Visions of Martin (Vaughn-) James
By Richard-Warren Strong, (c) copyright 2011
Visions of Martin Joyce
I read the article in Libération dated 9th July 2009: ‘Martin Vaughan-Joyce s’évade’. MVJ escapes. Martin Joyce ‘graphiste anglais’ dies at the age of 65. Born in 1943 in Bristol. Lived for many years in Brussels. Also stayed for long periods in London, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo. Well known for his ‘visual novels’, The Elephant (1970?) The Cage (1973) published in Toronto. Collaborated with a number of authors for book illustrations. Turned mainly to painting in the mid eighties but with a narrative context. Held exhibitions in France, Germany, Belgium, etc.
In the biographical notes it says very little about the time he had spent in Australia in the fifties and sixties, about ten years. Martin Vaughan-Joyce emigrated to Australia from England as a teenager with his family in the middle or late fifties. They lived in a remote suburb near Hornsby. After graduating from High School, Martin studied Graphic Arts at East Sydney Technical College, Darlinghurst in the same year as Martin Sharp (?) After completing the three-year course in late 1963, he did a Diploma of Education (Dip. Ed.) at Sydney University in 1964. Then he worked in Sydney as an art teacher for several years. Martin Vaughan-Joyce left Australia for Europe (and Canada) towards the end of the sixties. Then he went to Canada around 1970/71 and from there apparently returned to settle in Europe, living mainly in Brussels.
I saw Martin for the last time around Christmas of 1971/72. He was living in Paris with Frannie, his partner or wife from Sydney at the time. They lived near Place Monge in a two-roomed flat. I went to visit them once. I was living in Orleans with a teaching job at the University as ‘lecteur’. I have no idea how I had got Martin’s address or how we had come to know we were both living in Paris. Later that year Martin and Frannie went to back Canada apparently, and then in October I went for a trip to North Africa. So they left Paris and I returned later in January after they had left.
I had not seen Martin Joyce since I left Australia myself in May 1966. He must have left with Frannie about two years later around 1968. And then I lost touch with them both, as one does when changing addresses frequently. So I did not know where he was living or what he had been doing over the past forty years. He had shown me some of his drawings I think in a book, the ones that would become ‘The Cage’ or ‘The Elephant’ with the name Martin Vaughan-Joyce as author. But I knew him as just plain Martin Joyce. He was an art student, he sang folk songs, he played the guitar, and had also learnt to play the banjo. He was a friend of Jon de Z, the Dutchman. At this time 1971/72, Martin and Frannie were hooked on drugs I had that impression hard or soft, I don’t know which, maybe even heroine but I might just have had that impression only. They both looked sick, pale and sick. And Martin was very assertive about himself, very sure of his own talent and that might have irritated me a bit. And if he showed me this book, which he did that he had just published or was going to publish, I did not give it enough credit. But one’s memory plays funny tricks after 35 years or more. I can remember going to this place near rue Monge on the basis of a letter or a post card. Must have arranged this meeting by telephone or by an exchange of post cards or something like that. Maybe someone like Frances Evers had given me the address or else Martin wrote to me in Orleans but how would he have known my address there? Perhaps I was writing to Barbara Nelson at the time and this was how he got my address. Someone had told me that Martin was staying in Paris or someone had told Martin that I was staying in Paris. And I went to see him once, only once though in fact I was now settled for the year in Orleans with a job at the University.
And then we both lost touch completely. Though he was living in Brussels for many years, which is not far away. And if I had known this I could have gone to see him, once or twice at least. And the cultural attachée at the Aussie Embassy around 2001 mentioned some Australian expatriates who were living in Brussels. But Martin was not really an Australian expatriate, since he seems to have lost touch with Australia. I suppose his parents stayed living there in Sydney and his sister. I suppose he went back to see them now and then. Martin and Frannie had no children then in 1971/72. Or perhaps he never went back, had rejected Australia completely from then on. So it does not even appear in his biography or just as a very brief mention on one web site. Though obviously those years are critical, from about 15 to 25, the formative years. We did not have an argument, but we certainly disagreed on something, our relationship to Australia probably. By 1971/72 I wanted to go back to live in Australia. I had already spent five years in Europe.
