55 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.

          • Hi Metan, The G.O. picked up a copy of The Last Paradise at the op shop for $2 yesterday even though he already has a copy, and thought you might like it. If so, email me at my gmail address with you address and I’ll post it to you 🙂 EllaDee

      • ….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 🙂

    • Tom was a very close friend of my family. My mum’s sister Kerry Newman and he, were very close for years! He loved the friendship he had with my Dad, “John Watt” snr, and my mum Carol. Tom treated Dad like a son, and they shared many fishing trips together and so on! To Tom I was known as little Johnny, and Tom would tell me many of his heroic stories, just like you read from his books! Tom remembered many things he did as a Croc hunter and Buffalo hunter, and the times he spent at Wewak/Papua New Guinea, on his Coffee plantation. I spent times with Tom myself, and when visiting him and Kerry in Port Moresby, I found many people treated Tom like a King. Prime Minister Michael Somari and many others would come around to Tom’s place to catch up with him, and they were all just plain old mates of Tom. William Holden “movie actor”, John Middleton at KarKar Island, radio Legend John Laws, just to name a few, who I had met myself thanks to being in the company of Tom Cole. I’m proud to have all his books, and an Hell West and Crooked Audio Tape, as well as a commemorative bottle of Port, I have his Leather Chair that was passed onto me, and my Late father “John Watt” snr, has his 504 Peugeot that Dad maintained for Tom for years, and it is still in Rego, still original, which now sits on carpet in my late fathers garage at Inverell, NSW, under the watchfull eye of my mother Carol. We had many family outings which included Tom and Kerry, such as cruising up the Hawkesbury River on Tom’s house Boat, and have a lot of things on Super 8 Movie film, which I dig out now and again to reminisce. Thanks for the lovely times we had during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
      Can go on forever about Tom, maybe because he is missed so dearly!
      Tom Cole OAM, may you Rest In Peace!
      Regards
      Johnny Watt– DEEPWATER NSW.

  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

  14. Have been reading these comments over the last 12 months for a short piece on Tom Cole. Great to read all the contributions and especially those from friends and relatives.

  15. Hi guys I was very lucky a few weeks ago. My next door neighbour was cleaning out some old books and told me i could have any i wanted. there in amongst them was this battered old paperback that looked like the pages would fall out at the slightest touch. Hep it was Hell West and Crooked. a copy of this particular edition is hard to come by so i found a short while later. the lastest edition held by the Miles, Qld library has no photos in it at all. This I’m sure would be a disappointment for many readers. My foster father lived in North West Queenland before i went to live with them, working across the Border into the NT. Harry Campbell used to tell us boys tales of places he’d been and things he had done in the 1930’s to 1949. Like the building of the homestead at Carrandotta station and travelling around the outback of Queensland and into the Northern Territory. Places like Lake Nash and Urandangi, Mt Isa, Brunette and Avon downs and of course Carrandotta were all names he mentioned.
    To go with the stories were a myriad of photographs of which the one that has always stuck in my memory was the Buffalo hunter leaning back on his horse, rifle levelled at a Buffalo charging at the rear of the horse. It was a wonderful large black and white photograph. There is a very similar if not the same photograph that I discovered in Tom Cole’s book “Hell, West and Crooked” that I read in 2016. Where Harry got that photograph and what has happened to it since i left as Harry and his wife have since passed away and all those photographs are gone. As for the book i just couldn’t put it down and often wondered had Harry met Tom Cole. During my army days i saw a lot of the NT and after reading the book i now refer to it as “Tom Cole Country” the distances are huge. a bloody long way to go if your on a horse.

  16. Just a Bit more on Tom from Trove
    Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), Saturday 27 March 1993, page 8

    Memories of another era

    THE LAST PARADISE. By Tom Cole. Angus & Robertson. 241pp. $14.95.

    CROCODILES AND OTHER CHAR

    ACTERS. By Tom Cole. Pan Macmillan. 156pp. $14.95.

    Reviewer: ROBERT WILLSON.

    IN THE Last Paradise Tom Cole

    . tells of the New Guinea patrol

    officer in charge of a labour gang of prisoners of the Crown.

    They had orders to fell timber and build an aerodrome. The oflicer split his men into several gangs, but the moment his back was turned the tree-felling squad slacked off.

    Suddenly he had an idea. A childhood accident had left him with a glass eye. He decided to make good use of it.

    He called the tree-felling squad together, paced out a fair day’s work and solemnly put his glass eye on a log in front of them. He told them he would be watching them and left them to it.

    The ploy produced results for a while. Then work again slowed to a crawl and he went to see why. One of the gang had carefully covered his glass eye with a sweat rag, allowing them to relax in the shade.

