Stories from Cleveland (New exhibits at the Redlands RSL Library and Museum)

The Redlands RSL Library and Museum

For anyone visiting Cleveland who is interested in war memorabilia, the Redlands RSL Library and Museum is well worth a look (even if you have just lost all your money at their ‘pokies’ across the road).

There are several new exhibits if you haven’t called in recently:

Just inside the entrance, is a cabinet that contains the memorabilia of Kevin George Conway, Sergeant Temporary Warrant Officer Class 2, 13097 – Australian Army Training Team (RAINF), who was killed in action 6 July 1964. Kevin was the first Australian killed in the Vietnam War. 52 years after his death he was returned to the Redlands and buried in an official service at the Cleveland Cemetery in front of family, friends, Federal and State Government, Redland City Council, Redlands RSL, and Vietnam Veterans representatives.

It was the fourth and final resting place for Warrant Officer Conway whose body was previously exhumed in Vietnam and then twice in Singapore.

Warrant Officer Conway was the only Australian serviceman attached to a United States Special Forces team A-726 at Camp McBride in Nam Dong.

The contents of the cabinet have now been donated by his niece Kathy Woodford

The Memorial cabinet to Kevin Conway

The museum also now contains a dedicated WWI room. Its newest exhibits are devoted to animals who served in the war:

‘Medical Dog’ mock up in the Museum’s WWI Room
‘Gas Mask Dog’ mock up in the Museum’s WWI Room

The mask shown here is only one of two still remaining in the world.

‘Tank Dog’ mock up in the Museum’s WWI Room

The Russians had trained their dogs, which were fitted with explosives, to hide under the enemy’s tanks whereupon they would be detonated. They had trained the dogs on their tanks which were diesel driven. However, the German tanks were petrol driven, and the dogs preferred the smell of diesel to petrol. The experiment literally backfired!

Revisiting Hobart

Hobart’s floating bridge

It’s been 62 years since I visited the quiet backwater of Hobart, but its memories from the mind of an 11 year-old are still vivid: our gabled attic room with its sloping ceiling, the curved floating bridge, the resinous aroma of a linen bandaged Egyptian mummy in the museum, the ruins of Port Arthur (there had been no massacre then), snow in the crevices of Mount Wellington (even though it was Christmas),  an old English-style cafe in New Norfolk, the beautiful Huon Valley…

When I visit Hobart again in three weeks, I hope its air of history will still greet me. However I am prepared for change, too. Everyone says I must visit MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – for it has almost singlehandedly propelled Hobart from a quiet backwater onto the world’s tourist stage. Who said museums are old hat?

A Visit to the Heide

Last weekend we visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art on the outskirts of Melbourne. As always our family starts such cultural excursions on a full stomach, so our first stop was to its excellent Café Vue, where we breakfasted among a mainly younger and artier clientele.

When Sunday and John Reed purchased Heide in 1934 it was a neglected former dairy farm. After fifty years of vision, dedication and sheer hard work, the Reeds moulded Heide into a personal Eden, connecting art with nature and creating a nourishing environment for the artists they championed – Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Charles Blackman and Mirka Mora among them.

The Reed's dining room in their house, now renamed Heide I
The Reed’s dining room in their house, now renamed Heide I

I like to visualise Sidney Nolan painting his Ned Kelly series in the dining room of the original house (now called Heide I) just off the main road – then storing them in the dilapidated former cow shed next door!

The cow shed in which Nolan originally stored his famous paintings
The cow shed in which Nolan originally stored his famous paintings

Because of its proximity to the increasingly busy main road, and the opening of a fish and chips shop across the road from them, the Reeds decided to build a new residence further down the hill of their property. This has now become Heide II. But it was Heide III that most excited me, for it contained a new exhibition ‘Sitelines’ by Melbourne artist Natasha Johns-Messenger in which, as her notes describe, she attempts to explore knowledge and perception.

The main hall at the 'Sitelines' Exhibition (without me greeting myself, this time)
The main hall at the ‘Sitelines’ Exhibition (without me greeting myself, this time)

The surprise of seeing myself framed by a view of the gardens at the end of the hall will remain with me for a long time. By her skilful placement of mirrors the artist really manages to confuse and confound our senses. But it’s much more that a hall of mirrors at a sideshow. But is it art? If one of the aims of art is to change our perceptions of our surroundings, then Natalie’s exhibition certainly does that – to everyone who enters her exhibition’s amazement and delight.

