Norman Lindsay was a writer and artist at the beginning of the 20th century. His involvement as an illustrator and writer in the Bulletin and Lone Hand magazines, as well as his separately published stories and art, have made him one of Australia’s best known artists. In 1911 he and his literary colleague J.H.M. [John Henry Macartney] Abbott had a brief but enduring encounter with Hargrave that, arguably, influenced his approach to consider looking for evidence through archaeological excavation.
Michael Terry wrote extensively about his explorations. His later travel journalism is less well-known, but probably was much more widely read, in popular mass-market publications like Walkabout and People. It is this material which includes his secret visitor speculations. I have found the following references thus far, but doubtless there are more. This list will be updated when necessary, and any additional references are most welcome.
Terry’s life is documented in his manuscript autobiography, which was completed by his sister Charlotte after his death [Barnard 1987]. A later historian of Northern Territory exploration discusses some of the problems in filling the gaps in Terry’s life, when he had carefully edited the surviving documentary record [Dewar 2009].
Terry’s personal papers largely relate to correspondence from the 1960s-70s and of letters received. He does annotate the date of his reply on many of them, but almost none of his own responses are preserved [NLA 611-1]. In individual posts relating to particular claims I have tried to verify the presumed sequence of correspondence, including letters that are lost.
Michael Terry is little known now but was one of a small group of adventure-writers who helped to shape Australia’s self image during the 20th century. A genuine explorer, who took advantage of motor vehicles to traverse some of the last desert areas crossed by Europeans in Australia, he helped to open up and map large areas of desert country. In 1961 he discovered unusual rock art at Cleland Hills, west of Alice Springs, depicting stylised faces, which he thought may have indicated ancient foreign contact. From that time on secret visitors became an obsession and he can be credited with collecting many of the stories that were later picked up by Rex Gilroy and others and have become part of secret visitor lore.
William Augustus Miles came to Australia to serve as the Superintendent of Police in Sydney. He did not have any particular aptitude for the task and is generally seen to have been a very ordinary administrator. He was reputed to be the illegitimate son of one of the British monarchs and a ‘remittance man’ – recipient of an allowance that obliged him to clear off and keep his head down. Miles was an amateur naturalist and also had undertaken archaeological work in Britain. From when he arrived in Sydney in 1841 until his death in 1851 he was probably the most experienced archaeologist on the continent.
Our interest in Miles rests on his interpretation of Aboriginal rock engravings and cultural connections. These were presented in two papers – one as an appendix to George French Angas’s Savage life and scenes in Australia and New Zealand [1847, also Angas 1877] and the other read to the Ethnological Society of Great Britain, and presented in its Journal [Miles 1854]. They reveal a very speculative but also insightful application of what was then a fairly vague body of theory in relation to Aboriginal origins. The results were totally wrong, wrong enough to make it into the secret visitor category but represent an important early attempt to make sense of the evidence.
Allan Robinson was a pioneering scuba diver and shipwreck hunter in Western Australia during the 1960s and 70s, involved in the discovery of some of the seventeenth century wrecks including the Tryal , Verguelde Draeke  and Zuytdorp  . By all accounts, including his own, he was a controversial figure and his activities were a catalyst for the introduction for laws to protect maritime heritage. His methods of recovery of material included explosives, earning him the name of the ‘Gelignite Buccaneer’. For our purpose it is not his colourful or unethical activities but his claim to have found three pre-Dutch wrecks – a Phoenician trireme, a Chinese merchant ship and a Spanish wreck – that draws our attention. This post will look at Robinson and the first of these three claims. The others will be dealt with at some later date. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1986 Robert Drewe published his third novel. The title Fortune derives from the central story of the book, the obsession of shipwreck hunter Don Spargo who finds the Dutch wreck Fortuyn.
The novel is set around Drewe’s lightly fictionalised narrative of his journalistic career, firstly in Perth and then Sydney, which is interspersed with breaks to attempt full-time writing. The narrative follows a series of unintended long-resonating connections, beginning with the true story of cartoonist Len Lawson who wrote the popular Australian Lone Avenger comic books but who began a career of rape and murder that saw him jailed first in 1954. This leads to delayed repercussions on a succession of people, ultimately leading us to Don Spargo. Spargo is the very lightly disguised Allan Robinson, the larger than life Western Australian shipwreck finder. Robinson claims he independently found the Vergulde Draeck, written up here as Drewe’s Fortuyn and then lost the location, coming back with others in 1963. Robinson’s claim of early discovery is discounted, and this lack of official recognition was to rankle with him for the rest of his life [Robinson 1980]. Read the rest of this entry »
One particular aspect of forgotten archaeologist, Arthur Vogan’s life I would like to pursue is his connection with the American writer Elizabeth Goldsmith. He began a correspondence with her which still survives scattered in different libraries. Vogan described her gushingly as the ‘greatest living archaeologist’, and considered her works to be among the most important ever published. Given these grand claims and AJV’s admiration I thought it would be useful to do a bit of background research on Elizabeth.