A little more on the 119 Tins of Opium that came to be in Port Phillip Bay

Track 3 on the new Doomed Bird album is called 119 Tins of Opium Came to be in Port Phillip Bay. It is drawn from a news report in The Riverine Herald, August 1931.

Mr P. H. Holden, Sub-Collector of Customs, who is endeavoring to discover how 119 tins of
opium came to be in Port Phillip Bay, near the Heads, on Sunday, said today that on Sunday a motor launch was seen cruising in the south channel, taking a zig-zag course down between Sorrento and Portsea. Fishermen said that the launch which, they did not recognise, was working- toward the Heads.

The opium, it appears, was dropped in the bay attached to lifebelts. The floating package included the 119 tins and ‘ six opium smoking lamps’. The launch that took a ‘zig-zag course’ mentioned in the article clearly missed the dropped off package. The suggestion is that because the tide was seven knots the floating package was getting pushed out quicker than perhaps the launch anticipated. So they misjudged the location. I haven’t been able to find any details on who the person/people were on this launch.

If this article is anything to go by, opium dens existed into the 1950s. One such area was…

“Melbourne’s notorious district of debauchery, ‘Little Lon’, bounded by Lonsdale, Spring, La Trobe and what is now Exhibition street.”

So, it seems that if the drop off made for use in dens, there was a definite demand for it.

State Library of Victoria / The Argus

In 1926 William Stanley Moore an

‘Opium dealer./ Operates with large quantities of faked opium and cocaine./ A wharf labourer; associates with water front thieves and drug traders

…was photographed for a mug shot. The early 20th century had trade that was alive and well with real and fake opium. William was at the time of the photograph, short of luck. Indeed it seems, 5 years later, so was the captain of the zig-zagging boat that tried to locate a large quantity of opium floating in Port Phillip Bay.

Frederick Stanley – the Skeleton Found in a Limestone Cave

Track seven on the new Doomed Bird album is called A Skeleton Found in a Limestone Cave. It tells the story of:

A skeleton found in a limestone cave in the Mungana district is believed to the remains of a prospector Frederick Stanley who disappeared on September 20, 1924.

Having looked a little further into this it appears Frederick Stanley was an Englishman who had lived around Mungana (in northern Queensland) for two decades. He went missing six years earlier and there are reports from then to that effect.

Daily Standard Fri 30 Jan 1925

There are limestone caves in the area and in fact where Frederick Stanley was found wasn’t that far out of Mungana, a mining town. The area he was found in was called the Lime Bluffs, only about a mile out. So for whatever reason Stanley found himself there, took a rest and was found as a skeleton six years later. According to another article he was found by a young Indigenous Australian named Algy who reported it to the Mungana police.

Judging from its position, it had not been interfered with by animals. A pair of boots were near the body and a leather pouch with a watch was on the remains.

(Cairns Post Thu 13 Nov 1930)

Interior of a limestone cave at the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, Queensland (taken circa 1904) http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/permalink/f/1c7c5vg/slq_alma21268089010002061

Mungana itself is a ghost town nowadays. Some great ‘then and now’ photos can be found here.

Stanley was buried by police close to the site where he was found. He had no relatives in Australia.

The reason why he took the journey aren’t known. At the time though, Mungana was on the decline. In 1911 there was a population of almost 600 and by 1933 it was just under 100 (source). There was also the matter of a scandal where some of the mines were being sold to the government at highly inflated prices. It was known as the Mungana Affair and …

The first spark of a series that rekindled Mungana to flare into a major political issue occurred in late July 1926 when it was made known that the Lady Jane and Girofla mines had been abandoned after failure to discover new, payable ore reserves. (source)

We can only assume that Stanley maintained a living through prospecting but that the mining industry in that area appeared to be in some decline. So perhaps there was a reason for him to head to Chillagoe, at least as a starting point. Unfortunately he didn’t get much further than a cave just beyond his departure point.