Clementine finding Pokemon in the extensive gardens surrounding the Heide museum
Clementine finding Pokemon in the extensive gardens surrounding the Heide museum

I left the exhibition wondering just what art, and in particular modern art, is. Perhaps grand daughter Clementine could be holding it in her hand outside, when her paintings of ‘Pokemon Go’ are discovered in years to come?

Modern Art of the future? It certainly is changing Clementine's perceptions of her surroundings at present.
Modern Art of the future? It certainly is changing Clementine’s perceptions of her surroundings at present.


Up on the Downs


Quart Pot Creek, Stanthorpe
Quart Pot Creek, Stanthorpe

Springtime up on the Downs is always an exhilarating experience. Our visit on Fathers’ Day is just too early to catch the Spring blooms, but in some pockets the first blossoms have appeared on the apple and pear trees. The wattles are the only trees wearing their full yellow coats.

Wattle in bloom
Wattle in bloom

The environs around Stanthorpe beckon the hiker, but at our age, we are content with a short walk, a sample or two of local wines, and a feast of food. We always visit Anna’s Italian Restaurant whose Saturday night smorgasbord is enough to make the trip from Brisbane a worthwhile and memorable experience. But on Sunday night, when Anna’s is closed, eating out is a different experience for us.

‘You can walk down the street and not be afraid of being attacked or mugged,’ says our host, and we can understand why when we look for an eatery in the main street on Sunday night: it is deserted and in darkness. No discos, nightclubs, or wild pub brawls. (So what do Stanthorpe’s young folk do for entertainment?)  However we peer in the window of O’Mara’s Hotel – one of those good old fashioned country pubs that are rapidly disappearing – and are delighted to see the dining room packed with people – family groups mainly, probably celebrating Father’s Day. We go inside and eat a hearty pub meal in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Omar's Hotel, Stanthorpe
Omar’s Hotel, Stanthorpe

Amongst the typically Australian names littering the map of Stanthorpe – Goldfields Road, Hooters Hut, Possums Road, and Rabbit Fence Road, are a scattering of French names: Amiens, Pozieres, Bapaume, Passchendaele, Messines – all battlefields of WWI in which Australian soldiers fought. Those who survived the carnage were rewarded by the Australian Government with a block of land, which as ‘soldier settlers’ they could farm. Many took up the challenge and tried their hand, but not being ‘of the land’ they failed. However the names of these, their second battlefields remain as their legacy.

Donnelly's Castle
Donnelly’s Castle

This pile of huge granite boulders, dubbed Donnelly’s Castle after the original settler in the area, is also reputed to be the hideout of former bushrangers and of the legendary Yowie both of whom have sunk into the folklore of the district.


I can’t recall many towns in Australia that have adopted well known Irish city names such as Dublin, Limerick, Belfast, or Cork, but for some reason, Killarney was chosen for a remote spot outside Warwick. I have often thought I should visit the place to make a comparison. On our way home we divert to satisfy our long held curiosity. But, apart from its mountain backdrop it is difficult to imagine a place less like its Irish namesake or what inspired the name. On the way out there, though, there is a patchwork of fields under cultivation, which could easily have inspired the song ‘Forty Shades of Green’.

Glengallan Homestead

Glengellan Homestead - the view from the lower balcony
Glengellan Homestead – the view from the lower balcony

At its opening by John Deuchar in 1868, and dubbed ‘the finest house in the colony’ it was renown as the social hub of the Downs. Sadly Deuchar went broke before the building could be completed. From the front, its entrance faces out over manicured lawns and gardens with views all the way to Cunningham’s Gap. From the side, though, it appears almost as though it is a film set. Situated at Allora on the Warwick – Toowoomba road  just off the Toowoomba turn off before you reach Warwick, the house and its heritage centre are well worth a visit by anyone interested in the history of the region.

On Saturday 3rd October, 2009, my wife Phyllis and I had attended the sixth annual Deuchar Dinner – a ‘black tie’ event to raise funds for the restoration of Glengallan House. To see the place full of people all dressed in their finery was a rare chance to catch a glimpse of the homestead in its glory days.

Glengellan Homestead - restored sitting room
Glengellan Homestead – restored sitting room

Stories from Fort Lytton

As a result of conflict between the expanding British Empire and Russia, Fort Lytton was built in 1881 on the advice of British engineers, Jervois and Scratchley. Situated at the mouth of the Brisbane River, the pentagonal shaped fort was surrounded by a water-filled moat. It boasted four heavy gun positions – two to fire down the river and two to fire across. An underwater mine system could also be placed across the river in times of emergency. By the turn of the century the armaments had increased to six heavy guns and two machine guns.

