Saturday, March 23, 2019


I have often heard, from outside the hedge, that most of the work in the world is done by women. I do not doubt for a moment that there are parts of the world where men sit and drink coffee and play board games all day while the ladies slave away, but that has not been my observation in the western world. And it would appear that much of what the western world enjoys in terms of 'modern goods', clothing, footwear and the like is made by ladies in China and the Indian sub-Continent. Were those ladies to down-tools for a week there would likely be an interruption to supply chains and a slow reduction in 'stuff' on the shelves for a while.
But we would get by.

Not so if men downed-tools for a week.  I hazard we would be in strife well before the week was out.

The Tavern has been in need of some maintenance work and over the past few weeks we have had the stonemasons in (it is a very old Tavern), along with carpenters, glaziers, roofers, electricians and plumbers, etc. Every one of them has been a man.

We had a Tradies Night for them last evening and the place was packed. We appreciated them in Tavern fashion. Free Ale, all night, served by a Knight.

By the way, that photo above is a nonsense. Propaganda. It is never seen in real life. Five woman and four men. Tradies?

Yes, of course, in our 'equal society' such tasks can be done by women in equal numbers. But they aren't. 

"Women can do anything a man can do - and better " - come the shouts from beyond the hedge, but they don't and won't.

A chap gets tired of hearing all the hubris and cant.

Were men to down tools we would be done for in a week. 

Oz is a modern country, like America, Europe, and perhaps half a dozen other 'First World' Nations, and we depend on men to do ALL the essential work to keep us going. 

The ladies make sandwiches. Except they do that less and less, and with more and more resentment.

That is an exaggeration, I know. Blame a customer for that one. 

Yes, ladies work, but largely in offices doing the paperwork. Few are in the trades. No quotas for ladies in the trades. Quotas are reserved for boardrooms and politics. Ladies pulling the plug in the west would mean that our bills would be late.

But men pulling the plug would mean disaster.

Janet Bloomfield recognises this. She told us of what American men do. It is much the same in Oz.
What would a Men's Day Off look like?
Time for a reality check.
I personally reckon that most of what she now speaks of would take a week, but who am I to argue with a lady. 
First up, the entire power grid is down. 100% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers are men. Now, it’s possible that there are a few women working in these occupations, but however many there are, they do not make up even 1% of the total workforce, so statistically, 100% of the workforce is male.
91% of the nation’s electrical engineers are men, and if they don’t show up for work, there is no one to monitor and manage the nation’s electrical supplies. Assuming some automation (designed by men, naturally) kicks in for the day, we had all better pray there are no problems. 97.6% of electrical power line installers and maintenance workers are men.
Lights out, ladies and gentlemen.
Don’t bother turning on your taps, either. Or flushing your toilets. 95.5% of water and liquid waste treatment plant and system operators are men.
Think you might be able to get out-of-town for the one day the men don’t show up?
Think again.
Planes are out.
95.9% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers are men. If you happen to find a plane with a female pilot, don’t get too excited. 98.4% of aircraft mechanics and service technicians are men. You can, however, be assured of your comfort as you sit on a pilotless aircraft that has no mechanic for pre-flight clearance, because 77.6% of flight attendants are female.
But they stop short of actually making the sandwiches!  
Should you be lucky enough to find a female pilot and a female technician to clear you for take-off, you still have some praying to do. Statistically, 0% of air traffic controllers and airfield operations specialists are women.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there are ZERO ladies working in air traffic control. There just aren’t enough to constitute even 1% of the workforce.
Trains, of course, are also out.
100% of locomotive engineers and operators are men, as are 100% of the workers who operate railroad brakes, signals and switches. 94.4% of railway yardmasters are men, but if you chance upon a female yardmaster, it won’t help you much. She can’t operate the trains.
You might have better luck with bus drivers, almost half of whom are women.
But the streets are likely to be chaos. And there won’t be anyone on hand to help you navigate that.
87.4% of police and sheriff’s patrol officers are men. 96.6% of firefighters are men. 68.8% of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics are men, so if it all goes tits up and you get hurt, there’s a small chance you might make it to a hospital.
I hope you don’t get too badly hurt, though. 65.7% of all surgeons are men.
Maybe you should just work from home? In the dark, mind you. With no running water.
Uh-oh. Looks like that might be a problem, too.
For all computer and mathematical occupations combined, 74.4% of the workforce is male. Computer network architects, who design and implement all our computer based communications systems are 91.9% men. And 94.2% of radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repair technicians are men.
Looks like that plan is frucked.
Hope it doesn’t get too hot, or too cold the day men don’t show up for work. Even if you had power, which you don’t, you would be hard-pressed to get anyone in to take a look at your wonky air-conditioner or furnace.
98.4% of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers are men.
Oh well. Guess you’ll have to mosey on down to the local café, which has no power either, but what’s logic and consequence anyways? Be careful when you step over all that accumulating garbage! Remember that most EMTs are men, and they’ve taken the day off. Don’t want to get hurt now.
Most garbage collectors are men, too – 93.4%, to be exact.
You’ll need to stop at the ATM first, for a little cash injection.
Oops. Don’t bother.
The machine hasn’t been filled with money today. 81.5% of security guards and gaming surveillance officers are men. It’s unlikely the banks would be functioning anyways, with no men at work. 72.1% of all securities, commodities and financial services sales agents are men. 72.6% of the nation’s CEOs would be taking the day off, along with 70.9% of all the general and operations managers.
Don’t count on getting a weather report today. Statistically, 0% of the nation’s atmospheric and space scientists are women.
Actually, don’t plan on acquiring pretty much anything today.  
The workers in the entire production, transportation and material moving occupations are 78.2% men. Not only will no goods be moving on the day men go on strike, they won’t be made, period. 82.4% of all the industrial production managers are men.
Nothing will be built or extracted from the earth in terms of raw materials. 97.5% of that workforce is male.
Nothing will be installed, maintained or repaired. 96.8% of that workforce is male.
If men took a collective day off, we would instantly be without power, without the means to communicate, without protection, without water, without trucks bringing us the food and products we take for granted, because men are the ones who provide all those things. 
-Janet Bloomfield was banned from Twitter after creating hashtag #womenagainstfeminism
All information taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor.
So, there you have it. 'It' being just a glance at just a few instances of the essential work that is done by MEN. 

