Knights of the Realm in PNG

September 25, 2013 at 1:13 am (Commentary, Dreikikir, East Sepik District, Maprik, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Sir Pita Lus)

To say that knights of the realm are thin on the ground in Wewak is not exactly correct. Without too much trouble on any one day in the town, you could run into Sir Hugo, Sir Michael, Sir Pita, and other knights.

In January of this year I saw Sir Pita Lus, but didn’t recognise him, as it had been many years before that I had last seen him.

Sir John Kaputin once wrote this of Sir Pita:

“The former member for Maprik, Sir Pita Lus might have been perceived as vociferous and a loose cannon, but, behind this façade, there was a very serious mind concerned with real issues, expressed in pidgin with lots of humour and punctuated with colourful phrases in English.”

I had encountered Pita many years before in and around Dreikikir, well before he was elected to the House of Assembly. On one occasion he waved down the Land Rover I was travelling in from Maprik to Dreikikir, and in a rather forceful manner seemed to be demanding a lift to Dreikikir. I responded to him by asking, was he asking or telling me to give him a lift? His manner then changed, and he said he was asking. I then said to him: “Get in the back.”

This year while in Wewak in company with Peter Johnson, Peter saw and started talking to Sir Pita. After Pita left I asked Peter: “Who’s that?” I was informed that  was Sir Pita Lus. (Please excuse my conversational grammar!)

Later I was motivated to write to Sir Pita in my rather poor Pidgin, resulting in me not sending the epistle:

16 Janueri, 2013

Dia Sir Pita,

Mi sori tude, mi luk long yu, tasol mi no save pes bilong yu, taim yu tok long Peter Johnson long klostu pos ofis long Wewak.

Bipo mi wok long Malaria Control long Dreikikir, nau mi save long yu wok long Talatala Misin.

Bihain mi ofiso long 1964 Ileksen.

Mi lik tok gude long yupela,

Dave Wall

What I was trying to write in so many words, was that I was sorry not to have recognised him, and that I knew him many years before when I was with Malaria Control in Dreikikir, and he was with the Protestant Mission.  Also, in 1964 I was an electoral officer

Here are just a few thoughts of mine about a knight of the realm, and a former colourful PNG politician.

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A tribute to the late Kevin Trueman by Peter Johnson

June 27, 2013 at 9:19 am (Angoram, Angoram Club, East Sepik District, East Sepik Province, expatriates, Kevin Trueman, Maprik, Papua New Guinea, Peter Johnson, Sepik River, Vanuatu, Wewak)


Long-time Pacific Islands Identity

(b. Winchester, England 20 September, 1944   d. Port Vila, Vanuatu 7 June, 2013)


Kevin Trueman whose sudden death at Port Vila, Vanuatu, the former New Hebrides Condominium, on the night of 7 June, 2013 surprised and shocked his family and multitude of friends around the South Pacific islands.

Kevin, of English and Irish parentage, was born in the ancient cathedral city of Winchester, Hampshire, England.   His family migrated to Australia whilst Kevin was still in his teens.   After several ordinary jobs he teemed up with Sava Maksic in kangaroo and crocodile hunting ventures.   They sold their crocodile skins to an Armenian reptile skin tanner, Arshak Catchatoor Galstaun, and in 1967 they came, as two young married couples to Angoram, where Galstaun was the new proprietor of England’s Hotel; the ladies managed the hotel and Kevin and Sava shot the Sepik crocodiles. Neither the job not the partnership lasted long, for Kevin was not by nature an employee…he was soon trading, shooting and artefact dealing on his own account travelling the Sepik River in the Heron, a small trawler he bought from  Nils Madsen.

Two lovely daughters, Laena and Justine were born in Wewak, and Kevin’s restless enthusiasm saw him move to Wewak in about 1971 to take advantage of the booming coffee industry around the Maprik area.   Kevin put in 10 and 12 hour working days, and still had time for a hectic social life. He took virtual charge of building the Wewak Yacht Club, was for several years the Commodore, and  subsequently made a life member.

