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Ceres – Mount Elephant ABV2

I got more and more involved in Film Directing at the Australian Broadcasting Commission.  For the Rural Department, I made a film on a converted aircraft.  It was called “Ceres” after the Greek God of Harvest.  The aircraft was to be used as a crop duster.  Once again Frank Few was the cameraman.

We went off to the works that were working on the machine.  It was, naturally next to an airfield.

Two items of note.  One was that the aircraft was being rebuilt from a “Wirraway” aircraft that was a pre-war training aircraft, a low-wing monoplane.  This aircraft, that had a stalling speed of less than 100 knots and a top speed of about 190 knots, was actually used by the R.A.A.F. in combat with the Japanese.   They operated on Malaya and New Guinea.  There were bomber and dive-bomber versions of the Wirraway. They never stood a chance, but there was nothing else.

The second matter of interest was that the test pilot was of Chinese origin.    His name was Roy Goon. He had been an R.A.A.F. fighter pilot and had stayed with flying after the war.  He was a very nice man and took the plane up on a short flight so that we could film it in action.

It was co-incidental that some time later, I was making another film for the Rural Department to the west of Melbourne that involved crop-dusters.  The location is called Mount Elephant.  An extinct volcano, of which Australia has a large number, on approach from the East it resembles an elephant laying on the ground.

The subject of this film was Rabbits, or the extinction of them.  Australia is plagued with Rabbits which were introduced into the country by the first settlers in 1788.  In various parts of Australia, the numbers of rabbits reached plague proportions by 1890.  Since then a number of plans to eradicate them have been introduced, but, to this day the rabbits exist in their millions.

Mt Elephant, near Derrinallum, Victoria

Mt Elephant – Image via Wikipedia

They eat anything and deprive farm animals of their natural feed.  They cause land erosion by eating vegetation down to ground level so that the surface become dust and blows away.

At various time, settlers introduced Foxes.  We they mad ?  They brought in pigs, some of these escaped into the bush and became wild and reverted to boar including tusks.

The Rabbits were feeding off the arable crops and making a hell of a mess of the farmers fields.  The Farmers complained to the Government who then called up the experts.  The experts consisted of a gang of crop duster pilots.  There were three of them and they were based about five miles north of the mountain.  We went to see them.  They were a scruffy lot, all New Zealanders, and all crazy.  Their aircraft looked like they would never get off the ground, and if they did they would soon return to it.  They were taking off from fields with a full load of carrots in their hold.

They would take off and fly to Mount Elephant that was teeming with rabbits.  The centre of the Mountain was almost entirely crater.  The Kiwis were flying into the crater flying round and round dropping their carrots.  We filmed this.  This was on a Monday and the carrots were offered to the rabbits as a meal that they could not resist.
The following Monday they did the same, but we stayed away, after all they were only going to do the same again.  However, the Monday after, they were dropping carrots laced with poison.  This we came to see and we filmed the rabbits tucking into their free food.

The scheme killed off thousands of rabbits, but it was the proverbial drop in the bucket.  I imagine that, in no time at all, their numbers would have recovered and the Farmers would have started moaning again.

Elsewhere, they built huge fences, hundreds of miles long, to keep them out, but, eventually, the rabbits burrowed underneath the fences and start again on the other side.

I guess they still have the problem.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Terry,
    that’s a fascinating story regarding the film on Ceres production. I’m currently researching for a book on the development and history of the Ceres, do you know if there is any way to get hold of stills from the film?

    By the way, the Ceres was developed from the “Wirraway” trainer, not the “Winjeel” trainer, but all the other details are spot-on. The test pilot on the project who you mentioned was Roy Goon.


    January 26, 2013
    • Hi Derek,
      An old colleague of mine Don Calder, who resides in Sydney, already told me about the Wirraway and I thought we had made the alteration. He was a fellow film editor at the time we made that film. It was made for inclusion in a programme for the Agricultural Department of the A.B.C in Melbourne. I would guess the date would be around 1960. I would hope that the ABC Library in Melbourne would be holding the film from which stills could be produced. We have successfully located other films I made at that time, so why not ask them ?

      I only knew Roy Goon for one day, but he made a lasting impression as a gentleman, but, alas , after fifty years I had forgotten his name.

      Best of luck with your research.



      January 27, 2013
      • Hi Terry,

        many thanks for the tips. I’ll follow up with the ABC in Melbourne, and see what I can find.

        Best regards,

        January 27, 2013

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