Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Traders start to walk away


The biggest retail centre in inner Fortitude Valley – the McWhirters building – faces an exodus of traders who are being sent to the wall by the closed Walton’s walkway.

It’s now eight weeks since the 20m section was closed off for maintenance that has never taken place. And a survey of McWhirters traders shows many are expect to close their doors sooner than later after seeing their passing potential customer trade cut dramatically from about 3000 a day to just hundreds after the walkway was barricaded shut on the night of Sunday 11 December. Florist Nancy Zhang (pictured above) will close the doors on her first-time business, Bewitching Blooms, in late February when her lease runs out. With her first child due mid year, Nancy said she had hoped to have been able to afford to hire someone to run the business while she was away but that was simply not possible now.
"You can imagine how terrible it’s been. Every week my sales have been around $500. I'm losing money every day and I’ve still got to pay rent, electricity and buy flowers.
"Before the [walkway] closed I really enjoyed working here. I just want to put it behind me now."
Several shops closer to the barricaded firewalls at the Walton’s section, Corey Hamilton has been running down stock at his Autographed Memorabilia shop in readiness for closing down. "If the doors opened today, I'll still leave. The worse case is that I’m here until July when my lease expires.
"Last week I didn’t do enough in sales just to cover the rent."
His neighbour Pat Hutchison runs pop art collectables shop OOO Look Shiny with his wife Maryanne.
"It’s just killed me,"” Pat said. "There's no sense throwing money at a business for no reason. Once again, big business is forcing little business out."
And if the doors opened tomorrow? "I'd have to reconsider it," Pat said. "I really don’t want to close the doors. This is a breeze for me. I love doing it and interesting people come through the doors."
Me Ming Wong has run his popular food outlet Fresh to Go in the Valley for 15 years but will consider closing his outlet if the walkway is not opened soon. His trade is down about 30 per cent with early morning and afternoon business affected the most. Like other nearby traders, he is seeking some rent relief to compensate for his losses. If that is not forthcoming and the doors remain closed, he will consider leaving when his current lease ends.
Mr Wong laid most of the blame at the feet of governments at both local and state level. "The people’s governments are supposedly there to help us but they have let us down. It’s very sad."
Jenny and Graham Blowers have put almost a decade into their Bakers Crust outlet in McWhirters. And with their current lease ending soon, Jenny says: "We will have to look seriously at what our future will be. Even if [the walkway] opened tomorrow, there is no way we can recoup our losses."
Jenny said the shop had dropped about 40 per cent in sales and "you just can't survive with the sort of volume"”.
Jenny voiced a concern shared by other McWhirters traders: even if the walkway reopened immediately, had pedestrian traffic habits changed forever? Will the centre see a return to the same level of passing potential customer trade it had enjoyed before the closure?

Captain Quirk cleans up as struggling traders clear out


The mood among inner-Fortitude Valley traders affected by the Walton’s walkway closure is getting very dark indeed ... so much so that I have a simple piece of advice for politicians on either side of the fence and at any level of governance: stay the hell out of the place unless you’ve got something really, really useful to offer about their plight, like in a solution to it.

