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.
DARWIN TO GO NUCLEAR
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.
CAPTAIN TOWNSEND AND SABRINA
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 .