Postcards from the past - a distant message from an amazing Australian.

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 00:19
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Back in 2010, I found myself with some EO friends mowing our way south through a fair bit of duco-unfriendly desert scrub trying to reach the fabled Dragon Tree Soak. As fate would have it, one day’s progress halted our little group of explorers at a particular hill in a group of low, rocky outcrops known as the McLarty Hills, some 250 km east of the Great Northern Highway and at a rough latitude about halfway between Sandfire and Broome.

Without going into exact detail in this post, believe me when I say that it’s unforgiving country. Every day out there is a hard day despite fast glass, air conditioning and Engel fridges that are synonymous with outback travel these days. Our little group was truly buggered after a hard days travel but we enjoyed spending the hour around the fading light of day up on the top of that rocky outcrop and building a small can to mark and hold a jar with a note of our passing.

12 months later, another intrepid band of EO explorers passed this remote location, visiting our campsite and cairn. The members of this group were perhaps a tad more sharp of vision than our band for they found a calling card left by those that had come before....75 years before in fact. At the base of the rocky pinnacle we had seated ourselves to enjoy sunset, they located two names carved crudely into the rocky surface. Those names were simply “M. DRISCOLL”, a name I was already familiar with through the tales of a quiet spoken EO member (and reluctant legend of the Pilbara/Kimberley), and the second, “T.GRAY 15th January, 1936”. Naturally, my colleagues in exploration revealed their discovery on their return and it got me to wondering (and not about how we missed this the first time round either lol), who was T. GRAY? Why should he be out here in an area that in 1936 was still considered as remote and harsh as the face of the moon.

It took a bit of investigation that I reckon might have even made the great Sherlock proud but in the end, an amazing man was revealed. A little of that was revealed in the West Australian Newspaper today on Page 21 of the travel section. “T” or Thomas Gray was indeed a legend of the Pilbara and a son of Western Australia whose shining light was cut short by the fierce actions of the AIF in Syria in WWII. Thankfully, he left us a note, a record of his passing that makes his story all the richer. Thanks Rod Moran for taking the time.

These are the joys of outback travel. A great EO story and yes....no doubt a blog will follow (and I'll let the eagle eyed EO members out themselves ;-)

WA news - A stark echo of early days.

Our 2010 expedition through the McLarty Hills.


Cheers Mick


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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 02:28

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 02:28
Great story Mick.
Nice to find out the history and background of the people behind the name.

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 08:17

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 08:17
Cheers Johnno. Yep it sure is. Very rewarding.

Mick


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Reply By: Member - Corrugate75 - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 07:51

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 07:51
Great Story Mick.
Pity you missed it first time around. Got me wondering, is writing on landmarks graphitti when first done, but an important record in history after a longer time?
Is that why kids write on bus shelters?!
Cheers
Corrugate
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 08:16

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 08:16
Hmmm I've got a feeling that those colourful "tags" that litter the fences about our way are just that, visual litter. Can't see much historical value in them but it provides some sport for us locals, chasing the little bleep s around the streets and laneways lol. Soon painted over as well. I'll leave the art experts to argue over that one.

It's an interesting point though. It certainly adds a human element to a story or place when you find names etched in the walls of an old building or rock wall. The walls above Breadon Pool and around Well 38 on the Canning are another example where what was probably grafitti at the time of etching, now has interest and historical significance.

What made this more interesting and significant was that it was dated. With that at least you get a historical context as well. I'm still one for leaving a note in a jar rather than carving something although we write them on a flattened aluminium can these days as they last a lot longer and don't perish.

Are you thinking of taking the chisel and hammer out with you next trip ;-)

Cheers Mick
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Follow Up By: Member - Royce- Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 13:05

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 13:05
Yep..... tagging, and other graffiti is simply modern rock-art. A nuisance if you don't want it where it is, but just as valid as Aboriginal rock painings, and early explorer notes.

On the old coal line bridge near Morwell, for many years there was graffiti: "OUT MENZIES WAR MONGER"... I think it was there until the mid 70s and maybe into the 80's. Shouldn't have been removed IMHO.

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Follow Up By: Member - Royce- Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 13:06

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 13:06
and then there's Chamber's Pillar. The modern stuff is illegal, while it is illegal to remove the older stuff!
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Reply By: Life Member - Phil B (WA) - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 08:49

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 08:49
Another great article Mick,

Isn't it amazing what one can discover when starting out with only a snippet of info. Musty be you're bloodhound training -lol.

Re Tom Gray what an amazing story - I must say I'm pleased another outback mystery has been solved.

