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Friday, April 25, 2014

High Five: In Memoriam [ANZAC Day 2014]


What happened once has yet to end,
Since the cards were put down,
And the evening cocoa drained,
Around the stove at the Sergeants Mess.

Turn in lads. Tomorrow is another day.
Another training run across to Ireland
And back across the steel-grey sea
To Cumberland, coasting home to Millom.

Touch Douglas on Man, on to Slieve Donard
Across the steel-grey sea and its mists
Up to sight Belfast and back to St Bees
Ahead Scafell and down to Black Combe.

Vince, you are the pilot it seems from orders -
It's lucky you played baseball for Buffalo
This is a home run with four bases
So let fly a homer and slide home the Anson.

Rene, you’ll be navigator – we’ll try the new compass.
You are only twenty but you’re smart
I had to laugh after your mother Nolia wrote:
'Unfrozen by the Mounties in Chapleau'.

Joe they have you as the back up pilot.
Maybe we could wing some extra juice
To buzz Michael and the two Marys
Over Clutha’s saintly Celtic Soccer Country.

Tom you’ll be there as the radio crackles.
Dumb bastards, they have nothing to say
And when 'eh up' you turn on the tyke-talk
Let’s hope they too come from the Dales.

As for me, I’m Sunny Jay, Bob's your Uncle -
A thirty-three year old who helped
With the cadets and watched his sixth form
Join the RAF and had to follow.

The Anson is second nature now -
We flew them from Oudtshoorn
Up the railway to Bulawayo:
“I like flying and flying likes me”

A commission delayed - expect no less
As the Avro Lancasters hatch and queue
At Broughton, off the factory lines,
Just down from the graveyard at Blacon.

Fire Dragons feeding on men and boys,
Ready for the Terror Anschlag
To bathe Siegfried in blood
In the straff and flak over Berlin.

One more and another flight tomorrow
Across the broken steel-grey sea
To test a new compass with some runs -
And temper sons staked for the dragons.

I’m a teacher, the thinker, the pipe-smoker –
The Londoner who has to take
The Blitz 'nach hause' but keep the boys safe -
A soft spot under the dragon’s wing.

As I turn in tonight, I watch the stars
And think of my wife who was here
Three short weeks ago in Silecroft -
Black Combe walks, beer at the Miner’s Arms.

We have no son – only a daughter at home,
Who shelters snuggled with Meg and her cigs,
As the streets of Loughton shake and flicker
From the raids of the beasts’ distant kin.

Dear God, keep them safe this night
And at the rising of the sun
Engrave our hopes in what's foreshadowed
As we trace across the steel-grey sea.


Sergeant Vincent James Dunnigan, Pilot, of the Royal Canadian Airforce, aged 26, who was the son of Daniel and Agnes Dunnigan, and the husband of Elizabeth Mary Dunnigan, of Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.

Sergeant, Rene Harold Murphy, Navigator, of the Royal Canadian Airforce, aged 20, who was the son of John Murphy, and of Nolia Murphy, of Chapleau, Ontario, Canada.

Flying Officer (Pilot) Henry Joseph O’Gara, of the Royal Airforce, aged 29, who was the son of Michael and Mary O'Gara of Glasgow and the husband of Mary A. O'Gara of Glasgow

Sergeant Thomas Inman, (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner), of the Royal Airforce, aged 20, who was the son of John Thomas Inman and Violet Inman of Silsden, Yorkshire.

Sergeant Cyril Johnson, (Bomb Aimer/Navigator), aged 33, of the Royal Airforce, who was the son of Harry and Constance Maud Mary Johnson of Lewisham, London and the husband of Mabel ‘Meg’ Johnson [nee Clarke] of Nantwich, Cheshire. Father of Joseph Keith Johnson [born 9 June 1944] and Susan Davina Johnson [born 1936].


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Blacon, Chester contains some 460 or so graves - almost all of which are those of airmen. Of the dead, around 19 percent are Polish, 45 percent are Canadian, 14 percent are Australian, and 7 percent are New Zealanders., There is at least one South African. The remaining 15 percent are British [including other Commonwealth]. Sergeants Dunnigan and Murphy are buried at Blacon [Vince Dunnigan was of course American but the stats don't show that].

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Two Cheshire Farming Families from the same village celebrate a wedding in 1958 - St David's Church, Wettenhall


This online magazine started as a means of setting out the research that I had been undertaking on my Family History in the period to 2009. 

I had found that trying to consolidate the work in a single word document was clumsy and that the overlaps between the families made it more appealing to develop partially independent story lines.

Working online story by story seemed more sensible and adaptable to the fairly constant revisions that were necessary as the work peaked.

I was also conscious of the need to protect the documents and used the Blogger platform as a means of backing up my files.

Blogging turned out to be the ideal medium for settling out and safeguarding chapters that were constantly amenable to revision.

At the back of my mind though was the possibility of using the exercise as a means of developing competencies in e-publication.

