (State) High School and was
kindly shown school records relating to the attendance of Errol Flynn,
who later became a famous Hollywood actor. Whilst in Tasmania I also met
Judith Durham (who was born in Hobart), who had been the lead singer for
The Seekers, and her husband (?, they married in November 1969) Ron
Edgeworth (1938-1994), and through her courtesy I obtained free
admission to her Hobart concert.
Photograph of Judith Durham and Ron
Edgeworth enjoying a roadside picnic in Tasmania. I met them when
walking past whilst hitchhiking my way to Hobart. From memory the year
was 1969. Shortly afterward I
left them Judith Durham kindly requested Thomas "Tommy" Reilly
(1919-2000) - when he stopped at their picnic site - to look out for me
down the road and if I was sighted to give me a lift to Hobart.
During the 1970's
I twice travelled around the world visiting some 70 countries in
all. My first trip was westward to Britain via southeast Asia and then eastward
overland (through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, etc.) back to Australia.
My second trip was eastward
to Britain via Tahiti , Easter Island and South America and then westward via
North America back to Australia. On both trips I was a member of the Youth Hostels Association.
At several Youth Hostels in Europe the staff were simply bullies.
On my westward trip I travelled through
southeast Asia with the intention of going to Japan. I left Australia circa
September 1971. However, at Bangkok I obtained a ticket on a British Airways
charter flight to London. (The best commercial flight I have had.) I first
arrived in England on 1 December 1971. I finally left England on 29 January 1973
to return to Australia. I arrived back in Australia circa early May 1973 after
flying from Calcutta. On my later eastward trip I left Australia in early
February 1978. Some 6 months later I left New Zealand on 15 July 1978 to return
During each trip I visited hundreds of second-hand/antiquarian bookshops.
I also made use of the British Museum Library. (Staff who assessed my request
for usage right were very considerate.) My favourite was Watkins Books in London when it was still run by Geoffrey
Watkins (1896-1981), the son of John Watkins. It frequently had rare freethought
works. The best for identifying and holding books for me for a very protracted
duration were Blackwells in London (the book was held for some 12 months whilst
I travelled overland back to Australia) and Second-Story Books in Washington
(the book was held for some 6 months). During my first world trip I also worked in England for
several years (Brindley Fabrics, Mayfair?). I 'flatted' in Earl's Court, London.
My prolonged stay in London proved invaluable for antiquarian book purchases. Whilst in
England I became acquainted with Egerton Sykes (1894-1983) the eccentric British
Atlantologist. I greatly admired his private library (now in the USA), built up
again after he abandoned his original library in Poland at the beginning of
World War II. Whilst journeying in the north of England (hitch-hiking) I met a veteran of
the Battle of Arnhem (a glider pilot?).
At the start of my 1st trip circa October 1971 -
travelling westward - I
witnessed cock fighting in Portuguese Timor (the birds were fitted with razor
sharp spurs), and a Balinese trance dance performance. Also, a Balinese performance of
the Ramayana epic.
I arrived in Thailand in time for the bloodless
November 1971 coup d'état carried out by the Thai armed forces. It was a very
quiet affair. A radio announcer was changed and 2 tanks were positioned outside
the royal palace for a while.
At the boat waiting station in Stranraer,
Scotland, I inadvertently caused a bomb scare when I left my backpack there and
walked to the nearby town of Stranraer for lunch. When I returned the building
was deserted except for police waiting in concealment. In Belfast, Ireland, I
also learned that photographing a fortified Police Station also drew immediate
attention from the military.
When hitch-hiking my way to Scotland I met a
veteran of the Battle of Arnhem who, from memory, served with the Glider Pilot
Regiment. The Glider Pilot Regiment suffered the highest proportion of fatal
casualties. After the Battle of Arnhem the 1st Airborne Division had effectively
ceased to exist.
During my 1st trip I visited a number of sites
such as Stonehenge and Avebury. I visited the British Museum on multiple
occasions. I very much liked the helpful staff. During my visit to Nepal I (when I had become rather ill) was able to
sight Mount Everest.
During my time living and working in London the
music scene/concerts were quite interesting. Three key concert venues were (1)
Roundhouse, London (a circular structure - former railway shed converted to
concert venue), (2) Imperial College London, and (3) Wembley Arena. At the
Roundhouse on 26-3-1972 I saw East of Eden and Manfred Mann (who was merely
appearing there to do a live recording). At Imperial College London on 20-5-1972
I saw Camel (a progressive rock band formed in London in 1971/1972) and Amazing
Blondel (a Lincolnshire progressive acoustic folk band who reinvented
Renaissance music, but much of it composed by band members). At Wembley Arena on
30-6-1972 I saw Alice Cooper's Killer Tour, and on 4-12-1973 I saw Slade
(English hard rock band formed in 1966 - at one time the biggest rock band in
the world). (In my view nothing compares with the front row seat I had for the
McGarrigles (Kate and Anna) concert at the Dallas Brooks Hall (Dallas Brooks
Centre) in Melbourne.)
A lesson in behaviour of people occurred in June
1972 when a BEA Trident crashed at Staines south of London shortly after taking
off from Heathrow Airport. 118 people were killed. The news media reporting the
airplane crash requested that people stay away from the area and keep the
motorway and roads free for emergency vehicles. Within a few hours all roads to
the crash site were jammed by sight-seers traffic. People simply flocked to the
area and created a massive traffic jam which hampered rescue workers. Emergency
vehicles, ambulances, and rescue teams were forced to travel across the land,
breaking down fences, in order to be able to reach the crash site. Hundreds of
sight-seers remained throughout the night, further hampering rescue teams.
At some time I experienced a Hovercraft Channel
crossing. I forget which company and which Hovercraft. They were noisy and could
not operate in bad weather. Crossing ('flight') times were typically 40 minutes
between Ramsgate and Calais. There was also a service between Dover and Calais.
The only snowball fight I have ever experienced
took place some distance outside of Athens in Greece. It was a surprisingly cold
winter. There were several surprisingly cold winters experienced during my years
of stay in London and travels in Europe. During one winter trip to France I
noticed that water in public fountains had frozen and also hundreds of birds had
frozen to death.
When I returned to Australia from my 1st trip I
weighed 9.5 stone (60 kilograms).
My 2nd world trip - travelling eastwards - was
begun/undertaken in 1978. Whilst in the USA on my 2nd trip I visited the offices of The Truth Seeker in San
Diego and spent several hours with James Hervey Johnson (1901-1988) its publisher
and editor from 1964 to 1988. He was a bigot under whose stewardship The Truth
Seeker deteriorated. He declined to let me view the freethought
collection. An arson attack in 1981 destroyed the
building and the Truth Seeker Company's immense freethought library and
During one on my trips to New Zealand I visited
an ailing James Hanlon in Auckland. James Hanlon (1899-1986) was at one-time
president of the (New Zealand) Rationalist Association and long-serving editor
of the New Zealand Rationalist. The journal always maintained high editorial
During my 2nd world trip I included time to
visit (1) Easter Island (2 weeks), (2) Machu Picchu (in
the Cusco Region of Peru), (3) Tiahuanaco in the Bolivian Andes, and (4) the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona
(also (5) the Grand Canyon and (6) Niagara Falls (actually 3 waterfalls)). Just prior to travelling to
Arizona I was in Maryland when a tropical cyclone moved through. It proved to be
far more powerful than the cyclone I experienced in Brisbane (Australia) some
years earlier. I also visited the San Diego Science Center and sat through a
show at the IMAX Dome Theater there. It was quite impressive.
When in South America I travelled through the
Andes mountains by bus along the Yungas Road to Bolivia.
It was known as 'The Death Road.'
(On entering Bolivia we had 4 passport checks in less than 1 hour, at
military roadblocks.) Yungas
Road (now known as Old Yungas Road) was named the 'world's most dangerous road'
by the International Development Bank in 1995. More than 200 people die yearly
in trucks, cars, and public buses due to the roads’ sharp turns and steep
cliffs. At times we were close to driving
off the edge - one of the double set of rear wheels on the bus was over the edge
of the road. The Yungas Road has vast drops of up to 1000 metres on one side and
a sheer cliff face on the other side. A number of passengers were pleading with
the driver to slow down. To calm my adrenaline levels I would have been happy to
get off the bus and walk. The scenery was breathe-taking.
An alternative road has now been built to provide a safer option.
Whilst in Bolivia I visited the town of Potosi
(situated at an altitude of 4200 metres) which has (had) an underground mine.
Unfortunately it was closed to tourists at the time and I didn't wait the few
days for the usual tourist descents into the mine to recommence.
