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Commemorating John Curtin - Curtin Springs (NT)

Extract from oral history interview of Mervyn Andrew, recorded in 1983 by Paul France, in Alice Springs, for the Northern Territory Archives Service.

Mervyn Andrew was born in South Australia in 1909 and arrived in the Northern Territory in 1937 to join his parents who had come up earlier with a donkey team and were sinking bores at King's Canyon. In this brief extract from his oral history, Merv, who was the first person to take up a grazing licence on Curtin Springs, recalls how the station, 90 km from Uluru, came to be named after Prime Minister John Curtin.

Paul France: Still on the question of Curtin Springs, you named Curtin Springs after the Prime Minister, but I think you told me that wasn't the name originally chosen for it?

Merv Andrew:
No. That was funny. We're socialists you see, it is ideological too, we're square (sic) dinkum about it. But of course we're living in a capitalist country, you must live like a capitalist, and you must allow other people to do the same if they want to. The old man wanted to name it. I said "Righto you name it". So it was Stalingrad. They've given Stalingrad a different name now, I don't know which one it is - in Russia. But there's no Stalingrad now, they've renamed it. But anyhow I said "Look, fair enough, I admire Stalin too, but we're not Russians and we're not in Russia, we're Australians and we're in Australia and we're not going to give Australia to the Russians, we're not going to do nothing like that. What about something Australian?" And I said "Even if I'm a socialist I'm loyal to Australia, think about it and name it something else. Something Australian". So he came up with Curtin Springs. Curtin, that was his favourite Prime Minister at the time. We had Curtin Springs painted on the side of the station ute. We got away over into Queensland and people were coming up enquiring "What's these curtain springs, can you tell us about them, what are they?" They thought it was something new to hang curtains on. Yes, a spring. That was funny.

I didn't know for a long time - me sister knew McKinnon too, Bill McKinnon, and used to visit him and that in the town here. Anyhow he used to come out there, so I don't know just when she got the story, but I heard that they were organising a party, a Police party, to go out and round these bloody communists up. We were supposed to have had - teaching guerrilla warfare and all sorts out there. Poor buggers, we was just sitting down there as innocent as the day we was born, happy with our own political views. They're sharpening up their bloody spears in here to come out and get us.

Paul France:
Nothing ever came of it of course?

Merv Andrew:
No. The story got around to Bill, being in the Police Force - he was still only a constable then - and he said "Christ, what's up with you. The poor buggers are harmless".

Courtesy of the Northern Territory Archives Service: NTRS 226, TS 150