    As readers who have enjoyed’ Tom Cole’s earlier bestseller, Hell, West and Crooked, will know, he

    has had an adventurous life in the outback and his memories are richly entertaining. Like his friend, the late Ion Idriess, his writings are in the traditions of the Australian yarn.

    In The Last Paradise Cole describes how he went to New Guinea after World War II, purchased five tons of salt and 1000 rounds of ammunition and became the first professional crocodile shooter on the island. He risked his life again and again and encountered a cross-section of bizarre characters that Somerset Maugham would have delight

    ed to write about.

    While trying to raise his family he ran a coffee plantation. Tom Cole

    was willing to try anything, though he turned down a chance to have a part in Charles Chauvel’s film Jedda, because it did not fit his busy

    schedule.

    In Crocodiles and Other Characters Cole reprints a number of tales from his earlier experiences, previously published in Darwin in a small

    edition.

    Here are vivid tales of crocodile

    and buffalo hunting and a horrifying account of the infamous Coniston Station massacre of 1928.

    It would be easy to dismiss the writings of Tom Cole as monuments to an outdated gung-ho attitude to life, where a well-timed shot from a rifle solves every problem.

    It is inevitable that he will be described as a true-life Crocodile Dundee.

    His books are lively and entertaining and they help to preserve the memory of an era that is now part of Australian history.

    Above all, Tom Cole gives us a jolly good read.

  17. I’ve just finsished both books (Dec 2016-Jan 2017) and loved both reads 1. ‘Hell West and Crooked’ and ‘The Last Paradise’. A friend dropped them over – paperbbacks. I had never heard of Tom Cole even though I grew up on a property in Central West NSW and had contact with people who lived and worked in the NT and FNQ. The guy is a legend and has great recollections of event during the opening up on the NT and also the sequel when he ventured to Papua New Guinea to start the Croc Skin business. Definitely worth the read.

  18. How wonderful to find this page. I have been a great fan of Tom’s ever since I read ‘Hell West and Crooked’ several years ago. I love reading Australian history and about the people who opened up this land, and after meeting Tom is his book, I now look for references to Tom in other books I read. Until reading comments here I didn’t know Tom had other books published, so I am very happy that I will be able to read some more of Tom Coles adventures, Thankyou, Barry Hayward.

  19. Just further to my previous comment, I have just read that Tom is buried at Rock Hole Station. I just saw a picture of his grave and I am wondering why he is buried there, anyone know?

    • I have just returned to your stories about my uncle Tom Cole and was very interested to hear of a picture of his grave at Rock Hole Station. Could you please tell me where to find this picture.
      Very many thanks. John Cole

      • Hello John, seems I have the wrong Tom Cole, But I read a page from Griffith University about Rockhole Station, which was a German Missionary 1934 – 1939, that ” Rockhole became abode of some Kimberly characters, Tom Cole, first drover on the Canning Stock Route to Wiluna in the late 1920s” I then searched Tom Cole and Rockhole station and came up with ” Lonely graves of Western Australia, and there found a Thomas Cole buried on Rockhole station, with two pictures, and put 2 n 2 together, but now looking at the date on the headstone again, I see this Thomas Cole died 13 December, 1943, so it’s not your Uncle it seems, so I must say sorry for exciting you or upsetting you.

  20. Hi Barry, my Great grandfather is the Tom Cole buried at Rockhole Station. He preceded the Hell and High West ‘Tom Cole’. The family has covered similar ground through NSW, Qld, NT and WA in between 1900-1940s. They are no relation but remarkable people for what they did during there time.
    regards. Damien Cole

  21. This wouldn’t be the same Tom Cole I met in Wewak back in 1977?? I wonder….
    I was a young 24 year old at the time and had been transferred to Madang PNG from Christchurch in NZ to manage the local Madang branch office of Queensland Insurance (PNG) Ltd. My branch territory extended from Madang right through to Vanimo in the West Sepik province.
    Part of my role was to manage our relationships with our local agents, one of whom was a gentleman by the name of Tom Cole who was domiciled in Wewak.
    I made contact with Tom and arranged to meet him at the Windjammer Hotel on my next trip up that way. If memory serves me well he was quite a big man with bushy eyebrows. A very pleasant night ensued as we both drank copious amounts of alcohol over dinner. I wanted to know what he was doing to get more business on board for the company. Suffice to say not much new business occurred in the ensuring 3 months before my next visit to Wewak but that didn’t seem to really matter as I just enjoyed his company and tales of his life on the Sepik.
    I also recall that he may well of been a bookie as well, legal in PNG in those days…..he was a man larger than life itself and was a real gentleman.
    I’m still wondering if this man could be the same Tom Cole mentioned here?

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