Saturday, November 8, 2008

DEATH IN THE NORTH

My original blog on an Australian site was a record of my life and suffered a cringe factor thinking to myself me me me.....I will retrace some of the stories as will explain where I come from...



My father managed a huge outback cattle station in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia for two of the great beef barons of their day Angliss and Kidman holdings.

During the second World War my father was wounded badly in Darwin (The Airship my father arrived in Darwin on before the War) and my mother was posted as a nursing sister to the north of Queensland . Dad was injured badly by raids on Darwin and my mother was stationed at Richmond and at the end of the war was attending to soldiers burnt with mustard gas and I guess an early nerve gas which was stockpiled in Northern Australia in the advent of an invasion. The military did not intend I am led to believe to attempt to hold any land north of Brisbane. At the declaration of the ceasing of hostilities the gas was destroyed and much was burnt and dumped off the coast of Townsville on the precious Australian Barrier Reef, told to me by my mother who was keeping company with one of the officers in charge of this clean up. No nation was squeaky clean in a War. My mother was posted to Croyden and was required to go to Normanton Hospital and cutting to the chase she and my father married and continued to live in the North of Australia in the vast Savannah land of the Gulf.
In the north of Australia in those days air was king and in its infancy but made life in the Outback less isolated. Every week the ANA DC 3 Aircraft delivered mail, passengers and some supplies and the passengers and crew were always invited to morning tea at the homestead under the mango trees. This is a photograph of my mother and crew with a lady passenger on the station airstrip. (L TO R, my mother, a passenger, pilots Clive Jones and Neville Hicks and the Hostess)

It was handy having my mother in the area acting as midwife, tooth puller, and binder of wounds and broken limbs, many of these people refused to leave to the city to have their health problems seen to. In the north of Australia the Aerial Ambulance was in its infancy and operating on public subscriptions. A life threatening situation had arisen when one of the stockmen, John O"Laughlin was hit in the neck by a piece of timber and his neck was swelling at an alarming rate. She contacted Cairns on the pedal radio which was operated by leg power and called in the aircraft to evacuate the stockman who she considered in a life threatening state. The De Havilland Rapide ambulance plane arrived with an ambulance bearer, Keith Howarth and made the patient comfortable. John's mate, Larry Hanson accompanied the injured man, and the pilot was John Hicks...

Upon their arrival at Cairns the airport and surrounding airspace was invisible covered in smoke from bush fires rendering the aerodrome indiscernible. The aircraft was forced to circle for some time and crashed into the sea off the northern beaches of Cairns. The sea was rough and despite the concentrated efforts of the three able bodied to hold up the patient rendering themselves exhausted he slipped out of their arms. The three swam to shore estimated a two mile swim and made landfall at different points on the coast north of Cairns. My mother and father were informed and my mother suffered as blamed herself for sending him off to Cairns and has to this day visions of John who had on a money belt with his money and dressed in his pyjamas slipping beneath the waves.

Mustering the stock plant on the airstrip

The majority of my family still live in the far north of Australia these days working in the huge mines and barramundi fishing off the coast of Karumba. This explains where this photograph comes from and one of the dangers of swimming and crossing the rivers of northern Australia....This was in the Albert River between Bourketown and Normanton and considered an unacceptable risk, a man eater. Who in their right mind would wander along the banks of these rivers and for us growing up and living in the North of Australia was part and parcel of our everyday life. We knew from a young age the savagery of nature and the randomness of life and death and I appreciate the beauty around me and am grateful for every breath I take and have experienced how easily life departs.



1 Comments:

Blogger diane said...

Such an interesting story. They were one adventurous, pioneering family. I can see why you are so tough and kind.
What an awful experience for your mum, losing her patient like that.Luckily the others survived. Did your Dad recover from his injuries?

November 8, 2008 at 9:09 PM  

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