In 1976 he built a steel work-boat Elenjay and sailed her to Honiara and Port Vila, I was privileged to be a crew member on that adventurous voyage – the only other crew was a pot smouldering Kiwi hippy yachtie who neither of us knew! On arrival Kevin was jailed for a day for the illegal landing of an unnamed vessel flying no national flag. The prosecuting Harbour Master later became a good friend and helped Kevin to secure a coastal coxen’s ticket. Kevin succeeded in selling his boat, eventually coming back to New Guinea to buy and sell another after trading around the islands for a while.

An entrepreneur who saw the “big picture”, Kevin, around 1980 invested in an ocean-going freighter, the Bismarck Sea, later expanding with a second. He tramped between Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam, but a serious accident at Palau and difficulties with the waterside workers of evil memory, and “big line” competition caused the closure of this enterprise…he turned his thoughts and attention to the land; in 1983 he bought “Wetlands Station” near Augathella in western Queensland – my sons and I enjoyed a week of the Truemans’ wonderful hospitality there, shooting, eating and with my sons joining the girls at School of the Air lessons.

Around 1990 Kevin was asked to return to Wewak to manage a recovery of the troubled Sepik Producers Coffee Association, a native owned, but now badly run cooperative. He accepted this almost thankless task with the full backing of the then prime minister, Sir Michael Somare. He established a most capable  management team of Evelyn, Herman Baumann; Geoff Payne and Dieter Idzikowsky.  Kevin had an inclusive style which made his efforts popular with his New Guinean shareholders and customers, and after a campaign against the “rice and tin fish” Asian competition (as Kevin called it), the business started to boom. He expanded into wholesale and retail sales of hardware and whitegoods and commercial vehicle repair. Again wanting to be completely his own boss he eventually resigned and returned to Australia…but not for long!

Kevin and Evelyn accepted jobs in Honiara, BSIP with Kevin managing a large hardware business and Evelyn a soap factory…goodness! They settled down just in time to experience the horror of the unrest in the Solomons which eventually resulted in the establishment of the RAMSI peacekeeping force.

In 2006 Kevin made what was to be his last island relocation as he moved from the troubled Solomons back to Vanuatu and established himself as a respected businessman, restaurateur, and political commentator. A true Island Entrepreneur of the “old school,” Kevin will lie in Pango cemetery, Port Vila, a fitting last resting place to be fondly remembered as a generous, vital outgoing personality of warmth and almost boyish enthusiasm for the numerous projects and ventures he pursued.

Kevin, a loving husband and father leaves a widow, Evelyn Avis, daughters Laena, Justine, and Alexandra, four grand-children and an army of friends across much of Oceania.

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Lunch at Dreikikir, East Sepik District, Papua New Guinea

May 16, 2013 at 4:29 am (Commentary, David Wall, Dr Jan J Saave, Dreikikir, East Sepik District, expatriates, Fr John O'Toole, Jock McIntyre, Kami Raymundus, malaria control, Maprik, Papua New Guinea, PNG Health, Robert Desowitz, Salata Village, Wally Trueman or Truman)

A luncheon party in my spacious bush material house, with remarkable guests, some fifty years ago at Dreikikir Patrol Post.

The fare was not remarkable, but more than adequate given the time and place.

Baked beef served cold with potatoes in dressing and lettuce, washed down with a good supply of Victoria Bitter. There was an ample supply of bread and butter. The main course was followed with tropical fruits and coffee.

A good part of this food was flown in by Catholic Mission planes once a week, on a landing strip that was rather famous in having a church at one end, and a hospital at the other – given the shape and nature of the strip, physical and spiritual succour were more than needed!

In attendance serving the guests were two memorable house boys: Kami and Kitahi.


The guest of honour was Professor Robert S. Desowitz, then with the University of Singapore as Chair of Medical Parasitology. He was an authority in his field and subsequently he became world famous.


Professor Desowitz

Professor Desowitz was a congenial and appreciative guest, and he was accompanied by Dr Jan J. Saave.

