William Lambie

Australia's first war correspondent to die in service of his profession | 30/5//2019
William John Lambie has the sad distinction of being the first ever Australian war correspondent to die in the service of his profession. He was killed in 1900 during The Anglo-Boer War. Yet today, hardly anyone remembers this brave and dedicated man.   Perhaps it is now time that we should recall the exploits of William Lambie and remember him.

For a time he worked for The Mercury Newspaper and lost his life while on patrol with the Tasmanians and is buried with Tasmanians.  He is often referred to, wrongly, as a Tasmanian.

Lambie was born in Scotland in 1860 and arrived in Australia with his family at the age of three.  He was educated in Victoria and in 1883 arrived in Tasmania.

Lambie’s time in South Africa was short lived.  He was attached to the 1st Australian Regiment, a pre Federation unit combining contingents from all the Australian colonies. Just three months later it was reported:  “It is with the deepest regret that we publish the sad news cabled from England of the death of Mr W.J. Lambie special correspondent in South Africa.” (Feb 13, 1900).

It was the first war to be substantially serviced by local journalists.  Some Australian journalist represented English papers, while other represented multiple newspapers. It was where the famous ‘Banjo’ Paterson worked as a journalist for Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Argus. Paterson only writes briefly of Lambie’s death, saying “We hear that the infantry has had a bad time at Colesberg and that Lambie is killed – a very simple matter to happen among these kopjes.” ( kopje – a small hill)

Lambie was with a Tasmanian patrol under the command of Captain St. Clair Cameron.  A large party of Boers closely watched their movements. A scout spied the enemy and as a consequence, Captain Cameron split his command, one to move towards the kopjes and the other to fall back to protect the rear. Lambie and fellow correspondent Alfred Hales decided to move with the advance party.

The Tasmanians came under fire, dismounted and returned the fire.  Trooper Pearce was shot through the neck, but survived.  Trooper Atherly Gilham cried out that he had been shot through the shoulder and in trying to get under better cover received a mortal shot through his heart.  Fellow trooper, Alfred Button was killed outright. The Boers called on Lambie and Hales to surrender, but ignoring the call they galloped in the hope of reaching cover.  The Boers opened fire and shot accurately, toppling Lambie from his saddle, to die on the spot.  Hales made it, but stated of Lambie’s death, “had come to him sudden and sharp”.

The toll of the ambush was two Tasmanians killed, one war correspondent, one trooper wounded and four Tasmanians taken prisoner together with correspondent Hales.  It is reported that 11 Boers were killed. So ended the short life of William Lambie, war correspondent. Eventually his next of kin would receive the Queens South African Medal, without clasps.

A Melbourne newspaper reported: “The late Mr. Lambie was barely forty years old. A native of Argyleshire.  Mr. Lambie is the son of the manse, his father being the late Rev. James Lambie, a well-known Presbyterian minister on the Werribee. He was thoroughly Australian and had had varied experience of journalistic work in these colonies.”

Lambie had previously covered the Australian involvement in the Sudan Campaign of 1885. It was there where he was first ambushed that time by Arabs on camels and was wounded.

In South Africa Lambie was buried with those who also were killed on the spot.  In December 1905 his body was exhumed and reburied in the military cemetery of Colesberg with the Tasmanians and with a trooper F. Clark, who although not a Tasmanian also rests with them.  It has been difficult to find out exactly where Clark fits in, as there is no mention of him during the ambush.  I suspect that he belonged with an English regiment and that during a skirmish in the region March 6, he was killed and when the bodies exhumed, it was judged that he too was a Tasmanian.

Sadly, when Lambie was re-buried at Colesberg, the inscribers got it wrong.  Being listed as a Tasmanian, as he was killed with them, is understandable, but his inscription reads: “PTE. W.I.LAMBIE.

Lambie left a widow, Clara Ada Church Lambie (1862-1946)

At one time a memorial tablet was erected to his memory at the entrance to The Age newspaper in Collins Street, Melbourne.  Since the move to Spencer Street it has been mislaid. Lambie remains forgotten.  Surely this is unjust.

