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The Rock-itt : August 2011
Townsville is a Northern Queensland city today, but back in 1930 when Errol Flynn and crew sailed into the port in Errol’s yacht, Sirocco, I expect it could be called more or less a township rather than a city. After battling a sub-tropical storm, Sirocco finally docked at Townsville and Errol was immediately taken to hospital where he remained for three days until his malaria was brought under control. They didn’t stay in Townsville for too long as they had to get to Cairns to pick-up two drums of fuel which they had ordered. But in their short stay because of the usual lack of funds, they started up a pleasure cruise service to Magnetic Island, a small tropical resort located about five miles out from Townsville. They made a few pounds out of it, actually poaching tourists from the established cruising tours until the locals threatened to notify the authorities that they were operating without a licence which at that time carried a rather large penalty with it. With Errol’s malaria temporarily suppressed and a few pounds better off, they set sail for Cairns, which would bring them to the half-way mark of their journey. The journey further north was an enjoyable one. They fished and took in the magic surroundings of the beautiful tropical landscapes as the sun beat down on their bare backs, turning their taught lithe bodies into mahogany coloured natives. With their main sail set to catch the southeast trade wind, which came directly at Sirocco’s stern, they scooted along at a good eight knots before bringing the mainsheet in and slowing the pace as they entered the beautifully serene harbour of the township of Cairns. Because of the times and travel not being what it is today, newcomers were always somewhat of a spectacle. W ord would go around between the locals that new comers had arrived and the jetty where Sirocco tied up was soon filled with curious onlookers who hung around watching every move made onboard the newly arrived vessel. Among the onlookers young inquisitive girls would appear. At one tim e Errol had stripped down to investigate a very annoying itch which was irritating him around his groin area when he heard giggles coming from aloft. Looking up he saw the young ladies peering down at him, apparently getting a thrill from his masculine nakedness. Cairns at the time Errol and his crew arrived had a large mixed population from all over. The Chinese had set up their own quarter on the outskirts of the main township and being obsessive gamblers had opened Fan- Tan Joints. To explain, Fan-Tan it is a game where a handful of beans are taken and placed under a metal cover on the table. Bets are taken and laid on four little squares baring the numbers 1,2,3,4, certain odds being given on certain numbers. The croupier lifts the lid and begins to extract the beans four at a time until there are either 1,2,3,or 4 beans left on the table. Those who have bet on the correct amount of beans remaining win. It was while attending one of these Fan-Tan joints that Errol claims he saw one of the best all-in brawls of his life when a Cane Cutter who had been playing the game got into a dispute with the Chinese croupier. Let’s hear it from Errol himself as he stood entranced as the spectacle unfolded before him. The Cane Cutter was a big man powerfully built, and why he chose suddenly to let loose a backhanded sweep of his long arm and knock the Chinaman flying out of his chair, I don’t know. Almost simultaneously a Sirocco under full sail The Chinese quarter, the Fan-Tan joint was in here somewhere The Royal Hotel-you can bet Errol and the lads would have downed a few here