“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)





31 March 2018


Wine marketing 1: Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping ... the socio-economic implications of the stemware: consider and discuss.

30 March 2018


Marine musical motorsport thrash at the Mitchell family's Code White

Mitchell Clare Valley Semillon 2016  
($24; 12.2% alcohol; screw cap) 

If you'd preserved some fetta in light, acidic olive oil with some fresh lemon verbena tips and fine-sliced - like translucent - rinds of kaffir and finger limes you'd be getting close to the slightly cheesy wafts of this baby. 

Burlap sack. Isovaleric acid. Tarragon. Lemon balm. Wheaten hay. Slender fatty acids. Butyric acid. 

Such a crunchy sweetheart looks a slightly awkward youth of a wine now, but if you got close in there through the hair it could be Joey Ramone, he who showed little sign of knowing nor revealing any normal measure of age from birth to death. 

And out of everybody, you probly wouldna picked Joey to be lemony. 

But when one delves, this bowl of cheeky flavour devoid of excess cushioning and anæsthetising ethanol is only 12.3 alcohols. So it's actually almost ethereally light and disappearing if you're willing to just dance and shut up and not be such a forensically obsessive bore sitting there with all those goddam books you pretend to read. 

Music to me.

On your feet! Hey. Ho. Let's go. 

Jump a decade to the 2006 release (13%; screw cap) which is no longer available but is a fair guide to how that '16 will go. Same band, bleached by time. All those things have been in the sun. Rockaway Beach? Spin me out. 

But it's more along the lines of somebody you'd run into with sand dropping off their plastic on the bar at Olaf the Owner's Bombora Café on Cockle Beach at Goolwa. 

Somebody the colour of bleached coffee flashing a million bucks of teeth; Ligurian honey in the boardwax. Voombochoof! 

I'm really glad that the Mitchells persist with their take on this forgotten slice of old Clare. It'd go real good with Joey's favourite Kinpira Gobo. Or Poulet au riz à la Provençale - chicken pilaf - as prescribed by Richard Olney in his vital Provence the Beautiful Cookbook

Joey Ramone sitting down with Richard Olney at Hasaki on East Ninth Street, now there's a notion ... Older the younger, as it were ... We'd need Norman Rockwell to paint it. 

Mitchell Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2017 ($24; 13% alcohol; screw cap) 

We're strapped into an even stiffer racing frame in the Rieslings. Double the torsional strength, half the weight. Closer to the ground. If the windows went down you could scrape your knuckles on the bitumen. The young 'un has all the lemon and citrus of the Semis. A bit of it seems slightly toasted like as if it's just done three hot laps but it's wrapped down now securely in damp Watervale chalk and everyone's standing around looking amazed and talking quiet. It prickles and flares the nostrils. It's like cranking King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard in a Lotus Europa with the Cozzy 1600 Mk.XIII dry sump on a Hewland FT200 for two hours through the hills on real good tyres before lunch. One needs to turn it up. 

As for the older McNicol Clare Valley Riesling 2009 ($35; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)? Get down. Not a minute older for most of us to sniff, just different. 

It gets near that perfect dunal fragrance that many romantics call ozone but which is actually dimethyl suphide, the breezy whiff of an healthy fizzing ocean full of dead and deadly-fresh phytoplankton. 

That's just the leading edge. Get in deeper and it smells like fresh enoki spliced with the minor aromatic gene from the Curaçao orange grown in talc. It has a similar comforting fluff in its swallow: it is never hard nor citric/metallic like much Clare Rizza. It is too soft for fish and chips. 

Rather, cut yourself a fat slice of crusty bread and spread it with your favourite butter or a better one. Fillet your King George whiting, cook it for a hot buttery flash on the skin of its back, spread it on your bread, squeeze a drop or two of lemon on it, grind fresh pale pepper on there and now try not to guts everything down at once.

28 March 2018


rejected, but still full of sugar: mouldy, raisined, machine-harvested fruit in 2011

Is this the Age of the Snake? Typical rort rumours arise as law relaxes

As the mists of Easter roll in over the tail of vintage 2018, and the fruit still hanging chugs up through the Baumé - sixteen, seventeen, more - the tanks of many Australian winemakers contain a new addition they're not supposed to be fluent in: water. 

The old "Black Snake" - the water hose - was a long-time friend of winemakers keen to get their strong wines back under control. A few minutes of the rainwater hose in the fresh must could present a table beverage more along the lines of what was traditionally acceptable in the alcohol division. Like wine of 13.5 to 14 per cent ethanol. 