On a drizzly early afternoon on a recent Friday Lord Mayor Graham Quirk came down the Valley to engage in a spurious piece of PR fluff obviously organised in mind with the fact that his job is on the line in late April. Exactly why his minders chose just outside the main entrance to McWhirters for this piece of PR puffery is unknown but it was so, so wrong, for so many reasons.
Rightly or wrongly, traders in McWhirters who got wind of the visit naturally thought it was to be about the almost seven-week-long closure of the Walton’s walkthrough that is sending some of them to the wall. Their jobs are just about gone. Some have built up their businesses over a decade or more ... and in a few short weeks all that hard work might come to nought when their doors close for good. Now it’s true that the traders were not exactly expecting great news.
The Lord Mayor has made it clear that the City Council is powerless to force a private building owner to reopen a passageway at the middle of a dispute over maintenance and public liability issues. But their businesses are foundering on the rocks of that cruel closure.
They are in imminent danger of drowning, and were hoping nevertheless that Captain Quirk might just throw them a lifeline of any size, shape or form. These are desperate people who will grab at anything right now. Their jobs and livelihoods are at stake but unfortunately for them, so is the Lord Mayor’s.
They fumed from the sidelines as Councillor Quirk played with a piece of pavement-cleaning machinery. He donned gloves and pretended to drive it while a snapper took pictures.
That’s right ... Cr Quirk pretended to clean up while some McWhirters traders have already begun cleaning out their stores because they won’t be in business in the very near future.
Grinning along with the Lord Mayor was his candidate for Central Ward Vicki Howard. The snapper clicked away and they posed, while Corey Hamilton, who is running down his Autographed Memorabilia shop, fumed. His face was as cloudy and unsettled as the sky above.

As a PR exercise it was a disaster. They should just be hopeful that only a few traders witnessed it. If all of the business people in the Happy Valley and McWhirters buildings had gotten whiff of their stunt, the ruckus at that Ca
Onberra restaurant on Australia Day might have looked like a sunday school picnic. Captain Quirk and his motley crew didn’t even have the good sense to do the stunt at the top end of the mall well away from McWhirters. They owe struggling local traders an unconditional apology for their insensitivity and downright stupidity in staging a PR stunt where and when they did.

Call for Waltons to be resumed


The ALP’s Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith and Central Ward candidate Paul Crowther have called on the State Government to resume the Walton’s building in Fortitude Valley and reopen the public walkway immediately.

The call to turn the building from a “liability into an asset” comes as an eight-week closure of the public walkway through the Walton’s building has resulted in an estimate $2 million loss of revenue for traders, with several on the verge of closing their doors.
Ray Smith and Paul Crowther said the site was significant as a walkway to Queensland Rail’s third busiest train station and for its potential as a cultural “catalyst” for the Valley. "This building has thousands of square meters which haven’t been used for more than two decades," Mr Smith said.
"Most of the building is locked up. It is heritage listed and has nominal value in its current state. The decision of the owners, Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, to close the doors of the walkway which connects the train station to other buildings in the Valley has been economically devastating for the area.
"Over recent weeks, the Lord Mayor and his Administration have failed to take any action to help these traders or get the walkway reopened, and his dithering attitude just isn’t good enough.
"If there was a resumption of this building for public transport purposes, the state could maintain the walkway as an important asset for the adjacent train station. This could be the opportunity to fix up the Walton’s building once and for all. "Council could also look at working with the state to develop the main part of the building for a much-needed cultural and community centre including a local library. "All the great cities of the world have turned old derelict buildings into assets. This is a perfect candidate for that Cinderella conversion right here in the Valley. "Council has proposed a Valley Plan which anticipates up to 20,000 additional residents and another 50,000 office workers moving to the Valley over the next 20 years. Their plan provides for a library at some point in the future, but now is the opportunity to take this asset for the community and deliver community infrastructure for an area which will be the second CBD of Brisbane."
Mr Smith said his call comes six months after his party released its Valley policy, Revaluing the Valley. That policy promised a ‘get-tough’ approach to Valley businesses who did not maintain their buildings.
"The Walton’s building is one of the most strategic buildings in the Valley. It is on the doorstep of the Valley train station. It is the first building people walk through when they come out of the Valley Metro station," Paul Crowther said. "Instead of being a 'sow’s ear', we could and should turn this into a 'silk purse'. Instead of a liability to the Valley, it should be an asset."

C’mon ... you know you want one!


Guide Dogs Queensland (GDQ) is calling on people with time on their hands to consider taking on puppy raising as a rewarding new project for 2012. Its call follows the safe arrival of two healthy litters of future Guide Dog puppies – 14 adorable Labrador and Golden Retriever pups that are the first of 100 GDQ is aiming to breed this year in a bid to meet growing demand for these remarkable canine companions.

