An Island Off an Island

Musings from Bruny

Not having any natural offspring to call my own, Father’s Day might slip by unnoticed in our household. Ruby, however has different ideas on this and as an integral part of the family, takes it on herself to be the surrogate daughter and celebrate the day anyway. This year she must have decided that my cultural horizons needed attention and miraculously organized a visit to MONA. She chose not to come with us as her artistic leanings tend to be more beach-oriented and definitely more olfactory in nature.

It was an early start to make the 10.30 MONA ferry for the twenty-minute trip up the Derwent. Ruby picked the coldest day with kunanyi cloaked in snow and a very icy wind sweeping across the water ensuring our coats, gloves and scarves were essential apparel. The one hundred steps up from the ferry terminal to the entrance are a daunting prospect.

What struck me way before the incredible art works and installations was the engineering and architecture of the place – the whole structure seemingly carved out of the sandstone bedrock. More galleries appear to be under construction as we speak.

One can only marvel at some of the exhibits that leave you awe-struck, stimulated and overwhelmed all at the same time. The water curtain that spells words as the water tumbles to the floor or the multi-screened theatre showcasing dance, the topical news rendered in bread sculptures, and the fire-ravaged landscape were intriguing;

The reflective, shiny cocoon, the fat red car and the wall of ‘see you next Tuesdays’ were more whimsical and fun. Amongst all the weird and wonderful, it was interesting to note that the Arthur Boyd’s, the Brett Whiteley’s and the Del Kathryn Barton’s held their own.

Lunch at The Source did not disappoint either. Shared platters of beetroot and broad beans and chorizo-infused custard with fennel followed by blue-eye trevally with scallops and squid in squid-ink for me and a baked cheese soufflé for Jan. I couldn’t resist a dessert of strawberries, panna cotta, cucumber sorbet and gin and tonic jelly.

I can’t help but be impressed by the philanthropy of David Walsh – not only to curate such an amazing art collection, but to make it free for all Tasmanians to enjoy. An added bonus of our Ruby-inspired visit is that like every other person we know, we can now say, “Yes. We have been to MONA”. We no longer have to feel culturally deprived and inferior to all and sundry.

There was, of course a price to pay for our wonderful day trip. The provider of the experience was a psychological mess when we got home. Being left all day to her own devices proved too stressful for Ruby and she went through all the usual darting about, diving under furniture, dribbling and manic behaviour to show her displeasure and genuine concern at our absence.

Readers of this blog will know that a couple of weeks ago, in a foolhardy moment, I suggested to some of my Bruny mates that I would be up for a bit of cold water swimming. Pete, who avails himself of the joys of the ocean all year round took me up on my bravado and we are now officially the ‘Dennes Point Great Rights’- officially might be an overstatement as the name only came up as a suggestion today and so far we have been pretty unsuccessful in swelling the ranks. Our respective spouses shake their heads and our friends V & G have been once – but wore their wetsuits!

So here’s the drill. 10 am ( if we’re around) we meet at the northern end of Nebraska Beach which is quite sheltered. One of us strides straight in and under. The other ( author of this post) immerses herself gradually, never getting her hair or face wet. We stay in for 15 minutes during which time we chat, then we go home. For me this involves a quick 2 minute drive up the hill and then into the shower.

The benefits of cold water swimming are well documented and I must admit I feel fabulous for hours afterwards though my cobbled together cold water swimming ensemble looks pretty ordinary.

What’s the saying about six weeks to make a habit? We’re two weeks in so next time I write about this big of life here on Bruny it will be commonplace. Air and water temperatures will also be warmer. Today? Air = 12, Water = 11. Yes! #@*& freezing!

Love from the Island

I am now officially a Swans supporter!

I know this will surprise many of you who understand that I don’t give a toss about any kind of football, and that any sporting allegiance I may have is limited to Team AUSTRALIA at the Olympics and Comm Games plus the mighty Colour City Dragon Boat Club. But needs must, and when I had to nominate ‘my’ team for the end of season Dennes Point footy tipping ‘get together’, I followed Marcus’s lead and went for the Sydney Swans.

