Sepik Ironman

May 3, 2011 at 2:52 am (PNG, Wewak) (, , , , , , )

There is a lot of speculation in Wewak about the identity of the Australian swimmer who has been invited by the Lapun Team to represent them in the Sepik Ironman swim on the Queen’s Birthday weekend this year.

Reuters news reports that two prominent Wewak residents: Messrs. Johnson and Rose were interviewed, but they were playing their cards pretty close to the chest.

All that can be ascertained is that the swimmer is a man in peak physical condition. And it’s said that in his approach to water, he is inspired by Mao Zedong’s swim across the Yangtze River in 1966 and Adrian Bird’s swim across the Sepik River in 1969.

It is also known that he is now in intensive training at a university aquatic centre under the tutelage of a protege of the late Professor Frank Cotton.

Who is this elusive swimmer? Even the date of his expected arrival in Wewak is shrouded in mystery.

All that can be said is that the Lapun Team members in Wewak give the impression that they have some sort of secret weapon in the person of this swimmer.

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Hon William Eichhorn MBE died, in Angoram Hospital.

May 1, 2011 at 1:56 am (Angoram, Wewak) (, , , , , , , )

Bill Eichhorn

Bill at Korogopa, on the banks of the Keram River, 2009

Email from Peter Johnson CBE:

“Whilst I was in Australia 15-28 April our former MHA, MP and Provincial Government Speaker, Hon William Eichhorn, MBE died in Angoram Hospital.   There was a service in Wewak and Bill was then taken to Korogopa for burial amongst his ancestors.   There will be many with memories of  Bill, and stories to tell. Please pass on to those of your
acquaintances to whom this sad news may be of interest.   Age?  Dunno, but I was
26 on arrival at Angoram in 1964, Bill had already broken with Fred and left his
position as teacher.   I guess he was about 75.   I was only told in passing

A tribute to Bill will be published later.

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Art Dealer in the Last Unknown Ron Perry and New Guinea Art by Carolyn Leigh and Ron Perry

March 15, 2011 at 4:06 am (Papua New Guinea) (, , )

Only US $35 + US $15 postage to Australia (With the value of the Aussie $ a very good deal!)

Art Dealer in the Last Unknown

Art Dealer in the Last Unknown is a narrative and visual experience down memory lane for those who know Ron Perry, New Guinea and many of the people mentioned in the book.  To see the mighty Sepik River again and to be introduced into the rich cultural heritage of the region and how Ron was able to access it and collect amazing examples of Sepik art is a telling tale of enterprise and adventure. Names of legendary characters pop up throughout the account: Peter and Meg England, Bob Mackie, Chu Leong, Freddie Eichhorn, Neils and Mary Madsen, Jim McKinnon, Fr John O’Toole, Margaret Mead, Peter Johnson, John Pasquarelli, Ludwig Somare, Michael Somare, Don Bosgard (mistakenly spelt ‘Bosquard’), Ron and Ella Lucas, Johnny Young, Daniel Guren and many others. All these names conjure up in my mind numerous untold stories. To be introduced to Ron’s former wife, Barbara, again reminds me of what she once said to me at their house in Abbottsford, Sydney, the morning after Ron and I had been on a lively drinking day and evening session: “David, if Ron ever develops cirrhosis of the liver, it’s you I’m going to sue.”  I didn’t know the story about Bob Mackie unknowingly peeing on ‘the Pork Pie King of England’, who incidentally was , if I recall correctly, Norm Ferris, but I always understood it was Doug Newton, but perhaps it was both of them. The profusion of place names like Angoram, Amboin, Dreikikir, Maprik, Wewak.Yangoru and Tobacco Road cannot fail to captivate the local and expat reader. 

And for those who are entering the unknown for the first time, a thrilling and informative experience awaits them. 

The photos in the book are excellent and numerous. 

This is a piece of work that is informed by the variety of Ron Perry’s experiences and enriched with the artistry and presentation of Carolyn Leigh. 

It is highly recommended to all old New Guinea hands and to those of a curious, artistic and adventurous turn of mind.

