An Island Off an Island

Musings from Bruny

Last year I was required to write about an ancestor who had fought in World War I as part of the Diploma of Family History at UTAS. We were encouraged to focus on someone who was Killed in Action as it ws less likely that their story would be told by their descendants. I decided to focus on my cousin (first cousin 3x removed), Andrew Mitchison who died in Belgium on 16 September 1916. I was blessed to find that his diary forms part of the Australian War Memorial’s collection while another relative was able to supply these photographs.

Lest we forget.

Anzac Day 2022


The Memorial Gates at the entrance to Grahame Park in the Newcastle suburb of Carrington were officially unveiled on 23 February 1924. Listed were the names of 258 Carrington men who had served in World War One. Of these 27 had been killed in action or died of wounds. One of these was 2450 Private Andrew Mitchison, 19th Australian Infantry Battalion, Egypt and France, 1915-1916.

Andrew Mitchison was born in Newcastle on 1 September 1888 to Andrew and Annie (nee Jackson). Andrew and Annie had arrived in NSW in 1884 aboard the SS Cambodia settling first in Wollongong before moving to Newcastle c1887. Andrew was one of seven children; six sons and a daughter. His brothers Horace and John Comus Mitchison would also serve in World War One.

Ship being loaded with coal Basin Wharf 1914

From his attestation papers we know that Andrew was five feet, six inches tall, weighed 121 pounds, had a fair complexion and fair hair with blue eyes. Prior to enlistment he was employed as a labourer by the Railway Commissioners on the Carrington Dyke cranes.

Andrew enlisted in the AIF on Sunday 18 July 1915, a day after an open-air recruiting meeting in Newcastle which had attracted “many thousands of enthusiastic people … a display of hands showed a large number who were willing to go to the front”. July 1915 was the highest month for enlistments during the war and this was closely associated with the losses at Gallipoli, the sinking of the Lusitania and government recruitment campaigns. He reported for duty at Liverpool two days later on 20 July. In doing so he was not able to attend the marriage of his only sister Hannah (Molly) to Edgar Law on 24 July.

The people of Carrington established a trust fund to provide a gold commemorative medal for every man from the Municipality who went to the War. These were presented to 27 young men who were home on leave prior to embarkation at patriotic ceremony on Saturday 11 September 1915. Amongst those to receive one were Andrew and his brother John.  Writing in his diary local resident Frederick Roberts wrote, “Carrington had a red-letter day on September 11 1915. The people were giving off the departing heroes a public send-off’”.

Andrew embarked on the SS Themistocles on 5 October 1915, arriving in Suez on 2 November as part of the 5th reinforcements of the 19th Battalion. From this time he kept a diary which details his time in Egypt and France. The months between November 1915 and March 1916 were spent training and trench digging with time to see the sights of Cairo and the Pyramids and to catch up with fellow Novocastrians in other Battalions.

Already the importance of contact with family was uppermost importance and in particular thoughts of his fiancée Grace Sticpewich were uppermost in his mind.“Out trench digging this morning and thinking of my girl. Would just be having tea which I often had by her side and thinking of what might have been had I been with her now. Had a good long look at photos, memories of home”.

Andrew also reflected on the original 19th Battalion which had arrived from Gallipoli; “they were to be pitied … they were poorly clad and what they did have was torn and ragged but they were in good spirits at having a spell from the trenches” In March the 15th Battalion sailed from Alexandria to Marseilles, a voyage of six days. They disembarked on Sunday 26 March and marched through the city where “the people gave us a great welcome and a lot of clapping”. This was followed by a 60-hour train trip which took them from the south of France to the North “my first glimpse of snow and its bitter cold”, and long marches en route to Flanders. His entries over Easter 1916 are a litany of mud, death and destruction “They are putting more shells into us now. The most unpleasant Easter holidays I have ever spent”.

Over the next three months Andrew participated in offensives around Fort Rompu (west of Armentieres) and Warloy-Baillon. From July through to August Andrew took part in the major offensives around Pozieres which he described as “Hell’s Glen”. On 26 July 1916, he wrote “Arrived here in reserves Sausage Gully last night. One only realises what war is when he comes here. Guns roaring in hundreds. Our boys are doing good work but one sees one continual stream of wounded men passing: some walking, some in ambulances, and some prisoners all day and night.”