Desowitz and Saave came up from a village called Salata, some distance away towards Maprik where they were involved in research into immunity factors in malaria.


Another guest was Father John O’Toole, who lived in the Catholic Mission Station at the end of the airstrip. O’Toole was a Bostonian and a man of impressive qualities.


Another guest, Jock McIntyre was the patrol officer in-charge at Dreikikir Patrol Post. Jock loved a social gathering and a drink.


With the others was Wally Truman or Trueman. Wally was the primary school teacher stationed at Dreikikir. He was a very obliging man, and an excellent teacher. At the lunch, Wally did a lot assisting with the catering. He was to see out his term teaching in PNG, and the last I heard of him was that he married and settled in Queensland, where, as far as I know, he continued teaching. His whereabouts now are unknown to me.

During the lunch a lively conversation was carried on. The Professor and Fr O’Toole got on very well being fellow Americans.

Dr Saave referred to the camping site in Salata Village as the Salata Hilton, and Professor Desowitz sat with an amused look smoking his pipe.

As the afternoon progressed, Dr Saave excused himself to check on the patients in the hospital and to lend assistance if it were needed.

Things about Dreikikir were fairly quiet on this day as it was a Sunday.

Looking back it was a privilege for me to have been the host to such a distinguished group, and a sobering thought for me that it is I who is probably the only one still alive, that is if Wally is no longer here on earth.


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Mankimasta extraordinaire, friend, gentleman – Kami Raymundus of Torembi Village

May 10, 2013 at 1:25 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik District, Kami Raymundus, Maprik, Wewak)

Dave & Kami, Dreikikir, 1963

Dave & Kami, Dreikikir, 1963

kami,Torembi Village

kami,Torembi Village

Kami with his children in Torembi, late 1970s

Kami with his children in Torembi, late 1970s

“… I have never known finer gentlemen than some well-born Malays whom I am proud to call my friends.”

Thus spoke Warburton, one of Somerset Maugham’s characters in his story: The Outstation.

Replace ‘well-born Malays’ with Sepiks and the above reflects exactly my thoughts.

In a story of mine: The phone rings!, tells of the reappearance of my late brother, James, in a dream. He talks to me of the afterlife and he mentions: “Oh, I almost forgot to tell that your houseboy, Kami, from Papua New Guinea wondered how you were. He was telling me he had received a lot of credit for the thousands of cups of tea he had made for you. Anyhow, he’s doing well now. But he is a bit worried about his family in Torembi, a village in the Sepik.”

For some time my wife, Deborah, has been saying to me that most of the stories I write about PNG always seem to predominantly feature expats. In many of my narratives, I perhaps, come through unapologetically as a colonial. I hope I’m a little more than just that. I was once referred to as a terrible lefty, so maybe there’s a little more to me than just a colonial!

Then again, I can hear my readers saying, that’s what you are. There you are writing about your mankimasta, if that’s not colonial, I don’t know what is!

Fr Mihalic in his Dictionary defines mankimasta A European’s personal boy, a valet. Whatever the impression I’ve given of myself in the past I hope the respect and regard I have for Kami somehow redeems the reputation I may have in the minds of some.

I suspect Kami would have been born in Torembi Village during the war, and baptised after the close of hostilities and the reestablishment of the Catholic Mission in the area. His baptismal name, Raymundus, the Latin version of Raymond, indicates he was probably christened by a missionary from Europe.

He had very little formal education, maybe one or two years in primary school. In spite of this he had some rudimentary skills in reading and writing. He had a very logical mind and he was excellent in fixing things around the house.

I clearly remember first employing him in 1962 in his village. At the time, I was stationed at Maprik, and I was on a routine Malaria Service patrol and let it be known that I wanted  to find a mankimasta. Shortly after Kami presented himself. At first I thought he looked rather disheveled and I favoured another applicant, but fortunately the other fellow decided he didn’t want the job, and I was left with Kami.

So Kami for a pittance came to work for me, and stayed over ten years with me giving excellent service, and I hope in time becoming my friend.

