Frederic Slater-Hero or Villain?
Reclaiming the Standing Stone’s Heritage
By Steven & Evan Strong
Special Thanks to Richard Patterson & Erik Bower
During recent times quite a few commentators have gone to considerable lengths to cast doubt, and often ridicule, when assessing the credentials and sanity of Frederic Slater. The general consensus amongst the many later-day critics is that Slater was at best deluded, unqualified and more than likely ‘off with the fairies.’ Due to his many shortcomings, it has been decided his inadequacies immediately disqualify any claims made in relation to the Standing Stones Complex.
Until March of 2017 Slater had spent 75 years suspended in total anonymity outside all avenues of mainstream press and official channels, his work and actual existence in every academic arena was censored and if it wasn’t for an invitation we knew was laden with second agendas, it would have stayed that way. From the first time the feature writer for the Brisbane Courier Mail contacted us, I immediately made it clear that our scepticism metre was running on overdrive. Despite his repeated assurances that the sacred mound would be revered and respected in the article he intended to write, we never let go of the real concern this was a very conservative paper covering an incredibly radical sacred site and advocate in the 1930’s. The content was so left-of-centre and this outlet of mainstream press was so far to the right there didn’t seem to be any middle-ground.
There was every conceivable reason demanding no further contact balanced against only one directive that insisted we agree without equivocation. When given my first ceremony by Karno and the Ramindjeri, it was made clear we had to convince using empirical evidence and logic and our primary target audience was to be those most resistant. Whether the scientists, mainstream press or even politicians, our anointed brief was constant in trying time after time to breach the wall. So we agreed to meet and in keeping with our misgivings the first issue raised by us related to why they were so supportive. Their responses sounded reassuring, but there was a hollow ring to every guarantee. Irrespective of individual dispositions, both reporter and cameraman were employees subservient to the Courier Mail’s philosophy of ridiculing anything that deviates from their brand of right-wing conformity.
The Final Word
Apparently the five thousand word feature article did come out in March, but as we live over two hundred kilometres south of Brisbane and would never waste money buying a newspaper of such poor reputation and sensationalist intentions, we knew nothing of its release until mid-November and I still haven’t read it (Evan certainly has). We had assumed if it did get published, which was never really a realistic possibility if so sympathetic, the journalist would have told us in advance. But that of course, was an assumption based on what we were earnestly promised when face to face. What did get printed was basically a poorly researched denigration of Frederic Slater’s archaeology, reputation and faculties.
Talk about never speaking ill of the dead, that was the first casualty of this crass piece of journalism where Slater was insulted and scoffed at as if somewhat deranged and fully self-obsessed wallowing in a world of fantasy inspired by an inflated ego. The mounds were cavalierly dismissed as non-Original and utterly natural with no mention made of the presence and removal of 184 Standing Stones, of which many weighed tonnes. It was all a matter of the whole sad incident is down to the ramblings of a deluded man who had lost touch with reality and his family’s respect.
From that proclamation through one publication in the tabloid press it seems the Standing Stone’s reputation and validity sits solely on Slater’s exposed inadequacies. By proxy and occupancy, the Courier Mail has now become the judge, jury and executioner of Slater’s research and moral character, and he has been declared guilty as charged. The family members who spoke so poorly of him in their recollections, with the exception of his 92-year-old son, never actually saw him breathing and upright (nor did they read his letters), as he has been dead for seventy-five years. Moreover, using family members as archaeological authorities able to determine his standing or the veracity of his investigations is only one side of any story, and often fraught with ignorance, jealousy and family disputes. I can assure the reader that most of my extended family either have no idea what we researching, or at best very little knowledge of our work and have no right to pass any judgment. Equally, quoting the one academic that has often spoken publicly questioning virtually every site and paper we have presented for years, and finds our work so shoddy he is using our research as the base for his next doctorate on ‘pseudo-archaeology,’ is the easiest way to distract with smoke and mirrors.
Since that publication the Sunday Courier Mail feature article has been cited by our critics as the authority on Slater and reason why our claims in support of this brilliant bold academic are so ludicrous. The problem is that the journalist involved, opposing academic, family members contacted and critics who have attacked us through referencing the Courier Mail lack one fundamental quality, familiarity. The first step in any serious investigation is to be at least familiar with the topic/person/issue under discussion. None of these people have read his twenty-one letters on the Standing Stones Complex, nor have they stood upon the mound or nearby surrounds, not one of these sceptics has spoken to any Original Elder or Custodian knowledgeable in Standing Stones Lore or history and neither are any of these critics aware of his academic papers nor the many articles written about his activities in the Australian national press. Lacking in any of these four elementary pre-requisites, it still beggars belief that with no knowledge of virtually anything beyond family gossip and an academic with a personal crusade of blanket denial, Slater’s reputation has been trashed.