Frank Crosier, Sausage valley Pozieres, Australian War Memorial

In early September the 19th moved to The Salient, a bulge in the trench lines in front of the Belgium town of Ypres. Andrew was killed here on 16 September 1916 when the German’s counter bombardment with minewerfer collapsed a front line tunnel burying five men from the 19th Battalion in addition to a number of Canadian soldiers. The men had been mining tunnels as a precursor to the Battle of Messines. It would be almost a month before his family in Newcastle learnt of his death.

Andrew had written a letter to his family on 22 July 1916 which included the prophetic words “Mother dear should you receive this letter, you will know that something serious has happened to me…” He describes how the action would be escalating to drive the Germans back behind their lines, and that in doing so “many lives must be sacrificed and one never knows when it may be his turn”. ‘He concludes “always know that my Dearest and Best and last thoughts were of you Mother Dear and Grace…Andy” The letter was subsequently printed in full in the local media.

Andrew had made a will in April 1916 leaving 5 pounds to his father and the remaining part of his money and shares in the Star Bowkett “be equally divided my mother, Mrs Annie Mitchison & Friend Miss Grace Sticpewich”.

Andrew Mitchison

As the War moved towards its conclusion a presentation of solid gold bars to returned soldiers and the next of kin of those who had fallen was held at the Carrington School of Arts. Each bar was inscribed with the name of the serviceman and, as a sign of respect, the audience remained standing while the Mayoress made the presentation to the next of kin. In subsequent years Andrew would be remembered his family and friends with insertions in the ‘Roll of Honour’ column in the Newcastle Morning Herald.

An early photo of Andrew’s grave

Andrew is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground near Ypres, Belgium. The inscription on his headstone reads He died a hero’s death. .

Grace Sticpewich married James Caird from Cooks Hill on 19 April 1924. Caird too had fought on the Western Front and was wounded at Villers Bretonneux.. Grace died on 3 May 1977 in Sydney.


Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War, – AWM4 Subclass 23/36 – 19th Infantry Battalion

Bean, Charles Edwin Woodro, The Australian Imperial Force in France  1916, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1982.

Commonwealth War Grave Commission, ‘Private Andrew Mitchison’, https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/490276/ANDREW%20MITCHISON/, accessed 30 July 2020.

Crozier, Frank, Painting, Sausage Valley Poziers, Australian War Memorial, ART00239

Gosford Times and Wyong District Advocate

Jobson, K.H., ‘First AIF Enlistment Patterns and Reasons for Their Variation’, Australian Defence Force Journal, no. 132, 1998, pp. 61–66.

Matthews, Wayne John & Wilson, David Andrew,-Fighting nineteenth: history of the 19th infantry battalion AIF 1915 – 1918, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, N.S.W, 2011.

Mitchison, Andrew ‘Diary 1915-1916’, Australian War Memorial, PRO3864.

National Archives of Australia B2455

Mitchison, Andrew, photograph, 1915, original held by Virginia Deurhof, Newcastle.

Mitchison, Andrew, brooch, c. 1915, original held by Virginia Deurhof, Newcastle

New South Wales State Archives, Assisted Immigration Shipping Lists, NRS5316, 4/4809, S S Cambodia_4 Apr 1884.

New South Wales War Memorials Register, ‘Connolly Park WWI Memorial Gates and Brigadier Frederick Galleghan Memorial Plaque’, https://www.warmemorialsregister.nsw.gov.au/content/connolly-park-war-memorial-gates-and-plaque-brig-sir-f-black-jack-galleghan, accessed 30 July 2020.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate

Ray, Greg & Ray, Sylvia, The Hunter Region in the Great War 1914 – 1918, Greg and Sylvia Ray, [Garden Suburb, N.S.W.] 2017.

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, New South Wales.

