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01 March 2010

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Fair go, Geoffrey! I hope you are not taking a mild swipe at those kiaps (including myself) who have written about their PNG experience.

If some kiaps enjoy writing about their moments in the sun (or on the mountain), and others enjoy reading them, then let them be. Journalists do the same, and whether the stories of kiaps or journalists tap into wells of interest or disinterest is really a matter for individual readers to decide.

I might even decide to read some of your tales. Then I might not.

I suppose some or most kiap tales read like a Boys Own Adventure, full of Ripping Yarns in the dark jungles of PNG, with bits of Tarzan's Adventures thrown in.

In the end, most work is pretty ordinary, and there are many professionals in this world who work every day for personal satisfaction, and without wanting a medal, or their name in the daily journals.

They are fulfilled by just doing it, and seeing the fruit of their labour.

Most kiap stories are the same experience moved to a different mountain.

Not everyone collected a bellyful of arrows like Keith McCarthy, so we should not confuse the ordinariness of patrolling with the enormity of the contribution the kiaps made to developing PNG.

Peter Ryan is right - the story of what Australia did in, and for, Papua New Guinea has yet to be written, but it's a big picture, and the focus should not be narrowed down to patrol work.

What is needed is a succinct history, replete with the excitements, dangers and triumphs of the trusteeship, but also including the political climate - from indifference to hostility - in which we all worked, not forgetting the UN and its carping colonialism committee.

Incidentally, it's a pity Fitzpatrick found space in his rather ragged review of Michael O'Connor's book for a self-indulgent swipe at Ryan, merely to parade his political biases.

I know what you are saying too Richard but it got me into so much trouble I'd rather not think about it.

... All of which, I suggest, goes to show that one person's sense of adventure can be very different to another's.

Regardless of setting, I guess the notion of adventure is key, whether it's remote area or urban.

The idea of being in a unique environment at a unique time, and the sense of specialness and the spirit of connection that goes with it.

That goes with every deep human experience - love, war, life and the whole damn thing, etched indelibly into one's senses.

We know what you're saying in the book review, Phil. But accounts of traipsing about in the mountains and the bush, paddling up or down rivers and generally doing kiapy things aren't all that riveting.

Never mind the average Australian reader. It's not that scintillating, either, for those of us who spent a decade and more in PNG. You may well have enjoyed outstation life in the remote Western District but for many of us postings to similar spots were mind-numbing, to say the least.

Now the urban centres, such as Moresby, that's different. That's where things happened.

And if the Hides-Flynn Bottom Pub stoush was real, not just the stuff of urban myth .... well, there's a real whiff of mystery and bravado from the Time Before!

What I was trying to say in the review was that any more kiap memoirs, in the O'Connor style, are all going to look the same to your average Australian reader.

But to someone in the know, they will all contain valuable historical data worth recording, thus presenting the problem for future kiap authors of what to do with their manuscripts.

One thought is that the Fryer Library at UQ might add manuscripts to their PNGAA collection, but they are stuck for space and don't generally accept books.

How we got sidetracked on to Errol Flynn is a bit of a mystery seemingly hinging around the word "biff".

I've got a copy of his first book, "Beam Ends", which is about his voyage back to New Guinea in his original "Sirocco" yacht. Nothing about a barney with Jack Hides in there either.

I dropped an email to the Errol Flynn Society of Tasmania and hopefully they might know - I'll keep you posted.

I doubt if Jack Hides would have been backward in getting off a shot or three with a handgun. So, according to Peter, Jack must have landed a good one or two on Errol's jaw to dislodge a tooth.

In my drinking days at the Bottom Pub (late 60s-early 70s), there was a bar manager named Don Mulholland. He was a forward with Papuan RL club DCA and had a large facial scar. He was a redoubtable figure.

I recall how difficult it was to remind patrons at closing times that they had a place of abode to go home to. Donny would have been challenged to get the place emptied out.

Later on in the 70s he had the assistance, from time to time, of a large front row forward, Bluey Eustace, who hailed from the NSW northern rivers or maybe southern Queensland.

He could handle himself could Bluey, either on the RL field or in the odd bar room scuffle.

In Errol Flynn's autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, he writes that he fired a weapon in the bar of the Bottom Pub.

When working in POM in 1973 I did a fair bit of drinking in that pub and recall a discussion with one of the bar staff about these events.

I was taken downstairs to a basement storeroom, which was painted white, and told that this was the bar where Flynn fired his gun. I was shown two holes in the timber wall and assured that these were remnants of that event.

Apparently, according to this bloke, successive pub people loved the story so much and the connection with Flynn that they never repaired the actual bullet holes whenever they renovated this room.

I don't recall anything about a punch-up with Hides but it has been many years since I read both books.

A good general book review by Phil of Michael O'Connor's book, New Guinea Days, makes me interested to read it one day, but his insights here makes me hesitate to get a copy in a hurry.

Maybe one day when I do get around to find the time to read it about past adventures of a special breed of public servants that PNG need today.

The government must try and revive today a strong work ethic of its civil servants like the good-old kiaps of yesteryears.

We need a new breed of professional and highly committed national work-force with the kiap tenacity to go into rural PNG communities and bring in the basic services the ordinary people very desperately need.

Heard that Hairoil Flynn copped it in the Snakepit and actually lost a tooth.

I note, Phil, your comment there's a minimum of biff in O'Connor's tome.

The biff I'm interested in reading about is the legendary Moresby stoush between Jack Hides and Errol Flynn. My understanding is the two larger than life characters came to blows at/in/adjacent to the Bottom Pub.

Is this correct? Or is it something of an urban myth, embellished over time. There's been plenty of elapsed time since as the date of the Big Bout is supposedly set in the 1930s.

Do you or any other PNG Attitude reader know of the event?

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