Donald Gordon Bosgard

January 30, 2012 at 7:18 am (Angoram, Commentary, Donald Gordon Bosgard, East Sepik District, expatriates, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River, Wewak)

Photo: courtesy of Bryan Martin

For other photos of Don, see:

Donald Gordon BOSGARD (27 June 1990, aged 70)

Don joined the PNG Administration immediately he was discharged from the Army after World War II and, besides serving elsewhere, spent many years in the Sepik District, firstly at Wewak and then at Angoram as Senior Clerk with the Department of Native Affairs. It is believed he was at Angoram for some twenty years and remained there assisting with the transition to Independence until his position was localised, retiring in March 1975. Don made many friends during his service in PNG and will be sadly missed by them.

After his retirement Don lived at Rose Bay, NSW, where he was a member of the RSL Club. His funeral was attended by numerous family and friends and a contingent from the Rose Bay RSL Club with its President giving the eulogy. Our Association was represented by Meg England and Pierre Donaldson.

Source: PNGAA, Vale, September 1990

According to Cardinal Newman: “It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say that he is one who never inflicts pain.” If this is so, Donald Gordon Bosgard more than fitted the bill.

It was my privilege to have known Don over a number of years in the Sepik District and after he retired to Sydney.

To say that Don was of the old school would be an understatement. A dignified and refined man, always impeccably dressed and softly spoken in a clipped Anglo-Australian accent, and to me, he embedded all that was fine and good in a colonial gentleman. Some may have felt that Don was a bit snobbish and they would be slightly correct, but like Warburton, the Somerset Maugham, character, Don may have been a snob but he was also a gentleman. He never harped on any of his own misfortunes to the discomfort of others.

Don’s father was a Dane who migrated to Australia before the First World War and he served as a dentist with the Military Expeditionary Force that occupied German New Guinea at the start of the war. His mother came from Anglo-Australian stock with a fine history of officer naval service in the family. Don and his two brothers all served with distinction in WW II. One brother was killed in action in the Territory and I heard he was even recommended for a VC. Don was at Shaggy Ridge. Peter, his other brother, was also prominent in the RSL in Moresby after the War.

For most of the time Don was in Angoram he was president of the club and what a monument to decorum and good manners he was, but more than a monument in his organizational abilities in running and directing club activities. He was an example to young government officers who came to the town.

On a recent visit to Angoram, I was impressed with what one of the local leaders said to me about Don. Eva, who we knew in the old days as Ipa, compared the treasury activities in the town today with their own building and a number of staff most unfavourably with the excellent work Don did as just one person in a small office.

Don’s abilities were obvious for all to see but he was content to remain in the clerical side of things. Some might say he lacked ambition, perhaps he did. I do know that a member of the House of Assembly had a mind to recommend him for a civil decoration.

Every afternoon after work, he would adjourn to his residence for a cup of tea, served by his faithful mankimasta, Rastus, and a shower. After which he would go to the club, but prior to leaving Rastus would be instructed about the evening meal that he was to prepare. Before he actually left he might glance at the Observer. He refused to subscribe to the Post-Courier.

At the club, drinks and conversation would go on until about 8 or 9 o’clock. He was never the worst for liquor and a lot of common sense was talked about the affairs of the station and the world in general while all the time smoking cigarettes. After which he would return to his donga, eat his evening meal and in due course retire to his virtuous couch.

If he ever availed himself of the pleasures of the night that were on offer in Angoram, no one knew of it. I suspect, that he didn’t, as it was hardly the thing one would do considering what his sister, the old hag (As Don affectionately called her.) would have thought of such behaviour when on his leaves he returned to Rose Bay to stay with her in Sydney.

Don, I don’t know if you realize how much your friends from the old PNG days miss you. I guess by now a lot of them are with you already but there are quite a few of us still down here.

I can’t say I look forward to joining you up there but at least knowing you’re there will be some compensation.

