Motu, a language still in hiding
Investigating the New Guinea Singing Dog

Down south on long leave, Sydney, 1964

"“I’ve got just the one for you,” Filshie said. “It’s a red XK120 Jaguar convertible. Goes like the clappers” (Rob Barclay)

| Memoir | Edited extract

ADELAIDE - After six years’ service in the Territory, I had six months long leave, which I decided to spend in Melbourne and Sydney.

In neither place were there receptive females on holiday, so securing companions would be an ongoing problem.

I had discussed this difficulty with two fellow patrol officers due to attend the long course at ASOPA [Australian School of Pacific Administration] after their own leave.

And when we met up in Moresby just before I  for Sydney, I gave them quite explicit instructions.

“First I’ll be in Melbourne with family and friends for a couple of months," I said.

"I don’t want you guys spending all your free time guzzling beers and sinking rums at the Buena Vista before I arrive.

"There are things to be done.”

The Buena Vista in Mosman was the kiaps favourite watering hole since they had had been barred from the pub at Clifton Gardens. There had been one brawl too many.

“So while I'm away, line up some nursing sisters from the Royal Prince Alfred.”

Meeting party girls didn't happen every day out in the New Guinea bush. And we had to work at it hard on leave.

“Righto,” said my mates, “we’ll get onto it as soon as we’re in Mosman.”

So I flew down to Melbourne, my parents meeting me at Essendon airport and driving me out to their splendid property in the Dandenongs.

I intended to live the high life on leave and the next day called Ross Filshie, an old friend from my athletic days who at the time was the Australian pole vault record holder.

In an effusive 'what's going on' type conversation, I mentioned that I needed to buy a second hand car to get around.

“I’ve got just the one for you,” Filshie said. “It’s a red XK120 Jaguar convertible. Goes like the clappers.”

“I’ll buy it,” I said immediately, and arranged to pick it up the same afternoon.

Driving back to my folks’ place later, I wondered how fast the Jag could and wound it up to 105mph (170km) along Dandenong Road. I got plenty of stares.

Anyway, all good things have to be exchanged for other good things, and I'd told my kiap mates I’d get back to Sydney and that they should organise some nursing sisters.

When I arrived back in Sydney from the Dandenongs, I decided to make my base Kings Cross.

I booked into a musty and seedy boarding house which I dubbed ‘The Flea Bag’. No point wasting money better spent elsewhere.

Having no friends in Sydney, I made a beeline to the Darlinghurst police station and introduced myself.

The young constables on night duty were very impressed by my commissioned officer’s warrant card from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and saluted me: I outranked them by a country mile.

I didn’t draw attention to the fact that I was merely an officer of the field constabulary, not the regular police: there was no need to confuse them.

I took to joining the off-duty police in drinks at their local pub. I would regale them with New Guinea jungle action stories and they would tell me yarns about the Kings Cross criminal underworld.

They were a bit wary of me at first, concerned because I was an outsider, but became more expansive with my regular visits.

My favourite watering hole, just around the corner from my room, was the All Nations Club, which remained open until 4am every day. And the three weekend dance nights were always packed. 

Club manager Allan Bates and I became good friends. He told me the club was renovating the top story bedrooms which would be available for long and short term leases when completed.

I put my feet up in the club lounge and gave the whole matter careful thought. What does every single officer need on leave?

Answer: An ample supply of booze and a bevy of beddable female friends. The All Nations Club could supply both in spades.

It was conceivable, I mused, that an officer could arrive by taxi from the airport on Day One of his three months leave, book in and then return to the airport on Day Ninety.

All necessary business could be conducted via the club’s office.

For the fitness buffs, there could be morning constitutional walks around the block to work up an appetite for lunch.

And for fresh air fiends, the club could arrange a picnic hamper to be taken to Centennial Park to impress any partners he may have found.

I put my name down for one of the suites, and stayed a member for the next 25 years.

Kings Cross was fun but I had to spend the last 10 days of leave with my kiap mates over in Mosman.

On my arrival I marched straight into the Saloon Bar of the Buena Vista and, sure enough, there they were, schooners clutched firmly, ranting with other ASOPA kiaps on the school's long course.

After greeting them, I asked the question they must have been waiting for.

“So what’s the state of play with the nursing sisters?”

“We’ve just been too busy at the school, and settling in and so forth."

“Bullshit. You’ve been here two months, and you haven’t lifted a finger.”

“Well,” one said apologetically, “it all just lapsed soon after you left.”

I was told a kiap and a police officer had become romantically involved with two of the Royal Prince Alfred sisters.

We agreed not to attempt to try anything on - too many dramas. I heard much later that both liaisons resulted in marriage.

It was Friday evening, and the usual weekend parties in Mosman had already started.

But not for us.

“Right," I said. "At closing time we’ll load up the cars with a few cartons of beer and a box of overproof rum and find a party.”

