The works of A.C.T. Marke in pride of place in Peter Johnson’s bookshelf

March 31, 2013 at 6:04 am (A.C.T. Marke, Book review, Commentary, Famous Old Wellingtonians, Fiction, Love in a hot climate, Love on the Run, Temlett Conibeer, Twixt Semites and swastikas: Temlett Conibeer's greatest challenge)

One of the few pleasures I still have in my old age is my yearly visits to my good friend Peter Johnson’s place in Wewak, PNG. You can imagine how pleased I was recently when I saw on entering his house that in his bookshelf in pride of place were the complete works of A.C.T. Marke.

Added to the deep pleasure I felt was the knowledge that it was I who had donated the works to Peter.

One can imagine the joy some of the famous benefactors to such establishments like the Smithsonian Institution or the British Museum must feel when they see objects that they have given on display. A joy very similar to what I felt seeing the works of Marke in Peter’s house.

I was pleased to hear what Peter Johnson said of the novels and the author: “It’s my considered opinion that Andy Marke in time will eventually attract a cult-like following.”

For those unfamiliar with the literary merits of A.C.T. Marke and his books see the links below, and a comment about cult fiction:

“Cult fiction is fiction which has attracted a large following of loyal fans and supporters. In addition to cult fiction, it is also possible to see cult authors, authors who have attracted and held fans who eagerly await their new publications. Cult fiction varies widely in terms of subject and even quality, with the literary value of some works of cult fiction being called into question by book critics who have managed to resist the fan mentality.

“Often, cult fiction breaks new ground in some way. Perhaps the author uses an innovative narrative style, or brings up edgy issues which have not been widely discussed. Cult fiction may include material which is considered explicit for the time in which it is published, attracting prurient interest from readers who like things a little racy. It may also be controversial: some of the most esteemed works of cult fiction have been banned at some point or another. Authors may explore the human condition, write terrifying visions of dystopian societies, or simply tell a good story.”


“Good friends, good books and a sleeply conscience: this is the ideal life.”  Mark Twain

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A distinguished academic leaves Sydney

March 25, 2013 at 7:05 am (Commentary)

Dr Shirlita Espinosa leaves Newtown

We were all sad to see Dr Shirlita Espinosa leave 152 Wilson St Newtown today, on her way to the University of Luxembourg, via Bali, Singapore, and Manila, to take up a postdoctoral fellowship.

Last year she completed a PhD at Sydney University, and yesterday we learnt that her thesis has been short-listed in a distinguished academic association of world-wide note as among the finest of the year of 2012.

Her many friends in Sydney are proud of her remarkable achievements, and know that there are more to come in the future. Shirlita (Beng) we miss you, but you go with our love and best wishes.


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William (Bill) Peace 1913-2011

March 23, 2013 at 12:56 am (A.C.T. Marke, Anglican Church in PNG, Biography, Commentary, expatriates, Fiction, Funerals, Love in a hot climate, Papua New Guinea, Temlett Conibeer)

Bill Peace comments, March 25, 2010


When Bill sent me his remarks about A.C.T. Marke’s novel: LOVE IN A HOT CLIMATE, he told me he had written them rather hurriedly, and he requested that I proofread them – this I didn’t do!

In the above link I have now attempted to do this.

Unfortunately, Bill died in the following year, and in his memory, I would like to record the following:

On the 14th of June, 2011, Bill died of a massive heart attack at his home in Wagga Wagga. His funeral and burial service were conducted by the Rev’d Septimus Foreman at St John’s Anglican Church, Wagga, on 17th of June, according to the full burial rites of the Book of Common Prayer. This would have pleased Bill very much as he was a dedicated Prayer Book man!

The assembled mourners were inspired by the reading of Psalm 23 in the King James Version: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

In a tribute to Bill, David A. de B. Wall spoke glowingly of his many years of service with the Department of Treasury, in Papua New Guinea.

A short message, of love and condolences, was read out from Bill’s partner of many years, Sakura Mori, known endearingly to Bill as ‘Moonface’. Sakura expressed her deep sorrow that she was unable to attend the funeral because of her failing health, and the travel difficulties entailed on a journey from her home in Osaka.

From the church the funeral procession moved to the War Cemetery for the burial. At the graveside a member of the local RSL spoke of Bill’s war service, and he was honoured with the playing of the last post.

The Rev’d Septimus Foreman then committed Bill’s body to the grave while reading from the Prayer Book:

“… we therefore committe hys bodye to the grounde, earthe, to earthe, ashes, to ashes, dust to dust, in sure, and certein hope of resurrection…”

This day marked the passing of an esteemed Australian and PNG expatriate.

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“The Search for Mrs Right”

March 22, 2013 at 12:12 am (A.C.T. Marke, Commentary, East Sepik District, Famous Old Wellingtonians, Fiction, Love in a hot climate, Love on the Run, Photos, PNG, Temlett Conibeer, Twixt Semites and swastikas: Temlett Conibeer's greatest challenge)

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Ah, to be the possessor of the complete works!