Whilst in Cusco I visited (1) Sacsayhuaman,
a huge walled/fortress complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco,
Tambomachay/Tampumachay (also known as "The Bath of the Inca"), an Inca site
located near Cusco, the market town of Picac and also climbed the nearby Inca
ruins, and (4)
a town and an Inca archaeological site (with impressive stonework) in southern
Peru some 60 kilometres northwest of Cusco.
I also managed a visit to the nightclub/disco in Cusco. Whilst in Lima I took
part in an evening demonstration/civil protest in the city square which ended
when the appropriately attired riot police used tear gas and promptly followed
that with a baton charge. I was impressed with how fast the protesters could run
and also with how readily willing nearby shopkeepers were to shelter protesters
from pursuing police.
While in South America I visited the jungle city
Iquitos (the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, a former 'rubber boom'
city) on the banks of the Amazon River.
The Peruvian port city of Iquitos is located on the
Amazon River in the Peruvian rain forest and cannot be reached by land.
This required a plane flight - the
only other means of access is by boat. (From memory I flew to Iquitos from
Pucallpa on the banks of the Ucayali River in the Amazonian rainforest.) Whilst
visiting Iquitos I journeyed upriver (by boat
and then canoe) to a
Indian village located off the Amazon River (Peruvian Amazon, northeastern Peru) and spent part of the day
shooting darts from a blowgun (pununa). The target was a post placed some 15-20 metres
away. The Yaguas are noted for their blowgun skill, and use of curare. They are also former
headhunters. I was somewhat alarmed by how much of the jungle
in the area had been logged.
During my 1st trip I gained respect for the
Greek tourist police. During my 2nd trip I became acquainted with the newly
formed, and very likeable, Peruvian tourist police. I believe I appeared on a
poster promoting them (At their invitation I took part in a photographic shoot
for this purpose.)
During my overnight flight from Columbia to
Mexico the aircraft flew through a severe lightning storm and my recollection is
the aircraft was struck by lightning. There was also severe turbulence and the
whole experience was rather alarming. I could not understand why we were flying
through such a severe storm.
The British and USA consular offices were always
considerate and supportive. The Australian consular offices were not.
At the Gate of the Sun at
Tiahuanaco in western Bolivia. Exact date unknown but likely mid April 1978. The height is
approximately 12,500 feet (3810 metres).
Tiwanaku's Gateway of the Sun (supposedly a
calendar, at least promoted as such by tour guides) is a doorway some 3 metres
in height with intricate carvings. It appears to have been the entryway to a
building. In 1825 it was moved by General Sucre (during the Wars of
Independence) to its current location.
At Walt Disney World, Orlando,
Florida. Date unknown but likely late June/early July 1978.
Over several years - during my teens - I spent
most weekends involving myself with various assistive 'go for' activities at the
Geelong Gliding Club. The gliding activities would usually be held at either
Geelong (Belmont Common) Little River. One of the highlights was an extended
flight in a Tiger Moth over Geelong. My early glider flights were in machines
now regarded a vintage gliders. Gliders were launched either by a winch mounted
on the front of a vehicle or by a car/truck tow. The technique enabled a glider
to reach around 350 metres. There was no radio communication in those days. The glider pilot would communicate launch speed
issues with wing movements.
The Pratt brothers (Charles and Percy) were both
involved in World War I as pilots. Both were excellent aviators. It was Charles
Pratt who taught his brothers to fly.
Charles (Charlie) Pratt was a pilot and instructor and served overseas (in Egypt?).
the end of the war he purchased several new planes in Egypt to ship back to New
Zealand. However, due to circumstances he did not proceed further than
Melbourne, Australia. Charles Pratt was a qualified 1st Class Air Mechanic and
was awarded an Aviator's Certificate by the Royal Aero Club (Great Britain).
Charles Pratt (a pioneer aviator) leased Belmont Common (or part of it) in 1919 and established an aerodrome, and
built a hanger and workshop.
(He had chanced across it whilst flying, and landed there.)
of the Belmont Common remained an aerodrome for some 30 years.
2 brothers (Percy, and Frank (I'm unsure regarding Alf who had also moved
to Australia)) he ran a successful aircraft business for many years.
(Their sister remained in Ngaio, an inner suburb of Wellington, New Zealand.)
They taught gliding and flying and did airplane maintenance and aerial
the outbreak of the Second World War, the Australian Government took over the
aerodrome and Pratt's aircraft, and Charlie Pratt served as a flying instructor
training Royal Australian Air Force pilots. Both the other brothers also had
some involvement with the Australian Government during WWII. The common
aerodrome remained at Belmont Common until the early 1950s.
The aerodrome was closed in the early 1950s (likely following the
1952 flood). However, it appears Belmont Common was still used as an airfield on a small
scale until the mid 1960s.
Both Charles and Percy were involved in serious air crashes. Percy Pratt refused
doctors permission to amputate his severely damaged leg and the decision almost
cost him his life. For the remainder of his life his (right?) leg was rigid at
the knee and he made constant use of a walking stick. On the final day of an East-West air race (Sydney to Perth)
Charles Pratt's aircraft crashed (hit a tree) at Baandee. Both he and his
passenger (J. R. Guthrie) were severely injured.
When the Gliding Club of South Australia was
first formed they ordered their first glider from Percy Pratt. In 1929 the
Gliding Club of South Australia bought a primary glider (a Dágling glider) from Percy Pratt
in Geelong for
£100 (approximately $200). The Dágling glider was sent by goods train at
the end of 1929 and immediately assembled and a demonstration flight was flown
at Parafield (Para Field) by Percy Pratt. The glider was launched by an elastic
rope and, due to poor wind, flew approximately 120-200 metres (depending on
which report you believe). At this time Percy Pratt was Secretary of the Geelong
Gliding Club. The Dágling glider and the Zoegling glider were
similar machines, and both were German designs. The Dágling had a 10 metre wing
span and the Zoegling had a slightly wider wing span. Both gliders had about a 5
metre fuselage. My father owned a single seater primary glider built by Percy
Pratt (based on the German Dágling or (more likely) the Zoegling design), until
at least the late 1950s or early 1960s.
The Sailplane (Great Britain), September 19, 1930, Page 24.
The Vintage Glider Club of Great Britain, Newsletter,
September, 1979, Number 33, Page 12.
Brief article written for Vintage
Times regarding his experiences with primary gliders.
Gliding Club annually awards the Percy Pratt prize/trophy for the most meritorious
flight in a club glider. This was inaugurated in 1966. Australian Gliding, August, 1965, Page 12, carries a
note by C. A. Patching on the retirement of P. J. Pratt. The same journal,
August, 1988, Page 24 carries an obituary note of the death of my father "Obit
- veteran pilot Tom Thompson passes on." Beginning in 1989 the Geelong
Gliding Club also
annually awards the Tommy Thompson/Tom Thompson prize/trophy for the most improved pilot.
In the years leading up the WWII Percy Pratt
designed, built, and flew gliders. This may have begun in 1929. Kingsford Smith flew a Zoegling (Zogling) glider
built by Percy Pratt. In 1929 Percy Pratt started the Geelong Gliding Club
(which is now located outside Bacchus Marsh), the first gliding club in
Australia. (At some time prior to WWII there was a Pratt's Gliding School. It
existed at least circa 1937.) He had bought a set of plans for a Zogling primary glider, and the
newly formed Geelong Gliding Club completed building it in only 3 weeks. It
appears Percy Pratt was inspired by a National Geographic article on gliding in
Germany. In 1930 Percy Pratt set an Australian gliding record for remaining
airborne for 1 hour and 35 minutes, flying a Zogling primary glider. In 1937 he
made the first flight in Australia of a glider towed by an aircraft. The Sopwith
Gnu aircraft towed the glider on a 244 metre (800 foot) cable from Belmont
aerodrome to Melbourne. He also designed, built, and piloted the first glider to
perform loops in Australia. This was in 1937. He was towed up to approximately
300 metres by a 360 metre rope pulled by a Ford V-8. The first interstate gliding meeting was held in Geelong
in 1939. Percy Pratt attended the official opening of the Colac Gliding Club in
Three things that define how Percy thought about matters are his: (1) Socialism,
(2) Atheism, and (3) Health Theories.
could be, and often was, an outspoken socialist and atheist. (Apparently this
contributed to a permanent rift with his brother Charlie.) Once he started on
these topics he would literally 'preach' socialism and atheism (but not in an
unfriendly way). Socialist ideas were likely his major interest. A favourite
book was The Ragged-Trousered
Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (the
pen name of Robert Noonan, an Irishman), a novel
first published in 1914. It likely made a lasting impact on him. He
keenly promoted it as an important book to read. His atheism was mostly directed
at the history of the Catholic Church. I only saw his personal library once,
when he lived at/near Bacchus Marsh. It was quite small, comprising less than 50
books. He had multiple copies of The Freethinker (London). He had a number of
books by the ex-priest Joseph McCabe who was writing for the Rationalist Press
Association. His library also contained a variety of general science books.
