Beating About The Bush - Len Beadell

Submitted: Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 00:42
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What an incredible guy (not just him, but all his team). They spent at least 8 years building roads where very few men (and in some cases, no one) had ever been before.

Yesterday (Monday) my Len Beadell collection of books arrived in the mail (from you can guess where). I picked up "Beating About The Bush" and can't put it down.

This set of 6 books will change your whole perspective about how Australia was opened up, connected, and surveyed. I thouroughly recommend you get a set for yourselves; you definitely will not regret it.

These books only make me more determined to travel some of these roads and tracks of the ""öutback""
Fred B
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Reply By: Member - Phil B (WA) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 07:18

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 07:18
Hi Fred,

I agree totally. without Len's contribution to the outback an its network of roads Aust. would be a much poorer place.

He did it all in Landrovers, very basic military spec - no air conditioning or hill decent controls for him, just four wheels (often flat) and a keen sense to get the job done.

His books are are easy reading and a great read. Well done Len and happy reading Fred.

Phil
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 08:32

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 08:32
Hi Fred
I have had my set for many, many years and have read them cover to cover many times. When we are travelling to an area that Len and his great Gunbarrel Construction Party put through, I always read that corresponding book for a better understanding of the area that we will be travelling through.

If you enjoy reading these books, I suggest that you also get hold of a book by Mark Shephard - "A Lifetime in the Bush - The biography of Len Beadell" This is as good a read and a very well written book by Mark that gives a lot of information that is not in the books written by Len.

I to like Mick O love to photograph the places where Len erected his plaques. Last year while doing the Abandoned section of the Old Gunbarrel, I found something more previous than the plaques. We were camped south of Lake Christopher and the call of nature next morning see me heading off into the bush. The usual remains of a very old camp fire, very old a rusty tins and then Bingo, these pair of old grader blades.How many people have ever seen these???


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Stephen

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Follow Up By: Geoff (Newcastle, NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 09:14

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 09:14
Hi Stephen,
That's a brilliant find! It would add so much more meaning to the trip!

Please keep their location to yourself, far too many unscrupulous travellers have souvenired Len's original plaque's and other momento's. They are better off were they are than rusting in some suburban backyard then a trip to the local tip.

I agree wholeheartedly the book by Mark Shephrd gives an entirely different perspective into the life and works of Len Beadell.

Geoff

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 10:30

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 10:30
Hi Geoff
I could not believe what I had found. When I got back home, I contacted the Giles Weather Station to see if they would be interested in them. They said that they had lots, and were not interested. There must be many more such sites out there, just waiting to be stumbled upon.

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Reply By: Willem - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 09:43

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 09:43
Fred

I suppose we all need a hero somewhere

The way I see it is that Len Beadell led an interesting life as far as getting about in the bush is concerned. But basically he was just a surveyor in the employ of the Government doing a Public Service job like many other people. He was instructed to do a task and that was it. The fact that he wrote about it captured the imagination of some and made him a 'cult' figure.

You might want to include the word 'white men' in your statement > where very few men (and in some cases, no one) had ever been before<. Len found plenty of traces of earlier inhabitants to the areas he passed through.

European Explorers of a 150 years before LB did it tough on foot and on horseback/camels nd ther aborigines did it tougher at times. Whilst I do not want to take anything away from LB I am disappointed at the discarded drums and other equipment left behind after the 'Bomb Roads Project', to clutter up some of the pristine outback landscape.

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Follow Up By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 11:03

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 11:03
Hi Willem,
Yes I agree; and I thought about that when I wrote the thread. But I wasn't sure how to put my thought in such a way, so that someone wouldn't jump on me..... (: . Unfortunately a lot of things have happened in this nation that shouldn't have, including the dumping of drums and other material along roads etc. (still happens today, mostly by city people too lazy to go to the tip, or refuse to pay the fees).

See... now you have got me going Willem......

All I wanted to do was bring to mind the character and ability that some people have to be great in an ordinary world. It was Len Beadell's attitude toward his job that made him great.
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Follow Up By: Member - Allan B (QLD) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 12:15

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 12:15
Can't agree with you Willem.
I don't "need a hero" but I do recognize an outstanding person when I see one. Len Beadell was much more than "just a surveyor" and certainly not "like many other people". He did not just "do a task and that was it". He performed his work with skill and enthusiasm well beyond that of many under extreme conditions and with incredible perseverance of many years. The men that worked with him deserve equal recognition.
He had both surveying ability and bush survival skills well beyond most Australians of the time and whilst a colourful figure he was in reality quite humble. He was a personality of considerable attraction to people of all ages and status. His writing and sketching skills were performed to chronicle the places, events and people, both black and white that he encountered and not to elevate himself to "cult" status.

How can I be so sure of this? Well you see I knew him personally. I worked at Woomera in the period that Lennie was forging the road network for the Range and was in his presence on a number of occasions when he was at the Woomera Village. I will be forever grateful that I experienced direct contact with someone so unique.