To my surprise, almost immediately, I was contacted by and reunited with distant family members thanks to the visibility provided by the Web. And once I had learned to communicate in the new medium, I had a voice.

So learning how to download material from a DVD and posting the results on YouTube is another extension of the same process – especially as the result tells its own special tale of life, fifty plus years ago, in the dairy farming village where I grew up.

The material started as an 8 mm home movie and has gone through several transformations before finally finding a home online.

The Video shows the wedding of my sister Susan Davina Johnson to John Hollinshead. We farmed at Corner Farm, Wettenhall and the Hollinsheads farmed at Woodside, Wettenhall, Cheshire. Sue was ‘given away’ by my stepfather Horace Darlington and sections of the film show the bride and groom, and the two sets of parents – Fred and Flo Hollinshead and Horace and Meg Darlington.

There are also fairly numerous family representatives from both families and a gathering of onlookers from the village.

I was a 14 year-old usher who guided the guests to their assigned places on the bride or groom’s side of the church and who opened and closed car doors for the important participants.

The film also shows folk arriving for the Reception at the Bowmere Country Club in Tarporley.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the cliffs above Houghton Bay

[Photo by Shannon Doyle]


Little man, you are walking
To a blank and darkened sky
Step by step advancing
However much you try.

Little man, you are blinking
Averting thus my smile
Step by step retreating
A fearful distant mile.

Little man are you thinking
Of times of joy that passed
Or are you just avoiding
The fact that nothing lasts?

Little man existing
No one takes your eye
Not even chance for grieving
As strangers pass you by.

Little man, you are trudging
Past a bench that’s lost your name
No dates of life appearing
That celebrate the same.

Little man, you are faltering
Each footfall brings you near
The cliff top way still winding
Where spray may splash a tear.

Little man no caring
Only you can see it through
Time its tide is keeping
On the path that bears us two.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Royal Welcome for Bill, K8 and Geordy


It’s been a hell of a morning at KJ-WNZ. We are all running flat-tack and topping the slurry sump trying to cover the Royal Tour. I even put some retreads on our veteran reporter Six o’clock O’Reilly, as he has a knack for bar-room gossip and leaks. Last I heard, he told me that he had a lead [from a fellow former Grub Street journo] that the Prince’s Equerry was expected to hang out at the Kilbirnie Tavern after the entourage’s plane had landed. He promised to follow this up.
Both the plane and Six o’clock have disappeared in Wellington’s Fog, and his ‘black box’ remains unanswered.

Still we have some of our No 1’s on the job, Gen-X’s photographer Bryce ‘Red’ Snapper and chief reporter Chips ‘Hacker’ Woodward – backed up by two of our top spot Gen-Y Bug Readers in the Eastern Suburbs, Hemi and Jackie. Unfortunately, Hacker has made it a matter of honour to score with the Duchess’ Maids of Honour and Red recently confessed to an alarming stalker crush on the Prince. What’s worse, Hemi and Jackie have absolutely no idea who the Royals are.
I’m still hoping for the best – with our backer PNI [Possum News] having lashed out big on some prezzies for William, Kate, Baby George and other members of the Royal Family. We see the visit as a way of putting ‘By appointment to ...’ on our own particular brand of information chutney with a view to boosting sales through the magazine shelves of the supermarkets of the Slough-Windsor-Swindon-Chipping Norton rectangle.

In collaboration with our manufacturing arm Ten Eighty Possum in Eketahuna, we have come up with suitable prezzies for Prince Harry [a pair of purple, ermine-trimmed Knock-ur-Sox designed to help him select the perfect mate] and Baby George [a Huggie-pouched ‘Corgigator’ specially designed by 1080P’s inventor and mechanic Ted Dargaville that zaps corgis as soon as they get within slobbering distance].
At great expense, we developed a unique one-man Buzzy Bee lateral thrust helicopter for Prince William which is propelled by rotating offset paddle wings. Currently though this remains a ‘view only’ item, as we have been unable to obtain a ‘flight worthy’ certificate and the initial prototypes developed a tendency to ‘dance’ on the runway tarmac.

As for the Duchess, we thought long and hard. A tongue-restrainer prototype by 1080P was considered but ultimately rejected as unfeminine – as was a smile-unfreezer. Finally Freya, our Fashion Editor hosed down all the alternative stock trucks, drawing on the Wearable Arts Show for inspiration. Our gift is a complete ensemble that represents our nation.
It consists of the inevitable ‘Little Black Dress’, embellished with beading, sequins, stuffed toys and 'Frighteners' zombie schlock. It is accompanied by a fawn pleather jacket riffed with simulated No 8 Fencing Wire, a matching ‘Gallipoli’ webbing ammunition belt trailing a greenstone mere on a lanyard - set off by a haggis-skin bogle. 1080P has chipped in with some serious heels that clackety-clack every time the wearer is kissed by a prince and which have inbuilt locator beacons to ensure that they are never completely lost after being left behind on the stairs when midnight strikes.