Vale March 2010

BLENKIN, John (13 December 2009) | DAVIS, Lesley Leone  (3 October 2009) | DUNBAR-REID, Don  (9 October 2009) | DURKAN, Edward (Ted)  (8 May 2009) | FIGGIS, Peter, MC  (20 November 2009) | HANIGAN, Peter  (11 March 2008) | JAMES, Clarence Roy (Clarrie  (8 May 2009) | JONES, Allan  (8 May 2009) | KENYON, Rev. Colleen ‘Dawn’ (2 November 2009) | LOCK, Christine (19 November 2009) | MAY, Rev. John, OBE  (24 January 2010) | McKENZIE, Sharyn Joy (neé Healy)  (4 February 2010) | MOCKETT, Neil McLaren  (8 October 2009) | MUSKENS, Henricus Johannes (Hank)  (28 January 2010) | PORTER, Bernard Richard  (22 September 2009) | VINES, ‘Mac’  (11 December 2009) | WAGUO (Wagua), John (22 August 2009)


John BLENKIN (13 December 2009, aged 84)

John was perhaps the youngest man to serve with the wartime coastwatcher organisation. Joining the navy at 17, he had two months at coder school before being sent to Guadalcanal. His new boss, Commander Hugh Mackenzie, wanted a couple of leading coders so he took one look at John, who looked 14, and sent him away. A few days later John was back again. John served on Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Treasury Island and New Britain, and later still on the north of New Guinea as a coxswain on a unit supply boat, supporting 36 Battalion operations. In 2005 he was chosen as a member of a group of veterans accompanying the Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery, on a pilgrimage to PNG and New Britain marking the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. Sydney Morning Herald, 21 January 2010


Lesley Leone DAVIS (3 October 2009, aged 78)

Lesley looked back on her years in PNG as some of the best in her life. In 1958, following the death of her husband, Alec Black, she arrived in Rabaul with her 18-month-old son Stuart. For a short time she stayed with her cousin, John Foldi, who was District Commissioner at the time. She then moved to Port Moresby where she worked for Steamships. There she met Leo Davis, a Patrol Officer. They shared a love of tennis (Leo captained the PNG tennis team in the 1963 South Pacific Games in Fiji) and they were married in 1960, moving to Boroko. In 1962 they moved to Rabaul, and in early 1965 their son Andrew was born. Sadly Leo died of lung cancer later that same year, shortly followed by Andrew who had caught Golden Staph while Leo was in hospital in Rabaul. Lesley moved back to Sydney in 1966. She later remarried, and had two daughters, Lisa and Leckie. Leckie was born with Downs Syndrome and her husband walked out leaving her and his two young children. She later moved to Canberra where she worked as a real estate agent and campaigned for improved opportunities for people with disabilities. One of the groups she worked with established Abbeyfield, the first group house in Canberra, where Leckie now lives. Lesley is survived by her three children, their partners and her four grandchildren. Stuart Black


Don DUNBAR-REID (9 October 2009, aged 73)

Don was born at Kabakaul (Kokopo) to Jack and Jean who later moved to Mavalu (Open Bay). Long after Japan entered the war Don, his parents, and brother Dick sailed to Rabaul. After many days of bombing Jean, Don and Dick evacuated on the Malaita to Australia through many anxious bombing attacks. When Jean and Dick returned to PNG, Don remained in Sydney to complete his schooling and later attend Barker College. He returned to PNG when he reached 17 and worked with Jack at Kabanga. In the mid 50s Don was sent to develop Clifton Plantation in the Warangoi. Later he married Irene, and Sally and Scott were born.

Don was an avid sailor and enjoyed many happy sailing days with the Takubar Club. He became a member of the Gazelle Council and received the Independence Medal in 1985. He also presided as President and Vice-President of Planters’ Association.

Don later re-married and, with Shirley, experienced many happy years sailing and fishing and sharing the many tumultuous political PNG times. They left PNG in 1990 and moved to Australia. Don worked until retirement when he and Shirley then spent many happy times touring Australia in their caravan. Don left this earth the way he wished: in his own home and surrounded by his loving wife and family. Shirley Dunbar-Reid


Edward (Ted) DURKAN (21 January 2010, aged 88)

No further details available.


