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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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John Bell

In their own words

Recorded 1962

John Bell
Audio: 2 minutes

In the holidays from Tech – we got about three months off – I certainly had the freedom and the chance to get away and see other parts of Australia, and see what a fantastically different place Northern Queensland was, it’s like another country, you know. You can get up there in two weeks hitch-hiking, sort of thing, and you’re in a – you’re in a such an entirely different atmosphere, you know, you don’t have to go overseas or anything, you’re just there. I left the first time with about ten pounds. Well, it didn’t last me properly the whole way, I had to do a bit of work, but that was good. It was better to be forced into a bit of work because I saw more. I worked on a cane farm up there and I did a day’s work with some islanders. In Townsville it was, and they were diving for this barge full of soft drink that had sunk in the harbour. Well, we were pulling up the barge or something. I never knew what sort of – I never thought about the work I was doing, it just bought me meat pies and things. But anyway, I got a lot of drawings up there, and I saw all the kind of people that make up Queensland: cane farmers and islanders from luggers and Aboriginals and people.

I didn’t get out west at that stage but I went right up the coast as far as Cairns and stuck round there for a little while, till I went completely broke and gave myself up to the police eventually. I thought they’d arrest me and give me something to eat, but I met this nice one who gave me ten bob or something, and he gave me a meal ticket to take down to St Vincent de Paul, and then some unlucky teacher from Tech just happened to call in to Cairns and gave me two-pound-ten, and I set out for home. Anyway, Queensland had a lot of influence on me, I’ve been going there ever since.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of John Bell is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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John Bell

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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