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February 2009

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News and Reviews


In last month's newsletter I referred to the "Odyssey". It was probably written near the end of the eighth century BC. Therefore it is nearly 3,000 years old, and much older than I implied in my comment that "nothing much has changed in 2000 years!"

CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)

This year is the 200th Anniversary of Darwin's birth (1809) and the 150th Anniversary of publication of 'On the Origin of Species.' (1859).

Darwin visited Australia in 1836, when he was 27 years old, many years before publication of "The Origin." Yet, even at that age he was an acute observer and speculated on what he saw in the natural environment.

Of his arrival in Australia, Darwin, on page 395 of his Journal, at states:

"On January 12th Early in the morning, a light air carried us towards the entrance of Port Jackson..."

Pages 395 to 413 of the Journal cover Darwin's time in Australia. See Whilst at "Walerawang" , in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, Darwin wrote, on page 402:

"...A little time before this, I had been lying on a sunny bank and was reflecting on the strange character of the Animals of this country as compared to the rest of the World. An unbeliever in everything beyond his own reason, might exclaim "Surely two distinct Creators must have been work; their object however has been the same and certainly the end in each case is complete.

"Whilst thus thinking, I observed the conical pitfall of a Lion-Ant:--A fly fell in and immediately disappeared; then came a large but unwary Ant; his struggles to escape being very violent, the little jets of sand...were promptly directed against him. His fate however was better than that of the poor fly's:--Without a doubt this predacious Larva belongs to the same genus, but to a different species from the European one.--Now what would the Disbeliever say to this? Would any two workmen ever hit on so beautiful, so simple and yet so artificial a contrivance? It cannot be thought so.--The one hand has surely worked throughout the universe. A Geologist perhaps would suggest, that the periods of Creation have been distinct and remote the one from the other; that the Creator rested in his labor."

Darwin had observed that similar environments in different parts of the world seemed to be inhabited by animals having similar adaptations, but belonging to different species. This idea did not sit comfortably with the idea of creationism--Wikipedia: --which was prevalent in the world in the early 18th century.

When recently discussing Darwin with my sister, she observed that Darwin was in Australia during summer. He was a Wallerawang on 19 January, after crossing the Blue Mountains by horse ("I hired a man and two horses to take me to Bathurst"). I could see no reference to hot weather in the pages of his journal covering Australia but he must have experienced some hot weather. His parting words on 14 March, as the Beagle left King George's Sound, now the site of Albany, Western Australia, were:

"Farewell Australia, you are a rising infant and doubtless some day will reign a great princess in the South; but you are too great and ambitious for affection, yet not great enough for respect; I leave your shores without sorrow or regret." Maybe the hot weather upset him, or maybe he just wanted to get home to England.

There is an amazing amount of information about Darwin, including ebooks of most of his published works, at "The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online" at One of the "Associate editors (honorary)" of the site is Sue Asscher. Sue was a volunteer for PGA who did prodigious work in converting many of the journals of Australian explorers to ebooks. Project Gutenberg also has many of Dawin's works at


A peaceful spot is Piper's Flat. The folk that live around,
They keep themselves by keeping sheep and turning up the ground.
But the climate is erratic, and the consequences are
The struggle with the elements is everlasting war.
We plough, and sow, and harrow--then sit down and pray for rain;
And then we all get flooded out and have to start again.
But the folk are now rejoicing as they ne'er rejoiced before,
For we've played Molongo cricket, and M'Dougal topped the score!

Molongo had a head on it, and challenged us to play
A single-innings match for lunch--the losing team to pay.
We were not great guns at cricket, but we couldn't well say No,
So we all began to practise, and we let the reaping go.
We scoured the Flat for ten miles round to muster up our men,
But when the list was totalled we could only number ten.
Then up spoke big Tim Brady, he was always slow to speak,
And he said--"What price M'Dougal, who lives down at Cooper's Creek?"

So we sent for old M'Dougal, and he stated in reply
That "he'd never played at cricket, but he'd half a mind to try.
He couldn't come to practice--he was getting in his hay,
But he guessed he'd show the beggars from Molongo how to play."
Now, M'Dougal was a Scotchman, and a canny one at that,
So he started in to practise with a paling for a bat.
He got Mrs. Mac. to bowl him, but she couldn't run at all,
So he trained his sheep dog, Pincher, how to scout and fetch the ball.