But it was illegal to add water. 

Until February 9th this year, that is, when the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code was altered after persistent lobbying by The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia and the Australian Grape and Wine Authority. 

Of course there's no need to add water if you pick good fruit at the right time! 

Now, providing that "the amount added being the very minimum required to achieve the desired effect," the new code "expressly permits the limited addition of water to high sugar must and juice to reduce the chance of problems arising during fermentation ... The amendment establishes that water may be added to grape juice or must to reduce the sugar level of the juice or must to a minimum of 13.5 degrees Baumé." 

All good so far. Many winemaking countries we compete with for international shelf space had permitted the practise since Jesus made his amarone at the wedding at Qana. 

The Australian industry bodies quite rightly sought a flatter playing field. Many observers, like the writer, and wine operatives of all sorts welcomed what seemed to be a logical and sensible move. 

To lever their argument into legislation, the proponents had eventually used Global Warming as their fulcrum: recent changes to vintage weather often meant harvesters, whether human or mechanical, were simply too scarce when heatwaves ripened the crop at an unseemly, inconvenient pace and everybody struggled to pick their grapes in a reasonable condition.  Simultæneously.
"Continuing to tolerate this lack of a level playing field is difficult to defend," the lobbyists had argued, when "the ability to add judicious quantities of water has no adverse effects on human health (in fact, may even provide health benefits); involves no consumer deception; maintains wine authenticity by ensuring the product’s characteristic features arise from the harvested grapes; takes into account particular climatic and other production conditions; is based on the reasonable practical need to enhance the organoleptic qualities and consumer acceptance of the wine and ensures the addition is limited to the minimum necessary to achieve the desired objective." 

The change was announced with the back-up of the excellent research paper of University of Adelaide PhD candidate Olaf Schelezki, which showed the organoleptic changes to such wine were not only minor, but could be advantageous to the drinker. Such wine, well-made, could offer a safer health outcome with a deeper organoleptic/gastronomic satisfaction. 

All neat and tidy. Fewer headaches in the pipeline. You little trimmer! 

Since then, we've seen a harvest that started with a series of heatwaves, putting on early ripeness, followed by patterns of cool moist weather, mercifully eased by drying breezes. 

This dried the canopies and helped the berries get on with their raisining.  

Across most of the state, wineries have been fairly full, but apart from that fast start we've not had the panic seen in some other recent years. 

So why is the rumour machine full of grumbles about big companies deliberately letting a lot of fruit hang well into the sixteens and beyond? 

They wouldn't, would they? 

You bet they would. 

The law now provides an incentive for bullying buyers to delay harvest a week or two while the sugars go up, the acids fall and the berries raisin and shrivel. And goodness me! Look what happens: the tonnages shrivel, too! 

To decrease their shareholders' exposure to the wiles of nature and industry, the current accounting fashion has big companies sub-contracting not only their grapegrowing, but increasingly, their actual base winemaking. They buy bulk, sometimes made to their recipe.

There's a very frigging big temptation here whoever makes the call: let the crop concentrate in sugar, fall in tonnage, and cost a lot less to purchase. 

Pick it at sixteen or seventeen after it's shed a third of its original crop weight, screw the grower, and to make up the loss of volume, poke the old Black Snake in the hopper. With impunity. 

You can add all the other bits and pieces to dress it up later: acid, enzymes, colour, tannin, aromatic yeasts, wood chips ... the controlling legislation doesn't list prohibited ingredients, but instead offers a menu of stuff the manufacturer can lawfully use. You should read it here.

Introduced to make life easier for responsible producers caught in an unforseen vintage trap, this new law has opened the floodgate for a wave of change too few saw coming.  

Not just change to the actual practise of business - there's a big opportunity here for the contract lawyers - but a change to wine style and flavour that may not be all good for all concerned.

Business grows precarious when the growing and manufacture of wine gets this close to the old battle to please the drinker, but only just enough to keep the shareholder fat. 

In the world of haute cuisine, through luxury goods and other unnecessary commodities,  such polarising of primary producer and profit-taker is always destructive. 

Prime quality comes first from the sky and the ground, not the refinery. 

If you seek to hold the respect of your customer, you nurture your grower, not the water company.  