None of the tradies in the bar said a word about doing anything a woman can do - better or otherwise.

I do wish the wimminz outside the hedge would put a sock in it.

But I guess that would be a man's job too.

And as a voice from a corner of the bar shouted over.... And yet, how many apocalyptic TV shows are saturated with kick ass women saving the day and beating those nasty, toxic males? I'll betcha there are feminists out there who think, bring on that no-male apocalypse, we'll show ya... lmfao!!!

Drinks all round and a special one for Janet.

Now, before you go, I am sure we can all find a similarly comprehensive list of all the things we depend on women for.  

Give it a go. Let us have 'the other side'.


Friday, March 22, 2019


The Land of the Long White Cloud, a little to the East of Oz, suffered a devastating blow to its National pride and cohesion which has left a sadness over the Tavern. Our sympathies go out across the Tasman to our Kiwi cousins. It went there too some time ago when that cloud turned pinky-puce with the election of a marxist-feminist to its highest office. Little did anyone guess just what an enormity she would commit.

It took another act of enormity by a lunatic - and Oz lunatic at that - to light the fuse, with his attack on a mosque, killing 50 people, some, quite innocent children. 

We are told that he is Brenton Tarrant.
What a wicked man. 

And what a mosque chosen for his atrocity. It was the Noor mosque, noted - but not by the mainstream media - for producing two Islamic terrorists who had a bloody hand in the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. 

Yes, that massacre we all said we would not forget, and about and which the media said "Je Suis Charlie".

Jacinta Ardern, the Kiwi Prime Minister now says "We are Mohammedans".
The Christchurch mosque where a gunman opened fire and killed dozens of Muslims has links to radical Islamic terrorism, according to a New Zealand newspaper.

The newspaper, called Stuff, reported on a story in 2014 about how two Australians killed in Yemen by drone strike were radicalized in Christchurch mosques.

Specifically, Christopher Havard was reportedly radicalized by the Al Noor mosque, the same mosque targeted by shooter Brenton Tarrant.

Jones was killed alongside Australian Christopher Havard, whose parents said he was introduced to radical Islam at the Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch.”
“Mosque leaders confirmed Havard stayed there and studied in 2011, but denied radical teaching took place.”
Of course they would deny it. 
“But a man who attended a converts’ weekend at the mosque 10 years ago said a visiting speaker from Indonesia talked about violent jihad and plenty shared his views. ‘Most of the men were angry with the moral weakness of New Zealand. I would say they were radical.'”

