Sunday, August 31, 2014


 Blessed is   the  Sabbath–especially   if  there  is  a  whopping  big   book  sale  on  that  day .  On    Magnetic  Island , North Queensland, there  is an annual  bookfest  offering  large  numbers of  goodies   at   the  kindergarten. Some  of  the  offerings, spread on tables  come   with   bookworm , free  of charge ; often   discovered  are  a range of  interesting  inserts,   inscriptions  ,  a  variety  of  old   library   notices   and   the   trade  stamps  of  book  dealers  in  various  parts  of  Australia .  This  bug eyed  book  addict , showing great self control ,  managed  to  buy  a  mere  70  volumes.  A  number   were   early   editions   by    Ion  Idriess  covering   North  Australian   topics   :  John Flynn,   Sir  Sidney Kidman, the Cattle  King,   In Crocodile  Land ,  Islands of  Despair and  Horrie the  Wog   Dog - read  when  this  writer  was   a  pimply  lad   in  Sydney , more  than  60  years  ago, seemingly  back  in  the  Gutenberg  Press  days.

 A l964  first edition copy of  Eaters  of   the  Lotus ,  complete with a pictorial   dustjacket,  by   Keith Willey , a  former  NT News  reporter  in  the  days of  Jim Bowditch,   was   eagerly  snapped  up .  Willey  dedicated  the book to  his friends  in  the  North who  eat  the  Lotus , probably the reason why recently I  had  expensive  dental  treatment . Another  find was  Syd  Kyle-Little’s  Whispering  Wind, Adventures in Arnhem Land , with dustjacket,   which includes a  photograph of  Cadet Patrol Officer  Jack  Doolan  who  later became  a   Northern Territory ALP   politician. If I remember correctly, Kyle-Little  was a   ranger   at   Alice   Springs. 

The eclectic range of   purchases  covered  India  after Gandhi;   Bangkok by  Alec  Waugh  ; the   Hong Kong  Plague of 1894    ; an autographed  copy of a  Dr  Jim Cairns book ;  early, illustrated , Australian  novels , including   the  l922   Cooee  of   Glenowie   ;   accounts of   WW1;  a  batch   covering  the  Torres Strait ;  Australian National Estate ,  by  an old  journo  mate from  way  back  , the  late  Professor  Clem Lloyd , an  ALP staffer (Lance Barnard , Tom Uren, methinks) ;  The  Forgotten  Rebels   of  Eureka ;  adventurer  Francis   Birtles ; a  battered, wormed, 1933  copy  of  The  Life  of Kiwi author  Katherine  Mansfield,  with  associated   newspaper  clipping (follow up post later)    The  Reef–the Great  Barrier Reef in  12  extraordinary  tales ;  the life  of  George Goyder  and   the  letters  of   the  great  Goon  , Spike  Milligan.


Fascinating additional information has been  supplied by Melbourne journalist Kim Lockwood  about  the   Darwin character Cowboy Bill  whose photograph recently appeared in  this  blog in relation to  Northern Territory News  editor Jim  Bowditch.  Kim says Cowboy Bill , who  died   more  than  a decade ago, went  under  the  name of   Bill Goss . However , he  changed it to  Bill Garrison , the  New Orleans Attorney-General who  believed  JFK's assassination  had  been  the result of  a  conspiracy . The  name  change  could  have  been  due to the fact that "they"-tax-may have  been after him . Another Cowboy  Bill anecdote  comes to mind . When  journalist  Peter Blake, now in New York ,  and  this  writer  produced two  spoofy  publications, Fannie Bay Whisper and  Troppo  in   Darwin , Cowboy  Bill, the  great joker , became stroppy  when  he was  made  the  subject of  a  mild  joke.   

Saturday, August 30, 2014


 In  the   House of  Representatives  , Speaker  Bronwyn  Bishop  is  as  powerful  as  the  Dowager  Empress  Cixi  of  China . Annoy her ,  and  you  can   lose  your  tongue   and  barely   keep  your  head  as  you  are  booted  out  of  her  court .  In  a certain   unnamed Asian  country, if  you  upset  the  Lord High Speaker/Executioner  you  can  be  dragged out  and  shot by  your  own  comrades  .  Astonishingly ,  there  appears  to have  been  a  challenge  to  Madam  Speaker’s   life  and death  powers   during  the   current sitting

This exclusive photograph , above , taken by  a  war surplus drone,  captures the mysterious  moment  when   something unexplained  happened   in   the House of  Reps   and  Ms Bishop, unkindly  known as  the Perfumed Steamroller  , demanded  , “ Where  did  that come from? ” Was it a paper plane , a  brickbat  or  a  recycled  Chinese Fortune  Cookie ?

