43 comments on “Tom Cole. Buffalo hunter or superhero? 1938.

  1. OMG! You found him! Oh this man is superhero material, no doubt about it. And if he did end up writing that book then he is a true all rounder. I’m going to pretend that all his gramaphone records were of opera and that he died at the age of er…over 100 surrounded by music, a score of great, great grandkids and the lowing of all those cattle.

  2. It seems the old maxim is true that you can’t keep a good man down. This fellow seems to be made of rubber and keeps bouncing back. Thanks for letting us know he survived the first adventure you posted.
    BTW, Remind me to get my glasses changed again since I could have sworn acflory wrote, and the LOVING of all those cattle.!!!!!

  3. Okay. 1) Clearly Tom didn’t understand what the saddles were for if his horse was able to abuse him that thoroughly. And 2) Hemingway absolutely created this guy. Well…either Hemingway or Cormac McCarthy. I’m not sure which, and I’m not sure how, but an author has officially created a character too awesome to be confined to the page – a literary Chuck Norris. And, if it was McCarthy, he did it at the age of five, so…yeah. That guy is hard core.

    • I am dying to get hold of his book! There are so many old stories of blokes like this. God we are soft now, aren’t we? The worst thing that happens to most people in their working day is when their computer crashes or the coffee machine goes on the blink….

      He does look a little Chuck Norris-y on the cover of that book doesn’t he? Men really were men back in those days :)

  4. I’m reading Hell West and Crooked and have just ordered The Last Paradise, about his time in PNG (crocodiles, coffee and cannibals!). He’s also written a couple of other books. If it wasn’t for the internet I would never have heard of this amazing author.

    For an interesting insight into the history of Australia’s mining industry, WS Robinson, If I Remember Rightly is a really good read. He was invaluable to Churchill during WWII.

    http://www.scotch.vic.edu.au/gscot/10sepgs/69.htm

    • Isn’t the internet an amazing thing for research? The things I have found from the comfort of my couch! Although it does make me wonder what kinds of books future generations wil be reading about the pioneers of today. How many of their tales will be about actual hard times? I guess they will be more about the pitfalls of social media, cutthroat meetings and boardroom coups! ;)

      So glad to hear that you are reading Hell West and Crooked, you have reminded me to put it on my xmas list. What an interesting life Tom Cole lived.

      W. S. Robinson sounds like quite a man, I will have to look up more about him. Thanks for the link, and thanks for commenting!

  5. Pingback: The Tom Cole collection. Well, the bits I have found anyway….. « Buried words and Bushwa.

  6. Very pleased to say Tom Cole was my uncle and I had the very good fortune to know him well.
    My wife typed some of his diaries for one of the books when he was with us in the UK and every diary needed more than a little “editing” for real you would not believe.
    He was just as you read about him but many times over.
    We took him on the London Brighton car run one november in a 1903 Panhard.
    He started on the Rum in Hyde Park at 8am and finished in Brighton late afternoon some bottles later…….. sober.
    Somebody once called him an Australian John Wayne ok except Uncle Tom was real very real.
    Some years ago now my Dad,his brother, went on a trip around the Northern territories with him for a few weeks.
    I thought my Dad was tough but the stories he came back with were incredible, unrepeatable
    I could go on for ever and never bore.
    The Aussie government have to be missing out on a good publicity for their country.
    Where is their hollywood? Crocodile Dundee by comparison, no chance as Tom was real very real.

    very real

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am always pleased to hear from people who are related to the interesting characters I have written about.
      Your comment is even more welcome as it stirred me to pull out my kindle and check to see if Hell West and Crooked is available as an ebook yet. Yippee! It became available at the start of this month and this much-awaited book was immediately sucked into my kindle. Please thank your wife in advance for her ‘editing’ skills. :)

      Tom sounds like an amazingly interesting person. I can imagine that spending time travelling in the bush with him would have been something your dad would never have forgotten (and may well have been lucky to survive!) and, knowing what hard drinkers some of those bushies are, I can believe your rum run with him would have been the stuff of legends too!

