Territory Stories

The citation : the newsletter of the Northern Territory Police Museum & Historical Society



The citation : the newsletter of the Northern Territory Police Museum & Historical Society


Northern Territory Police Museum & Historical Society Inc


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Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; This publication contains may contain links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.




Northern Territory Police Historical Society; Northern Territory Police Force; History; Police; Periodicals

Publisher name

Northern Territory Police Museum & Historical Society Inc

Place of publication





Issued November 2008

File type



1839-3918; 1839-390X


Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



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November 1, 2008 [CITATION: NT POLICE MUSEUM AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY] C I T A T I O N - N o v e m b e r 2 0 0 8 Page 14 Much to the relief of their parents, many troublesome family members were shipped out from England to the Antipodes and paid to stay away. One such remittance man who had numerous encounters with Darwin police was Donald Charles Duncan, also known as Drunken Duncan and Dapper Donald Duncan. When asked by a Darwin magistrate why he came to Australia in the first place, Duncan brought the house down by saying his father called him in and said that as the town already had one village idiot, it could not stand two, so he had better go to Australia. This he did, arriving at Fremantle from London aboard the Bendigo in late l924. He was 21, and gave his occupation as a clerk. It is not known why he stepped ashore in the west to start a new life here as a remittance man. Research has uncovered the fact that he came from a distinguished family. The 1891 British Census shows his father, Charles G. Duncan, 35, was a senior assistant chemist in the War Department and Donalds mother, Lilla, was 20 at the time. Donalds paternal grandfather, Professor Martin Duncan, was a man of many talents. A highly regarded paleontologist, he was part educated at a grammar school and in Switzerland. After studying medicine at Kings College, Cambridge, he practiced as a doctor in various places, served as the Mayor of Colchester, and then took up scientific research in botany, geology and paleontology. Appointed Professor of Geology at Kings College in l870, he was a leading expert on coral fossils, became president of the Geological Society, and edited six volumes of Cassells Natural History. He married twice and sired 12 children with the first; his second wife, 13 years younger, produced a daughter. Convictions for drunkenness piled up for the Duncan family black sheep in WA. Eventually, he lobbed in Darwin and at some stage worked in Jollys Store before Woolworths came to town. One day he called at the NT News office, spoke to the editor, a fellow Britisher, Jim Bowditch, told him his office was messy, and offered his services as a cleaner. He was hired on the spot and also took on the responsibility of night watchman. As Donald was usually lurching about the town at night in an alcoholic state, it is unlikely that his office security responsibility was observed to the letter. From the time of his initial engagement, Donald not only cleaned the News, he perused each edition of the paper for incorrect grammar and spelling errors which he drew to the attention of the editor. The editor, feeling thirsty and wanting to go to the Vic Hotel, at times told Donald to bugger off. Duncans eyesight was such that he removed his glasses and held the newspaper close to his nose, almost cross-eyed, as he scanned it for crimes against the Queens English. He reprimanded newspaper staff for throwing rubbish on the floor, especially in the factory, and added that his father had demanded a spotlessly clean estate where throwing a match on the lawn resulted in a stern rebuke. From time to time, Donald used profound expressions when talking to newspaper staff. One night he joined a party being held in the newspaper living quarters of the building known as the Tin Bank and made a nuisance of himself, lurching about and pinching a girl on the derriere. As a result, he was pushed into a cupboard and left there to sleep it off. In the morning, office staff heard a strange noise in the cupboard, opened the door and out flopped Donald. In one of his many court appearances he wore two left foot sandals. Duncan helpfully co-operated with police by often presenting himself, in a drunken and disheveled state, at the front counter of the Bennett Street Police Station with a request to be driven home. It was a case of: Home, James, and dont spare the paddy wagon. Dapper Donald