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It was 1939. My two older sisters and I were riding our bikes to school and Mum told Dad that she had heard a lady say “those Kirke children are strange, the eldest girl (Margery) rides along singing, the next girl (Mickey) whistles, and the boy talks to himself " … it's all true. In fact, I am not at all surprised that a couple of cats actually answer.

Those first two years were magic, and learning spelling and tables, to be heard next day, a great challenge. Tamarinds and chinee apples were plentiful as well as Burdekin plums so we were well catered for gastronomically.

Life was carefree and exciting, for although war clouds were gathering there was no hint of concern that I could detect.


Then a huge mistake was made, which brought on an event of critical importance to us in Australia …

Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quotation is a film quote by the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto regarding the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by forces of Imperial Japan.

The quotation is portrayed at the very end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! as:

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.


Although the producers of the film claim to have found the quote in Yamamoto's writings, there is no printed evidence to prove Yamamoto made this statement.

I can clearly remember hearing on the wireless ( before they gave them the up market tag “radio”) about the fall of Singapore in early 1942.  It didn’t really mean much to a 9 year old more occupied with the absolute joy of learning new things at Jarvisfield State School in grade 3 .. we had graduated from slates after all and although it was before ball point pens at least we were free of the smelly sponges to clean the slates.


The smelly sponge gave rise to the saying " to wipe the slate clean. " Many pencils were made from soapstone


But I didn’t realise until much later that there was absolutely no atmosphere of worry or panic or impending doom  “the Japs are coming”… although Mum and Dad must have been extremely concerned especially as Darwin was bombed heavily soon after, though detail of this was heavily censored, and Dad had been in France in the first world war so he knew what it was all about, and his elder brother Gilbert had been killed at Villers Brettoneux in 1917. In spite of this, a simple life went on.

We kids knew nothing of the horror that Uncles and Fathers endured outside that bubble we called Australia.

Then Townsville was bombed so we dug slit trenches in our back yards and practised hopping into them, until it rained of course, but this led to another great fun activity .. we made two pronged spears from fencing wire and a bamboo pole and went hunting toads swimming in the trenches.


Some families moved south to the safety of Brisbane but the cane farmers remained to take care of business, and this unaware kid continued an idyllic life of learning new things every day, of sailing a canoe in a lagoon on the farm being careful to keep a wary eye out for water snakes, of raiding a magnificent chinee apple tree a few yards up the road from the school (it has sadly gone .. I checked t’other day). Another hazard resulted from being very short sighted, when a piece of burnt cane trash on the road looked very much like a snake resulting in quite unnecessary violent evasive action.

Sugar Cane train Ayr circa 1938 Queensland State Archives

Now, many years later this now 89 year old lives a serene life in retirement, and the carefree life of a 7 year old so fondly remembered is long gone. New challenges are there to be faced and overcome, as they will be if we have the determination of our parents to inspire us.

So here is my tribute to my childhood bliss and the hope that we will remember when the worst thing we had to fear was those Kirke kids.

My name is Malcolm and I hope you enjoyed my tale about I remember when....

The real Kirke kids - thanks to Malcolm. Click on this and you can hear Malcolm read this article. 

  Listen to his reading - I guarantee you will be delighted. Monty



Malcolm is a radio DJ in his spare time and slave to two felines. Meggsie and Tabatha. They issue orders and he obediently carries them out.


you can listen to his podcasts here. https://www.mixcloud.com/Galen3/


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