Peter FIGGIS, MC (20 November 2009, aged 94)

In early 1941 Peter travelled to Rabaul with Lark Force. After the Japanese invasion on 23 January 1942, Peter spent 79 days on the run through the jungles of New Britain, eventually escaping on the Laurabada, the official yacht of the Administrator of Papua. Peter then volunteered for the M Specials, a secret intelligence group, and accepted an offer to return to New Britain, this time as a Coast Watcher.

The Coast Watchers were a select band, formed early in the war, who watched and reported on enemy movements, initially from Australia and the surrounding Pacific Islands but, after the Japanese occupation, from behind enemy lines. They were codenamed ‘Ferdinand’ after the mythical bull which would rather smell the flowers than fight in the bullring. They were to observe and report, not to fight.

A year after his escape, Peter was aboard an American submarine heading back to New Britain with another Coast Watcher, Malcolm Wright and four PNG native soldiers, including Sergeant Simogun Pita, another of Peter’s lifelong mates. They secretly landed at Cape Orford, about 80 kilometres from Rabaul and began reporting on Japanese operations.

For more than a year, Peter lived this bizarre life on the edge, always alert for Japanese patrols, who would try to home in on his radio signals and hunt him down. He and his mates lived largely off the land, with regular but rare supply drops by Catalina flying boats. Many of the pilots became cherished friends and they often dropped special gifts of tobacco or whisky, and the occasional letter from home or newspaper or magazine.

Peter and his fellow Coast Watchers saved countless allied lives by giving early warning of bombing raids.

Peter was given a ‘periodical’ award of the Military Cross for bravery. That’s reserved for those who display numerous acts of valour over a long period. The citation for the MC read, with wonderful brevity: “for exemplary courage with allied intelligence bureau”. It was awarded by the NSW Governor on 27 February 1947. Excerpt from A Tribute to Peter Figgis MC by Patrick Lindsay. The full tribute is in the Library | .


Peter HANIGAN (11 March 2008, aged approx. 63)

Peter Hanigan was born in Sydney and grew up on the Georges River where he learned to sail and developed resilience and independence. While in his teens, his interest in PNG was sparked by a trip there with a friend. He studied at ASOPA and began his 12-year career as a teacher in PNG when he was 19. He worked in many remote areas and often helped build the classrooms.

After his marriage in 1973 to Robyn Elliott (also teaching in PNG) he moved to a high school in Madang and extended his skills in teaching Commerce and Agriculture. During his time in PNG Pete was very interested in the history and culture of the people and travelled extensively. His daughter Kylie Malinda was born in Lae in 1975.

After Independence, and a stint as a restaurateur, Pete and family (now including son Ivan) moved to Wilcannia where he spent two years working in Menindee, Ivanhoe, White Cliffs, Tibooburra and Bourke. He later taught at West Wyalong. From 1992 onwards he changed career and began to study history and cultural heritage management and worked as a museums guide in Canberra. His death (of a sudden heart attack) was far too soon. Ivan Hanigan


Clarence Roy (Clarrie) JAMES (13 February 2010)

No further details available.


Allan JONES (8 May 2009, aged 70)

After graduating from the Australian School of Pacific Administration in 1963, Allan taught at Daumagini (1964-68) and Hula (1969-74) and later, after gaining a Bachelor of Education degree, he was headmaster at Karkar High (1979-86), Popondetta High (1989-93) and finally Cameron Secondary School at Alotau in Milne Bay. He retired from teaching in December 1999 after spending 35 years in PNG.  He then continued to work there with AESOP Business Volunteers until 2002 when he retired to Adelaide. Louise Jeffery


Rev. Colleen ‘Dawn’ KENYON (2 November 2009, aged 81)

From being a loyal wife and mother, Dawn Kenyon rose to become the first woman Anglican priest to take charge of an Australian parish. Too young to enlist in WWII, Dawn joined the Red Cross and trained as an Occupational Therapist; then in order to support her husband through Theological College she trained to become a teacher. The couple had a desire to become missionaries and in 1955 went to Taupota in Papua and then to Goroka. There Dawn taught the local people and assisted as a trained linguist in translating the Bible into Wedawan.

Back in Australia, they settled in Ballarat but tragedy befell them: Dawn’s husband died and Dawn was left a widow at 40 with two small children and an elderly mother to support. She joined the Commonwealth Teaching Service and served in the Northern Territory at the Yirrikala Mission School and later as Principal at Numbulwar.