Queensland’s defence force had started with volunteers in 1860 and by the mid 1880s included some permanent soldiers. Fort Lytton was their main training ground. Annual camps were run there, which in the early years were a highlight in Queensland’s political and social calendar. Thousands of Brisbane’s citizens would travel by train or boat to Lytton to watch the spectacular military manoeuvres and ceremonial displays.

Army camp at Fort Lytton in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy Rob Poulton)
Army camp at Fort Lytton in the early 1900s.
(Photo courtesy Rob Poulton)

Fort Lytton was well entrenched in the psyche of Brisbane’s inhabitants. The following references reveal some glimpses not just the way of life at the Fort but of life in Brisbane and Moreton Bay during these times:

Clarrie Phillips recalls: 

“The artillery at Fort Lytton had fairly regular practice in the early part of this century.  The light guns fired across the Brisbane River at a target in the vicinity of Luggage Point.  The heavier guns fired mostly towards Tangalooma or on the Naval Reserve Banks on the South Passage.  Their target was a float with several red flags – towed there on a long line by either the Midge or the Mosquito, small fast Naval craft about 50 feet long. The target practices were advertised in the daily press, and a large red flag was flown from Lytton fort before practice commenced”. (1)

Roy Gardner: 

“I joined the Royal Australian Engineers during the Depression in 1932 and was stationed at Fort Lytton at the mouth of the Brisbane River.  It was an active garrison then and its six-inch guns commanded a view of the entrance to Moreton Bay right up to Caloundra.  I remember there was a moat of water round the guns so that they couldn’t be taken from behind.  The ground was very swampy and the mosquitoes were bad – so bad, in fact, that the horses would drag their tethering pegs right out of the ground.” (1)

Ron Williams: 

“I remember too that in the 1930s the army had camps at Fort Lytton where they would practice fire the cannon across the boat passage out towards St Helena.  Quite a lot of the shells would end up in the mudflats at Wynnum. One of our childhood pastimes was to look for the artillery shells buried there.”  (1)

Mena O’Neill: 

“Lytton was a military fort.  One part was called Reformatory Hill, where deserters were quartered.  Sentries were posted but still some got out, looking for money or tobacco.  Later before WWII, Lytton was a training camp.  My father’s shop supplied the Officers’ Mess with extras.  I used to deliver them in our truck, but only at certain times because they used to have firing practice there.  Once, General Chauvel visited there to review the troops, and we had to supply the flowers and tablecloths for the mess.” (2)

Throughout World Wars I and II, Fort Lytton continued its defensive role and remained a major training facility. A submarine boom was mounted across the river during World War II. After World War II the fort no longer met the defence needs and was gradually abandoned.

The remnants of Fort Lytton in 2008 (Photo courtesy Karen Ludlow)
The remnants of Fort Lytton in 2008
(Photo courtesy Karen Ludlow)

In 1963 it was included in land sold to Ampol (now Caltex) to build an oil refinery. Ownership of the Fort was transferred back to the Queensland Government in 1988 under the management of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.3

(Extract from ‘The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities’)


1. Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay People-The Complete Collection. privately published, Stones Corner, 2000

2. Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Letters. privately published, Stones Corner, 2003

3. Heritage Parks of Moreton Bay – Visitor Guide. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, 2007

Stories from the Brisbane River – 1

Next time you visit the former Wool Stores at New Farm for a meal, it’s worth making a visit to the small riverbank park opposite Hastings Street to reflect that during World War II, New Farm housed a major US submarine operation and maintenance Base.

The US Submarine Base memorial park at New Farm
The US Submarine Base memorial park at New Farm

In the peace of a crisp sunny winter’s morning it’s difficult to imagine this wartime activity ever existed, but to honour this important event, the New Farm and Districts Historical Society Inc. have erected the following plaque:

‘New Farm Wharf became one of the largest US naval bases in the Southwest Pacific area, with the total of 79 submarines, which operated over a period of three years.

Under the command of Gen Douglas MacArthur, Capt Ralph Christie established a forward operation and maintenance base for the US submarine task force 42 (later to become task force 72) which operated against Japanese shipping the Southwest Pacific area.

The U.S. Navy took possession of New Farm Wharf and its associated wool stores on 15 April 1942; the resident unit was known as the U.S. Navy Repair unit 134. The first submarine tender to establish an operation base in Brisbane was the USS Griffin followed by the USS Fulton and USS Sperry. These tenders carried out maintenance and refits, while major repairs were performed at the South Brisbane Dry Dock.

