Monday, December 22, 2008

Harold Holt

Harold Holt is the Prime Minister who drowned. There's a pool named after him. My friend has been in that pool.

That's about all I know.

I don't even know if the guy was Liberal or Labor.

I guess I should do some research.

Hello, Lord Wiki. How are you today?

Lord Wiki says.....

Holt was born on August 5, 1908.

Birthday Website time!

A Leo.

Leos are fun. I say that because Jack is a Leo; and Jack is a lot of fun.

In numerology, he's a 4. Jack's a 4 too.

I've been encountering a lot of 4's lately.

When Holt was born, the population of Australia was only 4 million. That's amazing. I guess there'd be a lot of room to stretch out. Isn't 4 million about the population of Sydney now?

Yes! I'm right. Wow, I'm totally impressed with myself here.

I wonder what the population of Sydney was in 1908.

This website says it was about 800,000.

Back to Harold Hold......

He was born in Stanmore Sydney.

Looking at Google Maps.....

Stanmore is very close to Dulwich Hill.

Holt had a younger brother named Cliff. There was a two year difference between them. I wonder if they got along well or not.

Lord Wiki says Holt and his brother went to schools in Sydney and Adelaide. Then when Holt was a teenager, they ended up in Melbourne. They moved around a bit. It's something I have in common with them. I went to school in four different cities.

The parents divorced when Harold was ten. It seems like maybe the father had custody, because Lord Wiki says he enrolled the kids in school in 1921. That would be three years after the divorce. In 1924, his mom died.  Holt didn't attend the funeral. Why not? What's going on here?

During his Melbourne teen years, Holt attended Wesley College.

I like the school's values. They include: A broad understanding of human and cultural diversity, nurturing commitment to social justice and Openness and creativity. I also like what they say about religion. Spirituality, embracing Christianity and other faiths.  It seems they emphasize Christianity, but they do so in a way that doesn't exclude other religions.

Lord Wiki says the school was very prestigious. Yet, their website says, The College has an open-entry policy, meaning that there are no entrance examinations or particular entrance requirements and we welcome students from all backgrounds, countries and cultures. Many international students study at Wesley because of its excellent educational reputation.

Maybe times have changed since Holt's day there. I don't think a school can be both prestigious and open. Can it?

Robert Menzies (the Prime Minster before Holt) also attended the school.

Lord Wiki says that Harold Holt was a sad and lonely child. I've never seen Lord Wiki sound so sympathetic and concerned before. He says Holt had a need to be liked; and he would do this by having achievements.

For his University, Holt attended Queens College at the University of Melbourne. You know, this sounds pretty cool. I thought it was more like a branch of the University of Melbourne.  But it's actually some type of living community. I don't think I've ever heard of anything like that before. The residents attend the University of Melbourne; and the Queens college provides a place for them to rest their head at night. But not just that.  They have all kinds of clubs, facilities, and services. It actually sounds really fun.

It seems like Holt had a fairly okay time during his university years. He got himself a law degree and won prizes for both sports and essays. He was involved with debating teams, and was president of two clubs; Sports and Social Club, and Law Students Society.

Wow. Major soap opera stuff here. I feel like I'm reading a synopsis of Days of our Lives.

During his University years, Holt was in a relationship with Zara Kate Dickens. They split up in 1934. Holt would have been 26. She ran off to London and married another guy. She had a son and then twins. But by this time, the romance with Holt was back on. The marriage had failed. Supposedly, Holt was the true father of the twins. What a scandal!

In 1946, Holt and Dickens married. He adopted her three sons. They stayed married, but in her memoirs, she says he had a lot of affairs.

Career-wise, Holt had difficulties. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar, but the Depression made it hard for him to find work as a barrister. He then jumped to a career in politics--joining the United Australia Party. The UAP was the dominant right-wing party before the Liberal party. I kind of wish they had kept that as the dominant party. It's really confusing for us Americans when Australians say "Liberal party". Liberal to us is synonymous to left.

Holt was another young member of Parliament. He was twenty-seven when he joined. Lord Wiki labels him as a workaholic. He'd work sixteen hours a day; lived on 4-5 hours of sleep. I can't imagine doing that. I love sleeping.

When Holt was 32, he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force. These were volunteer fighters. Holt did this for three months; but then Prime Minister Menzies called him back after there was an air crash that killed prominent military and political people. Did he bring Holt back because he was sad about the deaths and didn't want Holt to die as well? Or did he lose important people and needed Holt to take their place?

I don't know.

Around this time though, Holt became Minister for Labour and National Service. In this role, he introduced the Child Endowment Act. This gave the mothers of Australian children five shillings a week per child. I don't understand if this was for every family or just those in need. The rules of the act encouraged the creation of Australian children. The child needed to have an Australian father or be born in Australia.... or at least have lived in Australia for twelve months prior to the mother making the claim. The allowance would end when the child reached the age of sixteen, died, left Australia, or had an early marriage.

It sounds like a precursor to the baby bonus thing. Lord Wiki says that right now that's at $5000. I remember reading about that....the whole controversy of mothers trying to keep that bun in the oven a little longer so they can get more money. I bet now Australia has a bunch of overcooked children.

