Sunday, 21 May 2017


Just to set things right, we call it cattle duffing in the outback not cattle rustling.  Cattle duffing is regarded as Australia’s second oldest industry.  I’ll let you figure out which is the oldest.

Cattle duffing is still as relevant today as it was in the wild colonial days. In fact, it is on the rise in rural Australia despite the fact that it is harder to steal cattle now then one hundred years ago.  The Australian state of Queensland has a police unit specifically devoted to stock theft which is aptly titled, The Stock Squad.
Apparently, ice-addicts in rural towns are duffing livestock from farms in their desperate desire to fund their addiction. I read one recent story about a grazier who left his cattle station for a week to attend a wedding and returned to find that nearly one million dollars of his live stock had been stolen. At one thousand dollars a head, cattle duffing is seen as a lucrative criminal activity.
My father once told me that Uncle Jack and he were once boundary riding around our station when they caught the next door neighbours helping themselves to our cattle. Uncle Jack and dad blew their stacks and actually pulled rifles on them. Uncle Jack threatened to shoot them if he ever caught them again.  I dare say he would have.

In the outback, cattle duffers will meet with swift justice, if the law is looking the other way or the law is a hundred miles away. Cattle duffing is taken very seriously in the outback..  

Monday, 15 May 2017


I recently found this rather gruesome story about a relative I didn’t know anything about. The relative in question was a George Williamson Clark who was a half-brother of my great grandfather, John Henry Clark. My great grandfather’s family were largely unknown to me until now.
The following story about George Clark is fairly indicative of the brutality that occurred on the outback frontier in the nineteenth century. It was a time of European expansion into Aboriginal land with total disregard for Aboriginal traditions and lives.  Of course, Aborigines fought back but the odds were stacked against them. Over the years, massacres of Aborigines occurred frequently, right up until the 1930’s.
In 1892, George was working at a remote outstation at Cresswell Downs in the Northern Territory, a place that is still an isolated part of Australia.  
A visitor by the name of Charles Fox was in the kitchen of the outstation with a Charles Deloitte and two other men. He noticed that George Clark wasn’t there and decided to look for him at the branding yard nearby. The first thing he noticed when he got to the yards was an arm sticking out from under a blanket.  When he peeled back the blanket, George was dead with a smashed in skull as a result of a tomahawk blow.
Fox was then attacked by five Aboriginal men throwing spears. He was able to get away and raise help. When they returned, Deloitte lay dead in the outstation kitchen.  What would follow was the police leading two ‘punitive expeditions’ against the local Aborigines that year. There are no figures on how many Aborigines were massacred.
Years later, local Aborigines told researchers that the reason why Deloitte and Clark were killed was because they were raping the Aboriginal woman. According to Aboriginal law, they had broken a strict taboo and had to be killed. It had been pay back.    


Sunday, 13 November 2016


Statue of Benjamin Singleton. Singleton.

Various family members were early European settlers in Australia, largely in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Here are some of the place names that bear their names:

Paternal Side

Geary's Gap - Near Canberra. Named after my great, great, great grandfather, Daniel Geary, who used to run a pub there.

Mount Clark - A mountain in North Queensland. Named after my great grandfather, John Clark.

Lornesleigh Street - Townsville. Named after an old family cattle station.

Packer Street - Canberra. Named after a great, great uncle.

Maternal Side

Singleton - A town in the Hunter Valley. Named after Benjamin Singleton, a fifth great uncle.

Kingaroy - Named after two Markwell brothers who first settled the area.

Brisbane - There are six Markwell streets in various suburbs including Hamilton, Daisy Hill, Auchenflower.

Surfers Paradise - Markwell Street  is named after my great grandfather, William Markwell, who was one of the first settlers. Right near the beach.


Australia, my family and many others, gave everything to defeat tyranny. It wasn't just the "big" countries that did everything.

From my maternal family, twenty Markwell cousins served including my grandfather and his brother. Seven were killed. 
The Markwell cousins won; two Military Medals, one Distinguished Service Order, one Croix de Guerre, one Military Cross. Two were promoted to the rank of Major.
In World War Two, twenty-eight Markwell family served, including my mother who was in the Signals Corps. One of the Markwell cousins had already served in World War One. A Markwell cousin won the George Cross ( second only to the Victoria Cross). 