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Bryan Martin’s photographs

January 29, 2012 at 2:38 am (Angoram, Bryan Martin, Dan Rolfe, Don Bosgard, Larraine Donaldson, Len Pascoe, Papua New Guinea, Peter England, Sepik River)

Comment/Email from Bryan Martin

What a surprise to find this site. I did a Google search for Peter England. I was in Angoram in 1962, as the teacher of the Primary A school, with 10 students. I remember the club very well and played many games of billards and snooker, as well as table tennis. I shared a house with Don Bosgard for the year. I was asked to tutor Peter and Meg’s daughter Sharni, in maths. Sharni and I used to swap records, and I escorted her to the weekly movie. Other names that are in the memory bank are Dan Rolfe, John Pasquarelli, and Pierre Donaldson, whose daughter Larraine I taught. I recently scanned my many slides into the computer, bringing back many memories.


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Skelim tok

January 28, 2012 at 5:53 am (Commentary, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill)

I wonder if the present political impasse in PNG could be better resolved by the main players recognizing the determinants of governmental activity in the country.

PNG politics cannot be understood purely in ideological, party, constitutional or executive terms. The main imperatives of political life are associated with the interplay of personalities in a largely patron-client environment.

The protagonists, Somare and O’Neill are both products of their own society. To progress politically, they both know that they must play the game of the big man, strong man, and provider to colleagues and the masses, or at least appear to do so. In this patron-client milieu, one builds up prestige and cultural capital. These are essential bargaining assets that can be used or wasted.

Both men have these political assets to some degree, and I would suggest that Somare until recently was more than blessed in this regard. His power lies in the prestige he has acquired as the father of the nation, and the years he has served in Parliament, and on the world stage.

But what is he doing? As far as can be worked out from afar, he’s busy throwing away his chances by trying to emerge from the present deadlock by lamely calling out the army to support him.

At Sir Michael’s age and state of health, he should bring into play his essential strengths, which are his personal charm and his negotiation skills, and deal directly face-to-face with Peter O’Neill. Both men have legitimate constitutional and parliamentary questions that need to be resolved, and I believe, can be resolved. Politically, it’s not in O’Neill’s interests to just disregard Somare, for the old man still has a large following in the country, and his Sepik followers will never forget it if he is publicly humiliated.

Somare must be allowed to settle his differences with O’Neill with his dignity intact. As a first move his, parliamentary seat should be restored to him, and there must be an end to public name calling by both men.

I don’t know Peter O’Neill personally, but I do know Michael Somare and I have a lot of faith in his ability to negotiate, and I’m sure both men must realize that steadfastness to their own opinions irrespective of the consequences is not the Melanesian way.

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Westley family photo collection

January 25, 2012 at 4:45 am (Bainyik, Bob Cole, Don Coffey, Don Westley, East Sepik District, Fr Mike Clerkin, Jeanette Westley, Maprik, Nan Bunting, Papua New Guinea, Steven Westley, Vanessa Westley, Wewak)

Email/Comment, from Vanessa Westley:

Hi David,
My parents, Don and Jeanette Westley, were in the Sepik from 1957-1963. I was the 1st white child born, unexpectantly in the tiny village called Bainyik. My father was a school teacher there.
Roy and Toose Peters ran the Maprik Hotel when we were there. Don Coffey and Bruce Laws ran the trading store and the hiring of locals for the plantations and Father Mike Clerkin became a very dear friend. Other names were Bob Bunting and Stan Pegg and Don (Didiman)and Peggy Sheppard..
The people we knew at the Malaria Control Centre (where we went to often) were Dr Syzmiczeck(who delivered me), Dr John Hancock and wife Judy, Dr Becker (T.B Specialist) and his wife Sue, Dr Schofield and his wife Lorna, Dr Peter Mooney (who delivered my brother in Wewak) and Ian Lightfoot. John Neitz and Tas Hammerlsey were other teachers in the area. Elizabeth Burchill was a nurse there at the time and there were 3 local nurses named Betty 1, 2, and 3.
I was wondering if any of those names ring a bell to you? Love to know if they do.