After her retirement and with both daughters married, Dawn pursued her long-held desire to enter the Priesthood. This she accomplished in 1987 and took up her ministry in New Zealand, later moving to Western Australia as rector to the parish of Southern Cross-Westonia in the WA wheatlands. Sadly she had to leave there to nurse her younger daughter who was seriously ill. Dawn later moved back to Queensland and continued with her Ministry as Rector in the Parish of Millmerran, finally retiring in 2005. Dawn is survived by her daughter Elizabeth, and grandchildren. Her younger daughter Margaret (Meg) predeceased her. Elizabeth Banks (neé Kenyon)


Christine LOCK (19 November 2009)

Christine was born and bred in South Australia. In 1969, husband Brian accepted a position as a High School teacher in Rabaul and she spent the next 34 years with him in Papua New Guinea.

From East New Britain Brian was posted to Brandi High School in Wewak where Christine, now with four daughters, resided for six years. A two-year posting to Arawa in Bougainville followed and then on to Alotau in Milne Bay where the Locks spent the next six years. It was this posting that Christine described as the most ideal and wonderful of her long tenure in Papua new Guinea. Finally Christine spent her last years back in Rabaul, where their PNG life began with Brian teaching at George Brown High and Malaguna Technical High School. Christine witnessed the power of a volcanic eruption and the destruction of Rabaul and many friendships were cemented under the volcanic ash.

Perhaps Christine’s most important job was raising four daughters and giving husband Brian her support. However she had a real passion for helping when required and was a good and certainly enthusiastic organizer. She was involved in various sporting clubs, voluntary work at the Schools where Brian taught and the social life of the community.

In early 2003, whilst visiting Australia, Christine was diagnosed with bowel cancer and she and Brian returned after 34 years in Papua New Guinea settling back in South Australia where they jointly took up the position of custodians of Olivewood, a National Trust property at Renmark. Christine became a community icon with her enthusiasm for local history and heritage matters and enjoyed showing thousands of visitors over the property.

She finally succumbed to the cancer, leaving husband Brian of 43 years, four daughters and 9 grandchildren. She will be sadly missed. David Showell


Sharyn Joy McKENZIE, neé Healy (4 February 2010, aged 60)

Formerly of Noosa and Papua New Guinea, late of Manly. Beloved mother of Samantha, Gemelle and Melindah, daughter of Dorothy and Rhys. Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2010


Rev. John MAY, OBE (24 January 2010, aged 95)

John was chaplain to Lark Force in Rabaul at the time of the Japanese invasion in January 1942. After being captured, he was sent to Japan on the Naruto Maru and was imprisoned in Zentsuji POW camp until August 1945.

After surviving World War II he became an important link between the relatives of the men who died and the events on the Gazelle Peninsula in the early months of Japanese occupation.

Soon after he returned from captivity in Japan, John spent some time at Oxford in England and later he became chaplain at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and family members. The men lost in the New Guinea islands were always dear to his heart and, in place of flowers at the funeral, Mary asked that donations be made to the Montevideo Maru memorial fund.


Neil McLaren MOCKETT (8 October 2009)

Neil was raised in Wandin, Victoria, and travelled to PNG in 1967 to become a Cadet Patrol Officer initially posted to Kavieng, New Ireland. Subsequent postings were to Musau-Emira then several postings in the Highlands before he returned to Australia to study to become a Geologist. Neil ran a small but successful geological survey company out of Townsville. He is survived by his wife Rosie and children and grandchildren by a previous marriage. Peter Edwards (same CPO intake as Neil)


Henricus Johannes “Hank” MUSKENS (28 January 2010, aged 72)

Hank was born in Tilburg, Netherlands on 15 October 1937, and was educated in Jakarta (1947-1950) and Melbourne (1950-1955). After matriculation he worked for 2 years as a clerk with Shell. From 1958 to 1971 he worked in PNG in administrative positions in various departments: Treasury, Education, Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries, and the Public Service Commission. He lived in Port Moresby, Lorengau, Mt Hagen and Rabaul.