At least the freshly-legitimate Black Snake offers a new opportunity for the winemakers who judge our wine shows to accurately and honestly report on any adverse changes that eventually become evident on the tasting bench.


Dr David Jeffery FRACI CChem
Associate Professor in Wine Science
The University of Adelaide
Department of Wine and Food Science
ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production 
Waite Campus 
PMB 1, Glen Osmond SA 5064, Australia

Food Standards Australia New Zealand
13 December 2016 
Approval report
Application A1119 
Additionof Water to Facilitate Wine fermentation 

The University of Adelaide 
ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production 
Technical note 
Waterinto wine - Pre-fermentation strategies for producing lower alcohol wines

25 March 2018


photo Milton Wordley

Leon Bignell, parliamentarian for the South Australian seat of Mawson, has been returned to the House by 115 votes

Mawson includes one of Australia's most profitable wine regions, McLaren Vale.

Bignell's party, Labor, under Premier Jay Weatherill, lost the election to the right-wing Liberals under new premier Stephen Marshall.

Bignell's personal win had been considered an impossible task, given that the new electoral boundary redistribution removed many of the Labor member's left-leaning seaside suburbs from Mawson, extending it right down through the farmland of the Fleurieu Peninsula to include Kangaroo Island, traditionally country that leans further to the right as one travels south.

Leon's major rival, the popular Andy Gilfillan, is a noted and highly-respected Kangaroo Island organic sheep farmer. They both generously gave time to attend our McLaren Vale community meeting at the peak of the election campaign's fractal frenzy.

This is the first time the Island has ever been represented by a Labor candidate.

Congratulations, Biggles, and well-earned. You have done a great job in this beautiful, bountiful region. Thankyou for your tireless defence of agricultural land, and playing such a role in pushing though the McLaren Vale and Barossa Character Preservation legislations.

Milton Wordley was coming out of the supermarket when he caught the above photograph of Bignell in the new electoral office he opened in the Aldinga shops at the beginning of the campaign. You could just walk in and talk to him. Minister for Agriculture, Tourism, Sport, Racing, Fisheries and Forests. 

"I enjoyed this more than any other election campaign," he said.

Drinkster is sure he'll continue to do a great job in Opposition. 

 photo Philip White


One of George Grainger Aldridge's [trojanpencil@gmail.com] favourite gigs is illustrating and entertaining the proceedings of the regular conferences of the Cattlemen's Association of the Northern Territory. He speaks with great respect of their tight professionalism, sense-of-humour, and progressive thinking. This week he's been in The Alice, working at their Innovation Generation thinktank. He sent a couple of fresh phonesnaps and an oldie:


Just coincidentally, two lots of images hit my Twitter feed almost simultaneously. 

One lot were Andrew Kemeny's photographs from the Chengdu International Wine Show. 

The others, from the China People's Daily, show Chinese warplanes exercising over the South China Sea. Happy days!

Trade war, anybody?

I try to contribute in the hope of clarifying stuff that's always bullshitted about, like here at the cliffs below The Star of Greece, explaining McLaren Vale geology to the then Minister of Agriculture and Tourism Leon Bignell. Leon reverted to his previous life as a journalist and interviewed me. He's very good at it. This was for a documentary for a major Chinese distributor. I'd love to know what the translators did. For previous adventure click here.

23 March 2018


Putting a popular, cheap, "entry level" Oz Merlot in the magnifying glass

When he followed his rivals into the arid but increasingly-irrigated Riverland, Yalumba's Wyndham Hill Smith knew well the advantage of hanging a word like Oxford around the neck of a bottle of cheap wine. 

I'm sure a few Australians had heard of that ivy-hung university town back when Wyndy (centre) put his cheque book in the FC ute and headed upriver in 1958, but probably more were familiar with the expensive Oxford edition of The King James' Bible. That was a heavy, coveted status symbol throughout our Protestantism. 

Surely few Aussies have ever been aware that Wyndham took the name from a wrecked paddle steamer stacked there on the river bank. 

Oxford. Twenty years back Rajan Bacchau made a Chenin blanc he called Oxford in the hills near Mumbai, India, where the monsoon always put his northern vintage coincident with ours. Last time we spoke, he was considering trying for two vintages a year. 

Calling that Oxford is a bit like calling soap-on-a-rope Avon, but without quite so much Shakespeare. 

But then again, Oxford itself was the name of a place where oxen waded across a stream. 

"We're Keeping It Real," the Oxford Landing website assures me. 

