5 July 2017, Greensborough, Melbourne, Australia
Hello friends and family of Adrian. I’m Damian, Adrian’s youngest son & the member of the family least likely to require counselling after a public speaking engagement. I did contemplate turning up this morning and feigning laryngitis just to see their eyes widen … [feigning raspy voice] … ’Sorry, can’t do it guys … one of you will have to step up … Chris where are you going? … Michelle, Net … Paul? … Why are you lying down?
Anyway, one behalf of my Glossophobic siblings, I'd like to welcome you and thank you for coming to pay respects to the wonderful Adrian Paul Callinan.
I did say to dad, only one year ago, if he got to 93, he'd only have to make one more, and then it's just a six to bring up the ton.
[Roll Call & Thankyous]
As most of you would know Mum passed away in 2008 and to be honest dad, you haven't even come close to her numbers … so you need to have a good hard look at yourself … seriously … it was standing room at mums … we even had people dressing up as priests to try to score a seat on the altar.
I also did the eulogy at Mum’s funeral. Dad used to keep copies of it and proudly handed out. Mostly to people he knew, but not always. In fact I took him on tour with me 6 months after mum died & I think it may have led to me copping a fine from that cop who pulled us over just out of Ararat … ’I’ve got this dad … No, a copy of Mum's eulogy won’t help … alright …double demerits, your most kind officer.’
My friend, writer and Public speaker Tony Wilson used mum’s eulogy to launch his website ‘Speakola’ - a repository of public speeches of all ilks, from all comers … it’s a wonderful addition to the world.
Tony has been kind enough to share some of the stats with me. At 3512 views and 52 shares, Mum's is the second most read eulogy after Eric Idle’s Eulogy of George Harrison. Which means mum, while coming second to the Beatles is more popular than the Rolling Stones. According to Tone, mum’s speech has been more popular than the likes of Martin Luther King & Ted Whitten.
So the pressure is on Adey Babe. My view is why shy way from a winning formula, so I’ll be drawing influence from mum’s speech … here we go …
Adrian Callinan was the eldest daughter of Jack and May Purcell. He attended Santa Maria Ladies College in Northcote where he was captain of the school netball team and … hang on, I probably should have edited this a bit more … I might've have to go off notes
[Put notes aside]
Adrian went by many names … ‘Stringer’ … for which no satisfying explanation was ever been proferred. He was dubbed Adey Babe by dear family friend Jeanie P and he never lost that moniker, did you Adey Babe? He occasionally got Hadrian as in the wall; Hiraji as in 1948 Melbourne cup Winner … & Age, as in the declining Fairfax newspaper.
Mum had a few variations … ‘Oh Adriannn’ the most famous. Used at times of peak frustration, like when dad decided to go to the toilet just as they were about to go out. To understand the scale of her frustration, dad could be in there for considerable periods of time. In 1992 alone, he missed Annette’s birthday, the change of federal government and most of August. But mostly she said his name 3 times with increasing volume until he heard her … ‘Adrian! … Adrian!!! …. Adrian!!!!!!! … you're putting sugar on the salmon patties!’ Some times she truncated all 3 into one ‘Adri … Ade … Adrian!! … the toaster doesn't go in in the fridge!!’
Whatever you called him, you loved him. We often pump up the tyres of the recently deceased but much like mum, that isn’t necessary with dad. He was universally loved and admired. Our family have been inundated with messages this week from so many disparate sources commenting on how dad had touched their lives from our friends, ex-students, winemakers, teaching colleagues the managers at Bundoora Retirement Village, winemakers … actually mainly winemakers … Even the Ararat Police Station gave us a call.
Dad was multi layered as most quality people are. An Educator, son, thespian, husband, welfare volunteer, grand dad, wine connoisseur, great grand dad, confidant, brother, athlete, uncle, mentor, lover of literature & the arts, and of course a purveyor of fashion … which reached it’s high point in the 70’s
Here we see dad and mum at the Cluden Races in Townsville circa 1974. Look at him absolutely owning his batik over shirt with pockets. He also wore a Safari Suit better than Don Dunstan, made walk socks and walk short ensemble his signature look and as you’ll see in the later montage, he didn’t mind popping his leg up to show off his wares … ‘Hi, I’m Adey Babe … Cancer’
Today I’d like to shed light on the different versions of Adey Babe … He is looking a bit mobster up there and that’s not surprising because dad didn't mind getting involved in an under hand negotiations, of which mum may or may not have been aware. t’s become apparent over recent days that we have all been involved that dad was a deal broker.
