Thursday, January 31, 2013


Back in the 1920s  there were  no  P3  girls  in brief attire  in  the Australian media . Instead , there  were  glamour  postcards ,  like  this one showing  a   girl in a dazzling outfit  adorned  with  bunches of   grapes and   dried  fruit , promoting Sunraysia  produce.  Sun drenched  dried  fruit seems to be  hanging  from  the  hem of  her specially made dress - which you  don't see  dangling from  the skirts of  modern  misses.  It  could come  back into fashion , do you think ? This  model, whose name may have been Mabel,  kept  company with Little Normey (see  earlier post ) of  Snake Gully , not  far  from Irymple,Victoria.     

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Members of the volunteer workforce at the Nightcliff Uniting Church Op Shop in Darwin are innovative and have many hidden skills . At Christmas time , Mary Penton, described as the Op Shop Queen , revealed that she can play the drums when a set of the musical instruments arrived on the premises as part of preparations for services at the church . There being no drumsticks with the kit , she improvised . Using wooden coathangers , she beat out a lively rhythm on the drums , see above . On December 10, 2011, Mary celebrated her 90th birthday and the Op Shop crew staged a special function to mark the event . At it a lighthearted ditty , composed by artist Shirley Downing, another skilled Op Shop hand , was rendered to the tune of  Sydney’s Hornsby Girls' High School song, where Mary and Shirley were both star pupils . During WW11 Mary was initially employed   inspecting  materials bought for the Forces . As a member of  the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force , she made a helicopter flight in the early 1950s.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Darwin resident, Jo Brandt,  displays a batch of Normeys she recently made as a special treat for morning tea at the  bespoke Nightcliff Uniting Church Op Shop. Made from sultanas, raisins, almonds and walnuts, they look like rumballs, and are bedded in coconut . Ms Brandt was raised on a farm at Irymple in Sunraysia and says Normeys were popular throughout the district. On being shown old sheet music from the Little Darwin  Collection  which mentioned Normeys, she set to and made some  of  the  rare  treat.
There  was  a  time  in Australia's  history when confectionery with the “grotesque name” of  Normeys was  all  the  go . It was  made from dried fruit from the Sunraysia region and pushed by the dynamic entrepreneur , C.J. De Garis , Director of Publicity for the Australian Dried Fruit Association, Mildura, Victoria . With a flair for publicity and  full of big ideas , "Jack" De Garis pushed the sale of dried fruit , including “Good Little Normey Lolly” through advertisements , film , sheet music, cook books and  stunts . As far back as l920 he ran a full page advertisement in a magazine extolling the advantages of regular consumption of dried fruit and Little Normeys, the latter , he urged, should be kept on the office desk and become a habit  The advertisement claimed “Sun-Raysed” dried fruit enhanced the physical and mental capacity of consumers .

One “Big Stunt” De Garis pulled was a contest which in l920 had a one thousand pound , $2000 dollar, first prize, a large amount of money in those days .It was won by an Adelaide girl , the money handed over in the Adelaide Town Hall to a large audience at which the Sun- Raysed film was screened . As part of the energetic drive to get the public to eat more dried fruit, there were exhibits at important shows . Large amounts of dried fruit and The Good Little Normeys were sold at the Melbourne Royal Show . Using dried fruit , show cases were packed in designs of a map of Australia and the Australian coat of arms . De Garis was also an aviator and used the sky to advertise SUN-RAYSED , see below ,which  later changed to the regional name, Sunraysia . He also founded the provincial newspaper, The Sunraysia Daily , with a large staff , for which he wrote,  got involved in land development in Victoria and  WA , hoped to make millions through   oil exploration ,   dabbled  in  the  theatre .
Unfortunately, the lolly, reduced to just being called Normeys, struck a problem. If kept in hot and damp conditions for any length of time , a small grub appeared. Querulous growers began to criticise and attack De Garis when market conditions were bad . One asked why he called the confectionery The Good Little Normey. He replied because it made the questioner and others ask what were Normeys, sold for one shilling (10cents) in half pound packs . De Garis said the confectionery became so popular that every poor unfortunate boy or man , whose name was Norman , and who came into public notice, was called The Good Little Normey. This, he said , had applied to world famous men such as Norman Brookes , the Australian tennis wizard, Norman Ross ,the world’s champion swimmer and artist Norman Lindsay, whose pictures of nude women invariably caused controversy.

De Garis got into financial difficulties and faked his own suicide by drowning in Port Phillip on January 1925, leaving behind about 70 farewell letters . He was apprehended soon after on a boat bound for New Zealand . The following year , with debts amounting to $840,000 , he gassed himself . In his autobiographical novel Victories of Failure: A Business Romance , written under the pseudonym of K.J. Rogers, he dedicated the book in memory of his mother and his second wife and former secretary ,Violet May De Garis, of whom he said her brightness shone most resplendently in “THE DARKEST DAYS”- an indication of his  deep depression .

