Saturday, 31 October 2015


The first crossing of Australia’s Great Dividing Range
A free sample read from Nathaniel’s Bloodline by Peter Blakeborough

The explorers left Blaxland’s property with several servants, pack horses, dogs, equipment and rations for five weeks in the bush. They crossed the Nepean River at a ford and pressed on to the west until they were under the first ridge. Close up the ranges looked higher and more rugged than they appeared from Sydney Town prompting Lawson to comment:

‘People refer always to the blue hills but I think we should suggest to the Governor that they be named the Blue Mountains.’

‘Why do they always seem to be blue?’ Nathaniel asked Wentworth who had a ready answer for most things.

‘It’s the Eucalyptus oil vapor from the trees, otherwise known as koala bear’s breath,’ Wentworth replied cheerily.

Lawson, a landholder and magistrate, placed his knapsack against the base of a tree and looked about for a moment.

‘Here’s another name for His Excellency to ponder – Knapsack Gully.’

‘I shall make a recommendation to the Governor,’ Blaxland promised and he then set about laying down the strategy for their assault on the Blue Mountains and the Great Dividing Range.

‘Almost all previous explorations have attempted the crossing by following the rivers and valleys. Always they arrived at an insurmountable sandstone wall hundreds of feet sheer. Caley followed the ridges and, though he failed to cross over, he went further than other expeditions. Caley was correct. He may have erred with regard to which ridge he chose. There may only be one ridge, of hundreds, to take us across.’

At first light they broke camp and started climbing the first ridge. All day they sweated and toiled hacking a path through the bushy undergrowth, retreating again to bring the horses and equipment through. When the sun slipped below the higher ridges to the west they had made only three miles and they had no idea how far they must go to clear the mountains – thirty miles, a hundred miles or a thousand miles.

The older men were exhausted and Blaxland suggested camping again for the night.

‘We could have done better today,’ Wentworth said with some impatience, ‘If we had not spent half the day retreating for the sake of confounded animals.’

‘That may be so, Wentworth, but our pack horses could be our savior in the end,’ Lawson said.

‘And they could be the death of us all. They will never handle the steepest country. They’ll fall and break their legs,’ Wentworth retorted.

Asker listened quietly. He had an opinion but considering that he was there to serve them all, chose not to side with one party or the other.

‘We could save a lot of doubling back on our tracks if we knew which of the myriad of ridges and spurs was the main ridge,’ Blaxland said thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps you should be an advance party, Wentworth. You could take Asker with you and survey the way ahead each day.’

‘It would save the wasted time and effort hacking a path through the bush only to chance upon impassable terrain,’ Wentworth agreed.

Five days later, a Sunday, the blistered and sore advance party, rested for a full day. They had covered a little more than ten miles in a straight line from their first overnight camp. Back to the east the Cumberland Plains stretched to the horizon.

‘By God, we’ve got a way to go,’ Wentworth said impatiently after first looking at the plains below and then turning to survey the rugged peaks ahead. ‘I can understand why so many expeditions failed.’

‘We shall not fail,’ Blaxland stated firmly. ‘By God, we shall not!’

The next morning Wentworth and Asker set out before the dew had left the undergrowth. An hour later their clothes were soaked but they pressed on trying first one ridge and then another and another. They decided sometimes to separate and explore in opposite directions. As the sun dried their clothes they eventually found rising ground that led them higher and westward. Periodically one of them would return with a progress report for the main party as they hacked a path for the horses. Late in the afternoon their course led the advance party onto another dead end spur surrounded on three sides by a steep precipice.

‘I’ll be damned if I shall let these confounded hills beat me,’ Wentworth declared angrily.

Asker sat on a fallen tree and let his head rest in his hands. His limbs ached and he could smell the foul sweat of his unwashed body. He wondered about Isobel and the children and wished that he were at home with them. Slowly he got to his feet again. Wentworth was looking to the west, his face filled with determination. Asker stepped up alongside him.

‘These friggin’ hills ain’t gonna beat me neither!’ he said resolutely. ‘This is me chance to get a land grant an’ make somethin’ of me life. I ain’t gonna let it go. We’ll find the ridge that’ll take us t’ the other side an’ a new life.’

‘We shall, Asker. We shall.’

Both parties pressed on doggedly over the next few days. Wentworth and Asker covered many extra miles searching this way and that for the best route forward and upward while the main party continued to clear the path and return for the horses and equipment. As they climbed higher the air became cooler and sometimes it froze at night. Feed and water for the horses became scarcer and several times the men had to descend precipices on ropes to obtain grass and water from a valley below. In spite of that the horses continued to lose condition at an alarming rate.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015