In the early 1940's there was a lot of political upheaval. Menzies resigned as Prime Minister, and soon after he resigned as UAP leader. In 1945, he established the Liberal Party. Oh. Well, that's something I didn't know. Menzies is the daddy of the Liberal Party. Holt was one of the first people to join the party.

 Four years later, Menzies became Prime Minster again. He was in office for sixteen years. Then Holt took his place. Before he became Prime Minister, Holt was the Minister for Immigration.

Here's something interesting. The man who was Minister for Immigration before Holt was Labor's Arthur Calwell. This was the guy who did that awful joke two wongs don't make a white. Calwell was a big supporter of the White Australia Policy. Lord Wiki says that Holt was more flexible and caring. It's funny because these days it's the left political groups who are more flexible and open when it comes to immigration.

Holt seemed to have good relationship with the unions...another thing I'd expect out of more left politicians.

In 1956, Holt became Deputy Prime Minister, and the idea was that he would eventually take Menzies' job.

In 1958, Holt became treasurer. He was 50 by then.

In 1960, his career took a bit of a dive. It seems his budget caused a bit of a recession. The financial health of Australia at the time seems a bit like the current American one. But both the economy and Holt's career picked up again. He became Prime Minister in 1966. His time of glory was brief; one year, ten months, and twenty-three days.

During his time as PM, Holt worked on breaking down that awful White Australia Policy. He ended the distinction between European and Asian immigrants. He also allowed skilled Asians to settle with their families.

The 1967 Referendum occurred during Holt's PM time. This was related to Indigenous Australians. They would now be included in the census.

Holt and the Vietnam War somewhat mirrors Howard and the Iraq war. Holt had a friendship with the American President Lyndon B. Johnson. He supported the Vietnam war, and committed Australian troops to the cause. Calwell, Holt's political rival in the 1966 election, was very much against the war and promised to bring the troops home. Now this situation more closely resembles the left and right parties of today.

Prior to his disappearance (probable death), Holt was involved with some controversies. There was an issue with Mike Willesee from ABC. Holt accused the journalist of being biased.

Holt interrupted an MP's maiden speech. This is one of those first speeches I keep reading. Apparently, it's really bad form to interrupt one of those things. So, if you ever become an MP, don't do it. Okay?

Well, now we get the infamous disappearance.

It happened on Sunday December 17, 1967. That was four months after my parents got married. I wonder if they heard about it. Were they interested in politics back then.....foreign affairs? Or were they too busy being newlyweds?

With friends, Holt went to a place called Cheviot Beach. This place was named after a shipwreck....seems a bit cursed to me. He decided to go swimming despite the strong currents and dangerous reputation of the waters.

His friends begged him not to go. Or so they say. I'm sorry, but I can't help seeing alternative stories here. Maybe it was all some kind of wicked plan. Maybe his friends pressured him to go swimming. Dared him.

I don't know. I just don't think you can have the death of a country's leader and not imagine conspiracy theories.

When Holt didn't come back and ask for his towel, his friends sent out a bunch of important search parties. Holt was not found.

Lord Wiki says two days later, the official announcement was made. The search has come to a dead hault. But it sounded like the search has come to a dead holt.

Poor guy.

The accident was blamed on his poor health. Apparently, he was getting a bit up there in age and had some vitamin issues; possibly heart ones as well.

His memorial service was held a few days before Christmas. President Johnson attended as well as some Asian leaders. The event was shown via satellite to various countries; one of the first Australian events to do so.

Lord Wiki has some of the rumors.

1. Committed suicide. (I can go for that. Maybe? I don't imagine it as a planned suicide. It could have been one of those things where you're kind of not happy and you do dangerous things because you really don't care all that much what happens to you. )

2. Faked his own death to run away with his mistress. (No, I don't buy that one. Country leaders cheat all the time. You don't have to fake your death to do it.)

3. Abducted by a UFO. (I can totally go for that one.)

4. He was an agent of China and was picked up by a Chinese Submarine (sounds fun, but not as fun as the UFO one)

5. He was on Morphine for a sore shoulder which might have affected his judgment over whether to take a swim in dangerous water. (seems very likely)

In October, there was a show about his death. It was on ABC. Did any of you see it?

Lord Wiki talks about how Holt's death inspired it's own Aussie Slang. Do a Harold Holt. This is used when someone makes a surprise disappearance. Lord Wiki clarifies however that this is used mostly for social disappearances and not untimely deaths. That cracked me up a bit...well, just the way Lord Wiki said it.

Now I'm going to go look at other websites.

Here's an interesting one. The Harold Holt Murder It seems the webmaster (Gary Simmons) here believes Holt was murdered because he was opposed to American bases being built on Australian soil.

Wow. This is straight out of the X-files--although Simmons explicitly says on his site. This is not the X-Files. But this guy claims to have illegal implants in his body. If that's not X-Files, what is? Really!

I don't want to say this guy is crazy because that's what Gillian Anderson would do. And she was always wrong.

He calls the Australian Parliament Satanic. I'm going to have to check Kevin Rudd for horns.

