“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





21 May 2013


Wild colonial old boys play on 
More Goonish than namesake
Hardly a pre-Raphaelite mob

You wouldn’t credit it.  The Hogarth Club turned forty.  It was formed by businessman Malcolm Eliott, of the Super Eliott bicycle manufacturers, and a gang of other well-schooled Adelaide dissolutes, many of them journalists, some of whom became editors  before descending to the lofty incomes of the nefarious public relations world, but also the odd lawyer, one of whom became Premier, and a sprinkle of thespians, one of whom became a beloved clown but started out in theoretical physics.  And others, of course. Complex mob.

The Adelaide Hogarth was always a bit more Goon Show than its London namesake, which lasted from 1858 to 1861 and was itself a radical artists’ group which splintered in turn from another radical artists’ splintergroup called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  The PRB mob were opposed to the use of so much bitumen in the tinctures used by painters of the day.  The PRBs were gutses for colour.  The Art Gallery of South Australia has some fine examples of their vivid work: look for Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and William Holman Hunt.  Schmaltz.

Rather than revere and promote vibrant colour in their artfulness, the Adelaide lot always met upstairs in Chesser Cellars, in the clubby privacy of the Hogarth Room, where prints from William Hogarth adorned the somber timber-paneled walls, giving the whole thing the atmosphere of one of those gloomy old paintings whose pigment was full of tar.  


However the general behaviour of the Adelaide lot was a lot more colourful than the room: hanging around that table upon which I believe the last drafts of the Australian Constitution were honed were Hogarth’s grim satires warning against the over-consumption of gin. Hogarth considered beer the better beverage for Englishmen. 

I was introduced to the table at an early age, and immediately noted it was free of women, which was a trouble to me.  I love ’em.  As with blokes: it's especially the smart ones.  Samela Harris sometimes attended, but usually sat up the other end.

Given the original Hogarth Club’s hatred of bitumen in the tincture, I was always fascinated by the Adelaide mob’s fearless attitude to the remorseless schlücking of it in wine, especially if it bore a high price and was brought there by somebody else.  Regardless of their fat stipends, notable gentlemen, one of whom warned me straight off that he was unlikely to ever give me a job, but that I may shape up in time, tended to leave their Hungry Dan’s aside until my bottles were pillaged.  I could never blame them.

One of the loveliest wines I’ve ever had, just for example, was a pre-war Pinot noir from Chile which David Wynn had given me.  I took that to the Hogarth, and while it finished and won its sprint in unseemly haste I have never seen anything like it since. 

There are six longstanding rules of the Hogarth Club, the first being that Philip Satchell must always have the cold soup.  Second barred Wayne Anthony from port; third ruled that the late Tony Short was banned from ever telling the white gorilla joke.  Four: Edmund Cyril Colbek Pegge is quite simply barred from the table for life, a law Pegge  belligerently insists on breaking; five: if a member brings a guest more than twice, that person is then a member and should thenceforth pay for their own lunch.  Regulation six declared that no gentleman should leave the room until requested to do so.

Then there came the rather unusual regulation that dessert should be sung. As landlord  Primo Caon, and others before him, offered a choice of desserts, the mob decided that the best choice was the one whose name could be best sung to the tune of a well-known melody; any melody.  On a good day, especially when the port was already properly broached, the Hogarth could put up a damned respectable male voice choir.  This was often known to swell in especial mellifluence after dessert was had.

Eventually, Papa Caon famously found the financial regulations of the day impossible to abide, and Chesser closed.  The Hogarth now meets at Jolley’s Boathouse, where the fortieth anniversary lunch was bulldozed.  As if to punish their parsimony, Jolley’s charges a damn lot more than Caon ever did. Go get ’em, Jolley’s.