Roberts, Frederick, [A Newcastle Coal Trimmers Diary], University of Newcastle, http://library.newcastle.edu.au/articles/1828879.33936/1.PDF

The biennial Bruny Island Bird Festival is now done and dusted and all at #87 can sit back and consider how they will contribute to the event in 2024. As passionate bird lovers we were always going to be involved and the program which included talks, walks, markets, an art exhibition and workshops offered many opportunities. It was wonderful to see almost all events fully subscribed and wherever you went you’d come across small groups of twitchers deep in concentration. Let me tell you some of the camera equipment on display was a source of lens envy!

Those of you who follow us on Facebook will know that Marcus took part in the gatepost sculpture exhibition that required you to create something from recycled materials. The sounds of industry were evident from his workshop and he emerged with Tempus Fugit (time flies), a skew whiff cuckoo clock constructed from old timber and metal, pine cones gathered from the beach and a bird which started life as a plastic drink bottle. Our neighbour, Wally, had also been busy ‘creating’ and in the late afternoon before judging both entries were carefully put into place. We wandered up and down the stretch of Bruny Island Main Road connecting our houses while the sun set and not a car in sight. To steal a Darryl Kerrigan line, ‘how’s the serenity’. Excitingly Wally was awarded first prize – you can see all the entries on the Gatepost Sculpture Trail .

Meanwhile I took myself off to a Feather and Botanical Printmaking Workshop workshop run by Rhyll Plant from Castlemaine. Beach walks had centred around me collecting feathers and leaves to print and I was amazed by the results. I probably hadn’t done any real printmaking since high school and let’s not even think about how long ago that was! I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it and am now stocking up on the essentials. Look out, no doubt you will receive printed cards this Christmas.

To finish the weekend two special ‘birds’, our friends Zoe and Stacy flew in from Sydney for the weekend and joined us for Sunday lunch. So lovely to have them with us.

‘And Ruby’ I hear you ask? She told me to remind you that she’s a bird dog and her contribution to the festival revolved around keeping watch over the sightseers looking at the sculpture and bird-life in general!

Love from Bruny, cheep, cheep.

  • For our overseas readers Darryl Kerrigan is the main character in the classic Australian movie The Castle. Many quotes from the movie have become part of our everyday vernacular.

It would seem that my much-waited for new, better- behaved self was not as long- lasting as was hoped for. We’re back to square one in the trust stakes.

In my defence, the following events were not always my fault! Some have a very valid explanations for my actions. First and foremost, M&D place great faith in Adaptil – a product to calm the canine spirit via a diffuser. Is it my fault that the diffuser ran out a couple of weeks ago? Is it my fault that they couldn’t be bothered to get a refill? Without its soporific influence, what are the chances of me reverting to type?

‘Private property’ does not apply to black Labradors!

So, my ensuing behaviour over the last week is wholly expected. Three times this week on our evening walk I have taken it upon myself to disappear up into the houses fringing the beach. Twice there were mitigating circumstances – once when a visiting Staffie urged me to follow him/her up to its house and the other time when my mate Norman took off and I followed him. The third time was entirely down to me. I get this wild impulse to ‘go crazy’ and no amount of reason or orders will deter me from giving in to this inclination. I’m pretty sure that I could be forgiven if I would succumb to reasonable requests to come back, but they go unheeded. I just love leading M&D on a merry dance through the gardens and surrounding bush. When I finally decide to return, I am unceremoniously placed on a very short lead and dragged back to the car where I get ‘the lecture’ on how disobedient and naughty I am. Ho hum!

My crowning glory was an incident, again on the beach. M&D had stopped to chat (interminably) with some friends and their visitors. It was quite a windy day and at one stage the straw hat of one of the visitors blew off and I valiantly raced to save it from going into the water. There, the story should have ended but that ‘wild impulse’ I mentioned earlier kicked in and I had a whale of a time totally destroying said hat. Can you imagine the mortification and embarrassment of M&D! Strange thing was, I think they saw the humour in the situation and I luckily escaped any real censure.

At home I have managed to get hold of a few stray socks, hankies and dish cloths which have caused late night tummy upsets and much cleaning up under the bed. Just to finish, I’m quite proud of my toilet roll work. Remember that advertisement where the cute Labrador puppy runs through the house trailing Kleenex toilet tissue behind him/her? Well, I just think that stealing the roll from the holder and taking under the bed to totally shred it, has much greater impact.

