Friday, October 31, 2014


  Nora ,  the  Naughty  Nibbler, on  the  Prowl  

Despite going  for long  walks with her owner and sometimes  attending  an energetic  Boot Camp ,  Nora   , a  cheeky   Jack Russell ,  just  gets   fatter. Why?  Because  Nora   often  scatters  flocks of  Lorikeets and Curlews being  fed by  the kind   German  Queen of the  Jungle , just down the road, and  hoes  into  the  bird  food , which is actually  dog tucker, so  is  very  tempting   .  Nora , in search of  a snack ,  her  nose  to  the  ground ,   invaded   the  Curlew sanctuary  in  our  backyard  and  was  chased  away.  She is  shown , not  far from the latest  nest, with two eggs ,  confronted by  a  Curlew .  The  defending  Curlew   walked  about  in  threatening  attack  mode , wings  outspread, ready for a shoot out , for  a  long time  just in  case  greedy  Nora  returned  for  seconds. 

The  two  chicks  evicted  by  the parents  to make  way  for the  next batch have  joined  a  large  band  not  far  away .They   turn  up  from  time  to  time  for   feed but  are quickly chased  away  by  their  parents.  


Continuing , condensed  biography of  Crusading Editor ,"Big Jim" Bowditch  by  Peter  Simon

When Jim’s daughter, Sharon , a journalist,   married   Col Allan , managing   editor  of the Sydney  Daily Telegraph,  later called the most feared  journalist in  Australia , now running the New York Post ,   Bowditch and reporter Jim    Oram  went to  the Brisbane  wedding .  The  newlyweds   retired  to  their honeymoon  suite  in  an  hotel ;  Bowditch  left  as  a  passenger  in  a  car  which  was  pulled  over for  a  breach  of  traffic  rules. The  outcome  was  that  Bowditch  gave  the  police  a  verbal pay, saying  they  had  ruined a perfect  evening ; he  was  arrested.  The  honeymoon  was   interrupted  by the  police telephoning to  say  they  had  a  Mr  Jim  Bowditch  in  the  watchhouse, come  and  bail  him  out.
While in Sydney ,  Bowditch  called  on  longtime friends from Darwin , the Freedens , and  was sad to see  successful  businessman  Bob   suffering  from   Alzheimer’s  Disease .  Bowditch would look at  Freeden  and  repeatedly say  there was  no  God.    Freeden , he  said, had  done nothing wrong in his life , yet had  been afflicted .  Bowditch would  say  of   himself  that he  had   done  terrible  things  in  his  life -  including  killing  many    people during  the war - and  there was nothing wrong with him .
At some stage   Bowditch    resumed  contact   with the   the ex-NT News  social writer,  Joy  Collins, who was  living at  Mandurah  in  WA, and  arranged to  visit her . Bowditch subsequently went  to Adelaide  by  bus  and called on  this  writer along the  way .   Jim’s   book  manuscript  was  in a split cardboard  box and  the suitcase  he  had was  damaged.  From Adelaide  he  flew  to Western Australia  and  stayed with  Joy Collins . There he met up with  Italian friends  who had run a restaurant in  Darwin, the Donatellis.  He also called on  Z Force  members.  While in  WA  he applied   through the RSL for  a replacement  Distinguished Conduct  Medal which he had lost in Darwin years  previously  .

From   WA  he  sent  a  letter  to  this writer   and  in  it  mentioned   having “already  forgotten” the name  of   some  people  he  had   met  there  who  were  from  the  Northern  Territory.   Later   on , Joy  Collins  wrote  saying   Jim   showed   signs of  losing   his  memory  while  staying  with  her  in  Mandurah .
He eventually  returned to  Darwin  and  his  book  Whispers From The North  was published by the  Northern Territory University  Press in  1993 ; with a print run of  only 500, the book quickly  sold out . The  folk singer Ted Egan, who became  NT Administrator , attended  the book launch. Others who  attended  included   Brian  Manning, Hilda Muir , Harry and   Nan Giese,  former News photographer Joe Karlhuber, minus an arm,  and   former NT  MHR, Sam  Calder.Jim  hammed it up  and made a long speech.

