James E Lyle, ‘Smithy’, and the stamp controversy

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (‘Smithy’) in his flying gear c1928. By Unknown – Image Library of State Library of NSW, Sydney., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6786312

This year, 2018, marks the 90th anniversary of the first trans-Tasman flight made by the intrepid Brisbane-born aviator, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (affectionately known as ‘Smithy’)#. This was only one momentous event for Smithy and his crews during 1928. He achieved much in his career including an impressive WWI war record and setting prodigious world aviation records. These were historic and exciting times!

It is hard to comprehend in the 21st century just how important and unique these achievements were. We are all used to planes coming and going, with millions of people flying thousands of miles every year. But, back in 1928, aviation was still relatively new. Long distance flying was in its infancy and extremely dangerous for those who took it on.

So, keeping this in mind, on 10 September, 1928, Smithy, accompanied by Charles Ulm, Harold Litchfield and Thomas McWilliams set off from Richmond near Sydney in their Fokker tri-motor named the Southern Cross. They touched down on 11 September at Wigram Aerodrome, Christchurch, New Zealand after covering 2670 kilometres in 14 hours 25 minutes. Over 30,000 people turned up at the aerodrome to be part of this historic occasion. School children were given the day off and public servants were given time off until 11am. It was a monumental day in aviation history! If you would like to find out more, please see here. A flight from Sydney to Christchurch in 2018 takes about three hours! I think Smithy would be impressed.

Tasman Sea (vmf-guglielmomarconi.blogspot.com)

Earlier that year, on 31 May, Smithy, along with Charles Ulm and their American crewmen, James Warner and Harry Lyon broke the trans-Pacific record. They had flown approximately 11,566 kilometres in three legs, and were greeted by 26,000 people on their arrival at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Airport. An amazing achievement! Flying time from Los Angeles to Brisbane is about 13 hours!

Also, in August that same year, Smithy completed the first non-stop flight across mainland Australia, from Point Cook, near Melbourne to Perth, Western Australia.

Southern Cross monoplane
The Southern Cross arrives at Wigram Aerodrome, Christchurch, New Zealand following the First Trans-Tasman Flight, 11 September, 1928. Thanks to Maggy Wassilieff, ‘Southern Cross – A national icon’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/7481/southern-cross-monoplane (accessed 28 August 2018)

Move the clock forward to 1958. It was now 30 years since Smithy and Ulm had landed in Christchurch to the cheering crowd of 30,000. Much had happened in that time. There had been World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War was in full swing, and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was gone. He and co-pilot John Thompson ‘Tommy’ Pethybridge were flying the Lady Southern Cross overnight from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, as part of their attempt to break the England-Australia speed record when they disappeared over the Andaman Sea in the early hours of 8 November 1935. Aviator Jimmy Melrose claimed to have seen the Lady Southern Cross fighting a storm 240 kilometres from shore and 70 metres over the sea with fire coming from its exhaust. Despite a search for 74 hours over the Bay of Bengal by test pilot Eric Stanley Greenwood, OBE, their bodies were never recovered. Aviation had come a long way since Kingsford Smith had broken the trans-Pacific and trans-Tasman records. It was time to commemorate his efforts.

The release of the Australian 8d* and New Zealand 6d* stamps marked the 30th anniversary of the First Air Crossing of the Tasman Sea 1928 – 1958. On 27 August, 1958, the first cover with the stamp was released celebrating 30 years since Smithy had crossed the Tasman Sea! James E Lyle (‘Jimmy’) was the designer of both stamps. The photos below will be of interest, especially to those who follow my posts regarding James E Lyle. The first one is addressed to my dear great-aunt, Elsie Morley (1896-1987), and is sent with “Compliments of the designer, James E Lyle”. It was signed by Jimmy with his highly recognizable signature. It was posted in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

First day souvenir cover commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the First Tasman Flight completed by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (‘Smithy’) 27 August 1958 sent from Brisbane, Australia. From my private collection.

The second first day souvenir cover is addressed to the designer, James E Lyle! I could be wrong, but the hand printing looks very much like Jimmy Lyle’s. What do you think? Note that it was sent from Auckland, New Zealand. I think both of these first covers are significant in their own ways and I am pleased they are in my possession.