Before I ran to the country and became a much less regular attendee, I strove to take fascinating guests, especially women.  I doubt that anyone will match Tony Brooks arriving with the great New South Wales politician Billy Wentworth, descendant of the fathers of that colony of the same name; he was Mungo McCallum’s uncle.  But I tried.  That magnificently thirsty writer Shiva Naipal (right) was at the front of my attacking cadre, but I preferred to take women when I could find them.  I recall a rather told-you-so reception to my prickly guest, the chef and author Gay Bilson, and precisely the opposite when I arrived with the exotic dancer, Doody, who was far too smart for the ones down our end.

One principal woman I wish I’d had the nous to invite was that absolutely unique bush lady and Mayor of that isolated gateway to the Outback, Port Augusta, Joy Baluch. She woulda shredded ’em.  But there we were, sitting at our fat fortieth anniversary table the morning after her death of cancer at eighty, and I raised a toast to her.

Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch

In the very early ’eighties, when Australia’s wine promotion scene swarmed with counts from Champagne, promoting the fizz from that region – there are counts everywhere in Champagne, many of them hired – I was invited to a special luncheon at Neddy’s, where one of these said counts was to award Joy a special gong from Champagne for her services to tourism in countryside Australia.  To protect the innocent, if any of them ever existed and survive, I’m probably pleased that I can’t seem to find my notes from that day, and have forgotten the name of said count and the famous fizz he represented, but my recollection is otherwise precise.

The count was a slender tailored suit conservative poshness from Reims, somewhat Germanic in attitude. Good English, quaint accent, impeccable manners. I was there, reasonably well-dressed but with punk hair. Kevin Rasheed was there, having won something for his exemplary Wilpena Pound resort in the Flinders, in new moleskines and a blue-and-white striped shirt and navy blazer. There was Theo, Joy’s husband, who spoke very little English and seemed happy to nod off to slumber during a meal that must have looked to him like something served straight from a kitchen in outer space.  Theo was already ill.  He wore a suit that appeared to have been bought when he was several stone larger.  And then there was Joy.

 Joy was a tall lass, even for a bushie.  A statuesque, well-built, outspoken, freckly fanger with a ranga afro beaten only by that mighty New Zealand author, Janet Frame, she arrived at table in a stylish fake fur over a bright red silk negligee consisting of long trousers with lace cuffs touching her strappy stilettos, and a matching chemise, which promoted her handsome freckled chest. 

Between the blunt bush lingo of Joy and hubby and the posh-schooled hybrid of Kevin and wife, and my attempts at being fluent in the language, lure and lore of Champagne, said count seemed rather lost.  While his eyes kept falling upon certain parts of Joy, one wondered what he imagined these resorts to be like, these outback oases he’d been sent to the other end of the earth to acknowledge if never ever actually, er, visit.  And he seemed to get stuck on chef Cheong Liew’s stunning kangaroo sashimi, which may have been illegal, but was quite appropriately raw.

“I was bloody shocked when the lad arrived at my place from the couriers with that bloody giant bottle of Champagne,” Joy told the count of the day she learned of her gong at her Pampas Motel in Port Augusta.  She was always more of a worker than a drinker.  “He said ‘Shit you must be flash, Missus, getting your piss sent in from France’. 

“And you know,” she continued, “it’d be raining bloody brick shithouses before anything like that hit me.”

No it wouldn’t, you dear departed warrior queen of the desert’s edge.  We know few of the wildnesses you encountered in your constant battle to have your wilderness patch recognized.  I apologise for never inviting you to the Hogarth.  It might have been raining bloody brick shithouses, but your fearless discourse and delivery would’ve bounced ’em off the oak-panelled walls.  

Fair bloody dinkum.

And happy fortieth, you old bastards.

Jolley's Boathouse, Adelaide ... Primo Caon addresses the Hogarth Club on the occasion of its fortieth birthday ... photo Philip White


Joyleen Thomas, Chair of the South Australian branch of National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, discussing Joy Baluch with Peter Goers on ABC 891, Monday 20th May 2013:

PG: How did you regard Joy Baluch?

JT: Well, you know, people talk about her as being a very strong woman, which she was, and she led that community for very long ... for a long number of years, even when I was in high school, she was the mayor there even when I was in high school in Port Augusta. But I’m very disappointed in that I don’t think Joy used her powers there and her position to progress things for Aboriginal people in that area.

