Sunday, November 30, 2014



Since  welcome  heavy rain began to fall in  Darwin  some of  the large flocks of Magpie Geese  have started  to  disperse  out  to the Wet season floodplains  . As usual ,  there were large numbers  of  the birds in  and  around the Botanic  Gardens and the  rural area  waiting for the monsoons.  In  the grounds of  the Uniting Church in suburban Nightcliff,where a variety of birds are seen  over the year , tucked  away is the  above weathered wooden cross  which reads : In  Loving Memory  of  Baby Fran  Rose, died 20-12-1996.  Seen foraging nearby  was the  lone, injured  Magpie Goose on the right which has an injured  leg. It  would  hobble  about, picking  at  the ground , then  squat down , resting , obviously in pain .  Eventually  it got to its feet, awkwardly  launched  itself  into  the air  and, with a honk , flew away.  


With  apologies  to  Ted  Egan
An  unexpected sight  in Darwin  at  the  Contemporary Craft Studios and Gallery  is  the  above  Four For Tea  exhibition  of  teapots , cups , cosies  and   associated  paintings .  Exhibitors  were  Lee Berryman , Jenny Nixon , Jozsef Godolley  and  Jinx  Smith.   

The popular image of the Northern Territory is not one of tea drinking as the passport  issued  by  entertainer and  former Territory Administrator,Ted  Egan, indicates. In addition, the  NT News and other Murdoch  papers  frequently attack southern  soy   milk  latte  sipping   drinkers  . Strangely, most of the editors   and  many other staff  members at  the News  over  the years have come from  south . Some of the horde   have been known to  ingest  caffeine, even   latte , a few hiding in  cupboards so as not to be regarded as whimps by their mock macho mates .  Grog has even  landed a few in court , one editor  admitting  he  was  a  bloody  idiot  for  drinking  and  driving . 


Yet  again  there is  talk that  this  empty eyesore  building  in  the  Darwin CBD is  going  to  be  knocked down and  a major  development  rise   on  the site . A  former early  Woolworths  store, it is said to contain asbestos  and  for many years its  walls  have been  used  by  graffiti  artists , taggers  and  bill  posters. Way back it  was  Jolly's Store .  When  it was  a  Woolworths  store  it  had  a  large  upstairs   cafeteria. The  late Aunty Billy  Pitcheneder  regularly sat outside  the store  raising  funds for  worthy causes .
Graffiti and an anti nuclear  waste dump poster  on  the site.


The Northern Territory capital seems to be awash with art . At the Museums and Art Gallery of the NT (MAGNT) visitors are warned that viewer discretion is advised for Evolution : A Disrespective , described as 20 years of wicked and irreverent reflections by local artist Rob Brown taking on culture, history and religion .The 165 works ,from 42 collections, include paintings , prints, drawings and sculpture . There is Jesus making the peace gesture, averring he loves Darwin and that his Mum and Dad went to Katherine . Elvis , Hitler, weird animals, pop stars , Renaissance art on drugs get a run in this lively exhibition which stops visitors in their tracks .A huge poster ,left, at the front of the building, showing a chimp’s head atop Superman’s body, draws attention. Brown came to Darwin in 1998 to study visual arts at the Charles Darwin University . At the same time the Contemporary Art Space in the Chan Building was showing a range of works with a strong Asian content ,including an unusual video about Pakistanis who have settled in Indonesia, one of them a sex therapist who makes herbal  potions. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Discovered  in  Darwin recently  by a  blog  runner  is   a   ONE PARLIAMENT FOR AUSTRALIA tin  badge  issued during WWll . O.P.F.A. was a nationwide movement  which planned  to do away with  state and Territory governments and have one parliament  running the  nation. The  badge may have been  distributed  by the O.P.F.A. Committee  headquarters in Adelaide which was situated in Edments  Building , Rundle Street, available on application. 

 The above advertisement appeared in The Advertiser, Adelaide, on January 13, 1943.


During  WWll, English author , Dr Thomas Wood,  wrote  a book extolling  the  virtues of Australia  and  Australians  fighting  against the  Germans. Called  Cobbers  Campaigning ,  published by  Angus and Robertson Ltd , Sydney  and  London,1940, it was supported by the  Duchess of Kent, who posed for  the frontispiece, right .  Wood  had written an earlier book, Cobbers , based on his travels through Australia  before  the  war ,  parts of   which  are  included  in  this book and  are still relevant to  the present . 