I had met Martin Vaughan-Joyce in Sydney at some time in the winter of 1963. He was a friend of Jon de Z, the Dutchman who sang folk songs. Jon and Katleen his wife were living in a flat at McMahon’s Point. Jon studied at Sydney University, an Arts degree, evening classes. He also worked in a bank full time as a translater. He did the Arts degree at night, evening courses in three years straight, 1961, 1962, 1963. He was aged twenty-eight, with moustache, strict appearance, tall and lean. In 1962 he was a student in Pyschology II, and so was I. I remember getting off a bus one evening from the University to go to see Sonia at Kings Cross in mid 62. When I got off the bus at Park street Jon was following and approached me to start a conversation. Got off the bus and walked beside me and asked me some question to start talking. He was heading towards the train station. When I told him I was going to see my girlfriend who lived at Kings Cross, he invited us both to come and visit one day. I had already seen him on the suburban train going over the Harbour Bridge in the morning around 8.30 a.m. with his wife Katleen. And sitting in the Pyschology lectures. Then later he invited Sonia and I to his flat at McMahon’s Point.
In Pyschology II lectures I usually sat with a Libertarian girl, Jane Iliffe. Jon de Z came to sit in the row in front of us one evening. He had deliberately arranged this encounter with me, which I considered to be suspect. Jon de Z from La Haye, age 28, was about nine years older than me, a bank employee with moustache, sharp features, thin nose, thick Dutch accent. Why go to this trouble?
I don’t know how Jon had met Martin, when or where, but one of their common centres of interest was folk songs. Same for me. Jon was a trained classical musician. He had studied the trombone at the Conservatorium in La Haye. His wife Katleen was also a classical musician. But he also played jazz guitar, and made arrangements for songs by George Brassens (?) We shared our musical experiences over a cup of coffee or soft drinks on Saturday afternoons or was it Sunday? Jon did everything according to a strict time schedule and Saturday or Sunday afternoons was set aside for invitations to friends to come and play music from about 2 p.m. until midnight. We shared our musical experiences, songs and guitar picks. One day Jon invited Martin Joyce and at the same time he had invited Sonia and I.
To say it more briefly, Jon introduced us to Martin Vaughan-Joyce some time in 1963. Probably around the beginning of the year. At the end of 1963 there were some major domestic upheavals in Sydney. Katleen left Jon and went off to live in Brisbane with her latest lover, Sammy. Jon then rented a house in Glebe from a Hungarian called Mickey, a taxi driver and medical student, who had built a shed in the backyard for himself, and had another Hungarian lodger, Ben, a taxi driver, living permanently in one of the rooms in the main house. The green-painted house was made of weatherboard with a central corridor, two bedrooms on either side, and a kitchen and dining room at the rear. It still stands. Martin Vaughan-Joyce had finished his Art course and started a Dip Ed (Diploma of Education). Now aged twenty, he left his parents house at Waitara, the station after Hornsby, and rented a room in this green house in Glebe. Jon had a front room and a South African called Rocky occupied the other front room on the right. There was also a front verandah. Jon was also doing a Dip Ed and he chose as project to build some 12-string guitars. He set up a workshop in the house near the kitchen in the part that would have been a dining room area.
Early in 1964 I split up with Sonia and found another room in North Sydney, Wyagdon street. Ken and Dawn Burns left their house in Bourke street, East Sydney, and went off to Europe. So Sonia had to vacate the room she had been renting. Through the first half of 63 we had lived together in a small terraced house in Neutral Bay, Neutral street, rented for £6-10 per week. It had been occupied previously by Alain and Sacha, some other friends of Jon and Katleen who were splitting up. So we moved in there around February 1963. Sonia had vacated her room in Victoria street in 1962 around September/October and moved in with me at High street, number 61. It was just a small room, about 12 feet by 8, with a single bed, a small gas stove and a wash basin. On the Harbour Bridge in the early morning on the third trip with her stuff, books, clothes, pots and pans that we had lowered in sheets out of the window into the lane, Earl lane, my motorbike and sidecar came adrift; a big nut came loose and the bike fell sideways. We stopped and Sonia alerted the passings cars while I looked for this big nut, then tied a rope to secure the cycle and sidecar together at the upper link. She was doing a ‘midnight flit’, leaving without paying the rent, 19 shillings per week.
