Leyland Bros 1960's West East crossing

Submitted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 00:05
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We have just seen a fascinating documentary film at the 4WD meeting tonight. It was made in the 1960's by the (in)famous Mike and Mal when they drove from the western most point in WA to Byron Bay using two Landrovers and a four wheel trailer.

The film is quite well made but emphasizes the differences in acceptable practices then and now. Some of the most noteable were;
1. Interfering with bones of Dutch sailors and aboriginals found on a WA beach.
2. Bashing through the scrub (literally bowling it over to make a track).
3. Highlighting aboriginal carvings with chalk to make them more visible on film.
4. Complete relegation of the lone female (Mrs Mike, I think, to cook's duties).
5. Making a giant omellette out of an emu egg.
6. Scrubbing up with soap etc in a billabong.
7. Detailed close ups of shooting and gutting a roo for the pot.

And we have only seen half of the original footage. The crossing of the Simpson is yet to come.

Personally I found it quite fascinating to watch. We live in a clinical and politically correct world today. I wonder what people forty years in the future will think of today's practices? Perhaps what we all do now in the great Outback will be just so much ancient history in 2046. Let's enjoy it and look after it while we can.

Kings ( In a philosphical moment).
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Reply By: Richard Kovac - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 00:36

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 00:36
Member - Kingsley N (SA)

Have a read of this


AnswerID: 174364

Follow Up By: Member - Phil [Sunshine Coast] - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 05:23

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 05:23
Richard, I followed all the links,[1 hr.] a truly amazing read! thanks for the site link...Phil
FollowupID: 430437

Reply By: Member - Steve (ACT) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 07:09

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 07:09
I picked up some old videos at a garage sale and there are a series with names like "This way to Cape York", "This way from Cape York", also Fraser Island etc (Very creative names).

They seem to be a two mates making home movies of their adventures and yes they wash with soap in the waterfalls, and many other things we wouldn't even consider doing. My favourtie was the day they caught a shark in the shallows for dinner there comment was that the sharks like lead bait!!

The start of one is a classic, two mates in stubbies and thongs with a map on the bonnet of an old 4wd planning their route, beer in each hand!!!

AnswerID: 174370

Reply By: Willem - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 08:09

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 08:09
As you have mentioned Kingsley, how will our 2006 exploits be viewed in the future?

I suppose the same can be said for the 'pioneers' who imported and drove their cattle across the continent.

Pretty daring stuff by the Leyland Brothers but they were not the first by vehicle. Reg Spriggg came even before those who made the Rig Road, French Line and other cleared lines in the search for oil deposits.

The best that can be said is, that unless a vehicle track is used regularly, it will disappear from sight in a short space of time. Some of the cleared lines are now, 40 years later, barely discernable and will vanish into antiquity within 100 years.
AnswerID: 174374

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:36

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:36
Hi willem,
I'm just reading about that stuff at the moment before we set off.
Leyland Bros were is 1966, The Sprigg family were the first to cross the desert in a vehicle in 1962.

But the guy I feel sorry for is Ted Colson from Blood Creek. He was the first white man to walk the desert in 1936, but he had a dream to be the first person to drive across. He was tragically killed in a car crash near Balaclava in 1950. The vehicle he was driving had just been purchased from Adelaide and it was the vehicle he was going to use to cross the desert.

FollowupID: 430478

Follow Up By: Member - Kingsley N (SA) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 11:23

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 11:23
Gidday Willem,

Yes the Sprigg adventures were a fascinating read in Griselda's book "Dune is a Four Letter Word". They paved the way for our type of tourism. They were supported by air on the family trip. A well known pilot of the time, Col Semmler landed a Cessna at an oil exploration strip after making contact with the ground party via HF radio. According to the book, by 1962 there were a number of Geosurveys teams operating along lines. The Sprigg family used these for guidance.

I first flew to Birdsville in the late 1960's or early seventies.

Those were the days, my friend.

We are doing a double crossing of the Simpson in July with our Club.

FollowupID: 430495

Reply By: Member - Doug T (QLD) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 08:29

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 08:29
Kingsley N
I don't think I will be around in 2046 but the Desert will and the Enviroment will,still the same as today , On mentioning the Enviroment I can remember a few Years ago when bad fires swept through the Pilliga between Coonabarrabran and Narrabri when after the event a TNT Car Carrier Driver called Macca on Australia All Over ABC and told the story of how the scrub was ruin and will never be the same,well it was only about 2 weeks later I was on a trip to Melbourne from Brisbane and pulled into a parking bay where the fire had passed ,walked to a blackened tree and with my finger nail pulled at the soot and just under the soot was fresh unburnt wood , go back now and it's almost unnoticable that a fire was there apart from some stumps, and I would presume the same result would be for bush around Canberra . There is still all the wildlife as before.So all the damage [if thats what you want to call it ] they did in the SD IN THE 1960s would not be found apart from the clay cappings , even Willems tracks from a couple of weeks ago would be gone, I think the Australian Bush is tough enough to take anything we throw at it and I mean that within reason
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Follow Up By: Member- Rox (WA) - Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 00:13

