In Memoriam: Dickie Doyle

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If you’ve ever dived off a liveaboard  in Papua New Guinea, chances are Dickie Doyle came aboard to greet you and your fellow passengers, and invited you ashore to visit his plantation.  I met Dickie that way, had a couple of beers with him, laughed at his pet pig, which slept under his bed, and marveled at the enormous tree outside filled with blinking fireflies.  I was with a friend, Steve Hoffner, who created a Dickie Doyle baseball card, because Dickie, living in the middle of nowhere – the Witu Islands — was a diehard American baseball fan.

Dickie died on July 14. Upon learning of Dickie’s death, the colorful owner/captain of the Febrina (and Walindi Plantation), Alan Raabe, wrote this warm-hearted story.

Dickie Doyle

Dickie Doyle baseball card — front

Dickie Doyle Baseball card -- back

Dickie Doyle Baseball card — back


In Memorium – Dick Doyle

By Alan Raabe

I first met Dickie in 1986 when I was on Reef Explorer.  I was out at Witu Islands and out of water, so I went up to Dick’s house at Langu Plantation and asked him if there was any way I could get water on the boat.   Dick’s reply was, “No, but I can give you a beer”. So I had a couple of beers with him and we ended up with all the guests from that trip (Chris Newbert) up at Dickie’s house.

Dickie liked holding court and he started telling everyone the history of the place.  I particularly remember the story of Peter Hansen who lived at Peterhaven in the 1890’s.  Apparently, Peter Hansen wasn’t adverse to using his gun to sort things out.  The story goes (according to Dickie) that Peter shot the number one spear thrower from a neighbouring village, chopped off  his arm and gave the arm to the local village people, the reasoning being that they could eat it and gain the spear throwing powers.  Dickie then summarised, straight off the cuff, “You might say that Peter Hansen was the first arms dealer in Papua New Guinea”.

That is pretty typical of Dickie’s dry sense of humour!

Dickie was an Ameriphile, he loved baseball and American football.  Dickie’s house had become a “stopping point” for many passing research and tourist boats, as well as the dive boats operating out of Walindi.  At one time, Dickie had some visitors up to the house and Dickie was talking about his love of baseball .  One fellows ears pricked up and he asked what team Dickie followed in the US.  He said “I like the Oakland A’s”.  The visitor was Roy Eisenhart, and he says, “You know something Dickie, I happen to own the Oakland A’s.  If we make it to the world series, you can come and sit in my box at the Oakland Coliseum”.

In 1989, the A’s make it to the world series.  Dickie had not forgotten Roy’s promise.  Using his old antiquated phone system, Dickie rings up the offices of Roy Eisenhart and speaks to his secretary ….
“Crackle, pop …. Listen can I speak to Roy please?.”   The secretary politely responds, “I am sorry sir, Mr Eisenhart is in conference at the moment.  But if you leave your name and number I will get Mr Eisenhart to ring you back”.

“Oh no,” says Dickie, “it costs a lot of money to ring me here, just give me a time when I can ring him back.  I live on an island in the middle of the Bismark sea”.  Straight away, the secretaries tone changes and she asks, “Is that Mr Doyle from Witu Islands?  We have been expecting your call.  I will put you straight through to Mr Eisenhart”.

And sure enough, it turns out that Dickie was there in the Oakland stadium at the final of the world series … and that was when the big earthquake hit during the middle of the game!

Dickie also loved Harley motorbikes, and after a win at Las Vegas, he purchased a 1987 Sportster Harley and took it over to Langu.  The only place he could ride it was the airstrip.  One end of the airstrip at Langu stopped abruptly at the ocean and the other end in the jungle. Dickie could get the bike up to 97 miles per hour when he was drunk and 89 miles  when he was sober.

The bike hasn’t been used for quite a while since the strip became overgrown.  It now resides in his lounge room in the house at Langu and he would start it up every now and then for old times sake.  The bike will be inherited by Harry, Dick’s daughter Nancy’s husband.

Dickie has always known how to make the best of any situation, as you do living in such a remote area.  In 1994, Paul Allen pulls into Witu Islands in his boat “MY Charade” and Paul and his guests were drinking and riding their jet skis up and down in front of Dickie’s place.  Now Dickie thought this was just a little bit over the top and not polite for visitors to flaunt their wealth while visiting less affluent places.  So he gets a couple of young bucks to paddle him out in a canoe to confront the people on board.

He says to one of the people on boat “Where’s the skipper?”.  “What do you want?” they guy says.

Dickie responds, “I want you guys to pick up your jet skis and piss off”.

“Oh, but this is Paul Allen’s boat.  Paul Allen of Microsoft.”, says the guy on board.

“I don’t give a rat’s arse who’s boat it is, just piss off”, says Dickie.

The message is relayed to Paul Allen, and he comes down to talk to Dickie, all apologetic, “I am terribly sorry about all this, but we wouldn’t mind a guide to show us around the island, would you like to come on board?”.  Dickie says, “Not interested!”