“Havard was the subject of an AFP arrest warrant over the kidnapping of Westerners in Yemen in December, 2012. It is not known if Jones, who reportedly fought under the name Abu Suhaib al-Australi, was involved.”

“Jones and Havard were with five others in the convoy hit by a missile fired from a US drone in Yemen’s Hadramout province on November 19. While authorities believe they were ‘foot soldiers’ of AQAP [Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula], they were not the main target of the attack.”

Conservative commenatator Milo Yiannopoulos pointed out the connection on Facebook over the weekend asking, 
“If you’d known that this mosque was a terrorist factory, would it have changed your feelings about the news at all?”

“The Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch targeted by Brenton Tarrant produced at least two terrorists, from a very small congregation,” he wrote Saturday.
According to literary magazine New English Review, New Zealand authorities should investigate the mosque for signs of radicalization.

“The Al Noor mosque should receive some official scrutiny but indiscriminate carnage of innocents isn’t the way,” reports the Review.

“Maybe the New Zealand authorities have, or will now that his friend Mark Taylor is soon to be returned ‘home’ from a Kurdish prison, investigate the circumstances around the radicalisation at Al Noor, of jihadi Christopher Harvard, and any part played in the radicalisation of Daryl Jones.”
Rather than nipping terrorism in the bud years ago, the New Zealand authorities did not act. Perhaps they could have prevented any such reprisal as we have witnessed and Jacinta Ardern might not have had the gall to encourage people to say "We are Mohammedans".

The qualities of compassion, of sympathy, even of empathy, are rightly considered as feminine as they are masculine, and Jacinta Ardern's expressions as a National Leader are wholly appropriate when comforting the survivors of the massacre and their families. 

But her subsequent actions have demonstrated the danger of being so carried away that sense goes out of the mind. Her mind. 

It has divided the Nation.

Peter Mitchell, a visiting Kiwi, told the tavern customers:
I am gonna say it how it is, Jacinda Arden PM of New Zealand you have become a major part of the division problem. You need to step down from your office now. 
You forced Parliament to be Submitted yesterday to Islamic Prayers, now you are forcing by demanded strong suggestion all of New Zealand to submit, to Submit to the Islamic call to prayer by it being played over the airways on NZ.

It is one thing to have a moments silence which I think most New Zealanders would be honourable and respectful in regards to this depraved loss of life and the terrorising of New Zealand citizens and visitors at 2 mosques and the horrific loss of so many lives and loved ones: I too stand in silence and in honourable respect and deep sadness reflecting on this unnecessary loss of precious life.
However New Zealand is not an Islamic Country, yet (it) has those of Islamic faith welcomed within her bounds, and you are correct, when migrants come to our beautiful country they assimilate or should assimilate and become "They are us". 
They are welcomed with freedom to worship and right to assemble. 
However we do not become a them, this is a huge difference. 
We have the right to not worship or worship elsewhere, or worship a tree or a stone should we wish, it's called freedom paid for on the backs of our fathers and mothers and forebears. 

I am getting a little sick of you as the PM and the media using Islam as a race card. ISLAM is not a RACE. 
Islam is a religious sect or ideology and you Jacinda are forcing through as head of state, Islam on your nation. 
You have no right to stand in the highest office of the nation and use your position to influence and to insist this type of response. You must remain neutral in your decisions for the sake of all New Zealanders. You have gone too far. You are not an Imam you are the Prime Minister and as such you have no right or position in calling all New Zealanders to Islamic Prayer; you are so outside of the boundaries of your office. 

I will say it again and most likely be attacked for it. You have given so much but now so much more will be demanded.

I want to remind you that there is no such thing as Government Funded, there is only "Tax Payer Citizen Funded". When you say we will pay and ACC will pay or I will ensure this will be paid you are actually saying every NZ tax payer will pay, making an instsnt decision over and above all ACC protocols and procedure, ok I get it.

However New Zealand is not guilty of this crime a fundamentalist fool is. Yet going to these far responses in itself is (forcing by empowered suggestion bordering demand from your office) is also extreme and fundamentalist.
On another note Jacinda since when did Gang Patch Members have a security guards license ? Since when were Patched gang members allowed to patrol the streets and the front of public buildings and houses of worship in Gang Colours and regalia? Please explain.
You are so quick to demand or suggest that innocent farmers and citizens give up their guns and armoury. Because of one deranged man. 
Again an extremist response.

