• Addresses 2017

Speakers during 2017

Every month, Probus Perth invites a speaker to address members on his or her particular field of expertise or endeavour. Below are summaries of talks given recently.



Stuart Usher, November, 2017

Stuart started his talk with a rendition of Waltzing Matilda leading into “The Battle of Paradise” which was the historic sinking of the German warship the Emden by the Sydney.

It all started in Albany with the assembly of 30,000 men and 7,500 horses to be boarded on to ships bound for England to join the allied forces fighting the Germans in World War 1. The fleet was to be escorted by the Minator, Melbourne and Sydney as it crossed the Indian Ocean where merchant ships had suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Emden.

The Emden, captained by Carl Von Muller, had been stationed in Tsingtao in China prior to the start of World War 1. Tsingtao was abandoned in January 1914 at the outbreak of the war. The German fleet moved on to the German occupied Pagan Islands in the Pacific and then on to the Falkland Islands where a lot of it was destroyed. The Emden was a survivor of the Falklands and was relocated to the sealanes of the Indian Ocean. It had immediate success and was credited with sinking 25 merchant ships, the Russian warship Zhenchug and the French warship Mousquet. It was assigned to destroy the communications base on the Cocos Islands and the undersea cables which linked Australia to Europe. The Emden was accompanied by its collier ship as it was fuelled by coal.

Von Muller’s plan was to drop a shore party on Direction Island where they would wreck the shore facilities and locate and cut the undersea cables. That part of the plan went well with no resistance from the Cocos Island communications team. The Sydney intercepted an SOS and message that unknown warships were invading the Island. It steamed to the location and engaged the Emden which was taken by surprise. Whilst the Sydney had some casualties and suffered some damage, its heavier firepower overwhelmed the Emden and all but destroyed it. Von Muller scuttled it on to the reefs surrounding Direction Island and finally surrendered.

The German shore party escaped by restoring an old schooner, the Ayesha. They sailed first to Sumatra then eventually all the way to Constantinople. It was quite an accomplishment by the German Von Mieka who headed up the party.

The Sydney’s captain John Glossop sent a shore party to both assist on Direction Island and to rescue what remainder of Von Muller and his crew aboard the scuttled Emden who were incarcerated till the end of the war. Von Muller acknowledged that he and his crew were well looked after and had great respect for John Glossop.

Von Muller lived on to 1923 when malaria finally killed him, while John Glossop lived on till 1933. They had mutual respect for how each had performed in battle and after the surrender. How different to modern day behaviour!

Chris Davies confirmed Stuart’s account of the Emden/Sydney encounter by reading from a letter written by a distant relative who was involved with the fleet of men and horses bound for World War 1. Chris thanked Stuart on the members’ behalf and gave him a bottle of wine in appreciation.

Ray Purdy.



Leanne Plowright, October 2017

Leanne Plowright gave us a very interesting view of what Silver Chain was all about, how to go about getting a Home Care package and how to use it in conjunction with Silver Chain. She had an audience which is getting to a stage of taking real interest in this subject.

Silver Chain encourages staying in the family home and offers a ‘one stop shop’ on how to get the most out of life. It is important to maintain social connections and to get out and about with confidence and safety. They can help with whatever support, advice and/or action is required on a 24/7 basis. This support can range from house cleaning right through to palliative care.

The Government funded Home Care Packages start with an annual assessment by a small team which includes medical and financial expertise. The assessment will result in either eligibility to 4 levels of packages or non eligibility. The Level 4 package has a very long waiting list to get it started. It is the most costly and involves the most care. Lower levels still have waiting lists but are not so long. Silver Chain can assist with any level package and even if you are ineligible. Government funding pays for the care or part of the care or not at all depending on your Assessment for eligibility.

Silver Chain has fully trained and competent staff but does rely on volunteers. The volunteers go through a training programme before being used in the field.

Marion Medd thanked Leanne for her address on behalf of all members.

Ray Purdy



Paddy Evelegh, October 2017

I was asked to say a few words about how Fremantle Probus Club was faring as a Combined Club, having changed from a male only one back in 2013.

That year, after much soul searching about how to stem the dwindling membership numbers, our committee recommended that we became a Combined Club.