In Brisbane alone there are already around 40 puppies being raised in the community and 33 working guide dogs. For the first 12 months of their lives, the pups need a dedicated foster parent to teach them basic obedience, good manners and what it's like to go everywhere with a human co To be eligible, volunteers need to work part time or not at all, have a secure yard, plenty of time to give a young pup and to live within 90 minutes of Brisbane. Pups live in the foster home from 10 weeks until about 15 months of age with all equipment, food, vet care and training support provided by GDQ.
To be a Puppy Raiser you need:
• To live within 90 minutes of Brisbane
• A driver’s Licence and access to a vehicle
• To only work part time or not at all
• If you have children, they need to be of school age.
• A secure, fenced yard
• Ability to take the pup on daily walks
• Time to give to a young puppy

To apply call 3261 7555 or visit the website

Battle of Brisbane begins in earnest


The writs for the state election may still be weeks away from being issued, but the fight has begun for a seat that will be closely watched on election night on 24 March.

In the city seat of Brisbane Central, main party contenders, the sitting Labor member Grace Grace and her LNP opponent Robert Cavallucci (pictured) this week traded blows over who is to blame for the ongoing Walton’s walkway debacle. Ms Grace, the former Queensland Labor Council head honcho, holds the seat on a 6 per cent margin, after suffering a 8.4 per cent swing against her at the 2009 poll, one in which the LNP did not fare as well as some experts had predicted.
The other declared candidates at this stage are the Greens’ Anne Boccabella, who gained 17 per cent of the primary vote last time, and Ruth Bonnett from the Queensland Party. Brisbane Central will be one to watch on election night because it falls tantalisingly between the uniform 4.6 per cent swing the LNP will need under new leader Campbell Newman to take government from Labor and the 7.1 per cent the former Brisbane Lord Mayor needs to oust former minister Kate Jones in the seat of Ashgrove and become Premier from outside of Parliament.
Unless the LNP has a shocker of a campaign, the experts all agree that a sizeable swing is on to the Opposition, and if at the end of counting on election night, Ms Grace has held her seat or at the very least is still in with a shout, Queensland could easily find itself with a new government but with a Premier other than the one they were expecting.

In an edition closer to election day, The Independent will run a page of candidates’ statements for the Brisbane Central seat.

Shave is nothing to dread


Brisbane residents are being asked to be brave and go bald, or almost bald, to assist blood cancer patients during the World’s Greatest Shave this 15–17 March. Sign up now at and commit to a super-short haircut, completely shaved head, waxing it all off, or creating a colourful new style to draw attention to the devastating effects of blood cancer.

Individuals, families, businesses, workplaces, schools, pubs and clubs are all encouraged to check out the website containing all the tools needed for a fun and successful shave event. School communities are invited to participate in the colourful Crazy Hair Day 4 Kids on Friday 16 March.
President of the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland, Beverley Mirolo OAM, urged residents to show their support for the many locals who have been affected by a blood cancer diagnosis “World’s Greatest Shave aims to raise $4 million across Queensland to support medical research and fund patient support services," she said. "In 2010/2011 the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland provided more than 41,000 nights of free accommodation in Brisbane or Townsville for patients and their families from rural and regional Queensland needing to be close to major treatment centres. “With an average of five Queenslanders being diagnosed every day, many people will know someone who has been touched by a blood cancer.
"Your hair will grow back but your contribution to the Leukaemia Foundation will have long-lasting positive effects for blood cancer patients and their families," Mrs Mirolo said.
The Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland is a not-for-profit organisation and does not receive ongoing government funding. It provides free practical support services to patients and their families including patient accommodation, counselling, education, transport and financial assistance.
More than $1 million a year is also dedicated to medical research into better treatments and cures. Will you be brave and shave? For further information, public shave locations or to sign up visit or call 1800 500 088.

Above: New Farm freelance journalist Andrew McMillen ... shave is nothing to dread

Parties bicker over flowback valves


Lord Mayor Graham Quirk’s plan for backflow prevention devices in New Farm and Milton in a bid to reduce localised flooding has been given the thumbs down by Labor opponents.