If any of those who deny had burrowed a little further than a quick scan of University records, they would have no choice to do as we did and look harder and with an open disposition. Undeniably, a cursory scan of University records seem to come up with no acknowledge of Slater, but it depends how much effort is put in, and where else there is to look. Colleague, Erik Bower, also came up short when scanning through official records. Undeterred, and knowing Slater was espousing some extremely radical observations and interpretations that would unsettle many, Erik left the University records and libraries and looked deeper into the micro-fiche records of newspapers before the Second World War kept in State Libraries.
Article by article, all in the major newspapers of state capital cities, Slater’s name appears, and always in respectful terms and setting. Whether it be the enthusiastic response to the reading of his paper in the 1939 Science Congress, his solving the riddle of interpreting Original symbols at the Maroota rock-platform that have confounded experts for decades, in a matter of minutes, or the acceptance for publication in England for a book on the First Language as found on the Standing Stones Complex, there is no sarcasm, derision or denigration shown. It is always positive in print in the late 30’s whenever Slater is mentioned.
If not for the letters from Slater found by Richard Patterson, Erik would have no reason to look anywhere and the position and importance of the two Mounds, Standing Stones and ten acres of stone arrangements would still be hidden or forgotten. The letters are seminal, even newspaper reports can be selective and it could be that the reason the journalists did not see through the charade Slater now stands accused of, is that they were neither as cynical nor educated as the critics of today. The letters came from a different place and are not written to pretend, pose or impress, they are personal responses and interpretations supplied to his on-site assistant working on the mounds and surrounds. The gentleman volunteering a lot of personal free time, Fred Fordham, was the local headmaster and at that time, a pillar of society. Someone that highly respected would hardly waste his valuable time obeying the whims of deluded fantasiser, and as such, the content Slater provided was not meant to impress or sway the gullible, but simply explain to an educated man what, why and who. Slater was responding to an array of symbols and marks on these rocks and the way they were arranged as described by Fordham.
Frederic Slater, President of the Australian Archaeology and Research Society
The Courier Mail made light of this posting, claiming it an inconsequential fringe group, as there were only ten members. If such a group was formed today a membership of ten would be a disappointment, but if such a gathering met eighty years earlier any roll up that breached double figures would be considered a huge success.
Up until the 1930’s meaningful archaeology in Australia is spasmodic and without direction, it is only around the time of Slater do names like Elkin, Berndht and Berndht, Basedow and others rise to prominence. Elkin was appointed to be the first Professor of Anthropology at Sydney University in 1939. Before that post there was no Anthropology faculty at what was arguably the top university in Australia, which only highlights the lack of pay or employment prospects on offer during Slater’s tenure as the president of this small band of dedicated people who listed their occupation as archaeologist.
Let’s just assume that the critics are right and Slater was an upstart with little formal training and those attending were cronies led by Slater’s ego and lack of expertise. We believe that as long as this man could breathe, read and cobble together a few cohesive thoughts on paper, those basic qualifications were more than ample for the task at hand. The recurring truth in this exchange was that all he had to do was simply mix and match, as Slater already had the answers before Fordham sent him his first report full of questions and symbols.
Facts, Dates, Archaeology and Colleagues
An interview with Slater, published in the The Mail (Adelaide, SA : Saturday 23 October 1937, page 6), provides very specific details as to how Slater was able to accurately interpret this extremely ancient formal Original script. Eliza Dunlop was the wife of the first magistrate of the Wollumbi region, and for reasons never stated, developed an extremely close and deep relationship with the local Original people during the 1830’s. She was known for her strident support for justice in the Myall Creek trial and her admiration for Original songs and poetry, of which she translated. Such was the empathy shown, Elders decided to share with her the structure and content of the First Language, which she recorded. That same ‘dictionary’ of symbols, stone arrangements, hand signs and script was presented to Slater close to one hundred years later.
“Mrs Dunlop took a great interest in the welfare and folk-lore of the Aboriginals in her husband’s charge, and was one of the few people to appreciate the literary worth of Aboriginal songs and poetry. She won the confidence of the Aboriginal elders, particularly the chief Boni, and transliterated some of the verse of the poet Wullati into English. The poem ‘Nung Ngnun’ was much praised and widely published. She also wrote on Aboriginal themes.” (1)
Once in his possession all he had to do was find the symbol in her book that matched what was on site and the rest was so easy. No degree or deep level of knowledge is needed to complete such a simple task, outside being honest and bearing good intentions nothing else is required outside a pen in hand.