If you wish to wear your hajib I honour and respect your right to do so, if you wish to bow down and in knelt prostrate position on the floor under the sound of the Islamic Call to prayer and Honour Allah I respect your right to do so, but as PM you do.... 
If that is what you want all of NZ to do then you must relinquish your office and your authority first and do this from grass roots not from entitlement of the nations head office. In this You have gone way too far, perhaps you should step aside from your headship as you have now gone far beyond your responsibilities. 
For the record - Islam does not mean Peace, it means Submission.

Please don't misinterpret me, the only right response to the attacks on New Zealand's citizens and visitors including those proclaiming and identifying as Muslim by faith is unconditional love and kindness, however it is not that others are to be made subjects of Islam, by your decree.
The younger dead may well be innocents: the older ones however, cannot make that claim. Islam constantly and unequivocally tells us that anyone not Muslim is an Infidel and must convert or be killed.

It is a cult of inhumanity, hatred and widescale murder of innocents. 

To have public-funded radio and TV broadcast Islamic 'prayers' across New Zealand is treasonous. For a marxist-feminist to instruct that it be done shows the depths that ideology can sink.

To broadcast that 'There is only one God, and his name is Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet' is a 

GROSS INSULT to ALL Christians in New Zealand.

The Long white cloud is now red.

Drink and weep.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Healing Voice

I was 'put on hold' on the phone today. What passes for modern music played, or rather assaulted my ears, whilst I waited. Thankfully it was just a few moments but the damage to my sensibilities was done. Our civilisation's decline is screetched at us by teenybopper 'Divas' who have never taken a singing lesson in their lives and rely almost entirely on strutting their pudendas across the stage as they warble. My ears needed healing. Thank goodness my eyes were spared.

The singing voice is a marvel. Can be. My phone call was to my pharmacist and later in the day after picking up my meds  (I am an old and knackered Knight, remember) I sought some healing salves for my aural sense .... I sought visual too. 

Older era music can lift my soul and heart, and coupled with modern technology (which does not improve the aforesaid teen divas' efforts) can provide a gentleman's pleasure.

So, a short post, of just three short songs with beauty, sensuality and delight. Let me start with Elīna Garanča recording Dopo l'oscuro nembo (from Adelson e Salvini) - by Bellini. 

Dressed for work, not 'Performance'. To me, she is the epitome of the Opera Diva.

You could put her in a muddy field in the rain, wearing just a work-worn smock, and the Angels would gather to listen to her sing. The orchestra fits, but for some pieces the voice itself is all you need. Several, harmoniously, can render an orchestra redundant. So...

Miserere mei, Deus - by Allegri - sung by the Tenebrae Choir.

OK, one more. A 'proper' performance. Renée Fleming performing Casta Diva (by Bellini, again) in the Palaces of the Czars in Saint Petersburg in 2009.

This is an astonishing rendition of this aria. Such a wonderful interpretation of this difficult piece of music. Everything that is required is in place: the support is solid, the resonance full, the registers blended, the dynamics carefully controlled, the timbre is beautiful and finely textured, the central coloratura section is sung in one breath; the line remains seamless, and the text is gently inflected with colour and real sentiment. People have to remember that here, in 2009, Fleming was 50, and so of course not a match for the singing of her absolute prime (nor perhaps for the up-and coming Elina). Neither Caballe nor Sutherland maintained their voices in this immaculate condition at this age. 

OK, your taste may not be mine but we can all do with extending into areas (and arias) where we have not previously ventured, and leave modern trash .... er... tracks, behind us. 

My ears are back in working order again.


And have a drink.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hero Porn

Some 'drives' can carry even an old man away. Heroes too. We may be 'past it' in performance but even the smells and sounds can be captivating and get the blood and other juices flowing. Voyeurism has a poor reputation but only in some instances. Others are OK. And so it was that my recent holiday saw me at an Air Show where Power, air-sheering noise and avgas brought back memories of times past.

It got me thinking of the dedication, effort, skills, the captivating intensity that dominated my earlier years, and brought memories of others who took it to the further reaches of 'actualisation'. There were men who went beyond. Men who made Thunder City.

Principal amongst them was Mike Beachy Head, who had a love of the same aircraft that I hold dear, and, frankly, turn this old Tavern Keeper on!  The story of Thunder City's aircraft acquisitions and effots is told below.

