6. Bill Burford and weekends at Brown River

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

Everyone agreed that you had to get an outside interest but nobody told you how. Monte Phillips had started the Port Moresby Music Society which put on musical comedies, and Ruth Carter, the librarian at Ela Beach, ran “Thursday Evening Discussion Groups” which became the Port Moresby Historical Society (we will see some of these discussions in later issues) but, apart from these and Bill Burford’s effort, there was nothing.

It was Bill’s contribution to my sanity which I featured in my speech to the Old Boys Association when I went on leave in 1953. Ours was a Marist Brothers College at New Norcia Aboriginal Mission, and when I was demobbed in 1945 the brothers invited me, and my mate Norm Monk, back to the college for a week to recuperate. They gave us each a .22 with plenty of ammo and left us to ourselves. It was precisely what was needed.

And so was Bill Burford’s invitation to join his shooting party for the weekend when he found that my first circuit was delayed. He was the clerk at the Crown Law Office (CLO) and he insisted on one rule: I had to guarantee that I would not bring any grog. I went pillion on a motorbike because there was no road (the Brown River Bridge did not exist) and when we got to the camp I discovered the reason for the ‘no grog’ rule. The two Papuan clerks from CLO – one later became a bishop and the other vice-president of the Public Service Association – were part of the party of eight, not as servants, ‘beaters’ or guides, but as full and equal participants. And, since it was illegal for them to drink, none of us drank either.

I remember, with great affection, many other picnic-type excursions – picnics at Watta Plantation, Col and Margaret O’Loghlen’s famous Esky of beer and sandwiches in the Botanical Gardens at Lae or at Voco Point – but it was the fact that the Papuan clerks were part of those shooting weekends (in which none of us shot much, but we enjoyed the freedom of the jungle) which I remember most because it showed that, because of the experiences of the war, a feeling of equality existed which was sadly missing in later years. Thanks, Bill!


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