"At Oxford Landing, we like to 'keep it real'. That means maintaining a sense of perspective and recognising what really matters. Remembering where we came from and being proud of our roots. And making wines that are a true reflection of the place they come from." 

The Smiths came from Wareham, Dorset, which sits on the River Piddle. 

After he'd packed his wife and kids on The China and sailed to Adelaide's Port Misery, Sam (Wyndy's great-grandfather) worked as a gardener for the wealthy Angases of Angaston before he planted his first little vine garden there above the Barossa at Mexican Vale. 

When I lived in the Barossa in the later 'eighties, the old Barossadeutschers in the Greenock Creek Tavern still called Angaston "up with the Englitsch". 

There were obviously too many kids called Smith at the Angaston school: a frustrated teacher eventually decided that as Sam's offspring lived up the hill, they'd be known as the "hill" Smiths, which is why there is no hyphen. 

So today this great wine family gardens the flat red centre to bring us wines like Oxford Landing Estates Merlot 2017 (13.5% alcohol; screw cap). While I see this selling for between $8 and $10 in the USA, my usual measure of the real Oz price, Hungry Dan's, no longer stocks it, but I'm sure you'll find it for around a tenner. 

Making it look like something from the south of France worth a lot more money in Australia, the bottle comes with an expensive shoulder embossing in the actual glass, showing a pair of crossed oars.  Security when your ship sinks. 

If you consult the internet for details, you'll find most vendors of the wine faithfully recite the official Yalumba tasting notes: "Crimson in colour with purple hues," they profess. 

"Enticing aromas of milk chocolate, plum and raspberries with subtle cedar and spices. The medium bodied palate starts with vibrant flavours of plums and although tightly structured, the finish is rich and generous with persistent fruit flavours. Soft, velvety tannins are a feature of the supple palate." 

While my limited sensories are obviously no match for those masters', I was surprised by the wine. It's similar to a particularly clean, lean, Languedoc Merlot like the French were caught selling as Red Bicyclette Pinot noir in the USA in 2010. That was never much like Pinot to me, although it seemed to convince E and J Gallo, the US agent. Not to mention millions of Americans who'd dropped Merlot en masse after it was derided in the movie Sideways. Having followed the Miles character's advice and moved to Pinot, they eventually discovered their new favourite was Merlot anyway.

They're since moving back to Merlot called Merlot, which I'm sure many of them still think is French for "mellow". Can't blame anybody - Australians generally know bugger all about real Merlot. If you yearn to learn, go straight to Merité or Blue Poles. These folks are passionate fanatics.  

Unless it's ancient, good Merlot is rarely mellow. The best ones can be quite tannic, although the tannins can be mossy and earthy  more than your regular black tea tin.

Barossa coopers' hands by Dragan

Rather than "milk chocolate", this one reminds me of the smell of the nut sundaes in the Tanunda Club, as served to a table of sawdusty - "subtle cedar and spices" - coopers from up the road.  

Then it changes gears: It's lean and strapping - "tightly-structured" - and seems quite dry and astringent. That'll be the "soft, velvety tannins". Bullshit. This is a sinuous, stringy wine.  Plums? Maybe satsuma approaching ripeness, but still with al dente crunch and acidity. It is NOT mellow.

As far as Merlot goes, it's not much like the benchmark, Petrus, from Pomerol, Bordeaux. You can join the queue for a bottle of the new 2016, which lobs on 1st September next year at $5,250 the bottle.

Otherwise, swap one of these for the price of six or seven cigarettes and consider yourself lucky. Just don't forget to follow the maker's advice: "Roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, or asparagus fettuccine with tomato cream sauce would be a lovely accompaniment."

The Murray near Oxford Landing: the vines grow in loose red sand over very deep fossiliferous seabed limestone, just like Coonawarra, but hot. Same old ocean, see?

this photo by Milton Wordley

20 March 2018


Rolling the bird-netting up from the Ironheart Shiraz, just across my front fence.

Cooler vintage, hot fractal politics in Mount Lofty Ranges and Riverland

On February 15th a subcontractor machine-harvested the big block of industrial vineyard on the flat clay across the track from me. It took two whole nights. Shiraz at what somebody said was 15.5 baumé. In other words 16-plus alcohols. I thought it might have been a bit more. The flavours were cordial sweet and simple. It was clean, but it wasn't very good. Bacchus only knows where that fruit went, if indeed even he knows. Probly jacked with Mega-Purple, sawdust and tartaric and called "Jellifluous" or "China Thing" or something by now. Hungry Dan's Beijing. 

