Thursday, January 16, 2014

NEWSPAPER SECRETLY BOUGHT BY BREWERY -Continuing biog of Crusading Editor,”Big Jim” Bowditch.

Northern Territory  News  in 1954  when the right hand  side  verandah  with   push  out  windows and several  partitions  provided  primitive  accommodation   for  the  manager and  his  family .
The  years  l955 to l962  were   action-packed  ones for  Bowditch and  Darwin. Extraordinary  story after extraordinary  story  broke  which  involved  him doing things which no other editor in  Australia would contemplate. During  that period the  paper  changed ownership twice and he  began  working  for the  rising  young  media mogul, Rupert Murdoch .

As an example of the exceptional  news  stories which kept  on surfacing   in  Darwin,  in l957  Doug Lockwood won the  London  Evening  News    award for  the World’s  Strangest  Story. This was about  a 12 year old   orphan    boy who had   climbed into   the  wheel nacelle of a  Dakota aircaft just before it took off  from   Koepang ,  Dutch Timor,   on  a   flight to Darwin.When the plane landed in Darwin  the  unconscious, injured    boy, Bas Wie , was found  hanging in the struts. He became known as the Koepang Kid .
After  strong representations  by Darwin people,  he was allowed to stay in  Australia and lived  with the  NT Administrator, Mick Driver , and his family . Wie became  a   respected Darwin resident, had much  contact with Bowditch over the years  ,   and  in the year 2001 was helping  alcoholics  to dry out . The  Indonesian  airline  Merpati  recently used  Bas  Wie  in an  advertisement on  a new  Koepang  to  Darwin service.  
By  Peter  Simon
Always  skating on  thin ice financially, the  NT News   lurched on , despite the fact that it was  a well read   and  lively  publication  under  Bowditch’s  editorship . However, the  southern directors  began to discuss  unloading the paper.  At one stage, in what can only be regarded  as an act of desperation , they even suggested  offering the  paper to  the Catholic  Church .  Then a secret deal was  done with Swan Brewery whereby they bought the  NT News  and  the Mt Isa Mail . There was a brewery war  on at the time  and Swan wanted to capture the   Territory  market against fierce competition from Carlton United  .

Bowditch said he believed Eric White  played  the two breweries off against each other  until  Swan  bought the paper  to thwart its competitor .  Bob Freeden, who  kept a watching brief on the  paper from Sydney  in  Eric White’s office,  and  Bowditch went  to  Swan headquarters  on  two occasions  to  receive  “riding instructions”.

The brewery was furious when a lighthearted item appeared in the paper about an Aborigine called Banana  who had been picked up for drunkenness and  was  referred to in print  as   “Pickled  Banana ” .  What really upset the  brewery bosses was that  Banana’s  condition was linked to  a party held to mark the opening of  a new hotel in Darwin.

In the  newly opened   air conditioned bar,the Hot and Cold, at the Hotel  Darwin, owned by Mick Paspalis  ,there appeared a Rigby  mural  showing  a Pommie businessman   in bowler hat  arriving at  Darwin  airport with a  slinky blonde  dressed in black on  his arm.  Subsequent  scenes   highlighted the adventures  of the blonde- dressed in a bikini ,    waterskiing  behind a  stingray , examining a snorting buffalo  and being leered at by blokes in shorts, singlets  and  thongs. In the end , the businessman, sans  blonde, was shown  boarding the plane with a case of beer on  his shoulder  bearing the message  WING YOUR WAY  WITH SFA  which , for the uninitiated,  stands for sweet fuck all. A special  feature in the newspaper  marking the opening of the  bar  included  pictures of  Betty  Bowditch  with Ruth Ward ,  second  wife  of  the  lawyer.
Rock and  Roll caused a culture  shock in Darwin.  Doug Lockwood   complained  to   Darwin Council   about the noise which came from  the nearby Town Hall.   His children  had  been unable to sleep because  teenagers rocked  and rolled  until 4am , screaming and  stamping   in a  frenzy of “ half-witted  abandon ”.  Councillor D’ Ambrosio responded   by saying  Lockwood had  forgotten that he had once been young and that they used to dance the Black Bottom and the  Charleston.  Fashion conscious  Darwinites  were also   given a sneak preview of the chemise look in a  function   at the Seabreeze,  Nightcliff.
There was  an odd  theft  in Darwin in l958  when three hundredweight of uranium  was stolen  from  the  showground.  Authorities were quoted as saying   it was the first recorded theft in the world  of uranium  and that thieves would probably try and smuggle it  out of the country   for sale “ in  the islands .”The mysterious islands  where the uranium  might be sold were not  named.   It   being the Cold War , presumably the  customers for  uranium were  Russians. 