As for the "discarded drums and equipment", this was unfortunately the standard of our society of the time and not a characteristic of the individual or his contemporaries. You might equally criticize the carving on the Dig Tree!

Yair, Cheers too.
Allan



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Allan

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Follow Up By: Willem - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 12:51

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 12:51
Allan

Ho Hum...its my opinion. I fail to see the uniqueness.

People get so worked up and excited about something which was just an ordinary job in a remote locality. The fact that LB stuck plaques everywhere and wrote books about it elevated him to the dizzy heights of folklore. That's good for people who need heroes, as I have mentioned before.

Lets agree to disagree.

Leaving a mark on a tree somewhere was a matter of survival for some. I agree however that the 1950's attitudes towards discarding used containers and other items in dumps was wrong. I am not blaming LB but just the fact that the government was able to truck the stuff in so why not truck the used items back out?






Yair.......


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Follow Up By: Off-track - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 15:33

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 15:33
I find I have to agree somewhat with Willem on this. I have just finished 'Outback Highways' which is a compilation of his other books. Maybe because this book was just a compilation I may not have grabbed the whole feel of what he did and went through but I did think that with motorised transport and resupply his work and risk (overall) was not in the same league as some of the discoverers that passed before him.

Dont get me wrong, I did quite like the read and will no doubt read his others and also have a new urgency to travel some of these roads but after comparing it to the books of Tom Cole and others I wasnt struck in awe.

Could I do it - no. Could have others - to varying degrees yes.
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Follow Up By: Member - Tony B (Malanda FNQ) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 20:04

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 20:04
Well I will go with Allan B. I have read 3 of his books so far and he went well beyond the call of duty and put a passion to his work as did his crew. How many that have commented above have worked in those conditions in that context?
Willem - You may have driven these roads but to work in those places is unique in the context of the times. Having worked on Remote already made roads myself in extreme conditions I see the value of this person and His crew and I applaud their dedication.

Using Williems formula there is no unique people, if you Analise your comment Willem, most great explorers were just doing a job. Captain Cook as well!

Give credit when credit is due. Len was one of the many that left rubbish in remote areas.

Cheers Tony.
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Follow Up By: Willem - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 20:24

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 20:24
Tony

You read too much into what I post.

There is no formula. It is just a social opinion on the 'Wow' factor and the need by others to have a 'Hero'. Thats all, nothing more nothing less.

And please don't assume on what I might have done, or not done, in life.

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Follow Up By: Member - Rod V (WA) - Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 20:51

Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 20:51
To all travellers
When you travel the Beadel tracks you are travelling on history, I was lucky to have been able to be the first person to grade the Anne Beadel and Connie Sue Hwys since they were first built, I take my hat of to these people, to do what they had done and live and do it as well but me doing it in great comfort and modern machine you get to realise what they had to endure, Gentelman and ladies I take my hat off to a great person
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Reply By: Grizzle - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 13:02

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 13:02
You would not believe it, I finished that book yesterday!!!

Great read with some funny stories in there.

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Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 13:56

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 13:56
I collected the full set progressively from eBay years ago. I love his sketches too.

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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 16:12

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 16:12
I feel lazy as I just watched one of his DVD's and enjoyed the experience. The most notable/enjoyable thing for me was his recount on the dentistry performed on the grader driver.

There are few travellers that have prepared themselves to such an extent.

Kind regards
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Reply By: Splits - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 21:42

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 21:42
Is there any difference between fuel drums etc being left behind and all the abandoned mining equipment strewn all over our historic sites? I don't think so. Those drums and giant winches, crushers and boilers are part of history and I think both belong there today. Rubbish left since then by people visiting mining sites or driving over Len's roads is a totally different story.

I agree with Allan abd Tony's comments about Len. I think he was no more an ordinary surveyor than Matthew Flinders was an ordinary sailor when he took a 10 foot boat around the country on his own in the 1700s.

Had Len always remained with his party though, it would have been a different story. They had everything they needed with them at all times and left a smooth fast return road behind them wherever they went. He frequently went ahead on his own without even as much as a foot track to follow in cars that few would dare take out there now. He also did it without all the modern aftermarket equipment that many consider a necessity before driving over his roads today.

I would not be surprised if the Army selected him in the first place because there was something unique about him and I think he went on to prove it.
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Reply By: Member - Allan B (QLD) - Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 23:28

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009 at 23:28
Hey whoa! This is getting divisive.

Willem and I have agreed to disagree.

Len Beadell's status in history is only an opinion of the individual observer despite the fact that he was awarded the British Empire Medal, the OAM and several industry honours.

But be that as it may.... if he doesn't ring Willem's bell then he doesn't.

On the subject of discarded equipment left in the bush..... I shudder to think what is left on the Woomera Range facility. Some would have been removed (I know my old house has gone along with others) but some of it was massive concrete constructions which will probably still be there long after human life has left this planet! Because it is still a restricted area few get to see it today but if the rangehead area ever becomes accessible to the public, people will explore these installations and wonder what function they once performed.

Allan

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Allan

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