Of course , it came from the left  field , where  the rowdy  Opposition  sits  when  not  being hurled out in  numbers  greater  than  animals   boarding  Noah’s  ark.  The  Speaker , also nastily nicknamed  the Perfumed Piranha in the past,  seemed  to  be  glaring  up  higher , above the  Non-U Alp seats,  towards  the  gallery  area .  

In the photo , parliamentary  staff , Sweaty Joe, the PM and Bill Shorten  also  appear   somewhat taken  aback by  what took  place . There was   no explanation  and , as often happens, the illustrious political reporters  failed to  explain or  notice, perhaps  due to  the  fact  that  they  have  been  decimated  in  number, turned   into  churnalists  or  social media  monitors.

Question Time  resumed ; at one stage during the  chamber (potting ) ,  Ms Bishop  kindly beamed  at  and  welcomed  a  Chinese  delegation  in  the  gallery , unfortunately  seated  on  the  left , in what looked like a brand new terracotta  extension of  the Great Wall of China . A  bemused member  managed a  wave to one and all , especially Clive Palmer.  In  another offbeat  event,   Education Minister Christopher  Pyne   looked  like a  real  swot  when  he donned a pair of  horn- rimmed  glasses  and  read  his  briefing  notes .  It  is to be hoped  that  there is  more  uprising  on  the  left . It is good for a democracy clearly  under challenge by forces of  darkness . However,  just in case  people  feel like  taking on  the  Speaker  in parliament , remember the Dowager Empress set  the  bloodthirsty  Boxers on  the  foreign devils.  When  the Boxers were beaten  , the  smart concubine Dowager Empress, described  as the most  vilified  lady  in  history , returned  to the Forbidden  City  and , like Ms Bishop, invited representatives  of  powerful  countries  and  organisations  in  for  a  cuppa , showing  off  her  fine  new  china.    

Friday, August 29, 2014


With so much turmoil and barbarity in the world  it is good  to learn that a festival has been  going on  for  nearly two weeks  near the geographic  centre of Australia-Tennant Creek -called  DESERT  HARMONY .  It  has showcased  the Indigenous culture  and diverse  local  art  and  music . Our photograph   at  the  top  shows an  early  stage  in setting up  the  event .  Incidentally, the mining town  boasts  a  24 hour gym  and  two op shops .
Impressive mural in main street of Tennant 
Some of  the  artwork  for  sale  at  the  festival  
Assorted scrap metal including a car door , bicycle rims  and auto parts made up this creation  entitled CRANK IT UP .  Tucker  available  included  damper and  kangaroo tail .


In a despatch from Venice  , it seems  the  Darwin Dragon Boat team heading for the Italian championships in Ravenna  has  been  attacking  the  local   tasty  pizzas   and  gelato . Another  Darwin related  email received contained   this  classic  photograph  of   the  late ? Cowboy  Bill   whose  store of  jokes seemed endless , causing very  loud laughter  throughout  pubs . This  shot, by Darwin  photographer   Barry  Ledwidge , was probably taken when Cowboy  was  affluent  because of work on  an oil drilling rig . There were times when Cowboy was  short of a  bob or  two, slept on the ground, and used his repertoire of jokes  to  help him  survive .  As mentioned  recently, he was known to come into the office of the Northern Territory News with  two whiskies -one  for  the editor, Jim Bowditch -  sit  down   and  discuss  the meaning of  life at  an editorial  laugh  in .     

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

END OF AN ERA : Continuing biography of Crusading Editor,"Big Jim" Bowditch.

Outside Mitchell Street News office, handy to the  Hot and  Cold , Bowditch, left, and Cowboy Bill . Photo by ace  Darwin  photographer,international ice hockey star and Vegemite Fan Club pin up , Barry Ledwidge.
The  confluence  of  many  unusual  events  ultimately led to the downfall  of Bowditch.   Briefly ,  in   October  l972 , the unfortunate  Princess  Margaret  and her husband, the trendy Lord Snowdon, came to town;  Bowditch won $40,000  in  a  lottery ; and    the richest man in Darwin - Mick Paspalis, 56,died in his sleep.  Add  to  this   the  fact  that it  was  the  build up time of  the  year  when  people  go  troppo  due to  the harsh  weather conditions ,  the  likelihood  for  something extraordinary to  happen  was  high. 