Back to the year 1964 and to Martin Vaughan-Joyce. I was doing the final year of a Science degree at Sydney University. Martin and Jon were doing a Diploma of Education course at Sydney University. They may have met while enrolling for the course. They both got jobs singing at the Folk Attic in Kings Cross in a large 4-roomed flat with no furniture just fluorescent lighting and walls painted black (?). Patrons had to sit on the floor. Folk singers sang for about an hour in one or other of those rooms. Soft drinks were available but no alcohol. Jon and Martin wore bowler hats as a gimmick. They both had motor scooters.
Around the same time in 1963 the Troubadour opened in Edgecliff. Jim Carter (name?) was the boss. Don Henderson did the carpentry. Sonia got a job there as waitress. I got a job there also as occasional dishwasher. We also sang there on one occasion, the Work of the Weavers, Droylesden Wakes, the Four-loomed weaver. “And now the kitchen staff…” said this guy James in his introduction. This was some time in the second half of 1963, we had left the house in Neutral Bay and got separate rooms; I had a 2-roomed attic near Bondi road. Declan Affley sang at the Troubadour. At the Folk Attic a girl called Margaret something (Roadnight?) was a big attraction. But the crowd was not as selective as at the Troubadour. Declan stayed in the kitchen and spoke with us frequently.
In the early months of 1964 I went from time to time to this house in Glebe to see Jon and Martin or to work on the guitars. At Easter I took Martin Joyce to Hill End on the back of my motorcycle. I had assembled a Norton 1934 International OHC 350cc bought in boxes. I bought it in mid 63 while living in Neutral street, then finished assembling it in Sonia’s room in East Sydney, Bourke street, in the latter part of 63. Then I put it through the registration tests. So this bike was now working. I sold my old Ariel 500 single to Don Henderson, he repaired it in his room. It had been stolen, damaged and then recovered by the police. Previously it had been run into while parked and also damaged. So it needed repairs. Don Henderson had rented a house nearby in Woolahra near Bondi road and Paul Marks came to stay there for a while in 1963, with (or without ?) his wife and her three children.
Martin took his guitar and we went to Hill End via Bathurst. We stayed in the hut of an old gold miner met in the local pub. He lived near a creeek and eeked a bare living by panning for gold. We sang a song he knew to the tune of ‘A thousand miles away’. The song was: ‘Take me back to Tambaroora in the rough and restless days, the … and bullock drays... Tambaroora that could lure a thousand diggers in a day… Take me back although the glory of the gold has passed away.’ Martin knew about this place because it was a favourite for the Art students at East Sydney Tec. While we were walking around the hills Martin fell down a hole in the ground about 3 metres deep. But he was not hurt by the fall and climbed out with my help.
We sang all through the afternoon Saturday/Sunday in the local pub and also played pool.. The local cop was in the pub not in uniform. The beer on tap was all froth, the barman had to pour out several glasses and wait for them to go back to liquid, lining them up on the counter, pouring from one glass to the next. We also went to visit an old guy who lived in an old wooden house. The place was a ghost town with less than a hundred permanent residents.
Martin and I also hitchhiked to Brisbane once to see Katleen and Sammy. We went up by the coast road and returned by the inland road, New England highway, stopping on the way down at the place where Tom O’Flynn had found a jade mine in New England (?) We stayed overnight at the house Tom shared with Robbie, a butch girl of about twenty. Tom was already aged about sixty. He was a retired sea captain. He showed us a piece of the jade. Said it would be developed with Japanese capital. This was in mid or late 64 and the Japanese were beginning to invest massively in Australia, nearly twenty years after the end of the war in the Pacific. We went through Surfer’s Paradise in the early hours of the morning having hitched through the previous day and night, leaving from Hornsby sometime in the afternoon. Went first to the house of Martin’s parents, also went to see John Firth-Smith, another friend of Martin’s.