Paul Allen tries again, “We have Peter Gabriel on board from Genesis.”

“Never heard of him.  You have to go”.

“We have 65 year old scotch on board.”

“Give me 10 minutes and and I will get my bag!”

And so started a friendship between Dickie and Paul Allen.

The world came to Dickie frequently, and everyone was enthralled by his knowledge of the world, local history and ability to tell a good yarn.

Lenni Reifenstahl (Hitler’s film maker) visited on FeBrina one year…. She would have been 94, and Dickie would have been in his 50’s I guess.  I still remember Lennie grabbing Dickie’s hand across the table and the look in her eye was “If only you were 20 years younger Dickie, I would have you for breakfast”.

I remember we were heading over to DEMA one year at Annaheim.  This was back when DEMA was in February.  Dickie came to me and said, “If you are going to Annaheim, I might come with you and go to the Superbowl down in San Diego”.  I mentioned that I thought you had to have tickets 10 years in advance to get into the Superbowl.  Quick as a flash, Dickie said, “No worries, I will just give Paul Allen a call”.   And he did.  “Hey Paul, can you get us a couple of tickets to the Superbowl in February?”

“Yeh, sure Dickie, where would you like to sit?”

And that’s how Dickie ended up watching Superbowl with Dick Rothschild (the Australian Rothschilds).

Dickie has proved that you don’t have to live in isolation from the rest of the world, even when you live in a tiny speck of an Island in the middle of the ocean.  His visitor’s book at the house lists many famous names, all of whom would call Dickie “friend”.  Dickie would stay in touch with everyone by way of a letter and a photo, and there are many people around the world who will miss those welcome hand written notes.

FeBrina’s guests will certainly miss his gregarious personality and tall tales on board FeBrina.

I will miss our “mateship”.

The world is a lesser place with the passing of our mate Dickie.

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5 comments for “In Memoriam: Dickie Doyle

  1. bret gilliam
    July 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I learned of Dickie’s passing a few days later and reflected on what a unique individual he was. Alan Raabe arranged to have him aboard Star Dancer when I had a group charter in PNG a decade ago and we became friends. (Alan himself is a living legend in his own right… brace yourself for a night of “enlightenment” with him. You’ll kill a few brain cells but have a great time!)

    Dickie was a special guy with an understated sense of humor, rare insight, profound appreciation for the islands and a commitment to sensible ocean conservation. He also loved animals and to spend time with him at his island home was a lesson both history and gracious hospitality. I was privileged and honored to know him and spend some quality time with him in the middle of nowhere.

    We should all lift “the parting glass” to Dickie and remember a great personality who brought happiness, humor, and laughter to all who knew him.

    In less than a month diving has lost Billy Miestrell, Hans Hass and now Dickie Doyle. Each brought special gifts to diving and left lasting legacies. My life was enriched by knowing each man. Take a moment and wish them “Fair winds and following seas on their journey.”

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  2. Clem Clapp
    July 24, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Didn’t know the guy but surely would’ve been a hoot to have a drink and chat with him. Great tale.

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  3. PamMckenney
    September 2, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Dickie was one of a kind! I fist met him in 1989 on a trip with Chris Newbert , we went up to dickies place only to,find him glued to a set watching the 1998 SUPERBOWL with the 49rs! He was a great fan and I kept him in hats and game day magazines..from then on..he..knew more about the game than I could ever hope to! He was a joy to be with! His wit, charm and great storytelling will be sorely missed! The Witus just won’t be the same without his smiling face!

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    September 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    my son Josh and I were diving on the Febrina with the great dive master, Bob Halstead. We had been out fro 2 dives and were in Dickie Doyle”s area when Bob announced that Dickie was coming aboard as he needed a lift to Walinde Plantation Resort where his daughter worked and where he got his mail delivered. Thus we met Dickie and it was almost love at first sight for me. Josh and I were sharing a cabin and I suggested that we give Dickie Josh’s which was the smaller of the 2 cabins and that Josha nd I would bunk together. Dickie resisted the idea at first but we convinced him to take it. Every evening was a joy for me to sit with Dickie and shoot the shit. I only remember one argument and that was when I was trying to figure out his hold on his land. Did he OWN it or RENT it. He went on and on in Aussie lubricated fashion about freeholds and etc etc etc. Finally I grew frustrated and said, “For God’s sake man, do you own the land or do you just live on it?” I think we finally settled it.

    I continued to keep in touch with Dickie. Once you know him, you never forget him. I sent him my Luddite’s blog after every trip. This consists of a group of cards made up from photos of the highlights of wherever I have been. I always told Dickie he would be MOST WELCOME to stay with us should he ever come to San Francisco. I always go a grand Christmas card plus insets from him and exchanged the same with him. I loved Dickie Doyle. This was after spending only 5 or 6 days with him.

    The world was lucky indeed to have such a fine and lively and interesting man in it and we are all a little diminished by his passing.

    Love to you Dickie, hope I can see you on the other side, if there is one.
    Susan Kalish

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  5. LEO
    November 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm


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