ENTREPENEUR and aviator, Mike Beachy Head, who gained an international reputation as the custodian of the world’s largest private collection of fighter jets, based at Thunder City at Cape Town International Airport, died of a heart attack 2 years ago in May 2017. He was 59.

Beachy Head accumulated immense wealth through his ambition to reach beyond the ordinary and a willingness to grasp sometimes unlikely opportunities.

It is a measure of his drive that, after qualifying as a pilot of small airplanes two-and-a-half decades ago, he went on to master – and then buy – one of the fastest fighter jets ever produced, the English Electric Lightning.

With laconic understatement, Beachy Head once reflected on his affection for the plane by saying: “I’m a bit of a performance junky.” He eventually owned four of these planes – and no fewer than 10 other combat aircraft.

Beachy Head possessed an enthusiasm for the thrill of speed and danger, the power – even the noise – of immense engines; he went at life full-tilt, flamboyant in spirit, and generous in sharing his delight with others.

So, the customers of the Tavern, and I, 
raised a glass or three today, in memoriam.

Thunder City is an aircraft operating and maintenance company based at the Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa. It was well known for owning the largest civilian collection of former military jet aircraft in the world These aircraft were used to perform in airshows and could also be chartered by the general public for recreational flights, including going supersonic and climbing to altitudes around 50,000 feet. 

Part one of a splendid programme is here. Pt 2 later.

Following a fatal accident in 2009 in which an English Electric Lightning crashed at an airshow, the company ceased flying operations.

Three English Electric Lightning. One T5 was lost in an accident on 14 November 2009.
Three Blackburn Buccaneers. 
Seven Hawker Hunters. 
One BAC Strikemaster. 
One Aerospatiale Puma, a demonstrator of the company's upgrade and refurbishment services 
One Gloster Javelin FAW Mk.1 (RAF No. XA553). Mounted as a "Gate Guard" on display at the entrance to the company premises.

In October 2012, three Lightnings, three Buccaneers and four Hawker Hunters were put up for sale. It was the End of Thunder City.

Let me remind you of these superb machines.

The Lightning.

Not since the Spitfire has one aircraft captured the hearts and imaginations of a generation of fighter pilots in the way that the Lightning has.

Unequivocally Britain's most loved jet fighter, the Lightning earned itself legitimately a place among the greats of celebrated aviation legends. 

In continuous front line service for almost thirty years with the Royal Air Force the passing of the Lightning represented the end of a unique era. It was the last of a rare breed: Single seat, entirely British, magnificently over powered and possessing delightful handling qualities. It was radically different in design with its vertical twin engine design, slab sided fuselage and highly swept wings making it stand apart from others. Built by craftsmen, it was a privilege to fly. You don't fly the Lightning like a conventional airplane - you strap it on your back and experience the ultimate thrill. Words can do little justice to the sensation of climbing vertically on a column of raw power, breaking the bond between earth and sky.

There never has been an aircraft as charismatic as the Lightning and it's unlikely in this modern age that there ever will be again." ( from The Last of the Lightnings, A nostalgic farewell to the RAF's favorite supersonic Fighter, Ian Black, © 1996 Patrick Stephens Limited).

The Buccaneer

Twin engine tandem seat low level strike attack aircraft powered by two Rolls Royce Spey non-afterburning bypass turbofans developing 12600 lb. static thrust each.

Equipped with terrain hugging radar, this attack aircraft is at its peak prowess low and fast. "Most air forces do have fast jets which were specially designed for the ground-attack mission. Almost certainly the best have been subsonic, examples being the Grumman A-6 Intruder and the BAE Buccaneer. They are superior because, compared with supersonic aircraft, they carry more, fly further, and can make their attack with at least equal precision and probably at lower altitude. 

As for speed, none of the supersonic types can actually attack at supersonic speed, and with its internal bombload of 4000 lb. the Buccaneer was faster than (for example) a Jaguar, Phantom, F-111, Mirage, F-15E, Tornado or Su-24 with the same load !" (The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes; The Development and Specifications of all Active Military Aircraft; Bill Gunston; ©1995 Aerospace Publishing Limited)

The Hunter.

Possibly the best transonic fighter and ground-support aircraft of its kind, the classic Hawker Hunter, with clean lines, excellent handling characteristics and a good load carrying capacity, the Hunter was built in greater numbers than any other postwar British aircraft.

