Tim Bristow: A personal true tale of Australia's legendary
private investigator, by Greg Tingle
memory of "Big" Tim (26th August 1930 -
13th February 2003)
did I choose one of Australia's most colourful, and
some many say, notorious underworld figures, for the
subject of this feature article, you may ask?
the late Tim Bristow was my friend, some time mentor,
and a great man. He proved to be a great man, friend
and community minded individual. Yes, that's right...a
good community minded man. Tim was synonymous with
the northern beaches community, with friends and contacts
in just about every street from Palm Beach, to Manly
and well beyond.
sadly passed away on Thursday, February 13th at his
home in Crescent Road, Newport, just around the corner
from my original residence in Yachtsman's Paradise.
first introduction to Tim was via my late father,
"Tricky" Ricky Tingle,
in the mid 80s. Dad used to do a bit of debt collecting
with Tim, when he wasn't building up his trucking
and property business, and in the 1985 to 1990 period,
as a young, tough lad, I helped out with the odd job
as well. It should be mentioned that Tim paid on time,
and more often than not, in cash, usually comprised
on stacks in $50s or $100 bills.
with Tim was always precious, and you had a sense
of that then as well. Actually, I'm not just referring
to his latter years, when his heath was failing. Even
having a punt at the Newport
TAB or enjoying a bite at Lucky
and Peps Pizza were momentous experiences.
Tim made them so. (Incidentally the Newport TAB is
just to the side of my great grandfathers old property,
where he, Eric Fraser Tingle
used to run the most successful SP book making business
in his day). It's no coincidence the current TAB is
just next door to the original betting house; Eric's
barbershop and plant nursery, but Eric Tingle may
have told the authorities it was, had they ever been
questioned about this. If only the walls could talk!
wore many hats including role of private investigator,
primarily focused on divorce cases, "problem
solver" for industry disputes, bouncer for Newport
Arms, sportsman, specialising in diving, surf
sports and rugby; and mentor to many of the youth
of Sydney's northern beaches. Tim continued his hobbies
well into the latter part of his life, still having
a punt on the horses, diving and collecting the many
newspaper articles and videotapes that carried his
name, and those of his contemporaries.
his younger years, Tim was even a male model for Bond's,
and was the first to secure major sponsorship from
the likes of Coke-a-cola.
Tim was a real life "Chesty Bond", a man's
man, and a ladies man.
of Tim's will say he was a "standover man".
From my experience with Tim, anyone ever receiving
"bad luck" from Tim "Earthquake"
Bristow, probably had it coming. It is true Tim didn't
last long in the NSW Police
Force. This was due in part to Tim never favouring
others' authority; and his self managed style was
not a good fit for the discipline of the Police Force.
1976 Bristow was convicted of assault and sentenced
to 18 months' jail. A decade later he was sentenced
to five years' for supplying Indian hemp. I am not
saying Tim was an angel, and this was mentioned in
his eulogy, which was delivered by both his brother,
Max and his friend and biographer, Kevin
did strike fear into some of the nastiest, "mongrel
low-life scum" that Australia ever produced.
He used his hired gun status to eradicate such undesirables.
at Shore and briefly
a police cadet, or police officer, he once said, "I
bribed police for 40 years. I found that the higher
I went in society the lower the morals became."
was both a very public and private personality.
his funeral, held at St Thomas',
North Sydney, and to a less extent, wake, held at
Chatswood, were quite public affairs. It was a most
moving experience. A part of Newport died when Tim
passed. For myself, it was particularly moving, as
my late father, based at Newport, died in 1992. Tim
had been a remaining link for me to my late father.
went to incredible lengths to keep his name out of
certain newspapers, when he wasn't fond of what they
were about to publish. Thus its ironic that one of
Tim's friends, a fine journalist and writer, Mr
Kevin Perkins is in the process of writing
Bristow's biography, as we approach mid 2003.
many personalities, Tim had a love - hate relationship
with the media. The media is just one of, all be it
an important factor in his significant profile. Tim
certainly was larger than life, and did not need the
media to exaggerate it. He was intimidating and imposing,
both physically and psychologically.
five weeks and two weeks before Tim's death, he invited
me around to his beautiful Newport home to have a
chat, drink and bite, and he delighted in having his
partner, Sue, play the old VHS tapes of Tim being
interviewed by journalists and TV presenters such
as Derryn Hinch, Mike Willesse,
Ray Martin, Mike Munro and a host of others.
I sat down with Tim, I raised the question of a book
I had recently read, Not for
Publication, by Chris
Masters. The chapter of particular interest
was entitled Guilty Buildings.
I was, as you imagine, absolutely fascinated, as I
knew Tim must have been the source of these writings.
I simply said, "Tim, you were the main informer
for that chapter weren't you?" in only a manner
I could get away with, and Tim jovially replied with,
"Yes Greg, Chris Masters
and I conferred at length about the building industry".
We then continued coffee and flipping through his
extensive newspaper clippings collection, and playing
a bit of one upmanship. Literally every media and
crime figure personality I alluded to, Tim had a suitable
anecdote for. The John Laws
story was my favourite, being a big fan of Laws, so
a version of that may have to be included in a future
article or documentary.
this time and in keeping with Tim's generosity, he
referred my sister and I, to Peter
Meakin, at the time the News Producer at Sydney's
Network Nine; who was
in this own period of transition.
many of us, Tim had an ambivalent relationship with
the media, due to its obsession with his exploits
in the sometimes "seedy" building industry.