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Sorcery in PNG

March 7, 2011 at 4:00 am (Papua New Guinea, Wewak) (, , , , , , , , )

"Post-Courier" 4 March 2011

Peter Johnson sent me this cutting from the Post-Courier, and the question of sorcery and supposed witchcraft in PNG reminded me of something Fr John O’Toole told me about many years ago in Dreikikir. One of his parishioners from his mission station at Dagua just outside of Wewak, where he was stationed in the early 1950s, complained of intense pain in the general area of his lower stomach and liver, saying only that “sanguma man kisim mi”. Most white men at the time would have taken this with a grain of salt and put it in the same category as the Australian Aborigines talking about pointing the bone. John was sufficiently concerned to take his parishioner to Wewak to consult Dr John McInernery, the then District Medical Officer. Dr John gave the patient a physical examination and could find nothing obviously wrong, and he was inclined to think he was dealing with a malingerer, but he just wondered, and he was not a man who liked to be left with any lingering doubts about any final diagnosis he might make, so he ordered an x-ray. And just as well he did as the x-ray revealed a foreign object very close to vital organs that would have eventually caused death if not removed.

The interesting thing was that there were no surface signs of how this object had got into the man. The skin was unbroken and intact. The foreign object was a piece of wire which Dr John removed.

In this incident sorcery was used but not in a supernatural sense. The sorcerers had ordered that sanguma be employed to end this man’s life.

Fr F. Mihalic explains this: “sanguma, (sang-guma) (Mel) secret murder committed by orders from sorcerers. The victim is waylaid, short poisoned thorns are inserted into the base of his tongue, causing swelling and loss of speech. Then other thorns (usually from the wild sago plant) are pushed into vital organs, where they cause infection and eventual death.”

The Jacaranda Dictionary and Grammar of Melanesian Pidgin

The actual method employed may not be exactly as described by Fr Mihalic, in the case under discussion, but anyone who has lived in the Sepik would have some awareness of the existence of sanguma.

There are many factors associated with magic, black and otherwise, which are both physical and psychological, and even criminal, to say nothing about any spiritual dimension, if it exists or not. The question of what people actually believe is also important.

I’ll leave the last word with the Bard, in what I hope is a respectful tone, and of course there is some sanction of magic, if indeed it be, of the good variety:

“O, she’s warm!
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.”
William Shakespeare (The Winter’s Tale)

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Changing attitudes to social mores

February 8, 2011 at 3:44 am (Papua New Guinea, PNG) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m reminded of something that happened in Maprik in the East Sepik District in 1970.

David Hay, the Administrator of PNG, and his wife, Alison, were on a visit to outstations and sub-district administrative centres in the Territory prior to them leaving.

On arriving in Maprik they were to stay with the Assistant District Commissioner (ADC). On learning that the ADC was living with a woman without the benefit of nuptials, Alison refused to stay with them, and David Hay and his wife were housed elsewhere.

Let us project ourselves to present-day Australia. Julia Gillard, our PM, is living with a man without the benefit of nuptials, and apparently it’s not considered good form to even comment, poor Alison!

I do really think Julia would be doing herself and the Australian community a favour if she regulated her association with ‘the first bloke’, Tim Mathieson. You can’t tell me that her travelling overseas with Tim creates a good impression in conservative countries in Asia, Africa and South America to say nothing of Australasia and the Pacific Islands, where there are many ‘Alisons’ still alive.

So Julia, get your act together and make an honest man of Tim, if not for yourself at least for your country! 

Queen Victoria, it is said, would shut her eyes and think of England when making love to Albert. I’m certainly not asking Julia to emulate her in this, but only to share Queen Victoria’s abounding love of country.

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Is there anyone out there who remembers or knows of Stuart Brown?

February 7, 2011 at 12:26 am (Angoram, Papua New Guinea, Wewak) (, , , , , )

Rob Parer wrote:

February 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Hi David,

I wonder if anyone remembers Stuart (Stuey) Brown ( Ghekko ) who was croc shooting/recruiting in the late 50s and told me so many wonderful stories of Angoram. In 1960 he was under the “Dog Act ” for the third time and the law was, after three times the person had to be deported.

My Dad ( Bob ) was in Wewak going south for three months and the OIC Police in Wewak told Dad about Stuey and Dad ,said, “send him up to Aitape as no grog there.”

