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29 March 2013


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Clarry was the leading player in a superb 'pantomine' scene in the office of Jack Brammell, DC at Popondetta.

Paul Sebire, ADO, and I were in the midst of a lengthy meeting with the DC after he completion of a patrol of several weeks in the area devastated by the Mt Lamington eruption to determine if the villagers could relocate to their old sites.

The meeting was disrupted by loud shouting in the outer office followed by Clarrie storming into the office waving a letter he had just read wherein he had been mildly chastised by the DC.

He screwed up the paper into a ball and then, with a great display of accuracy, hit Jack on the nose with an overhand pitch.

Jack and his chair did a perfect cartwheel backwards and, when clambering to his feet, Jack yelled, 'You come in here reeking reeking reeking reeking reeking reeking.... '.

The record was broken; Clarrie wheeled around and stomped out with Jack finally finishing with ' reeking of rum' and slumping in a chair.

The letter Carrie received concerned an incident the previous evening when the guest of honour declined to have another rum with Clarrie.

Clarrie was transferred shortly afterwards with Paul and I both unhappy with his refusal to provide a mock rerun. At that point in time I was District Agricultural Officer.

Chris - I think our paths may have crossed, emblematically speaking, as we were both part of the exchange program - you to ND and me from ND to the Gulf late 1974.

In my case I went for 3 months extension of service to gain my eligibility for long leave entitlements and ended up at Kikori.

A rather uneventful time was spent in that backwater catching up unfinished Council aid programs such as installing water supply systems and building a wharf at the old APC site on the upper reaches of the Kikori River so we could deliver a newly purchased tractor to the residents.

I am not sure if that tractor was ever delivered as the plan was to load same on top of the work boat and then roll it off at the delivery point, a scenario not without some peril I thought.

One another note, When at Popendetta one day I picked up the phone to make a call whereby I got a crossed line and listened in to a conversation between the respective DC's from both district who were discussing the merits and demerits of both of us.

Bit too hot to recount here but if you make it to the next reunion I will then tell the tale.

I was always unsure how things were done in DDA in those days but after this realised that many of our future fates rested upon the results of informal verbal conversations between our masters.

Nothing was ever put down in writing it seems.

Chris, what memories your piece about the giant canoe brought back!

The picture of my sometime boss, the late, great Clarrie Healey setting off in his own, most-favoured government canoe - named “Tillicum” after the famous one - heading off into blinding rain accompanied only by a single cop, a Sepik constable known far and wide as “The Spider” for his long, lanky and predatory look.

The Spider pushed off from the Gulf Traders wharf. I remained to follow to Beara, later, in another canoe “if the plane brings the mail.”

Beara, established after WWII as a Patrol Post was uplifted to Sub District Office status as a parking-spot for Clarrie, now an ADO 1 after his demotion from DO status. Beara was soon to become a Patrol Post again with this writer as OIC.

We had as was customary, ingested ale and rum in largish quantities with The Colonel at Gulf Traders establishment, known locally as The Palace Flophouse, a name bestowed by another memorable Gulfite of the time, the late Francis Xavier Ryan.

We were increasingly, doubtfully, waiting for the plane to come in from Daru and Balimo with Moresby mail and freezer.

Clarrie, who was “on the dry” at home wanted to get home not quite blind-drunk so as to be able to pacify the much-put-upon Mrs Healy.

Clarry was inordinately fond of his skill as an “outboard-whisperer” as applied to the heavy, often-recalcitrant but durable Archimedes outboards which were supplied to us in those days.

As expected, with one pull of the starting cord the twin-opposed two-stroke engine burst into life, on full throttle, with a sort of mini-Harley-Davidson-like burst of thunder.

Unaccountably unsteady in stance, Clarry disappeared in a short arc over the transom. Tillicum surged away into the rain - the long, thin figure of “The Spider” gesturing frenziedly from the bow.

At an appropriate juncture after Clarry had crawled up the ladder and had been fortified with further rum, a rescue was executed.

At that time there existed a worthy ancestor to your big canoe, Chris.

There is more, much more, too much for this crap Comments tool which gives up after 1000 words. We will republish these Fowke memoirs as a fully-fledged article, soon - KJ

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