A meeting of distinguished guests

In 2018, during the digitisation of the Jack Keith [JK] Murray collection, held in the Fryer Library, we uncovered an interesting story. Photographs illustrate the 1949 Hallstrom Trust Meeting held in the then Australian administered Territories of Papua and New Guinea.

The meeting was about the establishment of the Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station at the site of a sheep farm. JK Murray was the First Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea and the Australian Territory of Papua after the Second World War (1939-1945). He attended many such meetings and important ceremonies. What makes this meeting remarkable is the attendees and the guests.

Who was Hallstrom?

Sir Edward Hallstrom was an Australian businessperson and philanthropist. He donated over four million dollars to philanthropic causes during his lifetime. He was a naturalist and passionate about birds and animals and was appointed as a trustee of Taronga Zoological Park Trust after he made significant donations, which included two rhinoceroses.

Hallstrom was also a keen inventor, who was interested in refrigeration. In 1923, he created his first kerosene powered refrigerator called the Icy Ball, designed for use in the outback. He expanded his range of fridges to include gas and electric models and by the 1940s, his factory was producing over 1200 units per week, which were sold locally and exported overseas.  

In 1948, Sir Edward Hallstrom (knighted in 1952) financed the establishment of the Nondugl Experimental Livestock Station and Zoological Gardens. This was primarily a sheep-breeding property in the Wahgi Valley in the Western Highlands of New Guinea. Romney Marsh Sheep were flown in on chartered Douglas aircraft from Wagga Wagga, Australia. 

Colonel JK Murray, Sandy Sinclair, Edward Hallstrom, William Grainger, Daniel Clyne, Neptune Blood, and Wahgi men, Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station, Nondugl, April 1949. Photograph by Clarence B. Young.

What happened at the meeting?

In 1949, the Nondugl Experimental Livestock Station and Zoological Gardens was given to the Papua and New Guinea Administration with an endowment of £20,000 and was renamed the Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station. 

For this special occasion, Hallstrom chartered an aircraft from Sydney and invited twenty-seven people to inspect the Station. The guests included politicians, photographers, writers, artists, broadcasters, and a film crew. This included Senator John Ignatius Armstrong, politician Danel Clyne (NSW Member of Legislative Assembly), alderman Frank Grenville Pursell, photographer Laurence Le Guay, artist William Dobell, journalist Colin Simpson, photographer Clarence B Young and politician John Cunningham.

Other guests, who travelled from Port Moresby included Colonel JK Murray, Evelyn Murray, Lady Ethel Stonehaven, Lady Hilda Keith-Falconer, Frank and Thelma Clune.

During the meeting, traditional ceremonies were performed.

Little is known about why Hallstrom invited such a diverse group of people attend the meeting. It is suspected that some attendees were invited for business and administrative reasons, while others were invited to capture the meeting on film, audio, paint or verse. 

The distinguished guests

Laurence Le Guay

Laurence Le Guay was an Australian fashion photographer. Several photographs from this trip in the Jack Keith Murray collection were taken by Le Guay.

One particular photograph is of a man and woman performing Kanana, a ritual courtship of young couples. Colin Simpson is seen in this photograph recording the ritual for an ABC Radio series. A similar photograph of the same couple by Laurence Le Guay is held in Art Gallery of NSW and was included in The Family of Man, a touring exhibition curated by Edward Steichen for Museum of Modern Art in 1955.

Photograph by Lawrence Le Guay of a couple performing Kanana ceremony, observed, from left, by Neptune Blood, Colin Simpson, Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station, Nondugl, April 1949.

William Dobel

Artist and three time Archibald prize winner, William Dobell occupied the last available seat on the chartered flight to Hallstrom’s Station and this was his first flight on an airplane. Dobell stayed for three months in Papua New Guinea, captivated by the light, landscape and the hospitality of the locals. Dobell was so taken by Papua New Guinea that he returned after this initial trip and stayed with JK Murray.  In 1950, Dobell painted Kanana, as captured by Le Guay in his famous photograph.

Colin Simpson

ABC journalist, Colin Simpson, interviewed people at Nondugl for an ABC Radio feature series on New Guinea, which first aired in October 1949. The series included four broadcasts: Plumed shepherds, Patrol in the Wig-men's mountains, Corroboree for Bal-nook-nook, and We walked off the map. Simpson was accompanied by John Cunningham, a Postmaster-General's Department technician to operate wire recorder.

Simpson later wrote two books on Papua New Guinea titled Islands of men: A six-part book about life in Melanesia and Plumes and arrows.

Clarence B. Young

Another photographer amongst the guests was  Clarence B. Young, who was an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and the Photographic Society of America.

The photographs in the JK Murray collection are in sepia, however, Young published a few colour photographs from his visit to Nondugl in the Australasian photo-review.  The Wahgi peoples colourful head-dresses of Bird of Paradise plumes, adornments and attire can be fully appreciated in colour. 

 

Wahgi headman, Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station, Nondugl, Apr 1949. Photography by Clarence B. Young.

Neptune Blood

Neptune Beresford Newcombe Blood was the manager of Hallstrom Station. He became acquainted with Hallstrom through a mutual interest of nature and birds. Blood had served with the Australian Forces in the Second World War in Papua New Guinea. When he first saw the Waghi Valley and the surrounding area, he knew he wanted to live there. On meeting Hallstrom, he told him about Wahgi Valley and suggested it as a great area to breed sheep. Hallstrom was interested and invested in the area.

Colonel JK Murray, Edward Hallstrom, Colin Simpson, Neptune Blood, and Wahgi men, Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station, Nondugl, April 1949. Photograph by Clarence B. Young.

JK Murray

As Administrator, JK Murray attended the meeting and took along guests that were staying with him and Evelyn at Port Moresby.  These included author Frank Clune, his wife Thelma, Lady Ethel Stonehaven (wife of the former Governor-General of Australia Sir John Lawrence Baird Stonehaven), and her sister Lady Hilda Keith-Falconer.

Lady Stonehaven, Evelyn Murray, Lady Keith-Falconer and Colonel JK Murray with Wahgi men, Hallstrom Livestock and Fauna Trust Station , Nondugl, April 1949

You can explore more of the wonderful digitised images from the JK Murray collection on UQ eSpace.

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References

 

Last updated:
4 December 2018