However, it becomes obvious once reading the many excerpts Erik copied from the micro-fiche records, Slater was not only very fortunate to be presented this invaluable record of the first Language, he deserved the right to be given such an opportunity. The Sydney Morning Herald (Saturday, January 23, 1937 page 14) not acknowledges Slater’s expertise but also list those eminent archaeologists who were working with Slater. He is acknowledged as a “translator of the aboriginal (sic) writings on the rocks, as revealed by the colossal picturegrams at the Wollumbi,” but more importantly this claim is not the result of flights of fancy or ego out of control. Slater himself was “pleased with the publicity that has been given to the paper read before the Science Congress.”
What is exceptionally revealing is the proviso he added to the personal positive reception that led to him being “pleased with the publicity,” was hedged by the need to acknowledge others who worked with and assisted Slater. “I think, however, that credit is due to the explorers who did the field work and was discovered by them and sent the drawings to me to elucidate.” Slater went on to nominate three of his colleagues of the highest degree who sought him out to decipher what they were incapable of interpreting. “It is more than a year ago that the first picturegrams was discovered by a party led by Mr. W. J. Enright, solicitor, of Maitland, former president of the Anthropological Society of Sydney, and well known for his work in collaboration with other scientists. With him was Mr. Roy H. Goddard, chartered accountant, an authority on Australian aboriginal (sic) artifacts, who did the drawings from which the translations have been made. Mr. Goddard is one of the delegates of the Sydney Anthropological Society at the Science Conference. The other member of the party was Mr. Carlyle Greenwell, an architect of Sydney, who is at present in London.” And for any inclined to dismiss the joint participation of these eminent people as low level members, Goddard was the treasurer of the Anthropological Society from 1930 until the outbreak of war.
What is repeatedly obvious in this report was how openly Slater praised others for their contributions, which runs counter to the present-day allegations of a rampant deluded ego. “I submit that the work of these explorers-archaeologists is the proper word-has brought to light confirmation of the origin of our native race.” What was even more revealing was how common was the connection in so much archaeology investigated to ancient Egypt, and more importantly, the positive coverage received in the press. Slater was adamant that “the discovery of what are apparently Egyptian hieroglyphs on the rocks” was made by “our natives” who are “survivors of the original race.” Such notions were not in any mainstream account, but even so, such was Slater’s reputation it was reported without doubt or derision.
For any critic still unwilling to acknowledge Slater’s standing and respect citing a lack of academic papers of high standing, that allegation has also been proved false. Yes he was heavily censored in academic circles, but what is a recurring constant when hiding the truth is that mistakes are still made, even if it is through the back-door. All papers written by Slater are now gone, but he did co-write one paper with Goddard and the most likely reason it was missed is that the paper’s authors are listed alphabetically with Goddard’s name placed first. The paper they compiled is focused on an extremely important sacred and historical site called Burragurra. Goddard’s role was to introduce the site and its geographical setting, he made no attempt to present or interpret what was engraved as it was beyond his capacities, that task was Slater’s alone.
What is as fascinating as it is revealing is the scope of this blanket censorship of Slater’s work and words. Even though the paper is available we suggest this is an oversight, as it was reviewed and determined to be entirely unsatisfactory for academic consumption. There is an official stamp of disapproval on the cover page, noting that the paper had been cancelled, but the real clue is which department deemed it unsatisfactory for academic or public consumption: the Department of Medicine and Tropical Diseases (Sydney University). This shows the paucity of professional archaeologists to consult in that such an obviously unrelated faculty could ever pass judgment on an issue of which they have no knowledge, and equally, none of his peers or colleagues were partners in this brazen attempt to hide another Original truth.
Goddard, R. H & Slater, F. (Frederic) (1937). Burragurra or Devil’s Rock : an aboriginal burial ground in the Wollombi district & Interpretation of The Drawings at Burragarra and Yango. Auckland Meeting: 14th January, 1937.
One Step too far
The only question that will probably never be answered was the reason why Slater fell so far and was subject to so much official obstruction. It is clear that until the Burrugurra site and the evolving interpretations of the Standing Stones Complex, his work was at the worst tolerated and perhaps tacitly approved. But by the end of 1939, and certainly after the Standing Stones Site was destroyed, his career was in tatters and his reputation was destroyed. There is no overt statement of cause and effect in his personal correspondence, but there are clues. When he opened one letter bemoaning that he had “shipped a sea of troubles”(2) and provided Fordham a list of universities and museums unworthy of trust, it became very clear the authorities had turned against him. That much is undeniable, but as to why, there are what we feel are strong indications he went one step too far.
When Slater reminded any willing to listen that “it is not the first time that Egyptian hieroglyphics have been noted in connection with our aboriginals,”(3) he was doing no more than stating a common belief held by many archaeologists of the time. We feel if he remained within the borders of that known involvement his tenure would not be challenged or sabotaged, but he went further by mentioning an Alien involvement with very specific references to genetic “propagation.”(4)
The same paper cancelled by Sydney University academics devoid of any Original knowledge of sites, carvings or testimonials mentions the arrival of the fist Sky Heroes and leaves no doubt as to their place of origin. Biaime, who travelled through the stars to reach the Earth, actually means to cut off one leg and make humanity. His wife, “Mulla Mulla,”(5) was not born on this planet but elsewhere in the Cosmos and his son, the “Nameless One,”(6) was so unimpressed with this new Earthly abode he boarded a vehicle that was so tall it “mingled with the clouds,”(7) which gave off flames once launched towards the “Southern Cross.”(8) The interpretation Slater furnished resonates to an off-world ancestry where these Sky-Heroes most certainly came in space ships.