I can’t help thinking that this occurrence in the kitchen yesterday may have been a ‘get square’ attempt by Dad.

Did you deliberately dust me with flour Dad?

The other motivation for my attitude is the constant vibe in our household at the moment about distant shores, and the hushed tones in which ‘kennel’ is uttered. My demeanour of late will serve as a reminder of the consequences of their travel plans.

I’ll keep you posted – Ruby.

Hi there, Ruby here.

It goes without saying that I love my M&D. I constantly seek their company and get quite edgy if they pay each other attention and not me. We must have family hugs – not individual ones. It’s also fair to mention that they can be a little pedestrian (not boring, perish the thought). So, to say that the last week has been ‘Ruby heaven’ is somewhat of an understatement.

One afternoon I was out on the deck surveying my surrounds when I saw a little white VW wagon turn up our driveway. I used to go out to work at Pet Care Extraordinaire in one just like it. My interest was immediately piqued. Then an ear-splitting ‘Hello, Ruby’ awoke every living creature on the north of Bruny. Only one boisterous but saintly person could do that – my bestie – Aunty Adrienne!

I charged up and down the deck barking raucously, my whole body moving like an articulated vehicle and my tail thrashing about in absolute delight. I raced down the steps to the one person who can eclipse my M&D. Aunty A had arrived with her friend Rylee to come and spend time out of their Tassie holiday with me.

Its fair to say that I rarely left her side for the next three days. We went walking together, had long chats on the bed together, she always had a snack on hand and we slept together. Happiness on a stick. I showed Aunty A all my favourite places and a few new tricks since we last spent time together. She may not have been particularly impressed with my epicurean treat of wallaby poo but I know she would forgive me anything.

You might think that I was devastated when Aunty A and Rylee left but now, I realise that Aunty A is still in the world and that she has promised to come back and visit, I’ll just look forward to her return. Can’t wait for the crazy, fun times to roll again!

We have been so busy settling into life on Bruny that it takes a repeat visit from a friend to take us off island and explore some of the many jewels that Tasmania has to offer. During Regina’s recent stay the two of us headed up to Hobart one Saturday to enjoy a couple of the capital’s drawcard attractions.

First stop was the iconic Salamanca Markets which had celebrated their 50th anniversary the previous week. Open every Saturday from 8.30am – 3 pm, the Markets stretch the length of Salamanca Place adjacent to the dock area. With over 230 stallholders and a focus on Tasmanian goods there was plenty to tempt us – and yes we gave in to the need to buy! Can’t say too much about our purchases as some readers will be the recipients of our spending but we were both pretty happy with ourselves!

Our second stop was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens which sits on the edge of the CBD. Marcus and I had done a tour here during winter and so I was a font of some knowledge which Regina seemed to accept as gospel! Established in 1818 they are the second oldest Botanic Gardens in Australia (Sydney having pipped them by 2 years), and like Sydney they adjoin Government House and have impressive water views. They were a blaze of colour and the community was out in force, lunching on benches and partying under trees. We opted for the Café which, after a couple of visits I can highly recommend.

Of course many of our (Australian) readers will associate the gardens with the ABC’s Gardening Australia as it is the home of the Community Food Garden tended on screen by Tino Carnevale. Previously it was known as Pete’s Patch after the late Peter Cundall beloved of generations of Australian gardeners (including my Dad who could be described as a groupie on those occasions Peter came to Orange!).

To complete the tourist experience I treated our guest to a supermarket visit – always the best way to learn about a community/country I believe.

Happy days.

Hi friends, Ruby here reporting from Dennes Point.

I’m currently enjoying a well earned rest after a busy ten days with Aunty Regina who arrived from Bendigo bearing chocolate from Aldi for Mum (no Aldi in Tasmania), Victorian ‘stickies’ for Dad, and a delicious dried beef thing for me! I think Aunty R has spent too much time with Lucy ( her brown Burmese) as she was amazed at how quickly I chowed it down and returned to the lounge room to rejoin the conversation. I mean, I didn’t want to miss any juicy gossip.

The view from the jetty

One of the many good things about a visit from Aunty R is the early morning walk the two of us take. I’m allowed to sniff away while she takes careful note of scientific stuff. We often take in the rock platforms which Mum and Dad rarely do. A treasure trove of new and exciting delights.

