AN INCIDENTAL SERIES ABOUT DAUGHTERS LOOKING AT THE COLLECTIONS CREATED BY THEIR PARENTS: #1: A nostalgic collection shared by his daughter, Judy Macdonald, ESA member and activist at the Nagambie Historical Society (thank you to Mimmo Cozzolino for taking these photographs)
Rolls of nibs
My father’s desk was the last thing I relinquished when we downsized. Although I had it for some 18 years after his passing, it still carried the evocative scent of newly sharpened pencils and new stationery. The drop-front desk revealed cubicles filled neatly with writing and sketching implements of all description, from chalk, pastels, and coloured pencils to pens, nibs and inks. Rolls of nibs in small metal canisters, sheets of nibs and a box of dozens of used nibs of all description. Erasers, small rulers, a treasured fountain pen. To open the desk was to visit him. Those contents are now in a special box.
Born Herbert Edward Clark in 1911 in London, he joined the British Army at 19, where he also joined the ranks of those nicknamed ‘Nobby’ Clark as, it is said, clerks were known as nobblers. Fittingly, he pursued clerical training while in the army, including shorthand, making that his forte throughout life. Though not trained as an artist, he was a skilled embellisher and many notes, letters and autograph books of the past bore his amusing character sketches, usually in pen and ink.
During the Second World War, he served overseas as a major, always in Supply. Landing at Juno Beach on D-Day +1, he was Mentioned in Despatches for distinguished service. By 1950 he was working at Australia House in London, and in 1951 he enlisted in the Australian Army. My parents and I arrived in Melbourne a week before Christmas in 1951.
In 1952 Bert was one of the founding members of the Watsonia Returned Services League and the inaugural secretary. They met for some years in the garage of our Watsonia home, before moving to another member’s egg room, in his chook shed. Finally, a tin shed was purchased from Watsonia Army Camp. As secretary, Bert often used his calligraphy skills to create posters and notices.
Hector the cat
By 1956, Bert had retired from military life, again as a Major, and began working for the then Department of Supply as a project officer on the ‘Jindivik’ pilotless aircraft. By 1962 he had joined the Department of Shipping and Transport as executive officer to the Australian motor vehicle standard committee. He then went on to become the executive officer, public relations, to the Australian Road Safety Council, producing their monthly newsletter, Report. His cartoons appeared in every issue, with a discreet HEC signature.
Transport Australia, No. 12, reported his retirement in 1976, finishing with, ‘He is known as the creator of the popular road safety cat family – Hector, Millie and kittens, stars of many films, television commercials, calendars and brochures, aimed at teaching road safety to children. As a public servant he was unable to seek acknowledgement, but when he ‘invented’ Hector the cat, he ensured his initials (from Herbert Edward Clark) were there for all to see.
Bert passed away in 2002, aged 91.
Hector replaced by native animals
According to the National Museum of Australia which holds the records of the Road Safety Council:
The gradual demise of Hector as the symbol identifying road safety began in the late 70s. A philosophical change took place in the Department of Transport on how road safety should be presented….This change coupled with the growing environmental awareness of the time eventually led to Hector becoming history. The new campaign now uses native Australian animals as the mascots for children’s road safety education. Cats, particularly feral ones are dangerous to the delicate native fauna, therefore, the continued promotion of Hector in light of this information was unpopular and was discontinued.
Editor’s comment: was this a wise choice given the roadkill we see on the roadside, and the relatively few squashed cats?
This article was first published in the January 2023 #17 issue of Ephemera news. We have been able to show you more images and full colour here.
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