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. 

Monday, 2 March 2015


Adam Lindsay Gordon Monument. Melbourne.

Two things stand like stone;
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in one’s own.

Adam Lindsay Gordon was more the bush poet and outback horseman than the English gentleman he was meant to be.

Gordon was born in 1833, in the Azores to privileged English parents. He attended all the right schools, but had a reputation for running up debts and leading a reckless life. After been expelled from his last school, his frustrated father decided that Gordon should start over in Australia.

He took to the Australia, like a pig to mud. He broke in horses, rode in steeplechases, was elected to the South Australian parliament and became a published poet. But it is for his riding feats that he is most remembered for. The most famous occurred in 1864, when Gordon made his famed leap on horseback over an old post and rail guard fence onto a narrow ledge overlooking the Blue Lake many metres below and jumped back again onto the roadway.

In the late 1860’s, he decided to move to Melbourne where he continued to publish his poetry and ride in steeplechases. In one day, he won three races. It was here, that he developed a friendship with Thomas Lawless who was a jockey at the time. It was later on that Thomas joined the Victorian Mounted Police.

The men developed a friendly rivalry, each trying to outdo each other with their riding skills. I was once told by an elderly relative, that the duo jumped their horses over a bark hut for a dare. I can’t find any reference to the story and I'm surprised that it would be possible. I’ll have to do some more digging.

Sadly, it didn’t end well for Adam Lindsay Gordon; after his latest book of poems didn’t sell well and afflicted by injuries sustained by several falls off horses, Gordon shot himself in 1870.

He is the only Australian poet to have a bust in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.    

Friday, 2 January 2015


San Francisco. 1850.
‘It was the end of the continent, nobody gave a damn.’ Jack Kerouac.

This blog comes as a footnote to a previous one, A Free Man, in which I talked about my great,great grandfather, Patrick Bell, taking off to San Francisco. Further research indicates that Paddy may have been a member of a criminal gang called the Sydney Ducks.

The Sydney Ducks  were one of the more violent criminal organisations ever set up in America. They had the dubious honour of been California’s first criminal gang.  The majority of them were Irish who had arrived in Australia during the Irish Famine. Many were labourers. Paddy Bell certainly fitted that demographic. A few were ex-convicts who had served their time in Australia.

When news of the gold discovery in California hit Australia, they were on the next boats to San Francisco.  However, the Australians soon found that mining for gold was for idiots and decided that a life of crime was more lucrative.

The gang set up shop in an area of San Francisco that became known as Sydney Town ( renamed The Barbary Coast in the 1860's). Sydney Town soon became a cesspit of saloons, gambling dens and brothels.  Assaults, murders, looting, robberies and arson happened on a daily basis all over the city.

Arson attacks on businesses was the big earner for the Ducks.  While people were distracted trying to put out the fire, the gang was be looting others.  In one major arson attack, the criminals nearly burnt out central San Francisco. The gang always made sure Sydney Town never burnt;  only lighting a fire when they knew the winds wouldn’t blow in that direction.    

In a few months, a hundred people were murdered. The authorities were either incompetent or corrupt; probably both. The gang members were never prosecuted.   
As Herbert Ashbury, says in his book,' The Barbary Coast'; ‘the nearest approach to criminal anarchy that an American city has yet experienced.’

But the good citizens of San Francisco had had enough. A vigilante committee was formed and soon after, the lynching’s and deportations started. It was all over for the Sydney Ducks.

 Their two year reign of terror that had lasted from 1849-1851, was over.