FRUITY UPDATE : Tennis ace Novak Djokovic took home a lot of “lolly” and the Norman Brookes Trophy after his latest triumph at the Australian Open . As pointed out earlier in this post, Brookes , like so many other Normans ,was called Normey because of  the successful Good Little Normeys campaign.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

WARNING ABOUT TERRITORY COMMUNISTS-Ongoing biography of Crusading Editor, "Big Jim" Bowditch

An ASIO report, parts of which were blanked out , stated that a man said to have travelled the world and had “ an intense hatred for Communism ” had made contact . This man had stated he thought “ Communism was rather thick in the Territory”. He had met several Communists and would like to contact the Security Service . Three men had been named by the man-James Frederick Bowditch ; a reporter, commonly called “ Bluey ” and a travelling optometrist and optician. Apparently nothing was known about  Bluey.

Bowditch, of course ,was the subject of expanding files. In the case of the optician , formerly of Melbourne , he allegedly praised Communism and stated that he had travelled through Sibera(sic) and by what he had seen there , “ Communism wasn’t too bad.” This led to the stake out of a Melbourne block of flats trying to track him down . It turned out he was the brother of a Melbourne skin specialist.
While actively trying to enrol new members in the clerks’ union, Bowditch had spoken to a young girl , Betty Hodgson, working in Loutit’s store. She is pictured above standing between Jim and her father at the Alice Springs railway station,in the  l950s,  the occasion possibly the first time the Ghan train arrived pulled by a diesel electric  loco.

Betty was the daughter of a fullblood Aborigine, Myra Hull , and Englishman Charles DeansGeordieHodgson. Betty’s father, a strict man , came to Australia at the age of 17 and worked as a fettler on the railway. He had married her mother,a member of the Arabanna Tribe, when she was l6. Betty , one of 13 children , was born at Oodnadatta , outback South Australia, in l932. To make ends meet, her father ran an SP betting business and Betty remembered him burying money in tins when they lived at Marree. Marree was a town divided into three distinct areas: one for Afghans, another for railway workers and the third the commercial area . Her father could not take her mother into the pub with him because of the law. However, Betty worked in the Marree Pub as a house maid .


Believing  Betty to be  bright, her father sent her to a  Catholic boarding school , St. Dominic’s Priory School ,  North  Adelaide. During  four years there she  was taught shorthand , typing, French, English and geography . She also learned how to play the piano ; her brother Douglas , who became a jockey and railway worker, described  Betty as the family’s “only silvertail.”

Her father was transferred to Alice Springs as a clerk in the office and they lived in a railway house . A regular drinker at Underdown’s pub , there was a spot at the bar known as “ Geordie’s Corner. ” When Betty’s parents split up, she came home from Adelaide to look after the family . At home, she often heard her father talk abut a  man called Jim  Bowditch.

She found it hard to get work in Alice ; for a time she was employed as a shorthand typist in the Animal Industry Branch. Later on , she worked in the office of a transport company. Bowditch frequently spoke to her in Loutit’s shop and began to take her out on his ex- Army BSA motorbike. That the editor of the paper was riding around town with an attractive young half-caste on the pillion seat did not go unnoticed; tongues wagged.

And ASIO noted in June l952 that Bowditch was “currently associating with a half-caste woman called Hodgson ”. One day, Jim ,with Betty on the back of the motorcycle , was involved in a collision with a car. Henceforth they travelled in a car for safety .

At times, Jim and Betty went to the residence of  his former boss at Works and Housing, D. D. Smith,  and were always made feel welcome. Betty was athletic and played basketball , hockey  and  tennis . In 1948 she had been a member of a team which beat Darwin in basketball. After she met Jim, Betty regularly watched him play cricket each Sunday. Jim also played tennis.


 Betty recalled   that  they often went to the Memorial Club where he gathered  social notes for the paper.  While he  exchanged  small talk in the process , he was  ever ready to discuss politics with anybody .    Many people converged on the club at weekends and some cattlemen came in with their wives. Claims were made that Bowditch deliberately took Betty to the club to confront the “ colour bar”. Betty said this was not so,  as far as she knew . Jim said he liked Betty , whom he described as most attractive -“ some doll ”- and just took her with him wherever he went. However, in one recorded interview, Bowditch said he did take Betty to the Memorial Club to confront  the  colour bar.

While there was no written rule against taking “ coloureds ” to the club, it was frowned upon . It must be said in fairness that some prominent members of the club said they would walk out if “coloured ”members of a Darwin football team on a visit to Alice were not allowed into the club. The footballeres  were subsequently allowed in and there was no trouble as a result.