First day souvenir cover commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the First Tasman Flight completed by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (‘Smithy’) 27 August 1958 sent from Auckland, New Zealand. From my private collection.

It all looks relatively straightforward. A designer designs the stamp, the stamp is printed, the stamp is released and circulated. Not too complicated? Not so. According to Melbourne’s The Herald, dated 6 September 1958, there were mixed reactions, although there was support for the stamp, “the stamp itself is very pleasing in its design and is a good likeness of “Smithy””. However, it was also pointed out there were some minor flaws and yet other flaws were ‘worthy of recording’. While there was a difference of opinion regarding the type of plane included in the design, it was generally agreed that the Southern Cross VH-USU was so closely associated with Smithy it should have been included. It was further agreed that it was a good likeness of Smithy. On reading the article, the flaws were stated in great detail but I will not include them all here. One of the main flaws was regarding the white flow in the left hand edge of the stamp between the wing of the Southern Cross and the large star. Difficult to judge with an untrained eye! Others stated there were issues with the actual sheets of stamps and the quality of the printing. Those of you who are philatelists, will no doubt understand the ramifications of these ‘flaws’. One critic, Mr C Rivett of Baulkham Hills, New South Wales noted flaws with the wing tip, broken wing tip, broken wing over port motor and problems with the printing of “RN” in the word “SOUTHERN”. I don’t believe any of the critics had issues with the design, per se, but the actual printing of the stamp. So, you see, it isn’t so simple after all. There was certainly some controversy surrounding these stamps.

There is still one important question I have. That is, how or why was Jimmy chosen as the designer of the stamp? He may have been living in Auckland at the time so that might have some bearing on the decision. Maybe his design of the Royal Flying Doctor stamp in 1957 was still in the mind of the decision makers. I am working on solving that mystery, so, watch this space…

James E Lyle was a prolific artist. He not only designed these stamps but also a number of Brisbane Telephone Directories. He worked in various mediums and created numerous public and private artworks. If you would like to know a little more about the art and life of James E Lyle, please see James E Lyle … a lost art, James E Lyle…the stamp of approval 60 years on and James E Lyle – an update.

Thanks for reading!


*8d = 8 penny/6d = 6 penny (approximately 7 cents/5 cents) with calculated value of approximately AUD$1.03 in 2017 (Total change in cost is 1438.8 per cent, over 59 years, at an average annual inflation rate of 4.7 per cent.)
#Charles Kingsford Smith was knighted in 1932

© 2018


European Adventure…In Flanders Fields

2018 marks 100 years since the end of the Great War…the war to end all wars. So, we thought it fitting to tour the Battlefields of World War I – In Flanders Fields. There is so much history, so many sites! I must admit I found the whole experience both very moving and confronting knowing we were so close to where so many lost their lives.

I can’t cover everything, so, I will just share my personal highlights and a few facts you may find interesting.

All in all there are 153 Commonwealth war cemeteries in the Ieper or Ypres Salient Battlefields. They are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission comprising the six member countries: Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and United Kingdom.

There are stark contrasts between the German and Commonwealth war cemeteries. There are only four German cemeteries in the area, all of which are mass graves. There were 25,000 people buried in the one we visited. It seems the philosophy is that the soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder and therefore are buried in the same way.



It was interesting to hear the Belgian perspective and the role of the Belgian army which were, in this case, mainly Flemish.

To clarify, a Salient in military terms is a battlefield feature that projects into the opponent’s territory. The salient is surrounded on three sides making the troops on the salient vulnerable. The Ieper Salient was formed by British, French, Canadian and Belgian defensive efforts against the German incursion during the 1914 ‘Race to the Sea’ leading to the 1st Battle for Ieper.



Tyne Cot is the largest British war cemetery near Ieper. There are almost 12,000 buried there with about 70 per cent (8,500) unidentified. Their graves are marked ‘known only to God’. So very sad.

Tyne Cot – largest British war cemetery near Ieper

The Essex Farm war cemetery has 1200 WWI serviceman buried or commemorated there of which 190 are unidentified. It is located near one of the dressing stations which has been recreated by local technical school students. It was there that Canadian Lt Col John McCrae MD worked as a surgeon making decisions on the lives of those who arrived at the station. He saw the horrors of war first hand. John McCrae was also a poet and wrote the famous WWI poem, “On Flanders Fields”. McCrae survived the war but died of pneumonia near the end of the war.



