Plenty of talk, but corruption is worse than ever
A 50 year old photo & a story to be told

Nick Booth, PNG in his blood, dies at 76

Nick in late life
Nick Booth - "A first rate and highly skilled radio presenter with a wonderful sense of how to construct a music program"

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – Nick Booth, who died yesterday in Sydney aged 76, was a busy and enthusiastic man, who delighted in being with people and working with people to get things done.

I knew him not in his professional, paid career as a senior public service administrator but in his role as a broadcaster on community radio, especially between 1976 and 1983. I also knew Nick and his wife Lynn as good and kind friends.

Nick - Peter Booth clip
A clip from the South Pacific Post tells of Dr Peter Booth's arrival in PNG 

Nick was born in England in 1945 and later found himself in Papua New Guinea, where his father, Dr Peter Booth, it seems sometime in the late 1950s, was appointed medical officer at Saiho hospital – “18 miles and 18 rivers from Popondetta”, he wrote.

“Bush materials, flat swampy ground, a tropical paradise and absolutely lethal. Infested by mosquitoes all full of talciparum malaria, not chloroquine-resistant in my day.”

In 1962, Dr Booth established the then territory’s Blood Transfusion  Service. By this time Nick had been packed off to school and university in Brisbane (where he edited the student newspaper Semper Floreat), spending holidays in PNG.

Many years later, Nick later resumed contact with Papua New Guinea as a committee member of the PNG Association of Australia, and was treasurer at the time the association showed great generosity to the Crocodile Prize.

An arts degree in his pocket, and wife Lynn and children now in his life, circumstance took him to the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, as Information and Publications Officer.

Nick & Lynn  c 1969
Lynn and Nick Booth, around 1969

In 1976, this is where we met, as I fled PNG to establish a new radio station in Armidale. Nick was one of my most valued associates. He was already immersed in the city, the university and the medium.

Just a year later, I was off to set up an educational broadcasting service in the Maldives and Nick moved to Sydney to the Higher Education Board.

Andrew Greig, who himself died recently and had spent time in PNG, wrote a profile of Nick in 1980 which takes up the story:

“Nick had little contact with radio  between 1977 and 1979. He could  have gone to 2MBS (of which he  strongly approves) but fine music  is, in his words 'not his bag'.  

"2SER was different. As soon as the licence was granted Nick had talks with the station and offered his services. In March 1979, Keith Jackson was appointed as station manager and the old firm of Booth and Jackson was re-established without delay. 

“Nick had the job of auditioning and selecting the first batch of announcers. He helped to plan the studio procedure and rosters and to determine the station’s ‘on air’ style.

“His most formidable task perhaps was the launching of the station’s first official broadcast in front of a battery of television cameras.”

Nick 2SER

Nick was a first rate and highly skilled radio presenter with a wonderful sense of how to construct a music program. Listenable but not loud.

His radio ‘presence’, as we called it, was warm, intimate and witty. Nick could have made a career in radio and I told him that a number of times (in fact I once offered him a job).

But radio careers can be skittish and Nick, with family and security in mind, chose instead he path of an administrator in public service, a role in which I understand he was highly competent and senior.

This important side of his life I did not know well and, with me, his talk was always of broadcasting and family.

When 2SER-FM on Sydney’s Broadway launched on 1 October 1979 - not all that long ago for us who are getting old – Nick’s was the first voice on air.

“This is Radio Station 2SER-FM commencing its inaugural broadcast  on a frequency of 107.5 megahertz with a licence power of one kilowatt.”

Here’s the audio - along with Nick's selection of an appropriate opening song for the new radio station.

Later Nick presented a popular program called Summer Breeze. Lovely languorous leisurely radio. The music mellifluous and (mostly) calming. (Nick was mischievous and could spring surprises.) The presentation laidback, witty and concise.

He let the music do the talking, if you get my drift. In real life beyond the studio, Nick liked to let his talking do the talking.

The song of the same name was the opening theme of the program. Summer Breeze, by Seals and Croft, a hit in 1972, is playing as I write. It reminds me so vividly of Nick.

Nick and grandchild Conor
Nick and grandson, Conor

So we have lost a fine man and we grieve for him but are grateful for who he was.