Mum and Dad used the opportunity of a resident dog sitter to head up to Hobart for a night of wining and dining while Aunty R and I had a girl’s night in. What fun it was! We curled up on the lounge under a couple of Mum’s quilts ( the ones I’m usually not allowed near) and grazed on things from the fridge. Aunty R is a bit of a disciplinarian about what I eat but I enjoyed it all vicariously.

Yesterday was her last day here and boy was it memorable! We started off on our walk as usual at 6.30 am and headed down to the beach to do one final rock platform inspection. Suddenly I found myself being dragged unceremoniously across the wet sand. Resisting I then found myself being dragged on my back! The cause of this urgency was an injured quoll Aunty R had spied laying at the base of the cliff. It was Animal Rescue writ large on Bruny Island.

Sensing that this was not the time to be ridiculous I allowed myself to be tied up while Aunty R bought her professional skills to bear on the poor sick little soul ( even though they are my nemesis I am not heartless). OK, I admit I may have barked a little.

Aunty R wrapped the quoll in her sweatshirt and we headed home to call Bonorong Wildlife Rescue. After speaking to them Mum and Aunty R headed off island in a flurry to deliver the quoll to the vet and I settled down to await their return congratulating myself on my role in the drama. When they came back it was a quick turnaround to get Aunty R packed up and off to the airport.

This morning I went into Aunty R’s room just in the hope that she might have returned and a morning walk was on the cards. She left me a parting gift of another beef strappy thing. I wonder when that will be handed out!

Love from the Island

Postscript: sadly our precious little quoll didn’t make it. Thanks to Bonorong and it’s volunteer network for all they do to care for our amazing wildlife.

Everyone is sick of hearing about ‘The year like no other’, but Covid aside, for us it really has been. Our relocation to the Apple Isle is definitely complete, and we’re feeling more and more like Tasmanians. This morning we were offended because Lara Hyams on ABC News Breakfast forgot to mention Hobart’s weather along with all the other state capital cities. Local news presenter, Guy Stayner has supplanted Juanita Phillips, although I must admit to a subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald.

It hasn’t been the hottest summer so far this year so we have had to make the most of what few warm, sunny days we have been afforded. Thankfully, the ferocious winds of last year have remained at bay. Our evening walks with Ruby along Nebraska beach have become part of our daily routine and we have even managed a couple of swims, albeit very quick ones. Ruby even managed a tentative but very brave swim out to us – through sheer desperation rather than for enjoyment.

Two kayaks ready to hit the water!

Our Christmas presents of kayaks have only had the one outing so far. For rank novices the conditions have to be prefect, that is a hot day, no swell and as few witnesses as possible. It has to be said that Jan has proven to be much more adept at kayaking than me – it must be all that dragon boating experience, or maybe my centre of gravity is too high. The world’s most stable water craft is still problematic. When we made it known that kayaks were our Christmas present to each other, every local without omission, regaled us with tales of their redundant crafts languishing in back yards, being used as garden beds or forlornly slowly mouldering away down at the beach. Of course, we will prove to be the exception to the rule!

Ruby assisting with the opening of gifts – and modelling her new collar. Thank you Personalised Pet!

Christmas was very quiet but lovely with traditional fare for lunch and beautiful Bruny oysters, cheese and beer later in the day. We spoiled ourselves with lots of other gifts and caught up with family and friends via Messenger video calls. Yesterday I dismantled the Christmas tree but I knew before that Christmas was over by the appearance of Hot Cross buns in the supermarket on Monday.

Another marker for the end of the festive season is the rapidity with which tourists come and go. Last week there were at least 40 boats moored off the beach, beach shelters, gazebos and kids everywhere. This week we are almost back to normal although the ferry queues have been horrendous with upwards of an hour and a half wait on both sides.

At times the ferry queue is diverted through the Pub carpark at the top of the hill to alleviate congestion on the highway.

Of course, the other indicator of summer is the welcome addition of live cricket on TV. I don’t think I’ve missed more than a handful of balls yet. The Sydney Test is rather frustrating at the moment with many rain delays. Jan managed to secure me a couple tickets for two days of the Hobart Test so let’s hope the weather is a little kinder. We also have tickets for the ODI against New Zealand in February.

