The writer

These essays on BestQuest are reflections on topics I have been interested in for many years: but here revisited and reassessed. You should distinguish between the facts I report (newly researched from the latest sources most of the time) and the opinions I give, which are sometimes eccentric, but insightful, I hope.  What I’m trying to do is get a discussion started, not necessarily here, but in readers’ minds. I would be sorry if anybody came here just for the facts I relate. This is not an encyclopedia. It’s a cultural centre. Your feedback sustains me.


My background is in journalism.  Some time ago I wrote a book, The Far-Famed Blue Mountains of Harry Phillips, which revived the reputation of a famous but forgotten photographer. My careers include a recent professional position as program co-ordinator and publicist for a community college, which increased its community of learners by almost 250% in my period of service. Other professions include those of journalist, magazine editor and desktop publisher/print designer, and teaching in some of these areas.




13 thoughts on “The writer

  1. Hello Mr Kay, do you have an email address? I’d like to pass on some information regarding the 200 years of Fr Jeremiah O’Flynn first at Church Hill. Cheers.

  2. Hello Phillip, I have recently come across an accordian style photo souvenier of the blue mountains by harry phillips post marked 1944. I have tried contacting multiple libraries and other resources to try and find out anything about it. I can send pictures if you need. Thank you Jessica

    1. Hello Jessica.
      You could have a late publication of Harry Phillips, perhaps published by Murray Views in Gympie. Because of persistent illness Harry retired in 1942 and sold his stock to Murray Views (who destroyed all his glass plates eventually as ‘outdated’). He returned to Katoomba, and a few titles were published by his son in law VE Wallace. He died in 1944. Then again perhaps it’s an earlier title with a longer shelf life than most.

      Harry’s books are hard to trace in sequence as he was vague about dates, used the same title for different contents, republished books with slightly different contents, and many bore no publication date. But his books travelled all over the world. Soldiers in both world wars took them as souvenirs on overseas service, and they have turned up in many countries. They would still be circulated in 1944.

      The only fold outs I know of were devoted to particular towns e.g. Wentworth Falls, but my listing in the book I wrote on Harry is probably far from complete. Perhaps you had better have a look at some of his titles and if you’re lucky run across a similar title.

      The BlueMountains Library has a good collection, and some images and info about Harry are on their website. There seems plenty of Harry on the web:

      Harry Phillips' Shop, Katoomba St., c1912

      If at Katoomba try the Lookout, Historical Society and Cultural Centre which should have some of Harry’s work.

      Harry’s work is not just photography, but a whole attitude to the environment that has vanished with the spread of the motor car. He saw more closely than we do. So if the book looks a bit dated and the photos faded, hang onto it anyway. Harry was a great man in his way.


  3. Dear Mr. Kay, this is Edward Sisson, from Washington DC USA. Our best international TV cable source here, called MHz Network, has been showing the Bruno Cremer French language Maigret series for several years (much liked by me) and just now has started showing a French series from about 2006, of non-Maigret Simenon “hard” novel dramatizations. I’ve been curious to know more about the source novels, and in searching around online have discovered your wonderful and comprehensive series of book reviews on Simenon — really the only source on the web for this kind of information.

    Your webpage “the first simenon omnibus” has, at the end, a series of hyperlinks to your pages reviewing the other omnibus volumes. The hyperlink to “The Sixth and Seventh Simenon Omnibus” is actually a link to the page for “The Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Simenon Omnibuses.” The link that purports to be the correct link to “The Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Simenon Omnibuses” is, in fact, correct, so that you have two links to that page.

    You being Australian, I thought I would mention that we are currently getting the delightful TV show “Mr and Mrs Murder” with Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart, and also the very good “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” With these 2 shows, Australia is putting on a very good show in Washington right now.

    1. Thanks Edward. I’ve fixed that link. Interesting that even now interest in Simenon continues. Especially for his ‘hard’ novels, where a lot of his best work lies. I have tried to cope with the bulk of Simenon’s work, pointing out it contains both good and bad work, and indicating what I at least think good. I’d love to hear a critique of the series you mention.

  4. Hi Phillip,

    I’ve read and reread your articles on the Davis Family histories recently, and being a Davis myself, am quite interested in the topic. This evening I was reading your article on “Identifying Joseph Davis”, particularly the section on Joseph Davis senior. The Joseph Davis senior that you mention is in fact my 4th great grandfather, by way of his youngest son, who you name as Edward Fitzgerald, whom I know as Edward Telfer, a.k.a. my 3rd great grandfather. I was wondering if you had any information on other members of his direct family, particularly his parents or heritage in Dublin/Ireland?
    You also mention that he had a previous wife in Ireland named Mary Bassford, but I’m wondering how exactly you came across that information?

    I have further information also on the direct family if you would be interested.

    A happy, if not a little belated, new year to you! Thank you

  5. Hi there Phillip, I’ve posted another letter to you on the page you’ve written about me, but I’m doing it again trying to make sure you’ll get one of them!
    Your reviews are amazing and I’d love to use on the English page of my new website, coming up online this January, previous to the release of my new album “Navegar” in March, 3.
    Please let me know if you’re ok with this and how would you like for me to link it to your pages.
    There’s my e-mail but also my facebook page you can use to get in touch.

    Thank you so much, happy new year

  6. Phillip, I have recently located and enjoyed reading your articles on the Davis Family.
    My mother Mary Davis’ elderly cousin, Margaret Davis told me that the family were relatives of William Davis of St Patrick’s Church fame… Their grandparents were William Ambrose Davis (Head of Tooheys) and Bridget Ryan. William’s father, also William Davis had a brother, John and sister Mary (Sister Gertrude of the Charities). Their father was John Davis who had a brother James and were apparently Grandnephews of William Davis.
    However from your articles I have not been able to establish who are John and James’ parents. Although you do mention a John and James who have a sister Mary (your Great Grandmother?).
    My mother Mary died 40 years ago and I have been doing a bit of family research – certainly nothing like yours – and would be grateful for any clarification.

  7. Hi Phillip, I am interested in the story of Annie Gertrude Edwards who was married to Aborn Poulter. Aborn was the brother of my great great grandfather John. I have some details of Aborn’s illness if you’d like them, specifically mental asylum records. Cheers, Julie Poulter

  8. Hello Phillip – I am most interested in the article you have written in which is mentioned Thomas & Bridget Lever/Leaver/Levy and their daughter Ann. Thomas & Bridget were my 4 x great-grandparents & I do have information on them. If you are interested in that info for historical purposes I am happy to share. I await your advices. Regards, Kerry Payne (Mrs)

    1. Hello Kerry, good to hear from you. I am only making a guess in my article that the John Gamell who married Ann Levy in Parramatta was the brother of my ancestor, and another guess that the Ann Levy involved might have been the daughter of Thomas and Bridget.I’m most interested to hear what light you can throw on these two questions from your researches.

  9. Kia Ora Phillip! I was looking up some facts on Sir Walter Raleigh and came across your name on a print of him. I watched the movie “Elizabeth” last night starring Kate Blanchett which I enjoyed. Your website is really something and I have enjoyed reading all the very interesting family history section. Love Di

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