From what I can remember it was a seven days a week job for Kami, cooking and cleaning for me. One of his specialties was what I called donkers, which were really fried scones.

He was with me in Maprik, Dreikikir, Wewak and Angoram, and I’m sure he knew more about me than I knew myself.

He had the most admirable of dispositions and I can never remember him once losing his cool. After some years he decided he wanted to get married and he had a young woman in mind from Torembi, Anna – Meri bilong ples kisim save long skul. What this meant was that Anna came from Torembi and she had a few years of primary school. Anna and Kami were duly married according to village custom, and all seemed fine for some time. They had healthy children. Unfortunately in time Anna developed some mental problems and poor Kami had some trying times with her.

I remember one incident in 1973 in Angoram. This was shortly after I myself was married to my wife, Deborah. Anna appeared in our house with a bush knife chasing Kami. I was away at this time. Over the whole event, Kami was more concerned with the safety of Deborah, and he secured her away in a closed bedroom, and then he gently dealt with Anna and disarmed her. After this he talked with Deborah and asked her to explain to me what had happened and to tell me that he would have to take Anna back to Torembi. Deborah was most impressed with his wisdom and approach. She said to me at the time that Kami might be uneducated but he was certainly very intelligent!

Later in 1973 Deborah got a position in Moresby as Press Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly. I was also posted to Moresby.

The last time I saw Kami was in 1978 in Torembi when I made a return visit to the Sepik. Anna was still in the terminology of the place longlong!

In the 1980s, I had a letter from a priest in Torembi in answer to one from me enquiring about Kami, telling me that Kami was suffering from severe asthma and breathing problems. Shortly after this he died.

One of the few pleasures Kami had in life was his love of smoking. I suspect that Kami died from lung cancer.

If by any chance some of Kami’s children or relations should read this, I would love to hear from them.

In life we all meet various people of various qualities – some great and some poor and others nothing much at all. To me, Kami was a man of great qualities, and to him, I have an unending debt of gratitude.

Kami, farewell and thank you!



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Dr Jan J. Saave, Medico extraordinaire, Malariologist, Maestro, Mentor, Linguist, and Officer of the British Empire.

April 29, 2013 at 9:14 am (Bill Brown, Commentary, Don Coffey, Dr Jan J Saave, East Sepik District, expatriates, Jim Van Der Kamp, malaria control, Maprik, Papua New Guinea)

Dave Wall & Jan Saave, some years after they left PNG

Dave Wall & Jan Saave, some years after they left PNG

“Dr Jan SAAVE, OBE (4 October 2006, aged 86 years)

“From early post Pacific War to beyond Independence Jan was a government Medical Officer in PNG and for many years directed the Malaria Eradication Program.” Harry West

Source: PNGAA Obituaries

In 1999 & 2000, Dave Wall, met up again, with his much admired, and former boss, Dr Jan J. Saave, Medico extraordinaire, Malariologist, Maestro, Mentor, Linguist,  and Officer of the British Empire. The years they served together, in Papua New Guinea, enhanced the respect Dave had for Jan, and in their meetings in Sydney, so well captured in the above photos, we see clearly the deference and respect shown by Dave towards Jan.

Jim Van Der Kamp said,

April 1, 2010 at 2:39 am

“The first Malariologist in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea was Dr.Peters who insisted that he be given sufficient funds to run a Malaria Eradication Programme being extremely expensive but limited in time. He was denied this and told to run a Control Programme, cheaper but unlimited in time. Peters resigned and Dr Jan J Saave who was a surgeon in Rabaul, took up the post under the condition that he would not be interferred with. This was approved and more or less gave him a free go as how to run his Mal-Con programme. One great disadvantage was that he was not permitted to recruit European staff overseas which left him with only being able to recruit Europeans already in the Terrtory. Dr. Peters by the way became Professor Peters of the Department of Parasitology at the Liverpool University, U.K.
“Dr Saave took on his new position with great enthusiasm. He was a very hard worker. He soon became known for his extarordinairy word choices and abbreviations. I remember: WAF, Walking About Fever, CBF, Confirmed to Bed Fever. DDD, Drug Distributin Day, amongst many more. On his visits he would give his field officers a notebook full of assignments, and he must have known that it was virtually impossible to complete all these tasks in the given time. However, he never commented if a task was not fulfilled. Off duty he was a great lover of good food and liked his cold beer, in scooners. When he was promoted, the programme was never the same, never so exciting and colourful. Dr Saave would never say, e.g: “Now listen Jim” but it was always: “My dear friend” with his index finger up. He made a lot of friends but unfortunately it was inevitable to have made enemies as well.
“I always remained grateful to him for having recruited me in January 1965 in Port Moresby. I was only 24 years old.”

