An Unforgettable List

An Unforgettable List

The Disaster on HMAS Mulga

Beryl sent a letter to the Federal Member asking him to recognise the volunteers for their selfless work in the community. It was filed away.

The stray cat watched the crowds as they watched the ship drop its anchor.

Feral and Vulgar

Invitations to the HMAS Mulga’s cocktail party were the responsibility of the office of the Federal Member of Parliament in the local area. His team selected twenty-five of Port Fairy’s finest citizens to attend. As the Federal Member was sitting in Parliament in Canberra, he sent his apologies and would miss this memorable event. His staff typed and vetted the list many times, removing some names and adding others. The final list of attendees was typed up, placed on the invitations file and sent to the secretary to hand-write their names on the official gold embossed cards. Mr Ram and Son, the local printer, created memorable cards. It wasn’t every day that a warship visited the electorate and no expense was to be spared, as the Federal Member and Captain O’Doherty, the Commanding Officer, were close friends. Mr Ram delivered fifty cards, his minimum order, but nobody checked his work – he was reliable. The office manager drooled over the magnificent gold embossed edges of the cards and didn’t notice the spelling errors. The Federal Member became The ‘Feral’ Member and HMAS Mulga became HMAS ‘Vulga’. But that was to be the least of their problems.

Students to the Rescue

As the office was under-manned, volunteer university students were always available to help. Typing, filing, checking, cleaning and other mundane but important tasks were passed to them. One young volunteer, Miss Jones, singled out because of her beauty, was tasked with transcribing the guest names from the final approved list onto individual invitation cards. Once the student finished transcribing the first page of the guest list, she found another page – she wrongly assumed the next page went with the first; besides, she had fifty invitations.

Beryl, the Secretary of the Port Fairy Cat Appreciation Guild, had sent a list of their volunteers to the Federal Member, hoping for some form of recognition. Her team devoted much effort to helping stray cats and asked the Federal Member for a certificate or something of value. Never in her wildest dreams would Beryl have expected the sort of recognition they were to get.

Once the student had hand-written the names on the cards, she placed each one in its own envelope. With a steady hand, she scribed the address on the outside and sealed it with her tongue – moistening the glue with a right to left and back again action. She then placed the envelope on her desk and gave it a nice thump with her fist to ensure the glue held tight. After she finished sealing all fifty envelopes, her tongue and fist went into action once again. This time, with stamps – all being secured to the corners of the envelopes.  

The officials received their VIP invitations. So did the members of the Port Fairy Cat Appreciation Guild, astounded as they had never been to a cocktail party, let alone on a warship. They prepared for a night to remember. 

Unaware of their unexpected guests, the officers onboard the HMAS Mulga also prepared for the cocktail party, unprepared for a night they were about to remember. 

Beryl was bringing a cat. 

* A scene from my unfinished and untitled book about the fictional HMAS Mulga circumnavigating Australia in the 1970’s.