So when I met the Gibbs’ Norseman weekly flight, Stuart walked up to me with a letter from Dad saying: “Herewith one Stuart Brown he is an alcoholic. Give him a room in our home at St Anna Plantation, and find something for him to do and make sure that he does not touch grog for if he does, he must be deported”

I was only 23 and here was a guy who I found out later had an amazing war record – an Officer who had been Mentioned in Dispatches twice and had escaped from the Germans twice! So, as he was good with a compass, he did the boundaries of a new Cocoa Plantation which we were going to hack out of the jungle across Raihu River from the Hansenite Colony (Now called Raihu Hospital).

After the war, he went to India and was in charge of a province. When he was in Aitape with us there was also a liklik Doctor Nevell there who had spent many years in India, so you can imagine the interesting stories they had to tell. The wonderful Nevell family went on to be based in Angoram.

Stuart stayed with us for two years and had to go to Australia, as he was diagnosed with TB. He was at the RSL Hospital at Pullenvale, Brisbane. I’m not sure when he passed away, or where he is buried. I would like to know.

I found him to be one of the finest men I have ever come across. And how privileged I was as a young man to have been influenced by a person with an enormous sense of fair play and honesty.

I salute the memory of a gentleman of the highest order.

Rob Parer

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Dieter Erich Paul Idzikowsky 23 February, 1938 – 22 January, 2011

January 29, 2011 at 8:17 am (expatriates, PNG, Wewak) (, , , , , , , )

Dieter with Peter Johnson, Sepik Ironman Competition, 07/06/2009

Dieter with Chris Rose, Wewak Yacht Club, 07/06/2009

I was shocked to receive an email from Chris Rose informing me that Dieter had died on 22/01/2011:

“Dieter passed away Saturday, 5pm teeing off number 9, it was very quick and painless. We took him to the hospital and they tried resuscitation but to no avail. As you know, he was a good mate to lots of people here and will be sorely missed.”

A Requiem Mass was said for him at Christ the King Cathedral, Wewak.

 Peter Johnson CBE gave the eulogy:


To many of you he was just “Dieter” perhaps most did not know his surname, but some loved, most were fond of, and all respected him and acknowledged his helpful ways and engineering skills… we are the richer for having known him; the poorer for his passing. 

Dieter was my very good friend for over thirty years.   His sudden and totally unexpected death has been devastating. 

None of us know the time or place when and from where we shall be called to meet our maker.   It is certain that last Saturday Dieter had no intimation that his time was running out.   He died mercifully quickly and painlessly after collapsing whilst playing on the Wewak golf course… as his friend Steve Taylor said, “He was where he liked to be, and doing what he liked best to do!”

Dieter Erich Paul Idzikowsky was born on 23 February, 1938 at Grunberg-Schlesien, near Dessau, East Germany shortly before the outbreak of WWII.   After leaving school he served an apprenticeship  as a toolmaker and motor mechanic with  a company associated with the famous Mercedes motor company.   He then served for a brief period in the army. 

Life was not easy for the Idzikowsky family in Russian occupied East Germany, and in 1956 Dieter, moved to West Germany where he worked as a motor mechanic for AG Pollux.

In 1963 Dieter, together with his younger brothers, Klaus and Peter emigrated to find a new and more rewarding life in Australia.   Peter later moved to South Africa where he married, prospered, and died several years ago… it was a disappointment to both Dieter and Klaus that the three brothers did not meet again. 

Dieter worked mainly in Tasmania and Western Australia.   It was in Perth, Western Australia that he met with, the Rosper family who informally adopted him.   Mr.  Rosper passed away some time ago at an elderly age.   Mr. Rosper and his son Werner visited Dieter in Wewak some years ago… Werner remained a very close friend of Dieter’s and will no doubt be grieving as we do today. 

In 1970 Dieter came to Papua New Guinea to help his brother Klaus, who had established Pedford Constructions Limited, a civil engineering company engaged in road building and maintenance in the Lumi/Nuku area of the Sepik District.

Following the sale of Pedford Construction and departure of Klaus from PNG, Dieter worked firstly for the Sepik Coffee Producers Association, managing the large workshop at Maprik, then for Sepik Coffee/Sepik Construction in Wewak. 