Keeping the theme In Flanders Fields, we visited the museum of that name located in the city of Ieper. It is located in the fully rebuilt old Cloth Market. The building was completely destroyed during the war along with most of the town. Some, including Winston Churchill wanted the bombed town to be left as a Memorial to the war. However, the citizens wanted to move on with their lives. So a compromise was reached and the Menin Gate became a lasting Memorial to the fallen of World War I. The museum is well worth a visit. It sympathetically and realistically represents the war and its horrors. It is interactive with the use of your wrist scanner. It has many artefacts that help to paint pictures of the lives of those involved in this painful part of our history.

The old Cloth Market was completely rebuilt following its destruction during the Battles of Ieper Belgium

As Australians, it was very special for us to visit Polygon Wood Memorial and war cemetery. Evidently not many tour buses make the trip there as it tricky to manoeuvre in and out of the parking area. Polygon Wood Memorial pays tribute to the Australian Fifth Division and its service at Polygon Wood.



The Canadian War Memorial located at St Julien, a village near Ieper is magnificent and must be seen.

World War I Canadian War Memorial at St Julien near Ieper Belgium

All these (and many more not mentioned) highlights culminate in being present for the Menin or Menen Gate Last Post Cermony which is held every evening at 8pm. There are 65,000 names inscribed on the Menin Gate – British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ieper Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. My husband’s great uncle, Henry George Bateman was one of those men. He was 26 years old when he was killed. His family mourned him their whole lives. He was never forgotten. My husband found the location of his name inscribed on the Menin Gate. It was both a solemn and joyous occasion.

I leave you with the poem…


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

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European Adventure… Belgium

Our long train journey from Berlin to Brussels via Cologne was made much more comfortable by travelling first class. In the scheme of things it was not much dearer than second class so we treated ourselves!

We have had a great few days in cosmopolitan Brussels! While staying here we have taken a couple of day trips. On one day we travelled by train to the beautiful city of Bruges or Brugge. It is only about 1 hour 15 mins travel time from Brussels. As it was the weekend the fares were discounted by 50%. What a bonus!

We did not take a tour but meandered around on our own. We probably did not see as much but it was at a leisurely pace which we enjoyed. There were people everywhere and as the weather was sunny and a weekend, not surprising!

Bruges’s history originates about the 9th century when it was settled by the Vikings. Known mainly for its historic buildings and canals, it is also the home of chocolates and lace making. I have neither to show for my visit. Far too hot for chocolates and sadly, no use for lacework.

Bruges is known as the Venice of the North due to its canal system. Not one gondola was sighted on our visit, though! Interestingly, Livorno in Italy (cruise port for those visiting Florence and Pisa) is known as the Venice of the West or New Venice. Again, because of the canal district.

Hope you enjoyed this tiny glimpse of this historical and beautiful city!

European Adventure…Potsdam

Only a short train ride from Berlin is the beautiful city of Potsdam. We took a coach tour which included three guided walks. I was impressed by our guide Thomas, who conducted the tour in German and English. We learned much about the history of Potsdam, saw many castles and palaces and the darker side of East Berlin during the Cold War.

Frederick Wilhelm II reigned from 1740 to 1786, the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king. He was a great military leader and a man of the Enlightenment. He achieved many military victories and embarked on an ambitious building program. Many of the projects he ordered built, still stand today. I think though, the building closest to his heart was Sanssouci. The small palace he built at Potsdam for his personal use. Sanssouci means without cares and here he was able to be the philosopher and musician he always wanted to be. This is where he composed music and played his beloved flute. This instrument is still in Sanssouci today.

It is easy to see why he chose this idyllic place to build, surrounded by lakes, trees and wildlife. Interestingly, parts of Potsdam are built on swampland. Like Venice, it has timber foundations.

The New Palace was built to celebrate the end of the Seven Years war with construction commencing in 1763. It was built in just six years and there are obvious short cuts taken in the construction of the building. For example, although it looks like it is built in red brick it is actually sandstone painted red with white lines painted on to resemble brick work. Opposite the palace are a group of ornate buildings which are the servants quarters and kitchens etc. Frederick had a tunnel built between the two buildings so servants could deliver the hot food to the Palace. The only thing was, the servants had to whistle while transporting the food! It is considered to be the last Prussian Baroque palace to be built.

