All posts by Alan Thompson

Recognise this face?

Consider this a sequel to the article The Stranger in the Mirror where I bemoaned the lack of available images of the earliest generations of the Dyson family in colonial Western Australia. Of the patriarch, James Dyson—at best, we have an identikit image based on his alleged convict record. Of his two wives, and the vast majority of his twenty-two children (his own and the one he inherited), we have little or nothing. It unlikely there ever will be any images to be found of…

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Astley: The Gallant Ship Australia

“a more worthless set of men he had never before sailed with.”

…Captain Benjamin Avery stated, as he stood once again before the magistrate in the Water Police Office and denounced nearly half his crew paraded before him in the dock. Seventeen large and aggressive men shouted angrily as they were, as one, sentenced to twelve weeks hard labour in prison. They cursed their Captain in the vilest language and their threats grew louder and more violent. They had, after all, been found guilty of disobeying his orders, and one had even stuck the master and started to draw a knife on him. In a military service such as the Navy, they would have all been hanged—if they were lucky. But this was a civilian court and the three suddenly very civilian-looking Police Constables on guard duty that day began to realise that if the prisoners chose to act on any their blood-curdling threats, there was very little they could do to stop them…

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Astley: For Sail

Ships disappeared at sea all the time. There was no such thing as GPS, It would be another half century before wireless radio was invented. Passing vessels hailed one another and exchanged names with their captains, who would report who they had encountered, where and when, at the next port they arrived at. It was at the very best, a three month voyage from Britain to Australia. To send a letter and receive a reply would take half a year—If you were lucky. Mary Chapman waited. A whole year passed. Then the letter arrived.

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When the apocalypse comes

A few days ago the early warning systems of the islands of Hawaii announced that a intercontinental ballistic missile was heading their way and it was not a drill. Forty-eight hours ago, black ash floated down on the suburbs of Perth. The air not only felt hot, it smelt it. The mid-afternoon light dimmed to a dark orange. The forests around Mundaring were on fire. Twenty-four hours ago the rains began. These were ex-cyclonic rains, they started and did not subside. Twice a summer’s month…

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The Stranger In the Mirror

There is currently no known authentic likeness that exists of James Dyson. He was a prominent man of his time— merchant, land owner, Perth City Councillor—he was present at certain key events in the history of the city: He was definitely present at the opening of the Perth Town Hall, he was most likely present at the opening of the Perth Railway Station, The Wesleyan Church, Royal visit, parades… All these events were photographed, but there is no currently identified photograph of James Dyson. Even…

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An Anthemic Ancestor

Television and photo-plays have theme tunes. Nation-states have theme tunes which they call National Anthems. For most of Australia’s past two centuries, the national theme tune has been “God Save the [Queen/King]” (which does say quite a lot about the mentality of those who made that choice). Outside show-business identities and fictional characters, real people tend not have their own personal theme tune which plays whenever they make an entrance in to a room. (The President of the United States’s personal theme music pretty much…

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