Percy Pratt was a very friendly and engaging person. He was an excellent
conversationalist and a very entertaining story teller. His socialism and
atheism was reasonably well informed. He was a little dogmatic but did listen to
opposing viewpoints. He was quite keen on the violin but was a terrible violin
player. I had the impression he genuinely liked people, and liked to be in the
company of people and enjoyed conversing. I knew him during the late 1950s and
early 1960s when he was likely in his 60s. At that time I did not know he was
originally from New Zealand. He seemed to have few personal possessions, only a
few close friends, and modest finances. I don’t know when he received his leg
injury but it ended his flying days. During WWII I think he may have been
engaged to ferry tiger moths and other planes between States. For a
number of years he was a frequent visitor at our house in Geelong West. For a
number of years he lived quietly on a very small farm (in the valley area/flood
plain) at Bacchus Marsh (which at one
time was flooded by the overflowing of the nearby Lerderderg River/Werribee
River). He never
married. In 1962/1963 he visited New Zealand for the first time in 32 years. He
later returned there (for the second time?) and died in Auckland.
I also remember Howard de Grandi, another
gliding enthusiast, and past president of the Geelong Gliding Club. He lived at
I think I can remember being at the Air
Pageant held in March 1955 at Belmont Common. I do particularly remember
admiring Percival Proctor MK 3, VH BXQ at Belmont Common, in 1966. It was parked
in the open. At the time it had an expired Certificate of Airworthiness, due, as
I remember, to glue joint issues. In 1972 it was destroyed on impact when it crashed into Lake Connewarre, Victoria.
(The owner pilot died shortly afterwards from injuries received.) The
primary cause was identified as structural failure due to unsatisfactory gluing
of several components.
There also appears to have been a Geelong Aero
and Gliding Club started in 1914 on the Belmont Common (also known as the
Geelong Aerodrome). After some history of folding and reopening the club
reactivated in 1978 and is now located at Connewarre.
My father beside the 'Coogee'
single-seat sailplane circa 1960 (but there is only one 'e' in the name on the
side of the sailplane). The photograph was taken by me. The location is not
known but it could be the Little River Airfield. The 'Coogee' was built in 1940
(1940-1941?; dates given vary)
by Tom Proctor of Alexandra. It has been restored as a vintage glider.
My father identified this as me in the cockpit of the 'Coogee'
sailplane circa 1960. I am unsure of the identification. The person shown
reminds me of Richard Thompson more than myself. Besides, the person is wearing a tie. I can't
recall having any casual ties at that age. The location is not known but it could be the Little River
Me in the cockpit of the 'Coogee'
sailplane circa 1960. The location is not known but it could be the Little River
Airfield or the Belmont Common. The print I have is a reversed image. I have
flipped it horizontally to correct it. There is only one 'e' in
the name 'Cooge' on the side of the sailplane.
Coogee, November 2017, at the
Australian Gliding Museum, Bruce Brockoff Annexe, Bacchus Marsh Airfield.
Taken before a flight with my
father in the Falcon 2-seater sailplane. Little River Airport, 1958.
Tiger Moth Brolga that was owned
and flown by Fred Hoinville, at Belmont Common, 1955. I had my first aeroplane
flight in this machine. I can remember that I had to be hurried down to Belmont
Common in order not to lose the opportunity. Fred Hoinville was killed in 1959 at Goulburn in a
Geelong West and District Police Boys
Club/First Manifold Heights Scout Troop
Joining a Scout Troop was simply a move up from attending the
Geelong West Police Boys Club (circa the late 1950s/early 1960s). The full name was
Geelong West and District Police Boys Club (G. W. and D. Police Boys Club, as
Geelong West at that time was a city.) The intention of
the Police Boys Clubs - which originated in the 1930s and continue under other
names - was to ensure boys became good citizens and did not become involved in
crime. Members of the police force contributed their time and also financially.
I cannot recall much about the
Police Boys Club. I cannot even recall the building but it was either accessed
by a minor street or a laneway. I am sure that it was every Friday night and
there may have been an upper age limit. I think also there may have been a minor
fee that was paid. The activities included exercises, games, judo, boxing,
films, and regular camps. I can recall that they taught Judo. I think also that
they did gradings. The instructor was 2nd or 3rd degree black belt. Also, there
was an emphasis on fitness with individual and team exercises. One piece of
exercise equipment was the so-called medicine ball. One team exercise was tunnel
ball. I think a film was only shown once per month. I am sure that one of the
films was Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943). The hours for the club were likely 6pm
to 8pm. I can't remember when or why I joined and left.
In my early teens Percy Pratt, a family friend, gave me his copy of
the Moon by Patrick Moore (1952). I found it an exciting book to read and to
have. I kept this first edition it for about 20 years.
In my early teens I became a member of the Gordon Astronomical Society
(currently named the Astronomical Society of Geelong) and
made my own 10-centimetre (6-inch) mirror which I later donated to the society.
The origin of the Astronomical Society of Geelong (ASG) goes back at least till the very early
1960s (= Gordon Astronomical Society (GAS)). I was a member circa1962 at least. They
perhaps had transitional headquarters until their move to Belmont Common.
However, they mostly met at the Gordon Institute of Technology. Their meetings
and, I think, the mirror making classes were usually held in a room at the
Gordon Institute of Technology. The name of the long-serving secretary for GAS -
then renamed ASG - was Pat Cullen (an accountant). His home-based 6-inch
reflector on a 'home-made' equatorial mount was lost on his death. Due to the expertise of one particular member
(Bernie?/Ernie?) their telescope mirror making
classes were very successful. Another interesting person was Rudi Stabenow. Now
(2012) in his mid 80's, he was an expert lunar photographer, often using the
10.5-inch reflector belonging to the GAS. Another early member of the GAS was
Vern Stott (Stott Jeweller's). (I have appreciated assistance given by ASG
members in providing information regarding my visit to their club room on 17/11/2012.)
During the 1960s its sole telescope was a (27-centimetre) 10.5-inch reflector on
a German equatorial mount housed in a rail-mounted run-off shed. Due to lack of premises it
was located for several years in the yard at Geelong West Technical School. It
was then relocated to the Belmont Common club rooms. In 1995 the Geelong Astronomical Society lost its Belmont Common club rooms and
most of its equipment in a flood. The 10.5-inch reflector was never rebuilt. Its
mirror is retained by a current (2012) member of the ASG. One of the astronomical highlights of the
1960s was attending a public lecture in Ballarat by the astronomer Bart Bok
(1906-1983) a Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory. He gave numerous public
lectures. (This was prior to 1966 when the Boks returned to the USA.) I gave up
membership of the 1st Manifold Heights Scout Troop to have more time for amateur
astronomy. (The periodic Scout camps were always fun.) Prior to
one Friday night scout troop meeting I observed an erratic bright white light in
the sky for several minutes which I thought may have been an instance of ball
lightning (a somewhat elusive and controversial atmospheric electrical phenomenon). Before it simply
vanished its descending and ascending and zigzag movements at variable speeds
was fascinating. Whilst in my early teens in Geelong I also sighted what I
thought was a bolide meteor (an extremely bright meteor). It was widely reported
at the time. Some people described it as an object flying about 1000 metres high
(which is impossible for this type of object). For a very
short time I was also a member of the Astronomical Society of Victoria.
Regarding the name change from Gordon
Astronomical Society to the Astronomical Society of Geelong. The Astronomical
Society of Geelong (= Geelong Astronomical Society) was formed back in the
1960's when (through donations) club rooms (including observatory) were acquired
on the Belmont Common. In an unforeseen flood event in 1995 the rooms and most
of the clubs’ equipment was destroyed. At their new home at the
Geelong show grounds the GAS have built another observatory which houses an 8" Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on an EQ6 mount that is computer
controlled. The GAS also have a 13" Reflector telescope on a Dobsonian mount
that was donated to the club by the family of a long standing member. Much work
has also been put into the club rooms.
A big disappointment was Halley's Comet in 1986.
It was barely visible to the unaided eye. I never bothered using more than
binoculars. More interesting was the closest approach of Mars in 2003.