Karlhuber,  Bowditch. Ledwidge Photo.
Following  publication of the book, about 1994, Bowditch passed through  Sydney and  made  contact  with   former  NT  News reporter   Errol Simper , then on The  Australian .  It  was  arranged  they  should  meet,  and  Bowditch  arrived   saying  he  no  longer  drank.  However,  he  said  the night  before  he  had  gone  to  a  pub  and  when   he  called  a  taxi  to  go home  to  his  daughter  Sharon’s  place,  he  could  not  remember  the  address which  had  been  written  down  on  a  piece  of  paper .

He  had  instructed  the  taxi  driver  to  just  drive  around ,  hoping  to   recognise  some  landmark  . With  about  $3O  dollars  on the meter ,  the  driver took him to a police station.   There   the police  had  been helpful  and not only got him home  but, it is suggested ,  they  may even have    paid  the  fare. If  so ,  it was an extraordinary event    for a person   who  had  been  lumbered  on   numerous occasions  .  Recalling that  last  meeting with  Bowditch , Simper said it seemed as if Jim  was  expressly  giving  him his life’s  details  for  an obituary . 

Back in Darwin  , Bowditch  lived on his own  in a  unit  at  Nightcliff,  not far from what had been the  Paspalis drive-in theatre .  Betty and Ngaire  kept a close watch on  him , taking him  home for meals .  Although not eating  much,  suffering  increasing  loss of  memory, Jim   was still attracted to newspapers and had  piles of them in  his  unit.
On a visit back to Darwin from South Australia, this writer and wife called on  Jim in the  unit  and  were  saddened  to  see his deteriorated physical  and  mental  state. He wore a  shirt on  back to front  and picked up an umbrella  with  a  bent  point . While he remembered  me , he did not know  my wife- despite having  given her away  at our marriage in Darwin. As we   left , he  told my wife  it had been nice to meet her - "young  lady."  NEXT : Uncle Sam wants Sergeant Bowditch .  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


 Onetime Top End resident , writing under the pen name of  Shawtodds *, fondly  recalls  great watering  holes of  his  time when Darwin was a very  different ( and some would say a far more pleasant place) to  hoist a  few, which Shawtodds did with  considerable enthusiasm and  not just on hot days. WARNING : This  epic  contains  horse  droppings .

The brother of Vic Hotel Mine Host , Richard Fong Lim , Alexander "Alec "Fong Lim , who served in the pub , was also a bookie and is shown here fielding at  Fannie Bay Racecourse  at a  Melbourne  Cup  meeting circa  1974. Educated at Scotch College, Adelaide , he  sired  six  daughters, became the  first Australian Chinese Lord Mayor, in Darwin. Lake  Alexander , man-made , and the drive into it were named after him . A daughter, Katrina , born 1961,  is currently Lord Mayor of  Darwin .

Darwin was a thirsty town in the 60s  - in fact locals boasted that the two biggest secondary industries - hell, the only secondary industries-  were the Vic and Swan breweries. These  were the days  before  Darwin  lost its decrepit charm and, in a way,  its innocence. Few  citizens locked their doors at night. and most parked cars had the  key dangling in the ignition, their owners secure in the knowledge would still be there, provided they could remember where  it was parked - not a given after a roistering night in the pub of which there were only a  handful serving a perennially parched population of around 15,000 . In  the city  proper were The Vic, the Don and Hotel Darwin. Out  of  town  were the Parap, Fannie Bay and  Nightcliff hotels and a year or so later the Rapid Creek hotel. 

