Book Reviews: March 2012
It strikes me by Peter Ryan
Now in Remission: A Surgical Life by Ken Clezy
Pacific aircraft wrecks by Charles Darby
Medicine beyond Kokoda by Dr Clive Auricht, OAM
Snapshots On A Journey: Home At Last by Ian F.M. Saint-Ives
It strikes me: Collected essays 1994-2010, by Peter Ryan
ISBN 9780980677843, 314pp. $44.95. Published by and available from Quadrant Books, 2/5 Rosebery Place, Balmain NSW 2041.
The December issue of Una Voce provided a short description of Ryan’s book of 55 selected essays from Quadrant, adding, “look for a review in our March issue, but in the meantime add it to your Christmas list!” Well, those who ordered a copy on the strength of that advice wouldn’t have been disappointed. Ryan, of course, now 88 but still going strong, is an old New Guinea hand with wide interests: he was general editor of the Encyclopaedia of PNG, wrote the enduring World War 11 memoir Fear Drive My Feet about his work behind enemy lines in PNG (which had gained him the Military Medal), was for 26 years director of Melbourne University Press, and has been writing essays (more than 150 of them) for Quadrant for the past 18 years. Despite that and his great many other interests, he is a PNGAA supporter, and contributor to Una Voce.
The good news for Una Voce readers is that Ryan’s recollections of his wartime experiences in PNG get a frequent airing in this collection, turning up unexpectedly as he makes a point about this or that, then finds that something or other that happened to him in PNG is an apt illustration. In a piece about the Australian flag, for example, he recalls some of the events of 1942 and 1943, a large part of which he spent “in the mountains behind the great Japanese military base at Lae, my chief companions being a squad of black New Guinea policemen … and pitifully ill-equipped and ill-supplied, and sometimes hungry. But what we wanted most was a flag … Frequently on the run we would occupy some huddle of rough huts from one insecure night to the next. But we knew that a flag flying above our squalid little camp would convert us from a fugitive rabble into a disciplined force which—however tiny—would have to be reckoned with. After many months our flag arrived. It was not provided by the army. My mother had it made in Melbourne, and by amazing stratagems too tedious to relate here, she managed to get it included in a cargo drop to us from Port Moresby. It wasn’t always safe to have it flying, and sometimes we hoisted it well concealed from Japanese reconnaissance aircraft beneath overhanging foliage. But whenever possible it would be raised at dawn, and saluted by the police properly drawn up on parade. It was lowered with similar ceremony at sunset.”
In his essay in the book on “Humanity’s Crimes”, Ryan writes, “I can call to mind only one war crimes trial which was, in the end, resolved with the purgative elegance of a Greek tragedy. General Adachi was the brave and resolute Second World War commander of the Japanese XVIII Army in New Guinea. He surrendered to the Australians at Wewak in 1945, and was tried for war crimes. There was no doubt that atrocities had occurred, but whether Adachi had ordered them, or whether he himself was a cruel man, I do not know. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1947, in the jail compound in Rabaul, he wrote a letter which even today can move to tears. It was a reaffirmation of a soldier’s duty and honour, and an eloquent condemnation of the futility of war. Then he killed himself.”
In his essay on capital punishment, Ryan writes, “In 1942, at the almost grotesquely geriatric age of eighteen, I was appointed under martial law to be a magistrate of a New Guinea court with power to impose sentence of death. Punishment might not be carried into execution without the personal confirmation in writing of the Commander-in-chief, General Blamey. I remain grateful that no case before me ever went so far as to require the least attention by the General, but the very existence of such a power was enough to concentrate a young man’s mind wonderfully on reflective hot nights in the bush.”
But enough. While these examples, and many more, stress Ryan’s long interest in PNG, the subjects of his 55 essays vary very widely. They embrace education, Aborigines, Aussie politicians, Chinese and Greek restaurants, the Pope’s visit, the Carrier Pigeon Service of the Australian Corp of Signals, the rape and murder in Sydney of Anita Cobby, his pleasure in the company of Bonny the mare, and rainbows (“rainbows, viewed in the right spirit, make us feel small. And that’s good for us.”)