Another Markwell became a Major. Only my great uncle, Lenny, was killed out of those who served. He was killed in New Guinea. Lenny was also a Rat of Tobruk. When his fiance received the terrible news, she committed suicide.
Not finished yet. That's only the Markwell side. Two Bells, cousins of my grandfather, served in the Light Horse in World War One. 
In World War Two, my two uncles were both severely wounded at El Alamein which was one of the most crucial battles in history. My Uncle Jack later took his life due to the severe injuries he had received.Uncle Dick had severe PTSD.
 " I always smell blood and lime."
 Dick was in bitter hand to hand fighting against the Afrika Korps. He saw a close mate's head blown off. He bayoneted to death a German.

And not to forget my Grandmother Bell's massive monetary contribution to the war effort. Probably around a small fortune in today's money. Her large family residence, Mornington, was turned into a hospital during the war, run by Irish nuns. 

Countries like Australia, Greece, Canada, New Zealand gave everything and more.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

John Clark: Forged Steel.

My great, grandfather, John Clark in the centre with grandfather Bell and my grandmother. Circa, 1915.

In this picture, John Clark is an old man; a very old man in those times. Clark was ninety-five when he died in 1917. At this time of his life in 1915, Clark was blind and was cared for by his daughters. I wonder as he poses for the camera, if he is reflecting on his life; a life forged by hardship and heart break but also blessed with huge monetary reward.

From humble and tragic beginnings in Scotland, Clark was placed in the care of a tyrannical uncle at a young age. Unable to bear the harsh treatment any longer, he ran away at the age of twelve to make his own way in life.
 Clark never received a formal education and  he remained illiterate throughout his life. Clark's education instead, came from the school of 'you have to fight for everything'.  From humble beginnings, John Henry Clark would become one of the largest land owners in Australia. His land holdings were so vast that they would have covered nearly seven per cent of his former homeland, Scotland.
But it all came at a huge price; his first wife and their child died tragically of disease as did two of his children by his second marriage.
He was renowned a tough and wily man; he had to be. But when a lot of European settlers were taking Aboriginal land with acts of genocide, Clark worked in with the local Aborigines. I also think, he was a man ahead of his time.
Clark would kill cattle for the local Aborigines to eat and he employed them on the cattle stations. One of Clark's most trusted employees was an Aboriginal man named Roddy Clark. Roddy is apparently buried next to Clark. One of his grandchildren was even delivered by Aboriginal mid-wives at Lornesleigh Station.

 As for vices and dislikes? Clark did like whiskey but he was never a heavy drinker. He did have an immense dislike of Catholics. Why, I do not know. Clark disliked Catholics so much that he refused to attend my grandmother's wedding to my grandfather, Richard Bell.

As John Clark had only two surviving daughters, he left all of his land holdings to them. No son in laws were put in charge which caused friction within the family. I haven't found any other women of that time operating a large pastoral company in Australia. Yes, he was a man ahead of his time.

A mountain is named after him on one of the former family properties but I think John Clark should be memorialised more; after all, if it hadn't have been for people like him busting their guts, Australia would not have become the prosperous country it is today.

Monday, 18 May 2015


As you probably know, I mainly write thriller books about a hard-living Aussie journalist.    
My latest book is Blurline which is set in London's Fleet Street, in the early 1990's. 

Blurline has been inspired by recent and real events occurring in the media world, particularly in London. You may have read about the phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom.  Phone hacking is only part of the dark arts of news gathering.

Would you be surprised that newspapers have employed private detectives, paid bribes to members of the police force and public officials, and even had journalists go in disguise?  It’s ruthless and merciless. No prisoners here. Members of the public are fair game.

All this was a revelation to me. In fact, it made me unwell. You’d  think  a press council would have power to stop it? It would have teeth?  Not so.  Where are the ethics, you’re thinking? 

As an infamous English editor once said, ‘ Ethics?’ Isn’t that a county east of London?  

The line between being ethical and unethical are blurred. Thus the title, Blurline.