The cavalcade  of    events  began  with the arrival  from Western Australia of  the Royal  party .  Travelling  with the  Royals  was  a Bowditch   friend,  journalist  Jim  "Flasher" Oram,  of  the Sydney  Mirror , who, it will be  recalled ,  had  worked with Kiwi reporter  Les  Wilson in London .  Oram , son of  a clergyman ,   gained his nickname  because he had  been a notorious dropper of  the trews  at  parties, weddings , and so forth .
By Peter Simon
With a slightly withered arm , he was also know to antagonise groups of  pugnacious  young men in drinking  establishments, perhaps  by nonchalantly calling them  “poofters”,  until they  wanted to  do  him  violence .   When his taunting of  them  got to a stage where they  were about to  punch his head in, he would  brandish his withered  arm and provocatively say  something like, “That’s right- hit a crippled man . But you wouldn’t  fight my mates over there!” The infuriated men would then  turn  on  Oram’s  unsuspecting friends , while he  watched  the  confrontation  from  the  safety of some corner ,chuckling evilly   When  colleagues went drinking with Oram  they soon learned you never admitted  to being   a mate of his  if  you were being questioned by a red -faced  muscular person  who looked as if he  wanted to tear you apart limb  by  limb.

A very experienced and much travelled  scribe,  Oram  once went on  a  bender with  Brendan Behan , the Irish author  and  playwright , which began in  England.  The well- soused  duo flew to Ireland via Aer Lingus  and reeled off the plane, the locals  treating  Behan  like Irish  royalty . They headed  for  the local  bars  to take in the atmosphere  ;  Behan collapsed  and was taken  to hospital.
While drinking in  Sydney   pubs  after work , the reporter frequently moved about the throng  with a cigarette in his hand accidently   burning holes in people’s coats.  And when a member of the Salvation Army came into  the pub  collecting and handing out the War Cry , Oram would hurl abuse  about the Sallies  taking advantage of  drunks to  “steal  ’’   money  from them.  

His first wife was a Scandinavian  Airlines Service  hostess of whom  it was said refused to have children  by him because she did not want to unleash another  Oram on the world.  He was also  a  movie buff and hosted a  TV  show in which he introduced  the evening’s  presentation ,often a horror movie , with a  well informed commentary .


Interestingly, when Pope John Paul ll  was first appointed, Oram was sent to Rome  to interview  him and he subsequently wrote a book about the Pontiff  which sold  in the millions .  The Pope , no doubt ,  would have been  briefed in advance   about  Oram  and one wonders if the Vatican  informed the  Holy Father  that  this reporter  was known as “Flasher” Jim; if so, was the Pope worldy enough to know the meaning  of flasher? After the success of his  book  on the leader of the  Holy Roman Catholic Church,  Oram went to a ball  dressed as the Pope  and his companion  went as a hooker , representing the book’s  publisher who  had  not  paid  him  royalties.

This then was the  one and only Oram  who had travelled    from  WA  to Darwin with the  Royal  party .  Along the way the security men  got to know that  Oram  was a man to watch with  a few under his belt.     Also in the party  was   David   McNicoll,   editor in chief of  Australian Consolidated Press , also known as  David D. McBluerinse  because of his hair ,  with whom  Oram had terse words one evening.  Naturally, Oram  made  contact with  Bowditch  when he  lobbed in Darwin

The Royal party  stayed  at   Government House   , Snowdon got about in  comfortable  tropical gear which included   white trousers  with  an eye catching  pocket  near the knee.  As if   having the  Royals  in town  was  not excitement    enough, Bowditch won  $40,000  in the Queensland Golden Casket  lottery . First  news of the lottery  win  was conveyed  over the  telephone to  the  Bowditch  residence. Young   Steven  Bowditch took the call,  received the message -then went out to play,  and  promptly forgot  what he had  been  told.


Betty  Bowditch was  working at the squash centre when  the news was phoned through that  Jim had won the lottery. She responded  with joy  and said   now they could  pay  off   all their  bills.  At home that afternoon, Jim   was so elated  with his win  , he  invited two linesmen working outside his house  to come in for a drink, which they did .  Because of his win, Bowditch  took the  night  off from the  newspaper   to   celebrate. The True North column in the NT News  next morning  led with an  item  about  his lottery win, stating  Jim had  recently been  heard  say  if  he  had $20,000  he would “be off”.