Paul & Annette - were offered use of the family car of a Saturday in exchange for babysitting the brats … Michelle & I
Chris - in Year 7 Chris was offered financial incentives to read … a shilling a book I think, I’m not sure what currency you used back in your youth … it didn't work. It’s a credit to Chris that he has carved out a 40 year career in education without being able to read a single word … look at him sitting there holding onto the mass booklet… so cute … it’s upside down mate
I was the lucky one. We 5 are offspring of a mixed marriage. Mum, first cousin to the great Phonse Kyne, had no choice but to barrack for Collingwood. Dad, an early adapter to the use of untested, performance enhancing drugs was destined to barrack for Essendon.
Aged 8 and still trying to squeeze into the Collingwood jumper Nana Purcell had made me, dad took me aside and said ‘if you barrack for Essendon, I’ll take you to the footy every week’ … I didn't concede straight away but over a period of 18 months of watching the Dons get flogged at Windy Hill, I slowly shed by black & white striped skin and awoke black with a red sash. Immediately my teeth stopped aching, my vocab improved & I stopped spitting at strangers. With Chis already a Bomber, Paul was gutted. He was from that day condemned to a life time of going to the footy on his own. Lacking the vocabulary to articulate his pain, he just spits in our general direction from time to time.
Then there was dad the athlete.
That, ladies & gentleman, is the ‘Brunswick Flash’
Dad excelled at sport at school and was a member of the 1st 18 Footy team, 1st 11 cricket team & Senior Athletics team at Parade Christian Brothers. As were Chris and I … Paul also … attended Parade. To be fair Paul was the Due of Latin … Speaking a dead language has been of great solace to him over the years.
Post school years, dad’s sports stories seemed to take on a more epic scale. One Saturday after one of his regular Friday pub sessions with his teaching cohorts, he claims he awoke with a prodigious hangover. Mum made him a bowl of porridge and sent to him off to the game where he proceeded to kick a bag of 8 goals for Bacchus Marsh. One of the goals, said to be roosted from the centre of the ground, was immortalised in the Bacchus Marsh local paper under the head line ‘The Goal That Callinan kicked.’ From then on mum superstitiously made him porridge every Saturday morning but he never got close to repeating his heroics that day at Maddingley Park.
However, his most told story was so full of inaccuracies, that we used to ask him to repeat it just to see how far he could bend reality. The story goes that whilst competing for Brunswick YCW Athletics team in the grand final, the scores were locked together and it was decided that the teams would select their best athlete to race off. The event chosen: the 300m … yeah, not one of the more well known events. Apparently the ‘Between the Legs Javelin’ & ‘Backwards Triple Jump’ were also considered.
Dad put his hand up, for as it transpired, the 300m was dad’s pet event. Despite almost never being added to the card at any meet ever, he had secretly trained for this eventuality. He settled into his blocks, the recently injected pig enzymes taking affect, the gun went off and Dad romped to victory. The winning margin longer with every telling. In the last rending he crossed the line 365 metres in front of his opponent.
This is Airman Adey Babe
Leading Aircraft Man 116548 -
Enlisted - July 31st, 1942
Discharged - September 15th, 1945
This is the version of dad we knew the least. Like many of his generation he kept his war experience close to his chest.
In the footsteps of his brother Tony, already serving as navigator in the European theatre, dad joined the RAAF in the hope of becoming a pilot but due to an inner ear condition and testing positive to Peptides, he became a Radar Operator. He served in Darwin & the Atherton Tablelands. According to his service record we do know that a/ he was rated at of very good character b/ He was ranked as A Class in Trade proficiency 3/ he was wounded in action… though he fact that he could barely change a light blue in civilian life, the wonder was he wasn’t electrocuted more often … what, too soon?
Meet Adrian the Thespian
… that’s dad in Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe’ in 1948
Dad took great delight in telling the story that he was introduced to mum by their mate Tom Duffy after he had played a game of footy for Brunswick YCW. Dad took an immediate shine to her and asked her on date. Unable to think where they should go, he suggested that she come & see him perform in a play the following week. The plays title - ‘He Was Born Gay’ by Auberon Waugh … If mum had seen that photo, it’s unlikely the date would ever have occurred.
Back in the 40’s Dad starred in Melbourne Uni Revues and formed a stage alliance with his good mate Jack Cooper. Together they co-founded the the Cardijnian Players with the likes of author Ron Conway and Tony Coburn who went on to fame as the director of Patrol Boat in the UK. Mum reckoned that when they moved the to the country dad would either join the local Rep group or start one if there wasn’t. Mum would take care of the costumes, host the wrap parties and set up the trundle bed so he wouldn't keep her awake form snoring.