Today is the late afternoon of March 19th and another outfit's rolling up the bird netting on the Ironheart Shiraz, between my cottage on the slope and that vineyard already harvested on the flat. 

The two are only about 100 metres apart, but in comparison, this certified organic and biodynamic fruit on ironstone looks like about a third of the neighbour's yield but it's holding a great deal more complexity and some lovely acid. 

They'll hand-pick it early in the morning of the Equinox, before the birds discover the nets have gone. 

It'll sell for $100 more than the other one. Per bottle. More flavour; lower alcohol.

Which reminds me of the new conservative government lurching into power in the middle of harvest. Pretty good outlook for some winers: Turnbull's Marshall-friendly Feds are stacked up already with $50 million of taxpayers' money that disgraced deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joice left behind for Wine Australia to give away. 

It's to help run export tastings and build extravagent new cellar sales outlets to attract people who drink. 

Riverland "Liberal" politicians Tim Whetstone MP (left) and Senator Anne Ruston with then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce at Penfolds Grange, Magill. As a sort of inspiration, they chose this posh restaurant and tasting complex to announce their $50 million handout last year ... Barnaby's gone, but the money's now available

On the announcement, they offered special financial encouragement to the Murray-Darling Basin. Whose growers nearly always make a loss. There'll be deconstructed Rubik's Cubes and reconstructed shipping container Tortilla Flats architecture all the way up the lazy river before you know it. 

I was in that Riverland a few weeks back and was surprised to discover many vineyards unpicked as the weather had cooled and greyed and the grapes weren't sweet enough to mine for their sugar. There were plenty of overhead sprinklers irrigating hay for export, however. 

No worries, no worries. Although you could always worry about global warming-denying conspiracy theorists. 

This morning I read Henry Crawford, big Riverland grapegrower, defending his beloved region in Wine Business Monthly

"It's as if the climate change debate is a massive conspiracy from the Tasmanian Government to get everyone to move or invest there," he writes. "I agree with Jeffery [Grossett]: SA wine is better than ever and I think we have a very sunny future, pun intended." 

The author, left with publisher/photographer Milton Wordley, Riverland grapegrower Henry Crawford, Wine Business Monthly editor/publisher Anthony Madigan and Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago on the day Henry won his $4000 Collector's Edition of A year in the life of Grange. Milton and I made this multi international awards winner and donated this one as first prize to WBM's photo competition, December 2014 ... Peter donated the wine ... photo Jamie Sachs

Everything seems to be going well for Henry, who believes that as things get hotter he needs less water: 

"Production wise we are growing more tonnes on a per hectare basis than ever before, our costs per hectare are lower than ever, and it's worth noting warmer, drier seasons reduce disease risk (less sprays and chemical) and the early harvests reduce water consumption," he wrote, before suggesting the world loves premium warm climate Barossa. 

Which, like Grossett's, I suggest is generally a different sort of a drink to Henry's River. The Winemakers Federation of Australia records 82 to 94 per cent of the Riverland crop from 2012 to 2015 being grown and disposed of at a loss. In the same years the Barossa figures show 28 to 50 per cent loss; McLaren Vale 27 to 34 per cent loss. 

This is where a thing called "quality" comes into the account. 

Hey Henry, in the same years, Tasmania was 99 to 100 per cent profitable. Ask Stefano Lubiana. When did he leave the Riverland for Tasmania? Thirty years back? Is he happy? 

Among other things, Peter Lehmann used to say "It's a beautiful vintage Whitey, but nowhere near as good as the next one." 

So far, it seems that this particular year could be even better than next year. 

I've not heard him recommending Henry's River in return but Jeff Grossett's raving about Clare Riesling; I called David O'Leary from O'Leary-Walker for another opinion. Yep. Almost smug. "Pretty good," he said. "Like 2008." 

Of Petaluma's Clare Riesling, chief winemaker Andrew Hardy was similarly verbose. "Spectacular," he said. At Paracombe, atop the Torrens Gorge in the Adelaide Hills, Ben Drogemuller guardedly gurgled with similar glee. "Lower Baumés, better flavours," he said, also agreeing with Hardy and O'Leary that Chardonnay, whether for still wine or fizz, was also of very high quality. 