A bit of background here for our non Aussie readers. Tasmania is an AFL (Australian Football League) state. We come from an NRL (rugby league) state. I have a vague idea about NRL but nought about AFL!

Thankfully Mr M is more across the sporting codes and has been responsible for our participation in the competition over the past few months. My contribution has been that my email address has been used as the conduit between tipping central and M & J Richards! We came a respectable 46th out of 70 which isn’t bad for newcomers. The winner, Marilyn, maintained the lead from day one walking away with the cash prize and perpetual trophy!

We are about to head into the finals, and yesterday was the annual get together of the Dennes Point tippers. We were asked to dress in team colours (hence my having to choose my team). The Swans are red and white which allowed me fee reign in my wardrobe – who knew that those red corduroy pants would come in so useful!

The event was held at the Jetty Cafe and featured a spit roast, salads, cheese, sweet treats and lots of alcohol! It was a great way to catch up with our neighbours and there was a little silly behaviour. I have memories of volunteering for several things including starting swimming from 1 September! Hopefully Pete and V will have forgotten that conversation. We were invited to an after party at ‘Social Central’ but declined the invitation to get home to the, by then anxious, black baby.

A huge shout out to Mick who ran the competition this year and his mentor and event organiser Lynne. Thanks to Justin and Corey, spit roasters par excellence; to Kris and Ray for providing the perfect venue; and to everyone for your food contributions and good company.

I’m now learning the Swans team song in preparation for next year! ‘Onward to Victory’.

Love from the Island.

It would seem that there is a new concern for M&D relating to my health. This can be a blessing and a curse. Let me explain. The day that Mum flew out to Dublin for one of her Library ‘things’ I was taken to the vet because my face had changed shape quite dramatically over the last week or so. Unlike previous dogs in this family, I quite like going to the vet. Its good to get ‘off island’ even if it means an uncomfortable trip in the ute. Don’t worry, I’m in the cab with Dad, but he does get stressed when I insist on putting my head on the console. Anyway, the vet staff are particularly welcoming. Sheridan, the receptionist, always seems to be excited to see me and is ready with lots of liver treats and ear rubs.

Russell, the vet who dealt expertly with my endoscopy on my previous visit checked me out this time. The usual indignities were deemed necessary but this time there were big medical terms being bandied about and a distinct sense of disquiet between Dad and Russell. We left the vet’s in a very sombre mood.

I was referred to a veterinary neurologist from Melbourne, and as luck would have it, I was able to get in to see him later in the week. That meant another long trip in the ute up to Hobart. Dr. Sam seemed nice enough, and I’m sure had the expertise to match his charming ‘bed-side manner’. His prognosis was a little more positive, but still those worrying big words remained in the conversation – Mandibular neuritis, idiopathic tri-geminal neuropathy or hypo-thyroid something or other all got a run.

Snuggling with Dad

M&D are still uneasy because no one can give a definitive prediction of the future. For me, this is a real benefit and something that I can, and do, exploit quite shamelessly. They are constantly looking for any changes in behaviour that may be a symptom. Dad already thinks I sleep a lot more and so lounge-time has been increased and he has been much more likely to be close by to snuggle with.

There have been more treats (for the poor, sick pup). Mum has noticed that I have ‘broadened across the beam’ in her absence, although the blow-torch is applied to Dad rather than me. The dreaded words ‘portion control’ have been re-introduced to the vocabulary.

One minute I’m on the beach, the next minute vamoosh!

The biggest bonus has been me not getting into trouble for my Houdini-like disappearances. Last week on the beach I did my usual trick of taking off up into the shacks and staying just far enough away to be cutely annoying without being able to be caught. I got as far as my best friend’s Norman and Pearl’s before I allowed myself to be grabbed. The walk back to the car was uncomfortable but I wasn’t smacked or even yelled at. I did, however, get the ‘I’m very disappointed’ speech.

Even better, the day before Mum got home, a gate was left open which I exploited to the full and took off for an hour or so. When I saw Dad walking and driving all over the neighbourhood, I thought it best to return home. When he drove up the driveway, I was waiting for him in the fishpond. Just to extend the fun a little longer I ran across the road to say hello to Rosie. (I didn’t think that through because in playing with her, I lost concentration and was unceremoniously collared and marched home.) But here’s my point – No punishment!