The only problem about the  windfall  was   that  he could not  find  his winning ticket.  He used to buy tickets, shove them in his pocket and , if they survived the day, throw them into a drawer next to the  bed.  When he ransacked the drawer, there were  plenty of old tickets, but not the vital winning one. 

The morning after the lottery  win,  Paspalis died  in his sleep .   At   a  garden party  held in the grounds of Government House, and attended by  Oram,  a colourful band of worthy citizens mingled  with the Royals.  Not far away, at the War Memorial,  and watched by police, a group of people  campaigning for  land rights displayed  banners.  One  read LAND  BEFORE  GONGS .  Lord Snowdon asked reporters what  the sign meant.  He was told of a  recent event   when the  Administrator, Fred Chaney, had flown to  Goulburn  Island to present a medal to  Rev . Lazarus Lamilami  only to find the  islanders  had  boycotted the ceremony  as they were    more interested in land rights.  When told this, Lord  Snowdon  smiled , uttered: “Oh.”

Earlier in the day,   Sandra   Holmes , in a protest  at the authorities not including Aboriginal artist Yirawala, O.B.E.,   in the list to meet the Royals ,  displayed  some  of his   bark paintings  at the front of  the ABC, where they would be seen by  the princess and her party  as they entered the  building.  There was a picture of  Holmes  and the Yirawala  display  at the front of the  ABC  building  in  the NT News.

On hearing that   Paspalis   had died , Bowditch  sped  to  the News office  .   Eventually  he  and  Oram   met up  and  went for a  drink  at the Hotel Darwin in what was a hectic day .  They  then returned to  the   newspaper office   and  Bowditch   dictated a special  editorial  about Paspalis to Oram who typed it out.   When  the  task was  finished, Bowditch said to Oram: “ Well, what  do you think of that?”  Quick as a flash , time- wise ,  Oram  replied : “I’d  have  used more cliches.” Bowditch laughed and responded : “ You would- you  write for the bloody Mirror.”  After giving the editorial to  be set for the following morning’s paper, the two then  decided to  resume  the early  wake  for  Paspalis , across the road at the Hot and Cold bar.

When  Bowditch came back to the newspaper office later that  evening   he was told  of a strange situation.  The paper’s managing director , Brian Young,  had come to the office, read  the Paspalis editorial,  told the news editor , John Meeking, “ it’s not good enough”, and took it away with him .  The contentious   editorial  supposedly opened something like  this:   You can’t be the richest man in town and not  have enemies.  Michael Paspalis was the richest man in Darwin  and did have enemies , but he also  had many friends and did a lot for the  town...  However, in a subsequent letter to Mrs Paspalis, Bowditch  said  the  editorial had started  :  “ The richest man in town is rarely  the most popular, and so it was  with  Michael Theodosis  Paspalis.”

Bowditch became enraged  and rang  Young .  He   demanded  the editorial  be  returned .  Young refused , saying he had  “ total control”.  Bowditch then rang  Sydney and  Ken May , Rupert Murdoch's right hand man,  confirmed that  Young  did have complete control  of the newspaper.   This resulted in Bowditch   resigning . NEXT : The  strike  and  arbitration hearing .


The plan by  a Darwin woman   to wear  the  Indian  clothes  she  wore at her 50th Bollywood  Birthday  Party  at  the birth  of  her first   grandchild  had  to  be  stripped  down .  Unfortunately , the  bright , sequinned  top   was   not   allowed  into  the  birthing room , so  it was removed and  grandma, reduced  to   her  pantaloons , covered  by  the  scrubs ,  went in for the big event , which proved to be a  long, difficult birth , ending in a caesarean  section. At slightly more than 8lbs ,  well covered Ivy  Judith  is shown  on  her  father’s chest.   

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Avid  postcard  collector and  researcher , Gary  Davies,  of  Magnetic  Island, constantly turns up  items of immense  interest , such  as  the above  World War l  book  produced by  New Zealand  troops  in  1918 , which contains moving and  surprising  content .  Of  particular  note  is  use of  the  term     " Digger "   to  describe  its  soldiers  and  its  origins.
Without any mention of  Australians , it  explains that the term "Digger" stands for a New Zealand soldier, equivalent to the English "Tommy".  The Digger term , it says, became general  throughout  the Division , probably adapted because  New  Zealanders  had earned  fame as  trench diggers ...Certainly on no battlefield  that he  has visited , either  on  Gallipoli or on the Western Front, has  the  editor ever seen better diggers  . Man for man the Turk may have been  almost his  equal , the German a good second. In the days of alluvial gold mining  in New Zealand the term "Digger" was in  general use. There are still many gold  diggers in the Dominion. This may have something to do with the adoption of the word by the New Zealanders in France.  
 The  publication  includes  a  laconic entry,  THE  DIGGER’S  DICTIONARY,  containing  an  unexpected   reference  to  prolific author , Nat Gould,  recently  mentioned   in  this   blog  ( MELBOURNE CUP ON THE GHASTLY WESTERN FRONT BATTLEFIELDS ) saying  he  was  read  before soldiers " went over  the  top". This indicates that Gould must have had a  big following in New Zealand as well as  in  Australia.