So I’m a bit disappointed that she didn’t do as much as I think she could have done for Aboriginal children.

PG: What more would you like to have seen her to do?

JT:  Well there’s nothing in Port Augusta for young people to do.  And we chose, Roger and I, we chose to bring our children out of Port Augusta to Adelaide and we moved to Adelaide in 1985.  And that was because we couldn’t see that things were changing for our children, and we wanted to bring them to a place where they had lots of opportunities.

Joyleen Thomas, chair of the  National Aborigines and Islanders' Day Observance Committee, South Australia.  Joyleen's a Kokatha woman "with relationships extending  across  South Australia and the Northern Territory, particularly to the Yunkunjatjara, Arrente and Arabunna people. Joyleen is a sister to 10 siblings and a mother of two adult children."

PG: You could say though that for most rural communities black or white you could say that there was a lack of opportunities for young people.  Joy created the Dry Zones which have then swept the nation. How do you regard them?

JT: To me the Dry Zones are a bit like Ethnic Cleansing in a moderate way - not to the extent that we’ve seen in other countries - but it’s about removing Aboriginal people from the public view.  And I think that’s what it’s done.  I think that’s what it was meant to do, and that’s what it has done.  So really we haven’t fixed the problem.  We’ve moved it and we’ve hidden it.

PG:  I think Dry Zones were first trialed in Port Augusta.  Because Port Augusta is a meeting place isn’t it for lots of Aboriginal people.  The only thing is, and I supported them [Dry Zones] in Victoria Square, mainly because I thought ‘What good does it do to see people, black or white, or whatever, rolling around drunk, and in some cases abusively drunk?  How does that help anybody? What do you think?

JT:  I think we’ve tried very hard to bring Aboriginal people back into the Square and into public places and the State government did have a really strong push around reclaiming some public space and making sure we were having Aboriginal events there, but I think what we’ve done is we’ve pushed it to the edges and we haven’t really provided the services, so it’s really hidden them from us.  Do we really know what’s happening out there? Do we know what’s happening under the bridges?

The night of her death, this portrait of Mayor Baluch appeared beneath the bridge which has since been named after her.  Artists were locals Craig Ellis and Angelique Boots; photo by Larry Martin.

PG:  Quite. Very strongly put.  And in Joy’s defence with the Dry Zones, and I know this criticism of her treatment of Aboriginal people is not new, but she did once, when I was there, and I went for a drive with her, and she very proudly showed us the Aboriginal community housing.  She was very proud of that.  I think it’s a good thing is it not?

JT: I’m not sure – the Aboriginal?  Lake View?

PG:  I don’t know where it was.  It was sort of to the back of the town.

JT:  Yeah.  So it’s out.  Going towards what was Davenport community.  Well it is Davenport community now.  It was a reserve.  And before that it was part of a mission. And there was a children’s home there.

PG:  And what do you think of it?

JT:  Of the Lake View?  Lake View is actually – I think they’ve done some work upgrading the houses.  I used to work on Davenport back in 1973, and the housing was very poor.  They were tin sheds with cement floors and some of them were asbestos. So there are different levels of housing there.  I think they’ve tried to renew the housing.  But a lot of people have moved into towns and into the township itself.  Davenport still doesn’t get the services that other communities get.  It doesn’t get a rubbish collection or bus services or any of those basic services that we expect in townships, in, say, Port Augusta or any one of those townships.  So it doesn’t get those essential services that everybody else takes for granted.

Lake View was put there to try and capture some of the itinerant people.  People coming down in the summer holidays; people coming from northern or remote areas, so that they had places to stay.  Because it’s quite expensive to come and stay in Port Augusta coming with not very much money.  You’ve got medical expenses.  And if you want to go shopping from Davenport or from Lake View you have to catch a cab. And so that adds to your expense. And if you’re unemployed you’re not on a lot of money.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Children's home"? Surely you mean "Stolen Generations Concentration Camp #00184?