Apart from some club members frowning on the entry of “coloureds ”, there was also an  anti- “ foreigner ” attitude .   Italians, in particular, had a difficult time . Some Italians who did eventually gain membership found that they were ignored and left to sit in a group on their own. The attitude to foreigners irked Bowditch’s  journalist friend, Alan Wauchope , so much that he wrote a letter to the paper on the subject. In it , he said he was concerned to learn that the Memorial Club, like another club in town, had decided not to admit foreigners as members unless they first produced naturalization papers. He considered this action a typical insular attitude calculated to do untold harm to the government’s policy of friendly assimilation of “ screened foreigners. ”


Just to make it abundantly clear what he felt , Wauchope said it was an instance of “ tinpot snobbery , lack of vision , and a Pooh-Bah outlook engendered possibly by a brief residence abroad and membership of some decadent club where rigid lines of demarcation left a knot of befuddled Colonel Blimps in splendid isolation . ” Furthermore, he went on to say that with the speed of modern travel and the shrinking of distances foreigners were now our neighbours.

He continued : “ I have no doubt that if a distinguished ‘ foreigner’ were to visit Alice, whether he be the inkiest of Rajah Bong , or whitest of Russian, the leaders of the Memorial Club would fall over themselves to push and to bask in his reflected glory . ” Obviously, his letter caused anger at the Memorial Club ; there may even have been a threat of legal action because Wauchope subsequently wrote that he had not been referring to the club’s current committee –one member being lawyer Phil Rice – which was doing a good job . NEXT : The religious horn blower.

BLUE MONSOON -By Jackson"Troppo" Pollock


There was a time in Darwin when the Revolution reared its head at the Murdoch owned Northern Territory News. The person who played a large part in this capitalist shock was Marxist journalist , the late John Loizou. It came in the form of workers’ participation in the running of the paper, which evolved out of the strike over the replacement of James Frederick Bowditch as editor of the paper.

Loizou briefed the Australian Journalists’ Association in Sydney in the negotiations . He pointed out that in a recent statement Rupert Murdoch had said the management of a newspaper was obligated to make sure it was run in a business like fashion. The AJA, Loizou said, should use this same argument and say journalists on a paper should have a say in the running of the editorial side  ,especially if they thought management action was or could damage the publication ,  financially and in the eyes of its readers.

It was John’s proud boast that workers were given a say in the running of the paper for the first time in Australia . What is more , he chortled, the company negotiators in Sydney had not realised the importance of the agreement in the first instance . This whiff of Danny the Red did not last long as Cyclone Tracy blew the place apart ; journalists, including John, were scattered down south, the presses stopped running for a time at the NT News. When he finally made it back to Darwin , Loizou worked for the Darwin Council  in the street labour team , there being no job for him at the News .  However, being a top notch journalist , the News did re-employ him .
My contact  with John spanned more than half a century. I knew him when he first lobbed in town from Melbourne with the ABC , a fit footballer , then known as  John Sparkes ( his stepfather’s surname ), adept at shorthand , which I had never mastered . At one stage , I was asked if I would recommend John as editor of the independent newspaper , Darwin Star . I did , he was appointed and the proprietors told me that , of all the editors , his time at the helm had been the smoothest and most financially productive . The two Darwin papers, naturally, were locked in a deadly circulation and revenue battle.

There was a lively column in the Darwin Star - Scurrilous - which John may have started . Once it took a shot at the editor of the NT News, John Hogan, over his attendance at Friday Club luncheons. Hogan was upset and complained to the Press Council. I well remember John ringing me, chuckling in his distinctive  way, and reading out Hogan’s letter of complaint, a copy of which I recently came across in my files.

On another occasion, he rang , laughing so much it was hard to understand what he was saying , and blurted out hilarious details about an incident in which the late Freddy Fogarty , who often went the knuckle , had confronted a British butterfly collector armed with a net who had trespassed on Kulaluk land. Methinks the net was snatched from the uppity butterfly man and brought down over his head.

When I was secretary of the Darwin sub-branch of the Queensland AJA,I don’t think John was ever a financial member .This did not prevent him from attending meetings, being very vocal and becoming disgruntled when told he could not vote on an issue .

Over the years , John and I had many discussions and he often made startling statements , like his claim that he could sail a boat to Mozambique and pick up a printing press  and bring it back to Darwin. That brings to mind the time he was  the skipper of the  former  drug boat  Mariana  which he was restoring on the hard at Doctor’s Gully. Being a good Marxist captain , he said the vessel would be run on democratic lines , all  those who came aboard and  lingered able to cast a vote on how things were run .  This was fine in theory, but one night he ordered everybody off  after some of the  motley crew annoyed him.