From the above readers will be able to ascertain the respect that Jan Saave was held in.

Thinking about Jan a rather amusing little encounter we had many years ago comes to mind. It would have been 1965 when I was stationed at Maprik in the then East Sepik District of PNG.

There was a section in the area of malaria control that was overdue for operations. However, there was no money available to patrol and carry out these operations. This situation I made known to Malaria Service Headquarters in Moresby.

A radiogram was sent to me, presumingly from Dr Jan Saave, stating that my excuses were entirely unacceptable, and I was ordered to proceed immediately with operations, and if nesessary to utilize private funds.

After receiving this radiogram I answered by radiogram advising that I had no private funds available, and I suggested that the hat be passed around headquarters.

Don Coffey was running the post office and radio at Maprik, and skeds in the country were  an open medium for anyone to listen into. With the result that the whole station was rather amused by the radiograms. Even the ADC, Bill Brown, got a kick out of them. Bill was usually rather humourless in official matters, being a proficient and astute officer. As a result of my radiogram, I think Bill respected me somewhat more than he had previously.

A colleague of mine in the Service was visiting Moresby Headquarters at the time, and he told me that Jan picked up my radiogram in his presence, and remarked in some disgust : “This type of communication from a field officer!”

I might point out that official funds did arrive shortly after the radiograms. Don Coffey did ask me if the hat had been passed around Headquarters.

In spite of this amusing exchange I always retained a liking and respect for Dr Saave, and I often wish he was still around.

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Mr & Mrs Kenny

April 28, 2013 at 5:03 am (Biography, Commentary, East Sepik District, expatriates, Maprik, Papua New Guinea, PNG Health)

It’s a funny thing in life how past doings and friends long since forgotten suddenly return to your consciousness.

Well, the other early morning when I awoke from my night’s sleep thoughts suddenly turned to Jim and Madge Kenny.

It would be getting close to fifty years since I’d seen or heard of this captivating couple.

It was in Maprik, in the then East Sepik District, in 1964-65 that I became acquainted with them. We were then all employed by the Public Health Department. Madge was a trained nurse in charge of maternal and child health, and Jim was an EMA (European Medical Assistant) at Maprik Hospital. I was with Malaria Service.

With thoughts about them I had occasion to look at the PNGAA Obituaries, and I came across Madge’s name. She died in 2000 after a distinguished career in nursing and health service management both in PNG and Australia. She left PNG in 1975. For her service there she was awarded an MBE. In Australia she held senior nursing positions, retiring in 1980.

I found no mention of Jim in the said Obituaries. I think I can safely say that like the old soldier he was, he simply faded away.

The stories about Jim were and I’m sure still are legend. What an extraordinary fellow he was.

He was a fighting medical orderly in the AIF with a Mention in Despatches to his credit. Jim carried out his medical duties in many different postings throughout PNG with skill and dedication.

By the time I knew him, he was no longer a young man, but still the dapper, clean and spruce gentleman that I’m sure he’d always been.

I remember him arriving at the Maprik Hotel after work in a PHD chauffeur-driven Land Rover, and stepping out onto the path to the bar ready for a convivial drinking session. If only I’d taken a picture, but alas, I have no snap of him.

We had many meetings together discussing important questions of state and health, lubricated with alcoholic beverages. In fact we used to call these meetings conferences.