The Lord Mayor said a combination of rubber duck bill valves and metal flap gates would be installed on drainage outlets in Moray Street, New Farm, and Cribb St, Milton, to minimise the amount of water and silt backing up in the local storm water system. An independent investigation into Council’s handling of January’s devastating flood, with the final backflow report outlining the locations of more backflown devices to be handed down May but Cr Quirk said: “I’ve said from the start that if it became clear before May that backflow devices would help reduce flooding at certain locations with minimal risk to homes then we would get on and do it and today we’re delivering on that promise,” Cr Quirk said.
But Labor’s Lord Mayoral candidate Ray SMith says the installation of special valves to prevent backflow flooding from Council’s stormwater drains was long overdue and new valves should’ve been in place before the current wet season. Mr Smith accused the Lord Mayor of dithering on the issue of backflow valves, and gambling with peoples’ lives and properties.
“The bottom line is these backflow valves should have already been installed in key locations across our city.'
ALP council candidate for Central Ward Paul Crowther said the council’s plans had bitterly disappointed him and many New Farm residents. “This plan does nothing to address the flooding in Sydney Street, Brunswick Street, Fuljames Lane, Lower Bowen Tce, James Street, Sargent Street, Lamington Street, Welsby Street, Merthyr Road or Alford Street,” Mr Crowther said.
"it also fails to address any flooding in the CBD that caused great loss to residents and businesses alike.
"So after 12 moths of dithering, the Lord Mayor has no plan to really protect New Farm from needless flooding - he only has a plan to get re-elected. "I also know from speaking to people in New Farm who suffered from flooding, they feel very let down. I will continue my campaign to install back flow valves until all of New Farm is protected."

Bowls bell cream of the crop

MY SHOUT .... with Ivor Thurston

Every bowls club worth its weight has a bell that’s rung to start games, to time them out if need be if the 21 ends take too long, or simply to herald breaking news back at the bar, like free beer for the next four hours. That sort of thing.

And very shortly, the popular New Farm Bowls Club will have a new bell that’s bloody heavy, probably very noisy ... and most likely the only one of its kind. In fact, as bowls bells go it’s the cream of the crop and we’ll explain that soon enough.

The club’s men’s committee president Roy Toohey (pictured above) was the driving force behind the new bell, which will be unveiled at a community open day on Sunday 12 February between 11am and 4pm.
It’s called the Toohey-McLean bell and here’s the story. In 1950, Roy’s dad Jack Toohey OAM bought Coongoola, a leading Hereford stud at Miriam Vale from the McLean (of football fame) family. It had a top dairy herd, and Hazel McLean stayed on to run the dairy. Jack thought she’d stay a couple of years; she retired to Brisbane 24 years later. Hazel was a top golfer and her brother Viv, an A grade champion for many years, designed and built the Miriam Vale golf course. In her time at Coongoola, deregulation changed dairying for ever and the herd there was diverted from cream production to whole milk. It meant the end of work for the dairy’s three cream separators. Two were engraved and given to museums in Bundaberg and Agnes Waters. Coongoola was eventually sold by the Toohey family but when Roy travelled to Miriam Vale with three other New Farm Bowls Club members for a tournament last year, he got to thinking of the one remaining cream separator unit. He knew where it had laid forgotten and abandoned, and decided to grab it.
“It was black when we got it out. It had obviously been under water,” Roy explained. But was the separator’s heavy cover that he saw value in, and grabbed it, knowing that with a bit of work from an expert bellologist, it would make a bloody good bowls club bell ... and the result will be on show with the handing over of the Toohey-McLean bell and its installation at the doors to the club on the Sunday community open day.
Everyone is invited to attend the community day that will also include the opening of a new green and exhibition matches by top players. There will be entertainment for the kids, including face painting, a sausage sizzle, restaurant meals for those who prefer something a little fancier, and a chance to have a bowl and get some tuition from the experts.