Such talk before the Second World War was rarely, if ever, heard anywhere. Talk about Egypt was inconvenient but widespread, not so when advocating Aliens from distant constellations, that was too far off the radar and unacceptable at every official level. What only compounded the offence, Slater’s readings of the information passed on by Fordham seems to have been one more step into the night sky that went too far.
“Man came to Earth as man with his senses (seven of them) and was established in truth…. Guided by Truth man came to Earth through darkness from the light of life that shines far off…. He who brought life into the world set down men and women and gave them the sacred means of propagating life.”(9)
That wasn’t the only boundary of no return Slater crossed, the same Adelaide article describes Original wisdom and knowledge never before set to print. The internal workings of the body and external movements of the planets are but two of many sophisticated areas of knowledge Slater claims were understood by ancient Original people.
Is it any Wonder?
Is it a surprise his family did not appreciate or fathom why Slater was so radical and pro-Original nearly eighty years ago? Is it any wonder that once Slater started looking up and out into the Cosmos, mainstream academia would tolerate no more? Both questions can only have answers that reflect badly on Slater and each response has nothing to do with whether Slater was right, wrong or demented and everything to do with the inconvenience created and sensational nature of his readings.
While both reactions way back then are to be expected, what took place recently is without any extenuating circumstances. It is wrong at every level to attack someone who was so strongly championing hidden Original truths when all they have in their arsenal is rumour, half-truths, negative thoughts and the Courier Mail. In what only compounds the affront, to use a report sourced from a newspaper that has no academic credibility and is committed to an extreme right-wing agenda is never results in an impartial stance.
When Evan was enrolled in a university course he too made the mistake of quoting from the Courier Mail in an assignment. It received an equivocal E, with an out-clause. Take out that reference from the mainstream tabloid press and the paper will pass, or refuse to remove and the paper will automatically fail. Such was the perceived lower standard of this tabloid outlet, no academic would ever consider accepting anything written that came from such a disreputable source. Obviously, Evan accepted that demand and passed the course.
All of the many critiques written about Slater did not extend that courtesy and relied on one paper with no standing in academic circles. This is a fundamental error that has neither been corrected nor apologised for and to be honest, writing this response should not have been required or needed. It comes down to one undeniable truth, if the critic has not read his letters describing the mounds and complex, and there is no other paper, comment or interview to reference, nothing should be heard or printed beyond the ‘sounds of silence.’
What needs to be appreciated is that the Courier Mail has every right to express an opinion as the journalist sees fit, and we have no problem with that, our issue is that of itself it is insufficient simply because any criticism made has no balance. It is one side of the argument which has the right to be heard, but unless prepared to cover both sides of this story those attacking Slater’s reputation should show due diligence. That has not happened, we know as a fact no-one who is attacking Slater has seen or is even aware of his twenty odd letters talking about that sacred and unique site.
To redress this imbalance we are attaching a selection of much earlier newspaper articles that present the other side of this disagreement. Complementing the press reports is an edited copy of the first four letters Slater wrote to Fordham. We have covered all sacred words Slater discussed, simply because such sacred words which form the base of the First Language should not be spoken of unless on the mound or in ceremony. We did this simply because no-one should be vilified and insulted so shamelessly until both sides of a story about this unique location and the bold academic explaining his conclusions are fully heard and understood. To do otherwise is simply bad science and a lack of courtesy.
Perhaps the best authority are those who sat, listened to and applauded. The members of the Anthropological society in Sydney have made it clear Slater is the real deal, no more need to be said.
1: Niel Gunson, ‘Dunlop, Eliza Hamilton (1796–1880)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dunlop-eliza-hamilton-2007/text2455, published first in hardcopy 1966: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP).
2-4: Slater, Frederic. 1939.”Personal Letters – Correspondences- Notes”. In 2013, Edited by Richard Patterson, No. 1-19 & Original 53-61, Archaeology and Education Research Society.
5: Goddard, R. H & Slater, F. (Frederic) (1937). Burragarra or Devil’s Rock : an aboriginal burial ground in the Wollombi district & Interpretation of The Drawings at Burragarra and Yango. Auckland Meeting: 14th January, 1937: 12.
6-8: Ibid, 13.
9: Slater, Frederic. 1939.”Personal Letters – Correspondences- Notes”.