On one occasion a young trainee medical assistant was heard to remark that when Mr Wall suggests to Mr Kenny a conference this is not what it really is, but only another name for a drinking session! I dare not comment on this assertion.

Going back some years before I knew Jim, he was on one of his periodic leaves from the Territory, in, I think, Sydney. His mind turned to the medical needs of the Territory’s  Health Department, and he decided he’d visit some medical supply companies. But prior to this he had a card printed that went thus:

 James Kenny, MA LLD                                                                               

Department of Public Health

Territory of Papua & New Guinea

He then duly visited a number of medical/pharmaceutical suppliers, and made extensive orders of products and drugs that he knew were urgently (in his opinion) needed back in the Territory. He signed all the necessary papers for immediate despatch, and everyone accepted his signature as sufficient authorization. You must remember that Jim had the gift of the gab, and he looked the part of a distinguished medical administrator.

Well, after sometime the equipment and drugs arrived by ship in Port Moresby, and the Public Health officials there were amazed to see the wonderful, including x-ray machines of the best and latest, and drugs arrive. The doctors were overjoyed by the products, but then they read the paper work with the consignment, and noticed the authorization approval by the one and only James Kenny. After that there were frantic phone calls to the Sydney companies pointing out that there was no money to pay for the supplied items and no authorization. They were told in no uncertain terms from Sydney that if there was no payment legal action would be taken out against the Health Department.

To make a long story short there was no way the doctors were going to send the supplies back because they were indeed items that were really needed.

At this time Dr John Gunther was the Director of the Health Department, and one of his senior officials had Jim up as it were on the mat.

It was pointed out to Jim that he’d put the Department in a very embarrassing position, and he had no permission to make these purchases, and then one of the officials said to Jim: “What’s this James Kenny, MA LLD?” Jim informed him in so many words that James Kenny was his name, and the MA LLD stood for Medical Assistant liklik dokta.

Being of Irish descent Jim was always eager to make a visit to Ireland. He did make a trip to Dublin, and meet up with some distant relations, and off they went to a pub.

When at the pub one of the customers after hearing Jim speak was reputed to have said: “What’s that Englishman doing in the bar?” – referring to Jim, to which one of his relations answered: “He’s no Englishman, that’s Jim Kenny, the son of Daniel Kenny!” After this a great night was had by all.

In his school years Jim attended Xavier College, Kew, Melbourne. I could not describe him as a fanatical Catholic, if indeed he practised at all. But I never heard him critical of the Church. I suppose his Irish blood was thicker than water, and there’d be inbuilt residual loyalty to Catholicism in his veins.

In both of us I detected some sort of affinity which may have been moulded by our shared Jesuit education – I went to St Ignatius’ College, Riverview. Be that as it may, but in many areas we both saw eye-to-eye, perhaps the drink helped a bit.

Madge, I would suspect was traditional C of E, Jim & Madge’s son, Michael, was sent to Trinity Grammar in Sydney.

Madge was a particularly generous hostess and one was often asked to the house for a meal or a party. Jim was also very generous, but he often found it difficult to stay awake for the arrival of guests.

On arrival at their house it was not unusual to see Jim fast asleep on a chair, and remain so for the duration of the social gathering, and just as the guests were about to leave Jim would wake up thinking the party was just about to start.

Poor Madge once said to me that it would be far easier to be married to a philanderer than to one who drank too much.

Jim, no doubt like us all had his faults, and perhaps at times he was in the grip of the booze, but from my perspective he was always a gentleman.

As I write this piece I’m listening to a recording of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, and I think back to those Maprik days, and the remarkable Madge and Jim couple. Both contributed a lot, and expats and the people of PNG are the better for their contact with them.

I think of the young Jim in his military days carrying a loaded 303, and a medical kit bag into battle, ready to fight and render aid – the EMA Jim, and Nurse Madge, in Misima, battling against a polio epidemic. Both rendered so much over the years to an emerging nation.

I often think even to this day that I’d love to again be in conference with Jim, and to be received so graciously by Madge at a dinner party given by her.