As well as Frederic’s palaces we visited Cecilienhof, home of Crown Prince Wilhelm and where the 1945 Potsdam Conference was held. It was attended by the three most powerful men in the world at the time, Churchill, Truman and Stalin. At the Conference, Stalin had the Soviet Star planted below Churchill’s window. The star remains today and is a UNESCO site. This, and other remnants of the Cold War can still be seen such as parts of the Berlin Wall and the Glienicke Bridge where Soviet and US spies were exchanged. This is the bridge which featured in the 2015 Tom Hank’s movie, Bridge of Spies.

Potsdam today is still home to the rich and famous. If I come back to Germany I will be sure to stay a few days in this beautiful city.

European Adventure… exploring Berlin

Berlin is a busy and bustling city with a real buzz about it. Much of the architecture is from the 1960s and 70s and to me, far too square and boring. Having said that, the buildings from earlier periods are standouts and that adds life to the city. There is plenty of construction and renovation going on so that perhaps is a healthy sign. The weather has been just beautiful with day time temps in the mid to high 20s. There are numerous eateries catering to all tastes and budgets. We are in an upmarket area which caters to the rich and famous (definitely not us!!) So luxury stores like Dior, Gucci, Versace abound. Can I say, I won’t be shopping in them but plenty of people are. Also, there seems to be many tourists around so attractions are crowded. We are used to that as most places are full of tourists these days, including us! Some of the places we visited were…

Brandenburg Gate – for so many years we have read about and seen docos on this monument and for me it did not disappoint. My husband thought it would be bigger but it is hard to gauge when you have no reference points. Construction of this neoclassical monument commenced in 1788 on the orders of the Prussian king Frederick William II following the successful restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution. Following the reunification of Germany in 1990 the Brandenburg Gate quickly became the symbol of unity for the “New” Berlin. It was lost in No man’s land during the “divided” Germany 1961 to 1989.

2018-05-24 17187096589..jpg

The Reichstag building was opened in 1894 following German national unity and the establishment of the German Reich in 1871. It housed the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) of the German Empire until 1933 when it was destroyed by fire. Interestingly, it was not used by the German Third Reich. Renovations took place during 1961-1964 and in 1992.

Nearby is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is made up of over 2200 concrete stele. Simple, but moving.


St Hedwig’s Berlin’s Catholic Cathedral built in the neoclassical style with an enormous copper dome is located on the Bebelplatz. Built by King Frederick II in 1773, it was the first Catholic church built after the Reformation.

2018-05-24 161420853614..jpg

These are just a few of the many places we visited during our short stay!

The following is a compilation of some othrt sights we happened across. The internet sign made us laugh! Some readers will get a chuckle from the Domino’s pizza sign. Back of Checkpoint Charlie taken from moving bus!

Hope you are enjoying the journey!

European Adventure… Berlin

Well, we made it to Berlin! The four hour fast ICE train trip was great but no photos of the beautiful scenery as we were travelling about 225kms an hour! You will have to be content with photos of us! This way you know we are still alive at least! Staying at the Hotel California on a recommendation from good friends. Centrally located in an upmarket part of Berlin. Known as the Champs-Elysées of Berlin, I believe. Dinner at Capone’s Italian Restaurant last night. Cannelloni and pizza, beer and chianti… delicious! Off exploring today!

European Adventure…Rhein Valley

Great day tour of the Rhein Valley yesterday. Started with a visit to the statue of Germanica and had a magnificent view from high above the river. We then took the chairlift down to the restaurant for lunch. Magnificent views on the way. Lunch was in a very kitsch restaurant. (You’ll get an idea from the photos of the Loreley Bar where we had a wine tasting following the cruise). On the cruise which covered the UNESCO stretch of the river, we saw a number of ancient castles, quaint villages and vineyards covering the hillsides. Interestingly, trains run along both sides of the Rhein. A little distracting given the overall peacefulness of the area. We were pleased to spot the Loreley upon her rock!

All in all a great day out! Hope you enjoy the pics! Till next time…Auf Wiedersehen!