Walkie talkies give me the absolute willies

FROM MY CORNER .... with Ann Brunswick

One of the most annoying developments in this age of mobile phones is the problem posed to others by those who walk and text at the same time. I find it to be simply a pain to have to share footpaths and other public spaces with people who have no eye on where they are heading.

Most pedestrians, like me, are forced to change course or accommodate them in some other way. But sometimes they are their own worst enemy. Take for example the young chap standing next to me at a busy intersection waiting for the lights to change and cross. He was focussed entirely on texting on his mobile phone and when the lights did change, accompanied by the audible signal for the vision-impaired, he stepped off the footpath. But he did not realise the signal was for pedestrians crossing at right angles to the direction he was going.
Just as it seemed to me he needed to be grabbed and dragged back to the footpath, he looked up to se cars bearing down on him. He retreated swiftly but if he moved much further his trajectory would have certainly put him in harm's way. This is a growing problem and will certainly lead to injuries and the inevitable personal injury and insurance claims. So we can look forward to court cases where insurers or others will no doubt argue that injured pedestrians do not deserve compensation because they were not fulfilling their own duty of care to themselves.


This is perhaps one for the “truth in advertising” file. The other night an advert screened on my TV for a chain of barbecued chicken outlets which, naturally, contained lots of shots of the mouth-watering contents of whatever bargain-priced family pack they were promoting.

This particular offer consisted of a chicken, of course, and some other tempting treats that included a tub of peas. And what luscious, plump and bright green peas they were. Not only that, you could see the steam coming of them which made me want to rush out and bypass all the 3-D flatscreen TVs now on offer and lodge an order for the first smellovision version.
But suddenly it dawned on me that maybe the makers of the ad may not be reflecting reality. You see not only did the tub of peas look very consumable, it was also so full of the squishy little green balls that they formed a pyramid whose pinnacle was well above the top of the tub itself.
Does that particular chicken chain really sell you tubs of peas that contain far more than the tubs can hold? Or – heaven forbid – are there some in the advertising game who stretch the truth a bit!

Community Noticeboard

Puppy raisers needed

Guide Dogs Queensland (GDQ) is looking for volunteers to raise its puppies in their homes for 12 months. Foster parents teach pups basic obedience and good manners. All equipment, vet care and food is supplied. Volunteers need to only work part time or not at all, have a secure yard and a driver's licence. To apply go to or call 3261 7555.

Swing along at Newstead

Get ready to tap your feet to the sounds of swing with a free afternoon concert by Brisbane Symphonic Band at Newstead House on Sunday 19 February 2012 at 2pm, Conducted by Stefanie Smith, the band will play with music from Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra. Newstead House is in Newstead Park, Cnr Breakfast Creek Rd & Newstead Ave, Newstead. A small fee is charged to view the interior of the House. Sunday opening hours are from 2pm to 5pm

Sitch dishes up another top-shelf comedy

FILM ... with Tim Milfull

Any Questions for Ben? (M)
Director: Rob Sitch
Stars: Josh Lawson, Rachael Taylor
Rating: 4/5
114-minutes, screening from 9 February

We haven’t seen the work of Rob Sitch on the big screen for more than a decade, with the talented director pumping out high-quality television in the form of shows like Thank God You’re Here, The Panel, and the ABC’s entertaining and more often than not cerebral The Hollow Men.

