PNGAA Library

MV Thetis: Rod Noble

In 1955 I travelled on this vessel for several days.

I do not know why, and I do not know whether I went upstream or downstream. That is unusual because I do remember the reason for many, many river trips I had during the year and a bit whilst I was stationed at Angoram on the Sepik River.

What I do remember is the skipper, Goya Henry. He had a pleasant, weather worn face and welcomed me aboard and up to the wheelhouse. That I remember very well. It had a bunk along each side and a huge scarlet skull and cross bones flag draped along the port side. My mother would have been proud of my good manners. It was not until we had had a few rums and chatted for a while that I asked about his two wooden legs.

In the 1930s he had been a “barn storming” pilot, flying up and down the country (Oz) giving paying customers a joy flight. (My mother had had one of those joy flights: I wonder if he had been her pilot?) The lost legs were the result of a crash.

When we arrived back at the Tobacco Road wharf, I invited him to the club for a few drinks before supper at my place. In those days, vessels like the Thetis were used by the Administration to supply coastal and river outstations with furniture, rations and sometimes a vehicle if a road had been built. Goya was well known to everybody and I listened to the stories of all the old-timers with great interest.

I have mentioned before that the next year I had resigned from the service and enrolled in first year law at Sydney Uni. And guess what I surprise I received when in first term I was invited by the lecturer in Constitutional Law 1 to study a law report entitled Henry v The Commonwealth.

Very briefly: In the 1920s or 1930s, the Government said that anyone wishing to fly an airplane had to get a licence to do so. Goya Henry said that the Government had no power under the Constitution to make such a law. Moreover, the High Court judges agreed with him. He won.

MV Thetis at Kanganaman village, 1956