      To my eternal disappointment I never found any more articles about how his trip went with the ballroom-dancing barber, Samuel Delaney, though. That could have been a book on its own I’m sure.

      I guess after Crocodile Dundee there aren’t movies made about people like that. That particular movie took a type of bloke that is quite real and made it a caricature.
      The Australian film industry isn’t a big budget thing so any movie that could be seen as re-doing that idea is unlikely to be made.
      A documentary about Tom though, that has a chance. Maybe you should pitch an idea to the grant department of the Australian Film Comission! Retracing the steps of an iconic family member, a paid holiday shadowed by a film crew…. ;)

      • Very nice to hear from you so quickly.
        I can highly recomment his book “The Last Paradise” as it’s a book you just cannot put down even if you had never heard of Tom. Your imagination just runs wild from story to story.
        On several visits to our local pub in Devon his stories and bushman songs,mostly unrepeatable, were showstoppers and always pulled a crowd.
        Very funny but not for the faint hearted!
        My wife was pleased to help Tom at the time to get some of his diaries “on paper” but was not involved in editing.
        Hope you enjoy the book.

        • Aaah, the pub, apart from the bush it was probably Tom’s native environment. :)

          I am looking forward to reading the book but think I will save it for the next time we go camping, reading it by the campfire is probably the best way to do it justice, even if it is on a kindle. Thank you for the other book recommendation, I will add that to my ‘to-buy list’.

          You have inspired me to look for more articles about him now, and I will have to do a blog post mentioning that Hell West and Crooked is available for the kindle, I know there will be a few interested Tom Cole fans out there.

      • ….knowing what hard drinkers some of those bushies are…

        One of my father’s acquaintencess when he was in the NT in the 20′ and 30’s was, over the years, convicted 7 times for drunkenness, and another an extraordinary 30 times.

        One can only imagine what life was like up there in those exciting but difficult times.

      • Tom Cole was my Godfather. I lived in Papua New Guinea from 1966 onwards and first met Tom in Madang. My mother and I lived with him in Wewak where he had a coffee factory where my friends and I played in the coffee husks after school. I remember the natives coming with their sacks of coffee to be weighed and paid…some of them would sneak in rocks to try and get more money…Tom was no fool! My mother Kerry Newman used to go out on some of the crocodile expeditions along the Sepik River at night time as that was the best time to go crocodile hunting so you could see their eyes with the use of torches. Tom paid for my schooling in Australia at St Hilda’s Boarding School and also for braces for my teeth! My husband was also luck enough to meet my Godfather in 1992 when we married and we were on our honeymoon. Tom had the best laugh and greatest sense of humour. A factoid….he never used toothpaste however cleaned his teeth twice a day and always carried around a wallet full of minted toothpicks…. He wrote to me every week at Boarding School and often sent me pocket money. I loved reading his letters as my own Mother hardly wore any letters. We had a sausage dog called Blacky who used to jump in the back of the truck. Sometimes Tom would forget that Blacky hadn’t jumped into the back of the truck and so Blacky would often be seen running after the truck from home to the coffee factory…a trip of about 7 miles. Once, I remember Tom throwing his golf clubs in the back of the truck and Mum and I following him home…we ad to keep stopping as the clubs kept on flying out of the truck…by the time we got home he went to get his empty golf bag out of the truck totally baffled as to where his clubs had disappeared to….we did laugh about this story for many years. He also had a great singing voice and used to sing to us all the time especially after a few Clarets. Tom bought me a pogo stick one birthday and said when I can bounce a hundred times without falling off he would give me $20.00 which was a lot of money…I did it and he kept to his word. One last thing, Tom introduced me to oysters when I was just 6 years old which I loved…he thought it was hilarious that I loved oysters and when we went out for dinner he would always order oysters for me. Tom was the kindest, most generous and loving Godfather that I was lucky enough to know and love in my life and I miss him every day. Tina Jost (nee Newman)

    • I believe that I am the great niece of Tom Cole and he was my grandad’s brother. His name was Leonard Edward Cole. I have lived in Brisbane for the past 52 years along with my siblings and their families. I am doing my family tree. I am in contact with the Cole family in England. Christine McGregor daughter of Terence William Cole born 1931.