Single engine two seat (side by side) transonic advanced combat training aircraft, powered by the non-afterburning Rolls Royce Avon axial flow turbojet developing 7600 lbs. static thrust. First prototypes flying in 1951, it was Britain's first indigenous swept wing fighter to enter service and briefly held the world speed record in 1953. It formed the backbone of the Royal Air Force fighter force from 1954-1961 and remained in front line service until the early seventies, the last examples only being withdrawn in 1995. Nearly two thousand Hunters of all types were built for a number of different air forces, including the Belgian, Chilean, Danish, Dutch, Indian, Swedish and Swiss air forces. The Swiss ultimately purchased 160 Hunters, operating the type from 1958 until December 1994.

Have a 3-day pass.....

As was announced in 2010, Thunder City, which has the world's largest civilian-owned fleet of ex-combat jets including three English Electric Lightnings, three BAe Buccaneers, seven Hawker Hunters and a retrofitted Puma helicopter, is to cease flying operations with immediate effect.

Making the announcement founder and CEO of Thunder City, Mike Beachy Head says, "After a decade of indelible memories and enormous thrills in flying international and local visitors in our distinctive jets, we have decided to cease the flying activities at the base.

"Established under the name Thunder City in 2000, the brand has gone on to become one of the most globally recognised as a home-grown South African one. Seen by millions of TV viewers in countries across the planet, the iconic Thunder City jets have inspired many to travel to Cape Town to experience the thrill and adrenaline-rush of flying in a supersonic ex-military jet. We have had a lot of worldwide media exposure, especially in Europe and the USA. TV networks from all over the world have filmed documentaries on the Thunder City operation. These include household names such as Sky TV, CNN and the Discovery Channel, as well as Turkish, Austrian, Chinese, Dutch, French, Spanish and several German TV channels and also our own Top Billing and MNet's Carte Blanche."

Beachy Head says that it was not an easy decision to make, but that a number of factors such as the current slow economy, high cost of maintenance and short to medium term prospects, had influenced the closure. He says that the 13 jets will be moth-balled until a final decision is made as to the future of this valuable and historic collection.

During the past decade the Thunder City jets have flown more than 2000 sorties and generated revenue of R100million. Many celebrities such as Mark Shuttleworth, Sir Richard Branson, as well as many Middle Eastern sheiks and princes, and European royalty have flown in the super-powerful English Electric Lightning, the pride of the fleet, as well as their other jets. Some flying enthusiasts have saved up to come to Cape Town for the thrill of a lifetime.

What can be more enjoyable than flying over Cape Town with some of the world's most spectacular scenery, with panoramic views of Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula, dotted with white beaches along the surrounding coastline and vineyards on the lower reaches of the nearby majestic mountain ranges. Being at the foot of Africa, it is also one of the most uncluttered air spaces on the planet, making it the ideal place to fly in supersonic jets. No more will the thunderous jets enthral visitors to airshows, where the raw power, iconic shapes, manoeuvrability and consummate flying skills of the pilots will be missed.

Beachy Head concluded, 
"Although this is the end of an era for flights in Thunder City's fast jets,
... we will continue working on the Puma SA 330 helicopter retrofit and upgrade programme which was begun 3 years ago. Thunder City, which is a certified Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO), has completed both the rigorous P4 inspection process and a full avionics upgrade on their first retrofitted Puma helicopter, through the installation of the "glass cockpit" concept, which incorporates the digital era. There are currently another four Pumas in various stages of rebuild.

"One of the clear trends is the development of digital avionics technology, and being able to upgrade mechanically sound aircraft with "glass cockpits", cost-effectively. There is currently a global shortage of medium-lift helicopter capacity to satisfy the needs for Search & Rescue, transport for military personnel and oil exploration crews.

"Finally, we wish to thank all the many visitors who have flown with us for their support. We are also grateful to the print and electronic media for the generous coverage they have provided over the past 10 years. It will be very quiet at the base without the distinctive sounds of the various Rolls Royce jet engines starting up and also over the skies of Cape Town. It's been an more exhilarating ride and we greatly appreciate all the efforts that our dedicated maintenance team at the base have put in over the years. Who knows, if circumstances change the mighty roar of the jets may be heard again at some time in the future."

It is doubtful that anyone soon will follow his example. The dedication and devotion is rare and the capital required is too often frittered on yachts! I know. Astonishing, isn't it?

