Career with a future, career with a challenge: Chris Warrillow

So read the heading on one of the pages of a booklet for school-leavers circulated when I was completing my “Intermediate” (Year 4), the year after I had arrived in Melbourne as a Pommie migrant. It was 1956 and I was fifteen. My curiosity was aroused.

Searching a couple of libraries I found Colin Simpson’s books Adam with Arrows and Adam in Plumes. I was hooked!

By the time I had completed my Leaving Certificate in 1957 I knew more about New Guinea than most of my cohorts. I also had the minimum education required for the position of Cadet Patrol Officer (CPO). However, the minimum age requirement was 18! Family circumstances dictated that I leave school and find work!

I joined the Victorian Railways as a Junior Clerk and enrolled in night school to study a couple of Matriculation subjects purely to enhance my chances with the Department of Territories. By the end of 1958 my application for the February 1959 intake was in Canberra, with my argument that I would be 18 by the time the new recruits were actually posted to outstations (in April). It was refused on the grounds that I was too young to apply.

I reapplied and was accepted for the second 1959 intake. On 24 August I joined twenty-four newly recruited CPOs at ASOPA, Mosman (Sydney). There we spent five weeks attending the Orientation Course before going to TPNG. The flight was in a QANTAS Super Constellation, via Brisbane and Townsville, thence to Moresby arriving just before 6 am. We drank the plane dry well before any of the three landings!

By late October we had completed the three-week Introduction Course at Konedobu and were ready for our postings. I was devastated to learn that I had been given Central District and not one of the Highland’s Districts for which I had applied. So it was that I arrived in Kairuku, Yule Island, just sixty miles up the coast north-west of Port Moresby. I had travelled in a canvas “bucket seat” at the rear of a Patair-operated Auster.

A couple of weekends after my arrival it was the turn of one of the married couples to invite the single boys to their place for dinner one Saturday evening. ADO Ken Brown and his wife Rosemary; Co-operatives Officer Eric Pyne and his wife Joan; and Area Education Officer Bob Brownlie and his wife Gretchen apparently took monthly turns to give the bachelors a good wholesome dinner. It was the Pyne’s turn.

I shared a house with the Sub-District “European” Clerk, Pat Howard. The other single guy was Patrol Officer Pat Dwyer. These two advised me that my usual daily garb of starched white shorts, white shirt and long socks would have to be replaced with something more formal by way of long strides. I only had one pair with me having left most of my warm-weather clothing in wintery Melbourne.

Thus it was that I duly arrived at mine hosts’ place attired in my bright Gloweave nylon shirt; purple jeans and blue suede shoes!

It was  much later that I heard rumours that Pat Dwyer had, after that dinner, confided to our hosts and Pat Howard, (and later “warned” Ken Brown and no doubt the rest of the small expatriate population), that the new pommie Cadet was rather wet behind the ears; an Elvis Presley fan and definitely “Won’t last”.

I think it was local business entrepreneur Ron Slaughter, or his wife Maureen, who dubbed me Wiz Corrollow, Kairuku’s new rock star!

When I turned 60 in 2001 my contract with the PNG Government was not renewed. I finally left the Country in August 2005 and returned to live in Melbourne. Apparently Una Voce’s Darwin correspondent, Jim Toner, got wind of my departure from PNG. He mentioned it to Pat Dwyer in Perth during one of their telephone conversations.
I am reliably informed that good friend Pat Dwyer who, so long ago, helped ease the green pommie’s assimilation into Territory life, dryly responded with:Not surprised: I said he’d never last”!                                                                          ▪


Leave a Reply