So, I will continue to push the boundaries in the hope that my ‘condition’, whatever that may be, will continue to elicit sympathy and a greater understanding of my canine needs and wishes. Wish me luck!


Hi friends, Ruby here writing from the couch where I’m convalescing after emergency surgery. It’s been a tough 24 hours but let me reassure you that I’m fine and the many veterinary professionals who have cared for me during that time have declared me an ‘absolute delight’ – just saying.

So let’s rewind the clock and set the scene. Regular readers will know I have a penchant for swallowing socks and handkerchiefs. Not eating, more like a hoovering action. After a few days in captivity I release them back into the world, usually via the same path that they entered the dark and murky insides of one black Labrador. Aunty Adrienne describes this as ridiculous behaviour while Mum and Dad despair and keep careful watch over my bodily functions.

Over the years there have been mutterings of ‘if it doesn’t come up we’ll have to go to the vet’ but until yesterday I’d managed to perform miracles and ensured that the offending article reappeared before I was loaded in the car.

On 4 July 2022 my run of good luck came to an end and I found myself off to the Tasmanian Animal Hospital in Kingston. After the usual enthusiastic welcome from Sheridan I was ushered in to see Dr Russell who seemed to take the issue very seriously. Lots of prodding and poking and perhaps not enough of the liver treats on the counter ( just saying). Next thing Mum and I were back in the car heading to the surgery in Bellerive where something called an ultrasound was planned! I was quite keen to see this Bellerive place as I know of it from passively absorbing cricket commentary with Dad during summer. Any dreams of running amok on the hallowed ground was soon dispelled when we pulled up at yet another vet practice and I was shown into a room behind the scenes area and Mum disappeared.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur and is recounted from conversations I overheard while in the recovery position. It would seem that the ultrasound showed a mass in my stomach which they deduced was said sock and so I was wheeled into surgery for an endoscopy performed by Dr Rob. From what I understand I exceeded all expectations and made Dr Rob a superstar as he pulled not one, but two socks from my stomach – oh and two handkerchiefs as well. One of the socks went ‘missing’ when Rylee was here in February, imagine! Dr Rob offered to provide Mum with a video of the event, which she declined ( though Aunty Regina is keen to see it for professional interest).

I was then transferred to the AVEC (After Hours Emergency Veterinary Centre) for overnight care and monitoring before being driven back to Kingston this morning where Mum and Dad collected me and bought me home with a big bag of medications and many instructions. I’m already dreading the fussing, Mum will go into nurse overdrive.

I’ve been listening to M&D and they are full of praise for Tasmanian Veterinary Hospitals and the whole customer service experience where they were ‘kept in the loop the whole time’. I believe someone called Mr Joyce could learn from this. Whatever!

Love from the Island from one very sleepy Ruby

I have just completed an online customer experience survey with Air Dolomiti. A subsidiary of Lufthansa you would be forgiven for not necessarily recognising it as a brand; they were unknown to us until a week ago when we flew with them from Genova to Munich. There were a number of things which impressed me about this airline, especially their positive attitude towards constructive feedback.

It’s a shame that Qantas doesn’t take a leaf out of Air Dolomiti’s book! Almost a month after my first message to Qantas’s ‘Customer Care’ service I am still only at the ‘thank you for your message’ stage despite multiple attempts to contact them via various means. Sad when you have to resort to your blog to vent your spleen.

Let’s start at the beginning. We left Hobart on 16 May bound for Sydney and then onto London. Our planned turnaround time in Sydney was comfortable but a series of delays in Hobart made it increasingly tight. Consequently soon after takeoff we informed the cabin crew that we had a connecting international connection. The young woman who we will call K had an interesting response – ‘can you remind me again when we get closer to Sydney, I have a terrible memory’. Right! The consultant in me wanted to suggest that a pad and pencil may come in handy or that she might want to reconsider her career choice; would she remember the safety drill in an emergency? As it happened she did remember we’d asked her something and came back to ask us what we’d asked her. She was ‘onto it’. That’s the last time we ever saw her! Luckily there were another few passengers for the London flight on board, all of whom had received a similar response, and collectively we found our way to the transfer gate to be whisked across the tarmac.