View of the Rhein Valley from statue of Germanica
Quaint village on the Rhein
Castle and village on the Rhein
Castle on the Rhein
Castle tower on Rhein
Beautiful scenery along the Rhein
Another castle
So picturesque
A village on the Rhein
Rhein Valley
Die Loreley, River Rhein
Magnificent church beside the Rhein
Some of many vineyards that cover the hillsides of the Rhein Valley
Rhein Valley
Vineyards lining the hillsides of the Rhein
Enjoying our Rhein Valley tour
Wine tasting at Loreley Bar, Rhein Valley
Wine tasting at the Loreley Bar, Rhein Valley

European Adventure

We have embarked on another European Adventure! This trip starts in Frankfurt which, on first impressions is a delightful city. It has a population of around 750k within its administrative boundaries, 2.3 million in the urban areas and 5.5 million in the greater Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metro region. Today we took a walk along the river Main and visited the old town with its lovely buildings located around the Platz. We went inside the Kaiserdom or Dom, St Bartholomew’s, the “imperial great church” where the coronations of the Holy Roman Empire took place for centuries.


We followed this up with a river cruise which was both relaxing and informative. It also gave us a chance to have a pair of frankfurters and chips and some beer!


After having a rest from our walk and cruise we went for dinner at a traditional local German restaurant, Baseler Eck located at Baseler Pl. 7, 60329, Frankfurt am Main. Fortunately, it is only 200 metres from our hotel. It is not a fancy eatery but there is plenty of atmosphere and the food is great. The place was crowded and people were queing to get a table. We went a little earlier so did not have to wait. Great night! By the way we did have Apfel strudel as well but after two apfelwein I forgot to take a photo! Sorry about that. Trust me, it was yummy!


Hope you enjoyed the first full day of our European adventure! We did!

James E Lyle – an update

Last year I wrote two posts about James E Lyle (see James E Lyle … a lost art and James E Lyle…the stamp of approval 60 years on) They documented my limited knowledge about the man and his accomplishments and the role my great-grandmother, Anna Maria Morley (nee Weinert) (1873-1958) played in Jimmy’s life. I am finally putting together the long promised update! I will never get to the end of this I know, so be prepared for further updates as information comes to light.

A few months ago, I received an email from Ralph Walker, who had stumbled across my blog. Ralph worked with Jim in 1980 at Tell Advertising, a Sydney based advertising agency with an office in Brisbane. The agency was located on the first floor of McFarlane House, a three story building on the corner of George and Charlotte Streets. The building still stands today and was renovated in 2016.

Ralph has been able to fill in a few gaps for me for which I am very grateful.  He thinks his boss may have given Jim free rent and an art board where he could do his drawings and paintings. Evidently, all the staff loved having Jim around. He had a wealth of stories, which Ralph believes were mainly true!

He also remembered Jim did a lot of watercolours and recalled that a picture of his appeared on the front of the Brisbane White Pages phone book in the 1960s. Which is true. I know Jimmy completed a number of phone book covers from the 1960s to the 1980s. A story I came across in my research at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), stated that Jimmy went to great lengths to get the setting just right for one of the phone book covers.  It included asking if he could enter a building which overlooked King George Square in order to get to the roof so he could get a better view to do some sketches. In addition, Ralph believes the “elegant logo” used in Stefan’s project, the restaurant Jo-Jo’s, which occupied the same site in the Brisbane CBD for 37 years was the creation of Jim. This well-known eatery moved to another location in 2017. It certainly stood the test of time! Ralph suspects that Jim also designed Stefan’s famous logo as well, as they were great mates. I can’t verify that, so, if you know whether that is true, I would love to hear from you. By the way, Stefan is a well-known Brisbane businessman who started his career as a hairdresser. I believe he still owns a number of salons around the country.

James E Lyle autograph
James E Lyle autograph. Courtesy of Ralph Walker.

Jim signed a birthday card for Ralph during their time in the same office. Very clever, don’t you think?

During my research at the SLQ I came across an article by Molly Elliott (New Zealand journalist) that indicated that Jim received a medal for climbing the Matterhorn. He was the first Australian to do so. It was a two day climb and Jim reached the summit on 28 June 1953. Quite an achievement! Ralph also confirmed that Jim had indeed climbed the Matterhorn during his travels in Europe in the early 1950s. So, those little bits of rock under the house at Kangaroo Point were really from the Matterhorn! I tried twice to contact the Swiss Alpine Club to confirm that Jim had received a medal for climbing the mountain, but to date, have not received a response. It would be great if we had some concrete evidence, so if you know something, please let me know in the Comments Section. According to Ralph, by 1980 though, Jim could barely walk and needed walking sticks.

