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PNGAA committee hits ground running

Remembering the pugnacious Jim Leigh

Leigh_hh_jim_2  I was leafing through the Pacific Islands Monthly for May 1963 when I happened upon this photograph. It shows the then station manager of Radio Rabaul, HH ‘Jim’ Leigh, posing in a studio with some staff members and two tape recorders. Jim was to become a rather bellicose and impetuous Controller of Broadcasting with the Department of Information. He plucked me from the ABC and into his managerial ranks in 1969.

One of my tasks as the new manager of Radio Bougainville in 1970 was to recruit and train young Bougainvilleans to work as announcers and producers. I was under special orders to hire people from the dissident (secessionist) villages around Kieta.

Jim Leigh, who later became general secretary of the Queensland National Party, called me on the radio-telephone from Port Moresby to proffer some unsolicited advice on how to conduct selection interviews.

“Father,” he said (he called everyone father), “there are only three rules for selecting staff, and I want you to note them carefully.

"One. Be rational not emotional. Got that, father? Over."

I agreed I had got that.

"Two. Put ‘em under pressure, real pressure. Know what I mean, father? Over."

I affirmed I knew what he meant by real pressure.

"Three. Check their references. Over.”

As chance had it, Jim was in Kieta for his annual inspection of the station at the time I’d scheduled a number of interviews.

The inspection included intense scrutiny of the S-bend of the toilet, since Jim had recently had hepatitis and blamed unhygienic radio station latrines for this misfortune.

He’d been unsettled by his arrival in Bougainville. The DC3 undercarriage warning light had triggered and there was some anxiety before an ultimately safe landing at Aropa airstrip.

"Head between my legs, father. Thought I was gonna kiss my arse goodbye. Know the feeling?"

I stated that, while the feeling was not known to me personally, I had a vivid imagination.

Early next morning was interview time. The first was with a young hopeful from one of the dissident villages near Kieta.

Jim reminded me of his three rules for conducting effective interviews - rationality, pressure and references – and told me he'd sit in to see how I conducted the session.

I was unimpressed by this, but he was the Controller and I was his subordinate and that was that.

The first applicant was a strikingly beautiful 18-year old woman.

As she walked into my office, Jim simpered, “And what's your name, my dear”.

“Perpetua Tanaku,” she replied, “but my friends call me Pepi.”

Then she added, “You can call me Pepi.”

“Pepi,” Jim sighed.

“Pepi is short for Perpetua,” she breathed. “It comes from the English word 'perpetual' which means ….. everlasting."

References on my desk in front of me, I was just about to ask the first rational question that I hoped would put Miss Tanaku under real pressure when Jim leapt to his feet.

"You're hired," he said.

Photo (left to right): Matthais Tiamani, Jim Leigh, Nellie Exon, Joe Gohan, H Vue and Danes Tagi.

Comments

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Sean Leigh

I am the worthy son of Jim. I was in England when my sisters told me that Jim wasn't long for this world. I immediately flew out and attended his funeral in Nambour.

The man was a typical tight-lipped Englishman - but I never felt as much sadness at his passing - everyone was crying at his funeral and I tried to stay strong.

He was a wonderful man and human being. I would love to meet anyone for a beer sometime in Brisbane. My email is shobleigh46@hotmail.com.

And I do bear an uncanny resemblance to the man.

Phil Charley

Your story about Jim Leigh hiring Perpetua is hilarious! So typical of Jim - who, as you know, was also my boss when I managed Radio Goroka and then Radio Madang.

Congratulations,Keith, on the four proposed projects for the PNGAA. All so very worthwhile.

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