West End ia namo by Chips Mackellar
Further to my story in the June 2019 issue of Una Voce—’The Best Beer Ever Tasted’, here is another ‘beer’ story concerning members of the Star Mountains Patrol, Dave Jacobs and Jack Baker
NOT LONG AFTER the Star Mountains Patrol had ended in 1954, both Dave Jacobs and Jack Baker happened to be on leave at the same time but in different parts of Australia. Dave was staying with his parents in South Australia, and Jack was driving around Victoria.
On a sudden whim, Jack decided to visit Dave. In those days there was no internet, therefore no email, no Facebook, no Instagram and none of the other kinds of modern social media methods now available, and the only way to message someone urgently was by telephone or telegram. Jack knew Dave’s address, but didn’t know his phone number, so Jack decided to announce his arrival by telegram.
Now, in those days in PNG, in remote areas of Papua it often happened that the sole medium of communication with Papuans was Motu, the long-established lingua franca of Papua, and all kiaps who served in these areas were fluent in this language.
Motu was also a useful language among kiaps on leave in Australia, for example, if they were in a crowded bar discussing which girls to chat up. So, to prevent the girls overhearing such ribald conversation, the kiaps could discuss it all between themselves in Motu.
Also, in Australia, Motu was an instant form of recognition between kiaps so when sending his telegram to Dave, Jack sent it in Motu. It read: Lau mai eta lau diba lasi West End ia namo.
(Translation): I am coming. Arrival date not certain. West End is OK. and it was signed simply Jack.
At that time Dave happened to be away from home for a few days, and in his absence the telegram was received by his father. Because the content of the Motu telegram was clear to Dave, he would have immediately known it had come from Jack Baker visiting alone. But the only words of the telegram his father could understand was ‘West End’, the name of a very popular brand of South Australian beer.
There were no mobile phones in those days, so Dave was temporarily incommunicado and could not be contacted concerning the mention of ‘West End’. Thinking that Dave was away organising a kiap reunion or some other kind of get-together, and that the telegram had something to do with this, Dave’s father did not want to be caught unprepared, so he ordered the delivery of twelve cartons of West End.
A few days later Dave returned home and, by coincidence, he and Jack and the twelve cartons of West End all arrived at the same time. Since nothing between them had been pre-planned, Dave and Jack suddenly found themselves confronted by the onerous task of disposing of the twelve cartons of beer. Needless to say, it took the remainder of Jack’s visit to South Australia for them to work their way through it.
Thereafter, Jack told me, on the rare occasions when he and Dave happened to have a drink together, they would remember their days in Papua with the unforgettable Motu toast of: West End ia namo.