Apparently it was the closest approach of Mars to Earth than in the previous
60,000 years. Using the Celestron 5 telescope Syrtis Major and the south polar
cap were visible. My astronomical interests now mostly involve lunar observation and the
history of Babylonian astral sciences.
I have a Celestron 5 telescope (purchased in the early 1970s),
a Celestron 114LCM Goto Jack-Newtonian telescope (purchased late 2012 for half
the retail price but an utter disappointment), a Bintel 25-centimetre Dobsonian
(purchased 2010), a smaller Orion 12-centimetre Dobsonian (purchased 2013), and a 20-centimetre
f/25 (Dall-Kirkham) Cassegrain telescope (purchased in the late 1960s, now
disassembled). Rather surprisingly the motor drive of the Celestron 5 was flawed
and the twin motor drives had to be replaced (or swapped around). I have a lot of respect for the
staff at Bintel who are well informed and provide excellent customer service.
I have no belief in a 'Space Wizard.'
Gods/goddesses live only in belief. Religion is not innate but a human
construct. The world is nature alone and nature
consists only of matter. The is no master plan, no architect god/goddess, no
intelligent design. Why would a god create an immense universe just for us? The mythology of Satan's substantial influence over the
natural world clearly clearly shows he occupies the position of a wrathful god.
Interestingly, there was no chaplain on the crew of the television series Star
The Australian gliding pioneer Percy Pratt fostered my interest in freethought and atheism by giving me a
number of books from his personal collection. At that time I was in my mid
teens. One of the books was A History of the Popes by Joseph McCabe (2 Volumes,
1939). I kept that in my library until I secured a hardbound copy. Another influential person was the
Latvian linguist and atheist Gregory S. Smelters (Sydney suburb of Manly).
Gregory Smelters (Greg Smelters) was a long-time
correspondent of the British National Secular Society weekly then monthly
publication "The Freethinker" tirelessly making his point - "There is no
(universal) God, only (particular) gods, goddesses. God (in addition to all
other particular gods/goddesses) is a category mistake." We corresponded
from 1979 to 1986 but I only only met him once - in December 1984.
He likely died in the late
1980s or early 1990s. His last years were spent living in a rented room under a
private house in Collaroy Beach. That was where I visited him. He would sleep during the day
and become active at night. He was born April 1907 in Riga. He migrated to Australia in 1950
and resided in Sydney (suburb of Manly). He was a High School teacher of Latin
but I cannot remember the name of the school. From the 1950s through to the
1980s he was a well-known and frequent contributor of articles and letters to
(The Australian Rationalist Quarterly, Nation Review (at least as early as
1961), The Bulletin); New Zealand (The New Zealand Rationalist); British (The
Freethinker, The Humanist (at least as early as 1936)); North American (The
American Rationalist); Indian (The Atheist, The Indian Rationalist (at least as
early as 1952)); and European (i.e.
La Parola del Popolo (Italian
Language Chicago Socialist and Labor Magazine, 24 issues 1959-1971), Der Freidenker (West Germany)) freethought
and other periodicals. He also wrote numerous letters to editors that
were not intended for publication. I have a book length manuscript based on his
ideas and in June 2017 I put a short version on my website (Page 15). Gregory Smelters never attempted a book length publication. I first came
across his ideas when I was living in Geelong in the late 1960s or circa mid
1970s. He was very combative in his writings and
correspondence with people. I found him to be a very helpful, very quiet, very
polite, and very friendly. One of his best published articles had the misfortune
to be published with a key misprint - 'nonorific' was printed instead of
'honorific.' He guided the drafting of the early parts
of my manuscript on Western atheism.
Unfortunately - despite the astuteness of his
particular approach to atheism - he is now almost forgotten. He can justifiably be
described as the first logical materialist.
During the 1970s I was variously
involved with the Atheist Society of Australia (for which I wrote about 10
articles in the late 1970s), the Rationalist Society of Victoria (who seemed to be without
direction), and the Secular Society of
Victoria (organised by Nigel Sinnott in the late 1970s). It was there I first
met Mark Plummer, a person I was unimpressed with then and still remain
unimpressed with now. (He died in 2011.) He was a person who liked attention and
publicity for himself. I thought he was tireless at using other people for his
own ends. I found him to be poorly informed on issues he gave lectures on. No
preparation and no substantial content. He used lies as a tool to undermine
people. His 2 lies concerning myself were: (1) I was a scientologist and a
'clear' in the Church of Scientology, and (2) I was treasurer of the
Victorian Secular Society and created 'trouble' with the funds. It was only years after I first met him that somebody
stated he was an ex-Scientologist. He had a huge influence on the humanists and the skeptics
in Victoria. I took this as evidence of their credulity. Another person I had no
time for was James Gerrard who called himself an 'aviation consultant.' Gerrard
retired as the superintending airways engineer for the Victorian & Tasmanian
Region in the Department of Civil Aviation. I think he was an electrical
engineer. In the early 1980s at least, he was president of the Humanist Society
of Victoria. The early Australian Skeptics was comprised of people with agendas. I first met Nigel Sinnott in London when he was editor of The Freethinker. He allowed me to make
use of the extensive freethought library in the basement of the building; the
library was slowly being ruined by storage in damp conditions. (I even used to
make use of my lunch hour to go there.) There was no
money to secure better storage conditions for the collection of scarce freethought material.
A lot of it was ruined, including a complete run of The Freethinker journal.
Nigel Sinnott later moved to Australia and started the short-lived Secular
Society of Victoria. He had a modest but impressive freethought library.
Through Nigel Sinnott I met the veteran
Australian freethinker Harry Hastings Pearce (1897-1984).His collection of some
15,000 books and pamphlets is now held at the National Library of Australia
(Canberra). The State Library of Victoria holds some papers (and perhaps also
some books). Pearce's ideas were very much wedded to 19th-century popular
Unfortunately a lot of popular 19th-century freethought and popular
20th-century freethought was ultimately influenced by
Anacalypsis by Godfrey Higgins (2 Volumes; 1833-1836) The
Anacalypsis identifies and discusses similar (religious) beliefs held
world-wide. A basic theme of the book is that there is a
universal basis to all languages and religions and Godfrey
Higgins sought to identify the common thread.
Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833) hypothesized that all religions had sprung from one
common origin, which he sought to trace, and he further suggested the existence
of a secret religious order, that he termed Pandeism, that once held sway across
much of the globe.
essay: "Godfrey Higgins' Anacalypsis: A Critique," JPH writes, "The
work of Godfrey Higgins, Anacalypsis, is quite nearly as hard to find as
a two-headed chicken -- and it is nearly as normal as one. … It cites few
sources for its claims, but those it does cite are the sort of things you won't
find easily -- anyone wishing to back-check all of Higgins' comments will be in
for a real lifetime chore …. There is no telling whether the bulk of Higgins'
sources are credible or not (though we do have some hints). Anacalypsis
is full of assertions that are either undocumented or come from sources whose
credibility is completely unknown in this time …. It is also, furthermore, that
Higgins is so outdated that any arguments he makes based on dating, language,
and so on, require at this time a full re-argument before they can be accepted.
… Higgins' editor admits that Higgins was criticized by scholars who "felt that
amateurs had no place in their special fields" , so even in his day he was
obviously considered unreliable. How much more so today in light of what we know
now? Anyone using Higgins as a source had best explain themselves as well as
In the late 1980s I
briefly served on the committee of the Humanist Society of Victoria. However,
attendance at a meeting that went for over 6 hours (and then I had to drive
another committee member home) dampened my enthusiasm.
During the 1960s I studied Mas Oyama's Kyokushinkai style of karate. (Peter
Fisher and I originally started training out of interest at Frank Everett's gym
in Geelong.) Kyokushinkai karate
is compact stance, high hip position, vertical posture, fighting style that emphasises
close-in fighting and fist strikes (unless its changed over the years).
Most styles of karate are not suited for dealing with competent and aggressive
street fighters. In 1967/1968
I trained under Shigeru Kato who was sent to Australia by Mas Oyama to help
establish Kyokushinkai karate (now termed Kyokushin karate) in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth,
and train students. (Strictly he did not introduce the style in Australia - it
was already being practiced. In
the early 1960's students of Oyama Karate had begun training in Australia and
New Zealand.) At the time Shigeru
5th Dan. It was remarked that up to that time he was probably the best fighter
to come to Australia. He later became involved with professional Thai
kick-boxing, and lost an eye during a contest. When in Australia he initially
introduced the full rigors of karate training in Japan (He thought nothing of
doing 100 to 200 push-ups as a 'warm up' and initially expected everybody else to keep up.) I was awarded
4th-kyu (Green Belt) by Shigeru Kato. In 1968 after Mas Oyama ineptly replied to my
'letter of concerns' it became obvious that reforms were not possible and I left the Australian Kyokushinkai movement. (I remain
suspicious of it because the early days of Kyokushinkai in Australia were full of 'politics'
and antics and
it was also controlled by Judo/Jiu Jitsu persons.)
