11 March 2016, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
This eulogy has been proof read, edited and approved by T.H.B. xo
Thomas Harry Bowles was born in Bendigo on the 26th of September 1945. He was the first born of Louisa “Hilda” Bowles (Jasper) and the tenth born to Percival Harry Bowles. Already there were his five half brothers Viv, Les, Herb, Ken, Gordon and four half sisters Evelyn, Jess, Dulcie and Lily and their children. Uncle Jack and Aunty Cath followed to make up a dozen.
Dad’s childhood was spent on the family farm “Axeton” at Sweenies Creek 15 kilometres from Bendigo. The farm was run on the MD&K system, ie Mum, Dad and Kids with the emphasis on manual labour, hand milking cows, harvesting fruit, feeding pigs and picking tomatoes.
Dad started school in December 1951, transitioning for the 1952 school year. His classmates all started in October 1951. Dad presumed that being his mother's golden boy, she was reluctant to send him for the first couple of months. Dad’s love of gardening was instilled at home, but flourished at school, because when religious education classes were taught, Dad being from one of the three protestant families was sent out to do the gardening. Some of the catholic kids thought Dad and co got the better part of the deal.
The commencement of his schooling started a 7 year association with his 24 inch fixed wheel bicycle, riding to school with Jack and Cathy, along with a few Gleesons and a few FitzGibbons.
Dad loved the school sports. He could run and jump, his high jump record being 5ft 7inches which at the time was his height. When discussing high jump, Dad always finished with ‘and there was no fosbury flop or western roll because you landed in sand, so it was only scissor kick.’ He got into a bit of trouble with his first hop step and jump attempt as he landed beyond the sandpit. The Eppalock team was nearly unbeatable in the sack races. Using a technique he successfully instructed 3 of his 4 children on at a back to Donald event in the mid 80s at the sesquicentenary.
After completing primary school, Dad assumed he would attend the technical college where all the country kids went, but unexpectedly found himself enrolled at the Bendigo High School. He commenced in 1958 and soon established himself in many of the A sides sporting teams.
Cricket was Dad’s great passion. He recently told Lucy that the things that had helped him through some tough times were cricket, work and mum. Then advising, not necessarily in that order. Dad was a very good cricketer. He made the Strathfieldsaye team of the century. At Golden Square he won the Bendigo Batting Average. In Donald he made a name for himself as an all rounder at Services. In his 40s he was talked out of retirement to play out at Rich Avon. We suspect with the aim of recruiting his 3 talented sons!! We all have wonderful memories of playing cricket at Rich Avon, in the backyard and at Darkee’s nets together. This is something Dad really wanted as he didn’t have this relationship with his own father. Anyway, I won’t bore you here with the stories and statistics of cricket, as no doubt Poey will do that at drinks later on.
After completing High School, Dad commenced his working career, firstly as a clerk in an admin office at Buffalo River near Mytleford. In 1965 after a long weekend at Mt. Buffalo, Dad was a passenger in a car involved in a head on collision. His girlfriend at the time Lois Pearce, was driving and tragically died as a result of the accident. Dad was badly injured. His femur was broken and he had severe facial injuries including losing part of his upper jaw and teeth. He spent months in the Benalla hospital which was no doubt a joy for the staff there. According to Uncle Jack this was a terrible time for all the family. He finally left with his leg in a full length calliper with the prospects of a lengthy rehabilitation in front of him. A fairly daunting thought for a young man who loved leading such an active life. His surgeons last words of advice were do not let any football trainers touch you!
It was during this recovery period that Dad started seeing Mum. Dad was good mates with Mum’s older brother Alex who was studying in NZ at the time. Dad said with a very cheeky grin and the nostril flare we are all familiar with, that asking after Alex was the perfect excuse to talk to the very beautiful blonde from Bridgewater. When we asked him what he would like mentioned in his eulogy he indicated with a thumb over his shoulder that maybe we should mention Janet. By his own admission Dad reflected that he has not always been the easiest husband to live with, but that when he was broken on the footpath Mum lifted him up. To start from this point to have a 46 year marriage is a fantastic effort, so Mum thanks from Dad.
Mum and Dad were married on 27th December 1969. This was the only weekend in summer with no cricket. The honeymoon was cut short to get back for the following Saturday, only for the game to be cancelled due to rain.... Mum is still dirty on this. Us four kids all turned up Tom Jnr, Martin, Nick and Lucinda. Mum and Dad’s relationship was entertaining from a spectators point of view. Feisty, passionate, full of laughter, full of loyalty, and behind closed doors full of love. A special mention to the story that involved Mum throwing a plate at Dad, him stating, ‘Haha you missed’, mum stating ‘if I wanted to Hit you I would have. It was worth a broken plate.’