Pinot fizzbase is deadly, too: perfumed and crunchy. 

Everyone, from one end of these ranges to another, is raving about the intensity of the reds. Like the colour. O'Leary reckons it reminds him of Elvis. "Everything's got this dark sheen," he said. 

"Wash my mouth out Whitey, but even the Merlot's almost jet black." 

Cabernet is a slightly different business this year: the bunches are generally light-weight, with small berries and lots of stalk. Even in the cooler spots, it's been ripening early. That variety's heartland, Coonawarra, was shot with frost on 3rd and 4th of November. Much of it never recovered. Those fortunate enough to have overhead irrigation, like Petaluma's Coonawarra Evans Block, survived, however. 

"We had to bunch-thin in the end," Hardy chuckled. 

Ironheart Shiraz under the nets on February 12th: nowhere near ready

We could all tell right from the start that 2018 Shiraz was ON. Colour, flavour, intensity, balance ... it set up really well early and the good bits I've seen from around the Ranges have gorgeous perfumes. 

Like this fruit from over my front fence has thick, but softening skins, beautiful pulp, incredible swoony flavours, and pips as ripe, tannic and brittle as old walnuts. 

As picked this morning: the left-hand bunch grew on the western side of the vine where it got a little more afternoon sunlight through the dapple so is slightly riper than the right-hander, which came from the same vine but its cooler morning light side

I regularly quote Penfolds' chief winemaker Peter Gago's claim that for twenty vintages in a row he's had to recalibrate his definition of the term "extreme." I'd add one homily: as that climate chaos intensifies, the quality gap between the fruit of mindless mechanical chemo-industrial and hands-on intensive gardening grows ever wider. 

When things get wierd, you don't get nearly so much luck. The camo bleaches and blows away. You need more than global warming or a smartarse label made up by somebody with a haircut. 

If the wine that's crossed my desk since Christmas is any indicator, that quality gap's becoming a bloody scary bottomless chasm as the shelves take on a more chaotic and confusing display than ever. So the mis-named Liberal gubmnts of this nation and now this state of South Australia hand out $50 million of our hard-earned to ethanol producers regardless, it seems, of the quality or profitability of their produce. Feeling a bit short with the readies? Drop a bit of a line to Wine Australia. Thanks Barnaby Joyce and his former shotgun rider, Riverland Senator Anne Ruston for helping shake our dosh out for whoever gets it. 

That'll be seasoned by one honey of a Royal Commission inquiring into the mismanagement of, and outright theft of Murray-Darling water - on their shift. 

Water is a significant gastronomic item. 

Thanks St Jay Weatherill for that benediction. Watch very closely.

Earlier-picked PF - preservative-free - Shiraz draining from a fermenter into a basket for pressing ... photos by Philip White, except where they're obviously not

18 March 2018


The State Library reminds me that today is John Horrock's 200th birthday. A remarkable young man from Picton, Lancashire, he settled in the Clare Valleys and died terribly there in Penwortham after a disastrous expedition to the far north. This image is a selfie by the colonial artist S. T. Gill, who's put himself in the centre between Bernard Kilroy, Horrocks and Harry the Camel. 

I don't know whether Harry was the camel Horrocks had executed after the incident in which the cranky beast lurched, knocking the gun from its rider's hands to shoot the bottom of his face off.

It must have a terrible trek home across the vast red centre as the gangrene set in. 

The cottage in which he died is intact and well-kept for people to visit.

Horrocks was one of the buccaneering boyos from wealthy English families who were common among the first white occupiers of these vast tracts of other peoples' country. He "brought with him a family servant, a blacksmith, a shepherd, four merino rams, sheepdogs, tools, sufficient clothing for five years, and a church bell." You can read more of John Chittleborough's biography here.

This amazing book below, based on the letters and diaries of many women of the day who ran large households and estates, some vast, for their industrialist husbands, is a good feeding-ground for anybody interested in where such individuals came from.

Several branches of Horrockses are mentioned. I can see why John did a bolter.

16 March 2018


for originals, signed copies and commissions George Grainger Aldridge is sometimes at trojanpencil@gmail.com bless him. He's painting the Trezona Range today:

His giant Flinders Granges, famous while it hung in The Exeter, is happily hung meanwhile in the home of a lucky expat Brit Grange freak in Singapore 

It's a treat to visit George's studio ... this day he'd hung a portrait from an appreciative  pupil more famous for street art while the mentor worked on more Flinders