Madge Kenny MBE, and James Kenny MID, like Vaughan Williams’ lark, you two are ascending in my consciousness and appreciation.

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Photos of Angoram & Maprik

April 25, 2013 at 7:34 am (Angoram, Angoram Club, Bryan Martin, Dan Rolfe, Don Bosgard, Don Coffey, Don Westley, Donald Gordon Bosgard, East Sepik District, expatriates, Fr Mike Clerkin, Jim McKinnon, John Pasquarelli, Maprik, Nan Bunting, Papua New Guinea, Peter England, Photos, Sepik River, Steven Westley, Vanessa Westley)


See page:

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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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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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The Recruiter – Robert Cowan Mackie

August 30, 2008 at 5:14 am (Angoram, Angoram Club, Biography, Bob Mackie, Commentary, East Sepik District, expatriates, Maprik, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River, Wewak) (, , , )


Sue Treutlein & Bob Mackie at the Angoram Club

Sue Treutlein & Bob Mackie at the Angoram Club

(  Photo provided by Sue Treutlein )

By all the rules of sages and psychologists Bob should have been dejected and unhappy having lived a life that they would have considered futile and worthless.

To claim that Bob experienced no deep night of the soul would only confound our moralists and theologians, but perhaps the truth does lie at the bottom of a well. Bob himself would have agreed that at least it lay at the bottom of a bottle.

Robert Cowan Mackie was born sometime after the end of the First World War on one of the Scottish Islands to good Presbyterian stock, shortly after his family emigrated to South Australia.

To say that Bob had come a long way since his 6th Division days in Greece during the war would be the understatement of the age. The highlight of this campaign for Bob was making love – if that is not a too elaborate a word to describe what went on – with a Greek girl within sight of the Acropolis.

Whatever Bob’s faults, many agreed with me, his friend, that Bob’s attraction lay in the way he squandered the treasure of life with a seemingly disregard for the future.

At the end of the war Bob took his discharge from ANGAU in Port Moresby. He had some idea of returning to Australia to see what happened to his wife, whom he had married just before the war, to discover on returning from the Middle East to Adelaide that she had decided to end the marriage because she had taken up with someone else, or as Bob so delicately put it, he found another bull in the paddock.

Bob did in fact arrange to go to Australia shortly after taking his discharge, but he made the mistake of contemplating this move in the bottom pub at the Snake Pit Bar. Needless to say, Bob never made the plane.

His deferred pay was coming to an end, so he concluded that a man with a drinking habit needed a livelihood. He decided to try his luck in the Sepik, and so, he went to Wewak. Over a beer there with an acquaintance it was suggested that recruiting labour for the plantations was all the go, and the best thing to get into.

With this in mind, Bob moved inland and settled in a place just outside Nuku, a patrol post. From here he set out on recruiting patrols over most of the inland Sepik, including journeys on the Ramu and Sepik Rivers.

Over the next few years Bob became a legend in his own time with hundreds of natives being taken by him to Angoram and Wewak to be signed on for work on plantations around Kavieng, Madang, Rabaul and elsewhere.

Most other recruiters didn’t have a chance in getting recruits as Bob became so popular in the various villages that the natives would wait for him to come. Or as they used to say : Mi laik wetim Masta Bob.

On his own account thousands of pounds passed through his hands. One can imagine with him getting 10 to 20 pounds per recruit. With a doctor friend of his he bought a plane which unfortunately crashed off the coast killing the doctor. About this event Peter Skinner writes: “Whenever I hear the words Vanimo, Auster or John McInerney, I have almost instant recall to Wewak, March 1953, and being told by my distraught mother, Marie, that the single-engine Auster owned and piloted by Dr John McInerney, medical officer, had crashed into the sea off Vanimo. McInerney had been killed and my father, Ian, at that time an ADO, was alive but badly injured. Also injured in the crash was ADO George Wearne.”