One of the great pubs of my drinking life was The Vic in Smith Street- overseen benignly but firmly by its Chinese-Australian owners, the Lim family. Richard Fong Lim ruled proceedings, and routinely barred badly behaved drinkers, including larrikin members of the Northern Territory  News  staff, for periods of up  to three weeks  and  made sure beer garden patrons didn’t overstep his  mark—such as the occasion I took a racehorse into The Vic after a two day drive from Mount  Isa where we had unsuccessfully tried to win a race during the  mining town’s annual Melbourne Cup meeting . Richard eyed old  Gallant Wit and observed mildly: ”Just  tie  the bloody thing out  the back. I don’t want it shitting  in the  beer garden.” 
Odd  Vic  drinker

 All Darwin pubs then closed at 10 pm – except each was allotted one  late night a week when stumps were pulled at midnight. Late night at The Vic was Thursday, as it was at the Don, then regarded as a bloodhouse and thronged with stockmen and ringers in  from the cattle stations and looking  to get drunk,  have a fight and get laid – and given there were  then  three  men  to  every single  woman in town very little  feminine company was available to sweaty, half-crazed stockmen and ringers and  thus, this overflow of testosterone had no other outlet  than drinking and fighting of which there  was  very much. Drinkers wanting to dodge the biff  gave the Don a swerve on late nights. 

 Not  that late night at The Vic was a garden party, but Richard Fong  Lim kept a firm rein on more extreme behavior, and while loud drunken singing and shouting and even jug-drinking competitions were OK, spewers and fighters were banished swiftly and all remaining hands pretty much had a good time getting pissed and  lying to each other. Friday night was late night at the Parap and Nightcliff pubs, with the Parap hands down the most popular because of its large beer garden and the fact it was not a tied house and served both Vic and Swan beer and as  hard-core Vic drinkers were want to opine - nobody will drink Swan unless he is in thumbscrews or  it  is  free. 

Saturday was  late night at the Hotel Darwin and the Fannie Bay Hotel, both of which attracted a better class of drinker if you didn’t count the thirst-crazed journos from the NT News. The lounge at the Hotel Darwin on the Esplanade was  straight out of Somerset  Maugham – a  large stone-flagged area  innocent of air conditioning  and  open to lush gardens with overhead fans swishing the tropical air over languid patrons knocking back icy colds of their choice. It was the perfect setting for a  relaxed  and low-key  evening  on  the  piss. 

On the Mitchell Street  side of the pub was a horse of a different color – the famous Hot 'n' Cold bar, scene of unlikely Saturday morning roistering and  believe it or not – a rock ‘n’ roll dance which  raged  from around 9 am until 1 pm when everybody left to  crash before the serious evening's  drinking or weaved off  to the footy or the Fannie Bay Races.

This bar was one of the classic watering places of my time and scene of many a mighty tipple by the ragamuffin crew from the NT News.  The bar was  in its true hot and cold mode at that time - freezing when the air conditioning was working and a tropical sweat hole when the Stokes Hill powerhouse buckled under the strain and half the town blacked out. I must say it encouraged consumption, because when it was hot your beer got the same way unless smartly drunk, and when it was cold you wanted to make sure you got it down before the  bar steamed up again.
Overlooking the thirsty throng was a bar-long mural by famous cartoonist and newspaper satirist Paul Rigby of  how Darwin comically imagined itself. Scattered through the mural were tiny drawings of a little figure he included in almost every drawing he did. This prompted a standing challenge at the Hot 'n' Cold  any drinker who could locate all the tiny figures in five minutes won a  jug of beer. Seeing as most patrons were feeling no pain when they attempted this task - the numbers of jugs the bar had to ante up was buckleys and none. Alas, this wonderful piece of Australiana did  not  survive re-modelling at the Hot 'n' Cold and  has been  lost to posterity.

[ Edit :From  memory, this mural showed a Pommie businessman in a bowler hat arriving  in  Darwin from  a  plane with a slinky blonde in  black on  his arm . Thereafter, she was shown in various  misadventures  being ogled by local blokes in singlets and shorts. In one  scene , bikini clad , she was  water skiing , pulled along by a  stingray. The  unhappy looking Pommie , on  his own ,  was  last seen boarding a plane out of  town   with a carton of  beer  on  his shoulder  bearing  the  slogan  WING  YOUR  WAY  WITH   SFA ].  

