The Wire

In Writing

The Doomed Bird Of Providence's Portal

November 2013

The Doomed Bird Of Providence's lead man Mark Kluzek relates a selection of sites dedicated to Australia's colonial past, and fodder for his dark and violent ballads. The Doomed Bird Of Providence's Blind Mouths Eat album is reviewed in The Wire 357.

Harry Robertson
Harry Robertson was a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Australia in the early 1950s. He played a fairly significant part in the development of the Australian folk scene and was key in starting up some major Australian folk festivals. This is an exhaustive site that chronicles his life and creative output. He worked as a whaler on his arrival in Australia and much of this experience informs his album Whale Chasing Men (currently out of print). This album is a collection of songs covering many aspects of whaling and includes Harry introducing the songs. The tracks from the album are all available here to download and well worth a listen. The vocals on “Norfolk Whalers” are by wonderful Australian folk singer Marian Henderson.

Warren Fahey
Warren Fahey is a folk song collector, performer and former label owner, among other things. Apart from an extensive database of Australian folk songs (based on his ventures as a collector in the 1970s), his site includes an archive of radio shows he produced for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The show, The Australian Legend, contained mainly traditional Australian folk songs broken up thematically into 12 parts and often featured Welsh born folk singer Declan Affley. However "The Whale Chasers" episode features Harry Robertson singing different versions of the songs from Whale Chasing Men. His version of “Norfolk Whalers” is very different to the album; it’s just Harry singing the song with a guitar. This was my first introduction to Harry Robertson and was undeniably a big influence on The Doomed Bird Of Providence.

Under The Volcano
I think that Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry is a great, great book. Reading the writer’s biography Pursued By Furies (by Gordon Bowker) was helpful in understanding some aspects of the book and putting events into some sort of context. In addition to the biography, this documentary created by Donald Brittain and John Kramer in 1976 adds an additional perspective to the book. It features interviews with colleagues as well as one of his brothers (who obviously isn't that fond of Lowry). It explores Lowry's life in a quite thoughtful and at times decisive way. Their recounting of a youthful Lowry's visit to a museum of anatomy where he saw exhibits on the ravages of syphilis in no way does service to Liverpool's tourism industry. Richard Burton reading excerpts of Under The Volcano throughout the film, is a wonderful addition often set against evocative visual backdrops that relate to parts of the book. I recommend watching this film whether you’ve read Under The Volcano or not.

Paul Bowles
I love Paul Bowles's writing, especially his short stories such as "The Delicate Prey", a grim, graphic story of violence and retribution if there ever was one. The story, according to Bowles, is a recounting of something that actually happened. His stories are always interspersed with factual elements. His own life story is equally intriguing. He had been, after all, a seminal figure who influenced and guided the Beats, who moved to Morocco to start a career in literature after spending the first part of his life as a successful composer. His relationship to Morocco's landscape and its people, his marriage to Jane Bowles, his influence to (and hand in) her creative output and her at times quite troubled life, expand his fascinating story. This official website includes a wealth of information about Paul and Jane Bowles as well as those that visited Morocco as their guests, such as Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. It also hosts a fair amount of information on the Moroccan authors and storytellers Bowles worked with.

Founders And Survivors
This is a database of convicts who ended up in Tasmania. It includes (where available) birth dates, convictions, physical descriptions as well as times and places of transportation. There are also scans of original records. It was brought to my attention by someone doing research on Maria Murray, a convict who was brought over to Tasmania from Belize for stabbing someone in an altercation. Maria gave birth to one (recorded) child who was given the fairly unique name of Fedicia Exine. So it's interesting to search through names you may or may not be familiar with. The convict Alexander Pearce, now known for his acts of cannibalism whilst absconding, also makes an appearance. The site is in development, but it's obviously already a pretty extensive collection of records.

Old Bailey Online
This is a database with almost 200,000 court proceedings from 1674–1913. As someone who was trying to find out the finer details of certain characters' lives, it was an amazing resource to find. The first EP The Doomed Bird Of Providence released contains a song about Dorothy Handland. She supposedly was the first recorded convict arrival in Australia to commit suicide (an event that is much debated). Whatever the case may be, the court proceedings of Dorothy Handland are an interesting read. She was a rags dealer transported for seven years with a charge of perjury and she was 82 at the time. Her court case is a pretty miserable and tragic read. I'm sure there's a funny one on the site somewhere.

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