Of deep concern to him  on the   trip  had been  "the murdering of trees  in Australia " . He had seen the vast  sands of Egypt and  the vast desolate plains in  Canada which once  grew food  for  herds of moose  and now grew  sandstorms -nothing else. He could cite no  grimmer warning against ignorance , or greed.
Kill the trees and strip the soil  and you get  a desert. Already there is  enough  of that in  the world ; in Australia , too much...But when soil and climate are  tampered with  by  human interference  the last word is with Nature ;she does not learn -she knows ; and she is merciless .There is only one  way to stave of disaster , and  that is to tip the balance back  to what it was : now, before it is too late. Don't ringbark  all . Where you can , plant... 
On the subject of  politics in Australia , the  view had  been expressed  to  him that  too often it  sank down to a   slanging  match .  On  the need for population in the North  , would proposed Jewish enclaves work  or " is infiltration the only sound procedure ?"

Wood recalled how Australians  -boundary riders, shearers, cattlemen,lumpers, fossickers and spruce young city workers from George Street and Wattle Avenue and    Anzac  Parade - had crowded in to sign up and  grab  a rifle to fight in the first world war . The author  gave examples of the  same keenness  to enlist  when the  second  great  war  broke out :
R.G.Milton,22,was on Spring Creek Station in the Kimberley when he heard about the  war. Within an hour he was on the trail for  Wyndham ,where he could get a ship bound north for Darwin. His bluey and groundsheet were all he  carried . He lived on lizards  and wild  gooseberries .That tramp is 140 miles. He did it in  three and a half days.  
Constable Joseph  Sampson of the  Northern Territory Police chartered  a plane  from his headquarters  near  Lake Nash -look at the map- to Cloncurry (Queensland ) , and  flew on  by service  plane to  Brisbane, in order to enlist the   quicker. The bill for all this ardour was 42 pound 15 shillings . He paid it .
C.L.Terry, 24 ,was working at Finke , near the South Australian border,when he got the news. He jumped the rattler  for 140 miles to Alice Springs ; rode on motor trucks  and the mail lorry  for the next 650 miles to Birdum, and then  jumped  the  rattler  for  the next 300 miles  to Darwin .
 G. Williams, 33 ,a gold prospector, joined him at Tennant Creek ,after walking  for more than  a 100 miles .The mailman shouted that  the war was on  as  he  drove by.
William Raymond Salton, 20 , took three weeks to ride  1000 miles between Tennant Creek and Bourke . He left his horse  at Bourke and  took the  train 500 miles  to  Sydney. They say he  heard  about  the war by  pedal  wireless. 
 Proceeds  from the  book went to the  Australian Red Cross . Our  foxed copy obtained from  a  secondhand  bookshop  in  the Smith Street  Mall, Darwin.


One of three new Queensland Police  Service boats, Brett Irwin , 24 metres long , capable of  20 knots , being scrubbed down in Townsville after  first doing duty  at  the G20  in Brisbane . The vessel is named after Constable Brett Andrew Irwin, shot dead in Brisbane  on July 18 , 2007 , when  he went to arrest a man  for non appearance in court.   It can be  used as a  command boat in emergencies.  One  now operates out of  Cairns and  another is soon to  go into service in the Whitsundays .  In  the Northern Territory,  new   fast, smaller  police boats were recently  deployed, some to  patrol  isolated coastal settlements  to  combat  drug  running  in  particular .
New fast Territory police  boat.

Friday, November 28, 2014


The computer  is  playing  up  and  refuses to  perform instructions . It will not justify  some text, the fonts  jump about , spacing  goes haywire . There  is  an epic  post   ready  to  go from an overseas correspondent   but the  text is all over the place . Gnash, gnash .   Scores of other articles  should be worked on , but  are  set  aside  because  of   the  irritating  problem. 

As I sit hunched over the bothersome computer , day and night , bitten by what seem to  be  sandflies, it is like a scene from  the British  comedy  Little Britain –which inspired the name of  this blog- and  the  equally   mad   Fawlty Towers.  In  Little Britain there was a skit  where  the computer frequently refused to make  a booking  when asked to do so.  My computer makes  me  so  angry  I feel like   emulating  Basil Fawlty  who  beat his  car with a branch  when it played up .  I get the urge to  dash outside , grab  one  of  the  irksome many fallen  palm fronds ,   come  back inside and use it to  whip the  devilish  computer . 

The computer may  be  getting revenge  because I left it behind in Queensland when we  went to Darwin for two weeks to  see  our new great granddaughter  and attend our son’s 50th birthday party in the casino.  

While in Darwin I was given the use of a small computer which had been dumped by an accursed  French  backpacker  next  to a  garbage  bin . It  also said  non in a  most  infuriating way . 