Vanessa Westley

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Relaxation, the secret of life

January 23, 2012 at 11:52 pm (Angoram, Commentary, David Wall, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River)


Angoram, 1973


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Mindless tree chopping around Wewak

January 19, 2012 at 5:04 am (Commentary, East Sepik Province, Wewak)

Chopping trees down in Wewak

( Photo supplied by a concerned Wewak resident)

On a recent visit to Wewak, I was shocked to see that a number of beautiful rain trees had been cut down on the drive from Boram to town.

Apparently, from what I have heard, the powers to be, are at it again with tree cutting taking place along the southern boundary of the sports field (Prince Charles’ Oval).

I know there have been appeals made to the authorities to stop this mindless destruction of beautiful trees, but it appears that the cutting and hacking are to be continued.

What is it that the planning authorities in Wewak want to turn their town into – a hot dusty wasteland garnished with litter? It would seem to many people, that this is what they are doing.

On behalf of my many Wewak friends, I can only appeal to the Governor, Administrator and Town Commission, to immediately stop the destruction of the trees in Wewak.

It’s not too late, many trees can be saved!

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Was Goya Henry the first to fly a plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

January 18, 2012 at 11:50 am (Australian Aviation, Commentary, Goya Henry, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River, Small ships PNG, Wewak)

I strongly suspect that he was the first to fly under the Harbour Bridge – a truly remarkable man and a friend. I’ll never forget the times with him travelling on the MV Thetis to Manam and other islands, and the wonderful conversations we had about  pre-war Australian Aviation, Territory characters and others, Bill Tebb, a fellow small ship’s captain, classical literature, and matters medical – both our fathers were country GPs, the sinking of the Titanic, the law, and numerous other topics..

When he volunteered for the RAAF at the start of the war, a senior officer, previously trained to fly by Goya said to him: “they’ll never take you, Goya, first you’re not a Mason, not a Catholic, and you can fly a plane.”  The official reason why he was not accepted was that he’d lost a leg.

The remarkable thing about the old PNG was that you were given the opportunity to sometimes meet  people like Goya.


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“The ramblings of a regretful old fool…”

January 15, 2012 at 4:01 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, PNG Health, Sepik River, Wewak)

The title of this post is taken from a comment left anonymously by one of my fans on my blog, so here are some more ramblings.

On his deathbed George V asked, “How is the Empire?” Our present Queen on her deathbed will be hardly able to ask such a question. Gough Whitlam, I suspect, on his deathbed, won’t ask, how is Papua New Guinea anymore than he’ll express any concerns for East Timor? However, I suspect, there will be a number of expats from the former Australian administrated PNG who on  dying will have many thoughts about the former Trust Territory. For those of us who lived for sometime in PNG, the saying is apt, you can take the man or woman out of Papua New Guinea but you can’t take PNG out of them.

The uncanny attachment some Australians had and have for PNG came home to me many years ago when I used to listen to my late brother-in-law, Kevin Walls  talking about his war experiences in the Territory. Kevin served in New Britain and the Sepik. As an officer with the Allied Intelligence Bureau in the Sepik, he was decorated with the MC. His regard for the native people was made obvious to me, together with the strong desire he had to make a return visit to the country, which unfortunately, he was never able to do. His regard for the country was a strong motivating factor for me to move there after I left school.

Dreams and thoughts about PNG and its people are an important part of my psyche. This is why I’m concerned that the Wewak Hospital hasn’t had a working X-ray for a number of months. I often think about Kami and his family. In the old terminolgy Kami was my mankimasta (domestic),and he looked after me for 13 years. He was famous in Angoram for his donkers – a mixture of flour and water fried in oil, and served with butter and jam. Kami came from Torembi Village and he’s buried there. His wife, Anna still lives there. Members of my old malaria control team often come to mind – William, Thomas. Henry, Abraham, John,  to mention but a few. Gawa, Bopa, Potoman, Agri, and others I remember. The local medical staff at the Angoram Hospital were a credit to the Department of Health, men like Tobias, a senior medical orderly, who gave years of medical service to the community. I could go on mentioning many others, but I suppose there’s a limit to ramblings, but there’s no limit to my feelings about PNG.

As a “regretful old fool” I would like to end on a poetic note from Thomas Moore:

Oft, in the stilly night, Ere Slumber’s chain has bound me, Fond Memory brings the light Of other days around me.

