A kangaroo court comes a hoppin’….


Award-winning* Australian journalist Don Gordon-Brown has approached The Bug and asked whether it would consider being the platform for some pre-publication teasers for his soon probably-never-to-be-released non-fiction book on the years he spent at HM Prison Gatton College in the second half of the 1960s.

Reluctantly, we agreed after hearing his pathetic life story. Fuck, what a loser! Here is a draft of one completed chapter, sans corrections.

* Best three toffee and peanut cupcakes, Gordon Park Cubs fete 1959

Chapter 12: A kangaroo court comes a hoppin’….

It came as no surprise whatsoever when I got word on a bright autumnal day in 1970 that college director Nev Briton wanted to see me. I don’t want to sound immodest here but if anything was going down on campus, student-wise, I was by then the go-to man to get to the bottom of it.

Now in my fifth year, no-one probably knew more about what was happening to the Gatton College student population than myself, with the possible exception of perennial students such as Phillip Bate who started a diploma in animal husbandry at the college in the late 50s and was still there some years after I was barred for life.

I made my way up to the administration block and the director’s office with no trouble at all; as mentioned in earlier chapters, I had been summoned there several times to provide excellent advice if not intelligence to Nev and college administrator Brian Grant over various inquiries they were undertaking about student activities, nocturnal or otherwise, mine or others.

Nev’s pretty and shapely secretary Celestine (memo editors – check name) ushered me into the director’s office and I could see straight away from the expression, the one on his face, that he had something very serious to discuss with me, so much so that I was immediately glad I had decided to wear footwear to the meeting.

My footwear – or lack of it – had caused Nev a certain degree of angst in the past. I had been walking past the admin building one afternoon a year or so earlier when Nev spotted me from the admin’s front verandah. After calling me over, he walked around to the top of the steps and pointed to my bare feet. “Are you deliberately trying to annoy me?” he asked.

“Of course not, sir” I replied, and that was the honest truth. I most definitely had not left my dormitory with the express purpose of giving Nev the shits that day. While I had absolutely no difficulty in frequently giving Nev the shits in my final years at college, it was never deliberate. I just liked walking around in bare feet, always have. Went down to the bails in bare feet on my very first half-day prac session at the start of the 1966 year, only to be promptly dispatched back to Shelton dorm for my gum boots. Often attended open-air lectures down at the cattleyards in barefeet and why I haven’t been long dead from hookworm or some other beastly parasite is way beyond my knowledge of veterinary science.

And on this occasion, having been rebuked by Nev, those bare feet hurried me quickly on before he could find some other fault with me; shirt not tucked in, hair not combed, underwear not bought from Roberts Menswear in Gatton, that sort of thing. In fact, that exchange might have been on the same day that the new veterinary science lecturer Ian Smith pulled me up as I made my way along the majestic walkway down past the general studies building. He didn’t beat about the bush: he asked me directly what I was on. And more importantly, where could he get some. One of the shortest and strangest conversations I ever had with anyone on QAC staff.

But Nev’s comment that day confirmed my view that we shared a sort of father-son relationship. A very difficult and troubled one to be fair, but a father-son relationship nevertheless. A dad who only wanted the best for his son; a son who didn’t have the fucking foggiest of ideas of how I should change my ways to win his paternal admiration. Maybe not a hate-hate relationship by the end but a poisonous one nevertheless.

Anyway, back to that meeting in early 1970. Dad … I’m sorry, Nev …made me wait for a little while just to show who was in charge, perusing some documents – maybe notes for a mesmerising lecture he planned on net energy value – before pushing back in his chair and fixing me with a stare. I can’t for the life of me remember whether he steepled his fingers or not.

Nev begun by explaining that it had come to his attention that some unsavoury activities had taken place on the student dormitories, especially mine. These reports had disturbed him greatly and he had decided to appoint a committee of one to carry out an investigation and to report back to him with its findings and recommendations, if any, for disciplinary action.

Furthermore, he had appointed pig husbandry lecturer Kev Hodges to conduct the inquiry, because of Kev’s knowledge of military law. Captain Hodges was my commanding officer at the college’s CMF officer training unit and I thought: wow! For a law expert of Hodges’ standing to be recruited to get to the truth of certain matters; well, this was big.

I now know that military law is quite a bit different from criminal law but the law is the law after all. And back then clearly something very, very naughty and possibly quite illegal must have taken place on campus for any type of law to be invoked. Nev paused for a moment and then asked: “Do you have any objection to Mr Hodges conducting this inquiry?”

If I’d had my wits about me, I guess this would have been the ideal time to ask Nev if any other students were being given the “privilege” of vetting the person conducting the inquiry. Or indeed what might have happened if I had said that Kev wasn’t suitable and I’d prefer Jim Galletly (chk spl) because of his knowledge of the laws of hydraulic flow.

Instead, there was a short silence between us and maybe a less naive person might have used that time to absorb everything Nev had just said and to offer a general confession up front and save everybody concerned a lot of time if not money.

“No, not at all,” is all I replied. It seemed a reasonable answer seeing , just like a man dying, all my various indiscretions at college had quickly  flashed through my mind and I concluded I had never done anything on campus in my dealings with other students that I had any reason whatsoever to be ashamed of, or certainly risked serious censure for. Besides, I don’t think I’m not by nature a cruel person – well, not an overly cruel one anyway – although it is true that I have never suffered fools lightly, myself included. So of course I had no objections at all to Mr Hodges conducting any such inquiry. Maybe  I wondered if it would be conducted down at the maximal disease piggery but I can’t recall that either.

But if a general marker of my basic naivety back then as a callow 19-year-old was ever needed, it was right there and then. A brighter, more worldly person would have cottoned on fast to what was going down here from this strange, short chat with Herr Director but I can honestly say that it never occurred to me that all that was missing at this stage in the process and after those discussions were the time, date and place of execution.