Perhaps this was a turning point in Bob’s life, as John, the doctor, was a great friend of his and he felt his loss greatly. It must also be stated that I have no proof of Bob’s financial interest in the plane , but this is strongly suspected to be true. When Bob had a trade store and a recruitering setup near Hayfield airstrip, between Pagwai and Maprik, Mac, as the doctor was known, very often flew out to spend time drinking and socializing with him – they by all accounts were great mates! John McInerney, an ex-commando medical officer, was a flamboyant and interesting character!

Over time recruiting ceased to give Bob the financial stability it had in the past. He just didn’t seem to care much about going out to get recruits, only making the occasional trips to keep body and soul together.

He eventually ended up in Angoram in a houseboat that he referred to as his outfit. In Angoram he did manage to keep himself very often inebriated keeping the locals and expatriates entertained with stories of drinking sprees and sexual exploits. His faithful house boy, Yum, stayed with him looking after him as best he could, even when he was on the whitelady – methylated spirits. He also developed a market in stuffed crocodiles, becoming quite a skilled taxidermist.

Perhaps Bob’s life was a journey that was involved more in travelling than in reaching any destination. If he had been a botanist he would have spent his life in searching for the famed orchid – the Sepik Blue – but Bob was involved in the art of living, at least from his point of view, and the Sepik Blue had little interest for him. He was more concerned with stories about the blue throbber, the term he used to describe his genitalia, and even these, one suspects, were more in the imagination than in actual fact. He did work out an involved methodology that he claimed protected one from venereal disease! And yet stories about Bob are epic, to say the least, as an example, here are a few:

Early in his time in Angoram he took Douglas Newton, then the chief curator, and later the director of the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, on an artefact buying expedition upriver on his houseboat. The sleeping arrangements were thus: Bob was on the bunk and Doug was to sleep on a mat on the floor besside the bunk. After a few drinks and a meal they each retired to their respective sleeping areas. Later in the evening Doug awoke with the sense that some warm liquid  was flowing on his face. In the moonlight which was illuminating the inside of the houseboat Doug noticed that Bob was peeing on him – apparently Bob had forgotten that Doug was on the floor beside him, and he was following his usual custom of relieving himself! Doug it appeared took it all in his stride and boasted that he was probably the first official of the Museum of Primitive Art to be pissed on in the moonlight!

Peter Johnson and I were sitting in my house in Angoram in the late 1960s and Yum, Masta Bob’s boy, knocked on the door with a note from Bob. Johnson on the first superficial reading of the note said: “My God, Bob wants to shoot himself.” We then both looked at the note again, and what he really wrote was: “I’m desperate send me a reviver.” Not a revolver as was originally thought! He wanted a can of beer to get him over a hard night! I did send him a couple of cans.

On another occasion a note was sent to Bob requesting something or other – Bob’s answer was: “I can’t help you now, I’m on location !” This brings up another remarkable story about Bob. To quote what Sandra King, the former Manageress of the Angoram Hotel, wrote: “What about Bob and his star turn in the French movie, La Vallee ?? Surely, one of his highlights, and so he reamains captured in time!” I completely agree!


Sandra also mentions another account about Bob: “and… how he sat outside the hotel with his stuffed crocodiles, and an odd one or two lives ones. They sat ever so still with their little mouths open… until you went to pick one up…Old Rogue!

One supposes that in the final count Bob’s end of life was as he would have liked it, in the bar of the Madang Club with a glass in his hand. He lasted in Madang until the early 1980s!

Earlier there were some do-gooders in Angoram who wanted to get Bob moved to Australia in the interests of his health! Fortunately, some more sensible minds prevailed, and they managed to arrange to get Bob, the holder of the Africia Star, a man with an excellent war record in the Middle East, Papua and New Guinea, an old age/army pension, and accommodation in Madang. So, he could end his days in the land he loved and remain a man of significance!

Bob, once described me in Angoram as a silent heeler! I won’t bother here to explain what he exactly meant by this, but I’ll only say, here and now, that Bob was a great Territorian and a good friend.

I believe the RSL in Madang gave him a worthy send off!





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