We’re all aware that people say they are amazed at how much busier they are in retirement, and whilst I don’t generally concur, I have noticed that I only read 20 books last year, down from the 30-35 count of my working years. Perhaps Netflix and SBS on Demand have taken over. Heaps of landscaping and gardening have taken precedence lately as we try to tame certain areas while still trying to keep it as a sanctuary for the stunning wildlife and birds that frequent our block. The back yard has been tamed (nearly) and the weed-infested rubbish tip out to the side of the house is coming along nicely too. We really went overboard with a new house sign that arrived just before Christmas. We kept the original house name ‘Wainui’ which means ‘Big Water’ we think in Hawaiian. Can’t miss us now!

Looking flash!

So, 2022 will hopefully be the year that we can finally go and see more of Tassie, which means accommodating the needs of Ruby’s separation anxiety and looking forward to friends and family taking the opportunity to come and visit us. Hope to see you soon.

Antarctica has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. To date the closest I have gotten to ‘The Ice’ is vicariously through Regina and Suz’s photos when they made their grand tour, and a magic view of the ice floes on a trip from Sydney to Johannesburg a few years ago.

Antarctica from 35.000 feet

Australia’s new Antarctic Icebreaker the RSV Nuyina arrived in its home port of Hobart in late October. Grand celebrations were planned with a flotilla ready to welcome her and vantage points advertised. I had a 6am date with Ruby to go down to the Point to get a good view of her on her way up to Hobart. Sadly fate in the form of a snap 3 day COVID lockdown combined with a fog you could slice with a knife put paid to that! After hours of tracking her progress I was just able to pick her out from the kitchen window in Storm Bay heading up the Derwent. Even a fog finds it hard to disguise something so big and well, orange!

Since her arrival Nuyina has dominated the Hobart waterfront but today she heads south to Antarctica on her first voyage carrying 67 expeditioners and crew to refuel Casey research station, transport helicopters to Davis research station and undertake marine science commissioning. In the following days the French vessel MV L’Astrolabe and the US icebreaker Aiviq which has been chartered by the Aussies will follow in her wake.

Hobart is one of five global Antarctic gateway cities (the others are Cape Town (South Africa), Christchurch (New Zealand), Punta Arenas (Chile) and Ushuaia (Argentina)), and the impact of the frozen continent to the south is highly visible through the presence of government agencies and educational programs. The Australian Antarctic Division headquarters are located at Kingston (our local service centre) conveniently between Bunnings and Mitre 10. I say conveniently as I have an image of a research station phoning up to say they need something and a staff member popping over to one of these super stores, putting it on the account and placing the item on the relevant shelf for the next courier delivery- that’s what we would have done in the library! I guess the logistics of transporting something to Davis is slightly more complicated!

The Australian Antarctic Program is currently recruiting for the 2022/23 season. I did check it out but it would seem that the need for a library consultant of a certain age is limited. Shame really as imagine the blog posts I could write!

Constitution Dock, Hobart

Safe travels to all those heading south.

School is out and the traffic in front of 87 Bruny Island Main Road has increased – well expediently would be an over exaggeration! Let’s say there are one or two additional cars and the odd caravan with every load disgorged from the ferry. Wainui sits right on the entry to Dennes Point where the gravel switches to bitumen and the speed drops down from 80 to 40 (though 80 is optimistic or down right suicidal on much of the 11km of bends between us and the main drag). We lounge on the deck and identify the tourists (who generally slow down as they enter the settlement), and the locals who maintain speed until they hit the first bend with its ‘Slow’ sign painted on the back of an old real estate board. Just to reinforce the fact a second slow sign is a 100 metres or so down the hill. Between 7.30 pm and 6 am when Bruny is sealed off from the world (ie the ferry doesn’t run) the road is mostly silent.