For example : to   get  the letter  A , you pressed Q ; for W you hit the last letter of the alphabet which  this computer has long  refused to show ; M was  a real  surprise-? .  No  wonder  the  EU is in a diabolical  economic mess  if  its  computers  perform like this  deranged  one. 

Driven to a   frenzy  by the  monster , I flung it aside and  tried  to access   Little Darwin online  from three  other computers ,  two in the Legislative Assembly parliamentary library , and  they all said NO!!!  It  was enough to make  me  want to  hit the  red  wine  in a  big way at the Friday Club  luncheon  and  fall  down in  a  swoon in  the Noodle House. Going on the screeching of the Curlews  outside  they  are just as neurotic  as  am  I .

Thursday, November 27, 2014


CANBERRA : Inspired by the  feisty Speaker of  the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Kezia Purick , who threatened to castrate a Federal minister  , the angry  House of Representatives  Speaker ,  Bronwyn " Kicker" Bishop, who has  so far booted  out  some  285  politicians , all but five Laborites,  is  eager  to  apply the same  shock  treatment  to   troublesome members  who defy  her during Question Time . Pistol packing  Purick took a shot   at the Minister for Social Services and  free Cupid  Cuddling  Counselling  , Kevin Andrews,  when  he said marriages are more stable  than de facto relationships .

On Facebook, Purick let fly  with  the farm blunderbuss at  Andrews , who has hair darker  than  that  of  Andrew  Peacock in his  prime : "Listen here you pooncy, pasty faced  person from some pissant place that no one cares about , half my electorate  are probably in de facto  relationships and they are happy living people who do their best  for  their families and their communities." They worked hard ,tried their best  and believed  that you judge people by their deeds , not some piece of  paper.

She continued : "Go away Kevin Andrews  and if you  ever come  to the rural area and try  to tell us   how to live , three words for you , green rubber ring!" This was taken  as an  apparent reference to  a device  to  castrate stock.
Minister  Andrews  fighting  off  Purick's whopper  ring .
Later , again on Facebook , Purick said she was fed  up with "bastard snakes " who eat her  chooks , silkies and  chickens . Recently , her  mother , a  former  Territory politician  who was seen knitting in parliament and  at public  gatherings , made the NT News  when  it was reported that her  pet lamb , below , had disappeared  and a  snake is suspected as the culprit .
Mother Purick's  succulent Lamb Chop in an
Alan  Jones  hessian  bag.

Little Darwin  has received  a tip off  that Mr Hissy, a large  python which used to live in the roof  of the Arnhem Nursery    residence  at  Humpty Doo  has  been seen  in  the  area.  A smaller  python has taken up residence in the roof at the nursery  and  recently  hissed at  the  bobcat operator , Kerry Byrnes , when he warned it not to eat a small  dog it was eyeing off .... Then again,  the lamb could have been snaffled  by  a  human  rustler as  there are many of  them  living in a de facto relationship  with  a butcher and grouse cook  in  the  Darwin  rural  area .


The top art nouveau representation of Russian ballerina , Anna Pavlova (1885-1931),  is  from  a  circa 1916 Adelaide autograph book in the Little Darwin Collection .  Below : Pavlova at home .  The tasty dessert  Pavlova , consisting of a soft meringue centre with  a top filled with whipped cream and topped with fruit , passionfruit  was named after her . More items   about  Russian  and Australian  ballet  will appear  in  coming months.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Readers of this blog know that we have a propensity to collect oddities , rarities , junk . Indeed , our runners  scan  the  nation  - the globe - looking for new  items  of interest . On a recent visit to  Darwin  we acquired  the  above   highly  desirable  object  made  from  angle  iron , the  propeller a piece of Reo reinforcing mesh .
The  plane was  spotted  in a  lush  tropical  garden  setting.  It was offered to our junk collector by people who  had  previously given him a rare painting of  nudist  Darwin  journalist  Dick Muddimer and  his  dog.  That unusual painting  was  handed onto  a woman who  kindly looked after  Muddimer  late in his life . 
A plan was made  to sneak the plane out of the Territory   , almost certainly  on the NT Heritage List ,  to Queensland  in  personal  luggage . However , as our scout looks sneaky and is often  tested  for  explosives when  he goes to the airport , as he was on his trip to Darwin, it was decided to leave the  plane  behind  and  have it  smuggled out  by  courier  at  a  later date.
This  was a  smart  move  as  our man's  wife  was  pulled up  at the  Darwin airport  security  check  and  her  handbag scanned  three  times because of a  suspicious  key ring attachment  in the shape of  a  large , silver ,  chewy   dog  bone .