We get old and our friends depart, taking a bit of us with them as they leave. That’s life’s sorrow. But its joy is that they were with us at all.

My condolences to Lynn, the boys and the family. Nick was so proud of you.

Comments

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Richard E Jones

Well, Bob, there's plenty of boxing in Bendigo. In March this year the Oceania middleweight championship was decided at the Bendigo Stadium.

Mainly used as a basketball venue the huge crowd there saw Michael Zerafa stop the ageing Anthony Mundine towards the end of the first round.

And there's plenty of other bouts - amateur and pro - staged here, although not at the dizzying heights of an Oceania championship.

Bendigo (population circa 120,000) is named after a famous 19th century bare knuckle boxer named William 'Abednego' Thompson. A shepherd, who was a rusted-on boxing follower, and worked on the vast Ravenswood sheep run with his hillside hut overlooking what later became Sandhurst and then Bendigo.

As Thompson gazed down at the creek he decided it should be named Bendigo Creek. Bendigo was the abbreviated form of Abednego and very popular in Thompson's home county of Nottingham.

The shepherd was on his hillside in the late 1840s. Gold was discovered in the creek by two wives of shepherds from that very same Ravenswood Run in late 1851.

Abednego had won the England bare knuckle heavyweight boxing title in 1839.

Now approaching four-score years, Bob, I've given up weekend live sports calling, but still write up a newspaper Bendigo Football and Netball League footy match report each weekend we're in town and not in Melbourne on family duties.

I also serve as the BFNL (Bendigo Football Netball League) official historian, researching champion players from yesteryear for Hall of Fame and Legends inductions. This includes netballers who've been part of the league since the mid-1990s.

Bob Lawrence

Sad to hear of the passing of Nick Booth. A gentleman whose company and good humour I enjoyed at many a lunch at the former Mido Chinese on Military Road, Neutral Bay. hosted by Keith Jackson. Lukim yu behain, wantok!

I was please to read in Richard Jones' comment that Richard is still a sports reporter, I well remember his commentaries for the NBC on the Martin Beni fights of 1974-76). Is there much call for boxing commentaries in Bendigo? (Just noticed that Martin Beni died a month ago.)

Richard E. Jones

It's always sad when a stalwart of community radio passes through the great broadcasting archway up above.

It's a medium which has given people from all walks of life, not journalists or broadcasters by training or profession, the chance to run radio programs of their own choice and making.

Here in central Victoria I've worked on two stations with widely different demographics. Triple C-FM (now Fresh FM) started life broadcasting from the old, disused Harcourt railway station building.

Harcourt is a delightful little hamlet halfway between Bendigo and Castlemaine. It's known nation-wide for the best apples in Australia, and also is home to numerous wineries along with apple and peach orchards, cideries and cellar doors for wine and cider.

Anyway Triple-C concentrated furiously on live sports broadcasting. Not just Aussie Rules footy, but district cricket, basketball (the Bendigo Braves at one stage competed in the national men's basketball competition) along with women's softball and netball.

These days with every young person with a smart phone in the pocket, audiences for live radio sports calling has taken a dive. Indeed, so has the need to buy Monday papers for sports results.

At a couple of local Bendigo sports ovals when I go into the rooms to interview coaches for my Monday Bendigo Advertiser footy write-ups (these days restricted to just 440-450 words per match) the young blokes have just one question.

"What time will this story be up on the Addy website?" they ask. When I tell them I'll have it typed up and sent off by 11.30-11.45 am on Sunday they'll go: "Great. We'll read it on the phones at the Sunday drinks and pass them along to mates who haven't go an Addy subscription."

Which is just about every one of them, bar a designated one or two whose phones have entry to full news and sports stories. No hard copy newspapers for these blokes.

The current community station I work for is Phoenix-FM. Its key technicians, administrators and main presenters hived off from Fresh-FM two decades back after disagreements about how the station was run along with financial matters.

It has a strong country and western flavour but also has room for multicultural programmes and sports round-ups and previews: Aussie Rules footy (AFL and local leagues), netball, soccer and a range of other disciplines.

So it's sad when a stalwart of community radio passes on. Mind you, as Keith has noted, those of still on the planet are ageing rapidly. Nonetheless, we passed Nick Booth's 76 years some time ago!

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