It is generally regarded that Oyama was not the greatest manager for appointing branch chiefs.
I then studied Goju Ryu [Gōju Kai] karate under
Constantino 'Tino' Ceberano
until circa the end of 1969.
Tino Ceberano is a key figure in
Australian martial arts history. He is known as the father of martial arts in
Australia. He is a direct student of Gōju Kai karate founder Gōgen Yamaguchi. For a time I was engaged as a karate
instructor by William Paauw at his International School of Self Defense in
Geelong. However, I decided I did not want to be associated with William Paauw
in any way. (I was also not particularly happy with how Kyokushinkai karate was
being run.) I initially met William Paauw through Peter Fisher. I gave a number of breaking demonstrations (hand, foot and head) to
promote interest in karate in Geelong. Frank Everett, Peter Fisher and myself regularly drove to Melbourne
for karate training.
Shigeru Kato (or Kato Shigeru)
doing some endurance training at beach location outside Melbourne (long
forgotten but perhaps Torquay? or Portarlington? or Barwon Heads?) circa
1967/1968 prior to conducting training session. He is running up and down the sand
dunes for an extended period of time. This appears to be the only photograph of
him on the internet. Whilst in Australia he made every attempt to maintain his high level of
fitness. He was a very
congenial person. However, he felt quite lonely during his stay in Australia and
was keen to return to Japan. He quickly realised he could not conduct training
in Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) at the same rigorous level as done in a
professional dojo (training hall) in Japan. However, he would still frequently
begin training with the expectation that people would do 100 or 200 push-ups.
Apparently he is now Vice Director of Secretariat of Wado-Kai.
during small group beach at beach location outside Melbourne (long
forgotten but perhaps Torquay? or Portarlington? or Barwon Heads?) circa
1967/1968. I am on the far left. Frank Everett and then Bill Paauw are nearest
to Shigeru Kato, slightly right of centre. A few people are in reasonable
'forward stances' - the rest are demonstrating the usual level of bad form with
stances. A more usual stance was the 'cat stance.'
During the 1980s I also renewed karate training
for about 1 year. (It cost me one tooth.) Army service (1969-1971) followed by a lengthy
overseas travel (1971-1973) ended any prospect of my pursuing karate as a career.
Over the 5 years my skill and fitness level had declined. My grading had not
progressed to at least black belt (1st dan). During this time other
practitioners were establishing dojos. I also wanted to travel back overseas
again for an extended period (which I did in 1978 when the West Gate Bridge
Project I had been employed on for several years was (finally) completed).
The history of William Paauw and his International School of Self
Defense in Little Ryrie Street, Geelong is slowly being rewritten. Paauw may
have introduced Kito Ryu Jiujitsu into Australia at the end of the 1950s but he
did not introduce Kyokushinkai karate. He did not train in Melbourne where
Kyokushinkai karate was introduced by Ivan
Zavechanos through one of the Melbourne judo schools. (At most he only went to
Melbourne to discuss business matters with Zavetchanos.) Zavetchanos was a
co-founder on 1951 of the Judo Federation of Australia. He eventually was
graded/awarded 9th Dan by the World Judo Federation in recognition of his
promotion of Judo. I personally disliked him. At the time of
establishing his International School of Self Defense in Geelong, Paauw claimed
to be the 1954 European champion of some martial arts competition. It appears
this was a particular competition/championship connected with the Dutch Air
Force. Two of the best fighters connected with the International School of Self
Defense were Mervyn Nelis and Brian Ellison. Both were good fighters before
their connection with the International School of Self Defense. I also knew Gary
Viccars who went on to run his own dojo.
Mervyn Nelis was promoted to 8th Dan (Hachidan)
Hanshi by the Australasian Martial Arts Hall of Fame (AMAHOF) at Hobart on 17th
August 2013. He has now been involved in the study of self defence systems for
almost 50 years. From an early teenage involvement in wrestling, boxing and ju
jitsu, he eventually became involved in training in karate. He teaches full time
at his Zenshin Martial Arts Academy in Geelong, and holds degrees in Psychology
and Social Anthropology. Brian Ellison was an expert with the nunchaku (due to
practice, practice, and more practice). At one time he was probably the most
skilled person in Australia with the nunchaku. He had a role in the Mad Max
movie "Thunder Dome" (and perhaps the original movie also). In "Thunder Dome" he
was the nunchaku wielding bad guy who had his feathers shot off his head by Mel
Gibson. His heart attack in 2010 temporarily slowed his involvement in karate
activities. He did have his own dojo but this may have changed.
Ray Stevens, a member of the Australian occupational forces in Japan
studied under Minehiko Nakano and brought Jiu Jitsu to Australia
(Brisbane) in the early 1950s. The first Judo school in Australia was
established by Arthur Ross in 1928 (in Brisbane).
I believe it was Percy Pratt who introduced me to the ideas of Bernarr
Macfadden (1868-1955), the so-called father of physical culture, and
gave me several volumes of MacFadden's Encyclopedia of Physical
Culture (1911–1912). It occurred in my early teens. Macfadden was
the physical culture guru of the early 20th-century. Many of his ideas
were odd to say the least.
I originally started
gymnasium training at Leo White's (boxing) gym in Manifold Heights. I
think it was only for a few months perhaps circa 1964 or earlier. Leo
White (Kid Young) was a former Victorian and Australian Featherweight
White commenced boxing at the age of 16
and, because of his youth, became known as 'Kid Young.'
Honnie van den Bosch used to hang around his
gymnasium at that time. She was very friendly and pleasant to talk to.
She obtained some minor TV spots (i.e., she was the 2nd barrel quiz girl
for In Melbourne Tonight in the late 1950s) and acting roles in TV
dramas, and later opened the Honnie van den Bosch School of Deportment.
She eventually married a Dutch businessman and went to live in Holland.
The Age, Thursday, August 26, 1965, Page 25, reported: "She [Honnie van
den Bosch] is 17 years old, and her parents own a gymnasium in Geelong."
The latter claim seems to confuse that she associated herself with Leo
Circa my mid teens
I began weight training at
Frank Everett's gymnasium in Geelong. Frank was an ex-boxer (very highly
skilled), very fit and very friendly. He was a member of the Try Boys
Brigade which went back to the 1920s. (The early
history of the Try Boys Brigade is now problematic. Not much has made it
to the web. I can't find any information regarding Jack who was the
boxing trainer for Frank at the Try Boys Brigade.) In May 1952 Frank (Try Boys
Brigade) boxed Ron Evans (North Shore). He was one of the nicest people
you could wish to meet, quite unforgettable.
During his life Frank was a mentor to many people.
The gymnasium (Spartan Health Studio, 152 Ryrie Street) was full of interesting people. Frank, Peter Fisher, and
myself would use the gymnasium for karate training on weekends, outside
of regular business hours. After a number of years Frank declined to
accept membership fees from Peter and myself. In January 1969 he kindly
wrote a reference for me. Frank died suddenly and
unexpectedly in August, 2011 at his gymnasium (Frank's Gymnasium) in
Noosa, after collapsing from a stroke.
In 2009 when his gymnasium celebrated its
30th anniversary Frank promised to be there
"till his last gasp," and he was. He was
74 years old.
Earlier in 2011 he had received a Noosa Local Legends Award.
His wife Heather, whom he married in
1960, had died in 2006.
At age 21 he was a Victorian boxing champion and remained undefeated for
four years. He was 160cms tall (5ft 3in) tall. He was a physical
education teacher at Norlane High School in 1964-1965. (I
have been reminded of Frank's 3000 push-ups. I was in a conversation
where they were discussed. I presume they were done with mini breaks and
within a time limit. The most I ever did non-stop was 300.) In 1969 he moved
(was enticed) from Geelong to the Gold Coast where
opened his first Frank's Gym in 1979 in the River Room at Pinetrees in Hastings Street.
It was the first gymnasium in Noosa.
It would eventually become Australia's largest gymnasium.
In the early 1980s Frank shifted the location of the gymnasium.
Ron Sgro (a former Torquay surfer), organised Frank's purchase of land in Lanyana Way, Noosa Junction.
Frank also owned the building and equipment.
I am unsure when he opened his Miami Dojo in Noosa Heads.