By comparison my new friends at Air Dolomiti handled a similar situation in a proactive and reassuring manner. By the time we landed in Munich on our delayed flight from Genova every transferring passenger had been assured of what was happening and what steps they needed to take regardless of their final destination. Maybe K could see if she could undertake a mentorship process with the Germans?

Relived to be aboard QF1 London bound we settled into our seats. The ‘leather’ on my footrest was shredded and the whole thing was attached to the seat in front at a particularly jaunty angle and the mood lighting had been removed and gaffer taped over. Annoying but first world problem. What wasn’t so acceptable was the remnants of a previous passenger’s meal tray down either side of my seat and their used earplugs in the tray area. I informed the crew who apologised profusely and promised everything would be addressed at our stop over in Darwin. It wasn’t, and the first of my correspondence with ‘Customer Care’ began.

Lesson learnt- take a photo of your luggage for reference!

My mood wasn’t lightened when we arrived at Heathrow but my suitcase didn’t and I began the long process of 1) actually locating the company which handles Qantas lost baggage and 2) dealing with them and their website over the ensuing days. It was only after I found a sympathetic ear at the end of the line a few days after our arrival, when I may have lead her to believe that I had a more important role in the wedding we’d travelled for than mere guest, that things began to move. The word ‘gown’ is quite powerful. It was a week before my bag and I were reunited by which time some of the outfits I’d packed for specific events were surplus to requirements. I must acknowledge Regional Express (REX) here – ‘the years we prefer to forget’ mean that I now always travel with spare underwear and makeup even if it’s only meant to be a day trip so I was at least a little prepared.

Fast forward to last Monday when we turned our faces to the south and boarded QF2 for Sydney after a magical three weeks catching up with family, friends in England and being part of Sam and Guiditta’s wedding in Italy. After a couple of glasses of bubbles in the Qantas Lounge we boarded the plane and settled into our seats. ‘Better just check down the sides’ I said laughingly with my mirth turning to disgust as I ejected a salt and pepper sachet from one side of my seat and a paper napkin from the other. I was on that call button before I’d even been offered the welcome drink. While I feel some assurance that this complaint was recorded the comment that this was a now common problem didn’t fill me with confidence. I’m sure if I scroll through Qantas’s increasingly difficult to navigate site there will be a comment about COVID and cleanliness.

I decided the best way to cope was to sleep the 15 hours to Darwin which I did. I no doubt looked a sight as no care package with eye mask was forthcoming so I wrapped my scarf around my eyes a la ‘pin the tale on the donkey’ and just got on with it.

Arrived in Sydney at 5am and through to the luggage carousel soon afterwards. This time my bag appeared almost immediately but by the time the roundabout came to a standstill there was nary a sign of Marcus’s bag with its distinctive yellow wheels. Another victim of Qantas/LHR or both! The luggage controller must have come from central casting in the ‘how not to offer customer service’ training video. As we were the first flight of the day I dread to think of the help and advice others received. After days of checking the status of Marcus’s bag and a long phone call he received a call today to say it’s in Hobart and should be with us tomorrow, a week after it was last sighted.

So I can hear some of you say ‘just don’t fly Qantas’ and believe me our long-standing loyalty is being tested – this is the Readers Digest version of my complaints. The reality is that when COVID hit we had a number of flights booked with the flying kangaroo and made the decision to support them rather than asking for a refund. We’re now in the situation of having flights booked to use up our credit. Qantas communications constantly talk about respecting each other but increasingly I’m feeling that respect for the customer has gone the way of the Tasmanian Tiger.

Time to take Ruby for a walk and be grateful for the life we lead. Rant over.

Postscript: M’s bag has just been delivered by courier. Thank heavens he had gone by the consignment note not the address label Qantas had affixed to the bag which was going to a ‘Richards’ at Bicheno which is 4.5 hours north of us! The driver twigged there was a problem when he looked at the label as he had delivered to the Bicheno address yesterday. Tell me Qantas, is it that hard?