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 00:13
Understand Doug It does recover but depends on rain fall, Neale Junction has burnt out section that from my info has been their for 10 years. It is now prone to wind erosion.
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Reply By: Footloose - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 08:49

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 08:49
While the documentaries were a milestone, and encouraged myself and others to "get out there", many of the scenes were arranged for the camera. Which is fair enough, a doco isn't a doco unless its interesting. Nothing interesting happening , make it happen.
Later events in their lives were unfortunate, and I have a report of one being very sick at the moment. Sad news indeed.
But overall, their early exploits were groundbraking in terms of exposure.
AnswerID: 174384

Follow Up By: conman - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:46

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:46
remember Alby Mangels??
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Follow Up By: Footloose - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:51

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:51
No, but I remember Belinda, I'm sure she was in there somewhere :))
FollowupID: 430604

Follow Up By: conman - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:55

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:55
jsut did a google , he's still around bigger than ever!!
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Follow Up By: conman - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:56

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:56
buy the t shirt - $29/95
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Follow Up By: Footloose - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:56

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:56
Good to hear. Those were great entertainment. Belinda was always a big girl also...but I won't go down that track LOL
FollowupID: 430608

Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 09:39

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 09:39
G'day Kingley,

I grew up watching that stuff and "Nature walkabout" with the Serventy's (I believe a you Harry Butler was part of their crew (Or was that Malcolm Douglas?) Who can forget the Malcolm Douglas film of the Ord Dam as it flooded the valley and he was off rescuing the wild life.

They are part of the reason why I have this urge to see these places and more. Remember a trip to Fraser quite a few years ago there were 8 of us in a 2A Landrover singing their show song "travelling over the country side ask the Leyland brothers". Pretty dorky but still causes me to laugh as I type this.

Kind regards
AnswerID: 174392

Follow Up By: pprass - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 12:49

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 12:49
"Nature walkabout" with the Serventy's

I loved that show when I was a kid - and yes Harry was part of the presenting team. There was a bit of narration about the area, animal or plant and then that harmonica would come in and there would be the best camera work (probably lame compared to todays standards). Actually "A River Somewhere" had the same feel to it.

I reckon that show got me interested in the Australian bush and outback.
FollowupID: 430524

Follow Up By: Member - Omaroo (NSW) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:17

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:17
"Vincent" Serventy, wasn't it? Good show I remember....

Here's some of his other exploits.....

Organiser, Earth 200 Conference for World Environment Day

Commissioner, Australian Heritage Commission

Director, Nature Conservation Service, WA

Chairman, Nature Conservation Council, NSW, 1970-73

President, Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia

President, WA Naturalists Club

Vice-President, World Wide Fund for Nature (Australia)

Founder, WA National Trust

Founder, WA Tree Society

Founder, WA Gould League of Birdlovers

Established World's First Nature Conservation Day (now Earth Day)

Fellow, Strehlow Foundation

Fellow, Mark Twain Society

Honorary Member, World Environment Foundation

Trustee, National Photographic Index of Wildlife

Member, National Parks Wildlife Advisory Council of NSW, 1968-78

Patron, Greening Australia (NSW)

Councillor, Gould League of NSW, 1966-

** Publications **

The Archipelago of the Recherche Part 2, Birds (1952)

West Australian fauna (1953)

Australia's Great Barrier Reef (1955)

Australian nature trail (1965)

A continent in danger (1966)

Nature walkabout (1967)

Landforms of Australia (1967)

Australian wildlife conservation (1968)

Wildlife of Australia (1968, rev. 1977)

Australia's national parks (1969)

Southern walkabout (1969)

Around the bush with Vincent Serventy (1970)

Dryandra (1970)

The handbook of Australian sea birds (jointly, 1971)

The singing land (1972)

John Gould's The birds of Australia (with A.H. Chisholm, 1973)

Desert walkabout (1973)

Australia's wildlife heritage (with R. Raymond, 1973-75, rev. 1983)

The koala (1975)

In praise of Australian national parks (1977)

Zoo walkabout (1979)

In praise of Australian trees (1979)

Glovebox guide to Australian nature (1980)

Rainforests of Australia (with Robert Raymond, 1980)

Lakes and rivers of Australia (with Robert Raymond, 1980)

Plantlife of Australia (1981) [republished 1984 as Australian native plants]

Australian birds (1981)

Australian landforms (1981)

Australian wildlife (1981)

Australian mother and baby animals (with C. Serventy, 1981)

Coral reefs (1982)

Deserts (1982)