We knew that this would not be a popular move with some of the older members and so were careful to present statistics to prove that should we remain with the status quo, our club would be defunct through natural attrition and lack of interest.

I know you have lost members from your change. That was probably forecast and an unfortunate reality. However, I hope that you now find yourselves in a stronger position from making this move.

Our Club was very fortunate in having such a strong committee. Not only did we have a wealth of experience from dedicated members who had served in many different roles but also there was a definite stability for this guidance to continue.

Once the combined status was passed in accordance with the Constitution, there were five spouses who very soon made the initial foray into the Club. These were all well known to the existing membership, due to accompanying their husbands at various social venues. Several other wives and a couple of widows of previous members have since continued to join their husbands and this has obviously increased the solidarity of the Club.

Since the status change, we have welcomed twelve new couples into the club, plus five single men and six single women. Four of these couples have already taken up joint committee positions, including our current President. One of the single women is now serving as Vice President, so should become our Chairman next year. We also have a new single man leading our guest speaker programme.

In order to maintain a proportional gender balance, we have a recommendation that membership should be in the range of 60/40. Currently we are roughly 70/30, due to our original male membership, though anticipate that this will change over the coming years.

We are lucky in having many outgoing personalities among these newer members. Our Club has really concentrated in promoting active introduction and encouragement of all members, both new and old.

In this vein, we are now trialing thumbnail sketches of members, when time permits. This is allowing more opportunity for getting to really know others and making lasting friendships – which is, of course, what Probus is all about. It is interesting and encouraging to see that your club is also going down a similar track.

We also have a “humour spot” at the end of our committee reports. Luckily, we have a real joker within our ranks. He not only has an amazing capacity for definitely risqué stories but he knows exactly how to deliver them. I believe every club should cultivate such a person, if at all possible, to lift the mood of the meeting with a good few laughs.

We at Freo are now concerned that our club may be expanding too rapidly. Nothing wrong with that you may respond. Some concern has been shown by our committee that this may lead to some members being unprepared to start conversations with those that they know little about.

At every meeting I believe we should try to have chat with somebody that we never really knew much about previously. We can’t call everyone a bosom buddy but it is amazing how often we find that we have at least two or three friends in common or other shared experiences – just by possibly getting out of our comfort zone and talking to others.

If you have not asked your Liaison Officer to include you on the list of potential visitors, you should do so. This can show you how other clubs operate – maybe better or worse? Most clubs are very welcoming. I try to encourage newer members, when visiting for the first time, to be with a more experienced one, just to boost their confidence.

However our clubs are run, it is good to be innovative yet at the same time it is imperative to stay in close touch with our older members and ensure that their views are being considered.

We all have our own opportunities to serve our particular clubs. If you have not so far volunteered for committee work, ask yourselves why not. You may not realize it but many of the older members have already done their bit for the club. We need some of the newer members to bring up their newer ideas. Only this will make our clubs interesting and allow new friendships to develop.

Finally, we should recognise that if we want interesting people to join, we must make them really welcome when first they visit the club and continue to woo them until they are committed. No new retirees will wish to spend their long awaited leisure period with people who don’t impress them as being friendly and interesting.

Paddy Evelegh



Karen Rhodes, September 2017

This month, our members were entertained by a presentation delivered by Ms Karen Rhodes, the current President of the Shenton Park Dogs’ Refuge Home in WA. She aligned her talk to a recently published book “Tales From Our Home”, published on the occasion of the Home’s 80th Anniversary, that focuses attention on three aspects – History, Dogs’ Tales and The Home Today. Karen’s own involvement with the home began in 2006 when she adopted “Homer”, a loving companion for her over many years.


The Home was established in 1935, opening its doors for the first time in October of that year. Some of the key dates in its history are:

1935: Opening
1942: Closed for the War years
1947: Reopened
1972: Mandatory sterilisation introduced
1985: Celebrated its 50th year with the building of a Wishing Well
2004: Its Pro-life policy was introduced

There has been much written about the work of the Home over the years and the website “Trove” has proved a great source of information over the years. The Home is basically owned by the community, with public funding being its primary source of funding. This is supplemented by bequests and some large donations. Karen told the story of their acquisition of two vans which were donated by a generous supporter.