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The Estonian cruise ferry, Silja Europa , above , has been chartered for 12 months under a contract worth  $105 million  to provide  accommodation for  up to 1200 additional workers at  Chevron's US$54billion Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island. The vessel normally runs regular leisure cruises between Finland and Estonia. It will house  construction workers, catering  and cleaning staff  and local hired crew . The project is expected to go  into  production  late  next  year.


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

Two   white   warriors- each  near    the   end  of   his  life- lay  in   beds  in a  Darwin   hospice. Like scarred  bull  elephants , they  had  both   returned  from  the  south  to  their old  stamping grounds  to  die .   They  were   friends  who  had  not  been  in  contact  with  each  other  for some  years .  Now  they  were   practically  next  to each   other  in   beds  but  because  of  a  cruel  twist    of  fate  and  their  afflictions  they  did  not  know.  They  were  Jim  Bowditch  and  Allan  Alexander-Stewart, the  Great  White  Hunter .  Bowditch  had  been  in  poor health for  some  time  and also   suffered  from loss of memory  and  emphysema.  Alexander - Stewart (the name hyphenated to capture the donkey vote in  an election in which he failed to be elected ), had slight peripheral vision.

Visiting  her  father ,  Ngaire  Bowditch  saw  the name  Stewart  and  immediately  identified   him  as  her  father’s friend.  She  introduced  herself  to  Stewart  and  told   him  her  dad  was  in  a  bed   a  short  distance  away . Stewart  became  emotional   and  cried  out , “ Jimmy  Bowditch !  I’ve   searched  the country  for him , and  now  I  find  out  he  is  in  the  bed  next  to  me! ’’  He began  to weep.  Ngaire then  explained  the  situation   to  her father who said , “Don’t worry old mate.”  Bowditch , 76 , died  of  pneumonia  at  the Chan  Park  Nursing Home  on  October  5, l996.
That he  had lived so long ,  having led  such a hectic life  , surprised  many , including his wife . His  daughter,Sharon,  rang  the Sydney   home  of reporter  Jim Oram who  was  suffering from  cancer . Oram  had  given  instructions  earlier  in  the day  that  he  would  not  take  any  telephone calls. However,  when  he  heard   Jim  had  died  he  spoke  to  Sharon.
TOP: Overview of  burial with  bugler . ABOVE : Mrs Betty Bowditch ( blue top dress) , daughters Ngaire  and Sharon , granddaughter Candice ; behind them sons Steven, left, and  Peter (sunglasses ).

Of  the  many newspaper  tributes  paid to  Bowditch   there was one from Robert Wesley-Smith  which  read  : Jim Bowditch hero, hero, hero,hero.   Last  crusader  editor, needed you for East Timor too.

In  a letter to the editor  of the NT News, one  admirer of  Bowditch said  much had been written  in the media since his death  about his  larrikinism  over the years . Just one  of  his wartime  experiences -that of  sitting  in  a cramped  and stifling   submarine with  Japanese   vessels intent on  blowing  it up  patrolling overhead  for l8 hours – would be enough  to  make anybody  a  bit  bent ; allowances should  have been made for his  subsequent  behaviour.
At  the  packed  funeral   chapel   service   for   Bowditch   it   began   and  ended   with  the strains  of  Afro-American   human  rights campaigner  Paul Robeson   whose  music  was  seen  by  the Bowditch  family as  symbolising Jim’s  lifelong struggle  for  the  underdog.   Bowditch  might  have  met  Robeson  who  passed  through  Darwin  in  October   l960  on   his  way  to  Sydney .

Because  of   his  open   support  for  Communist  ideas and  a  visit  he  made  to  Russia ,  Robeson  had been  shabbily  treated  in  America.      The   News had once carried  a report   which said   that  during an  airline  stopever in Darwin  the  singer and  human rights campaigner  had  spent   two hours  with  unionists  Mr and Mrs  Des  Robson. 

Furthermore, the newspaper announced that  a  committee, including NT News   reporter  Jim Kelly,  had  been  formed  to try and  get  Robeson to  perform  in  Darwin  on  his  way  back  to  America.   During  Robeson’s  visit to  Sydney he  sang  to  workers  on  the   Opera  House  site . Comments  he made about the  plight  of  Australian  Aborigines  were  reported  in  the  NT  News .