Seven submarines, based in Brisbane, where built in Manitowoc, located on Lake Michigan in the USA. The submarines travelled by barge down the Mississippi River, a distance of 2000 km before reaching the Gulf of Mexico to make the journey non-stop to Brisbane.

The first submarine to make this journey was the USS Peto, which sailed on five war patrols from Brisbane.

Seven of the Brisbane-based submarines were lost in the Pacific conflict, five with all hands.At any one time, they could be 800 personnel and officers based at this unit. The entrance to the Submarine Repair Unit 134 was at the southern end of Macquarie Street.

The unit comprised of personnel barracks, stores, workshops, refrigeration, two-storey medical and dental building and other facilities.

The last U.S. Navy unit relocated to the Philippines on 30th of March 1945.’

Plaque commemorating the US submarines that operated out of Brisbane during WWII
Plaque commemorating the US submarines that operated out of Brisbane during WWII

Bradford on Avon

Phyllis and I have spent the last week visiting our wonderful friends, Paul and June Bailey, at Bradford on Avon (not to be confused with the Bradford of North England or the Avon of Stratford on Avon). Here are some images from this wonderful area of England:

Bradford on Avon - Silver Street
Bradford on Avon – Silver Street
Bradford on Avon - footbridge
Bradford on Avon – footbridge
Bradford on Avon - Saxon Church
Bradford on Avon – Saxon Church
Bradford on Avon - Saxon Church - Phyllis pontificating
Bradford on Avon – Saxon Church – Phyllis pontificating
Bath - Great Poultney Street
Bath – Great Poultney Street
Bath - Poultney Weir
Bath – Poultney Weir
Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury - Manor House
Avebury – Manor House
Avebury Manor - exercise chair
Avebury Manor – exercise chair
Mere - trout farm
Mere – trout farm

Next week: London!

The Dream That Came True

Farm mural and display at the Redland Museum
Farm mural and display at the Redland Museum

“The world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going.”

This week, I was reminded of the well-known quote by the British philosophical writer, James Allen, as I listened to Gordon Davidson speaking about our local Redland Museum and its origins. Like so many other institutions in our lives, the Museum was the dream of one man. In this case it was Norm Dean, a local estate agent and Rotarian, who sought to preserve the Redlands history as it changed from a farming to a housing community. A museum is the memory of its community.

Of course, the dream of one man needs a whole team of supporters to bring it to reality, and in this case, Rotary and the Redland City Council’s support have been outstanding.

Other individuals who spring to mind and who have had massive influence on our way of life have included Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill etc etc (I am sure you can think of at least half a dozen of your own choice). But these individuals were able to enlist the support of many by using more than just their dreams. I think it’s called charisma.

Seeing the Light

The use of light figures prominently in two of the exhibitions currently at the Museum of Brisbane. One, Robyn Stacey’s ‘Cloud Land’, draws us inside her artworks as images of Brisbane from a camera obscura (pinhole camera) are captured on the walls engulfing the viewer. It’s certainly a new way of looking at our city, even if the images are necessarily upside down. As part of the Open House in Brisbane recently, I attended a practical demonstration of the camera obscura in a bedroom in the Hilton Hotel. Lying on the bed made viewing the images more comfortable, but unfortunately the day was cloudy and the images were difficult make out. Well, I suppose the exhibition was called Cloud Land.

Camera obscura image of Brisbane's CBD projected onto the ceiling of a room in the Hilton Hotel
Camera obscura image of Brisbane’s CBD projected onto the ceiling of a room in the Hilton Hotel

The second ‘light’ exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane was a collection of paintings by William Bustard, an Englishman who came to Brisbane in 1921 and, unlike his compatriots of a century earlier who painted the Australian landscape in dark European colours, was profoundly impressed by the distinctive sense of light here. It figures prominently in many of his paintings. However, the biggest surprise I had was to find in a corner of the exhibition, encased in glass, an open book ‘Robinson Crusoe’ showing one of his illustrations.

An illustration by William Bustard in the book 'Robinson Crusoe'
An illustration by William Bustard in the book ‘Robinson Crusoe’

For me, it was a case of remembering things I didn’t even realise I’d forgotten. I had once owned a copy of this book myself, but all memory of it had been submerged by the intervening 60 years. I wonder what ever happened to it? Perhaps it was my own book I was now privileged to look at once more?