 It was also here that the Darwin Press Club was formed and had its headquarters in the bottle shop, the  street entrance of which was blocked to non-members from the street by virtue of press club members  putting  a broom handle though the handles. If  you wanted to buy a bottle, you went to the bar. Amazingly  ,the forbearing licensee of the pub, one Bailey Pitt, copped this outrageous behavior  for about six months. Mainly ,I suspect, because consumption by the parched press club members more than made up for any  loss of sales. Foundation members of the club were NT News editor Jim Bowditch, Les Wilson, stroppie transplated Kiwi who worked out of the NT News office as the Darwin correspondent for the now-defunct Sydney Daily Mirror,  news editor Keith Willey , award winning  journalist and widely published author, sports reporter Peter Blake, always willing to back himself in a speed-drinking contest, and a handful of hangers-on, including  Paul the soccer player, a sex-obsessed New Australian who was welcome, not just because he was an entertaining liar,but because it was hoped his  success with the sheilahs would rub  off on  the (single) desperates from the NT News. Never happened.

The  Press Club opened formalities on Saturday morning after the   paper was put to bed. Those days  it published  three-times weekly, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning. Some serious two-fisted tippling occurred at the Press Club and many sought entry but  few were chosen. Come Sunday the drinking landscape  in Darwin was a barren wasteland - non Sunday opening in those days - and the nearest pub to quell hangovers was  way out of  town – more than 100 km in fact – the Adelaide River Hotel which had a sprawling beer garden and an unending procession of  characters-such  as  pith helmeted , cigar chomping  Tiger Brennan dropping  in  for a  white can or six. It was well worth the trip – a perfect escape for a  quiet Sunday morning’s  drinking, although the drive back to town could  be a  bit of  an  adventure.

*Shawtodds  is  now a hippy hippy  kind of  adventurer  ,  a   mix  of  big  game fisherman    and   cardsharp , with  a  gullet  like  a  Murray  River  Pelican , who  expresses  himself  like   Damon   Runyon.


Stamp licker 
Apart   from  spreading  laughter  far  and wide    , the   one  and   only  Spike  Milligan of  the  BBC  Goon  Show  was a  serious man   with a  monkey on  his   back , longtime deep  depression .   
Edited    by   Norma  Farnes  , his  agent , manager , mother  confessor  and friend for  36 years , this  book , published by Viking , 2013 ,  reveals  his   deep concern  about    over   population   of    the   planet ,  his  embarrassment  at   having  to  wear  backless  hospital  gowns ( shared  by  this writer  who  once  was  rotated in   57 positions  at  Royal Darwin Hospital  in such  a  revealing  garment  and   then  suspended  on  high  in front of  about five  female  staff  when  the   imaging  machine  failed  to  function  due to  a  power  cut  or  surge )  ,   mental   health  and  many  other community  issues.  Over  the  years  he  wrote  tens  of  thousands of    letters  on  many  subjects to   newspapers,  Buckingham Palace, reprimanded   imperious   Maggie  Thatcher over  approval for  destruction of   buildings .  Hilarious  were  his  letters  dealing  with  publishers . On  a  visit  to  Australia  he  asked  what  the  nation  would  have to show  - apart from  large holes - for  digging  up  its  resources  and  exporting   them   overseas    

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DARWIN SPURNED Continuing,condensed biography of Crusading Editor, " Big Jim" Bowditch by Peter Simon

At the age of  68  ,  Bowditch   became disenchanted with  Darwin  and said he was  going to leave.  His romance  with the Territory  was over . He was quoted  as  saying  hating things  too much was like loving  things too much . If things went  wrong, you could go mad . He  wanted to get out  before that happened.  For a number of years he had  been  irked by the way  the Territory was  developing.
Back in l980  he told  journalist Doug  Lockwood , who had returned to   Darwin  after an absence of  some years ,  that Darwin had become a “rip off  place ”.    For  some , it  was hard to imagine  Darwin without Bowditch .   Lockwood  said it was  like Malcolm Fraser  saying  he would have  no further interest in politics and   Lou  Richards  announcing he would have nothing more to do with  Aussie Rules.  Not long  before  Lockwood died  he paid a tribute to  Bowditch , saying  a certain section of the Darwin community  hated The News when   Jim was the editor, but they  never failed to buy it.  Every issue had  something  provocative, something  controversial , something of interest,  something to  read  about even  if  you did not agree . Bowditch had  stuck up for  principles and  was a  friend of  many people , some of  whom did not deserve his  attention.

