Friday, February 14, 2014

AL JOLSON MENTIONED IN COURT -Continuing biog of Crusading editor, ”Big Jim “ Bowditch

 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.

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.