Now in Remission: A Surgical Life by Ken Clezy
ISBN 9781743050149 Paperback 288 pages First published 2011 Wakefield Press South Australia www.wakefieldpress.com.au
In the Foreword to Ken Clezy’s autobiography, Now In Remission: A surgeon’s life, Allan Scott describes Clezy as “a remarkable surgeon, a truly remarkable Australian”. A remarkable surgeon for Clezy would perform a range of surgical procedures in which most surgeons would rarely achieve skill in half and a remarkable Australian for, as a son of the soil, he carried across the world and back the skills he gained as a doctor to treat those in greater need than in Australia, together with his steadfast Christian faith, until he finally retired back to Adelaide, aged almost eighty.
Clezy worked in PNG from early 1961 until 1980, and again from 1984 to 1988. The early chapters of his story cover the usual pattern of most Australian autobiographies: his family’s origins and establishment in Australia. His education and training as a surgeon. All is told with the dry laconic humour which is his hallmark as a storyteller and read like another of the famous Doctor in the House series of the 1950s.
As a senior medical student, Ken Clezy was sent to Rabaul and then to Sohano where, watching the doctor there struggling with the more complicated cases, convinced him that his future career would be in surgery. When he returned to PNG he moved from Rabaul to Madang to Mt Hagen to Port Moresby as regional surgeon, and from these centres he visited many district hospitals as a visiting surgeon. In addition to the extraordinary range of surgical tasks, Clezy devised new treatments to minimise unnecessary surgery of patients, and developed new techniques which he sent to world authorities for comment only to read of these “discoveries” in their own books years later! Despite the depth of these medical stories which may fly over the heads of some readers, the context, the stories and the humour with which he surrounds them will keep the attention of even the non-medical readers.
Clezy went on to become the first Professor of Surgery and later Dean of the medical faculty at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
After retirement a second time he and his wife Gwen “set sail” yet again, this time for North Yemen. Here he escaped certain death by going home to breakfast before starting his day’\’s work while his colleagues were martyred by a fanatical Islamist not a stone’s throw away from his house.
Ken Clezy is one of those rare people who has left a legacy behind him. His pragmatic approach to everything he does permeates his story, spiced with very frank and humorous incidents, if not character assassinations, of many of the colourful characters which appeared in abundance in the Territory. He does not spare himself in his frank descriptions. Neither does he suffer fools or miscreants easily. His story also includes a number of barbs hurled at the Administration to which those who have served there will relate. Others will sympathise with the manner of his localisation post-Independence which resulted in the country losing its most competent and experienced surgeon, and to the stories of raskols, though few will have experienced the level of physical attack, rape and pillage which the Clezys experienced … and yet they stayed on.
His skills were not confined to surgery and preaching alone. He had a broad musical knowledge and played the organ and piano wherever he went. He has been a stamp collector since his youth, though I doubt the projected re-sale of his PNG acquisitions became his hoped-for superannuation.
The last section of the book is concerned with his life in North Yemen where he again took up his scalpel for several years until once again he was forced out by administrative policy and this time by local religious fanatics. And as in PNG returned again. This part of the story is similar in many ways to that of his time in PNG but will be of less interest to old Territorians. The Clezys (for this story is also very much one of his wife Gwen) finally retired “home” to Adelaide, but even there his house was ransacked!
Dr Ken Clezy has been recognised for his work by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and with awards from both the Australian and PNG governments.
Dr Anthony Radford
Pacific aircraft wrecks by Charles Darby
ISBN 0 85880 035 7 Hardcover 220 pages Published by Kookaburra Technical Publications Pty Ltd 1979 Photos, map, wreck list Cost: $20 plus $5 postage within Australia
Please note: $2.50 per volume sold will be made to the PNGAA. Cash, cheque or Electronic transfer to: Mrs J Pentland Westpac BSB 733-126 Account: 676741
Available from Mrs J Pentland, 6 Colvin Court, Glen Waverley VIC 3150 or E: email@example.com
Medicine beyond Kokoda by Dr Clive Auricht, OAM
222pp First published 2011 approx 100 colour photos incl; Cost $25 plus $5 postage within Australia; Available from Dr Clive Auricht E: firstname.lastname@example.org or 8 Wigley Drive, McLaren Vale SA 5171 Ph: 08 8323 8316
Clive Auricht has written a lively account of his pioneering experiences in Papua New Guinea. His anecdotes recall the day-to-day happenings that were the personal and family experience of all doctors.