    • Hello, I may be way too late to be entering this conversation, but I thought I would try! Tom Cole was my great uncle, the brother of my grandmother on my Dad’s side. John, that makes us related, too! I have two of Tom’s books, but Nanny had another which I borrowed and read. I’m hoping you get an email notification when a reply is posted :-)

  7. Just read your comments John [and Metan] and I’m definitely a Tom Cole fan! Off to Amazon right now before I forget, but please come back and visit us again John! And thanks Metan. Love this. :)

      • Absolutely. :) It’s weird but since you wrote that first post about Tom, he’s felt like the quintessential aussie bloke. lol And someone I have half a crush on!

        • I’m so pleased to be able to tell you more about uncle Tom and you would be joining a long line of beautiful girls to admire him.
          Everywhere we went and every room we entered heads would turn especially the girls!!.
          He was a very big bloke in every way and his presence was special, always with a smile and a joke even with complete strangers who very soon were friends.
          A generous man who never had to buy many drinks!!

          • -grin- I haven’t been called a girl for many years John [I’m 60] but it’s nice to know I’m in good company.

            I can well believe Tom would have been very charismatic. Just the few titbits Metan dug up were enough to fire my imagination. :)

          • I remember being with my mother Keryy Newman, and Tom Cole and we had dinner with John Wayne and Stephanie Powers in Port Moresby…what a great night that was! Txxx

  8. After this post I added Last Paradise to the G.O.’s collection. Tom Cole would make a great subject for a documentary… maybe someone needs to suggest it to Russell Crowe :)

    • Hmmmm… I dunno, Russell Crowe? I guess he could throw the portable gramophone when he has a tantrum if there aren’t any phones to hand. ;)

      A proper documentary made about someone like Tom would certainly go some way to reversing the stereotype of Crocodile Dundee that’s for sure.

    • He does sound like a fascinating man, I am really pleased to hear that you enjoyed his books enough to take them home with you. Thanks for leaving a comment. :)

  9. I,ve just read this amazing blokes book,Hell west,and reckon Crocodile dundee could no way keep up with Tom Cole! I live in rural Darwin and relish going out to the areas where Tom has mentioned shooting buff and crocs,horse breaking,etc. I have the luxury of bitumen roads and airconditioning in my 4wd. To read how he travelled this amazing, unforgiving country and to be the success he was laeves me in awe. The words i would use to decribe Tom would be simply” a bloody deadset ledgend” even if he was a pom! ha ha .Why we havnt heard more on this pioneer is beyond me. My Dad gave me a copy 7 days ago and i could not put it down until i had read,then re-read it. You have true aussie grit in your veins, John Cole, and should be as proud as punch. Cheers.

    • ‘A bloody deadset legend’ is probably a very good description of him! I’m sure there are many other interesting tales from him we will never hear of, and other bushies who had equally amazing lives and whose fame never went further than their own area. A real pity isn’t it.

      When we think of the hardships the blokes of the bush went through it really shows how used to comfort we are these days doesn’t it? Our comfy 4wds and nice tracks and roads make travelling through the bush barely an effort! Funny how times change isn’t it? What they saw as hardship back then would probably have been something their elders laughed at with a “when I was young….” tale.