Matterhorn, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Funky Stock Photos

I have recently received comments on my blog posts from Sharmaine McBain, a great niece of Jimmy’s who also confirmed that not only was Jimmy the first Australian to climb the Matterhorn but also the first to paint it! Wow! So many firsts! What a character.

My family story is that the Lyle family lived nearby in Kangaroo Point and Granny (Anna Morley) recognised that Jimmy had an artistic bent. My understanding is that Granny encouraged his art and helped to pay for art lessons when Jimmy was a boy.
After Granny passed away in 1958, Jimmy continued to have contact with my great aunts, Elsie and Vera Morley. Their home at 40 Connor Street Kangaroo Point had a number of paintings and drawings by Jimmy and I grew up knowing the story. I have some of Jimmy’s paintings from when he was quite young.

I have also located some of Jimmy’s family via Ancestry.com and Gaile Davis, his niece, has been very helpful in providing information. Gaile advised that her elder sister who is four years her senior remembered meeting my great aunts when she was a child. She visited them with Uncle Jimmy at their home in Connor Street. She remembers being told by their father (Jimmy’s twin brother, Tommy) that when the twins were young they would be fed sandwiches by Granny. They were very poor and always hungry so Gaile is certain her kindness to them was remembered for the rest of their lives. Gaile further added, that their Uncle Jimmy was a big part of their lives so she has a lot of anecdotes to share. I look forward to hearing more from Gaile and her family and hopefully more photos!

Another reader, Jeff Hofmann, contacted me to let me know that his parents were friends with Jim and he was the best man at the their wedding. Jeff advised that Jim had painted the wedding group and that the family still had the painting. I received the photos from Jeanette Hofmann. I wish to acknowledge the kindness of the family in allowing me to use these photos below. The wedding was held at the Albert Street Methodist (now Uniting) Church, on 11 May 1946. The Groom was Clive Hofmann; Bride was Morva Hofmann (nee Harris); Bridesmaid Vivienne Thompson (nee Hofmann);  James Lyle was Best Man.

James Lyle Best Man
The Hoffman – Harris Wedding 1946. Photo courtesy of the Hoffman family collection.

The following photo, also kindly provided by the Hoffman family, is similar to the one I grew up with at the Kangaroo Point house of my great-grandmother and great aunts. The difference is that Jimmy was wearing a peaked cap and dress uniform.

James E Lyle
James E Lyle during his World War II army service. Photo courtesy of the Hoffman family collection.


If anyone has or knows where some of Jimmy’s art work is located, I would love to hear from you. Jimmy was a prolific artist so someone must know where they are. My research has turned up a few photocopies of his work (below)  courtesy of State Library of Queensland. There are more and they will appear in the next update. Hopefully, these will jog someone’s memory!



In addition, I came across a list of paintings for sale at an exhibition during the 1970s. I am unsure of the date and the venue but I think it could be Guv’s Restaurant which was located near Government House in Fernberg Road, Paddington. So, if you recognise these paintings, please let me know.

  • Evening, Cabbage Tree Creek
  • The Old Saw Mill
  • The Outgoing Tide
  • The Solemn Land Beetota
  • Misty Morning, Wyberra
  • McMasters’ Boatyard – NFS from the collection of Mr Harvey Blair
  • Edge of Town – Birdsville
  • Wear and Tear
  • February Morning
  • Rural Gothic
  • Abandoned – NFS from the collection of Mr and Mrs R Tritton
  • Mud Flats, Wellington Point
  • Jimboomba Gums
  • Stricklands’ Place – Mt Tamborine
  • Christmas Creek
  • Astrid and the Butterfly
  • Quiet Evening – Mr Barney
  • Johnsons’ Place – NFS from the collection of Lieut-Col and Mrs Morel
  • The Silo, Capalaba
  • Boy with Dinghy
  • Ryans’ Place – Scone, New South Wales

Just to finish up, I found this postcard amongst family papers that may be of interest to you. This postcard was produced from the original watercolour, Gone to a Safe Anchorage by James Lyle. I particularly like the notes on the reverse of the postcard! Enjoy!

