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Byron Shire
September 26, 2021

The ghost in the archives #7

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In this week’s episode, a former Echo drudge marvels at the size of the silverfish in the crypt. Could it be a warning?

Michael McDonald

On June 19 thirty years ago came the front-page news that Mullumbimby was to have a levee bank, a decision later reversed, obviously. Councillors made the decision without a public meeting beforehand.

The Echo described it as ‘a massive rampart around nearly a third of the town’s perimeter. In places the bank will be just under six foot above the present roadway, destroying a visual amenity in the Heritage and Palm Park areas…’

The vote to ‘build the levee at once’ to prevent flooding was passed 5-3. Now, with sea level rise on the cards, I wonder if this quixotic brain explosion will be revisited, as brain explosions tend to be. Mention feats of grand engineering and common sense seems to leave the room, the most pragmatic of councillors begin constructing Taj Mahals in their heads.

Chuff, chuff!

Of lesser urgency on the same front page was the news that Mullum was to have its railway crossing returned, ‘only the new one will cross Station Street outside the Commonwealth Bank’, which strikes me as a strange way of describing it, but the Council office building was still in Byron Bay in 1991, so the crossing could not be next to it. 

The railway crossing has not moved in thirty years, despite a paucity of trains, and makes a safe access to town for citizens of New City Road on the lookout for speeding bandicoots (or something) on the tracks.

An even less pressing and peculiar incident in the nineties was the wife of one of the Shire’s prominent citizens taking umbrage with Michael Leunig’s cartoon of Mungo MacCallum that adorned Mungo’s column each week.

The cartoon depicted Mungo with his shirt hanging out. The lady in question thought that part of the shirt showed, well, a penis.

Her complaint to the Press Council didn’t go far. However, it gave The Echo drudges something to chuckle over for a few days – a pleasant diversion from the relentless onslaught by out-of-town property developers on a fragile natural environment.

But now it is time to end our romp around parts of the nineties and return to the urgent present: the wars, the plagues, the climate, the Influencers, the magpie in the birdbath.

As Shakespeare might have noted, our revels now are ended. Our actors were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air. Oh wait, he did note…

It was my pleasure and my honour to work at The Echo for most of what I laughingly call my adult life, and with a great bunch of people, from starry-eyed enthusiasts to hard-bitten cynics (sometimes in the same person). 

It’s a buzz that this ‘thundering organ’, as it was once described, has made it to its 35th birthday, and in paper form, too!

Early on, during that 35 years, The Echo invested in a computer network and workstations for journalists. I no longer needed to write out stories in longhand for The Echo’s gun typists to punch in.

Before arriving in the Shire I owned a manual typewriter that I left in Tasmania and had cunningly mastered its keyboard with one finger.

Thinking it reasonable to extend my typing skills, I enrolled in an adult education touch-typing course held at the Mullum High School at night. 

The pressures of work and a heavy drinking schedule prevented me from completing the course, but I did tell the tutor I could now type with two fingers! She was not impressed.

To this day, about two million words later, I still hunt and peck across the keys with two forefingers. The old saw about old dogs and new tricks definitely applies in my case.

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  1. Ah McDuck, so lovely to read your musings and know that longevity walks with us – for the time being………

    Love Linds

  2. OMG what a ABFABULOUS & divine night last night was at the 35th Anniversary for The Echo at Bangas Bolo. What a beautiful bunch of intelligent/compassionate & highly spirited bunch of dissidents.I am STILL smiling. I hope this community realises & cherished this hard core bunch of sensitive subversives. I am new to this wondrous/crazy community (almost 4yrs) but have been coming to the region to visit friends for 40 yrs. Some things have changed for the worst, BUT overall the heart & spirit of the real grounded ‘mob’ of activists hasn’t. Fook what would be do without The Echo, I shudder to think ??? Thank You to all & sundry for organising this heartfelt gathering of divergent individuals & to all The Echo staff, for a memorable & hilarious night . But lets not forget The Community Awards ceremony , given to deserving local activists, which brought. a tear to my eye. Wow! we are such a special & fortunate community who care more about struggling families/climate crisis and other non human creatures trying to survive, than money & mayhem. Well at least those of us that were there LOL. We even temporarily, forgot about the freezing weather outside.


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