It was Dieter Idzikowsky’s great desire to become a Papua New Guinea citizen, to this end he held a glowing reference and recommendation from Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare (a friend and golfing partner!).   Unfortunately the timing was wrong and no citizenship committee meetings took place for some years.   Dieter decided most reluctantly that he must leave New Guinea to meet the residency requirements for Australian citizenship.   Awaiting naturalisation, he worked in Cairns  for English Engineering Limited between 2004 and 2006 as their tradesman training manager – Mr. English has constantly tried to lure Dieter back to his job in Cairns! 

Dieter married his bride and long-time partner,  Pricilla,  in Cairns in 2003.

Immediately following his naturalisation as an Australian citizen, Dieter volunteered for work as manager of the Bishop of Wewak’s mechanical workshop which he has brought from chaos to good order. 

Dieter in his day was a fine sportsman, playing top grade soccer with Perth United and boxing to Commonwealth Games standard.   He showed his sporting endurance by twice appearing  at the Sepik Ironman Challenge as a swimmer and its oldest competitor. 

He took part in Wewak social and sporting events from darts at the Yacht Club to weekly golfing competitions and Hash House Harrier runs and private chess matches… he usually won the darts and chess games! 

Dieter not only took part in events, but also took major responsibility for organising and promoting them.   He was a founder member and life member of the golf and yacht clubs, vice-president of the former and commodore of the latter for eleven years… he was deeply distressed at the alien and deceitful manner in which this position was usurped – the long term result of which is only too obvious today!

Dieter Idzikowsky was a genuinely honourable man who spoke his mind, and spoke the truth.   (He also spoke four languages!)   He disliked falsehood and sophistry.   To declare a false golf score or engage in shonky business deals would be complete anathema to him.   He deplored such traits in others.   He was a loyal friend to many, and did not forget them just because their paths diverged, as condolences received from many overseas countries testify. 

The Christian Church preaches that “we bring nothing into this world, and it is certain that we shall take nothing out.”   Whilst this is undoubtedly true, it is also true that we leave something;  reputation, example and something in the hearts of those we leave behind.

Dieter was a humble, decent, hard-working and life-loving man, a good friend to many; a wonderful friend to me for which I give thanks and offer sincere condolences to his young widow, Priscilla, to all his relatives and friends and to the people of the East & West Sepik Provinces whose lives he touched in some greater or lesser way! 

(Dieter Erich Paul Idzikowsky 23 February, 1938 – 22 January, 2011)

Peter Johnson


Farewell Dieter, you deserve the best the afterlife can offer.

 David Wall

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The waters of the Sepik River are an elixir of political life!

January 7, 2011 at 1:06 am (Angoram, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea) (, , , , , , )

It wasn’t Sogeri Secondary School that launched the political life of Sir Michael Somare or Cambridge University, Michael Johnson’s political endeavours, nor was it the London School of Economics, that propelled Ben Sana Wyatt into State politics but the waters of the Sepik River.

Sir Michael Somare, PM of PNG and his parents Ludwig Somare Sana and Painari all drank deeply of the Sepik River waters.

Michael Johnson, former member of the Federal Electorate of Ryan in Queensland and the son of Peter and Julie Johnson who brought Michael up on the banks of the Sepik River all drank of the waters.

 Ben Sana Wyatt, MLA, State member of Victoria Park in Western Australia whose parents, Cedric and Janine Wyatt, lived for years on and near the Sepik River are all familiar with the waters of the Sepik.

 All the parents of these political figures consumed vast quantities of Sepik River water and it is this that gave their offspring the fortitude to pursue their political lives.

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A few words at JB’s 70th birthday party

December 7, 2010 at 6:41 am (Papua New Guinea, Parousia, Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk, theology) (, , , , , , , , )

70th Birthday Party of John Bowers held at Irene Graham’s house in Gordon on 7/5/10                        

John a true Victorian, in a sense a 19th Century man, he deals mainly with the respectable institutions in society: the Army, the Law and the Church

John Bowers, an Englishman abroad; I’m not in any sense comparing him with Guy Burges. 

It must be well over forty years since I first met John on the banks of the Sepik River at Angoram. From the start I could see that he was a man on a mission and a quest. There was no mistaking him for anything else but an Englishman. Another English friend of mine was once asked, was he English? To which he replied, ‘are there any other people?’ John, I’m sure, would not be so abrupt. But yes, he was in a sense a latter day Empire representative, if indeed the colonial outpost was Australian rather than English but we were all British in those days! 