The origins of the old Irish family name of Fuddpucker

From the Life and Times of Freddie Fuddpucker by Peter Blakeborough

The infamous Guy Fawkes (or famous depending on your point of view) was a mystery man who was known to change his name. To the Spanish, when he fought for them in the Netherlands, he was known as Guido Fawkes. Recently some authorities have suggested that Guy Fawkes was an alias too.
Guy (or whatever his name was) was born of Irish parents in Yorkshire in 1570 and it is popularly believed that he was the leader and mastermind of the Gunpowder Plot to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening on November 5th 1605. However history records that the real leader of the conspirators was one Robert Catesby and that the hapless Guy – Guido – was merely the fall guy.
The conspirators’ first plan was to dig a tunnel beneath the Parliament Buildings but that failed when they ran out of places to hide the dirt and debris. Next they rented a cellar beneath the Parliament and over several months stocked it with barrels of gunpowder.
Guy was led to believe that he was chosen to be the man with his finger on the pulse because of his previous experience with war and explosives. But the truth was that Catesby was too cunning to be caught standing guard over thirty-six barrels of gunpowder while in possession of the means for lighting a fuse and wearing a great-coat and boots and spurs in readiness for a rapid departure into an otherwise cold night.
When the plot was discovered the luckless Guy was the first of the notorious gang of thirteen to be arrested and charged with treason and conspiracy to assassinate the King.  His trial took place at Westminster on January 27, 1606, and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
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The ancient sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering – the male version of burning at the stake – dates from the thirteenth century when Edward I used it while trying to bring Scotland, Ireland and Wales under British rule.
The process involved first dragging the prisoner on a wooden frame to the place of execution. The prisoner was then hanged for a short time and cut down while still alive. He was then disemboweled and emasculated in front of his own eyes before being beheaded and his body cut into quarters.
In the case of Guy the gunpowder man, like everything else in his life, his execution went wrong too. After the brief hanging he jumped from the scaffold to avoid the disembowelment and emasculation and broke his neck when he landed.
But to return to the question of the true identity of the hapless Guy it is believed that before the execution the King wanted to see the man who had so nearly brought an end to his life and Protestant rule in England. When the prisoner was brought to the royal court the King ordered that effigies of the prisoner be burnt throughout the land to celebrate the King’s survival. But then, in a moment of nervous confusion, the King turned to Guy and shouted, not blood-sucker as he intended, but fuddpucker and so the infamous Irish family name of Fuddpucker was accidentally created.
Ten generations later Frederick Fergus Fintan Fuddpucker was a throw-back to the first Fuddpucker.

Freddie was the black sheep of the Fuddpucker family. He stumbled through life in a never-ending chain of accidents, disasters and tragedies starting the day that he was born on the back seat of a speeding taxi.

Other books by Peter Blakeborough

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


A million die in road traffic accidents every year

Meanwhile, governments do little and the United Nations does even less

The United Nations was founded in 1945 by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

This year the UN, now with a membership of 193, is celebrating 70 years of progress and achievements. The world body has expanded to include 17 major agencies covering many aspects of the daily lives of billions of people worldwide. The UN is often criticised for its failures, and there have been many, but the UN is also the world’s greatest ever political and humanitarian success story. This is often overlooked by critics.

As the celebrations wind up, the UN should be resolving to include among its agencies, by the time of the 75th anniversary celebrations, an international road traffic organisation dedicated to reducing death and injury from traffic accidents worldwide.

Currently, the UN has as an agency the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which has been largely responsible for making airline travel the safest form of transport ever, while reducing substantially the rate of general aviation accidents. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for regulatory control, safety and efficiency of shipping. Many other UN agencies are well known like the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and The International Labour Organization (ILO). There is also a raft of lesser known, but vital agencies, like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and The World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Many UN agencies have come in for severe criticism over the years and in some cases the UN may have failed, but the bulk of the criticism comes from a lack of understanding, suspicion and from people with extremist political and economic views. But without the UN the world would be a poorer and more violent place.

However, there is no UN organization dedicated to saving lives on the world’s highways, even though over a million people are killed every year, scores of millions more are seriously injured, and the cost to society is astronomical. The United Nations leaves it to national governments to do their own thing and almost all fail dismally. It is time for the world body to establish an organization that can bring uniformity, standards and targets to a global campaign for road safety

Although there are currently several non-UN organizations that have been established for transport and traffic, most represent commercial interests.

However, the United Nations Economic and Social Council was responsible for the 1968 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, a treaty intending to establish standard traffic rules, but only 73 countries have ratified the treaty. In addition, the Council set up the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, but only 15 states ratified that treaty. There was also the earlier 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which dealt mainly with International Driving Permits, ratified by only 95 states, and generally regarded as a failure.

An International Road Traffic Organization could have more clout if it was a separate UN body, independent of the UN Economic and Social Council.

The Organization could set target dates for member states to adopt standards for driver training, testing and licensing. Instead of having a national license and an optional, but worthless, International Driving Permit, all licenses would be classed as international, but containing an endorsement for left or right side driving. Data sharing could prevent suspended drivers from driving in other states.

A target date for achieving uniform traffic rules and signs could be set, including a target for adopting metric measurements, rules, symbols and signs.

Like ICAO, an International Road Traffic Organization could establish universal standards for the investigation and reporting of accidents. Each member state would have an accident investigation unit operating independent of any other governmental body.

Commercial drivers currently have their driving time restricted in some states, but not in others. Amateur drivers can do as they please everywhere. A worldwide body could establish uniform driving time limitations for all.

Vehicle design standards vary from country to country, and currently many countries do not require periodic vehicle inspections. The Organization could greatly increase vehicle safety. The practice of disposing of unsafe vehicles in countries with lower standards, or no standards, could end.
Continued below . . .

The mandatory installation of GPS tracking, vehicle data recording and access limiting technology could have many benefits including improved road safety and lower insurance costs.

In this world of increasing international mobility, it is going to be vital to plan for even greater mobility in the years ahead and to adopt rules that will be understood and accepted everywhere. Wherever a person drives in the world, he or she should be able to do so confident that the rules are the same, and that other drivers will also be driving to the same rules.

Universal rules for flying and shipping, with few exceptions, have applied for many years and work well. It is time for motorists and their passengers to expect no less. It is time for the United Nations to take the lead.