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Pioneer Weatherman Reaches 100

No. 265 December 1983

A former Anglican missionary who provided rainfall reports to the Bureau from remote areas in the Northern Territory for 20 years recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Mr H. L. Perriman, now living in Melbourne, went to Groote Eylandt in 1921 to establish the Emerald River Mission for the Victorian Church Missionary Society. He later worked at the Roper River and Oenpelli missions.

Before becoming a missionary he qualified as a mechanical and electrical engineer which was invaluable in his work at the isolated outposts.

DIR John Zillman wrote the following congratulatory letter to Mr Perriman on his becoming a centarian:

May I, on behalf of the Bureau of Meteorology, offer to you my heartiest congratulations. Your many years of devoted service have, and will continue to provide a source of inspiration to many people, and not only in your own field of endeavour. Your provision of rainfall reports to the Bureau during those early years in areas where meteorological information was scarce, was a valuable public service. Furthermore your detailed accounts of experiences in tropical cyclones are not only of great human interest, but are also a most useful supplement to our historical records of these great storms.

Kevin Murphy, ST02 in Darwin, who has been researching the history of tropical cyclones in the NT, has provided the following additional information on Mr Perriman:

In addition to providing rainfall readings to the Bureau from 1921-41, Mr Perriman gave detailed accounts of several tropical cyclones that he survived, including two amazing experiences in 1923 and 1940. On Good Friday 1923, he and Mr Lousada plus several aborigines prayed through a terrifying night as the Douglas Mawson cyclone and a 6 metre storm surge demolished their two-storey mission building. This is generally considered to be the highest reliably confirmed storm surge in Australia. In January 1940 a cyclone and prodigious flood swelled the mighty Roper River by 25 metres. As their mission disappeared under the floodwaters, Perriman and the other mission folk took refuge in the lugger the 'Holly'. The raging torrent however dragged the boat under the water and the occupants were forced into the branches of a large coolibah tree. Here they spent the remainder of the night expecting at any moment to be swept away to their doom.

Mr Perriman's recollections of his years in the Territory have been preserved in books, photos, articles and cassette recordings donated to the NT Historical Society.

People in Bright Sparcs - Zillman, John William

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