27 November 2017, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Hello everyone, Thank you for coming, It means allot to Dad and Mum, Bruce and I knowing that each of you were here for him, and, for each other.
As we are here to farewell Dad, I would like to do so with a few tales for us to remember him by, tales that go the essence of who he was. As he would say, spin a yarn or two.
Dad had a love of the outdoors, and in particular the water. Ocean, River, pond or dam, he loved to be at the edge fishing, crabbing, yabbying, or simply enjoying the sunrise. Who can remember his many trips along the Spencer Gulf crabbing with rakes? Wading miles out the tidal flats waist deep in water, knee deep in black mud and sea grass, poking and prodding for those tasty blue swimmers? Yet coming back with a butchers tub full of the freshest the ocean had to offer. This is the kind of thing that loved.
He lived for a while at St Kilda, with Uncle Bill. Fond of the Bachelor life, he would fish daily and celebrate the catch with a daily drink. Some days, no fish, and no money to ease the pain of the ones that got away. So with his guitar that can best be described as only having 2 and half strings, the pair hatched a plan and wandered into the Local hotel He began to “play”, It might be a stretch to call it music but it was noise anyway. And Bill, his all too often partner in such antics, began warbling a song to the amusement of onlookers. The Publican, alerted to this commotion, politely asked these men what they were doing? “Why,Busking Sir, we hope to earn a drink by the end of the night”. The publican, having had enough already, and knowing full well how determined and serious they were, simply gave in without a fight, handing them a Carton of beer and subsequently evicted them with less than pleasant words. Mission accomplished.
Of course things did not always go as planned. Having an adventurous spirit, and the physical strength to cope with obstacles thrown in his way, he was boating along the Murray river, With Mum and Uncle Norman, back in days when mobile phones were the exclusive domain of TV shows. Late in the evening, Trawling up the river, in an old small wooden dinghy, sourced from who knows where for who knows what favors; when, the transom, the wall of the dingy the small motor was mounted to, simply fell off. A stunned crew was seconds from disaster! Instantly, Dad grabbed the still running engine, using only his strength, held the motor and wall onto the now crippled boat. For what I am sure felt like a lifetime, they managed to make landfall. Once ashore, far from their intended destination, a cold night was spent on the banks of the River Murray by all. Where his strength came from to hold that engine who knows? But Mum was 7 months pregnant with me at the time.
Sometimes things happen to dad without explanation - a mystery by any measure. For Example, one of the Family holidays to the Eyre Peninsula, standing on windy Jetties hunting those elusive Whiting but settling for Tommies, Squid jags at the ready, Our family had suffered through poor weather and the catch had been lean. My brother, very young at the time, and excited by the thoughts of catching a fish, was upset because he hadn’t caught anything for all his efforts and early morning sacrifices. Dad wanting to remedy the problem, decided to go for one last fish, stopping at some random lonely beach on the drive home. We set up, and while Bruce was distracted, Dad put one of our older and quite dead catches from the previous day on the hook, and cast it out as far as he could. As soon as it hit the surf Dad started fighting the rod and called Bruce over “Bruce Bruce” he exclaimed - “There’s one on Reel it in”! So Bruce does and as it comes out the surf, are two silvery fish, a double header, both wriggling as only alive fish do. I don’t know who was more surprised - Me, Dad or Mum, But it felt like only a divine intervention could provide such a miracle, and made for a much easier drive home.
Dad was very tall, broad and strong, an imposing figure to all. Some would underestimate his power and strength at their peril. At a Father and Son Boy Scout camp on the Murray, the Traditional Canoe race across the river was held on the final day. However The double seated kayaks were short and snug, and the only one dad could possibly fit was troublesome unit known as the “purple dart” which had an awkward keel that caused it behave like a wayward shopping trolley - always veering to the left. We were considered at best, an outside chance to finish last , if we finished at all. Off we took from the start line and dad was digging deep, I’m sure I was nothing more than ballast but half way across we were near the leaders. Once over he used our awkward keel to our advantage executing a tremendously fast left turn. Off again digging deep. I realised before long we were in the lead, and as I looked back at the frantic faces of the runner ups, I saw dad was basically paddling on the Left side only, countering that damned keel. We won with one hand virtually tied behind his back. I saw a look on the other dads faces that is hard to describe, but if it had a word it would be respect.
As he grew older, his passion for the sea or river never waned, he would often drive out to St Kilda early in the morning to watch the sun rise and the fishing boats go out for the day. I’m sure he wanted to go with them. But he didn’t let age and ailment stop him from trying to get a free feed. So on a hot Summer Sunday morning, with Bruce and Andy, they made their way to Morgan with yabbie nets, fueled by memories of their youth and a few bevvies to boot. These days, access to the river is tightly controlled, but Dad, not one to observe signs, directed the driver of his brand new car, off the road, over the earthwork boundary, and across the flats to the river. The New car inevitably got bogged . So while Bruce tried in vain to get them mobile again - with no tools or help, Dad and Andy figured no better time to throw the yabby nets in the river, after all they had come such a long way, cars can wait. Well, Later that day I did a rescue run to Morgan, and I can still remember 2 sheepish faces in the back seat that had to listen to my teasing banter all the way home - the price of my rescue. The car though took a week to find someone brave enough to recover from the mudflat. However, those precious yabby nets had been safely stowed in the boot for their next adventure, unfortunately , along with the some very spoiled bait. The stink is legendary, the now not so new car had to be left in a field for a week to air out before anyone would go near enough to attempt to clean it. Like a trooper, Dad drove it home, “I don’t know what your all complaining about” he said, with all four windows wide open. His pride beaten, but not broken. His Last trip to the river was memorable indeed.
But that was dad. A simple man with simple needs in an ever increasingly complicated world. He would help anyone if he could, even though you had to earn it sometimes. I can see him now relaxed at his kitchen table, Its almost sunrise, his little spot, AM radio playing in the background with the constant chatter of like minded people, reading his newspaper and doing his daily puzzles, watching the world pass by his window “what do you need television for when I have this” he would say, motioning to the window. Photos of family and other memories, lovingly hung on the walls around him, In his final days, I know we were in his thoughts.
A proper fair dinkum Bloke, South Australian to the core. A Proud Barossan, A Builder, Crows fan, A Soldier, Brother, Father, Father in law, Grandfather (to Hamish), Husband and Friend. A Fisherman and a Gardener. These are the stories I offer to you to remember him by.
In remembrance life is immortal.
Lest we forget.