Most of the other kiaps wanted to join in, so a four-car convoy led by me in the XK cruised the prosperous streets of Mosman.

It wasn’t long before we spotted a party.

I knocked on the door, and two blokes opened it, warily.

“We’ve been told by Albert to bring beers and stuff for you. They’re free”.

“We don’t know any Albert,” one said.

“Oh, must be some mistake,” I replied, making as if to leave.

“No, no, come in, we’ll sort it out. We’re just about out of beer anyway.”

Our lads were primed to get the males drunk and stay clear of the girls for the time being.

We didn’t want them frightened by any altercations or unseemly brawling.

The beers were de-cartoned to refill the laundry tub and the box of rum left in a corner.

As the evening wore on, we inveigled the males to try the hard liquor, and it wasn’t long before they were staggering around and speaking nonsense, much to the disgust of their girlfriends.

Now our boys began to move in quietly and started chatting up the girls, getting phone numbers and making arrangements for a weekend picnic.

Between us, we took home a few of the girls, their abandoned drunken partners passed out on settees, floor and anywhere they dropped.

By the end of the weekend, some of the girls had replaced us for their regular boyfriends.

'Albert Sent Us' was a good ploy for blokes on leave who needed girlfriends.

“It’s been a great leave,” I said happily, as the boys drove me to Mascot airport to get me on the plane.

I'd sold the XK to a used car lot for pretty much what I'd paid for it in Melbourne all those months before.

Travelling on my flight to Moresby was District Officer Dave Moorland, an impossibly handsome debonair kiap with dark curly hair, a tanned aquiline face and a flair for the theatrical.

He had three willowy stunners hanging off him to say goodbye. Despite my achievements on leave, I was just a bit jealous. Moorland never had to invent elaborate ploys like 'Albert Sent Us'. He just stood there.


When the first boarding call came, I walked across to the Electra, but such mediocraty was not to Dave’s melodramatic taste.

He waited until all the other passengers had moved off and, when his name was called for the third and final time, raised a champagne glass flamboyantly high, saluted his female entourage, farewelled the crowd, quaffed the bubbly and thrust the empty glass at a surprised bystander before bursting onto the tarmac.

At times turning to wave and flashing smile after brilliant smile with perfect iridescently white teeth, he eventually bounded up the aircraft steps.

At the top of the rise there was another bout of frenzied waving, arms flung high in final salute like a Papal benediction.

Then Dave whirled around to disappear inside the aircraft.

Two exasperated hosties grabbed him impatiently and hauled him unceremoniously to his seat.

We were on our way back home at last. Leave was over.

Back to another few years in the Territory.


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Bernard Corden

The Buena was a palace compared to the Antler (Narrabeen Sands) at Narrabeen but the real den of iniquity in Sydney was The Three Bells at the bottom end of George Street, which was affectionately known as The Bunch of Cnuts.

I am sure our editor is quite familiar with a regular haunt of Lunchtime O'Booze journalists, which was the Diethnes Greek restaurant at the Central Station end of Pitt Street.

It is still extremely popular.

As we journos upscaled from grubby Remingtons to the mysteries of Wang computers, we tended to do our Lunchtime O'Wining in Chinatown or Little Italy. Diethnes was chosen only for sentimental reasons - KJ

William Dunlop

Harry, one of the hairiest Jaguars was the late Kerry Packer's XJS V12 tweaked by Kevin Bartlett.

Supercharged, turbocharged, producing several hundred horsepower; however sometimes the transmission wasn't quite up to it.

Consequently, on trips to the Hunter he had his helicopter follow him.

I currently have the ex Roger Payne's restored 1977 XJ6, and a 1999 S type which started life in Rose Bay at a cost of $106,000 which I picked up for the princely sum of $2,000 in Mackay Queensland with a year's rego 5 1/2 years ago when I was still adventurous in driving.

They are not quite in the same class as boats are as a bottomless pit to pour money into.

Harry Topham

Saw a very well done conversion of a Mark 10 Jag that had a 5 litre Holden motor and five speed manual gearbox fitted. Holey Dooley, could that thing move. I reckon if it had wings fitted it would have taken off.

Not as fast though as that beast that was constructed by a enterprising Kiwi who dropped a 12 cylinder Lycoming radial aircraft engine into a what I think was an old Healey 3000/6 chassis.

Used to drive it around town, take it to the racetrack on weekends, remove all unwanted appendages and win every race it entered hands down.

Ah the things people get up to.

Paul Oates

Gosh Chips. You make it sound like we all went there. While I didn't, I did meet a future wife on my leave in OZ.

I do however remember a tale told to me by another former Kiap about one young Kiap who returned from such a visit and was a few days late on his official leave return date.

As he sat in front of the DC and about to get a severe 'dressing down', he produced a business card from a Filipino madam who had sent her personal best wishes etc. to the DC, referring to the DC's previous visit.