When we found the inscription (yes I was one of the EO members on the second trip) I too wondered who was he and why was he out here in 1936?

Hey Mick, next time eat more carrots and you might err spot things too - lol.

cheers
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:52

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:52
Thanks Phil and thanks for the photos. I was astonished by just what we missed on that first expedition and we had a good look around as well. Struth, it's obvious that I can still learn a thing or two ;-)

The Mick Driscoll Story is another classic tale of outback exploration and survival that I hope we can interest people in. Two names in the same remote outback location some 30 years apart and each with a good story to tell. A good find mate.

Cheers Mick
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Reply By: Ray - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 09:12

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 09:12
I have always wondered? When does graffiti become art and visa versa. Some of the so called rock art is nothing but rock defacement whereas SOME of the graffiti in this modern world is quite good providing it is in an appropriate place.
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Reply By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 09:24

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 09:24
Gooday Mick,
good story. Your eyesight must be getting as bad as mine Mick, if you missed that "rock art".... lol (:

Are you going into competition with Doug T to provide us with interesting "history" stories?... lol..
regards
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:23

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:23
Cheers Fred. Doug has nothing to worry about mate. I thought it would be a good idea to post the story because an Eagle Eyed Equinox bought the WA article to my attention yesterday. I was unaware that Rod Moran had published the article although he had flagged his intention as he is very passionate about Tommy Gray's story and for the history of the Pilbara in general. The reality is that if not for Rod's efforts back in the 90's, the Tom Gray story may have been lost forever. Hopefully you might be tempted to get some pin striping on the new vanilla truck out that way mate.

Mick
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 09:25

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 09:25
Hi Mick

Thanks for that great read. Light could have played a big factor in finding the engravings. When we were out at Lang Rock in WA looking for Frank Hahn engravings, we found a good number of engravings, but the early morning light made it hard work. I photographed some engravings and another EO member had photos of the very same spot that clearly showed the Hahn engraving, yet you could not see them in my photo because of the light.


Thanks again Mick.




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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:53

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:53
I was probably too busy watching where I was putting my feet mate lol. Thanks Stephen.

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Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 12:50

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 12:50
hi mick
read it late last night and was amazed that you missed it but after reading your excuse above have to agree a good bush man
should always be looking out for snakes
wooden stakes
and jiucy steaks on things hopping past
if one is to survive out there
cheers
barry
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Reply By: equinox - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 11:20

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 11:20
On the afternoon of 10th July 2011, we were soon to make camp. The obvious choice was a prominent section of the McLarty Hills, a bluff on the northern end of one of the hills. John and Suze led us in, as they camped at exactly the same spot last year with Mick O.

This camp was amongst the eastern group of hills. We set up camp, from memory it was Peter Blakeman, photographer, who saw the inscriptions first.

They were all on the northern face of the bluff, and there was also aboriginal drawings at the same place.

Inscriptions on northern bluff (to left)



Bluff at dusk



Driscoll Inscription



Introducing, Anthropologist and Geologist David Morton by inscriptions



There was another inscription, either incomplete or partially worn away - FH. Tho ??? I cant say for sure however it may be 1995 at the end of it.



Well done to Mick for researching this and coming up with the link to Gray. It sounds like this isolated spot has seen its fair share of excitement in the past.

Cheers
Alan

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:12

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:12
Thanks Al. T'was a great find. Next job will be to locate the waterhole.

Cheers Mick
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Follow Up By: equinox - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:23

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:23
There's water there I reckon, you just have to have enough energy to walk over a few more sand dunes something I didn't have :)





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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:49

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:49
Yep. Nice map alright. I reckon a bit of digging might be needed as well. It certainly makes a lot more sense now with the position of that spear sharpening stone in the dunes to the south. It appears to have been a hub of activity and/or a major stop over point as the locals followed the waterholes.


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''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
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Reply By: Member - David G (WA) - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 18:17

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 18:17
Hi Mick

You certainly know how to wet our appetites and thanks to Allan and Phil for their followup trip which came up with the photos of the names as you know I worked with "Mineral Mick Driscoll" and have some recollections of his trip but like Tom Grays story there are a few blanks and it would be quite a story to think that both those men visited that same spot 30years apart but both had a story to tell which is worth telling.
Tom Gray's story is about complete perhaps Micks is about to start.

Cheers Dave
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:14

Sunday, Feb 12, 2012 at 21:14
You may just be right Dave. Certainly worth recording in some way and a lot easier to research these things when there are still people about who knew him and the stories well.

Cheers Mick
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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