John has been the subject of a premature wake in Darwin. Wake number 2 will take place after his funeral February 8-another opportunity to shout," Up the workers !" -(Peter Simon)

Saturday, January 26, 2013


This  barnacle  encrusted  and Toledo worm riddled  scribe has had a long association with  the waterfront as a reporter in Sydney, Darwin, Cairns, Auckland, Adelaide , starting  by  cleaning with creosote the bilge of a mother boat in a Sydney –Hobart yacht race , covering  the  start for  a  newspaper  from a ferry of  one of the races , going out in the boat which took Customs and Health officials to meet incoming passenger ships at the entrance to Sydney Harbour in the l950s.

 In Darwin I covered church rounds, courts , police and the  most interesting shipping round, which included the Japanese salvage operations , a 1960 trip to Portuguese Timor as a deckhand when oil was struck by an American drilling company , and a voyage along the Arnhem Land coast in a Methodist supply lugger ( chundered a lot  along the way).

The waterfront beat in Cairns took me down the so-called rough  Barbary Coast , provided encounters with the builders of strange boats ,a  search for the Australian  Tarzan , and Kay’s  Kimino , the owner of the said garment  being a Japanese lady  from which  winning tickets in  a  pub raffle were regularly drawn . In New Zealand , I went out with shark fishermen and tracked down a coffin boat sailor , met people involved in the Pirate Radio ShipRadio Hauraki- and inspected the replica of Bligh’s Bounty when it visited the country. Incidently,  bet you do not know that during WW11  dastardly Germans  on  submarines  slipped  ashore  and  milked   Kiwi cows  at  night ?

Adelaide brought me into contact with enthusiasts with fabulous martime history collections and I  bought at auction  the  personal papers and books of  a sailor  who will be the subject of extensive coverage  in Little Darwin  sometime this year.

No reporter in Darwin seems to really cover shipping news, the  throbbing Brando Beat. This statement is based on observations  of   the upsurge in harbour activity in the past six months and discussions with people involved in waterfront activities. There is an opening for a reporter like Quoyle , the former New York State newsman, central figure in the 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning book , THE SHIPPING NEWS, by E. Annie Proulx, to chronicle the  diverse maritime activity taking place in the port. In visual observations from shore in recent weeks , naval craft were seen plainly taking part in vessel escort duties . Early one Saturday morning naval ships were seen steaming in line and then smaller vessels detached themselves and did manoeuvres. This raises many question . Vessels of all shapes and sizes move about the harbour , day and night . Following   the strange episode at the Larrakeyah naval base in which firearms were stolen from a patrol boat , a fishing boat was seen soon  after  near the entrance to the facility. American naval authorities, with great justification , I am sure , would not allow an innocent looking tinny near the entrance to any of its bases .

Last year , a ship bearing the clearly visible name JUMBO on its hull was seen in port . A quick Google check revealed that Jumbo, a Dutch based outfit, specialises in heavy lifting cranes , with a fleet of vessels capable of lifting 500 tonnes to 1800 tonnes . Little Darwin took a photo of the Jumbo in the harbour and expected to see the local media do a report on this ship and its innovative company. The floating  Jumbo, however, went unnoticed by the media pack. The  mighty dredge which arrived to deepen the harbour  to enable larger gas tankers entry received initial media attention , then seemed to sink with all hands.    It is an astonishing piece of equipment; technically minded persons have spoken almost in awe at the shipboard setup.

Where are the  obvious follow up stories about the brand new pilot boat which went aground the day after it was commissioned ? Cruise ships come and go almost without mention and tourists , on occasions, arrive in town to find few shops open , which reveals poor liaison between the ships, the tourist industry and local business. Talk to the colourful people whose fishing vessels flock together in what is known as the Duck Pond and innumerable stories , some outrageous, emerge . At night, there are frequently scenes of activity at Frances Bay as small coastal vessels load up. An interview with the Darwin Port Authority about the increased activity and the future outlook would make interesting reading . Doing the shipping news can be most rewarding and productive if you actually keep in contact with shipping agents, get out of the office, go to the wharves , speak to the waterside workers , the captains, crew members and spot a vessel with JUMBO emblazoned on its hull. What looked like a Chinese tramp steamer slid into port during our watch ,without mention in the media . Wonder where it came from, what it was doing here? -(Peter Simon)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


When former NT Chief Minister , Paul Henderson, announced his resignation from politics , ex-minister, Rob Knight, Attorney-General, among other things, who lost his seat at the last election , was seen  in Henderson’s Wanguri electorate office in the Hibiscus Shopping Centre . This raised speculation that Knight might be the ALP candidate at the by-election caused by Henderson’s departure. Readers will recall that Minister Knight was dive bombed by aggressive , but really lovable Plovers outside  parliament.

At the media conference announcing his departure, visibly carrying increased weight about the girth , Henderson  said he was 50, wanted to spend more time with his family. So he may be busy on the family exercise machine, burning off the avoirdupois before he goes for a new job interview. RABBIT TERRITORY ?-The butcher shop not far from Henderson’s electorate office used to carry a sign offering RABBITS , which had been tampered with to read RABBIS , which no doubt upset Jewish voters .