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Funerals and reconciliation

January 13, 2012 at 9:31 am (Commentary, Funerals)

I suspect in many societies a funeral is a time for families, friends and even enemies to get together and mourn the passing of someone. From the little bit I know about Australian Aboriginals and Filipinos, the concept of a funeral and reconciliation is a strong motivating factor that brings people together, whether they be friends or enemies, at the time of another’s death.

Some funerals don’t always attract such general agreement, and the attendance of all interested parties is by no means always guaranteed.

A friend of mine, Tom, in my old PNG days, often said about people who had died whom he didn’t like: “as far as I’m concerned, he was a bastard when he was alive and he’s a bastard now he’s dead.” Tom certainly didn’t agree with the idea that you should never speak ill of the dead, but he being a pragmatic Scot probably explained his down-to-earth attitude.

In our country funerals are public events, not only  the invited may attend, but anyone else may come along. Of course, genuine mourners of a departed loved one are entitled to be concerned about who actually attends. The eulogies can be a point of concern. For the most part, those who speak at funerals carry the idea of never speaking ill of the dead to extremes, and what they say becomes mere platitudes, full of motherhood statements. My idea at a funeral is to send off the departed in a blaze of glory and truth, not necessarily by tipping a bucket on anyone unless it’s well and truly deserved.

Tom Hughes QC in his eulogy at the state memorial service for John Gorton certainly spoke well of the dead, but he gave a serve to the living in the person of Malcolm Fraser, and I think he was entitled to say what he thought, in the interests of the dead Gorton, for he came to praise Gorton and to bury him.

All of this reminds me of a rather little ludicrous series of events that came to my notice recently. A person, be he nameless, had a sister, from whom he had been estranged  for many years, and this sister’s husband died. In the interests of some real concern and reconciliation the said individual rang his sister to offer his condolences. You might be tempted to applaud him for this, but as things worked out, it would appear his sister didn’t take too kindly to his overture. Some days after a brother rang him questioning if he intended to go to the funeral, and make a speech, and informing him, that his sister and a niece were most concerned about this, and in so many words telling him to stay away. This, for him, only added insult to injury as he had no intention, given the feeling he knew his sister had for him, of going to the funeral. It should be stated here, that he did have a reputation for making quite notable and forthright eulogies at family funerals. It all goes to prove that funerals, families, and reconciliation don’t always go together.

Perhaps we should all follow the good book and:”Let the dead bury their dead.”

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Lois Berenyi writes candidly

January 12, 2012 at 10:36 pm (Commentary, de Berigny, Lois Berenyi, Mary Dithlefsen)

This is written by Lois Berenyi. She has done a lot of research on Mary Dithlefsen, her great aunt, who married Victor de Berigny in 1895. Victor was my mother’s uncle, and Victor and Mary were the parents of Charles de Berigny, who was killed during the First World War. See:

Hi David

I found your post interesting as it relates to faith and belief (not necessarily the same thing in my mind). I don’t know if my remarks are relevant to your blog but if you think they are I don’t mind if they are posted.

For background I went to the Baptist church as a young person. My mother’s family had been Catholic until the nuns beat my mother as a child for being late to school and the family suddenly became Episcopalians. My mother’s mother had gone to San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake on a Catholic mission. Mary’s mother had gone to Japan on a Protestant mission and then she converted to Christian Science and upset a lot of apple carts according to family history.

My husband is a fallen Catholic. Neither one of us attends any church nor do my children. I now live in the land of religious intolerance although there is a Baptist church on every corner.

I didn’t pay much attention when I first moved here 8 years ago (from New Jersey to North Carolina) because in the north people didn’t tend to wear their religion on their sleeve and we had many ethnic groups and many religions and the Protestants were conservative and quiet. To my recollection I don’t recall strangers asking me what church I belonged to. The only things that stand out in my mind from that time 50 years ago is that if the Catholic kids came to our youth group they had to confess they were in a Baptist church and one girl with a “reputation” felt her behavior was o.k. because she could confess to the priest.