In 2012 Lambie was inducted into the Melbourne Press Club Hall of Fame. Several years ago I made an effort to have a plaque dedicated to Lambie to be placed at the Boer War Memorial, Hobart.  Sadly, the Hobart City Council rejected my application.

My book, “Heroes All” deals with Tasmania’s involvement with The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

Categories People

The Irish and their contribution to Tasmania

11/4//2019

St Patrick’s Day is an event that is widely celebrated and promoted. The wearing of the green and of the shamrock is fashionable throughout the world. Festivities take place to recall and declare all things Irish. With the celebration of St Patrick’s Day, one wonders and ponders on the contribution that the Irish have made to Tasmania.

We tend to think that the majority of convicts who came to Tasmania were Irish; but this is not true. About 25 per cent of all convicts were Irish, therefore leaving more than 70 per cent being English, with a spattering of other nationalities and races making up the rest. Interestingly enough out of all types of convicts, the Scots were the best educated, the English had a literacy rate to some degree of 50 per cent, the Irish the lowest. Most of the Irish convicts were sentenced because of criminal acts, but many also were victims of a defective land system, which meant the peasant became increasingly dependent on the landlords. Many were transported on what was called “White Boy” offences, ranging from disturbances and taking illegal oaths to stealing cattle, sheep and horses, particularly in times of hardship, such as the potato crop failure. The worse offenders were transported to Van Diemen’s Land then to Macquarie Harbour.  Peak times were during the 1830s. There were also political prisoners and here I must mention the seven Irish exiles to Van Diemen’s Land, John Mitchel, Thomas Francis Meagher, John Martin, William Smith O’Brien, Kevin O’Doherty, Terence MacManus and Patrick O’Donohoe, They were sent to their penal home in 1849 and 1850.  Several successfully escaped while, one was caught in the act and the others were pardoned by Queen Victoria. Three of the seven exiles were Protestant. 

So what has their contribution to Tasmania been? In one word: enormous! As with many thousands of Tasmanians, from a very difficult beginning they carved a life for themselves, foundations of which seceding generations have built on. The Irish blended in well. Sure, they kept their religion and their pride in being Irish, but over all there was little confrontation in Tasmania.  Most worked hard, many made good for themselves.  Hard, working, law-biding, moral, strong family people. Was it a struggle? Of course.

Our Irish Legacy in Tasmania lives on. The Irish largely settled towns such a Richmond and Westbury and many Tasmanians have Irish names, both Christian and Surnames. Out of their religion come magnificent cathedrals such as St Mary’s and St Joseph’s. All Labour Premiers of Tasmania until Eric Reece were of Irish and Catholic stock. One of the most colourful and interesting Premiers, was Dwyer-Gray who was of this ilk. He was a staunch Tasmanian who actively worked for secession, believing Federation had not been kind to the island he loved and served. True like many Irishmen he loved the bottle, which was a bit of a problem. We must not forget that our international film star, Errol Flynn was of Irish stock. Errol was more prone to claim Irish ancestry than his Tasmanian origins, perhaps something we Tasmanians may wish to forget.

Militarily of course, their contribution to our war effort was strong.  Perhaps during the Boer War, they sympathised with the hardy Boer, but during World War I their contribution is without question and they suffered the price as well as everyone else.  Indeed the Irish participation in the war on the side of the British was enormous and that is why the Irish uprising in 1916 was a failure. During World War II of course they had so harmonised with the rest of the population they were no longer, by a large degree, distinctive to the rest of the population.

Our affection for Ireland should be strong, not forgetting that the influence that it has had in shaping our State which cannot be underestimated.  Irish humour is world renown. They have the wonderful ability to be able to laugh at themselves, something which (and they may not like to admit it) they have in common with the English. We all have our “Irish” joke. Maybe politically incorrect, but the beauty is, the Irish join in.