Longtime Darwin activist, Rob Wesley–Smith, is  similar to  Julian Assange. For more than 40 years, Wesley-Smith has consistently exposed inconvenient truths about many important international, national and Territory issues . In doing so, he raised  the  ire of those in high places and, naturally, received  the  attention of the  security service . As a result, Wesley-Smith is currently reading his recently obtained bulky Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)  file.

Little Darwin has been given the privilege of a quick peek at the  documents, parts of which are  blanked out. There is mention of him in 1970 at an anti-Vietnam War Canberra demonstration against the visit of US Vice President , Spiro Agnew. Agnew, the only VP forced to resign because of criminal charges, had specially written for him by spin doctors disparaging labels for young Americans and liberals who opposed US involvement in the war , was  known as the “Hatchet Man .”

The file includes the names of many Territory people – unionists, NT News editor Jim Bowditch , Communist  Brian Manning, journalist John Loizou – for whom there will be a wake this weekend . There is even a copy of Wesley- Smith’s wedding certificate; an explanation for  ASIO head office that the Dry is an NT expression for the Dry season ;  a copy of his letter to the  Darwin  City  Council when he sought permission to run a Vietnam Moratorium information event in Raintree Park, his application at first rejected ( billed by Little Darwin as The Unquiet Australian , a play on Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American , about the Indo-China morass, Wesley –Smith and his wife went to Saigon during the war and stayed in the same hotel as Greene, the Continental ) ; various newspaper cuttings and a note that he subscribes to Tribune , the Communist newspaper ; his  full name  and physical  details, including the important fact that he wears glasses ; a report that he had  become disillusioned  with  politics .

He  exposed Gove mining pollution , supported Aboriginal land rights, and was a key player in the establishment of the NT civil liberties organisation. Along the way he coached  teams  in various football codes , wrote papers on  pastures, fencing, horse and cattle nutrition, domesticated  400 buffaloes , held field days, took part in motorbike racing , engaged  in  boat building,  jogged, played Super Rules and contributed  to  other community activities. 

In his many campaigns he challenged Australian governments , Labor and Coalition, received a letter from US president Jimmy Carter , confronted police , took on departmental heads , organised and participated in many demonstrations, some against Indonesia. An agronomist , he spoke out about  grandiose agricultural schemes which surface from time to time in the Territory, in doing so attracting the anger  of vested interests and politicians.

He and others were charged when they defied the Australian government and attempted to run medical supplies from Darwin to East Timor . For speaking up, his employers , the NT Public Service, fined him for breaching his terms of employment by commenting on matters political and governmental.  He had a regular newspaper column –Wes’s View –in which he voiced his opinions and campaigned to clear Lindy Chamberlain. Various Territory politicians from Dr Goff Letts to Paul Everingham criticised him . Dr Letts urged Wesley-Smith to leave the public service and become a politician if he insisted in criticising government ; later Wesley-Smith stood for the ALP in the unwinnable seat of Koolpinyah , an experience which he found disillusioning. Wesley-Smith was an outspoken champion for the East Timorese from the early days , when so many people here and overseas turned a blind eye to the slaughter.

In what could be regarded as qualified support for his views, Chief Minister Everingham raised some aspects during a March 3, l977 debate. Everingham said he had been worried for many months by what had been going on in  East Timor . He was surprised that the situation did not worry the people of Darwin a great deal more because of the atrocities going on there. Here in Darwin , people just seemed to get “ another pie” from the piecart, and not blink an eyelid.

We all go on as though this is not happening within 300 miles of us apparently . I am prepared to accept what I have heard and read of the almost daily rape , murder and torture by Indonesian troops -and perhaps the rape , murder and torture by Fretilin troops –of the population of East Timor .” Obvious cases of atrocities included the Australian reporters shot by Indonesian troops , one of those Roger East, who had bought Everingham a bottle of wine in the Olympic Restaurant , Darwin , one afternoon. He went on to say that Australian foreign policy on both sides appeared to be one that  just hushed up what was going on and swept it under the carpet. Former PM Gough Whitlam he likened to British Prime Minister Standley Baldwin and Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock to Neville Chamberlain, who signed the Munich Agreement to appease Hitler, in the East Timor affair . It would be good, said Everingham , to get at the records and find the truth of the matter .

