ACT News


No shortage of longevity

One of last week's columns reported the presentations of the Centenary medallion to some of the more than 40 phenomenally long-lived Canberrans who turn 100 this year or who have already gamboled past that milestone. This reinforces the statistical evidence that ours is an especially health-giving bailiwick in which to live.

And it was ever thus. When the Canberra site's champions pushed its claims (in the first years of the 20th century) Queanbeyan medicos testified that Queanbeyan/Canberra-region locals were living extraordinarily long lives. Surely, they testified, this showed the splendour of the air, water, climate and soils of this sanatorium, making it the ideal place for the federal capital city?

History-attuned reader Chris Vening has just stumbled across this lively obituary in the Queanbeyan Age of November 8, 1866, discussing a man who had been an amazing advertisement for the healthiness of our region. If only, this year, we were giving medallions posthumously to our region's great centenarians of the past. Old Pierre (who must have been born in 1765!) would certainly qualify for one.

''DEATH OF A CENTENARIAN- Last Thursday died Pierre Kennedy, of this town, at the advanced age of one hundred and one years. Old Pierre, by which name he was familiarly and generally known, had for a great number of years been a resident of Queanbeyan, where years ago, he carried on the business of a butcher. In his youth when, judging from his stately appearance to the last, he must have been a fine, stalwart fellow, he served in the British army. Kennedy never knew a day's illness and died of sheer old age without any ailment whatever. He prided himself to the last on his strength, activity, and freedom from disease, even beyond deafness and dimness of sight, the invariable attendants of years so advanced as his. We remember an incident in his life illustrative of this, which happened about three years ago.

''Kennedy was using an axe near his home; and walking with a gentleman visitor in the town, we were desirous of introducing the venerable patriarch to his notice, and on drawing near for that purpose, old Pierre greeted us with evident pride exclaiming as we stood viewing his athletic exertions: 'Ninety-eight years old, my boys; and can chop wood like this!'

''Although disease had never buried his shafts at Kennedy's well-knit frame, he had in his time several escapes from accidental death.


''Two of these occurred in later days. The first, when he was gored by a bullock which tore open his abdomen, his life being saved by the presence of mind evinced by the wounded man, who replaced his bowels and with his hand on the aperture, ran off to a medical man for help.

''The second occasion is of recent date … Pierre's gunyah at Irishtown [near today's Queanbeyan golf course] being discovered to be on fire, about two years ago … he realised his perilous situation, and then with that instinctive love of money often exhibited in old age, he rushed to his door, and tearing up the doorsill, gathered up a hoard of half-crowns, and with his treasure trove, escaped from danger.''

Capital idea for a name

Tuesday's Gang-Gang column was decorated with the story of how Canberrans Michelle and Francesco Sofo have given their new baby girl the first names, Allegra Bluebelle. They chose Bluebelle for her because the Royal Bluebell is the ACT's floral emblem and because this is, they knew in their bones, a momentous year for this city and for the Territory into which their daughter has been born.

A wit has responded that it's just as well the little girl hasn't been given the Royal Bluebell's botanical name, Wahlenbergia.

Yes, but, given the sterling example this family has set all baby-naming Canberrans for 2013, what about the second part of the Royal Bluebell's botanical name?

The full name is Wahlenbergia gloriosa and Gloriosa (the taxonomist's homage to the gloriousness of the flowers) is very like Gloria, but with an apt Canberra spin. Once upon a time lots of girls were called Gloria. This columnist went to school with some.

Alas, the full zoological name for our city's faunal emblem the Gang-Gang cockatoo, Callocephalon fimbriatum, seems to offer no scope at all. But feel free, inventive readers, to suggest to us some Canberra-appropriate names parents might gum to their newborns in this mystical year.

Were I to be blessed with grandchildren this year (the columnist wrote, wistfully, knowing it is as unlikely as the re-election of a Gillard government or the unscheduled reappearance of the Great Comet of 1843), I might suggest to the child's parents that a girl might be given one or some of the names of Marion Lucy Mahony Griffin, the brilliant but unsung spouse of Walter Burley Griffin.

What's Manuka to you?

In Wednesday's front-page story about Manuka Oval's wondrous floodlights The Canberra Times wrote that ''the star of Canberra's perfect PM's XI match was undoubtedly Manuka Oval and her six stunning new light towers''.

Noni Shannon writes to correct us, saying that ''an oval is an 'it'. The lights belong to 'it' not 'her'.''

Do any readers have strong views about this? Can a sporting venue, like all ships, be thought to have a sex?

As a columnist who has called these sorts of light towers some of the ''jewellery'' that all grown-up cities wear, Gang-Gang may unconsciously have an opinion on this subject. But the column's doors are ajar and your opinions are welcomed.