Animals in the wild (a series with John Ferguson): Penguin (1983), Kookaburra (1983), Kangaroo (1983), Koala (1983), Shark and ray (1984), Turtle and tortoise (1984), Crocodile and alligator (1984), Whale and dolphin (1984), Lizard (1985), Parrot (1985)

Australia's natural wonders (1984)

Australian native trees (1984)

The land beyond time (jointly, 1984)

The desert sea (1985)

Wildlife of the Australian bush (with M. Carnegie, 1985)

Wildlife of the Australian bushlands (with M. Carnegie, 1985)

Wildlife of the Australian outback (with M. Carnegie, 1985)

Australia's world heritage sites (1986)

Saving Australia: a blueprint for our survival (1988)

Australian animals and their young (1988)

Koalas (with C. Serventy, 1989)

Animals in danger (1989)

Vincent Serventy's easy guide to green living (1990)

Sydney harbour (1990)

Green book (1991)

Flight of the shearwater (1996)

Australia's world heritage (1997)

Vincent Serventy: an Australian life: memoirs of a naturalist, conservationist, traveller and writer (1999)

Koalas (2002)

** Children's novels **

Crusoe boys (1995)

Turtle Bay adventure (1969)

Sources: Who's who (1998)

Monash biographical dictionary of 20th century Australia (1994)

Who's who of Australian writers (1991)
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Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 07:54

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 07:54
Didn't realise he was this active still. Certainly a well qualified naturalist and a shame his type of show is no longer mainstream. I suppose if he replaced the harmonica with some doof doof it might become popular again. He's got to be getting on now though as I remember him as somewhat middle aged then.

Kind regards
FollowupID: 430679

Reply By: Geoff (Newcastle, NSW) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:09

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:09
Hi Kingsley,
I remember the Leyland Brothers films well, watching them in my old High School hall with live commentary from Mike and Mal.

They actually went to the same High School in Newcastle as I did and their family home is really just around the corner opposite the horse racing track.

I remember the great rapport they had with the principal and their willingness to return to the school with each brand new documentary before it hit the screen just to show us kids what two young blokes from the “burbs” with a dream could achieve.

I also remember the Land Rovers they had in those days parked around the house all of them in various states of repair or should I say disrepair.

Thinking back that along with my grandfather was one of the things that instilled a love for the bush and outdoors in me.

It was sad to see in later years the demise of Leyland Brothers World and the acrimony for them in the Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest region. I think time may have healed that wound.

It was also sad to see the falling out between the two brothers around the same time. If one of them is truly unwell as Footloose says, I hope they have been able to mend their bridges.

Landcruiser HDJ78,
Grey hair is hereditary, you get it from children. Baldness is caused by watching the Wallabies.

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AnswerID: 174398

Reply By: Member - John R (NSW) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:45

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:45
Don't forget "Greg, the Kombi Van" :-) I'll never forget the Naked Vicar Show's P!sstake of them in the 70's.

Yep, they certainly bring back fond memories, and helped foster an interest in all things outdoors for me.

I had the privelege of meeting Mike Leyland at the 50th anniversary of the VW Kombi in Penrith a few years ago. What a nice bloke. He gave a talk about their travels in the two orange Kombis. Of course it was only a tiny fraction of their travels..He also took time out to talk with all and sundry afterwards. A down to earth and genuine bloke IMHO.
AnswerID: 174409

Reply By: V8Diesel - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 13:46

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 13:46
Great stuff. I loved all those old movies and they made an enormous impression on me as a young tacker.

Northern Safari by Keith F Adams is another all time classic. He drove through the guts in a 2WD 1948 Buick and then to top it all off, did some ludicrous ocean crossings in an 11 foot long, Seagull powered dinghy. Must see stuff. Check out www.northernsafari.com for more info. I've had the honor of meeting the man and his lovely wife at their home in Perth and have seen some of his relics and trophies.

I say bring back all the great adventure shows......PC or not. Play them on the comedy channel and you can get away with anything.
AnswerID: 174443

Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:42

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:42
And i bet they didn't have all of the GPS, sat phones, epirbs etc that desert travellers need to take, and they came back alive.

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Reply By: Footloose - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:53

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:53
And now for the silliest question of all..........where can I buy a CD of such national treasures ? I'd love to revisit many of the programs mentioned here.
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Follow Up By: Richard Kovac - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 23:30

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 23:30
Here Footy


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Reply By: Member - Doug T (QLD) - Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 07:06

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 07:06
What about the fantastic journey ubdertaken by Gelignite Jack Murray, Evan Green, Ken Tubman, and there was a couple more I don't know and the Figure 8 Crossing of Australia in would you believe a Mini and an Austin 1800, of course they didn't go into the SD but in the 60s what we call roads today were only tracks , They used the Gunbarrel on that trip.
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