For one reason or another Jon and I fell out at the end of 1964. Mickey, the Hungarian landlord, wanted his house back. Jon started to look for another house in Glebe. He soon found one but there would be no room for me in this house. Barbara was not in favour. At the time I was more or less living with Barbara Nelson and her daughter, Maria. I had rented a room nearby in Glebe but never actually stayed there. Barbara had the front downstairs room vacated earlier by Rocky, the South African. His girlfriend Rose Rankin came to Glebe one night, just around the time that Rocky was leaving to go back to South Africa. I took her back home to Roseville on my motorbike. We then began a relationship that lasted for a few months, but it ended on the night of the Art Students fancy dress Ball in September (?) at Paddington town hall. We all went; Rose was dressed as an angel, I was supposed to be a peasant with leather jerkin and fireman’s boots. At the ball, Rose got drunk and fell asleep. Before that she told me she wanted to go home with Jon. As Jon was carrying her outside into a taxi, a press reporter came up with a camera to take a photo. “Don’t take the photo,” I said. But he did take the photo. I grabbed his camera and threw it into the gutter.
Next day a small newspaper report said: ‘A photographer was threatened and his camera smashed in one the many incidents at the Art Students Ball in Paddington last night.’ There was no photo of Rose.
So Rose left me for Jon after the Art Students ball and soon after that I took up with Barbara Nelson, the other lodger along with Martin Joyce in the house at Glebe. While I was working on the twelve-string guitars she came into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. We talked a bit then I took her to Bondi Beach on my bike for a swim. Barbara was about twenty-five and she had a four year-old daughter, Maria. Paul Ellicott was her father but she didn’t know that yet. So I bought another motorbike to have transport for three people, a Harley Davidson WLA 750 cc with a sidecar. Barbara used to catch a taxi to work in the mornings before that.
At Christmas we went down to Melbourne for a long weekend on this bike and sidecar and stayed with Adrian Rawlins at his house in Jolimont. I had replaced the side car by a large box. Adrian Rawlins had rented a house with several empty rooms with no furniture in them, just piles of books on the floor.
Around the end of 1964 I rented another house in Paddington, Prospect street, Number 24. Martin Joyce had the front downstairs room, which he shared with Frannie, his new girlfriend. He built a mezzanine bed there. Barbara Nelson had the front upstairs room and I had the other smaller room facing the rear of the house. Maria had the upstairs verandah as a bedroom. The rent was £13 per week, which we shared three ways.
Martin had now finished his Dip Ed course and he had a job as an Art teacher somewhere in Sydney. He had bought a motor scooter the previous year. I stayed at this house in Paddington for only about five months until the end of the first term holidays then I went to live in a shed being built beside the carport at the rear of my mother’s house in Waverley. Throughout first term I was working full time as a mail sorter at the GPO in Martin Place. I was doing evening classes at the University, repeating Science III which I had failed the previous year, Maths, Physics. This year I did Maths and Pyschology.
At the 1964 Art Student’s Ball, Gabrielle’s wig fell off. We discovered that she was bald, because of some illness she said. Gabrielle from NZ was Martin’s girlfriend then, another Art student at East Sydney Tec. Later they separated and he took up with Frannie, a small fashion-conscious young woman who worked as clothing designer. Barbara Nelson had a number of queer friends who came around frequently to this house in Paddington. Also the cook Tony Batson came to the house and made a ‘bouillabaisse’ one day for Barbara Nelson. I separated from Barbara after a few months at Paddington because she was having affairs right and left.
Jon de Z had wanted to form a rock and roll band in 1964. He and Martin Joyce would play the electric guitar and I would play the bass. There was no drummer involved yet. Jon bought the electric guitars, so then I owed him the money. Though I soon got rid of the bass guitar; I was not interested by this project much. Finally Jon rented another house in Darlinghurst and Rose, now aged eighteen, left home and came to live with him.
I can also remember talking with Martin one Saturday afternoon in the street at Rushcutter’s Bay, shortly before I left Australia in May 1966. But I can’t remember much about what we were talking about. I was probably telling him that I would be leaving the country soon to go to Europe.
I suppose he told me that he was saving up to do the same thing.