Stinker’s History: The Asquith clan (part two)

When the local fishermen went to Newcastle for a night out, fun and games were guaranteed. Kenny Barry joined in.

Part Two – In the can

FISHERMEN didn’t spend all their time fishing.

When it came to a party or any social gathering, you could rely on the fishermen to be the first to arrive and the last to leave.

On Friday nights, it was out on the town in Newcastle for Nelson Bay fishermen Neville and Charlie Asquith, ‘Skeeter’ Archard and Kenny Barry.

Not too surprisingly, at least one of the group, on most occasions, would be “run in” at the local police station to cool down.

On this night it was Ken Barry who was locked up.

Drunkenness was the usual charge which was accepted without any argument.

The “deal” was to wait until 10 o’clock, then return to the police station and pay ten shillings for your mate’s release.
After putting the money on the counter Charlie asked for Mr Barry to be let out.

“Mr Barry,” announced the on-duty officer.

The door was opened and out stumbled a very drunk, hunched, little old man.

“Struth! Kenny what have they done to you?” gasped ‘Skeeter’.

The old man was Ken’s grandfather.

On another occasion Charlie and Bobby Asquith visited the bright lights of Newcastle to buy Christmas presents for the kids and it was Bob who had a ride to the lock up in the ‘Black Mariah’, the name given to the paddy wagon.

“If you boys let me out in time to catch the late bus back to Nelson Bay I will catch you all a feed of lobsters,” Bob said, making the Newcastle constabulary an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Sure enough Bob was on the late bus back home.

A bang on the door the next morning woke the drowsy fisherman from his deep sleep.

The Newcastle police had arrived in Nelson Bay at 10 o’clock to collect their lobsters.

Bob never even had a chance to check his pots.

In a desperate move to satisfy the law he “borrowed” half a dozen lobsters off brother Bill.

Everyone was happy, except Bill.

Back in Nelson Bay, being tossed into the cooler wasn’t a problem, or a disgrace, it was a place where you could settle down and sober up.

The local lock up was never lonely.

The Asquith boys, along with many of the local fishermen, were regular visitors after a night at the Sea Breeze or the RSL Club.

Rex Rainer, who married Noel O’Connell’s sister, was the local copper and he was in charge of the lock up, mostly frequented by the fishermen.

On one particular evening he tossed in Charlie Asquith and his brother Bobby for drunk and disorderly conduct.

The boys being in high spirits joked around until the lock up man became tired of their drunken antics.

At this stage he pulled his gun out and lay it on the table.


“Now lads, do you want to drink and carry on or do you want to play the game?”

Charlie had no hesitation.

“I’m gonna play thanks.”

When everything settled down and the mischief returned, Bobby yelled out to Rex’s wife Ronnie.

“Bring us a bottle and three glasses please Ronnie.”

The fishermen were surprised when the gaoler’s wife did just that.

“Funny thing about that lockup,” recalls Charlie.

“No one had to stay inside for the entire night.

“The reason was that the copper didn’t want the responsibility of feeding us next morning.”

According to Charlie’s wife Janet, the lockup was his second home.

“No one worried as we knew that they were safe in there and they always had plenty of company.

“Let’s face it they were only drunk.

“On occasions I asked Rex not to let Charlie out of the lockup.

“Leave him there to dry out,” I pleaded.

“You look after him and send him home when he comes good and not before – Charlie walked in the door before I put the phone down.”

Bob’s wife Ruth had a similar attitude to her husband’s antics.

“I think,” Ruth told me, “Bob and Charlie helped build the Sea Breeze, they spent enough money there.

“They would go there most nights and when they got enough grog in them they would blue.

“This night Bob got ‘run in’, well his mother just lived over the hill from us and she came over and said: ‘Ruth, Bob’s been run in’.”

With a cost of ten bob to get her husband out, and little kids to look after, Ruth had a tough decision to make.

“‘Well what can I do about it?’,” I said, I had little kids at the time.

“‘It is ten bob to get him out!’”

She went to the police station to assess the situation.

“There he was, fast asleep, drunk as a monkey, all curled up on the coyer mat.

“He’s asleep, he’s quite alright, when he wakes up they will let him out and I will still have my ten bob.

“I wasn’t paying up.”

That wasn’t the only episode.

Once Ruth was home with the kids when there was a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

It was Bob’s nephew, Allan Presbury.

“I answered the door and said: ‘What’s the matter?,” Ruth said.

“At the time I had just got my driver’s licence and I had never driven at night, I was still very nervous behind the wheel so I was a bit startled when Allan said: ‘Would you come up to the cemetery?’.

“What do I want to go to the bloody cemetery for at this time of the night,” Ruth asked?

“Uncle Bob was run in,” gasped Allan.

“So what’s new?” Ruth replied.

“That’s not all. He hit the copper on the head with the piss pot,” Allan said.

“He what!!”

“He got away and he’s hiding behind a headstone up in the cemetery,” Allan said, shaking.

So up to the cemetery they went, with Ruth taking on her first attempt at night driving.

Allan led the way to the darkest corner of the cemetery and there was Bob.

“Get in the car you bastard,” Ruth said.

“I couldn’t see the funny side of things at the time.

“There’s more,” Ruth continued.

“Charlie and Bob got into it another time at the Sea Breeze and Charlie went through the glass door.

“Janet collected Charlie and took him home but by the time I found out what had happened Bob got thrown into the lock up again.”

Teddy Archard ended up buying the lockup, or it might have been given to him.

Anyway it ended up as a store room for Ted’s dried lobster bait.

The stories it could tell.

By John ‘Stinker’ CLARKE

Leave a Reply