      A few towns away there is a place called Starvation Creek, the gold was plentiful, the food not so much. The miners were starving to death because they were too far from supplies and couldn’t bear to drag themselves away to get any. Now there is a town with more cafes than it knows what to do with(and a small supermarket) a short trip away.
      What will the tales of hardship be in a few generations time? That single overcast day when the weather control satellite was down for maintenance? ;)

  10. Have all his books and each as good a read as the others, tho HWaC stands out. Funny…I’m a Sydney boy and he spent years living in a suburb not far from me. Then I was once yapping with a young girl working in an old person’s home and discovered Tom Cole was one of the ‘patients’. Small world. I wrote Tom Cole a letter not long after reading Hell West in the 80s telling him what a great read the book is. I received a response from one of his daughters which thrilled me no end. She said she read the letter to her father cos at that stage, unfortunately, Tom was blind. Another coincidence…she lived in a street I drove passed every day to and from my work!! I have been to the Wildman River….reached by driving over bitumen in a little 4 cylinder car. Its just not the same as his day. As he was ageing, one of his best lines was that he never bought green bananas, not being sure if he was to be around by the time they ripened!! Every bushie I have spoken to has read his book. But it is a shame that he is not better known within Australia. Unfortunately, today many people within Aust do not identify with the bush. We are losing that association, the very essence that intially gave Aust its appeal as the country became better known internationally, largely as a result of Crocodile Dundee, Steve Irwin and the Sydney Olympics. Tom Cole was real and deserves recognition, especially within Aust, as an icon to reconnect European Australians with their recent heritage. Perhaps in this day and age this could only be achieved thru the provision of some kind of ‘app’. Yes, that was meant to be sarcastic!!

  11. The Northern Standard, Darwin printed the following on 2 December 1938 announcing the end of the buffalo season:

    “The Maroubra arrived back from the Alligator Rivers trips on Tuesday evening, bringing in some 900 buffalo hides, the last for the season. Passengers to reach Darwin by the vessel included Mr. Tom Cole, Mrs. Sawdy, and Harry Stewart, all engaged in the hide industry.”

    Harry Stewart was my father. He lived in the NT from around 1925 until the end of the war in 1945 working variously as a miner, dingo trapper and as a buffalo and crocodile shooter. From the above article he knew Tom Cole.

    My father had many extraordinary experiences while in the NT. One significant event was an incident that involved the shooting and killing of three people and the wounding of another at a buffalo hunting campsite located on the Mary River in June 1934. The incident was widely reported at the time nationally in the press with headlines sensationally (and incorrectly) announcing “Aboriginal Runs Amok”, “Madman with Shotgun” and “Sequel to Wild Corroboree”.

    My father was one of the six people in the camp and he was very lucky to have survived. One of the five shots whistled within inches of my father, went through and killed his dog and finally entered his girlfriend Ruby who called out “I been get shot”. Ruby was taken to the nearest railway siding and put on the train to Darwin for treatment. My farther went with the police search party to look for the perpetrator, who was captured about two weeks later and taken to Darwin. Ruby died two days later.

    The Northern Territory in the 1930’s was indeed Australia’s wild west.

    My father has long since gone. I moved to Sydney and have lived here for over 35 years – in the suburb of Maroubra – the same name as that coastal vessell that Tom Cole and my father were on together all those years ago. What an odd coincidence.

  12. Tom Cole’s Hell West and Crooked is a very good read by a verygood story teller who had a very good story to tell.

    For those who might like to see and hear Tom these can be purchased:

    1. Tom Cole interviewed by Heather Rusden. National Library of Australia. 1993 July 5-8 6 sound tape reels (ca. 172 min.) ; 7 in.

    2. ‘Something of the Times’ Video CD. The Story of aboriginal and buffalo hunters in the remote wetlands of the Northern Territory in the 1930s. Ronin Fils http://www.roninfilms.com.au

    I have no commercial interest in any of it but it might be of interest to some.

  13. Ye L lived in Darwin for forty Years new all the country around Darwin that tom was active in I have the book hell west and crooked the man was areal legend jim scott now live sabah malaysia

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