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Andrew long overdue at National Library


Ian Warden


Andrew Peacock - the NLA peacock - is worryingly missing.

Andrew Peacock - the NLA peacock - is worryingly missing.

Andrew Peacock is missing. No, not the human Andrew Peacock who once led the federal parliamentary Liberal Party (and of whom Paul Keating said when that Peacock tried to become leader for a second time, ''Can a souffle rise twice?'') but Andrew Peacock the spectacular male peafowl that has lived around the National Library of Australia for some years. Library staff, wittily, gave him his wholly appropriate name.

He has not been seen for more than three weeks and everyone at the library who loved him and who felt a glimpse of him enriched the working day, is worried.

''Librarians pining is not a pretty sight,'' a Library spokeswoman said.

Queanbeyan High School Crest, done as a mosaic by kids at the school and erected above the stage in the hall.

Queanbeyan High School Crest, done as a mosaic by kids at the school and erected above the stage in the hall. Photo: Karleen Minney

What has become of him? He would be such an adornment to a spacious garden that theft cannot be ruled out. Nor can kidnapping, although ''We've not had a ransom note yet'', the spokeswoman said.

Everyone is hoping he is alive and well and has perhaps, in search of love and companionship, gone to join a small colony of peafowl at large in Narrabundah.

The love interest theory is supported by the fact that in the days before his disappearance he was seen offering his spectacular courtship display, meant of course for peahens, to unappreciative pigeons.

''Andrew turned up at the National Library about three years ago,'' the spokswoman said, with a short history of Andrew and the Library related in an ominous past tense.

''He moved in on the contractors who were working on the podium. Or more particularly, he moved in on their lunchboxes. He stayed there as long as the lunchboxes did, and when they moved on, so did he - to the greenery outside Oral History and Folklore.

''But it was down at the Loading Dock/Staff Entrance where he was to eventually settle,'' she said. ''The menu was better. But the library's security staff encouraged Andrew to abandon his love of abandoned sausage rolls in favour of seeds, fruit and vegies.

''In winter, when the loading dock door would open he'd sneak in to where it was warmer, settling himself on a pallet. He also liked the recycling bin outside, plonking himself on top regularly for a peacock's eye view of the loading dock.

''He went missing about three weeks ago - it's the longest time he's ever been away and library staff are pining. We will understand if he's decided to move on - and we do hope he's found Mrs Andrew - we'd just like to know he's safe.''

Communal approach a winner

Of course most eyes and ears were focused on Tim Overall, the charismatic mayor of Queanbeyan when he gave a speech at Queanbeyan High School on Tuesday. But we can forgive anyone there who was a little distracted by the sight, above his head as he stood on the stage, of the striking new mosaic representation of the school crest. In maroon and white and bearing the Latin motto ''nihil labore sine'', it beautifies and ennobles the school's hall.

To digress for a moment, folklore has it that Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam once visited the school and had Whitlamesque fun with the school's motto. ''Nihil labore sine'' means ''Without labour nothing'' or that nothing can be achieved without labour, without hard work. But scholarly Gough, at play, is said to have said that the motto endorsed the truism that nothing was possible without Labor, that without Labor, Australia was nothing!

This year there's been a flurry of mosaic-making by some students. The crest (''It looks beautiful. It's absolutely fantastic!'' teacher and student representative council co-ordinator Michael Guilfoyle said), made by students of the council, is the latest creation and Tuesday's occasion was among other things its ''unveiling''. But earlier this year and at the council's invitation students made and installed three of the 10 mosaics that have beautified and ennobled one stretch of old Crawford Street, helping turn it into what's now the Crawford Street lifestyle precinct. Queanbeyan High School students, tutored in mosaic-making by artist Kim Grant, have warmed to the art form and so have gone on to make the majestic crest.

It sounds as if this has been a dynamic year of achievements for the school's council, with, perhaps, some lessons for democracy as we know it. Pay attention, political scientists. Guilfoyle says: ''This year's Queanbeyan High School SRC was run as a 'committee of the whole' rather than through people chosen by populist elections. Under this system (to permanently replace elections) every student in the school was invited to be a member of the SRC. All they needed to do was turn up to the weekly (Wednesday lunchtime) meetings and participate in SRC events. As a result, this year's SRC was a group of dedicated 'workhorses' instead of being 'show ponies'.''

It all sounds mildly Maoist but Guilfoyle has gone into rhapsodies over what this kind of communal council has managed: buying essential things for the school and all sorts of acts of altruism, such as the running of a bandanna day for children with cancer that raised $200. Mr Overall rhapsodised about the same things on Tuesday, standing under the super new school crest that is another of the fruits of this first year of doing things communally.


  • Maybe he found a friend at Piallago...

    I say..
    Date and time
    December 20, 2012, 8:36AM
    • "Seen offering his spectacular courtship display... to unappreciative pigeons". Just like his namesake!

      Date and time
      December 20, 2012, 10:33AM
      • That's a witty headline! Love it.
        Let's speculate, genre-ly, about Andrew.
        Mystery. Where's Andrew?
        Travel/tourism: Maybe he's gone down to Melbourne to see Peter the Peacock at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) University at Fairfield campus. Peter's usually found parading outside the canteen or cafe, picking up the Bachelor of Writing and Publishing students' scraps.
        Non-fiction/health: But you can't judge a book, or a bird, by its cover. Peacocks for all their beauty are not as quiet as some librarians would like, and raucous bird calls at exam time can unsettle the nerves.
        Documentary: 'Library peacock booked for breach of peace skips bail.'
        Non-fiction/food: November 27 is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, and no table is complete without a turkey. Could some refugee from the Big A have mistaken Andrew for an antipodean turkey? Oh dear.
        True crime: The torrent of homeward traffic had dwindled to a trickle. Near midnight, a lone sedan drew up alongside the library, lit only by the high, pale moon. Later, a passer-by would tell the police he had heard a voice among the bushes, whispering 'Here, Andrew,' followed by rustling, muffled bumps and heavy breathing . . . '
        Biography: Let's hope it has a happy ending, or should we say eggsit.
        Then we could detail all the possibilities and publish them as an ornthology.

        Date and time
        December 20, 2012, 10:36AM
        Comments are now closed

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