I am finding some awesome websites here. Simmon's has a link to this site which proves Bush, Clinton and Obama have something very important in common. They're all in league with Satan.

This SMH article talks about how back in the days of the Holt drowning, Coroners weren't allowed to do an investigation if a body wasn't found. But a law appeared in 1985 that changed that. A coroner says all this speculation about his death isn't necessary. Accidental drownings aren't rare. The rumors do make good party conversations, although I agree with the coroner when he says that Holt's life and accomplishments have been unfortunately overshadowed by his mysterious death.

This article says that one of Holt's friends who was with him the day he drowned, was one of his lovers. Marjorie Gillespie. The article also says it was a swelled ego that caused Holt's death. He overestimated his abilities. I think most of us have seen this behavior in the men we know. I'm fine! Don't worry. I've done this a thousand times.

One of Holt's grandchildren now lives in the Sunshine Coast. He's thinking of going into politics, perhaps taking the place of Peter Costello. For now, he's working in the book business.

Holt's death caused some major political party drama. The Liberal party had a coalition with the Country party. William McMahon was supposed to be next in line as the Liberal Leader. But when Holt died, the Country Party leader, John McEwen, threatened to pull his party out of the coalition if McMahon became leader. It seems McEwen and McMahon did not love each other.

John McEwen himself took over the job of Prime Minister, but the understanding was that as soon as the Liberals picked a new leader, he was out.

William McMahon and John guys are going straight on my list.

I don't know why it took me so long to understand the excitement of politics. This stuff is as good as Harry Potter.

Some people have their calenders filled with appointments and dates. Mine is filled with the names of Australian people. Yes, I'm slightly crazy.

Anyway, I should say something in conclusion about Holt. He seemed like a pretty decent fellow. I'm sorry he died. I'm sorry to hear Obama works for Satan. Although, maybe this means we can change our national anthem to that song from The Omen. Would that not be so incredibly cool?


  1. The silly bugger had been drinking at lunch, with his latest mistress, and chose to swim in Bass Strait (open ocean), rather than Port Phillip Bay.
    Look up a map and you'll see what I mean.
    He'd had a few near misses when snorkling and swimming just before that, his long work hours were taking their toll on his aging body and he forgot he wasn't 21 anymore.
    Always had a giggle that the leader of our country drowned so we slapped up a pool to remind us how he popped his clogs, to remind kids why they should know how to swim and to (possibly) refute that Chinese submarine nonsense.
    We all know he turned into a whale and was beamed up by Scottie....

  2. Jayne,

    I think the whale thing is definitely what happened!

  3. very interesting info Dina -seriously I read this intrigued and on the edge of my seat.

    I never knew that about the child endowment ...or he was the father of twins.

  4. Trish,

    Thank you SO much. I'm glad to know you found it interesting.

  5. Thanks for the interesting summary of an interesting man's life.

    Just to correct/question Lord Wiki on something, I don't think Holt was ever Deputy Prime Minister. In 1956 that would have been Artie Fadden, the Country Party leader.

    Holt was probably deputy leader of the Liberal Party.

  6. Michael,

    Thanks for pointing out the mistake! I think it was more my mistake than Lord Wiki's. He said Holt was deputy leader, but I made the mistake and wrote it as Deputy Prime Minister. Sorry!

  7. All the way with LBJ!

    It would have been a very interesting turn in our country's history if Holt had survived to the next election.

    You could/should publish a book of Australian political biography using these posts. There's more in them than in most school textbooks.

  8. Dina, I didn't mean to be a pedant. Your summary was great.

  9. Retarius: Thanks : ) That would be a pretty crazy history book...well, especially if I kept all the astrology stuff in.

    Michael: No! I'm glad you pointed out the mistake. I hope not to make too many, but it's bound to happen sometime. I'd rather know the true facts about something than have a false sense that I'm perfect and always right.

  10. It is awful that he drowned - but I totally dig that the way Australia chose to honour him was by building a pool. That's funny!

    Also - did you see Charlie Wilson's War? I think that Harold Holt swum across to afghanistan developed an american accent and then had long talks with charlie wilson --- clearly.

  11. Deirdre,


    It IS pretty ironic about the pool!

    I didn't see the movie! I think my husband did. But I bet that IS what happened ; )

  12. Wow, so much reading to catch up on. Between you and Jayne, I learn so much more about Australia than I ever learned at school.

    The Harold Holt conspiracy is one that refuses to lie down and die (pardon the pun)

  13. Anja,

    Thanks : )

    Yeah. I think if a famous person disappears in the ocean--it's hard to stop talking about it.

    There are just too many fascinating plot line possibilities.

  14. Well, one thing's for sure, there'll never be a shortage of Elvis-like rumors and speculation for all eternity. "ZOMG, he was abducted by aliens! Faked his death! Alive and well and living in Michigan!" Mwahahaha!

  15. Tors,

    Don't knock the Michigan thing. I think that's EXACTLY what happened.

    We need to stop all this denial and face the TRUTH!!!!

  16. It'll be 50 years this December since Harold Holt died. My parents were courting at the time.

  17. Ross,

    Wow! Interesting. Did your parents ever talk about what happened...seeing it on the news?