Jim’s son-in-law, Col Allan, at  the time   editorial   manager  of  the  Sydney  Daily  Telegraph and   Sunday  Telegraph ,  spoke  on   behalf  of  the  family at the funeral service . He  said   Jim  had  been  a  complex, yet   simple  man  who  would  not  have  wanted   all  the  fuss  and  writes  ups  that  followed  his  death .  Allan  continued : “ It  is  only  here  that  I  feel  safe  saying  such  things  about  him, relatively  sure  that  he  will  not  appear  in  that  familiar  crouch,  hands  thrust  forward  in a  combat  position demanding  that  I  not eulogise him  but  instead   attack  the  Labor  Party  for  betraying  its  ideals.”

Communist activist   Brian  Manning  who  had  fought    many   campaigns  with  Bowditch made an emotional speech . In   particular,  he  mentioned  the  Stayput  Malays   and  the  part   Bowditch  had  played  in  helping  to  do  away  with  the  White Australia  policy .  Manning raised  an  important   issue  - the  counselling  of   soldiers  returning  home  from  horrific  wartime  experiences. Manning  went  on  to  say  he  often  felt  the armed services  were seriously remiss  in  not  providing  professional   counselling  to  servicemen  like Jim who, although he served  with  valour    and   distinction  ,  did  not  relish  war  and  had   great difficulty  in   coming to  terms  with  what  he  had  done.

Much,  he  said,  had  been  made  of  the  drinking  exploits  of  Jim.  “ I  am sure he  caused  his  family  much  anguish  as  do  all  who  over -indulge,” said  Manning . He recalled  the  incident  when  Jim  had   been  barred  from  the  RSL   after  kicking  its   glass door.  In  an  agitated  frame  of  mind, he  had  called  on  Manning  in  the  Workers’ Club  and  admonished  himself   for   his  killings  in  the  war.  
John Waters ,QC, said the   Top End’s   record of racial tolerance  during the  period from  the  l950s to  the early  70s  was  due to  one man- Jim Bowditch
Another eulogy , faxed  from  New York , came from  journalist  Peter  Blake   and  read:  “ I suspect Jim Bowditch was the last of his  kind-the small-town newspaper editor  who believed  that treading  on sensitive , prominent  and powerful toes  went  with the territory - and that included  those who paid his wages.  He   edited the paper in  bravura fashion without ever looking  over his  shoulder at  the  people who owned it.  It was a  style and philosophy  that made the NT News  a  perfect  mirror  of  its community-outspoken,  brash,  cheeky,  quirky, and  yes , a  bit rough  around  the  edges.”

He  described  Bowditch’s  office  in  the  Old  Tin Bank  as  having  been  marginally  bigger  than the  lavatory . Of  Jim’s  grog  problem,  Blake  said  it had  brought  him  a  ton  of  grief , but  he  never  wallowed  in  self  pity  or  blamed  his  war  experiences...  “ But  those  who  knew  and loved  him  believed  the  things  he’d  been  forced  to  do tore  him  apart.”
At  the   cemetery    burial  ceremony  there  was  an   RSL  Honour  Guard  made  up  of  front  line  veterans  from  WW11 , Korea  and  Vietnam  .  As  a   mark  of   respect  for  another  front  line  soldier , a    slouch   hat  and  a   bayonet  had   been   placed   on  the  coffin .   Jim’s  eldest  son, Peter,  expressed  concern  about  the   items  on  the   coffin.     If  they  did  not   belong  to  his  father, he  said  he  did  not  want  them    on  the  coffin .  There  were  to  be no  false  trappings  at  his  father’s  burial . 
A  wake  was  held  at   the  Aviation  Club  and  stories  flowed .   Included  in  the  throng  were people  who  had  worked  in  the  old  Tin  Bank.  Betty Bowditch and  her   close  knit   Hodgson  family were  there  in  force . 
A   newspaper  account   of  the   funeral   said   because  of  a  clash   with  parliamentary  sittings  some  “ old  political   friends  and   foes” were  unable  to  attend .   Journalist   Jim   Oram  died  soon  after - December 19 ;  rather  than  attend  his  wake,  Jim’s  daughter  Sharon , expecting  a  child ,  went  home  and  gave  birth  to  a  daughter  that  night.  She  named  the  baby   Kate  J - just the initial -  which  stands for  the  two  Jims ,  Bowditch  and  Oram . 
The Bowditch  name was  intended to be commemorated    by    an Award  for Excellence  in Print Journalism  to be presented by the  Darwin  Press Club ; it is unclear if  this happened . There  is, however ,  a  Bowditch tile  in 200 Remarkable   Territorians on  the Esplanade  in  Darwin , part of the Bi-Centennial Celebrations . Of  the others listed in the above panel, Bowditch had personal contact with  most of  them . Many years later , Darwin named a street  after  him.  NEXT:  A  medical  explanation.