Mike has gone. He is amongst the Tavern Heroes.

As is Dave Stock who flew so much with Thunder City, but whose untimely death in the crash of Lightning ZU-BEX tolled the bell for the enterprise.

Raise your glasses.

Toast heroic men.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Before Alcatraz

America often follows Britain, and indeed, Oz, in dealing with the dregs of society.  Long before Alcatraz there was Sarah Island, described in the day as HELL.  I went there on holiday. It pre-dates the largest and almost as notorious prison, Port Arthur,  which is much closer to the Tavern. Sarah Island is remote in the extreme; cold, wet, surrounded by water and dense forest, it was considered 'escape-proof'. It wasn't for the want of attempts though.

Alcatraz, for our non-American customers, is also notorious, and was established as a military prison in1828, and a federal prison from 1934 until 1963. Because of its isolation from the outside by the cold, strong, hazardous currents of the waters of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was used to house soldiers who were guilty of crimes as early as 1859. By 1861, the fort was the military prison for the Department of the Pacific and housed Civil War prisoners of war (POWs) as early as that year. Starting in 1863, the military also held private citizens accused of treason, after the writ of habeas corpus in the United States was suspended.
America's Sarah - Alcatraz
Sarah was for just civilian riff-raff of the very worst sort. Before the American Revolution Britain sent upward of 50,000 such riff-raff to the American Colonies, which perhaps explains some aspects of the wild west. But the theft of the New World brought about the development of the World Down Under, and a new place to send convicts. Hey, don't knock it. Back in the day it was considered a great and humane solution !! 

When you see the natural beauty of Macquarie Harbour, on the West Coast of Tasmania, it’s hard to imagine that back in the 1820s, this was the scene of incredible misery. However, the fact that the entrance to the harbour is known as Hell’s Gates should give you a clue. 

Entering the harbour through Hell’s Gates meant navigating waters so treacherous that many lost their lives here. For them it may have been their salvation because what awaited those who did make it was much, much worse than death. Almost all the vegetation of the island was cut down, such that huge wodden fences some 15 metres tall had to be erected along the length of the island to give some shelter from the high winds.

The trees and dense foliage there today is all regrowth.

Conditions at the penal settlement on Sarah Island in the southern part of the harbour were so harsh that one convict, only known as Trenham, went as far as stabbing a fellow inmate, reasoning that ..

this would get him executed and he wouldn’t have to
 spend more time in this hell. 

Originally, the Macquarie Harbour area was the territory of the Mimegin and the Lowreenne, two bands of the Toogee tribe. The Peternidic, a band of the North-west tribe, and the Ninene, a band of the South-west tribe, sometimes visited the area too. The Aboriginal people reffered to Sarah Island as Langerrareroune and it’s possible that the women used the island as a meeting place. 

In about 1815, when James Kelly sailed through Hell’s Gates to be the first European to visit Macquarie Harbour, he named Sarah Island after Sarah Birch, the wife of the merchant who had paid for the voyage. Within only a few years the island was selected as the site for a penal colony because it was so isolated and difficult to escape from.

At the beginning of 1822, the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was established, with Sarah Island as its base. The convicts sent here were mostly male and were usually people who had committed further crimes while serving their original sentences in Van Diemen’s Land. Others were convicts who had escaped and were recaptured, while some of the most dangerous criminals were sent here directly once they got off the transport ships in Hobart Town. 
Gordon River
Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell wanted a penal settlement that would be economically viable enough to cover the costs of having established it in the first place. Sarah Island, like the land surrounding Macquarie Harbour, had a valuable natural resource: huge Huon pines that were perfect for shipbuilding and growing all down the Gordon River. 

In those first years of settlement, the convicts spent their days cutting timber, usually in chains. This didn’t require much skill but it was hard work made even harder by the cold and rain. Things didn’t get any better at night, with barracks so crowded that the inmates couldn’t sleep on their backs. 

Floggings were par for the course and the food was so inadequate that scurvy and dysentery were rampant. Prisoners could also be sent to nearby Grummet Island, alternatively known as Condemned Island, for solitary confinement. It is little wonder that the first escape attempt happened two months after the settlement was established and that during the first six years, 156 escape attempts were recorded. 