If , like Julian Assange , you insist on revealing and speaking the truth , you can expect the wrath of those who regard themselves as masters of the universe. In the case of Wesley-Smith , the system eventually got revenge by making his government position redundant , and for a year he was reduced to driving a school bus. Having survived a near death situation when he fell on his head while helping a friend ,Wesley-Smith is still closely involved with Timor-Leste, speaking out on various other issues and occasionally writing letters to editors, alerting media members to stories . He is highly regarded in Timor-Leste and received the Grace Kelly Medal for his unfaltering support at a special ceremony in the Timor-Leste parliament. When he talks of the terrible ordeal of the Timorese, Wesley-Smith uses strong language to describe the supine stance taken by Australian governments during the slaughter  and our entering into a deal with Indonesia to jointly plunder its oil reserves. He continues to tell it like it really is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


CANBERRA : Leaked documents reveal that the Coalition has drawn up a fiendish plan to bombard refugee boats with repulsive cupcakes made to Julie Bishop’s Brownie recipe. In the event that the Coalition wins the election bake off competition , it will launch a squadron of drones armed with tasteless cupcakes to overfly Indonesian ports. Any vessels deemed to be carrying refugees will be showered with Bishop’s dreaded cupcakes, photos of her terrible death stare and sloppy National Party tripe. The use of cupcakes is rightly banned under the Geneva Convention.

Gimlet-eyed Deputy Opposition Leader , Julie Bishop, glared at Little Darwin’s Kitchen Correspondent and office glutton , Fatty Finn, when he questioned her about the devilish drone plan. After hitting him in the face with a shaving cream sponge, she dashed off to attend secret talks about the low standing of Tony Abbott in polls . Flummoxed Finn exclusively reports that the Mad Monk has been advised against doing his frequent Lance Armstrong impersonations, now on a romantic bicycle built for two to impress female voters , as he might be hit by a Bondi bus driven by Malcolm Turnbull as he does wheelies around the eastern suburbs .

Saturday, January 19, 2013


One of Australia’s leading clarinetists , Ros Dunlop , who captured  the musical soul of Timor-Leste, is expected to pass  through Darwin tomorrow on her way to that country. After 10 years of research, she wrote Lian Husi Musika Tradisional Husi Timor–Leste ( Sounds of the Soul :The Traditional Music of East Timor ) . The unique book was supported by the United States Ambassadors’ Fund For Cultural Preservation. Dunlop made her first trip to Timor-Leste in April 2002 with Timor activist brothers Robert and Martin Wesley-Smith and gave concerts which included Martin’s audio-visual pieces about East Timor. She became enchanted by the country, its people, culture and began making regular visits to record the local music . Darwin agronomist, Robert Wesley-Smith, recently received an author’s presentation copy of the book with an inscription saying it would never have been written without his help. He said Dunlop was a tireless worker and entertainer ; he recalled that one night she , he and  his  brother were accommodated  in a police cell  as they travelled about the country  . Dunlop   was enthusiastically supported by many people, including musicians , translators, artists from the Arte Moris Art School and young Timorese from the audio visual archive, Centro Archivo Max Stuhl Timor-Leste. Well  illustrated, the book is in Tetun and English. Copies can be ordered through

Thursday, January 17, 2013


The correct spelling of a popular Darwin building- commonly called  Marrenah House - which once accommodated single government typists and then became the police barracks has been called into question.  Melbourne journalist  Kim Lockwood raised the issue when he referred to Mareenah House in informative items he sent about former Punch editor Malcolm Muggeridge and his (Kim’s) autograph book. We dared to change his copy to read Marrenah House, our understanding of the correct spelling . Kim , an editor and experienced sub editor , was adamant that he was correct, even saying he was prepared to offer odds .

He had lived in the Melbourne Herald residence on the Esplanade, a short distance from the premises in question , from 1946-54 and from l956-60 with his parents and sister ; he had resided there again from 1971-75.

Darwin resident , Kiwi Gayle Carroll, wrote a book about the building with the catchy heading VIRGINS’ RETREAT, and said the spelling of the place had changed throughout its life, the origin of the name open to speculation.She stated that originally MAREENAH had been the accepted spelling and pronunciation. It appears that Kim was correct and we are glad that we had not wagered the Kiwi Kick ( the emergency fund kept under the mattress, or some other hard to find location ) to challenge his assertion.

Author Carroll also wrote that the place had been referred to as Marina Hostel. An anonymous gentleman- known as the Oracle at the NT Genealogical Society – chuckled when consulted , and said there had been a suggestion that the place had been named after Princess Marina of Greece ,who married the Duke of Kent .

With the passage of time , it became known  as  Marrenah House , sounding like the person in the welcome: “Hello ,sailor.”The matelot sounding version of the name may have been attributed to the fact that when visiting naval ships came to Darwin taxi drivers often delivered eager mariners , some American, to the premises and were promptly told to beat it by management .

