The Wedding – Darwin Style

Not that I had marriage in mind, mind you, but this thing sort of just came along. I was 26 and she was 22 and we met at a ‘late night session’ at the old Fannie Bay Hotel along the foreshore of Fannie Bay. It blew away in the cyclone, you know. Our first encounter was offish but a week later I sought her out on the off-chance and asked her to come for a drive with me. We had known each other about eight hours and got on very well and seemed to have a lot in common and when I popped the question, she accepted. We were both stunned by this turn of events. Nevertheless, three weeks later we were married in a garden setting of a NT Policeman’s house at Parap. The house also blew away in the cyclone.

I was working as a ‘Parts Interpreter’ or counter jockey, at Chin Ford which situated at Salonika Crossing, and which was then owned by Cedric and Barbara Chin, long-time residents of Darwin. Judith was a Shipping Clerk at Bunnings. We had quite a lot to organise for a wedding as I was still living down at Joe’s Place Caravans at the Railway Yards at Stokes Hill and Judith was living in a girl’s only boarding house in Packard Street, Larrakeyah. Cedric Chin upon being told of my intended wedding immediately made a flat available for me and Judith at his Staff Quarters in Peel Street directly opposite St Mary’s Cathedral. A week later we moved in together and set up house. I found an engagement ring for $33 at the jewellers in Knuckey Street and that sort of made things official.

Judith’s school friend, Annette and her husband Roy were living in Darwin at that time and they offered us their house as a setting for our marriage. Roy was a Constable in the NT Police Force and so we were married in a Police House. Judith and Annette arranged the food and I supplied six slabs of beer for the cost of $36! Judith had a special dress flown up from Melbourne and I had to go buy some appropriate clothes to get married in such as a white shirt, a tie, a pair of black trousers, black shoes and socks. Thongs and shorts were not the order of the day!

I went to the Office of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages, paid $6 for a Marriage Licence and $20 for a public service celebrant to marry us officially. At that time all marriage ceremonies were being conducted at the office of the Registrar but we got special dispensation as it was to be John Flynn’s first time as a Marriage Celebrant and he was only too happy do to it outside of the office.

The Friday night before the wedding my mates were determined to give me a Last Hurrah bucks night out. Roy, and his police mates, were determined to catch us at it and to lock me up for the night as joke. But I got a snuff in the nose about it and we ducked into back-lanes and side-alleys which ran through the old Darwin. We started off and the ‘Hot and Cold’ of the Darwin Hotel, then on to the Vic Hotel and then, having had nothing to eat and a skinful of beer, we decamped to the Don Hotel. In those days the bar-room floor was still dirt and I seem to recall that the walls were made of hessian. The scene there reminded me later of the Bar Scene on one of the Star Wars movies. The things that went on there were outrageous.

The time for the wedding was 11am on Saturday 28th June 1969. My mate Don was to come and wake me and see that I got to the wedding on time. Don arrived, bleared eyed at 10.30am and shook me vigorously. I flew out bed, had a very quick shower and got dressed. We caught cab and arrived at our destination on time. It was then that I noticed that I had white socks on under black trousers and black shoes. Too late to change! I am constantly reminded of this when our wedding photos come to light every now and then

The wedding ceremony went off without a hitch and was a happy affair after the celebrant had to be given two white cans of Carlton beer to give him Dutch courage to stop him from being nervous. I had invited a whole lot of layabouts, my mates mainly from Lameroo Beach but most of them didn’t front when they heard of the Police presence at the wedding. Judith’s friends were all there and half of the Darwin Police Force who were Roy and Annette’s friends. Suffice to say I only knew a handful wedding guests.

I had been loaned a company car by Cedric Chin for our wedding but something happened at the last minute and all I got was an old Ford XM Station wagon that was still under repair in the panel shop and was only partly resprayed. Wheels are wheels however!

At around 4pm Judith and I departed the wedding scene for home in our borrowed wagon with the back filled with enough gear to set up house. We were both exhausted and fell asleep immediately after arriving home. At 6pm there was a very loud banging on the door. It was Alan Schultz, Parts Manager of Chin Ford, who told us that we were going to continue our celebration at the German Club out at Howard Springs. No sooner were we showered and dressed we were whisked away in to the bush. Alan had organised many of our other wedding guests to be there too. At the club every table bought the Bridal Pair a bottle of champagne and Judith had to dance with all the men and Willem had to dance with all the Aunties. The night wore on.

Sometime around 2am it was time to go home. Alan had disappeared by then and we walked over to our mate, Johnny Wheeler’s Avis hire-car. Johnny was First Mate on a prawn trawler and could afford such things. Six of us piled into the Holden and found another body lying passed out on the back seat. Don recognised him as someone he had seen at their boarding house and so we manhandled him into the boot of the car. Johnny handed me the keys and said, ”You drive”. All went well until we were approaching the Airport Gates intersection. There were road-works, as the Shell Airport Gates Servo was under construction. An old spoon drain was being reconstructed to make access for vehicles to the servo and to keep the wet-season floodwaters flowing down to the creek below. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of light as this green Ford Falcon came charging out from the airport. How we missed one another was anyone’s guess. A couple Greek blokes with limited English insisted that they were in the right and that I should have given way to the right. There was no time to explain the intricacies of Australian Road Rules let alone Darwin Road Rules at that time of day and so I let the argument go. We dropped the sleeper and a couple of others off at their places of abode and made our way back to our Peel Street flat. Once there Johnny declared that we should have a nightcap as he still had a carton of beer in the car. So Judith went to bed and Johnny and I drank beer till the sun came up. Then Johnny climbed, very unsteadily in to his car, and drove off narrowly missing the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral. I went to bed.

At 9am on the Sunday morning there was some noise outside in the street. Two of my mates arrived from Wells Creek Mines with a pallet load of beer packed into their Landrover. The old 4×4 had played up along the way and so they had missed the wedding. Nevertheless, they started to unload the beer into a corner of our kitchen and the party kicked. Another old mate John Conroy, Skipper of the Tipperary Fleet of Prawn Trawlers, arrived around lunchtime with a carton of Scotch. He stayed for a week. He brought with him so much fish that we couldn’t fit it all into our freezer and had to cook them straight away. By now there was quite a noisy party going and the tenants below us called the police. In fact the police were called on several occasions during the day. They would arrive, have a beer with uis, tell us to quiet things down and then leave again. We took some fish to our neighbours as a peace offering. The party kicked on until about 10pm on the Sunday and then took off again on Monday morning. Luckily we both had the day off from work. People came and went at regular intervals but the beer still remained a sizeable quantity whilst John Conroy drank a bottle of whiskey a day (John did not make old bones). By 4pm on the Monday arvo the party came to an end and all guests departed apart from John Conroy who stayed on until the following weekend.

On Tuesday morning we both went back to our respective jobs almost relieved that the party had finally come to an end. Over the ensuing weeks we drank beer till it flowed out of our eyelids and it still seemed that the supply was never ending.

Nah’ we never went on a honeymoon but a ships cruise three years later made up for it. And in one of life’s mysteries we had no children. But the attraction is still there 45 years on…………………

Posted in Life Stories.