Bowditch  contacted   author  Glenville Pike , who was  living in Mareeba  , North Queensland , seeking  his opinion  about    Townsville as a place in  which  to live .  He told  Pike   he wanted to get out of Darwin, and   had been told the    climate was better  in North Queensland.  Pike  honestly  told Bowditch   that in Townsville he would  be  unknown  and  probably lonely .  In  Darwin he  was  well  known.
Cutting  from Sister Kenny Collection James Cook University .
Nevertheless , Bowditch  did  leave  Darwin and went to Queensland  where  he  stayed with  some  people  who had  right wing friends. After  some heated arguments , he moved to  Brisbane and  wrote  feature articles  about  prominent Queenslanders, one  being Sister Kenny,famous for treating polio sufferers . He lived in  boarding houses in  which he said  there were many residents "doing it tough." Every Sunday he  would  ring Betty  Bowditch  and ask her if she wanted him back in Darwin.
Without  any   advance  notice,  his  brother,  Peter ,  arrived  in  Darwin  from  England  on  a  package flight, wanting to see  Jim .   Betty  said  he  looked   just  like  Jim , and  had  flown on  to Brisbane where he  caught up  with his  brother.  However,  Jim  did  not  want to  have much  to  do with him . He said  his brother  wore a  coat with  trendy  leather  elbows  which , Jim  complained, made him look like a  country  squire.  He also  found  fault  with  other  clothing , saying  it  was  lairy .  Betty  felt  sorry for  the way  his  brother  had  been  treated.

Bowditch  resumed contact with the diver Carl Atkinson  who had suffered a stroke and was living  on the Gold Coast. It seems  that  Bowditch  may  have taped  Atkinson , attempting to  get his life story for  the  NT oral history  records; unfortunately, due to  Atkinson’s stroke induced  speech  impediment, it  was hard  to  transcribe the tape.

During  his  period  of  restless  roaming  away  from Darwin ,  Bowditch  made  contact   with  Joanna  Willey , a short time after  her  mother  had   died ; he stayed  at  her house  for  about  10 days. While there , in what was  described as a” mea  culpa” frame of mind,  he  expressed regret at the  treatment  of  Keith Willey , saying her  father  should have been the editor of the NT News  because   he  was a far more talented  reporter.  He  indicated  he would  belatedly  atone for  her father’s  treatment   in  the   book  he was writing . ( In  the book , he  subsequently  briefly  described  Willey  as one of  the  best  and  the fastest  writers  in  early  post-war Darwin ).

Included in the many subjects  he  talked  about  during his  time with Joanna  was  his  mutilation  of  the  enemy  soldier on Tarakan , who he  described  as  “just a boy ” .   In  a deprecating way , he spoke of  his war service  which resulted in being awarded the Distinguished  Conduct Medal  as having  been  nothing  special , almost  a  “fraud” . He  told  Joanna  that  he  had   left  Darwin  to get  away  from   drink .  It  had been  impossible, he  said, to   give  up  drinking  in  Darwin  because  he  knew  so  many  people  and  the  pressure  was  on  him  all  the time to  join in .
Lee and Keith  Willey  and  Judith and  Peter Simon in Bowditch residence , Fannie Bay.
A religious  person,  Joanna   took   Jim,   an  atheist,  to  a  Catholic  rosary   meeting .  At   the time  she  was  under  great  stress  due  to  the  death  of   her  mother  , and  was  not   sure  how  she  would  respond  at  the  meeting.  She  explained   to   Jim  the  form  of  the  gathering , which included  the  chanting  of   the  rosary , and  he  still  insisted  on  attending .  Joanna   said   she  had  been   thankful  for  his  company.  At  the  meeting   he  sat  quietly  listening  to  all  that   was   said ; she  had  introduced  him  as  a  friend  of  her   parents  in   their  younger  days  when  they  were  in  Darwin .   Bowditch  responded  with  a  moving   speech   about   Keith   and  Lee.  NEXT:The interrupted  honeymoon .