There being a shortage of females in Darwin in the l950s, a building filled with damsels was something of a goldmine. Its occupants received a lot of attention, some not legit. A young man found in grass , allegedly peering into the building at night, told court he was actually out looking for a rare moth which only came out in the dark. Journalist /author Keith Willey made great use of this mothy episode in print and  anecdotes years after the event. The place lost its allure when it became barracks for male police officers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


SYDNEY: A fund raising evening is to be held in the Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst, January 18. The program includes Martin Wesley-Smith’s  Papua Merdeka slides ; David Bradbury will give a talk and there will be footage from his l977 film behind the scenes  in that  oppressed country. There are West Papua supporters in Darwin  but the situation in  that  country  receives  almost  no coverage from the local media.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Award winning  reporter, Amy Goodman,  presenter  of  the  US  tv  show DemocracyNow , is renowned for  hard hitting  coverage of  events , including the  East Timor  struggle , where she  and another  journalist were roughed up by Indonesians at  the Santa Cruz Cemetery shootings  in  Dili. In that incident  the journalist with her , Alan Nairn, threw  himself on top of Goodman  to protect her from  the assailants and was  badly beaten . Goodman  has been in  Darwin on several occasions.

Her  recent  account of the Australian bushfires  , also  run on  the not for profit NationofChange (Progressive Journalism for Positive Change ) website , was headed : AUSTRALIA ON FIRE: RECORD-SHATTERING HEAT,WILDFIRES ENGULF WORLD'S   LARGEST   EXPORTER OF COAL.  In a live cross to Sydney, Anna Rose, co-founder and chair of Australian Youth Climate Coalition, a published  campaigner  against  global warming , stated  that billionaire  miners want to open two new coal mines  in Queensland   which would  result in  thousands more   bulk carriers  endangering  the  Great  Barrier  Reef.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


The Greek barber shop in the Pavonia Place Village , Nightcliff, Darwin,  seems to have been in existence as long as the famous Acropolis of Athens .The Greek club which operated above the shop crashed like Icarus with the efflux of time , but the tenacious tonsorial team carried on. One of the barbers working there , who recently came back to Darwin from Greece, made and installed the shop’s furniture in l967. Three generations of my family have had their locks trimmed in the shop. The last time I had my haircut there –a long overdue tidy up before Christmas (barber starver ) -I noticed there had been some changes. There were new curtains in traditional barber pole colours and large posters of Humphrey Bogart with a gat and Lauren Bacall , Elvis Presley, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe above the mirrors. The plight of the Greek economy , the German bail out and Italian politics were discussed during the visit . Since that trim, a barber shop pole has been painted on the outside brickwork. If I remember correctly, the father of one of the early barbers had worked at the Rum Jungle uranium mine ; in recent years the shop experienced break ins which have plagued the centre and one of the barbers resorted to sleeping on the premises with his dog to protect the premises ; he was injured when a drunk driver ran into a taxi in which he was travelling and can no longer cut hair ; a Greek woman came from Queensland to help keep the shop open . Now there are two barbers there. The Nightcliff Greek barber shop story is worthy of media excavation.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Journalist , former politician , Pete Steedman , whose colourful life is being serialised in Little Darwin, is sorting out  his extensive files   and  turned up a letter dated November 1992 , from ABC celebrity , Phillip Adams, in which he said : “I refuse to die until your autobiography appears. I want to be around to laugh at the libel cases and, if possible, to give character evidence in your favour”.

In view of this worrying statement about libel cases , Little Darwin immediately contacted its Philadelphian  legal eagles and instructed them to double check the next proposed chapters dealing with Steedman's  time as  the Honourable Member for Casey in the House of Representatives as there is mention of what  Kiwi  males  and  some National Party  members (allegedly)  do  to  sheep , and   Australian  spooks  (allegedly) aping  James Bond. The sanitised  documents   will  be  posted  soon  after  they  have  been  deloused.

Friday, January 4, 2013


In yet another brilliant move to improve his standing with women , Tony Abbott has promised to present every mother with a nuclear powered stroller or pram . The Mad Monk came to this rare  policy decision while watching his old punching buddy, Puffing Joe Hockey, pushing a stroller with a child onboard , complaining it was hard yakka . “Joe seemed to be hyper-ventilating ,” Abbott told Little Darwin. “If Big Joe found pushing a stroller hard, just imagine how difficult it is for the weaker sex ?” Abbott proudly announced that the Easter Bunny will insert in the stocking of every lucky mother a clip- on nuclear powered motor to attach to perambulators, strollers and skateboards to make shopping trips and walk-a-thons easier . A true blue focus group in North Sydney tried out the nuclear prams and all were arrested for speeding in a built up area . Of course , these arrests would not take place in the Northern Territory where the hoon-happy Country Liberals intend lifting the maximum speed limit to 300kph on the Darwin - Alice Springs - Bedlam stretch of the Stuart Highway .