Not many would-be escapees actually made it and around half died during their attempts. Among those who did make it was James Goodwin. Goodwin and a fellow inmate, Thomas Connell, secretly carved themselves a canoe and slipped away from their timber-cutting party. The pair rowed up the Gordon and then the Franklin Rivers until a waterfall forced them to continue on foot. They then continued on, across rugged mountains and through dense forests, heading east to the settled areas. Eventually they parted ways and that was the last that anybody had heard of Connell. 

Goodwin, however, reached Ouse, where he was captured. Luckily for him, because he knew so much about the uncharted Western Wilderness, he was pardoned and given a job with the Surveyor General.

An inmate who escaped not once, but twice, was the notorious Alexander Pearce. Pearce, an Irishman, had been transported to Van Diemen’s Land for stealing several pairs of shoes. He first escaped in September 1822, along with seven others. Pearce had been at Sarah Island for only six weeks. The group had originally planned to steal a whaleboat and sail north but after they overpowered their overseer, things went awry and they ran into the wilderness instead. 

A little over a week later they were starving, so they drew lots and killed the loser, who then became their meal. 

Two of the men left the next day, trying to get back to Macquarie Harbour rather than becoming the next items on the menu. The rest of the group continued on their journey and also continued picking off and eating the weakest one 
until only Pearce was left. 

He made it to civilisation but was captured and sent to Hobart Town, where neither the magistrate nor the parson would believe his story. So, he was sent back to Macquarie Harbour, where he soon escaped again, this time with one other inmate as company. He was captured within 11 days and found carrying human flesh in his pocket. Of his companion there was no trace. 

In June 1824, at around the same time that Pearce was being tried for murder in Hobart Town, another convict who would become infamous, escaped from Sarah Island. 

Matthew Brady was one of fifteen men who stole a boat and sailed along the coast to the estuary of the Derwent River. Brady became a bushranger and somewhat of a folk hero with the nickname ‘Gentleman Brady’ because he always displayed impeccable manners while he was robbing his victims.

To solve the problem of transporting the timber from Macquarie Harbour, Sarah Island became a shipbuilding centre. For a while it was the largest operation of its kind in Australia, with more than 100 vessels built during the existence of the penal settlement. (actually 131, with near 100 being built under the direction of one Mr Hoy, who learned his craft in Dundee and became a master shipwright in Boston, USA). Interesting fellow. Civilian. Not a Prisoner.  He joined the 6 other civilians, all women, on the Island who were not prisoners or soldiers, but wives and daughters of soldiers. 
Remains of ship slipway
Well-behaved convicts could now get transferred to ‘softer’ duties like gardening, smithing or boat-building and skilled tradesmen were encouraged to come and work on the island, which became an industrial village.  

The Island's Cook, a lady called Sarah (the island not named for her) was the spider in a web of graft, corruption, blackmail, contraband smuggling and extortion that reached back to Hobart Town and even Sydney. She cooked the books as well as the rotting meat.

The shipbuilding operation on Sarah Island led to 
one of the most daring escapes from the penal settlement. 

In 1834, ten convicts who had helped build a brig named the Frederick stole the incomplete ship as it was preparing to sail for Hobart Town. They sailed west and made it all the way to Chile, (yes, that Chile, in South America), where they had to abandon ship because of a leak. They rowed the ship’s whaleboat to shore and pretended to be shipwrecked sailors. Four of the men were captured and brought back to stand trial on charges of piracy. 

However, these charges couldn’t stick because the ship had not been completed and had not been seized in open waters, so they were only found guilty of robbery. ("It was just sticks and some rope and a bit of canvas, yer 'onner. Honest"). It helped their case, too, that the ships logs were never found, nor its Commissioning papers. ("So, yer see, yer 'onner, it weren't really a ship, innit?")

The Round Earth Theatre Company in Strahan, the nearest town to Sarah Island, tells the story of the Frederick in the very popular play The Ship That Never Was, the longest-running play in Australia.

The Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was closed down in 1833 but in 1847, Sarah Island was used as a probation station. At various times during the next three decades and again in the 1930s and 1940s, timber cutters used Sarah Island as their base camp. Today only ruins remain on the island, among them the ‘new’ penitentiary completed in 1828. 

To visit Sarah Island, you can charter a yacht but the most popular way to get here is as part of a cruise from Strahan. Members of the Round Earth Theatre Company present excellent guided tours of the island, bringing its infamous history to life.

So, there you are or there you might go.

But first, have a long, cool drink.

And be good.