There are many touching stories related throughout the book, many of which don’t just record the wonderful change occurring in the life of adopted dogs, but also the change that a dog can effect in an adopters life as well.


Much of the Home’s activities are recorded now on social media. There are some significant building programmes planned and in progress and the task of raising money is always high on the agenda. Hundreds of volunteer hours are spent each week in the Home grooming, feeding, walking and exercising the dogs in many ways. The passing of “Red Dog” led to a large ($85,000) influx of donations and of course sponsors assist with the running of the Home.

Karen’s talk, supported by visual aids, was both vibrant and entertaining, and her commitment to the Dogs’ Home was so evident it was contagious.

Their website is at http://www.dogshome.org.au/.

David Heath



Natalie Wong

Peter Medd introduced Natalia Wong, an RAC Community Education Presenter.

Natalie told the members that her role as a presenter was promoting the RAC’s road safety messages to the community and particularly helping seniors to understand new road rules and how they can plan their trips so they feel confident on our busy roads.

Many road changes have taken place and increased in complexity. Natalie showed a variety of pictures of some of Perth’s road systems in the 70s and compared them with current freeways and major road systems. Speed limits have also been increased on many roads and freeways to improve the flow of traffic and provide safer conditions.

Many seniors have limited their driving because of the changes, particularly at night.

Illustrations were given of the rules relating to merging lanes and added lanes on Perth freeways.

Some time was taken to explain the traffic code in relation to driving on roundabouts and various intersection examples.

Natalie gave some advice on what to do in the event of being followed by another vehicle after a road rage incident.

George Elliott thanked Natalie for a very interesting and informative talk.

For details of various Community Education programmes please visit: rac.com.au/communityeducation

Peter Medd



Eric McCrum

Peter Medd introduced Eric McCrum, who entertained us with his informative talk on birds of Australia. With almost sixty years involvement in nature and wildlife there wasn’t a bird that Eric couldn’t imitate or tell us about.

Birds and mammals (which includes us humans) were the second last and last species to live on this earth. Neither species could have survived in the high temperatures and shortage of oxygen that existed in the days of the dinosaurs. They needed the warmth to survive but today’s mammals and birds can regulate their temperature but need to eat regularly to survive.

Birds have feathers which can be spikes, nails etc, as well as we know them. Feathers provide warmth, camouflage, flight, contours and can act as a display to attract mates.

Nature has provided birds with whatever they need to live in the manner which best suits them. They can have two toes (the ostrich), three toes (ground nesting and feeding) or four toes (mainly nesting and feeding in trees). They can have webbed toes, partly webbed toes or no webbing depending on whether they need to swim fast, just swim or don’t swim at all. They can have beaks which match what they eat and what they need to find food and prepare it for eating. They can have stomachs which digest, regurgitate or rely on gizzards to break down seeds. They lay eggs to match where they are incubated and how much protection they need from predators. They have one or two holes for peeing, poohing or copulating. They have different styles of nests to match what best suits their method of having and feeding their young. Eric showed us examples of all the different birds and was able to mimic them and tell an interesting story about each (way too many to cover them so I just generalise).

Information that was of particular interest to male members was the different mating habits of some species. There was the randy male types who moved from one female to the next having satisfied his natural urges, leaving the females to go through the full process of incubating the eggs, giving birth and fending for the chicks until they were capable of looking after themselves. There was also the irresponsible females who mated with as many as three males in one season leaving the males to go through the full process.

There were examples given of precocious chicks who could see, walk and feed themselves almost immediately after birth and those who were nest bound and fed until grown up enough to fend for themselves.

Another interesting and amazing fact was that the peregrine falcon could fly at 250 kph and yet it was only the second fastest bird after the frigate.

I apologise for not naming the many birds Eric described – there were just too many for me to keep up with Eric.

Jean Brown thanked Eric for what was a most entertaining and interesting talk.