Clive, a son of the cloth, regularly heard of the needs of the people of the Pacific and set his mind early in his life to work as a doctor in PNG. Clive and Ern Urban went to Madang as fourth-year Adelaide medical students in 1956 and gained confidence assessing the common medical problems. In 1957, he was appointed as a salaried Cadet Medical Officer obligated to work in the PNG for 5 years. The next year end vacation Clive helped Dr Vincent Zigas and Dr Carleton with their kuru village studies. He then deferred his internship in 1959 to establish kinship records for genetics professor John Bennett to try to define a genetic origin for kuru.
Clive describes how he and his wife contracted pneumonia and had a dramatic retrieval by Carl Gannon from a jungle village on bush stretchers. His epidemiological records were handed over to Dr Bronte Gabb and continued later by Dr Michael Alpers, both from Adelaide. The genetic theory vanished when chimpanzees injected with kuru cerebral tissue developed a kuru like condition.
After completing his internship Clive became the DMO for the Northern District at Saiho hospital supported by an EMA but without trained nurses. He describes the memorable medical emergencies he faced at Saiho and driving his new Landrover over tracks cut by streams from the Owen Stanleys and Mt Lamington.
He describes how a poliomyelitis epidemic started in Gona in October and quickly spread to villages in other areas. At that time Sabin was neither approved for use nor available in Australia but in March 1962 PHD obtained a limited quantity of Sabin vaccine from USA to stem a small polio epidemic at Maprik. Clive organised government and mission staff and the students at the infant and maternal welfare school to distribute the vaccine and successfully aborted this poliomyelitis epidemic.
He has complemented his interesting and readable autobiography of his five years in PNG with 154 photographs illustrating places and events in Adelaide, Madang, Okapa and the Northern district. He regretted leaving PNG for family health reasons but the experience and organising skills he developed in PNG gained him an OAM in South Australia. That story is about to be told. Dr Roy Scragg
Snapshots On A Journey: Home At Last, an autobiography by Ian F.M. Saint-Ives
ISBN 978-1-4567 7885-9 Print Published 2011 by Author House, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana, 47403. Available from bookdepository.co.uk
Dr Ian Saint-Yves has written the story of his wanderings and his interesting activities in PNG, Solomons, Arabia and Scotland. The quality and quantity of his recall of his dealings with friend and foe indicates a personal diary.
Ian was born in India in 1936 to a Glaswegian maiden married to a British marine engineer of French extraction who wandered the Indian Ocean and transmitted the wanderer gene to Ian. After schooling in Scotland and Western Australia he studied medicine in Glascow. With the clear objective of working overseas, he studied Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the Liverpool School under Professor Sir Brian Maegraith, a celebrated Australian.
He applied to Territories to work in PNG in 1962 and had his tropical initiation in Lae as a GP obstetrician in 1964. An epiphany occurred when Ian went to the Sepik as DMO in 1965 and discovered the importance of community medicine. Over this same period PHD recognised his innate ability. In 1967, he joined the Malaria service to provide administrative support to Dr Jan Saave and eventually became the head of that team. His five PNG years only cover a small portion of his story but his experiences there set the path he took through to his retirement. The PNG story has errors of fact such as: the “plague” he mentions in West Irian was cholera; Maori Kiki was from Kerema not Menyamya.
After Ian left PNG he continued to apply his qualifications and experience to improve the quality of life of those he served. He completed his training as a malariologist over 4 years with Australian army then spent three years in the Solomons for WHO. There he wrote his MD thesis on the impact of malaria eradication on population dynamics: another doctorate to add from the 20 generated by the epidemiological culture which was the heart of the PNG medical profession in the pre-independence years.
In 1976, Ian was home in Scotland as a GP for eight years but the tropics lured him back as an epidemiologist in the Northern Territory for four years. This was followed by two years in Arabia, then four years back in Scotland. He returned to Arabia for two years then found a restful haven on the Isle of Arran in 1996.
Ian’s story brings to my mind the wisdom of another Scot:
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!”
Dr Roy Scragg