Montage of old Pine Creek cemetery site where Jack Gardner , back to camera , pointed out to this writer where two close prospectors he knew were buried in the same plot .
Disappointed at not becoming filthy rich like Jack Gardner through his uranium find, funds low, reporter Ross Annabell decided to quit Darwin. He borrowed 50 pounds ($100) from Bowditch and once more headed by motorbike to Sydney, collecting feature articles along the way , steering clear of Woomera . On arrival in Sydney he picked up his mail forwarded from Darwin and there was a “fortune” in cheques for feature articles he had written for various publications about the uranium rush and other exotic Territory subjects. There was so much money that he need not have left Darwin . However, there was no turning back,and he promptly returned the money he had borrowed from Bowditch.
In Sydney he did casual work for the ABC and then joined the Sydney Morning Herald , eventually returning to New Zealand where he became a highly regarded feature writer at the Rotorua Post , was chief reporter on a newspaper for five years. He also taught journalism at the Wellington Polytechnic College; one of his students , Ali Cromie , went on to make a name for herself in financial journalism in Australia.
Over the years ,the “ hot ” uranium yellowcake he brought from Rum Jungle was stored in several barns and sheds along with mineral specimens he had brought back from the NT. He gave the yellowcake to the Wellington Polytechnic for a lecture on radioactivity. It got lost when he sold a farm and he suspected it could be buried in the Carteton dump. Annabell subsequently wrote his book The Uranium Hunters about his time in the Territory , describing his time at the News and the hilarious dealings with Jack Gardner.
After leaving the Territory to go opal mining, Gardner moved on to Radium Hill in South Australia . Then he travelled the world, drinking with and entertaining an extraordinary number of women ,many of whom he described as “ wives “, one unfortunately run over by a bus at the foot of Mount Fiji, playing the stockmarket and dabbling in gemstones , which he bought in one country and sold in another . Nearly 20 years after he had last seen Gardner, Annabell arrived home to find an elderly gentleman sitting at the table – it was Jack Gardner. Gasp. He had read Annabell’s book , rang the publishers and asked for the author’s address. He then flew to NZ and arrived unannounced , seemingly intent on staying for a long, long time.
His presence at the Annabell residence caused chaos at a nearby inebriates home because he led inmates astray, throwing his money about and shouting drinks all round . Ross’s wife, Meg, was less than happy with the unexpected guest. Gardner , who regarded married men as poor, pathetic, donkey-like creatures whose role in life it is to carry the groceries at supermarkets , rewarded with an occasional cuddle, did not respond to hints to move on . He spent most of the days and a large part of the nights boozing at the local pub . He brought home a few bottles of beer so that he did not go thirsty during the night.
YUMMY TRIPE DISH
As a special treat for the Annabell family, Jack came home with a bundle of tripe and, to their horror, insisted on cooking it up for them. As Ross was having his ears “belted ”each night by his wife , saying Jack must go, Ross resorted to a desperate and most unusual stratagem ,indicative of lateral thinking. He caught a hedgehog in the garden, and one night slipped it into Jack’s bed, hoping that the unwelcome guest would come home , worse for the wear, slip between the sheets and get a nasty, prickly shock.
However, during his life, Gardner had undoubtedly slept with many strange things ,including a Geiger counter, and one of his numerous wives had been taken by a crocodile,so he had lived close to nature. He just kicked the unfortunate hedgehog out of bed. For some strange reason, possibly Gardner’s animal magnetism , the beastie kept on climbing back in with him , only to be booted out time and time again.
Exasperated , Jack picked up the hedgehog , threw it into the sitting room , and shut the door . In the morning he told the Annabells about his strange nocturnal encounter with a furry critter. Thankfully, Gardner left soon after , never to be seen again . Some days later , there was a nasty smell in the Annabell household - it was the cuddly hedgehog which had died under the couch in the sitting room .
Ross’s wife met a woman several months later who told of another painful encounter with Jack Gardner. Seems the woman had been honeymooning in Tahiti or some other exotic location years previously and met this man called Jack Gardner who was staying in the same resort. He had been the life of the party , regaling people with amazing stories about his exploits in the Northern Territory , and told them he had a Kiwi journalist mate called Ross Annabell.
Gardner had taken down the NZ address of the unsuspecting newlyweds , and had arrived, once more without prior notice, and made a thorough nuisance of himself at their farm. He rode the farm motorbike to the Ekatahuna Pub,but eventually crashed it and hurt himself coming home from the hostelry at night. Without transport to the nearest pub , he left , much to the delight of the exhausted couple . NEXT : Bowditch makes his mark in Darwin as a fighter for the underdog .