Circa the mid 1960s a
boxing protégé of
Frank's was Ragnar Purje who Frank trained Ragnar to compete in the
Golden Gloves boxing tournaments. Peter Fisher and I would accompany
Frank and Ragnar to the boxing tournaments in Melbourne. Ragnar Purje
later changed to karate.
Ragnar went on to become an Australian Karate Champion. He became
involved in Goju style circa 1970. In the area of sports karate, Ragnar
has held the positions of National Coaching Director of the Australian
Karate Federation (AKF); President of the Australian Karate Federation
(Victoria); Sports Coach advisor to the AKF (Victoria); Chair of the
Victorian Referees' Commission for the AKF of Victoria; and, Official
and Judge with the World Union of Karate-Do Organisations (WUKO), which
is now the World Karate Federation (WKF). Ragnar, a sports scientist,
works primarily as a clinical counsellor.
Frank Everett training
at beach location under Shigeru Kato outside Melbourne (long forgotten
but perhaps Torquay? or Portarlington? or Barwon Heads?) circa 1967/1968.
I have been concerned with pseudo-scientific beliefs for some 50 years,
especially astrology. My skeptical efforts were always conducted without the
benefit of a supporting organisation. (Modern skeptical committees seem to think
they were 'first on the scene' and never look beyond their own history.) In the late 1970's I was in regular contact
with James Randi prior to his Australian visit in 1980, helping to sort out his
itinerary. I was also involved with the formative days of the Australian Skeptics and remain unimpressed with the group (which still talks of 'joining'
even though they have no membership and there is only the magazine ('The Skeptic')
subscription). No so-called 'member' actually gets to belong to an organisation
with a structure. The 'Australian Skeptics' is simply a loose affiliation of
several non-profit 'organisations' (= committees) across Australia. The
Australian Skeptics is not a national organisation. A person does not joined a
structured organisation by subscribing to the journal. The
'Australian Skeptics Inc' is simply the New South Wales branch (who pulled off a
coup when the administration was regularly passed between states). Australian
Skeptics Incorporated is the name registered by the NSW committee as part of
their coup. The various state groups are described as "affiliated but
independent." We get descriptors such as "Queensland Skeptics Association Inc,
Queensland Branch of Australian Skeptics." What is really meant is: Queensland
committee, [subcommittee] of NSW committee. The "We meet ...." simply means that
journal subscribers can congregate monthly at a pub. The NSW committee now perpetually publishes The Skeptic and appoints
a paid Executive Officer, but still remains the NSW committee. The Australian Skeptics is a (private)
NSW committee- that is, a coalition of
individuals - and not a (public) society with members. (The fact that The
Skeptic journal makes reference to skeptical groups in Australia changes
nothing. They are basically regular "meetings" of journal subscribers in pubs (and
non subscribers - described as 'members of the public' or 'visitors' are
invited). The so-called "meetings" are simply informal social gatherings
of journal subscribers in pubs and involve drinks, dinner, and a guest lecturer.
The so-called Brisbane Skeptic Society operates this way. The so-called Geelong Skeptics Society is likely the same.
The same will likely apply to the Queensland Skeptics Association Incorporated.
The term Australian Skeptics Society gets used but is meaningless - no such
organisation exists. It seems the self-styled 'Skeptics' can't work out who or
what they are. Finding
accurate descriptive information has not proved possible.)
The name is really only a committee group description - there is
a formal organising committee to receive money for the publication of
The committee basically
exists for the production of the journal. Any persons not on the committee
can only be subscribers to the journal.
The establishment and early days of the
Australian Skeptics - and questionable conduct - has now become obscured. The
full story is unfortunately lost. Circa
the mid 1970's a letter by Mark Plummer was published in The Zetetic (the CSICOP
journal later renamed The Skeptical Inquirer) regarding starting an Australian organisation. This was answered by Dick Smith. Dick Smith sponsored a visit by
James Randi to Australia. This first visit to Australia by James Randi was an
aid to establishing an Australian Skeptics organisation. Dick Smith was managing
where James Randi would appear and the attendance fee that members of the public
would be charged. Some people were unhappy that a fee would be paid to attend a
presentation by James Randi. After Randi's first visit there was a public
meeting held in Melbourne, with a presentation being given by an academic
psychologist. It was attended by approximately 200 persons. At this meeting Mark
Plummer issued a leaflet explaining the intention to start a Victorian skeptics
committee. Then a so-called 'public meeting' was held at John ('Joe') Rubenstein's house
regarding the establishment of a constitution, etc. (The constitution related to
size and 'election' of committee members i.e., the election (= selection) of office-bearers.)
Also discussed was a media article and a letter-head logo. I attended that meeting
- it was a very small group. The inaugural meeting was not a public meeting, it
was not advertised publicly.
Only selected persons were invited to the meeting to start the Australian Skeptics (which at that time would simply comprise a Victorian committee).
All the small number of attendees at the meeting were Rationalist/Humanist
Society members and the meeting was essentially controlled by
Mark Plummer and James Gerrand. (Plummer became president of the committee and
Gerrand became secretary. They both falsely maintained it was a membership
organisation. Both continually refused to acknowledge or discuss the issue.) Mark Plummer had joined the Humanist Society of
Victoria a short time before (and was the President for a very short time) in order to give himself exposure
This could only have been achieved through James Gerrand. It was clear
that some people thought that there was a possibility of the early skeptical
committee being infiltrated. I thought that some people were simply overly
imaginative. It was likely all part of a control strategy. Interestingly, no initial effort was made to to incorporate the
Australian Skeptics. That only occurred when I established a rival group using
the same name, as something of a hoot. The NSW committee incorporated and seized
the name for themselves, as well as permanent control of the journal and other
administrative issues. The formation of the Australian Skeptics
gave a number of Rationalist/Humanist society members a chance for wider
influence than before, and prestige of a new sort as well.
early Victorian skeptics practised the same deficiencies they criticised others
for. I was
particularly unimpressed with the respective characters and 'total control
antics' of Mark Plummer and James Gerrand. They practiced what they
admonished/accused their opponents of practicing - untruthfulness and lack of
threat of litigation was used to silence one critic (an ex-committee member) for
expressing concerns and intending to publish a journal article about the issue.)
The Australian Skeptics claimed they were part of the American CSICOP but were
told in no uncertain terms by that group that they were not and to cease making
those claims. At several public meetings organised by the 'Australian Skeptics'
it became obvious that Mark Plummer was seeking to make presentations that
emulated those given by James Randi. It was a case of the difference being
'chalk and cheese.' Also, James Randi would not have publicly humiliated an aged
person in the audience in the ruthless manner that Mark Plummer once did. Mark
Plummer was concerned with creating an image for himself. Though The Skeptic,
Volume 14, Number 3, November 1998, states otherwise, just prior to James
Randi's first Australian visit in October 1980 I was personally told by Mark
Plummer that he was not a subscriber to The Zetetic/The Skeptical Inquirer,
hence he wanted to 'borrow' my copies. (It took 2 months of persistent effort to
achieve the return of a book I had loaned him for one month.) At this time he
was publicly admonishing other people for not being subscribers to the American
The Skeptic remains a journal that is not always
accurate and resisting corrections and repeating errors even when they are
pointed out in detail. A former editor Barry Williams introduced the subtitle "a
journal of fact and opinion" after making mistakes regarding tobacco risks. The
subtitle has now been discontinued. "A journal of fact and fiction" would seem
to be a suitable subtitle.
During the 1990s I chanced across David
Miller (who was standing on a 'soapbox' in a public street in Melbourne's CBD
giving an oration on the need for freethought) and over a number of years gave a series of talks
(perhaps about 5 in the late 1980s) on freethought and
skepticism to the Existentialist Society, Melbourne (a name around which public
talks are organised by David Miller). The indefatigable David
Miller is a landmark in the promotion of quality freethought/critical talks in
Melbourne (which he has kept in place for several decades). During this period I
was also President of the Atheist Society, Melbourne (Secular Who's Who
by Ray Dahlitz (1994)).
During the 1960s/1970s I was a member of a
number of fringe organisations or simply subscribed to a number of fringe
journals. It was important to understand the 'mind set' involved. Also, the
people associated with these types of organisations were often fascinating.
Organisations included the Atlantis Research Centre founded in the UK by Egerton
Sykes (1894-1983), Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (as it was known in
the 1960s; who held excellent social events), the Society for Psychical Research
(UK). Subscriptions included the Flying Saucer Review (UK) which at (most) times was a
complete uncritical 'hoot,' and the journal Info published by the International Fortean Organisation (USA) (which actually published a critical article,
with the result the controlling committee of the organisation terminated the publishing staff).