Lately because of local influences and our national political dialogue I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot. For starters a lot of the Southern Baptists I’ve met (or been forced to meet in supermarkets, post offices etc. where I’m asked if I am a Christian!) do not think Catholics are Christians. We don’t have a large Jewish population so don’t know what they think about them but they are worried about getting a Mormon president. The hypocrisy on display would be amusing if it was not frightening.

We are bombarded with religious quotes on the side of plumber’s trucks, a bible open on the desk of a prominent businessman rightfully accused of fraud and so on. Our presidential candidates being Republicans (keep government out of our business) have no qualms about government in our bedrooms. Taken to the extreme we could have our own version of the Taliban.

Personally I think everyone is entitled to their own faith and beliefs from which they gain solace. I do not believe they have the right to impose their beliefs as the only valid and authentic one. I worked for a veterinarian who believed as the Native Americans did that God was in the earth, trees and clouds. I know people here who play golf on Sunday and feel that is where God is. In fact on a funny note one of our more vocal Born Agains designed our golf course and openly declares without irony or any other inflection that God told him where to put the bunkers and teeboxes. God also tells him where the deer are hiding when he hunts. I had a house painter once I dubbed the Holy Roller who treated me to a sermon on being “Born Again” everytime we met. I learned to avoid him.

My own personal belief is that if there is a God he/she is in all of us. It’s the “spirit” that shows us the right way. If a person doesn’t have it it won’t be found in a building or a temple or the Vatican. The more organized religion gets the more dangerous it is to those to think differently.

I believe in the inherent goodness of people even when they don’t always act that way. I also believe in Evil as well in those who do not have any grace and totally lack the concept of any sort of morality. This sounds “religious” but it doesn’t need a label and a 10% tithe to be authentic.

My own recent experience of basically receiving a death sentence in early 2011 gave me reason to reflect on the subject a lot. In the fall of 2010 a blood test showed that tumor markers had increased after being normal for the 10 years since I had breast cancer in 2001. However scans showed enlarged lymph nodes but no visible tumors. Various biopsies came back suspicious but inconclusive. This went on for 6 months where I received no treatment because they didn’t know what kind of cancer it was. In March a procedure came up with cancer cells on the pancreas and things took a serious turn. I knew the usual survival rate ranged from a couple of months to a year. I had a young optimistic oncologist who refused to tell me what stage I was at or even how bad it was. I had no symptoms, no pain and even in his opinion thought I looked as if I were in my 50’s instead of being 71. (My irreverent thought was I’d be a good-looking corpse). I did start chemo for pancreatic cancer and pretty much thought about whether to continue treatment for a hopeless condition or live more comfortably with what I had. After a couple of months there was slight improvement but I was having a bad reaction to the drug so it was changed to one used for colon cancer. Suddenly I showed great improvement both in the scans and bloodtests but I was having mental problems with being treated at all. I felt ungrateful and finally that drug ran its course when it caused neuropathy (numbness) in my hands and feet. So now I am on an oral pill, in a much better state of mind, and according to latest tests am almost cancer-free or at least in a condition where it will be treated like a chronic disease similar to diabetes.

While contemplating death the one thought that would come to me, usually at night when the reality would creep into my brain, was whether I would meet all those people I’d been researching so intensively. Would I meet my mother and tell her of what I had found, of what she had been looking for…..or would they all be there with her. Strange thoughts but I sometimes think there must be a reason. When my mother was in the hospital with a stroke she kept insisting my father was there (who was dead 20 years) so sometimes I think our connections stay with us.

I never felt Death was final. What a waste of time and material! Our bodies become compost but I think our spirits, both ephemeral and spiritual continue on maybe reappearing in a new descendent (amazing how much Bob is like the grandfather he never met). Likewise the discoveryI made recently about Mary de Berigny, my great aunt, when I received her death certificate from the National Archives. She died in 1949 at the age of 71 of cancer of the right breast. My breast cancer was in same location and I was 71 when I found this out. How long she was sick I do not know. She was a Christian Scientist at the time and probably did not seek whatever mainstream medical treatment was available.

And, David, as noted in your blog… In the unlikely event you predecease me do let me know if your relatives are there. I still have some questions.



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