Bougainville Reunion-Melbourne-5th August, 2012
What a cracker it was! The gang come from far and wide to gather at Il Gambaro’s in Lygon St on a typically balmy, gorgeous Melbourne winters afternoon-perhaps I missed the rain, sleet and wind!! Oh well, who cared, it was warm inside with a chatty, bubbly bunch of ‘Bougans’ determined to use every second catching up on all the goss.
All up, we had a roll call of some 120 who attended the occasion. It was great to see second and third generations represented - Phil and Pam Morley with daughters Michelle and Rachel; Jo Lee with daughter Bekky and son Jonno; Gary and Heather Williams with daughter Chella, hubby Andy and kids Will and Charlie and Dave and Judy Drew with daughter Melanie. Peter and Chris Tilyard were accompanied by daughters Ruth and Vivienne, Shan Rochfort with his daughter and Isabelle and Bobbie Burns with daughters Helen and Amy.
It was indeed exciting to see that so many had put in such an effort travelling big distances to share in the occasion. Graeme Wellington and Didi and Mark Caddy from WA, Horst Allman from the Sunshine Coast (you’ll have to bring Nicole down next time!), Chrissie and John Davidson from Brisbane, Dave Parker from Sydney, Chris ‘Irish’ O’Brien from Brisbane, John and Jo McIntyre from Northern NSW and of course Ray ‘Chaddy’ Chadwick from Cairns.
Many folk had travelled from rural Victoria and would have enjoyed the drive home reflecting on the renewed friendships-Peter and Colleen Robinson, the ‘Bandit’ Shan Rochfort, Bob Duffy, Dave and Trish Jukes, Vince Carty and Perry Carter.
It was lovely to catch up again with Sana Balai but unfortunately hubby Brian Cleaver was in the sick bay. I noticed several folk trying out their diminishing Pidgin skills on a very patient Alex Dawia- well done Alex and thanks for the opportunity to purchase some gorgeous, aromatic Siwai vanilla beans, they are super. I suggest you have a peep at the web site mekai.net. Also great to see Eugene Korokoro again and to know that his much loved dad Tony is still going strong. Anyone who moved furniture to and from Australia and Bougainville will have fond memories of the wonderful service afforded them by Tony and his super- efficient team. Good luck with your relocation to Sydney Eugene-keep those QANTAS jets up there mate!
We were able to turn the clock way back to the late 60’s and very early 70’s with the likes of John and Justine Baldwin-John of course was padding around different parts of PNG as a young Exploration Geologist much earlier on. Graeme Wellington had seen the Project come on stream from 1969 and Luigi Ciampa from the early 70’s-lovely to see you again Luigi and to meet the darling of your life Maria, whom I believe you met the evening you arrived back in Australia from your first ‘tour of duty’ to Bougainville……….great story mate and of course you returned in the late 80’s with an equipment supplier (no free adverts here!!!!). Brian and Martina Rear saw in some of the early Concentrator days and they were able to catch up with Peter Plavina, Peter Tilyard, Robbie Burns and Rod Grant. John and Jenny Beauchamp rocked up and it was great to see them again.
I really have to toss in here that Baden and Sofrina Stewart (no relation!) planned to attend the gathering but had it in their calendar for 2013!!!!!
There was of course a strong presence from the Commercial lads. I’ve already mentioned ‘Bandit’-an institution at the Panguna Cricket Club. The Caddies - Didi and Mark, Gary and Heather Williams, Graeme Burnham, Stuart Fletcher and Bernice, Jenny and Nick Flint, Ray and Marg Hughes-Odgers (just back from a Kokoda walk-good going Ray), Mike and Jenny Kennedy, Andy Lloyd, Phil and Pam Morley, Rowan and Lee Reeves, Jim and Robyn Spencer and Brad Stone all spent time reminiscing and catching up on others who shared the experiences and friendships that were struck on the island paradise that was Bougainville.
Wonderful to catch up again with Bob Duffy who is in the process of relocating from Holland to rural Castlemaine in Victoria where I’m sure he’ll encounter lots of other motoring devotees – a chat between Bob and Graeme Wellington would see some burnt rubber and high revs I’m sure!!! Beaut to see Jan and Gary Cameron again catching up with some of their old friends Alan and Helen Drews, Andy Lloyd, Louise Trimble and Gary Williams. Many remember Jan from Pink Palace and Minenco jobs and Gary from B16.
My head was spinning at dinner, after the gathering, as Gerald Wollmer, Peter and Colleen Robinson, Chris ‘Irish’ O’Brien, Peter and Jane Besgrove, my darling Di, the Davos - Chrissie and John and the McIntire’s - Joanne and John all went hell for leather recounting Bougainville experiences and what had happened in their lives over the past twenty odd years. Jane (very relaxed on her day off!) recounted some hair raising seafaring tales, Gerry was still on the Judo mat, the Robbys were entertaining singles as usual, ‘Irish ‘ was just being ‘Irish”, Macca was hauling in mega mackerel, Chrissie was trying to stop Davo doing para rolls off the Cricket Club bar and Di and I were simply bystanders!!
Jo Lee with her beautiful family, Beccy with fiancée John and son Jonno had a ball catching up with the Williams clan of Heather, Gary, Andrew , Chella, Wil and Charlie and I’m sure Louise Trimble and partner John along with Juliet Dade shared some special times together. Judy, Melanie and Dave Drew were able to hook up with a multitude of friends along with Helen and Alan Drews and Sue Ledgwidge-we all envied Sue who walked to the party from her nearby digs.
Helen and Bob Newell were able to renew some old acquaintances – not sure how you guys do it but you don’t seem to have changed at all! Must say it was special to see Mike and Barbara Bell again and to know that Mike is fully recovered having taken a bullet in the madness of ’89. Also beaut to see Ian Firth again even if I misplaced you, sorry mate-after all, we did do a Special Project together. I don’t believe I caught up with them personally, but Mark and Sandy Harris, John Viegas and Geoff Wallace all joined in the fellowship of the afternoon.
I found it really interesting to catch up with Dave and Tricia Jukes and share some ‘poo bag’ stories about their farm in Western Victoria, to have a lovely chat with Perry Carter(thanks for some of the pics), to see that Chaddy was still Chaddy-thank God! and that Chris ‘Irish’ O’Brien was still Irish!!!......great effort from you all to get to the gathering.
While I have endeavoured to mention most of you who made the effort to rock along to the gathering, I’ll apologise to any whom I have not mentioned – let me know and I’ll organise a Sky Writer to get you up there in BIG letters!
I have to finish off by thanking the Organising Team of Peter Tilyard, Robbie Burns and Di Stewart for the hard work they have put in to ensure that this Reunion was a SPECIAL occasion-thanks again to you all. Many thanks Peter Plavina for organising the slide show and a BIG thanks to John Davidson of JDA and Maureen for all the great work in distributing the notices through their Network. We did a lot of individual chasing up this time and have been able to significantly boost our list of contacts. If you are able to add ‘wantoks’ to the list please send the details to Di Stewart at: firstname.lastname@example.org as she looks after our Melbourne Reunion Listing. Vince Carty and Chris O’Brien have very kindly supplied some pics-thanks guys.
We all look forward to meeting again with bigger numbers next time we gather, in three years’ time.
Take care all, stay happy and the very best of health to everyone.
Neal Stewart (Scribe)
Link to photos