Two persons I crossed paths with in the 1980s
were Moshe Kroy and Rex Gilroy. Moshe Kroy (1948-suicided 1988) had immigrated
from Israel to Australia and was a tenured lecturer in philosophy at La Trobe
University. He spoke openly that he had no academic friends there. Moshe Kroy is
now almost forgotten but prior to his death had generated considerable public
controversy with his bizarre ideas and cultish activities. He established
evening classes (under, I think, the Council of Adult Education) to promote his
ideas on occult philosophy and parapsychology, and he also established
'self-transformation' workshops based on parapsychology testing. I am sure he
did more harm than good. His ideas (which were syncretic and complex) were odd
by any measure and his tenureship at La Trobe University enabled him to conduct
lectures that were rather odd. His ideas were quite bizarre. (They incorporated
Ayn Rand's Objectivism, Scientology, Indian mysticism, the German philosopher
Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), the French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), a
belief in astral beings, psi phenomena, etc.) He would not accept any criticism
of his ideas and believed there was a government conspiracy against him. At the
time of his death he was moving towards establishing his own organisation of
believers - and there was no shortage of these. One starting point for his
arguments (that included immortality) was the French philosopher René Descartes
(1596-1650). In his workshops he conducted ‘psychic testing’ but only under his
own terms - which were very loose (uncritical). His daughter was involved in his
activities. He had also established a successor but I can't recall other
details. Two of his arguments were: (1) As consciousness you cannot be
destroyed. Proof: For a consciousness to be destroyed it must be conscious of
its destruction. Nothing happens to a consciousness unless this consciousness is
conscious of it, thus you have to be to experience destruction, hence
not-being. How can you be and not be at the same time. (2) Insanity: Insanity is
normally defined as "being deluded." To be deluded is to experience what is not
there. In other words, to experience "nothing" as "something." But the nothing
is not and cannot be be experienced, So there are no delusions. Whatever you
Rex Gilroy supports numerous bizarre beliefs
about the history of Australia and its inhabitants, and operates his private
natural science museum located outside of Sydney. In the 1980s I both met - at
his Kedtimba Museum in Katoomba, NSW - and
corresponded with him (and also some of his supporters). I found his museum
unimpressive. His 4.5 million year old fossil human skull I thought was simply a
rock. I also found that he definitely does not like critics. Amongst his early
claims were ancient Egyptian-Phoenician voyages to Australia. He was completely
oblivious to the difficulties that would be entailed in such early voyages. In
later years he focused on claims of ‘Yowies’ - huge ape-like creatures - living
in seclusion in the Australian bush. He has even established his Australian Yowie Research Centre. Some overseas publications reproduce some of his claims
about ancient Australian history because they mistakenly think his museum has
some sort of official status and that he has appropriate formal academic
Circa 1990 I was in the audience at an ABC
studio in Melbourne for the taping of an interview with JZ Knight (Judy Zebra
Knight, born Judith Darlene Hampton (1946). JZ Knight as she is usually known
as, is an American mystic teacher who claims to be the earthly "channel" for a
spiritual entity named Ramtha. (Basically “channeling” is the same as trance
mediumship. It falls under abnormal psychology.) According to Knight, Ramtha was
a Lemurian warrior who fought the Atlanteans over 35,000 years ago. Afterwards,
Ramtha apparently went on to spend 7 years improving his general knowledge and
then ascended into the air, promising to return. Knight claims that Ramtha first
appeared to her in her kitchen in 1977. During the Melbourne TV interview,
Knight knight supposedly spiritually metamorphosed into Ramtha and took audience
questions. I thought is was all poorly conducted hokey. I managed to get several
minutes of question and answer with "Ramtha" whose answers indicated emanationism but seemed quite at loss with understanding/identifying
emanationism (a basic mystical doctrine). ("Ramtha" even looked lost.) My basic conclusions were that "Ramtha"
could be perplexed and needed to work more on improving his general knowledge.
Perhaps "Ramtha" felt the same.
Stamp-Collecting, Basketball, Running, Bush Walking,
At about the age of 10 years I became interested
in music, stamp-collecting, reading and book-collecting. In my mid teens I sent
my stamp collection to a friend in Malaysia and began to seriously collect books
I liked basketball but at the time of my
enthusiasm there was little opportunity to develop and improved skills and for
competition basketball. I spent a long time practicing to acquire the skill of
putting the basketball through the hoop from the Free throw line and further
back from near the Midcourt line.
When at technical school and in the Boy Scout
Movement I found the I was a very fast runner for 100 metres and 200 metres. I
was rarely beaten in any form of school or scouting competition for those
distances. However, nobody was interested in helping me consolidate running
skills for serious competition. It all came to an end with army service and
overseas travel. As part of karate training I found I had no problems running a
short marathon distance of 15 kilometres. I had no ambition to run the official
marathon distance of 42 kilometres.
During the 1980s I took up bushwalking and hill
climbing (throughout Victoria) and usually completed walking trips rated 2-day difficult in 1-day. For
a year I favoured the Warburton area. The popular Australian country singer
Diana Trask (also a popular performer in the USA during the 1960s and 1970s) was
born in Warburton. My next favoured area was Halls Gap. I have always remembered
the year the Halls Gap Film Festival held their first Russian Science Fiction
Circa 1980 I engaged in canoeing and kayaking for a few
years only. I was a member of the Essendon Canoe Club. Kayaking ball games were
a lot of fun; so was ramming other kayaks.
My interest in tennis came and went in about 2
years. My interest in golf came and went in about 2 months. My interest in
fencing with the foil (épée)
also came and went as quickly.
Music and Movies
I began collecting Vinyl LPs in my mid teens and
then changed to CDs. My favourite music is folk, country rock, and classical. I
have an extensive CD collection. I also have an extensive DVD collection. My favourite films are British comedies made
between circa 1930 to 1980, and science fiction. More recent favourites are
Moonrise Kingdom, Best in Show, Secondhand Lions, and Wall-E.
Circa 1980 I met the American interpretive folk
singer Priscilla Herdman at Don O'Connell Hotel in Carlton (Melbourne). A very
nice lady. At that time the Dan O'Connell Hotel was very much part of the folk
music scene. I think it was one of her first appearances in Australia. She sings
in a 3-octave voice. The Water Lily, released in 1977, was her debut album. 7 of
the 11 tracks are poems of Henry Lawson. It remains a remarkable collection of
I used to enjoy sky diving
to relax but gave it up shortly after colliding with a caravan during a
high-wind landing on 26 December 1977 at Port Fairy. In April 1976 I became a
member of the Meredith
[Geelong] Parachute Club until early 1978 and completed 100 jumps. On 10 June 1976
I qualified to pack B4 and C9 sleeve deployed parachutes. On 1 October 1977 I
received my International Parachutist's Certificate Certificate "A" 1282
Qualified Parachutist.' My parachute of choice was a Piglet II; light and compact,
reliable and usually fast to open (especially when the sleeve was removed), fast forward speed, but unsuitable for rapid
manoeuvring close to the ground as it was prone to develop a swinging motion
that took time to cease. The highest altitude I have jumped from is 4,500 metres.
It is very cold at that height. The
lowest height my parachute opened at is 250 metres (due to problems dealing with
a vicious flat spin). It's easy to determine when you are very close to the
ground - it appears to move laterally away from you. Planes jumped from were
Cessna 206, Cessna 172, Cherokee, and DC3. Fastest wind speed at ground level
that I have jumped at is 30 mile per hour (48 kilometre per hour). Drop zones
used were Meredith, Corowa, Port Fairy, and Labertouche.
At Port Fairy, Victoria, I did one high wind jump
(48 kilometre per hour wind speed) with the Piglet II. For some reason there was
a delay in it opening. Close
to the ground I just missed hitting power lines and on landing I ended up being
dragged over large stones until I could 'cut away' from the parachute. I liked
to freefall through clouds but it was possible to become disoriented. I really
liked 'flying/soaring' across the sky during freefall (with both arms positioned
along the body). The only faster way to move was to position myself head down.
During my early training I participated in a freefall instructor buddy jump
from 2500 metres. It was the first time, or very nearly the first time, this was
done in Australia as a training method. It is now sanctioned as a training
method and termed Accelerated Freefall. I exited the plane with 2 very
experienced instructors holding onto me. At 800 metres one of the instructors
pulled my ripcord and then both soared away to open their parachutes.