March 20, 2013 at 5:45 am (Book review, Commentary, David Wall)

Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk by David Wall

ISBN-10: 1845491688 Published by Swirl 2007 184 pages. Cost: $30.00 incl postage in Aust Order from David Wall, 152 Wilson St, Newtown 2042 NSW Ph: 02-95505053

David Wall’s first novel draws upon real life experiences in out-station PNG [Angoram] during the 1960s and 70s as ‘colonials’ came face to face with Self-Government and then, Independence. David Wall spent some eighteen years in PNG, largely as a Health Officer in rural areas, and weaves a tale based upon real and imaginary persons and situations and scattered with quaint but apt philosophical views and quotations…

At Angoram and along the Sepik River, we are introduced to the residents: priests, patrol officers, traders and others whose occupations are less clearly defined – a cast of eclectic characters who are skilfully portrayed.

White Papua New Guinea residents will understand, appreciate and enjoy this book greatly, Australians devoid of the ‘PNG Experience’ will perhaps be less convinced of its veracity but will be amazed if convinced that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Anyway they will also enjoy it. Papua New Guinean nationals may have even more difficulty, but for the older literate citizens, it may help to provide some explanation for the odd behaviour of the expatriates they observed in their youth; some may even wish  nostalgically to turn back the clock!
Peter Johnson

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Dave’s Life

March 19, 2013 at 1:34 am (Biography, Commentary, David Wall, expatriates, Papua New Guinea)



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2011 in review

March 16, 2013 at 5:32 am (Uncategorized)

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Old post, perhaps worth another look at!

March 13, 2013 at 12:03 am (Commentary, Medical practice in Australia)

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Some SVD members I knew in PNG

March 12, 2013 at 9:50 am (Catholic Church, Commentary, East Sepik District, expatriates, Fr Fons Ruijter, Fr Mike Clerkin, Karkar Island, Maprik, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River, Society of the Divine Word, theology, Wewak)

Dave Wall & Fr Mike Clerkin, Dagua, 1965

Dave Wall & Fr Mike Clerkin, Dagua, 1965

What an extraordinary body of men were the Divine Wird Missionaries (SVD) in Papua New Guinea – Americans, Germans, Dutch and others.

Fr Mike Clerkin was one of them. He came to Wewak before the War and was interned by the Japanese during the war years – staying on after the war. Whereever he was posted  he was liked and respected.

He told me that when he arrived in Wewak around about 1938 he gained a reputation as being a great drinker who was exceptional in his ability to hold his liquor – quite unjustified according to him. This came about, he said, because early in his time in Wewak he was asked to a party, and he was sitting on the verandah of the house where the party was, and drinks were freely flowing, in fact the host would not allow anyone’s glass to be any way empty, filling each up with neat Scotch. Well, the only way Mike could cope with this was to keep emptying his glass over the side of the verandah. The next day the news went around Wewak that this young American priest sat drinking Scotch all night, and left the party as sober as he arrived.

When in Maprik Mike had quite an extensive library on mainly intellectual subjects. A field officer with the Malaria Control Unit visited the presbytery, and on seeing Mike’s books remarked: ” Father, I love books, at home I’ve got  the complete works of Zane Grey!”

Fr Much, a German SVD, was stationed on Karkar Island in the early 1960s, and the stories about him there abound. His great saying was: “SVD – smoke ve don’t, so ve drink” In  fact many of them did both, as Fr Much did himself! The story behind this little tale is that strictly speaking they were not supposed to smoke according to the rules of their order. This prohibition was not repealed until the middle sixties – which on looking back seemed rather strange for at this time the general community started to become increasingly anti-smoking. From memory Fr Much’s favourate smoke was giant cigars that he rolled himself from native tobacco leaves – brus.

On leave in Germany a medical opinion said he needed an operation. Fr Much wrote to John Middleton along these lines: I’m being attended to by two surgeons – one a woman and the other a man – the man thinks I should not be operated on – the woman tends to differ.  I know the woman will get her way and I will die. Unfortunately die he did after the operation.

I first met Fr John O’Toole in Dreikikir in 1962 where he was the parish priest, missionary- in- residence, I’m trying to think of the right title or designation, both would be appropriate! John was a Bostonian of Irish descent who took his religious calling seriously, and he loved a drink, and the convivial company of the station expats. If one happened to be Catholic he insisted you attended Mass every Sunday – you either came every Sunday or stayed away altogether.

At this time there was a well-known medical assistant stationed at Dreikikir. Frank Gilbert.  Frank & I both shared the distininction of going off the side of the airstrip on Karkar Island while on a motor bike.  Frank did it in a much more dramatic way and literally flew off the side of the strip and into the ocean, while I just tumbled over the side onto the rocks. Anyhow that’s another story.