Bristow, who had a criminal record as well as his
"enforcer" reputation, led a building royal
commission into the underworld in the early 1990s
when he told 60 Minutes
he had been employed by big builders as an "industrial
my time with Tim, I can confirm that he visited many
a "friendly visit" to building sites around
Sydney, sometime accompanied by an extra passenger
or two, just in case more persuasion was called for.
One may say, just the speaking of his name shook buildings
to their foundations. The rumours about the odd uncooperative
fellow falling to his death from building sites may
actually have more "foundation" than you
may initially think. Tim personal tennis court is
also rumoured to have its foundations made up from
more than rubble. The story goes there are a few broken
bones, perhaps from building sites, thrown into the
concrete mix. Fancy a dig?
the royal commission into productivity in the NSW
building industry, Mr Bristow said he had suggested
to people on building sites that if they continued
to disrupt the work, they might meet with some bad
luck and specifically, a "bad accident".
the fact from the fiction was always an interesting
pastime of Tim's. Additionally, when you listened
to Tim's tales, one got the feeling that he was adding
at least a little bit of colour. It's not that he
was full of bullshit, he certainly was not. I believe
it was just to add further entertainment value. Entertaining
he was (if you were on the right side of him). I clearly
outlined this to both John "Golden
Tonsils" Laws and Brian
Wilshire (the master conspiracy theorist),
when I has the pleasure of speaking at length about
"Timmy" on national radio in the first quarter
on 2003. This was the time I was starting to "hit
my straps" in the Australian media business.
broadcasting king-pin, Alan
Jones may care to share a story he will likely
not soon forget. In 1974, when Jones was a teacher
at Kings and coaching the school's first 15, Bristow
turned up to provide pointers to Jones's lads on the
finer aspects of the game of rugby.
member of the team leaked that he and his schoolmates
were wide-eyed as Bristow instructed them on how to
dislocate a shoulder; how to re-align the jawbone
of an opposing player with the merest nudge, and how
a simple twist could break a finger. "It was
all very subtle but the end result was very messy,"
recalled the player.
the end of Bristow's chat, an ashen-faced Jones thanked
him, waited until the Enforcer was safely ensconced
in his Mercedes convertible, before saying to his
charges: "Just forget everything you've heard
this afternoon." Not long after his "thugby"
lesson, Bristow was sentenced to 18 months' jail for
tale about the "see-you-later-club",
which is located conveniently just off the heads of
Palm Beach, is legendary. I took the trip a few times,
and needless to say I lived to tell the tale. The
trip was quite a pleasant experience, however, I must
admit that when I sat on the bow of the speedboat
at a speed towards 50 knots, I felt somewhat tentative.
has it if you got on the very bad side of Bristow,
you secured a one way ticket to the club, and ended
up wearing concrete blocks for boots. We all know
that there are certain individuals in this world,
that that would perhaps be to easy a punishment for
some of the crimes they has committed, and still
been allowed to walk!
let it be said that just because some of your friends
and associates may carry nicknames like "Tricky
Ricky", Michael Twothumbs and John
"Mad Dog" Cooper, that this implies
ones own criminal status.
understood what true justice was all about. How many
of us know about certain individuals who have done
terrible things in the community, and are allowed
to stay at large, just searching for their next victims?
demanded respect and got it. Not a more loyal friend
and lending ear and heart to turn to, could ever be
found. Tim always took the call, and a "too hard
basket" didn't exist.
the end period of Tim's life, he was so giving, that
just two weeks prior to his death, he gave the word
to an undesirable who was hassling my sister, to "back
off", and what do you know, suddenly the problem
disappeared. Tim was asking questions like, "this
fellow, he's a want-to-be architect in the building
industry is he"? Tim give them his trademark,
is my belief that anyone that ever "badmouthed"
Tim probably had something to hide.
firmly believe that although Tim circulated in a somewhat
dubious world, he was in no way of dubious or "dodgy"
character. He had all the characteristics of a good
person - he had morals, was loyal, truthful, giving
of his heart and time to those who deserved it and
cared for, and in his own way, he was champion of
"right". No one is pretending he was always
easy to get on with, as Matthew
Bristow was recently explaining to me, but
that was part of his charm.
is with absolute pleasure and pride that I am able
to give this insight into one of Australia's most
misunderstood, legendary and public figures.
tantalising a book will Kevin
Perkins tome be. One need not wait too much
longer, with Bristow's life story in print, due to
be released this October, with the option of a feature
thank you for the privilege of knowing you and your
Bristow, Matthew Bristow (Bristow Films), Kevin Perkins,
Eric "Tricky Ricky" Fraser Tingle (and a
host other others who may prefer that their names
not be published)!
Perkins is one of Australia's most respected journalists.
Kevin is currently writing the life story of "Big"
Tim Bristow. Expect Bristow's biography to
be available before the conclusion of 2003.
spent with a loveable rogue (Greg
Tingle's edited article published on GreatReporter.com)
Shitville Pub, by Ross Renwick
Surf Carnival, by Ross Renwick
truth about Tim (f2
Rubgy Heaven article)
Is Coke, by Greg Tingle
Matthew Bristow, Film Maker, Producer and Director,
Bristow Films - 15th May 2003
Super 8 Film Group: Matthew Bristow profile
spent with a loveable rogue (Greg Tingle's
edited article published on GreatReporter.com)