We are often guilty of waxing lyrical about the beauty of the view from our house, looking back across the d’Entrecasteaux Channel to Tasmania. It’s a scene we never get tired of due to the ever-changing nature of it. Today, for example, the gale-force winds are chopping up the water and the white caps are charging across the Channel. No water craft of any sort would venture out in such conditions. All this framed by the trees thrashing about and struggling not to be shredded by wind and rain. Tasmania keeps disappearing as each rain squall comes and goes. Even in such a miserable state, there is majesty and charm because it’s our view.

I write of this now because we have been lucky enough to experience some other pretty spectacular and/or special coastlines in our recent trip to England and Italy.

The first of which was a nostalgic trip back to the coastline of my childhood. Back in the day it was plain old West Bay, Dorset, but now it is deemed part of the Jurassic Coastline, famous for its fossils of that era. Few people would describe the beaches of West Bay as beautiful – more brutal – with its pebble beach, monolithic piers imposing themselves on the English Channel and the towering cliffs of East Beach (made famous by the TV series Broadchurch). To the east is the geographic phenomena of Chesil Beach and The Fleet ending in the spectacular Portland Bill. For the first time in living memory this pilgrimage was met with sunny and warm weather. (To be fair, most other visits have been in winter).

The next coastline on our journey could be described in gentler terms. Our hotel in Genova was situated in the heart of the marina with our balcony overlooking the millions of dollars’ worth of yachts directly below us.

We took a day cruise down the Ligurian coast to Portofino. The dramatic cliffs are interspersed with quaint and picturesque villages huddled in the many coves and inlets along the coast. Being Republican Day in Italy gave the Italians the chance to ‘come out and play’. Every conceivable water craft was being employed to catch the first of summer warmth. Most impressive of such craft was the super yacht “Arrow” a 75m monster available to rent at 850,000 euros per week!

Lastly, and most memorable, was the location of the wedding that was our raison d’etre for the trip. This gem was found east of Genova in the township of Borgia-Verezzi. The site of the wedding, and our accommodation was the Villa Sole, a stone building clinging to the side of a precipitous cliff with incredible views down to the coast. Between parties, weddings and breakfasts we spent many long hours sitting, marvelling at the vista below, always with a prosecco or Aperol spritzer in hand.

Now I type this surveying the Channel on a cold, rainy day while I contemplate how much I missed it while we were away.

I knew it, I knew it, as soon as I saw those dreaded suitcases appear, something was afoot. Why is Auntie Beb here if they are going away? Then it happened, off they went in Dad’s Ute with not a look back.

So here I am, ready to take my anger out on Auntie Beb. First there was her nice pink sock, very tasty. Then knickers – if I get my way she won’t have any left before long. Damn, she’s got the hang of making sure her bag is closed and the bedroom door too.

Oh well looks like M & D have deserted me and Auntie Beb has got treats so it can’t be all bad. I still get my walk on the beach, and breakfast and dinner are usually on time.

What’s this? Just got into a routine and strangers arrive. I’m told it’s Auntie Patricia and Uncle Mossy. They were forewarned about my addiction to socks and knickers and immediately kept their bedroom door closed. Spoil sports. Although I did try Uncle Mossy’s glasses, but then realised a Labrador doesn’t need glasses being a seeing eye dog.

I believe Auntie Patricia was responsible for M &D getting my big, big, big sister, Licorice, who they describe as the second naughtiest dog they’ve ever owned. Not sure who was judged the naughtiest. I helped Auntie Patricia in the kitchen and also assisted her in eating her dinner.

Just got used to them being here and they all decided to go out for the day and I had to take a chill pill, the indignity of it all. WHERE ARE MY MUM AND DAD????

On the upside Auntie Beb keeps treats coming and sometimes she indulges me with something special – she doesn’t strictly adhere to Mum’s words about ‘portion control’! Better not tell M & D.

Then yesterday I heard a familiar sound. Was that Dad’s Ute coming down the hill? They’re back with all sort of foreign scents about their persons and tales of lost luggage. I was so pleased I haven’t given them the treatment – yet! That will come when they least expect it.

Ruby ( with thanks to Aunty B for taking dictation).

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’,, 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’,, 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,

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!