As the story went, nothing more was said about his late arrival back from leave. 'No names, no packdrill'.

Chips Mackellar

Yes, Rob, but the real place for kiaps on leave was Manila, especially when former kiaps John Stuntz, Tony Locke and John Balderson ran the Kangaroo Club there.

This club was a respectable tourist enclave in a crowded Asian city but from its safe haven kiaps could explore the exotic nearby fleshpots with safety.

Within walking distance from the club were to be found some of the world's most daring, sensual and delectable distractions imaginable - hundreds of beautiful Philippine girls available in droves like you would never believe, in hundreds of bars lined along the streets.

Some of these bars were a bit sleazy, but others were sumptuous and raucous, beefing out honky-tonk music all night.

Some had exotic names, like Kiss, Firehouse or El Dorado. The number of girls employed by each bar varied, some only 20 or 30. The bigger bars had a lot more. The most notorious bar was Bubbles which boasted 300 girls.

In some bars the girls wore Playboy bunny costumes, but in most bars the girls just wore very brief bikinis.

But these bar-girls did not come free. To take one off the premises you had to pay what was called a 'bar-fine'. It varied from bar to bar but was usually around $40. Then you had to tip the girl afterwards, usually the same amount.

The girl would stay as long as you wanted her - all night - tomorrow - the next day or whatever. She would expect the same pay every day she was with you, but she would do your laundry, take you shopping, be your tour guide, your dinner guest, your travelling companion, or whatever else you wanted her to be.

And if you didn't want her any more you just sent her back to her bar. Days later, if you wanted her again you knew where to find her.

Some kiaps stayed with the same girl for the duration of their stay in Manila. Others wanted a different girl each night. Some adventurous Lotharios took two at a time - a threesome, that is. The French call this a menage-a-trois. The girls called it double-canoe. Of course it cost double for that.

So while some kiaps enjoyed themselves in Sydney when on leave, it was Manila which was always the Mecca for the most audacious. And for a kiap from a lonely outstation, it would be for him the most sensuous, exotic, adventure he would ever experience.

Paul Oates

As to farewells at the airport, my mates decided to pipe me onto the aircraft and in those days it was possible. I boarded the TAA Kiap special to the skirl of bagpipes and have never forgotten it.

Neither did my mates who did the piping and who were very chastened when the airport security finally woke up that there were some non-flying passengers who had exited the terminal with bagpipes playing.

Mind you, my 21st finally ended up in Kings Cross as it was the only place to get a drink after 10pm. We paraded around the Cross behind a piper with the ladies of the night leaning over their verandahs and inviting us up.

Patrons at the various joints and establishments came rocketing out to find us marching with umbrellas at the slope and asked if they could join in.

"Sure thing," they were told. "Fall in at the rear."

When we got to the top of William Street, the copper on duty looked at this seemingly semi-official but scruffy crowd weaving its way en masse towards his hallowed position and wondered what was happening.

The piper, ex Black Watch and Scots Guards, stopped playing as he didn't want to be picked up for disturbing the peace.

As the traffic was held up and we marched past the constable, he asked the piper, "What happened mate? Did you run out of wind?"

"No, no," he was informed and we recommenced our march with an eye's left to the constable in recognition of his appreciation of a great stir.

We finally 'Fell Out' and dismissed the crowd who then streamed back to their drinks and whatever other pursuits.

Ah, the old days.....

Harry Topham

Should have held on to the Jag as that model one of the hard to get classics that are now very very expensive (read mega bucks) due mainly to supply shortages as the bodies of a lot of those old Jags were very prone to rusting out and being scrapped.

Also motors in were unreliable and, due to the high cost of replacement parts, were very expensive to repair.

In the 80s and 90s Jags were favoured by ad men as public proof of their success (before they turned to Porsches). We PR blokes driving past in Leyland P76's would laugh scornfully each time we saw one in the breakdown lane of the Harbour Bridge. They'd keep those tow trucks pretty busy - KJ

Bernard Corden

The Buena Vista and the Clifton Gardens were somewhat upmarket compared to The Pickled Possum in nearby Neutral Bay.

The Clifton Gardens Hotel was demolished in 1965, not by kiaps, despite their best efforts, but after continued refusals by Mosman Council to approve a redevelopment. It is now home to trees and shrubs as part of the Clifton Gardens Reserve, a place for idling and taking the air.

The Pickled Possum reopened last year after being sold in 2019. I'm told patrons' thongs still stick to the floor. By the way it was named The Pickled Possum after the possums hanging from its door frames in the hope of being fed carrots by drunk revellers who thought they were rabbits.

The Buena Vista (renamed the Buena after it was discovered drinkers found two words in a row hard to remember) is into its 100th attempt to go upmarket. However, patrons still report observations like "the manager has no idea and the bar staff agree", "security guards attempted to pick a dispute with me and my mate" and "the rare steak came well done and tacos missing" - KJ

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