Ray Purdy



Leslie Wall, June 2017

Peter Medd introduced Leslie Wall, a 17 year veteran volunteer from the South Perth Zoo, who told us about the enormous changes that had been made over the 120 years’ existence of the zoo. In the early years of its existence the animals were kept in concrete cages with bars while birds were kept in small cages. In recent times the enclosures, now called exhibits, have been matched to the individual animal’s natural habitat. African animals now live in a savannah created on what were the tennis courts. Birds now live in a wetlands environment with plenty of flying space under a protective netting. Reptiles are housed in a purpose made exhibit.

The intelligence of elephants was illustrated by their ability to simulate painting, kick a ball and lie down for treatment of any injury or illness. The movements were natural movements for them and the training was designed to relieve boredom rather than entertain visitors. It achieved both outcomes. Female elephants need company and have a reproductive life from year 12 to year 30. Unfortunately the zoos male and female elephants are the same age so the search is on for a male elephant old enough to impregnate Hermione. A lucky male from Germany may provide the answer.

How many of us knew that there was a push to close the zoo during the war years for fear of invasion, bombs destroying enclosure fencing and creating a risk from wild animals running free. Fortunately it did not happen. The zoo is destined to remain in South Perth despite the desire to relocate to open territory with more room. Staying where it is retains the heritage features of the zoo. Many of us still remember the train rides, elephant rides and the old entries and enclosures.

Two major aims of the zoo are to look after and hopefully breed endangered species and to look after the health and well-being of all the animals. International co-operation is required among zoos to satisfy the first aim. The second aim is achieved by careful attention to the animal’s diet and their surroundings which create contentment and happy lives.

As with everything, funding is a big issue so donations are always welcome. Sponsors’ donations are the zoos biggest source of income. The Government is always looking to reducing its share of funding. (Why doesn’t gate money create a better balance between costs to run and revenue?). Without its army of volunteers like Leslie Wall things would be almost impossible.

Lillian Haagensen , who grew up in the area and has seen the many changes to the zoo over the years, gave a vote of thanks on behalf of all members.

Ray Purdy



Kirsten Gottschalk, May 2017

Kirsten Gottschalk told us about the Radio Astronomy Research Programme that she was a very enthusiastic part of.

Galileo was the first scientist to use telescope to study the sky. It was studying by visible light which had very limited scope in comparison with what can be done today. Infrared light and radio light enables the scientists today to look further and further into stars and galaxies.

Technology has taken scientists from the huge “dish” type telescopes such as that at Parkes which has a 64 meter diameter dish to the smaller but multi-dish telescopes. Further advances are being made with the “Christmas tree” type with thousands of them spread over an area as big as a kilometre square.

The current programme to build the world’s biggest telescope requires a $2 Billion budget and envisages a 2019 start. The lead in works is the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory situated out in the back blocks where there are few or no people and no interference from other electronic equipment. This 36 dish telescope which will come on line later this year will be capable of scanning the whole sky in 1 week. The amount of information coming in is so enormous that a computer system to cope with it and analyse it must be put in place at the same time. Computer capacity has progressed from megabytes, to gigabytes, to terabytes, to petabytes and will end up with exabytes. Each step has increased the capacity by a factor of one thousand. The mind boggles by what this means. It is an enormous programme with “who knows what” will come out of it. Most new discoveries have come out of such programmes often quite by accident.

The sceptics in the audience who grew up on slide rules before computers existed, had difficulty in coming to grips with what it was all about and whether the unknown outcomes would justify the time, effort and cost of what was involved. Kirsten enthusiastically assured us that it was all worthwhile and as man had always delved into the unknown if only to satisfy his curiosity, a way to fund the exercise would always be found.

Kathy Grocock, one of our new lady members thanked Kirsten on behalf of all present.

Below are some links to the SKA project




Ray Purdy



CDRE Bob Trotter, RAN (Ret’d), April 2017

Commodore Bob Trotter told us of his involvement in finding HMAS Sydney which was sunk off the West Australian coast on the 19th November 1941. After playing a significant role in the early days of World War 2 the Sydney returned to Australian waters in 1941 on protection duty. German raiders disguised as merchant ships were creating havoc in the Indian Ocean; allied ships needed escorts to improve their odds of reaching their destinations. It was while escorting the Zealandia that the Sydney encountered the Kormoran disguised as a merchant ship. The Kormoran lured the Sydney within reach and vulnerable to its guns and torpedoes before with no warning dropped its disguise and attacked. The sea battle which followed saw the Sydney hit by both gunfire and torpedoes and it was sunk. The Kormoran was also sunk but not until it had seen the Sydney sink to its final resting place. No Sydney survivors were ever found – however a number of Kormoran survivors were rescued and interned on the Australian mainland for the remainder of the war.

