BOB WILSON'S JOURNEY
Updated: Apr 7
The inspiration for my next pop-up began in Brisbane, (or maybe it began in Singapore when I was 7 years old). I was recently visiting my old school friend Eunice and her brother Linfield when Lin told me of a twitter feed that had appeared over 10 years before. Dr. Robbi Bishop Taylor stumbled upon a sandstone inscription in the deep scrub of the Malabar headland in Eastern Sydney back in 2011. For years he wondered who had deeply engraved into the sandstone an inscription, or was it an epithet, or even a tomb stone? Robbi worked on deciphering the inscription, which contained the name Bob Wilson, a regiment '9 Lancers', an army ID number and words in Latin...., which he roughly translated as, 'Fled Singapore, there was no justice'.
Periodically over the next 11 years the twitter feed ran with information Robbi found about Bob Wilson, but still for him (and others) the mystery of the man remains. Not for us and the upcoming pop-up is his tale told through food and stories. It involves all the great ingredients of any story: adventure, WW2, injury, love, infidelity, alcohol, guns, pirates and injustice. Details of the pop-up will appear on the Facebook page soon (or make contact with me here or directly).
I left Brisbane with no intension of fighting through bush, containing spiders and snakes until serendipity (or maybe Mr. Wilson) thought differently.
While staying with my oldest Singapore friend (who also went to school with Eunice) in the Eastern suburbs I told her of the story. "Oh the headland is just a short walk from here!"
How was that possible in the vast city of Sydney? Did not even need to get an Uber!
Malabar Headland faces the untamed Tasman sea between the East Coast of Australia and New Zealand. It's now a National Park but was an aboriginal fishing site and hunting ground (bush tucker delight) and an army training ground with a working rifle range. Bunkers dot the area, as it became a coastal fortification during WWII and not far from one is Bob Wilson's special place.
That night I checked through the twitter feed with few photos and found coordinates for the possible location on Reddit. On google maps we pinpointed an area to search and set off half believing it would not be possible to find, but Lily and I have adventure in our hearts and can't resist a mystery.
Almost looks like a piece of a Corinthian column. The wild beauty of the rocks and the endangered Banksia plants that find safety there is stunning.
We followed the new parth of elevated rubber, wondering if they had dared to build this above the inscription. After all, it was possible as Robbi had been following a track path 11 years previously that wound around differently. In the twitter thread it was also mentioned the inscription could be found in a 'clearing through deep shrub'. Had the shrub been cleared. I hoped so since I did not think we could find it otherwise. After two hours we found nothing. Lily suggested we return the next day to look. I wanted to keep wandering the path.
Lily searching countless stones for something.
Serendipity planned another hand just as I was close to giving up. I stopped a man, walking in the opposite direction, "Do you know the area well?"
"Yes, I do, I always run here twice a week, but.... today I'm walking".
Walking? Something about that word made me think I had found the man who would find the inscription. I showed him the few pictures of what I had, told him the story and shared the coordinates. We discussed the possible location and tried a few clearings, but found nothing. We parted but not before I gave him my phone number and said, "If ever you find it, please take a picture and send it to me".
Lily and I looked for another few minutes before deciding Mr. Wilson was not being helpful and then.... my phone buzzed to life. It was Oliver (the man I had just met on the path). "I've found it!"
He had fought bush (spiders and snakes), clambered up rocks and was standing beside Bob's special place. A small clearing among deep bush. It was not somewhere you could easily stumble upon, in fact, it is possible that Robbi was the only one who had in decades, until Oliver. Lily and I fought through bush and a petrified forest of shrubs to the sound of Oliver voice where we re-met Bob Wilson.