Thankfully, it’s been worth the wait since his last feature film, The Dish, for Sitch and his long-time collaborators, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gliesner have moved into rather more mature – if not still often very funny – territory with their new film, Any Questions for Ben?
The eponymous Ben (Josh Lawson) is a twentysomething who bailed on university to take up a lucrative job in marketing. In the intervening years, Ben has changed jobs with alarming frequency, moved house at least once a year, and has had a string of short-term relationships with gorgeous women. And until being invited to speak at his alma mater’s careers day, Ben has been the envy of everyone who has met him – women want to be with him, and men just want to be him.
But as he sits on the stage alongside his former schoolmates – with Sitch in a very amusing uncredited cameo – Ben realised that his wildly successful life doesn’t seem as fulfilling as he once thought, especially when he listens to the beautiful Alex (Rachael Taylor) relating her life as a human-rights advocate.
While it’s not hard to see where Any Questions for Ben? might ultimately be headed, the journey is not so predictable, with one of the joys of the script written by the former D-Generation team being their pleasure in playing with our expectations.
And like their other feature films, Sitch, Cilauro and Gliesner have populated their screen version of Melbourne with a cast of believable, endearing, and often very funny characters.
After the saccharine gloop of Red Dog and the bawdy superficiality of A Few Best Men, Any Questions for Ben? is a welcome relief.

Want to survive the wilds of Alaska? Let us prey

The Grey
Director: Joe Carnahan
Stars: Liam Neeson, wolves
Rating: 3/5
117-minutes, screening from 16 February

Writer-director Joe Carnahan is a man’s man, a characteristic that shines through in his films, from the gritty 2002 thriller Narc starring a snarling Ray Liotta, through to the 2008 corrupt police drama Pride and Glory and most recently the reboot of The A-Team, which featured the dour-faced Liam Neeson as Colonel Hannibal Smith.

In The Grey, Carnahan renews his association with Neeson, and pitches the actor into a story about the sometimes gruesome relationship between man and nature. Neeson plays a hunter called Ottway, who for reasons left unspoken has exiled himself to the wilds of Alaska, where he picks off wolves threatening the safety of miners.
While heading home for some down-time, Ottway and a battered bunch of his colleagues survive a plane crash only to find themselves the prey of a pack of wolves that have no problem with the extreme weather conditions that have already overtaken the rest of the survivors. After a rallying speech to bring everyone into line, Ottway and his mates trudge off into a blizzard seeking rescue.
The rest of Carnahan’s film is a mix of howling winds and howling wolves, and occasionally howling blokes, as one by one the group succumbs to the elements or the animals. There’s no denying the suspense that the director lays on to what is really a conventional narrative counting down the deaths.
The question is whether Ottway will ultimately prevail over his adversaries – you’ll need to sit through the credits to find out.
But as a panacea to all the blood, guts, and adrenaline, I recommend you seek out Neeson’s cameo on the latest series produced by Ricky Gervais. The lumbering Irishman plays a version of himself looking to become a comic, and it’s one of the funniest scenes I’ve encountered in ages.


Worthy glimpse into The Future

The Future (M) Available through Madman from 17 February
Kill List (R) Now available through Madman
The Whistleblower (MA15+) Available through Hopscotch from 22 February
The People vs George Lucas (M) Available through Hopscotch from 22 February

Indie darling, Miranda July’s latest film The Future (pictured above) follows the deteriorating relationship between performance artist Sophie (July) who cannot decide what she wants out of life, and IT consultant Jason whose desperate attempts to hold onto Sophie lead to a particularly surreal nightmare.

Like July’s previous work, this rambling, existential narrative dips into the lives of ordinary but quirky people and delivers a very rewarding story.
I watched Kill List twice within a few days, and this bleak, horrific thriller is still echoing in my mind.
Ben Wheatley recalls powerful 70s cult films like The Wicker Man, plunging two exceedingly banal contract killers into a confusing nightmare. With outstanding performances from Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, and Myanna Buring, and featuring some truly frightening and gruesome sequences, Kill List had me asking questions (in a good way).
Equally horrific and thought-provoking, Larysa Kondracki’s debut feature The Whistleblower dramatises the true story of US policewoman-turned-UN peacekeeper, Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz), who uncovered a shocking network of sex slavery in eastern Europe that was orchestrated by her colleagues.
Despite the film’s flaws – stories about sex trafficking have been told more effectively on the small screen – The Whistleblower will leave you shaking your head in disgust at what we can inflict on our fellow beings. And there are millions of movie fans out there who shake their heads at the cavalier attitude with which blockbuster mogul George Lucas plays with their beloved stories and characters.
The People vs. George Lucas is a very funny documentary that examines the idea that once a film has been made and screened to an audience, the filmmaker surrenders their ownership of their creation. If you’ve ever roared at the screen in frustration over Lucas’s creation of Jar Jar Binks, or his treatment of Indiana Jones, you need to see this film.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pandaws keep proud maritime history afloat