Postcard, “Gone to a Safe Anchorage” (reproduced from original watercolour) by James Lyle. From the author’s private collection.
Reverse of postcard, “Gone to a Safe Anchorage” (reproduced from original watercolour) by James Lyle. From the author’s private collection.

I trust you have enjoyed this update. Next time I will explore Jim’s time in New Zealand and his many and varied interests.

Thanks for reading!

© 2018

Mona May Holbeck… a life lived

While sorting through boxes of family memorabilia, I came across some things that reminded me of my paternal grandmother, Mona May Shipstone (nee Holbeck). There were photos, an assortment of Birthday, Christmas and Sympathy cards and even some old 78 rpm records! There were items with no real meaning for anyone anymore… except for me. They are a connection to the past, my past. So, dear reader, I’ll tell you what I know, and think I know about Mona and hope you gain a glimpse of this woman and the times in which she lived.

Mona was born on Sunday 30 October 1904 in Clarendon, a rural locality in the Somerset Region located approximately 40kms north west of Ipswich in South East Queensland. Mona was known as ‘Nannie’ to my sister and myself. And, I must admit, it feels strange referring to her by her first name.

Before we go any further, I want to provide some background on Mona’s family in order to help make sense of her life and who she became. Her father, James Louis Holbeck (1866-1946) married Annie Sixsmith (1868-1938) on 6 February 1889 in Gympie, Queensland. Annie was an Irish immigrant who left Castlecomer, County Kilkenny just three years prior. It was interesting that James’ mother (Mona’s grandmother), Jane Ruddy (1841-1916) was also an Irish immigrant who left her home in County Armargh some 25 years before. Anyway, James (Mona’s father) worked for the railways and my grandmother (the eighth of ten children) was born while he was working in the area. I understand the family were living in a railway house at Clarendon at the time. By at least 1910, the family was living in Newstead, a suburb of Brisbane. The Electoral Rolls for 1913 show that Annie and James were registered as living in Maud Street Newstead and their occupations were shopkeepers. Things had changed dramatically as James’ occupation was no longer ‘Lengthsman’ as noted in the 1903 Electoral Rolls.

At the time of Mona’s birth in 1904, it was at the dawn of the 20th century. Although King Edward VII was the reigning monarch, Australia had recently become a Federation, known as The Commonwealth of Australia. The First World War was still ten years away. The Wright brothers continued to work on powered flight after their successful flight the year before on 17 December 1903. 1904 also saw the arrival of the first Ford car in Australia. The automobile would soon become commonplace on the roads.

As Mona was growing up, she faced many sad and difficult times. Nothing has changed, I know. Most of us face our fair share of pain as we grow older. It is often these times that define us and shape us into who we become. It was no different for Mona. At the age of six, her sister Emily Agnes (known as Emma) aged 11 years and 10 months came home from school one afternoon and within a few days she had passed away. It was an event that affected the whole family for the rest of their lives. If you are interested in reading more about Emma, please see my post from 2016 A Life Not Lived … I think as a result, Mona and her remaining sister, Katherine Lilian (Aunty Kate) remained close all their lives. (Mona was devastated when Kate passed away in 1973.) Then, in 1914, when Mona was 10 years old, her mother Annie gave birth to her tenth child, Arthur Edward, who survived only three days. Another distressing event. Also in 1914, World War I broke out. One of her older brothers, Charles Alfred enlisted in 1915 and saw service in France. Thankfully, he returned home, married and raised a family.  So, from a young age, Mona knew about grief and loss.

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Mona May Holbeck circa 1920. From the author’s collection.


On the 26 April 1930, Mona married John William Shipstone (better known as Jack), right in the middle of the Great Depression. They had four sons between 1931 and 1942. My father, William John (better known as Bill) (1931-2011) was the eldest. Graham James followed in 1935, with Donald Henry (1938-2014) and Colin Lionel in 1942. My mother, Jean, always said that Nannie would have liked to have had a daughter but that was not to be. My mother and Nannie always got on well and in some sense was the daughter she never had.

John (Jack) William Shipstone and Mona May Holbeck on their wedding day 26 April 1930. Photo courtesy of Barbara Horsburgh


A similar wedding photo of the one above hung in the lounge room at my grandparents home in Newmarket the entire time they lived there (from 1930) and was still there until my Uncle Don’s passing in 2014. So, I grew up with this image. I always loved her dress with its handkerchief hem and the beautiful shoes… and that huge bouquet of flowers.

