Notes from the NT: Jim Toner

March 2016

The Harp in the South is a well known novel about the Irish in Australia, specifically in Surry Hills, Sydney. The following mini-memoir is about some Irish in the Territory of Papua New Guinea, specifically Mendi.

In the Southern Highlands a long time ago Barney Madden, the District Education Officer, complained to Des Clancy, DO Mendi, about one of the senior schoolboys sexually interfering with younger pupils. He insisted that the offender should be courted.

Mr Clancy told Pat Dwyer, then a very new cadet patrol officer, to locate and mark the appropriate section of the Criminal Code and leave it on his desk, while he briefly went out. Pat, at a loss, was grateful for the assistance offered by Gordon Smith, a senior patrol officer, who inserted a red marker in the Code.

Only a minute after the ADO returned to his office he was heard to shout, ‘Dwyer, get in here!’ On doing so Pat was told, ‘You are only a bloody cadet, don’t get smart.’ The red marker had been placed in the section covering ARSON. This taught Pat to be wary of gratuitous help offered by a brother officer, particularly an English one.

Some nights later a knock on Pat’s door turned out to be that of a policeman bearing the blood-stained uniform of a newly appointed Village Constable who had been assassinated on his way home from Mendi. This was taken to the ADO’s quarters where he was found entertaining fellow kiap Stumpy Corrigan who had just come in to District HQ after sorting out a tribal fight near Lalibu. After a few questions Pat recalls Mr Clancy turning to him and declaring, ‘Prepare for Patrol’.

Pat says he felt like an innocent sightseer at Cape Canaveral being mistaken for an astronaut and ordered to get ready for blast-off.

However the solution was found by good old Sergeant-Major Duba. He knew how to take care of pikinini kiaps, assembled 80 carriers in no time, and the patrol set off next morning. Pat remembers it well because while he was miserably staggering along at the rear ‘breaking in’ his new heavily studded hiking boots, Des Clancy was cheerfully leading the charge wearing what appeared to be dancing pumps. However he wasn’t going to query the choice of footwear by the leader of the recent 130 days patrol gloriously publicised as the discovery of Shangri-La.

Jim Toner,
District Office Kuskus, Mendi and possessor of an Irish greatgrandfather (who was a coffinmaker in Downpatrick)