On arrival in Port Moresby in 1958 Hank was recruited by the Port Moresby Australian Rules Football Club, and became Treasurer as well, almost immediately turning the Club’s precarious financial position around. He was a ‘pretty good footballer’ according to Jack Moffatt of the Port Moresby Australian Rules Football Club, however his playing days were hampered by a knee injury which eventually led to his retirement from play in 1967. Throughout these years he had been active in the Club’s administration and was made a Life Member of the Club in 1968.

After ‘going finish’ in 1971, Hank worked for CSIRO in Sydney and Griffith. Later he moved to Sawtell, NSW, and specialised in book-keeping for small business. Although plagued by ill-health from an early age, Hank never failed to make the most of every day, maintaining an enviable golf handicap right to the end. Hank is survived by his first wife, Pam, four children and three step-children, plus twelve grandchildren. His second wife, Leslie, predeceased him in 2006. Will Muskens


Bernard Richard PORTER (22 September 2009, aged 88)

Bernie was born, educated and lived in Brisbane for much of his life. He trained as a carpenter and joiner and, amongst other jobs, he worked on the Storey Bridge and various primary schools throughout Brisbane. He used to reminisce about riding his bicycle from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and back of a weekend for a surf. He enlisted in the 2nd AIF and saw service in the Torres Strait and PNG. He was in Lae when the war ended and returned to Australia.

Bernie returned to PNG in 1953 and finished up staying for another 20 years. He worked in Madang for some years for the Public Works Dept. He moved to the Sepik District in 1956 and settled in Maprik. He worked as a private building contractor for the Administration building houses on outstations. He was a competent and reliable tradesman.

He was also an active sportsman. He played golf off a low handicap and excelled at tennis. He was for some years a selector for the New Guinea rugby league representative team. He finally returned to Brisbane just before Independence.

He loved to travel around Australia and enjoyed meeting up with his friends for lunch at the Irish Club in Brisbane each Wednesday. He enjoyed a beer and a bet but never to excess. He had many friends and while health problems began to catch up with him towards the end of his life, he was never heard to complain. Bernie died peacefully in his sleep at home in his apartment. He is survived by his nieces, his nephew and their children. Ken Hanrahan


John WAGUO (Wagua) (22 August 2009)

Former school teachers at Kerowagi High School in the early 1970s will remember John Waguo (Wagua) as one of the original students. John was a talented football player and he often spoke with great affection of the balanced education he received at the hands of Messrs Holden and Connors, the former teaching him Rugby, and the latter teaching him Australian Rules. I also knew John at Kerowagi at that time, but had the pleasure thirty years later of working with him at Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. John transitioned successfully into the corporate sector and, among other achievements, became a Senior Purchasing Officer with Ok Tedi Mining Limited.

John married twice and had two children with his first wife and three from Kwina, his second wife. He was a true gentleman. Laurie le Fevre


‘Mac’ VINES (11 December 2009, aged 67)

Headteacher, TPNG Outstations 1970s

Mac was always fun to be around. He provided another dimension to outstation life. Those who knew him at Kabwum can remember his energetic Highland fling and his sense of the ridiculous that constantly had you in stitches. Mac could walk into a door and make it seem like an accident. On one notable occasion, he helped organise a ‘stir’ for a expat Welshman at Kabwum that had a group of us men standing under the house humming Men of Harlech and hammering the metal pylons while Mac in a mining hat complete with lighted candle and a blackened face, ascended the ladder of the fire escape and opened the trap door to wake the occupants not long after dawn and say hello. Mac’s opening statement in a Welsh accent was, “Is this the way to Aberystwyth?” His substantial omelettes were also a good remedy for a previously ‘heavy’ night.

When faced with a real problem of long grass and snakes at his school, I can remember his methodology to find out why the school’s lawnmower was not being fixed and sent back quickly. In the days when swearing on the radio was a ‘no no’, Mac’s inventive telegram to the School’s Authority in Lae went some thing like this : Where / the / (next group) ‘B” next Group “L”, next Group “O” etc. and spelt out ‘Bloody Hell’ in single letters before ending the signal, “is my lawnmower”. It got immediate results too.

Mac was famous for his Phantom jet takeoff impression. This involved a full speed run down the hallway of an AR20 house with the front door open, then launching over the verandah. The landings differed depending on the terrain and amount of rain but were always remedied with a nice Red.

In later years, his cartoons in the Courier-Mail were enjoyed by many.

See you later Mate. Roger Fryer and Paul Oates

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