Before her marriage to my grandfather, Jack, Mona worked as a shorthand typist. There is a family story that Mona, during a lunch break, came across a speed typing competition being held on the street, so Mona competed and came second. Unfortunately, I have no evidence of that. However, I have included below a photo of Mona’s Certificate for Shorthand awarded from Stott & Hoare’s Business College in Brisbane in 1920.

Certificate of Shorthand awarded to Mona Holbeck on 9th December 1920. From the author’s collection.

When her children were older, Mona went back to work, in the office of the department store of T C Beirne, located in Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley. Her typing career did not end when she retired from T C Beirne either. Her youngest son, Col, completed his panel beating apprenticeship in the mid 1960s and later started his own business. So, in the early 1970s, there was my grandmother happily(?) typing (on a manual typewriter, of course) invoices and quotes for her son’s business. Just as an aside, when Nannie was no longer able to assist with the typing, I was recruited to help Col with this task. I must say he paid very well!

Mona was fortunate to have music lessons and according to The Telegraph, dated 25 October 1919, the music exam results for the London School of Music showed Mona achieved a mark of 66 in the Junior section. While I was researching, I noticed there was a Ruby Walker in the list of results. I remember my father telling me he had singing lessons with a Miss Ruby when he was a young lad. I wonder if this Miss Ruby was the same one. Evidently, Dad only attended for a few weeks then just went to town and spent the money each week – bad boy! He was in so much trouble when his mother found out!

Mona’s father, my great-grandfather, James Holbeck lost a leg in a shunting accident during his time as a railway employee. These life-changing events were not uncommon at the time. My father remembered his grandfather had a wooden leg as a result of the accident and, for a small boy, he found it quite intimidating. Evidently, Grandfather sat in a Captain’s chair by the wood stove in the kitchen of their home in Newstead. That same chair is now at my house and is very much the worse for wear. It has been repaired and repainted so many times over the years that it barely resembles the original item! My plan is to restore it as near to original as possible. Although, that may prove to be difficult, as it is a bit like the story of the man with the axe that had been in the family for generations. Except that the handle and the axe blade had been replaced several times, it was an original family heirloom!

This Captain’s chair belonged to my great-grandfather, James Louis Holbeck. In much need of repair! Photo from the author’s collection.

I don’t have many photos of Mona so the few I have are very precious. The ones below were taken in the backyard of Jack and Mona’s home in Newmarket in April 1972 with the four generations of the Shipstone family: My grandparents, Jack and Mona, my father, Bill, myself and my son, Brent aged five months. I remember that day very well. We all knew it was significant… having us altogether. You can see Nannie and Pa look very happy.


Mona had lived through three quarters of the 20th century! Just like many others, she lived through the two world wars as well the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the Second World War, a United States army base was established in Brisbane. However, there was a certain amount of animosity between the Australian and American servicemen even though they were allies. There was no love lost for a variety of reasons. One of the issues that disturbed Brisbane residents and the Australian servicemen was that while they were on strict rations, the US servicemen had access to a variety of food, beverages and other items forbidden to the locals. Tensions boiled over and during 26 and 27 November 1942 violence erupted in what became known as the Battle of Brisbane. The melee led to the death of one Australian serviceman and hundreds of Australian and US servicemen being injured. The news of this ‘battle’ was suppressed and many people still don’t know about it. My father told me about going to the US Army Camp with other boys and picking through the rubbish the ‘Yanks’ had thrown out. He often went home with ham and other delicacies not seen in Brisbane for many a day! So, it was there if you were prepared to go through the rubbish!

Mona saw aeroplanes and flight become common place as well as automobiles and the phasing out of horse drawn transport. She saw the transformation of Brisbane from a cholera-ridden town with little sewerage and infrastructure to a vibrant city with freeways and skyscrapers, and… sewerage. The 20th century was an amazing time for all those who lived through it.

We are all influenced by those around us, particularly as children. When I think of Mona, I recall her quietness, patience and dignity. In her own way Mona achieved much and hopefully I learned something from her. She experienced joy and pain. She was the best daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend she could be. I admired her because she was a working woman when many women were staying at home. She cared for her family in the face of adversity. She was proud of her sons’ achievements and was much loved. Still sadly missed…

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