Sid’s Story
The Life of Sid Hawks - Seafarer, Storekeeper And Adventurer


Precursor
This material was originally prepared as a personal memoire for Sid and his family.
It was then used as the basis for the eulogy I presented at Sid’s funeral. Since then a number of people have asked for a copy, so I have tidied it up a bit and added a few footnotes. From time to time additional material that comes to hand is inserted. I hope though it remains the story that Sid wanted to tell his family.

Cedric James Charles Hawks was born in 1907 at Belfast, Ireland; he died aged 97 in 2004 at Darwin, Australia.

Sid’s birth certificate states that he was born at Holywood; actually the Palace Barracks, Holywood in Belfast – Holywood was an appropriate birth-place because his life was the sort of adventure about which movies are made. He lived and worked in exotic places, survived wars and cyclones, ran away with someone from the circus, encountered smugglers and pirates, was a Territory pioneer and married a foreign princess.

After spending much of his childhood in Malta and China, Sid entered an apprenticeship with the ship builders Harland & Wolff after which he signed on as ship’s engineer with the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line. After some years at sea he may have worked for several years as an engineer at mines in Wiluna and Mt Isa prior to living in Sydney where, at the start of the WW2, he joined the RAAF. Following the war he and his first wife, Thelma, operated a small clothing factory in Brisbane before he briefly returned to sea prior to moving to the Northern Territory to open a store and trucking business at Top Springs. A decade later he moved his trucking business to Darwin and then went back to sea operating a series of small coastal ships. During this seafaring period he married Thien, was a partner in the attempted salvage of a Japanese submarine, successfully salvaged then operated a thirty-metre ship, got caught up in the Indonesian take-over of East Timor, and encountered the Mr Asia drug-running syndicate. Christmas 1974 was significant, not only because of Cyclone Tracy but also for the birth of his son James following the evacuation of his wife Thein to central Victoria. For the last few decades of his life he and his family lived in Darwin leading a relatively quiet but busy lifestyle.

I met Sid in the early 1970s when he his wife were living with my parents in Darwin; I was fascinated by the stories that Sid would sometimes share. Despite the encouragement of his family and friends, Sid was reluctant to write his memoirs but did agree to record them with me in the late 1980s – on the proviso that they not be publicly available until he had died. The following story of Sid’s life has been collated and lightly edited from his own words; gathered during my many hours of recorded interviews. This publication concentrates on Sid’s stories involving his life, and thus does not include all that he recorded. Sid was in his eighties at the time of our recording sessions and thus some factual errors could be expected; in our sessions he sometimes repeated topics in greater or less detail, but he never gave conflicting information. I have sourced additional information to better understand Sid’s commentary, and met with some of the other participants, such as Johnny Chadderton and Geoff Batchelor, to clarify or provide further information. I suspect there are some recollections where Sid has taken general information and made it his own. Although I have endeavoured to clarify and verify elements of his story, it was not my intention to write an history book or seek redress from people for whom he has made comment. Put simply, it is Sid’s Story as he liked to tell it!

Without Sid and Thien (who died at Darwin in March 2014) this story could not have been told. Without material from a variety of people the explanatory footnotes would not have been possible. Without the support and assistance given to me by the Northern Territory Oral History program - for the recording equipment and transcription of the recordings - this story would not have been told.

Ruary Bucknall

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