It did not take me long to realize that John was a Sandhurst man and ex-British Army with intense spiritual interests with a dedication to the Authorized Version and the Book of Common Prayer. In Angoram he was a Patrol Officer and political educator. On my blog I describe JB as, An Englishman of many talents, John Bowers

John Bowers, British Army, Sandhurst Man, Patrol Officer, Teilhardian, He subsequently put aside The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin for McCann’s God or gorilla, Special Branch Officer, Judge’s Associate,  New-Age Fighter, Anglican Prayer Book Man, Premillennialist and Herbalife Consumer, A Most Extraordinary Man!

The fictional character, Ernest Spender, in Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk, shows a remarkable resemblance to JB.

His world-wide quest has taken him to many places, meeting many people: He shared a whisky with Field Marshal Alexander’s chaplain, a committee with Arianna Stassinpoulos, author of The Female Woman, alerted Brother George, a biblically inspired Cannon Hill Baptist to the dangers of the New-Age after his experiences at Findhorn and his reading of David Spangler, Revelation:The Birth of a New Age. He instructed Cheryl, an aspirant of the Cannon Hill congregation on New Light on the New Age. His intense instruction on one occasion caused Brother George’s wife to ask him what Cheryl and he were doing in the caravan. In no uncertain terms he told her that they were working on the New-Age for her husband.  Perhaps his instruction was not intense enough as it was said that Cheryl converted to Islam later He was washed in the waters of the Jordon with full Baptist rites while in no way turning his back on his Anglican tradition. He has discussed The Secular City with Harvey Cox in the Holy Land and been left by Brother George with an appreciation of the Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37: 4) He has revealed to Dr Patricia Brennan his position on the ordination of women at an Anglican Synod in Sydney and excused it with reference to the Sandhurst motto: Serve to lead.

But he had to admit to Dr Brennan at lunch that he didn’t support the ordination of women.

In the hills of Adelaide a holy father in a monastery took exception to John’s reference to finding the Special Branch in a cupboard, and took him by the throat. There was nothing Neanderthal about the holy father or John!

  John a red-blooded male has chosen, like the Lord the single state while being always drawn to women he always respects them In spite of, at times, the gloom and doom of his theology, he has always preserved an essential Joie de vivre. Even if we are in the Tribulation There is faith hope and charity and the rapture of the Lord.  

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6: 12) 

If I may say, on a more serious note, I would like to thank John on mine and my wife, Deborah’s behalf for all that John has done for us and our two sons, Andrei and David Augustus. When we returned from PNG John was a pillar of strength and support for us. 

 Ladies and Gentlemen I give you John Bowers, Alias Sir Ernest Spender!

Whether it’s breaking up a riot in PNG or saving a plane of returning military families in Karachi or refusing to cross the Tiber and remaining true to his Reformation ideals we can say with St Paul you’ve Fought The Good Fight,( nearly) Finished The Race, Kept The Faith (2 Timothy 4:7)

Like St Paul you have been all things to all men and may I add women (1 Corinthians 9:10)

Happy Birthday, 70 years and still going strong!

Not old age not new age but just John Bowers, A man for all seasons.

Perhaps I might be forgiven for saying that there is something of the Rapture about this convivial gathering here tonight! And for this we owe a lot of thanks to Irene.

 Thank you and God bless you, John.

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Pasin bilong kain kain manmeri

November 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm (Papua New Guinea) (, , , )

The title of this piece is roughtly translated, there are many different people with distinct life styles and customs. Pasin bilong em, is a pidgin expression that conveys a remarkable degree of  tolerance and a rather nice quality, so often found among the Sepik River people, particularly Grass Country villagers. These people display an understanding of human behaviour that goes beyond the ordinary. Gutpela pasin or good manners and custom on the part of foreigners and expats are long remembered and cherished in the Melanesian of the Sepik, but nogut pasin, while known and not forgotten tends to be forgiven and does not form the basis for eternal grudges and antagonism. The great sense of indulgence for others by the Sepiks is good and bad for them. Good because it makes them such a likeable and charming people, but bad because it allows foreigners and some of their own politicans to literally get away with outrageous and spivvy practices.

In some ways the Grass Country people turn the Shakespearean expression on its head: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones”.

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