Categories People

Prince Charles - the man and his acheivements

13/1//2018

Simon Weston joined the Welsh Guard while a young man.  Leaving his home and family in Wales, he underwent his training and almost immediately was despatched to Berlin, West Germany.   He was a well adjusted man, who loved and played rugby and was to marry when only 19 years of age.  “Berlin was a wonderful and rich city,” he said, “But it could be very claustrophobic in those days, encircled entirely by Russians”. While in Berlin he did Spandau guard duty and actually saw Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy who was incarcerated in the prison after the war.  Weston left Berlin in 1979 and was posted to the war torn country of Northern Ireland. There he did dangerous patrol work and it where he met Sue whom he married. He then was sent to Kenya for further training, and back to Northern Ireland.

In early April 1982 Argentinian troops successfully invaded the Falklands Islands. He was sent to the war zone and after arriving was placed aboard the vessel Sir Galahad to await disembarkation. Aboard was the Prince of Wales Company. While on the vessel, Weston stated later they were never briefed in air-raid drill. The Sir Galahad was attacked by Argentinian planes and someone shouted “Get down! Get Down!” One of the bombs a 2,000 pounder landed where Weston was taking shelter. A fireball erupted, forcing shrapnel and ricochets whizzing past his head. It was a horrific scene, one from hell. In the short of it all, the twenty three year old Simon Weston, who wanted to enjoy life to the full, was horrifically burnt. Eventually he was sent back to Great Britain where the long hard painful road of constant treatment began.  I need not tell you the ordeal that this young man had to go through, which coincided with great bouts of depression, he not wanting to leave him home, but with help from his mates, family and the army he became active with the Guards Association and eventually came to Australia.  From Australia in 1986 he flew back to Britain, where he received an invitation to go to New Zealand to join Operation Raleigh, a young people’s international adventure and aid organisation.

He was to write, “Later on in the venture I discovered that I was on the same plane as Colonel John Blashford-Snell, the creator of Operation Raleigh.

    “I never did find out who nominated me,” he said to the Colonel.

    “You didn’t?” replied the Colonel. “Well, I shouldn’t really tell you this, but I’ll give you a clue.  It is someone very closely associated with your part of the world, who has followed your progress with a lot of interest and concern.”

    “My mam?” He asked.  “My gran?”

    “No.  As a matter of fact it was the Prince of Wales.”

    I highlight this true story to convey all the work behind the scenes that Charles, the Prince of Wales, does.  He had met Simon Weston at the London Victory Parade after the Falklands War and as the Colonel said, “followed your progress with a lot of interest and concern,” so much so he personally nominated this badly injured man and by nominating it means, he paid for his involvement.  There was no publicity about this nor did the Prince seek it nor should he. There is a verse in the Holy Bible which states, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “(Matt 6:3) In other words, “don’t make a big show of it”.  One always sees a number of celebrities being photographed, say in Africa with children.  Most of it is for publicity purposes.  They fly in, have a photo shoot and fly out again. They do it, arranged by their publicity agents, for the entire world to see.  Truly they have received their reward. Prince Charles does not do that;  all the good work he does, he does so, silently, behind the scenes, secretly, most of which, if not all, has not received public attention or acknowledgement.  This, however, is the way he wants it; that is how he operates.

Prince Charles, the future King of Australia gets bad press. Very little of the true work he does, the true character of the man gets through. Rather, the concerted attacks against him portray him as a man out of touch, strange and immoral.  After all, he talks to trees doesn’t he?  Well, I use to talk to my dog all the time, so perhaps that makes me strange too. If so, I am in good company. True there were those terrible days during the 90s for the Queen as well, where there were those scandals, the burning of the Queen’s residence, the death of Diana and one thought would all this not end?  The republicans and sensationalists had a field day and the Monarchy took a beating; there is no doubt. The Queen was criticised for lacking compassion after the death of Diana, but you know – the Monarchy survived and Constitutional Monarchy is even stronger than ever before. Charles has married Camilla and of course she has come under huge personal attacks by self-righteous individuals who have nothing to be self righteous about.  Even recently ex Prime Minister Paul Keating at the release of his book with sarcasms and rudeness attacked the Royal Family and our system of government, as did ex Liberal Senator Amanda Vanderstone.  But who are they to moralise?,