Written a day before he was to  return to  the  front line at  Ypes , in France, the boob-boop  of  guns heard in the distance, a writer , only  identified as " Buzzer , contributed  a  powerful article , Anzac : A Reverie . Having just  finished  "Gallipoli " by  poet and writer , John  Edward Masefield , later the Poet Laureate ,  he had  found it  a  powerful  and  sober  narrative, providing pleasure , yet a certain sense of disappointment .  It contained  a picture  from the beaches , not from the ridges  and plateaux. It seemed inevitable that some member of the "wonderful family at Anzac " would one day  find leisure  to reconstruct  in a not unworthy form  the manner of life lived at  Gallipoli.

An intimate, detailed  and truthful revelation might in literary art  fall far short  of a book like Tolstoy’s "Sebastapol" and yet prove  a  document valuable enough  to  justify  publication.

Then  the  soldier goes on to describe in vivid  language aspects of the Gallipoli fighting...the black swollen  dead...wave after wave of Australians ... taking over Quinn’s Post   from   Australians ,Quinn shot dead standing erect  on the parapet  to direct  a counter attack against the Turkish assault ... a heap of about 30 Australian and Turkish dead ...a grim story at Quinn’s about  an Australian narrating his cobber’s difficulties with a jam–tin bomb  which  blew his head  off ...the screams of a poor Turkish devil shrieking “ Allah! Allah!” as  a blockhouse is  set on  fire by shelling ...Australians playing two up ...the Colonel with his famous Rhododendron cudgel  ( swagger stick? )...a  week’s  spell at  Lemnos (Anzac Nurses)  where some terrible scented  brandy was   bought ...trenches only 40 yards apart ...impossible operations, muddle and inevitable failure ... a disastrous day ends  dug in opposite lion-hearted Australians ... in tactics –sniping , patrolling , bombing , and  field engineering , the Turks at the outset  were indisputably more proficient .

Buzzer  commented  on  the charge of lack of discipline  brought against  Anzacs, sometimes based on misunderstanding .Men who had never said "Sir" in their lives or obeyed another man’s command  gave unquestioning obedience to  a competent superior. But they saluted  capability  and character   rather  than  stars and  badges . They had many of them  been masters  of men and owned property ; they were ,if not much older,much maturer and much more  used to  independence than the English troops .They had roughed  it in every wild part of  Australasia . The proportion  of adventurous spirits was noticeably higher  than in the later reinforcements .They were  by no means lambs , and had in their ranks a fair  number of  dare-devil " hard cases ."   Bastard passed  into  common use.

There had been an inevitable sprinkling of unworthy spirits, he said, some of whom had in training  been full of bluster  and high talk. These did not stay long on Gallipoli , but sought refuge in England , Egypt or New Zealand , where they told laughable lies in newspapers  and achieved  prominence  on  anniversaries . But  the  overwhelming majority , the  flower of Australasian youth and manhood –these were , in strength of  character as  of  muscle , men  indeed.
In  the above cartoon , the cheeky   Kiwis admit stealing  Norman Lindsay's  Blinky  Bill ,  the  famous Australian   Koala . The wounded German  is undoubtedly  a reference to the air ace, Baron von   Richthofen, the Red Baron.
The editor’s note  states that some of those who contributed  to production of  the book  did so from hospital cots. Some had  drawn their  last  picture , written  their  last verse .  Published by Cassell  and Company, Limited ,London, New York ,Toronto and  Melbourne, the book ran to 20,000 copies , is  well illustrated , some full  plate colour ; a cartoon attributed  to " Finey  " is almost certainly the work of  George Finey, an under-age private who served in the war,  became an official  war  artist  . In his book The Inked In Image , author Vane Lindesay ,  of Melbourne , who recently celebrated his 93rd birthday , said  Finey , who worked in  Australia on  Smith’s Weekly, drawing many comic jokes , was one of  the  most famous of  the 20th century  portrait  caricaturists.