By comparison the alternative highway that passes the house, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, is busy at all hours of the day and night. Having recently come to this conclusion we are trying to prove ourselves wrong but just when we exclaim ‘no craft on the water,’ we’ll see the flash of a tinny out fishing, the sail of a yacht on the horizon or hear the distinctive thump of a power boat moving through the swell. The sheer variety (and beauty) of many of these vessels is a delight and the telescope and binoculars are always on hand, as is my new favourite app, Deckee, which helps me work out who they are.

Ronja Storm off Nebraska Beach

The Channel is very much a working highway and the fleet that in our house is collectively referred to as ‘The Ronjas’ are in constant movement servicing the fish farms in the Channel and out into Storm Bay. The ‘Ronjas’ are named after the Ronja Storm which is owned by Huon Aquaculture and is in perpetual motion past the house. She is pretty impressive even though we hate what she and her minions represent.

HMAS Hobart off Dennes Point

Last week the quality of ship on our stretch of waterway went up a notch when HMAS Hobart called in over several consecutive days – a bit eerie to look out into the early morning and see a guided missile destroyer slowly cruising past. Those of you who have read Heather Rose’s novel, Bruny, won’t be surprised to learn that I was supposing all sorts of secret squirrel behaviour on the go. Maybe the fish farms were about to blow up? I think the reality was more simply that they were doing the ship equivalent of a plane’s holding pattern before they could enter Hobart. Oh well, imagination is a fine thing!

With love from Bruny xx

It’s the time of the year when the spectre of the jolly fat man in the red suit is evoked with the sole purpose of reminding me that I have to be ‘good’ in order for him to stop by my basket (substitute human’s bed) on the 25th. I think that my American friend, Auntie Rhoda , had the right idea by sending me a Christmas tree decoration with a picture of me and the words “Define Naughty” on it. Thankfully the whole concept of bribery in December is rather subjective and totally lost on me. I can tell you now, that if mince pies are left out for Santa on Christmas Eve, they won’t survive the night and he’ll be sadly disappointed. The reindeer are welcome to the carrots. We Labradors are not keen on the vegan option.

So, has my behaviour been worthy of Santa’s consideration? Again, one has to be smart (cunning) about this. If you give M&D something to gush about and tell all their friends about, any small misdemeanor can usually be forgiven. Let me give you an example.

Being a country dog, I had little experience with large bodies of water. So, when we moved here, I suspect that M&D believed the Labrador in me would show itself and I would immediately take to swimming. Well, I was, and still am, very wary of all that water. I like paddling and getting wet up to my tummy, but any deeper and I start to panic. But, after a year, I thought it was about time to literally ‘take the plunge’. With my mates Mia and May, I was so committed to chasing a ball that I didn’t realise I was out of my depth – and yes – I was swimming!

With my friend May

There was much videoing and sounds of delight from M&D that I knew I would have ‘credit in the ‘behaviour bank’. Many family members and friends were subjected to boring, blow-by-blow descriptions of my new found skill. I have also largely been trusted to be allowed off-leash on the beach. Yet more brownie points.

Unfortunately, some of this credit has been spent with minor infractions such as chewing Dad’s sock, several toilet rolls shredded under the bed, the odd ballerina cloth eaten and my penchant for waking the whole household in the middle of the night by quoll hunting on the deck.

All in all, I think I’m on the plus side of the behaviour ledger and I am looking forward to discovering what Santa will be leaving me come Christmas morning. (I really don’t care as long as it includes food.)

Love from the Island

One of the concerns we had initially about moving to Bruny Island was its relative isolation in terms of health facilities. Most of our fears have since been allayed due to the excellent Health Centre at Allonnah. There still remained the question of an emergency situation. Could the local services cope?Well, I’m going to answer that question with a resounding “Yes”!

On Saturday I was erecting a new set of shelves in my workshop under the house. No gory accidents with power tools or falls from a ladder, just a step down off a set of steps and something jarred or jammed in my already dodgy hip that totally immobilised my leg with a great deal of pain. The slightest movement was agony. Jan eventually arrived from the studio and She helped to get me on a chair.All fairly pedestrian up until now but the comedy of errors was about to unfold. What follows is not meant to be a criticism of any sort – quite the opposite.

Patiently waiting

Jan rang triple zero and the ambulance ( which is operated by volunteers) arrived in less than twenty minutes – two ambulances . It just so happened that the big ambulance was on the island for training purposes, so it’s crew responded as did the recently appointed paramedic and the emergency nurse.So we had Mary, Margaret, Tam, Clare and Kaitlin all in attendance.