His passion for theatre spilled over into his teaching and he would continue to direct school plays and musicals even after he had become the Principal. On retirement he picked up where he left off and joined the Heidelberg Theatre Company where, amongst other pieces, he starred in Rome & Juliet alongside Dame Judi Dench and Sir John Geilgud … just seeing if you are all still listening.
I never did get to perform with dad but he did do a rehearsed play reading with our nephew David Callinan … & pretty much blew him off the stage … sorry Dave
Meet Adrian the Self Styled Sommelier
He didn't let go of that bottle of Grange all night.
For a man who couldn't so much as prepare a single leaf salad without dressing, Adrian loved to host a dinner party. However mum’s culinary skills paired with his wine knowledge meant they rarely had a knock back. Mum would buzz around the kitchen whipping up a multi feast course feast while dad moved around behind her washing up and putting away everything she didn't want washed up and put away.
So mum would shuffle him off so she could prepare the ingredients for the Fondue or Beef Stroganoff, and dad would repair to the bottom of the linen closet and select the wines for the night. This process could last so long, you would have sworn he was in the toilet. He’d consult his wine magazines, scrapbook journals and then light his pinot infused candle at his James Halliday Altar before lining up the selection for the evening on the ‘buffet’ and begin to decant. The selection would then be logged in their dinner party journal along with mum’s menu and the list of guests, a virgin would be sacrificed, preferably from Bordeaux or Burgundy … and then they'd bring out the cheese board.
And then there is dad the teacher
That’s my sister Michelle & I with dad at his new desk at Greenwood High School. His first gig as Principal
While he flirted with career on the stage, dad never missed a beat once he became a teacher. He was bloody good one too. Former students would regularly get in contact with dad years down the track to let him know that they has achieved their dream thanks to his support.
On Friday when we sat down down to arrange the funeral with Gabriel Walsh told us that only the week before, a local guy she had dealings with had told her that dad was the reason he was doing what he was doing today. Rod was student at Greenwood & a habitual truent. Dad went around to his house and told him to try to come to school a couple of days a week. He agreed but soon enough his attendance fell way so dad went back & dragged him to school and told him to build a shed. He did and it was a good shed. Rod is now a successful builder & developer.
Even as principal dad got his hands dirty, directing the school plays and taking remedial English classes for the senior students before hours.
He was loved and esteemed by his colleagues some of whom are with us today Ken Rigby, Glennys & Ian Collis, Geraldine Sullivan
But it wasn't just his students and peers who rated him. Have a listen to these Education Department Review Quotes …
His first school Bacchus Marsh HS 1951-55 — ‘A brisk and vigorous teacher: presents lessons clearly with good use of questioning & blackboard & performs numerous extra-curricular activities including bookstore accounts and dramatic work most efficiently
Then to Warragul HS 1956-59 - ‘A very sincere, thorough & capable teacher. Presents lessons on sound lines securing very good co-operation from his classes. A valuable member of staff.’
Let’s skip forward a few years passed Oak Park HS, Eltham HS & Strathmore HS to when he got his first Principal Job at Greenwood HS
Greenwood HS - ‘Adrian Callinan deserves a sainthood for lasting a single term let alone 5 years. When I walked into the school I had never seen such a feral bunch of long haired, unemployable layabouts and that was just the staffroom. Those teachers are so left wing they make Lenin look like a fascist. I’d burn the place down and start again but most likely one of them will fall asleep at their desk with a spliff in the hands and do it for us. Thankfully Adrian has been able to take refuge from the carnage in a rather good shed built at the rear of the school.
Then there is the husband and father.
If you thought he was good at the other stuff, in this department he was world class!
We all had close but very different relationships with dad and our first memories are telling. Annette recalled dad finding her knickers in his briefcase at a Bacchus Marsh High School Staff Meeting; Michelle getting trinkets from dad after he got home for teaching Night School; Chris hearing dad singing happy birthday through the radiogram; Paul recalls dad’s poor attempts at leg spin in the backyard … & I remember his face through the glass in the line up at the orphanage.
The love story of Adrian & Kathleen reads like an old school Hollywood romance … that keeps going well beyond the credits. Their post war courtship courtship was Gene Kelly & Kathryn Grayson in ‘Anchors Aweigh’… their country years were Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert in Green Acres … their burgeoning family was Clifton Webb & Jeanne Crane in ‘Cheaper By The Dozen’… their dotage ‘On Golden Pond’ with Henry Fonda & Katherine Hepburn
But no Hollywood screen writer would have come up with the the cruel plot twist at the end of their beautiful 61 year relationship.
