ACT News


City's first registered birth

Who was the first Canberran? Well, if you allow for a moment the very narrow notion that Canberra really only began when Gertrude Lady Denman announced the city's name on March 12, 1913 then the first Canberran was probably the late Peter Haydon, destined to become Peter Haydon DFC.

He was born in 1913 in a house at 4 Robert Campbell Parade at the Royal Military College Duntroon. His birth was registered on April 6, 1913 and in later life he was always under the impression, with good cause, that his birth was the first registered for the new capital city after Canberra's naming ceremony on Capital Hill on March 12, 1913.

He and his brothers were foundation students of Canberra Grammar School on its first day of classes on February 5, 1929.

Peter Haydon died on August 29 last year and the Centenary of Canberra folk have asked us to mention him.

It's not only that he had been, before his death, on that list of souls destined this year to receive a special centenary medallion for becoming 100 in Canberra's 100th year, but also that they, the Centenaryists, want to give us all just one more jog to see if there are any Canberra centenarians not yet discovered. If you know of any Canberran becoming 100 this year please write to:

Meanwhile, Peter Haydon's very Canberra-rich story, including his extremely distinguished war service, is told in Murray McMillan's fine obituary.


Santa's late surprise: mates' red rhapsody

Arriving back at work on Monday after the Christmas holiday, Anderi Abdulhamid was completely rapt to find his workstation completely wrapped. What's more it was Christmas-wrapped.

A newspaper tries not to write stories about itself but what was done to the absent Abdulhamid's desk and contents by his workmates in this newspaper's pre-print department was so elaborate, so festive, spectacular and surreal that this column would have pounced on the story if the work of art had popped up in any other workplace, or in an unorthodox art gallery.

Wrapper-in-chief Caitlin McKay, assisted by her colleagues Craig Reiher and Luca Gobbin, wrapped everything that was on, and at, Abdulhamid's workplace as he'd left it. And we do mean everything. Even every paper clip was individually wrapped. ''They didn't look right in one package. I felt I had to do them individually. It's all about the detail,'' McKay explained.

Also individually wrapped was a bulldog clip and a tiny plastic samurai monkey toy. Every wire and flex was wrapped, and every part of the chair, including its rollers.

The wrapping was forensically neat, crisp and professional-looking and the overall effect was as eerie as it was beautiful, perhaps because a wrapped object becomes a mysterious object.

''Even I don't know what some of these things are any more!'' Abdulhamid laughed, beholding his wrapped, transformed workplace.

Older readers will be reminded of the controversial artist Christo, who used to create environmental works of art by wrapping objects and places (he even wrapped whole islands). In Australia in 1969 he wrapped up, in a million square feet of plastic, a stretch of the coastline at Little Bay in Sydney, transforming and disguising it.

McKay, a latter-day Christo, got the idea from the way in which Reiher had once partially wrapped her desk in aluminium foil. ''I had no idea they were going to do this, but I should have suspected,'' Abdulhamid said on Monday.

''At first I thought 'Oh, my God!' But then I was pretty impressed.''

At Little Bay today, long after its unwrapping, there's no trace of how Christo once transformed it but Abdulhamid is going to keep ''some aspects'' of what's been done to his workplace. Although Christmas-wrapped, the desk's drawers open and close perfectly and the now-festive rollers of his chair roll as efficiently as ever, while looking better than they ever did before.

A river runs through it

Without the reliably trickling and ever-pure waters of the Cotter River this place, Canberra, would never have been in the running as a possible federal capital site. Here, continuing this column's ancient, centenary-minded tradition (begun last February) of running poems about Canberra and its region are two delightful original poems about the Cotter. Poet Judith Pearson tells us that, yes, she was there for both occasions that she describes. Sir William Slim was Australia's governor-general from 1953 to 1960.

Two Incidents at the Cotter River

1. 1956

We took a group of interstate [public

service] trainees

to picnic at the Cotter River Dam.

The poplars were alight, but still we


in chilly reaches under she-oak trees.

A beckoning suspension bridge was


across the stream: illegally, we swung,

amusing two men standing on the bank.

One introduced himself to us as Slim,

his friend as Chalfont, disregarding


He asked the boys about their training


they gleefully complained, and did not


until the Rolls arrived, that at fate's


they'd met the G.G., and approved of


* * * * * * *

2. 1994

Last Sunday, after weeks of summer


the dam's high concrete wall was hung


with creamy lace. We climbed 100 steps

to see the dam itself, a tranquil lake,

reflecting serried pines on catchment


The peacefulness was shattered by a


of yelling youths who broke the surface


with recklessly gymnastic bombs.

When warned about the hefty fine, they


and peed in Canberra's pristine drinking

trough. Judith Pearson