TRAVEL ... with David Bray

Up the Irrawaddy, from Rangoon to Mandalay. It’s those names. Kipling started it for me a long lifetime ago, and the fascination is still there.

This piece was supposed to be about cruising down another river altogether, in other countries, but the Mekong will have to wait until next time.
Same shipping people though. Savour the title: The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Here’s the story, and Lord Mountbatten reckoned it was "the greatest untold epic in British maritime history".
Founded by Scots merchants in Rangoon after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1865, the IFC, Glasgow-based and run by one Paddy Henderson, began services on Burma’s Irrawaddy River with four steamers and three attached barges.
The fleet was built in Clyde, dismantled, then shipped to Mandalay and reconstructed in Rangoon. The IFC grew to become the greatest river fleet the world has ever seen, with almost 700 vessels.
Its flagships were magnificent Siam class paddle steamers, 100 metres long and capable of carrying 4200 passengers while pulling 2000 tons of cargo upriver against tides. British trade and prestige in Burma depended upon the success of the IFC, the fleet that Kipling celebrated in Mandalay.
In its greatest days, just before World War II, the IFC carried eight million passengers and 1.25 million tons of freight a year. With its large contingent of Scottish captains and engineers, it was effectively a floating Caledonian colony until the Japanese invasion in 1942.
Company history records that in May of that year the senior captains and company managers anchored their vessels 10 abreast at Katha and Mandalay, and scuttled them, shooting holes in the thin hulls to deny the Japanese the use of both the river and their craft. Then they set off with their families on an epic march across jungle-clad mountain ranges to Imphal in India, which they reached almost unscathed just ahead of the invaders.
Burma regained its independence on January 4, 1948, and became the first former British colony to cut ties with the Commonwealth. As it closed itself off from the world, the extraordinary story of the IFC was submerged like the ships.
Now another name joins the story: Scotsman Paul Strachan decided that the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company would sail again. He had learnt its history from his father and other family members who had worked on the Clyde.
Strachan chartered vessels from the IFC's successor, the Irrawaddy Water Transport Board, to cruise the river. He had originally hoped to raise and sail one or more of the original pre-war craft but the figures didn’t work out. It looked as though he would have to settle for resurrecting the company's name until he discovered the Pandaw, built in 1948 in Glasgow as one of eight ships designed to help the Burmese get post-war transport moving again on the Irrawaddy.
Strachan found her in 1989, arranged a lease and restoration and so created a unique concept and style of river cruising.
The Pandaw people took their concept to the Mekong river in Indochina and as of a few weeks ago now have five Pandaws plying between Saigon in Vietnam and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. (Well, there are some kilometres of bus trips at either end, but the tour is city to city.)
Their story again: "Here, the Pandaws broke the seemingly impenetrable river border between two very different countries. In high water our vessels accomplished the first cross navigation of the Tonle Sap, an inland sea previously unnavigated by anything other than local speed boats.
"In 2009 we inaugurated new cruises on the Rajang in Borneo and Ganges in India. Another two magnificent Asian rivers, rich in things to do and see, with varied topography of great beauty. We pulled out of India as a result of operational and safety issues."
All the current Pandaws have been built within the past 10 years in Rangoon and Saigon.
Your reporter made the Mekong trip last month. Report next up, but if you are considering the Burmese cruise, it might perhaps be an idea to go soon. China is talking dams.

Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandala

More info:
Itineraries and booking and travel agents. The Independent team went on a tour from Ankor Wat to Saigon with (and paid its own way).