The unfathomably sad circumstances that took mum away from dad could easily have broken a lesser man. He had every right to wallow in self pity but he actively chose to hold himself together so we wouldn't lose both parents to the same tragedy. Watching that beautiful man apologise to his wife as her live ebbed away is the most profoundly brave and loving act I’ve witnessed. Seemingly from that moment he lifted his head and walked forward to forge a new life without the woman he adored and who adored him.
[Gets out handkerchief from his pocket and finds instead a pair of female undies]
When dad retired mum and he started a very happy phase of their lives together but the School Principal in him was slow to recede and from week one they would schedule weekly ‘Staff Meetings’ of a Monday morning. This sounds like I am making this up but I’m not. On the agenda would be items for discussion such as medical appointments, correspondence to be written, dinner parties to arrange, should we put a phone in the toilet …
Since mum passed away of course the meetings sadly stopped, but you will be pleased to know that as of this Monday passed, the meetings have reconvened and I just happen to have the Minutes from that very meeting … written by mum
Minutes - Kathleen & Adrian Callinan Monday Staff Meeting - July 3rd, 2017
Present - Kathleen & Adrian
Apologies - None
Schedules - 10am
Commenced - 10.38am [Adrian was in the toilet]
Order of Business
• Join Pearly Gates West Beef & Burgundy Club
• Locate nearest Dan Murphy
• Jack Cooper to take Adrian to join ‘Kingdom Come Amateur Theatre Company’
• Get hearing aid batteries
• Speak to Dr O’Shea about Adrian’s IBS [I’ve told him that this stuff doesn't matter any more but he won’t be dissuaded]
• Redo the now more extended Christmas card list
• Decide on menu for dinner party with the Duffys, Jack Cooper, Jack Leonard, Jesus and Jeanie P - thinking kai si ming and pavlova
• Adrian is keen to buy a new car … have managed to put this off for the time being
I wrote this reflection about dad the night after he passed away. It was raw and flowed out as if he were over my shoulder helping me find the words. I’ll read it now it sums up best what dad meant too me
The last drizzles of colour cascaded from mid air only to disappear in less impressive drifts of smoke. Horns from boats on the harbour and distant cheers replaced the cacophony of the pyrotechnics and we were able to resume our conversation. The sulphurous hangover lingered as I stood on the balcony and detailed the magic of my night thus far. He hung off my every word in much the way I had done when he read to me of a night in my childhood bed. I loved the longer narratives of Arthur Conan Doyle and the word plays of Bennet Cerf, but it was the magical worlds of faeries conjured by WB Yeats and the canny lasses of Robby Burns that made me sit up and clutch my spare pillow. The accents and oratorial poise he summoned, seemed to take me directly to fog shrouded isles and moonlit corn rows. I loved those nights. But on this night the roles were reversed. The noise & clatter of a Sydney New Years Eve faded in the background as I spoke to him on the balcony of the Opera House amidst the revellers whose post operatic party we had crashed. Still in the glow of a preview performance of ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare' in the Playhouse, the English Lit teacher in him swooned at descriptions of analysing the Bard's text in rehearsal; The Actor in him delighted in hearing tales of my improvisations during the constructed mayhem of the piece and the Father in him swelled with pride. It remains one of the most profoundly happy conversations of my life. He gushed with envy and I told him how much of an impact his passion for literature and theatre had fundamentally shaped who I am. His last words on that night were … ’I am so proud of you.’ …. A couple of nights ago, in a lucid moment amidst fits of delirium, I held both of his hands and his eyes locked onto mine and he said it again. They were his last words to me … ‘Farewell Adrian, if we do meet again, why we shall smile: if not, then this parting was well made'
In the last year or so I occasionally returned the favour and read to dad. Often choosing every poems and prose he had read to me as a child. With his memories fraying at the edges he would pick up and join in with me on some poems. We both loved Robbie Burns and this was our favourite … so one more time with feeling Adey babe
Corn Rigs & Barley Rigs - Robbie Burns
It was upon a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held awa to Annie;
The time flew by, wi' tentless heed,
Till, 'tween the late and early,
Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed
To see me thro' the barley.
Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.
The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o' barley:
I ken't her heart was a' my ain;
I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kiss'd her owre and owre again,
Amang the rigs o' barley.
I lock'd her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o' barley!
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She aye shall bless that happy night
Amang the rigs o' barley.
Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.