As the war stepped up in intensity there was no attempt to find the Sydney until 1975. Unsuccessful searching went on up till 2000 when it was abandoned through lack of funds and a general belief that the search area was too big with very little chance of success.

Commodore Bob Trotter was largely responsible for gaining Government funding and a belief that the Sydney search area could be concentrated in a much smaller and better defined area. This belief was largely created by the rescued sailors from the Kormoran giving the position of their sunken Kormoran and hence the probable location of the Sydney which they had watched sink. With funding and modern sonar equipment and the search concentrated on the smaller area the concentrated effort commenced on February 9th 2008. On the 12th March 2008 the Kormoran was found and four days later on the 16th March the Sydney was found just 12 mile from the Kormoran.

A Memorial built in Geraldton serves to commemorate both Australian and German sailors lost in the battle between the ships. More fascinating details can be found at the “Finding Sydney” website.

Roy Skinner called for a vote of thanks to Bob for his very interesting talk.

Ray Purdy



Hamish McGlashan, March 2017

Hamish knowledgeably entertained us with an outline of early exploration of our remote Kimberley region, chiefly its north-west part.

George Grey, son of a famous British General, sailed over in late 1837 on a ship especially chartered. Setting a precedent by landing at the height of the suicide season, and taking minimal water, Grey set out to report on the suitability of his landing site near Hanover Bay and environs as a base for English surveillance of south-east Asian nautical traffic. His party penetrated a long way inland (to Mt Lyell), taking possession of the country for Britain, while Grey was seriously wounded by an Aboriginal spear. Nonetheless, he reported on the region in glowing terms (“highly fertile soil”), while recuperating on the Ile de France, and urged the importance of making friends with the natives. Grey later became Premier of South Australia and first Prime Minister of New Zealand.

In 1863-4, Dr James Martin used Grey’s report to promote Camden Harbour to Victorians as a place to establish large landholdings of sheep. Several boatloads of potential settlers arrived with many sheep and high hopes, again at the height of the suicide season, but these were quickly dashed because Martin, like Grey, was no expert agronomist. Most of the sheep died from lack of water, as did quite a few settlers. One ship was holed and wrecked. They abandoned the area in late 1865.

Kingsford Smith and crew crashed their plane nearby in the mid 1930s.

Hamish spoke lastly of Joseph Bradshaw, who took up land around the Prince Regent River, which he shortly abandoned in favour of holdings over the border at Victoria River; his WA cattle were dissuaded from crossing into the NT because of a £2 per head of stock tax, and tick infestations. At nearby Elsey Station, Mrs Aeneas Gunn (née Jeannie Taylor) wrote “We of the never-never”.

George Grey’s two volumes of “Journals of Two Expeditions” can be read online  at Project Gutenberg Australia, [here] and [here]. Hamish belongs to the Kimberley Society.

Ned Overton



Elton Brown

Elton gave a very interesting talk accompanied by a slide show, about St Valentine, officially the patron saint of lovers & beekeepers.

St Valentine was martyred in 269 AD and canonized in 494 AD. His body was taken from the cemetery of St. Hippolytus in Rome, to the White Friars Church in Dublin in 1835 as a result of John Spratt’s mission.

Since the 1950s a special service is held on 14th February where lovers come to be blessed. Unfortunately, in 1965, St Valentine, along with St Christopher, were removed from the calendar of Saints.

Elton gave some interesting details regarding the development of St Valentine’s day cards over the centuries.

King Henry VIII decreed that this day was to be celebrated and now the number of cards sent on this day nearly equal those sent at Christmas.

Elton finished his talk with a couple of humorous poems.