Bowditch  went to the  Supreme Court in Darwin  for the Albert Namatjira appeal to  Mr Justice  Kriewaldt against his sentence for supplying  liquor in  Alice Springs  and  sat with and  spoke to the  artist   outside the court.  An editorial Bowditch   wrote in the NT News    on  October  10, l958 , about   the  imprisonment of  Albert  Namatjira , was included in  Professor F.K. Crowley’s  Modern Australia  in Documents ,Volume 11 , l939-l970 . The  series  was  designed to  illustrate the major events , developments  and controversies in the  history  of   Australia  since  Federation  in l901.    

During l958  Jock Nelson made two important announcements . He said that in the event   of a federal  Labor government  being elected  it would   set up  a   NT Development  Commission similar to the  Snowy River Authority and the possibility of building an atomic  energy power plant in Arnhem Land  would also  be examined.   As early as  l955  the director of the Atomic Energy  Division  of the Chase  Bank of  Manhattan , Dr  L. R.  Hafstad,  a former  director of the US  Atomic Energy  Commisssion , had stated  Darwin could   be among  the first places in Australia  to  put atomic power  into large scale use  for industrial and  domestic  electricity.
Lockwood  won a  Walkley Award for journalism    in l958   for  his    report  about   Aboriginal girl  Ruth  Daylight who had  been taken  from the bush  humpy in  which she lived at Hall’s Creek, WA,  dressed up in   white finery   and presented to the Queen Mother at the Governor-General's Canberra residence,Yarralumla,  then  sent back to  her humble life.  There was an arrangement  between Lockwood and  Bowditch whereby   they  gave each other  a copy of   Press telegrams  they sent  to the papers  they  serviced  down south.   This meant that  on straight news stories they  were not scooped .  Ruth Lockwood  said there were times  when Bowditch  would    “sneak along the side of the house ” in  the early hours of  the morning , wake Doug, whose bed was alongside the louvres, and  mutter  details  of   a story  he had just heard ,  often thrusting  a copy  of something  he had   lodged  at the post office through the  louvres.   On such occasions  the whole family woke  up.

A surprise arrival in Darwin was  Group  Captain  Peter Townsend , the dashing  RAF  officer   who had  wanted to marry Princess Margaret ,   but had been prevented  from doing so  because  he  was  divorced.   He was travelling  with   teenage Belgian  heiress  Miss Clare-Luce  Jamagne  and  denied he would marry her . Of course, he did.  Onlookers  said  Princess  Margaret  was  better looking than the  Belgian  and one woman , probably a staunch   monarchist ,  declared  the  girl  was  suffering from  teenage acne .
When news came through that the busty English  blonde star    Sabrina was  to pass through   Darwin  by air,  Lockwood and  this  writer  sped to the airport with a tape measure.  The idea was that   Sabrina  would be told  there were  rumours  that  her bust measurement   was    highly inflated .  To dispel that  hurtful  tale,  the  tape would  be run  round her  bossom,  insured for  100,000  pounds ($200,000).  A  cameraman  would  record the  event for  posterity .  Alas , the tape measure  remained  sheathed  because  the tip that Sabrina was  arriving  in town was  false.  Sabrina’s mother   stepped out of the plane-not  her  famous daughter.   Still , mum   was a jovial , staturesque  lady  who  said  she was sorry to  have  disappointed  the    panting   Press.  NEXT :   Darwin's Escape Artist .