In 1972, Dad interviewed for the position of Shire Secretary at the Shire of Donald. He thought it would be good practice to be interviewed by actual councillors and whether he was the best or the only applicant he ended up at the age of 26 appointed as the Shire Secretary. This role proved challenging, the toughest being changing the local government act to allow the Shire to purchase the meatworks, and then subsequently closing them at a cost of 200 jobs. Not to give up on local jobs an idea was created to recruit an Industrial Promotion Officer. The position was filled by Graham “Pickles” Harris. This led to many adventures such as turning a church into a shirt factory, introducing a yabbie farm, a steel fabricator, and the most famous Kookas Country Kookies. These jobs all bought families and dollars to the Donald economy.
Dad attended local council meetings and had a shared respect for the councillors, particularly those who agreed with his and Darkee’s point of view. Some of these points of views often found their way into the editorial of the Donald Birchip now Buloke Times scribed by Robin Letts. Dad always had the broader community in mind, he loved his time in lions club and volunteering in a huge number of local sporting and community groups. Dad relished being Shire Secretary and maintained this role until local councils were amalgamated in 1995. Dad was bitterly disappointed when the amalgamation occurred, fearing that small country towns would lose their identity.
Dad was then persuaded by his loyal backers to run for state government as an independent candidate. Dad ran a serious campaign for three weeks . The night of his election corresponded with Martins 21st. This was a huge celebration, mum on crutches with a snapped Achilles, everyone watching the tv with the election updates and the young ones celebrating Martin’s 21st. Dad had an amazing campaign having a 22% swing against the sitting member.
12 McCulloch Street in Donald was our home and holds special memories. All 4 of us kids were born and educated in Donald. A lasting memory of Dad is a beer in one hand, hose in the other tending to his garden at the end of a working day. No doubt Mum was inside, stopping fights, making sure homework was done and cooking dinner. But Dad needed a break after the long commute. Across the road.
In the 25 years spent in Donald, Dad developed some wonderful friendships. This has been obvious to us over the last few weeks with many special people reaching out to Dad, Mum and us through phone calls and letters and visits. I won’t single anyone out but Thank you to everyone.
From Donald, Mum and Dad moved back to Bendigo to the Allara Motor Lodge in White Hills. The family business was truly this, mum and dad working side by side. Not always harmonious, however, from Lucy’s point of view, this endeavour created an opportunity for the boys to come home more frequently and the family plus partners worked and played together. After this Mum and Dad eventually moved to Kangaroo Flat, where Dad absolutely adored living in the bush, amongst the animals, birds and garden. Even a lack of water couldn’t stop him as he grew an impressive selection of succulents.
*Moving to Bendigo enabled Mum and Dad to both re-establish relationships with old friends and to be closer to family. Dads strongest friendship was recreated with an old school and cricket mate, Poey. David and Dad, or Dad and Dave brewed beer together, drank together, solved the worlds problems together. Both loved this time and no doubt they became better batsman and bowlers as the years went by.
Dads time in Bendigo bought two new loves. Bike riding and Bowles Family History. He loved touring local cemeteries to research and the end result was the self published book dating the Bowles family back to 1828. He was responsible for the 4 yearly reunion for descendants of his father Percival Harry, and loved to be able to attend the most recent one at the end of February.
Mum and Dad’s time in Bendigo was a great time for our family. Lots of weddings, Sarah, Anna, Leah and Thommo were added to the family, and birth of grand children. We loved to watch the cricket team of grandchildren establish a loving relationship with their “Grumpy”. Molly, Angus and Hamish will miss talking footy about the Freo Shockers and the Twats. Alastair and Owen will miss his book reading and his presence at sleep overs in school holidays. Charlie, Walter, Harry and Bella will all miss cricket with grumpy and general banter that he excelled in. Sol will miss riding his bike, walking to kinder and seeing Grumpy everyday but mainly miss the constant supply of liquorice all sorts. We will all make sure that Ari knows who his Grumpy was and how much he loved him.
Dad had been a fantastic provider. He took pride in being known as a tight arse but has looked after all of us exceptionally well. We asked for nothing as kids, he enabled us to get good educations, and to experience a life he may not have had the opportunity to. We have been so lucky to have had the time to thank him for all he has done for each of us. He moved to Geelong to make sure before he left Mum was set up. In meeting with the palliative care team when asked if he had any concerns, Dad was more interested in our welfare than his own.
It’s a value he carried throughout his life and we love and thank him for it.