Let’s move on to something much more positive. His father, the Duke of Edinburgh, as a serving officer in the Navy, had seen something of Australia and been attracted by its people. It was arranged in 1965 that there would be exchange of students. Prince Charles would attend Mount Timbertop School at Geelong, while an Australian boy would attend Charles’s school, Gordonstound, which turned out to be a son of a farmer.  This came under criticism; if Charles was coming to Australia why not have him attend an ordinary State high school. The school was chosen by the then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.  Menzies did not want the young prince to be at school in the middle of a crowded city in Australia, where people would be gazing constantly at him.  He wanted the young prince to mix happily with ordinary Australian boys. By this time he was a senior boy and thus his position was to maintain liaison between masters and junior boys. It was a Spartan school, where students came in direct confrontation with nature; they had to provide with their own welfare, in other words be self-reliant. The Prince surmounted the same hurdles as the other boys without claiming privilege. From Timbertop he visited missionary stations in Papua and New Guinea. That was his first visit to Australia.

But let’s get back to modern times. Much of course could be said of his early life.  He is now a mature man, very well qualified, educated and experienced.  He is intelligent and compassionate. He is a great believer, as I am, in natural therapy and the benefits of herbs.  For more than 28 years, HRH has put his organic principles into practice in his ground-breaking garden at his property called Highgrove in the UK.  He states that “the garden is an expression of what I hold dear – an essential harmony and connection with Nature, which is so important for the world today and for our descendants.  We are planting to the future, so that those who come after us can reap the benefit of what has been planted before.” So what’s wrong with that?  Is that the ravings of a mad man?  He goes on to say, “The single most important factor in the success of an organic garden is the health of the soil.”  Again, seems quite correct to me...”my advice to anyone who is thinking of gardening organically,” he states, “would be to make a start, be patient and take the rough with the smooth.  If you encourage wildlife into your garden, you will find pests and diseases become less of an issue.  Surprisingly, you will discover that you tend to have more success than failure with benefits to the environment and to your own well being.”  Prince Charles has become the Patron of Plant Heritage, which conserves the diversity of our plants.  He is very interested in the health of children.  He is quoted as saying, “There are many imaginative campaigns designed to teach children to eat well and be healthy, such as the Food for Life Partnership led by the Soil Association, as well as groups, such as Garden Organic, which encourage children to plant seed, nurture plants and have their own produce.  Local gardening groups need to encourage the same sort of thing.” The public can actually visit Highgrove, to experience what he describes as “harmony with Nature;  that it warms the heart and feed the soul of those who visit and maybe for those who have never gardened, provides inspiration to show what can be done in a mere few decades.”  Here, the Prince is setting an example to us all.

He has behind the Dumfries Housing Estate project in Scotland restoring a 18th century home and grounds for the benefit of the local and wider community. The historic estate will be preserved for the future, providing work for many young people who have had their lives turned around because of the opportunities presented to them.  

He is a military man having spent time in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, commanding a mine hunter and flying aircraft. He is a great musician and watercolour artist of some talent.Lithograph copies of water colours by the prince are sought after all over the world and the rarest currently fetch up to 15 thousands pounds a piece at the London Gallery. His works are also available at his country estate Highgrove in Gloucestershire where the originals hang.  Proceeds from sales of the copies, signed in pencil by the prince, have gone to his Charitable Foundation.

Of his paintings, Charles stated, “It transports me to another dimension which refreshes parts of the soul which other activities can’t reach.”

The Prince is known to attend services at several different Anglican churches near his home at Highgrove and in the year 2000 he was appointed as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He travels each year to Mount Athos to spend time in the Orthodox monasteries, demonstrating his interest in Orthodox Christianity. We must not forget that his father, the Duke was raised Greek Orthodox, before being converted when he married the future Queen Elizabeth II.

He has demonstrated a great interest in alternative medicine, a cause of which I am personally interested.  Because of this he has been a subject of controversy and criticism. On one occasion he advocated that medical practiconers should offer herbal and other alternative treatments. One pious critic said, that many of the alternatives are “downright dangerous”, not to state of course prescribed drugs can be “downright dangerous”.