Mungana Hotel, Mungana, Queensland, ca. 1929

In the Phaeton, an investigation

The first song off The Doomed Bird of Providence album A Flight Across Arnhem Land is a song called In the Phaeton.

Based on a news report titled :

Attacked In Home

Later Shot Dead

Alighting from Vehicle

Labourer Arrested

…it tells the story of Frederick Westbury who was shot dead as he got out from his horse cart, a Phaeton. Stopping the horse cart the lone gunman called out, “Is that you Westbury?”

Westbury responded and was shot dead.

The altercation.

Looking at a few other articles on the murder (it seemed to be well covered by various news sources), it seems there was a back and forth that culminated in the killing.

It followed an altercation the night before where Westbury was attacked by three men at his house. The motive for the attack appears to do with another incident earlier in the day where it was suggested Westbury stole some coats at a hotel. This wasn’t taken further by the police but three men took it upon themselves to retrieve the coats (which they themselves didn’t own) even though it was accepted that Westbury had nothing to do with it.

Whatever the case may be, Westbury managed to drive out the attackers with a gun.

In retribution it appears, one of the attackers on the following night shot him dead.

Frederick Westbury’s wife and another witness identified the killer.

His name was William Dashwood and was sentence to death for the murder.

Out today – The Doomed Bird of Providence – A Flight Across Arnhem Land

Today is the release day for The Doomed Bird of Providence’s fourth album – A Flight Across Arnhem Land.

The idea was to create short concise songs where the lyrics were pulled directly from early 20th century Australian newspapers. Stories of errant flights across the desert, cold case murders and mysterious deaths, drug smuggling and a snake charmer killed by his own snakes.

All the songs are taken verbatim from these actual news reports.


Ian Hothersall – percussion
Mark Kluzek – accordion, vocals, bass, piano, trumpet
Rachel Laurence – viola
Katie English – flute, glockenspiel, cello
Richard Acton – guitar
Drew Barker – ukulele, melodica
Flake Brown – guitar
Barry Butcher – mechanical sound, tuba
Joolie Wood – violin
Simon Finn – guitar, banjolin
Cameron Selby – clarinet

Judi Dransfield Kuepper did the artwork for the release and the single (Ransoms for Cars). Judi is known, amongst other things, for her amazing artwork on Laughing Clowns and Ed Kuepper releases.

Buy the release here

A limited number of physical copies are available also.

Pre-order The Doomed Bird of Providence’s fourth album – A Flight Across Arnhem Land

The Doomed Bird of Providence present their fourth album, A Flight Across Arnhem Land. It marks a significant departure from the band’s last album, 2017’s Burrowed into the Soft Sky. Where that album was two extended instrumental pieces exploring early Australian colonial times, the new release is a collection of 16 short pieces that all contain vocals.

Found text was used as the starting point for every song. The texts themselves were sourced from Australian newspapers from the 20s and 30s. Thematically the album sits around stories drawn from this period in Australia. Band leader Mark Kluzek looked for stories that were open-ended or unresolved. Common themes started to arise, missing airplanes, cold case murders and curious, out-of-the-ordinary incidents.

The album artwork was by Judi Dransfield Kuepper who has done, amongst other things, most of the artwork and design for Ed Kuepper and Laughing Clowns.

The release is available as a download and a limited physical release which includes a CD, 14 page booklet and news report image on card sitting in a sliding matchbox style case.

Pre-order the release today over at Bandcamp

Release date July 1, 2022

The Doomed Bird of Providence – Ransoms for Cars

The Doomed Bird of Providence have released a new single called Ransoms for Cars on 10 to 1 Records.

It’s been a while since the band have released something new. Soon after 2019’s Rumbling Clouds was released though, work started on new songs. The songs were built around newspaper articles from Australian papers in the 1920s/30s.

The end result is a single released today called Ransoms for Cars and an album that is planned for release in the next 3-4 weeks called A Flight Across Arnhem Land. This will be the band’s fourth album.

Have a listen to the single over at https://thedoomedbirdofprovidence.bandcamp.com/

This is available as a 2 track download and a 4 track 7″ lathe cut single. The two additional tracks won’t be available digitally. This is limited to 25 copies and includes an additional art print.