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Attractive as a colourful packet of jelly crystals , this is modern Townsville, North Queensland, where a Darwin boy had an unforgettable experience during World War 11.  For those with a sweet tooth - like young Eric, the subject of this post -the building in the left background is known as the Sugar Shaker

Aged seven, Eric Lee was a passenger aboard the MV Montoro which evacuated many Darwin residents down south in January 1942 before the Japanese attacked the city. Recently, Eric, a member of the Northern Territory Genealogical Society , recalled that voyage , which he regarded as a great adventure, despite the wartime tensions. He was travelling with his mother , a sister and three other brothers.

At Thursday Island , relatives , who ran a shop , took them for a tour in a car and gave  them  presents. When the Montoro pulled  into Townsville , North Queensland, they went ashore for a short time  and Eric experienced jelly, red in colour, for the first time ; even now he smacks his lips as he savours that  inital taste. Thereafter he was hooked on red jelly.  A growing lad, keen on tucker , he fondly remembers the Chinese steward on the Montoro , Willie , who used  to  play a  xylophone, to draw attention to mealtime sitting  details on the ship. Children went first , and you could have seconds, Eric  said .   With  other boys , he strolled about the ship’s deck , often at night , spoke to the Lascars in their quarters and  souvenired some of their onions . There was an incident  involving a woman who locked herself in a cabin and would not come out . Eric  peeped  through the keyhole of the cabin at  one stage  and saw her , in a corner , slumped forward.

He firmly states that the ship was escorted by mine sweepers , and he and other boys stuck their  heads out  the railings to  watch the sweepers in  action , which alarmed  mothers. Official accounts of  the evacuation state that there was a constant watch for floating mines. Most of the 1066 women and 900 children evacuated from Darwin went by sea. The first group left Darwin on December 19 aboard the Koolinda. The troop carrier Zealandia, USS President Grant, Montoro, and Koolama also evacuated civilians , the last ship sailing on February  15-four days before the attack.

On arrival in Brisbane, Eric’s family was sent to a lodging house near the Storey Bridge. He was told  the woman who ran the place instructed her daughter , Brenda, to display  white sheets on the building front - denoting surrender - in the event that the Japanese  invaded Brisbane , as she did not want to have any  dealings with them.  Eventually moved to Sydney, the Lee family lived in Surry Hills. Eric noticed that many schoolchildren there “ parked” chewing gum behind their ears , so he followed suit. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ( 1916) , James Joyce , revealing the cruelty in Catholic schools in Ireland , told how Fleming , beaten by the prefect of  studies with a pandybat , a wooden bat with which to beat the hands of boys , had  hardened his  by rubbing rosin into them. Young  Eric,like other boys,  had a tin of rosin  to  reduce the pain of  the  cane .

With his  mother , the family went to the entertainment centre, Luna Park, near the  bridge; that night the Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour . After the war , Eric , still besotted with red jelly , returned to Darwin. Aged 17, he received sufficient votes at a gathering of watersiders in the Cavenagh Street Stadium to become a wharfie . As you were supposed to be at least 18 to work on the wharf, he was advised to speak in a deep voice when he went along to register with the stevedoring authority .

The person he reported to was Harold Cooper , later a  Darwin mayor. When Cooper asked his age , Eric replied , basso profundo , 18. His love of red jelly followed him to the waterfront. He regularly took a packet of jelly crystals down to the wharf and mixed some with  water  and  banana, then placed it in the mess room frig for a daily treat.

Nowadays ,  Eric regularly meets up in supermarket cafes with three or four longtime Darwin residents who, over tea and coffee, swap yarns about the past, shoot the breeze, discuss  footballers ; Eric is  always receptive for  red hot tips on four - legged hay burners . One of the group had a close encounter with a UFO ; an ex-Navy man , with now faded tattoos , dined out at Sydney’s famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels ; another was owed a lot of money by a meatworks which declared itself bankrupt when he won a claim against it , and he only got five cents in the dollar. Others join the group from time to time and add colour, gusto  and zany comments to the  discourse .

One such  person , barrel-chested Fred Corpus , now slow in gait, with a walking stick, carries  in his wallet a  photo of himself as a  young man in a diving suit when he was a famous pearl diver , mentioned in several books . In the Senate in October 1952 it was recorded that Corpus and Joe Hunter fished four tons four hundredweight of pearl shell in one neap tide , thus breaking a  pre- war record set by the Japanese . During the Broome Festival of  the  Pearls last year, Fred Corpus was the Shinju Matsuri Patron  who visited  the luggers . * Due to a strict  diet, Eric, sadly, no longer consumes his beloved  red jelly. Over the Christmas period , however,  he admits to having  had  some  “white stuff” which  goes  with  jelly .


From the Little Darwin collection of  oddities  comes  this photograph  with  the caption  MAN  FRIDAY COOKTOWN , D.S.Ogg, Toowoomba . The photograph was found in a  box  in a  Brisbane  shop dealing in old wares about  20 years ago.