Peter Medd



Elton Brown

This talk discussed the children’s story book character, who in reality was not a poor orphan but the third son of Sir William Whittington, the lord of the manor of property in Gloucestershire, England.

The story is largely fiction, but does contain some facts surrounding the life of the real Dick Whittington, particularly that he did marry his sweet heart Alice and he did become rich and famous. He did serve three terms as Lord Mayor of London and was influential during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, being a major contributor in financing the Wars against the French, e.g. The Battle of Agincourt.

He died without an heir and left his vast fortune in trust administered to this day by his Guild, namely the Mercers for the benefit of the citizens of London.

To-day the main beneficiary is the Whittington Hospital in Highgate, London, built on the site where the fictitious Dick Whittington heard Bow Bells ring out the chimes “Turn Again Whittington , thrice Lord Mayor of London”.

There is no statue to Dick Whittington on Highgate Hill except a sculpture of a large black cat gazing across the road to the hospital, but some of the audience were surprised to learn that there is a statue of Dick Whittington in London Court, Perth.

Peter Medd



John Garde

John was born in Adelaide in 1949, son (although he only became aware of it later) of a famous painter father, Owen Garde (1919-2008), who was himself taught by Max Meldrum. John spent his childhood there, part of it as John Tinka, before moving to Seaforth (Sydney) in 1967, where he attended Manly Boys’ High. From an early age he greatly admired the art of Rembrandt, and also Cezanne, among others. He absorbed much from the paintings in the Art Gallery of South Australia.

John completed teacher training in 1970 and taught art at various high schools in WA, later as Head of the Art Department at Methodist Ladies’ College. Over several stages John came to learn much technique from his father, also travelling several times to Europe to closely view the masters. He is married to Sue, who pursues a more modern style of art, different from John, who is wedded to realism, both in traditional portraits, which he has been painting for 40 years, and landscapes, always trying to capture tone and atmosphere.

John is frequently represented at exhibitions and galleries in WA and his work is represented in collections in Japan, Italy, England, Greece, USA and Canada, as well as Australia. John and Sue now work from Dunsborough and have a comprehensive website at http://www.tinkahill.com.au/ [click it] which is worth a prolonged browse.

John spent the last part of his talk blocking (in/out?) a portrait of our Peter Medd, who sat thoughtfully while John explained the many surprising techniques he was using to achieve his effects. It was an enjoyable and instructive talk, well received. The vote of thanks was given by Kathy Grocock, whose daughter John had taught at MLC.

Ned Overton



Georgina Ryan

Georgina Ryan, WA Education Officer of the Macular Disease Foundation, gave a comprehensive talk on the nature of macular diseases, based largely on her mother’s experience of the condition, and offered four ways to protect oneself from its ravages. The macula is a central part of the retina of the eye, near the optic nerve, and is about 4mm in diameter. Degeneration of the macula leads to progressive loss of central vision of that eye, but does not affect peripheral vision (this is glaucoma); each eye is affected independently.

Symptoms of the condition include difficulty with reading, problems recognising faces, empty spaces in the centre of one’s vision and distortion of actual straight lines. Georgina showed the Amsler Grid and gave out copies. This tool shows up these sorts of problems when each eye is tested separately.

Some one in seven Australian over 50 has some evidence of the disease, increasing to 1 in 3 by age 80. There are two main forms of the condition: the dry form, resulting in a gradual loss of vision, and the wet form, characterised by a sudden loss of central vision, requiring immediate medical treatment; early detection of this form is vital. While there is no treatment for the dry form (though diet and lifestyle help), three drugs are available for the wet form, two of them on the PBS, for injection into the eye to reduce problems created by abnormal blood vessels in and around the affected macula.

There are four ways we can help protect ourselves from the condition:

  • Have our eyes checked every two years at most;
  • Test each eye separately on the Amsler grid for abnormal line displacements, central dark spots and/or crooked lines,
  • Shade our eyes from the sun with glasses and/or broad-brimmed hat; and
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, with leafy green vegetables (spinach), omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, etc.), low GI foods, etc.

The Macula Disease Foundation has an excellent website at www.mdfoundation.com.au, where more comprehensive information is available.

Ned Overton