While his late wife Diana received great publicity regarding her charity work, little is known of Charles’s.  He has founded the Prince’s Trust, establishing fifteen charitable organisations and serves as President of all of those.  An alliance of charities is called The Prince’s Charities raises over 110 millions pounds annually.  He is patron of 350 other charities and organisations and carries out duties related to these throughout the Commonwealth. He draws attention to youth, the disable, the environment, the arts, medicine the elderly, heritage conservation and education. A ex private secretary described the Prince as “a dissident who works against majority political opinions.”  Isn’t that the type of person who we want to become King? A man in his own right.

He has frequently criticised modern architecture, (again) of which I totally agree.  Most modern architecture, in my opinion, is simply ugly.  He cares in his own words, “deeply about issues such as the environment, architecture, inner-city renewal and the quality of life.” And with courage, when only a young man in 1984 attacked the British architectural community in a speech given to the Royal Institute of British Architects.  He wrote a book called “A Vision of Britain” in which he criticises modern architecture.  And modern architecture needs criticising and may I say, in Hobart as well – one just has to look at our waterfront.  The Prince, despite attacks has continued to put forward his views, together advocating the restoration of historic buildings.

There is so much we can say on Prince Charles, the Man and His Achievements, so much. His involvement with modern architecture has been described as “an abuse of power” especially when he criticised the developers of the Chelsea Barracks, suggesting that the design was “unsuitable” with the development being done by a royal Arab family.  Those in the architectural community has described his “behind the scenes lobbying” as counteracting the “open and democratic planning process” which is a lot of rubbish really.  If they believed in what I just quoted they would welcome his comments. Lately the Prince has been accused of using his charities to lobby ministers over politically sensitive issues such as VAT (or our GST) to promote his beliefs on topics including social development and the environment and has called directly on the Government to change policies. But as one correspondence to the Daily Mail (UK) pointed out, “As senior patron and head of these charities this is what is EXPECTED of him, by those charities”.  Well said.  And interestingly enough the amount collected in the UK by the VAT is the equivalent to the payments paid to the European Union, so one could say the VAT tax does not benefit the British people at all.

It is well worth adding that during the year 2015 at the age of 66 he had 380 engagements, which included 147 abroad. His sister, Princess Royal carried out a total of 544 engagements and Prince Edward 354.  How many of us could be as dedicated as that?  

Prince Charles one day will no doubt become King.  He will be a good King.  He is aware of his responsibilities and he is a humane man willing to speak his mind when he sees it is beneficial to his people and country, rather than to self centred arrogant governments and ambitious politicians.  What more could we ask of our monarch?  The true success of anyone I have observed is within their family.  Prince Charles has reared two wonderful sons. It has been a dreadful time for them all with the loss of their mother in terrible circumstances, surrounded by controversy which still exists today.  The pressure upon the family has been enormous, a weight which the majority of us I surmise would not be able to handle.  But handle it they have and I can only admire their fortitude and “guts” to see it through.

Things have settled down a great deal over the years; the popularity of the Queen is outstanding and the appreciation of the system of government provided is high, including Australia with many republicans stating that for the time being it is a lost cause.  They are hopeful that when Prince Charles becomes King, it will promote the republican cause, but I doubt it.  As said, he will become a good King and will pass the mantle on in time to his son, William and Kate. I have entitled this article, Prince Charles the Man and His Achievements.  His greatest achievement will be to be a King in every sense of the word.  That challenge for him is yet to come. In this day and age it is probably more difficult than ever before to accept the burdens of being Monarch.  Time will tell us what King he will be.

I just like to name some of the Prince’s charities – some of them...The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust; The Prince’s Drawing School; The Prince’s School of traditional Arts; the Prince’s teaching Institute; The Prince’s Regeneration Trust; The Prince’s Countryside Fund; Business in the Community; Scottish Business in the Community;  and The Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

Her Majesty made Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on the 7th anniversary of her marriage to Charles, a Dame of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victoria Order. This shows the Queen’s approval of the role of her daughter-in-law and is her personal gift.

Categories People