Artwork by Australian artist Judi Dransfield Kuepper. Known amongst other things for her work on Laughing Clowns and Ed Kuepper releases. Her website is here: https://judikuepper.com/

A video has also been made for the song which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOV_I2gns2I . It’s loosely based on the newspaper article but the characters are a little inspired by Blinky Bill.

The Doomed Bird of Providence – Ransoms for Cars

On Wednesday 25th May, The Doomed Bird of Providence will be releasing a new single called Ransoms for Cars on 10 to 1 Records.

The lyrics are from a 1930’s Australian newspaper article about a car ransom scam in Melbourne.

The single will be released as two tracks digitally as well as a limited lathe cut with four songs. This will be followed by the band’s fourth album, A Flight Across Arnhem Land.

A Blinky Bill inspired video has been created for the single:

Burrowed Into The Soft Sky

Burrowed Into The Soft Sky was the third album by The Doomed Bird of Providence and was the last release on Manchester label Front & Follow. It was also the first release on vinyl. Two songs, both almost twenty minutes long, that explored two contrasting but related themes. One was the savagery that frequently accompanies colonialism. The second was the occasional empathy that takes place in such a context. Although the empathy in this case was based on a work of fiction (Voss by Patrick White).

“The first composition, ‘Burrowed into the Soft Sky’, takes its cues from Patrick White’s novel Voss, based on the fateful final journey of German explorer Ludwig Leichardt. It’s a song that depicts a man’s doomed fate in his desire to explore and conquer the unforgiving lands of the Australian interior. Starting off as pastoral haze of pastoral woodwind sounds and strings that scrape and wheeze, the piece stretches out into the shimmering heat of the sun, alternating between stark minimalist folk violins and the noisy outburst of a primitivist take on post-rock designed to emphasise the swing in moods and the sweeping rawness of the environment, as the maw of the Australian landscape first captivates, then traps the characters in adversity and despair.

The second composition, ‘The Blood Dimmed Tide Is Loosed’, is a much more ominous affair, with a tense and foreboding opening of grinding cellos and piercing violin squeals that takes its lead more from horror soundtracks than post-rock instrumentals. Taking the title from one of the chapters of Exclusion, Exploitation and Extermination (and in turn from WB Yeats’ ‘The Second Coming’), there is a prelude of fear that only sets you up for a violent denouement. A crashing blast hurls the band into a maniacal frenzy. Huddled around a cascading riff that seems to go on forever while smearing and defiling their playing with squalls of feedback and the clattering of drum kits and various objects, the noise they throw out attempts to portray the sweeping tide of debased violence and virulent evil of various atrocities by white colonials committed to wiping out entire communities of aboriginals and various alien communities in the hope that “the n—-r will disappear…”. The aftermath of such barbarism sees Doomed Bird play in an almost shell-shocked manner, as cold drones waft over the carnage. But towards the piece’s climax, the apocalyptic dirges, drones, and screams rear their head again to remind the listener that there is no happy ending, or reckoning of justice. All there is is the continuation of violence and brutality.”

(The Quietus)

This is the final F&F released work that we are putting here. Going for a song at


Interesting Fact

One thing rarely mentioned with the vinyl release is that we put a locked groove on one side. Possibly influenced by Sonic Youth’s Evol and Melbourne band No‘s first EP.

The Doomed Bird of Providence – You Brought the Knife

You Brought the Knife was a 2015 EP by The Doomed Bird. It followed the story of Maria Murray who was brought to Van Dieman’s Land after stabbing someone. The lyrics are based on court transcripts, and the huge help of a researcher in Tasmania who was writing an essay on the ship Maria Murray was transported on – The Borneo. Maria Murray was the mother of Fedicia Exine who featured on the first Doomed Bird album Will Ever Pray.

The artwork was by Australian artist Peter Aldrich.

There is a very limited number of physical items available also on Bandcamp plus pay what you like digital DL.