Transcript: Frith on Chifley’s death

John Frith: I asked Ben Chifley if he was going to the Jubilee Ball, and he said ‘No.’ I said ‘Any reason?’ and he said ‘Well,’ he said, ‘it’d mean I’ve got to dress up in full evening dress, I’ve got to go and stand around, I can’t dance. And I’ve got to listen to all the small talk, which I detest. I see the same old faces. No, no,’ he said, ‘it’s not good enough.’ He said, ‘I’m going back to the Kurrajong,’ which happened to be the hotel-cum-motel type of thing, or hostel, rather, I should say, ‘and read a book.’ ‘And what about you,’ said Ben Chifley, and I said ‘I haven’t been invited.’ And he said ‘well, I’ve got two tickets,’ and he said ‘be my guest!’ And I said ‘Well that’s very kind of you, but if it’s good enough for an ex-prime minister of this country to go home and read a book, then it’s good enough for a humble cartoonist to go back to the home of Dr. Westerman and read a book too. Possibly I shall listen to the music while they’re dancing.’ And with that, we shook hands. And I did read my book. And I did listen to the music. But on the stroke of twelve, there was an announcement made, and our Prime Minister was introduced, one Robert Gordon Menzies. And there, in a most emotional moment, he made the announcement to the dancers. He said ‘I have the sad news that I’ve lost my best friend, and Australia’s lost its greatest son, Ben Chifley.’