Now, Pincher was no puppy; he was old, and worn, and grey;
But he understood M'Dougal, and--accustomed to obey--
When M'Dougal cried out "Fetch it!" he would fetch it in a trice;
But until the word was "Drop it!" he would grip it like a vice.
And each succeeding night they played until the light grew dim;
Sometimes M'Dougal struck the ball--sometimes the ball struck him!
Each time he struck, the ball would plough a furrow in the ground,
And when he missed, the impetus would turn him three times round.

The fatal day at length arrived--the day that was to see
Molongo bite the dust, or Piper's Flat knocked up a tree!
Molongo's captain won the toss, and sent his men to bat,
And they gave some leather-hunting to the men of Piper's Flat.
When the ball sped where M'Dougal stood, firm planted in his track,
He shut his eyes, and turned him round, and stopped it--with his back!
The highest score was twenty-two, the total sixty-six,
When Brady sent a yorker down that scattered Johnson's sticks.

Then Piper's Flat went in to bat, for glory and renown,
But, like the grass before the scythe, our wickets tumbled down.
"Nine wickets down for seventeen, with fifty more to win!"
Our captain heaved a heavy sigh--and sent M'Dougal in.
"Ten pounds to one you lose it!" cried a barracker from town;
But M'Dougal said "I'll tak' it, mon!" and planked the money down.
Then he girded up his moleskins in a self-reliant style,
Threw off his hat and boots, and faced the bowler with a smile.

He held the bat the wrong side out, and Johnson with a grin,
Stepped lightly to the bowling crease, and sent a "wobbler" in;
M'Dougal spooned it softly back, and Johnson waited there,
But M'Dougal, cryin. "Fetch it!" started running like a hare.
Molongo shouted "Victory! He's out as sure as eggs."
When Pincher started through the crowd, and ran through Johnson's legs.
He seized the ball like lightning; then he ran behind a log,
And M'Dougal kept on running, while Molongo chased the dog.

They chased him up, they chased him down, they chased him round, and then
He darted through a slip-rail as the scorer shouted "Ten!"
M'Dougal puffed; Molongo swore; excitement was intense;
As the scorer marked down "Twenty," Pincher cleared a barbed-wire fence.
"Let us head him!" shrieked Molongo. "Brain the mongrel with a bat!"
"Run it out! Good old M'Dougal!" yelled the men of Piper's Flat.
And M'Dougal kept on jogging, and then Pincher doubled back,
And the scorer counted "Forty" as they raced across the track.

M'Dougal's legs were going fast, Molongo's breath was gone--
But still Molongo chased the dog--M'Dougal struggled on.
When the scorer shouted "Fifty!" then they knew the chase could cease;
And M'Dougal gasped out "Drop it!" as he dropped within his crease.
Then Pincher dropped the ball, and, as instinctively he knew
Discretion was the wiser plan, he disappeared from view.
And as Molongo's beaten men exhausted lay around.
We raised M'Dougal shoulder-high, and bore him from the ground.

We bore him to M'Ginniss's, where lunch was ready laid,
And filled him up with whisky-punch, for which Molongo paid.
We drank his health in bumpers, and we cheered him three times three,
And when Molongo got its breath, Molongo joined the spree.
And the critics say they never saw a cricket match like that,
When M'Dougal broke the record in the game at Piper's Flat.
And the folk are jubilating as they never did before;
For we played Molongo cricket--and M'Dougal topped the score

From: How McDougall Topped The Score and Other Verses and Sketches
Thomas Edward Spencer (1845-1911)

Last month's postings

A list of all the books we provide is available from
Check there to see if there are other works by the authors listed below


Reposted at PGAustralia (file substantially reformatted):
Feb 2009 Mother India, Katherine Mayo                      [] 0230A
Reposted at PGAustralia (file substantially reformatted):
Feb 2009 Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology, N Douglas[] 0210A
[Author: Norman Douglas]
Feb 2009 Mrs Bindle, Herbert Jenkins                       [] 1738A or .zip
Feb 2009 Gentlemen at Gyang Gyang, Miles Franklin          [] 1737A or .zip
Feb 2009 A Genius in the Family, Hiram Percy Maxim         [] 1736A  or .zip
Feb 2009 Observations on the Coasts, Matthew Flinders      [] 1735A
[Title: Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land; on Bass's Strait, etc]
Feb 2009 Fools' Harvest, Erle Cox                          [] 1734A or .zip

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Newsletter Editor: Colin Choat.

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