Thursday's column reminiscing about the madly popular Capital Television Birdman Rally events of the Canberra Festivals of the 1980s (Canberrans disgruntled with last Monday's sometimes uneventful festivities are saying how they pine for the return of the event-packed rally) have triggered lots of memories.
Canberra media identity Greg Robson remembers how for some of them ''I was one of the hosts of the event with Peter Chapman and Mike Larkan''.
''To this day I reckon it was the biggest crowd I ever worked in front of. I remember at one of the rallies looking behind me from the broadcast position and thinking there had to be at least 50,000 people.''
The Canberra Times reporter estimated 70,000 at 1989's rally and Robson remembers that one in particular.
''The day George Reekie won was just one of those perfect days when a combination of a slight headwind and a refined flying craft from years of failure came together for 50 metres of stunning flight.
''I will never forget it, nor the roar of 50,000 Canberrans going off!
''When George Reekie finally flew the required distance [of 50 metres, with $20,000 in prize money] I remember the director/judge of the event wanted to look at replay after replay to make sure Reekie's wing had not touched the water before the finish line. The delay seemed to go on forever and the crowd was getting more and more restless as we [the commentators] attempted to fill time while they reviewed the tape. After 30 minutes I left the broadcast position and stormed into the outside broadcast van and asked what the hell was going on.
''The director said 'I think one of his wing tips might have clipped the water,' to which I replied 'We've got 50,000 people ready to crown the winner, the prize money is insured so I am going back out there and telling them he flew the distance and George is the winner, otherwise we will have a publicity disaster!' And that is exactly what I did! The event never came back after we gave away the prize money!''
Robson has a vague recollection that perhaps the insurer found a way of not paying out.
Could it have been that Reekie's wingtip really did touch the water and that this invalidated things? But he also thinks it may just have been the sheer cost of things that closed the event down.
''It was a big event to stage in terms of building the platform, fencing and security and broadcast set-up (the event was replayed the following week) so with the advent of aggregation in 1989 I think Capital TV was looking to cut costs and that was one of the things that went.''
Another caller on Wednesday, a frequent competitor and a friend of George Reekie's remembers how Reekie was a superb athlete, and a karate devotee and always ''in the zone'' when his turn came, ''accelerating like mad and giving the full scream'' in his sprint to the launch off. This caller (who asked his name not be used) has several recollections that conflict with Robson's. The most exciting of them is that on the aforementioned occasion when the judge wondered if Reekie should be disqualified it was not that Reekie's wing tip had touched the water but that it had ''clipped a child'' in the crowd, as, on his long flight, Reekie veered a little off course.
This truth-seeking column will continue to winnow all the rally reminiscences received, in search of the facts, and is in pursuit of George Reekie himself for the definitive saga.
Time for Queanbeyan to take flight
As previously reported those pushing for unhappily emblemless Queanbeyan to imitate Canberra and have a faunal emblem have a priceless ally in '50/fifty', a Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami). Here at last is a photograph of the darling fowl.
He's a priceless asset to the cause not only because he's so beautiful and so cute (he goes everywhere with Daniel Gowland who has raised him since the chick was hatched) but also because he's a member of and an advertisement for the very species that's being commended to the Queanbeyan City Council as an ideal emblem.
What's afoot is is that Greening Australia and the Kosciuszko2Coast movement of conservation-minded landholders and others are campaigning for the emblemising of the species while simultaneously coordinating the planting of 10,000 Casuarina seedlings and other cockatoo-friendly trees in our region. '50/fifty' was there, an inspirational presence, at the recent meeting in Queanbeyan of those behind these overlapping causes.
The seed-eating species depends almost entirely on Allocasuarina seeds for its food so that with lots more of the right trees (especially the Drooping She-oak Allocasuarina verticillata ) upholstering our region the species' future will, in time, be much less fraught. In our region the cockatoo is listed as ''vulnerable''.
To do your homework on the project and to see if there's any way you can help, just Google to Kosciuszko 2 Coast and click sincerely on ''K2C Glossy Black-Cockatoo Project.''
''Where did '50/fifty' get its nifty name?'' I hear you ask. The poignant answer, Peter Gowland of Queanbeyan-based Priam Parrot Breeding explains, is that the species is fiendishly difficult to successfully hand-rear from hatching so that when Peter's son Daniel took on the project the hatchling's chances of survival seemed 50/50 at best.
To see '50-fifty', this celebrity cockatoo, go online to Priam Parrot Breeding and scroll down to ''Flicks and Pics'' where there is a charming flick of it being its glossy black and red self.