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31 July 2017

Email received from Andrew Wilson in Brisbane:

Wow - I have stumbled across your website and am very grateful to you for establishing this repository of wonderful memories.

I am Andrew Wilson, son of Richard and Helen Wilson, who with my sister Julianne, arrived on Bougainville very early 1970. Helen and Richard are still in great shape, living in Sinnamon Park, Brisbane.

I'll check the facts of the following and do what I can to put together a selection of photos of our time, but largely as I recall it, Dad arrived late 1969 in a tug towing barges full of fuel, to add to the construction effort at Loloho. Dad was a BCL employee, and as far as I'm aware, had a great time in his tug for a few years during construction of the port, the power station and the precipitator (?) where the slurry from the mine was concentrated before export.

When we arrived we lived at Camp 6 and as an 8 year old, I was in complete heaven. I recall fondly our Canadian neighbours (the Hotaling's ?) the evenings in the community mess hall, where at Christmas that first year (1970) we kids where all rounded up and sang songs as part of the festivities. We where called the "Nuts and Bolts", and all us kids had a letter of the name pinned to our backs, turning around after the last song to the applause and laughs from those in the crowd.

A frightening time was a speed boat race, where two brand new, flash ski style boats with outboards had a race across the bay and back to a buoy right on the beach. A crowd assembled to watch (father and son ?) in these boats as they took off across the bay almost out of site, and came hurtling back. A yellow (?) buoy was in the water just off the reef, and to our assembled horror, one boat passed it to port, the other to starboard. They collided with one going over the foredeck of the other, its prop slicing through the deck. Abrupt silence then pandemonium, men took off across the beach into the water to find the submerged boats skipper, a short while later dragging an unconscious guy up the beach and administering mouth to mouth. First time I had seen grown men cry (and not just one).

As I recall my first school was at Toniva, and for the first few months we bounced all the way there and back in a Land Rover, and at some point went up market in Toyota, where I would weasel my way into the front seat and change gears for the driver. Great times.

At some point, school facilities where established in Arawa so the family found ourselves there, first school at Tupakas, then Bovo. We lived very close to the Bovo river, and you knew when it was raining hard up the mountains because of the noise of the boulders rumbling down the river. It was an amazing place, with so much rain, every day at the river was like your first with holders the size of cars constantly shifting.

I remember a teacher, a Mr O'Reilly who was to us kids a huge man with an enormous belly, the O in the O'Reilly !

It might have been some time in 1972 that Dad left BCL to work for the PNG government as harbour master Kieta, so Kieta ( happy valley) we went, back to school at Toniva. School uniform was a pair of swimmers and an Orange T shirt ! Bliss.

Your site has a video driving down the hill into Kieta, turning left at the bottom of the hill, past the Zero on a post, then along the beach to the Kieta sailing and cruising club - which dad and a couple of his Kiap mates (Hendo Henderson high among them) set up. The bank account was the "Kieta aleing and boozing club", and I still have a club burgee as a treasured possession. From there, sailing Quick Cats, Arafura Cadets, Sunfish, Fireball, Corsair etc, my love of sailing was born.

A short and shaky blast from the past ... a drive to Kieta Sailing and Cruising Club...1986

Along that road was the house where we lived, ( a brief shot of it in the video I think). My bed room louvers opened to the bay, and as the early morning light flooded in, so did the gentle sounds of the small waves lapping the sand, and the view across to Puk Puk. Oh my god, what memories that video has bought back. Thank you.

Clear memories of daily "gouriers", with Mt Bagana clearing her throat on an almost daily basis.

Fantastic years, more follows

Andrew Wilson