With four ambulances in the street and driveway, the whole neighbourhood had been alerted to the unfolding drama.The plan was to back the ambulance under the house, put the stretcher in the workshop and from there, into the ambo (with me on it). Unfortunately, in formulating this plan, everyone’s input into how it was to be achieved resulted in the ambo getting bogged in the loose gravel of the drive. They finally manoeuvred me into an SUV via a wheelchair.

“Chainsaw” to the rescue

Once I had been dispatched and transferred to yet another ambulance at the ferry, Lee and our neighbour “Chainsaw”(Justin) from the SES and his tractor were summoned to ‘unbog’ the vehicle.

Lying in Hobart Private Hospital I can only marvel at the enthusiasm and alacrity of all involved. Thanks to everyone in the rescue mission and much appreciation for all the well-wishers.No prognosis yet on what has caused my condition but I suspect only rest will be the solution.

Hi Friends, Ruby here.

Most people agree that a Labrador starts to become a little more settled after about two years. I am nearing my fourth birthday and I must say that I don’t subscribe to meaningless stereotypes. I mean, much to M&D’s relief, there has been a certain dampening of wild and derelict physical behaviour, but I have interspersed it with more subtle and enigmatic practices that really keep them on their toes. Let’s say Ruby has commenced a phase of unpredictable, psychological guerrilla warfare to keep M&D in a perpetual state of frustration and dismay, and its all designed to retain me as ‘front and centre’ in our family!

As usual, I need to regale you with a few anecdotes to illustrate my progress in this regard. I still employ the tactic of randomly throwing myself off the lounge and diving under furniture to get attention. This always results in M or D (or both) joining me under tables and beds with soothing words, cuddles and more importantly, tasty snacks. They must feel that if I am willing to eat something. I can’t be too sick. (I’m a Labrador for God’s sake – I’d have to be dead before I refused food!)

Another favourite pastime has been to run away as soon as the door or gate is left open. Who remembers the great escape of a few months ago when I ran D ragged all over the farm, neighbours and beach for 3 whole hours? The consequences were not pretty. Now, I realise that I can have some freedom without being yelled at or smacked – in fact I can be rewarded. It works like this. If you sneak out of the gate at home, you don’t just take off but rather just stay out of reach and move around at your own pace, making sure to stay on our property. The other day I did this and ended up down the front where I am rarely allowed to go. The weed-infested pond was fun and I even found a dead bird which was a real bonus. You know after a while that M&D are so relieved for you to be caught that you will get a treat for doing so. Same applies at the beach – just run off a little way, look over your shoulder with a glint of the devil in your eye and lo and behold, out come the snacks.

With my chauffeur on our way to adventure!

The last example of these new ‘science of the mind’ tactics has so far prevented M&D from sending me to kennels overnight. I now show my displeasure at even being left alone for a day by manic barking and wailing on their return. I think they believe that I do this the whole time they’re away. In actual fact, I’m so drugged up on the tranquillisers they sneak into me that I sleep the whole time they are away. I have been known to sleep so deeply that I pee myself without even knowing. That’s retribution enough.

A fantastic benefit of my capricious behaviour has been the purchase of a ‘Pup Naps calming dog bed’. It really does work a treat and I love it. Its so warm, comfy and soothing and much to M&D’s delight, I use it all the time. (except at night when a human’s bed is much more to my liking.)

With Mia and May at Nebraska Beach

So, I feel my armoury of tricks is growing, if not in frequency, certainly in variety. (As the great magicians say, “Keep the audience guessing”) Throw in the odd physical ruse to garner some sympathy and I have them exactly where I want them. Example – last week I had a particularly hectic play sessions successively with Ollie, Mercx and then Mia and May. I pulled up lame with a very sore front leg and after hobbling along for a while I convinced M to go ahead and bring the car back for me. Lots of fussing when we got home.

I love my life down here and I know that my antics and subterfuge make M&D happy too. They feel valued and loved.

Love

Ruby

P.S. I don’t think that I have had much success on my enforced diet.