One 'lark' was to go up in a Cessna 172 and
after getting out of the aircraft cabin remain standing on the wheel base and
holding on to the wing strut, giving the pilot a big smile and a little hand
wave. It didn't take long to put the aircraft into a dive - the time to fall
Taken near Meredith September
1977 just before I exited the aircraft at 7000 feet (2135 metres). At the
time I was with the Meredith Parachute Club.
Participants at an Australian sky
diving meet near Albury-Wodonga circa the mid 1970's. The DC3 was the principal
'jump plane.' I'm on the left in the first standing row (with the chest mounted
Circa the mid 1970s I became interested in
chess. I mostly played chess with friends and also with members of the Melbourne
Chess Club. I started chess playing with some co-workers at the Naval Dockyard
Williamstown. The Melbourne Chess Club was open 7 days a day, usually until very
late at night or even till very early morning. I bought a chess computer and on
1 lucky occasion I managed to beat it. After winning against a friend - a strong
player - in a 10 hour game I decided that the game was too exhausting. The issue
is 'looking ahead' analytically. During the period of some 5 years I remained
interested in chess I built up a collection of some 300 chess books.
Reading and browsing continues to be a major
activity and has always been.
I am an avid book collector (collecting has been
an end (enjoyment) in itself) and
have an extensive library on astronomy, history, science,
mythology, freethought, and skepticism. It is an expensive hobby. I started my collection in the mid 1960s
and frequently travelled to Melbourne by train to visit the then numerous
second-hand book stores. My favourite was Kay Craddock's antiquarian bookstore. Due to lack of space for
shelves the bulk of my library has been consigned to storage for
several decades. Hopefully, over the next several years I will
have the bulk of my library shelved. Though I have not focused on adding to my
collection of freethought material for several decades it comprises a solid
collection of late 19th-century and early 20th-century material. A lot of my
early material was obtained from the British humanist/secularist writer, poet,
and freethought bookseller
Kit Mouat (Jean Mackay) during the 1970s. We became good friends and whilst living and working in England I
regularly visited her in Cuckfield, Sussex. (Herbert Cutner, when nearing death,
gladly gave her possession of his large freethought library when she visited him
and in passing asked what plans he had made for it - which were none and he had
great concerns for what would become of it.) Later sources for freethought
material were All Points of View in the USA, and Robert Forder in the United
Kingdom. I likely have
the largest private collection of occupational health and safety books/materials
in Australia. The massive freethought library of the Rationalist Society of New
Zealand has remained intact due to my 2 interventions in 1978 (the first in
February 1978 and the second in July 1978). During
the course of interior renovations at this time at Rationalist House there were several efforts to remove the older material as
redundant (and also because shelving space was an issue). I managed to prevent this from
occurring during the course of 2 visits over 6 months - the beginning and
completion of my 2nd world trip. These types of episodes
are now lost to historians of the Rationalist Society of New Zealand. Between 1975
and 1990 I completed a manuscript of some 500,000 words on the history of Western
atheism. Its publication by Prometheus Books was discussed with Gordon Stein
(1941-1996) several years before his death.
My enormous collection of photocopied journal articles on OHS and astronomy
(constellation related topics) was essentially put together between 1975 and
2005. For the astronomy material I mostly used University of Melbourne and
travelled regularly to Canberra to the Australian National University (including
the library at Mount Stromlo Observatory), and to Sydney to the University of
Sydney. This was largely done between 1985 and 2005. The loss of the library
resources at Mount Stromlo, due to a fire storm in 2003, is keenly felt. (I first
travelled to Mount Stromlo in the early 1960s.) It was an
excellent and readily accessible library managed by friendly people. They gently
suspected me of using more photocopying paper than I was paying for.
Since circa 1990 I have especially focused on obtaining German-language
books/pamphlets on the early history of astronomy and by pioneers of the
rediscovery of Babylonian astronomy. Part of this focus has also been on
obtaining early German-language material on Panbabylonism - a most interesting
fiction - and the preceding Star Myth school.
I have downsized my personal library on 2
occasions. Also some books are purchased without the intention of keeping them.
At the present time I perhaps have some 30,000 books and monographs, complete
runs of a number of journals, some 5000 journal articles, as well as 1000s
of photographs relevant to ancient astronomy.
Research in various libraries has proved very
time consuming. My favourite cities for library research have been Canberra
(Australian National University) and Sydney (Fisher Library at University of
Sydney). I skipped visiting the ANU library at Mount
Stromlo in early January 2003, with the plan to spend several days there in
March. (I went instead to the Australian National Library and engaged in a
fruitless search for biographical information about George St. Clair.) The fire
storm in late January 2003 and the destruction it brought to Mount Stromlo put
and end to any further plans to use the once great library there. I still remain
saddened over its loss.
Contacting people has proven beneficial. Also,
the website has prompted people to contact me with valuable information not
otherwise obtainable. My private library and the web are now my primary research
tools. Contacting people also remains important.
I have had a long-standing interest
in the origin and early history of the constellations. The compilation of the bibliography arose from
requests for such by some HASTRO-L (History of Astronomy List)
members early during 2001. The requests arose from discussions on
HASTRO-L that have focused on the origin and history of the
constellations (i.e., flat patterns of stars). The various essays were added to
assist understanding issues related to the constellations and to counter some of
the more fantastic claims made. The content has no particular target
audience in mind and simply reflects my own core interests
regarding the history of astronomy. The web site has involved a heavy investment
in my personal time and remains a work in progress. My knowledge of the topics
has been gained from my own personal research. I have not had the benefit of any
relevant formal courses of study (if they were indeed available). Neither have I
had the benefit of membership of any relevant organisations. Everything has been
done in isolation. Over the next few years from the present (late 2016) I intend to
include other essays. How far I proceed will depend on health issues.
My primary interests have been (1) the
origin and history of the Western constellations, (2) Mesopotamian astral
sciences, and (3) Panbabylonism. More recently I have focused on the biographies
of the pioneers who recovered Babylonian astronomy. I am (slowly) putting
together reasonably detailed biographies of the early pioneers of Babylonian
mathematical astronomy, Joseph Epping, Johann Strassmaier, Franz
Kugler, and Johann Schaumberger (and reconstructing their relevant
relationships). I began collecting material for this in the 1970s. Whilst there is a lack of archival resources such as
letters/correspondence (some do exist) and diaries/journals for
gleaning detailed biographical
information, and other written estate to build on (especially for Joseph Epping), considerable information
can be obtained from obituaries, book reviews, and journal articles that discuss
their work. Tackling the project now when there is rather easy access to a
variety of documents via the web, and some remaining 'witnesses' around, will
prevent information remaining scattered or becoming forgotten or lost. There is still a degree of confusion/misunderstanding
being perpetuated regarding
their relevant relationships/cooperation with each other. It is hoped that
through collecting bits and pieces of information an eventual comprehensive
account can be constructed in detail.
I first accessed Franz Kugler's monumental study Sternkunde und
Sterndienst in Babel in the British Museum Library, in 1971. I am now
fortunate enough to possess my own complete copy (and everything else he
wrote on Babylonian astronomy). In the 1960s and 1970s Kugler, etc., were almost
forgotten and unknown. Hopefully I can complete placing the material on my
website during 2017. It is unlikely that anybody else will duplicate/expand the
research in detail. (The Dutch astronomer Teije de Jong has recently accessed
the Jesuit archives regarding Kugler and published some interesting
information.) Hopefully the Dutch astronomer Robert van Gent will find the time to
complete his study of Babylonian mathematical astronomy conducted by Strassmaier,
Epping, and Kugler, as well as the variable star astronomy that was conducted at
Valkenburg by Hisgen, Esch, and Bauer, in cooperation with Hagen in the USA..
Temporary and Permanent Retirement
At the end of September 2015 I left work for
temporary retirement. Basically, because of multiple health issues that are
presenting a challenge I want to focus on completing a number of essays and
researching new ones. Working part-time 2-3 days per week was becoming too
interruptive, and too tiring. In September 2016 - with the need to begin
prolonged medical treatment, and fatigue issues associated with it, temporary
retirement became permanent retirement. Aspects of the medical treatment -
including transplant surgery - were
completed by August 2017, but not successfully. New approaches to medical
treatment were begun in
August 2017. The latest key treatment (the fourth of four treatments tried) is
proving partially successful in inhibiting progressive ill-health. A side effect
is very high levels of constant fatigue.
On left: "Selfie", March 2017.
Temporary outcome of a particular medical treatment having no success.
On right: 5 November 2017 (70 years old). At beginning of another particular
medical treatment. (Probably the last treatment available to me. It has shown
partial success only.)
My Favourite "About Me, Plus.. a bit of a rant" Web Page
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This web page was last updated on: Wednesday,
December 27, 2017,
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