Fr John got Frank to go to Mass while he was in Dreikikir, this was after a long absence away, but while in Dreikikir he didn’t get around to going to the sacraments. In early 1963 Frank went finish – returned to Australia for good to get married to a Catholic woman. While there prior to his marriage he decided to go to Confession. After he confessed and indicated how long he’d been away from the practice of his faith, the priest in confession asked what brought him back. He said: “While I was in New Guinea I met a priest who was a man.” This was John O’Toole! Frank wrote to John and told him this – O’Toole was so pleased!

On celibacy John once said to me, with a hint of regret in his voice, that this was something that he signed up to years ago!

The last time I saw Fr John was in Sydney on his way to the States – going finish, after nearly forty years in PNG! Not too long after he arrived in the States he died.

I first met Fr Karl Junemann at his Kombi Mission Station in the Dreikikir area – a very spiritual and humble man from Hanover, as such, he spoke high German unlike many of his colleagues who mainly hailed from Southern Germany. During the War he was conscripted into the German Medical Corps, and sent initally to the Eastern Front. In the Ukraine when the inhabitants found out that he was a Catholic priest he was so well treated by them. After the East he was sent to the West, and was part of the triumphant German entry into Paris – not that he ever approved of the Nazi War, but he couldn’t help keeping a little pride out of the way he expressed the success of German arms in the West, when he was telling me about the victory march in Paris. Karl stayed in the Sepik until he died, and he was buried in Wewak in the Mission Cemetery after almost fifty years of dedicated service in PNG. A gentle and hospitable man. I remember the Patrol Officer, Jock McIntyre, at Dreikikir, a man of Presbyterian background, who set out on patrol with a certain amount of relish to read the riot act to Fr Junemann – who was to him initially, a Kraut Roman priest, and coming back after visiting him, completely charmed, and full of praise for Fr Junemann.

Fr Fons Ruijter came to PNG in the early 1960s, and to Angoram in 1964. His theological and ecclesiastical stance was in many ways more proggressive than the Second Vatican Council – he was in favour of wearing secular clothing  while celbrating the Mass, and he tended to downplay the importance of Confession. The practical application of the Gospels to everyday life was his rule- of- thumb in judging how we lived the Christian life.

In 1972 I went to Manila to marry my future wife, Deborah. When making the arrangements with the church authorities there I was required to get a clearance from my parish priest  that was was eligible to be married in the Catholic Church.  In other words there was no known impediment to me getting married. To facilitate this I sent a radiogram to Fons; well, I got a telegram/radiogram back written in Latin. To my unscholarly eyes everything appeared to be in order, however I do remember seeing something like impotentia coeundi in the text which aroused the suspicion of my friend, Peter Johnson, but we really thought nothing of it.

At school I did have three years of Latin, but it was always in the same grade – I didn’t get beyond the first declension – I clearly remember, mensa, mensa, mensam, mensae, mensae, mensa, but this is about all!

Fons’ radiogram was duly presented to the Filipino priest who was going to marry us, and I thought nothing more of it for the next few days, until Deborah and I called in to see the priest. He indicated that he wanted to talk to me privately. He asked me if I was a good friend of Fr Ruijter’s and I said, yes. He then explained to me briefly what was in the radiogram, and he said that Fr Ruijter was probably having a little joke with me.

The missive from Fons said in so many Latin words that there was a diriment canonical impediment to my marriage due to  impotence.

To say the least I wasn’t too happy, and I didn’t have the grace to see the joke, but really I was upset for appearing to be such a rough untutored lad! Fortunately it was not taken seriously by the priest in Manila, and the marriage went ahead without a hitch.

When I returned to Angoram I was a bit off hand with Fons for a while, but he was upset that I had not seen through the whole thing, because he genuinely believed that my original request was a bit of a joke, on my part, just to create amusement among the expats in Angoram, who all would have been aware of the contents on the radiogram, and so in a way he was only playing along with the joke, thinking I would have enough Latin to understand his reply to me.

Fons stayed in PNG until the late 1980s or early 1990s. For his last years there, he ran a community farming project in Gavien just outside Angoram.

The last I heard of him, he was working with the unemployed in Holland.

The above mentioned people are just a few Divine Word Missionaries, there are many others such as: Fr Robert Jilek, the captain of the Marova, Bishop Leo Arkfeld, the flying bishop, Fr Shadeg, a gifted school teacher, Fr Mike Hughes, Fr Ivo Ruiter, Fr Mitterbauer, Br Gonzaga, Br Patroclus Appeldorn, and last but certainly not least, Ralf Stüttgen, who arrived in the late 1960s as an SVD. He later left the order and to this day, he’s a resident of Wewak. Ralf is a highly intelligent man.

Blessed Arnold Janssen, founder of the Society of the Divine Word, has cause to be proud of the members of his Society.



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March 11, 2013 at 11:49 pm (Uncategorized)

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