True to his word, there was no special treatment for Jim Bowditch when he fronted court and was convicted for driving under the influence of liquor in l960 . A front page report in the Northern Territory News , headed NEWS CHIEF UP FOR DRINK DRIVE, spilled over to fill all of page four.
Magistrate Stuart Dodds ,SM, said the three day hearing had been long and traversed many fields – “ from the dramatic evidence of an editor with a catch in his voice , to the banality of a wife doing her best to help her husband when he was in difficulties ” .
Bowditch was represented by Dick Ward and court was told that the defendant, after nearly running a car off the road, had collided head on with a parked stationary vehicle. He had gone up to the driver of the vehicle he hit and said , “ Sorry,old chap, are you hurt ? ” Bowditch had also offered to fight the driver of the car he nearly ran off the road. That driver had called him an idiot and a drunk .
While not exactly explaining how he came to be at the accident scene , it was stated that prominent watersider Bill Donnelly had applied sticking plaster to a cut on Jim’s nose. A police officer , whose evidence was accepted by the magistrate , said Bowditch staggered , his head lolled from side to side and he appeared to be drunk . At the police station, it was claimed, Bowditch was heard talking to himself and was observed trying to light a bent cigarette with matches that had no heads.
A public servant told court he had offered to drive Bowditch home before the accident as he had seemed disturbed because of an argument with a photographer from south and business worries. This witness said Bowditch appeared to have catch in his voice at the time . The magistrate remarked, " You mean an Al Jolson touch ? ". A doctor who examined Bowditch an hour after the accident said he did not appear to be drunk . News readers were told the editor had been fined 40 pound ($80 ) and disqualified from driving for two months.
JESUS CHRIST, LADY MARY IN VEGIE PATCH
On the town side of the NT News was the Crown Law Office in the old Brown’s Mart stone building , where lawyers , including John Gallop, later a judge, worked. One distinctive officer was the gentlemanly George Dickinson , who strolled about town at a sedate pace. He and I engaged in frequent discussion in Smith Street , near Cashman's newsagency.
Bowditch’s frequent involvement in unusual news events and escapades often drew whimsical and under–stated comment from Dickinson . " I see Mr Bowditch has been active again ," he would say, a smile on his face. Dickinson , who liked to discuss politics and current affairs , had a wry sense of humour . He told how the pidgin English for the moon in New Guinea was "kerosene belong Jesus Christ " .
After WW11 Dickinson, with a great knowledge of the Japanese , attended the Manus Island war crimes hearings as an observer. Having worked for the Sydney Morning Herald , being in charge of its court reporting section when SMH reports were regarded as gospel , he was interested in newspapers . He would enthusiastically talk about proprietors such as Sir Warwick Fairfax of the SMH, Frank Packer of the Telegraph and Ezra Norton of Truth .
His anecdotes about the Sydney media scene included Sir Warwick’s arcane interest in ancient languages and the way Ezra Norton used to frequently deride Packer in print. Dickinson’s manner of laughing was more of a subdued titter than a hearty chuckle. Although , when telling the amusing story of how " Sir Warwick found Lady Mary Fairfax in a vegetable patch " ( her divorce notice from her husband found buried under the market report ) - gleefully revealed by the Packer camp- Dickinson chortled so much it produced both tears and a red face. NEXT : Unusual and strange events.