19 April, 2012

No Wedding,but Four Funerals


The last month has been a sad, contemplative four weeks with no less than four funerals. To me funerals are always sad, yet are very much part of the cycle of life. They provide an opportunity to acknowledge the deceased’s contribution and to honour them, to offer some comfort to those closest to the deceased, to recognise our own mortality and importantly, to interact with mutual friends and family.
These days most Christian denominations take the line that funerals should be a “celebration”. I sometimes think this is overdone, particularly when the person has died tragically and/or prematurely. However, it was appropriate for each of these four. The youngest was 81 and the oldest nearly 96.
David Boyd
The first and youngest was that of my namesake, David (Hopetoun) Boyd. David was my first cousin-the son of Dad’s eldest brother-Hope. After my father died when I was eight, we had very little to do with his brothers and the first time, that I am aware of, that I met David was at the Warren Races in the mid 1990’s through his second wife’s long friendship with Robin Englert, one of the Clyde Station Manager’s wives. Whilst I really didn’t get to know him very well before dementia sadly set in, he struck me as a very gentlemanly, warm, humble man who had suffered more than his share of life’s disappointments. His wife, Loretta, is a delight in every respect and she adored David. She was wonderful to him in the difficult years since his dementia caught hold.
George Lackay
The second was that of an old mate at Bourke, George Lackay. I put together an obituary which I hope ‘The Land’ newspaper will run. I extract-
Bourke has lost one of its great characters in the death of George Lackay, on the 9th March in Darling River floodwaters. He was noted for his tremendous work ethic and it was typical of the man that at age 83 he died on his way to work.
I first met him in 1960, when as a raw youth Dalgety sent me to Bourke Branch and one of my responsibilities was to keep the Drover’s Book and pay the drovers on behalf of clients. George was one of the drovers and he struck me as a most personable character who I immediately warmed to. He had a most engaging personality and a keen sense of humour.
George was born at Neckarbo Station,Ivanhoe. His father is believed to have been a Scottish immigrant and his mother part Aboriginal and part Maori.
He came to Bourke in 1946 where he fell in love with Eva Wilson. This was a highly successful union. George adored her and they produced eight children-Jean, Geoffrey, Cheryl, Lynne (deceased), Carol, Toni, Dennis and Ivan. He had 24 grandchildren. George instilled in all his children the need to work and support their families. He was proud of the fact that he was still working at 83 and that he had never claimed a welfare benefit in his life.
 When in 1988 I renewed my association with Bourke as C.E.O. of Clyde Agriculture, I was delighted to find George was an employee. He continued as such until his death. He often gave me unsolicited advice on the Company and its performance. He was fond of telling people that “I knew that Davy Boyd when he was just a shit-kicker”! Too true.
Bob Young
The third was that of my great friend and mentor Bob Young of Walcha, at age 86. The funeral was held in the magnificent garden at “Glen Collin” and he was buried alongside his wife Bev on a hilltop about 200 metres away, in what I think was the most aesthetically beautiful funeral I have ever attended. I was asked to deliver a eulogy and again I extract-
Bev and Bob were true family friends-our closest. Our three kids-all of whom are here today- loved them and they were important figures in their lives. Bob is Susie’s Godfather. Bob was a unique individual. A deep thinker, yet a practical man who could turn his hand to so many things.
He was quite the best farmer I have ever known. He had a huge influence on my thinking.
50 years ago this country you see around you was wet, heavily timbered, flukey country where you were lucky to fatten a bullock by the time he was four years of age. Now what you see is beautiful, sustainable, balanced pastures. Some are over 40 years old and as good as the day they germinated.
Bob always had his priorities right, particularly in commercial terms. Pasture fencing and waters came first-every acre of Glen Collin was ploughed and sown. Then accommodation was built so he could hire a permanent man, and then, and only then, did they build this house-the house of their dreams.
Bob was an achiever with a vision, coupled with enormous energy. Everything was done for the long term.
He didn’t accept things at face value-he questioned and reached his own conclusions.
Their most important legacy is their children-Barb, Rick, Kate and Jim and their grandchildren. All different, and all achievers. All people of substance.
Second this land and the example set. In his early Walcha days, they had only been here for three years when we arrived in 1970, there was scepticism. I distinctly recall a member of the local establishment saying “there’ll be a big crash out there this year, you can’t run those numbers of stock in this country”. Over the intervening 40 odd years I have watched scepticism move to respect and admiration. Bob became the “guru” and people came to him for advice. He directly helped people and his indirect impact by way of example was enormous.
Bob and Bev were staying with us when our daughter Kate was hit by a car coming home from school and were wonderfully supportive.
After Bob’s accident I observed the rapport between Bob and Kate, the two victims, grow stronger and stronger.
If you want an example of Kipling’s man who “filled the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance run”-you have one in Bob Young.
“Jack” Tyrrel
The fourth (and last for a while-I hope) was that of a man who, on reflection, was probably the closest thing to a father that I had after the death of Dad. He was the Reverend John Tyrrel of Canberra Grammar School, who died at the grand old age of 95.
“Jack”, as we boys irreverently called him behind his back, was my English teacher, Chaplain, Hockey and Cricket coach. He taught me a broad theology, an appreciation of the English language, and appointed me School Hockey Captain when I was only in Fourth Year. When he heard I was planning to leave school and go jackerooing after the Hockey season and not stay on to matriculation he quite rightly, but unsuccessfully, tried to talk me out of it.
“Jack” was the real “Mr Chips” and influenced the lives of so many boys. Born in Kent (UK), a farmer’s son, University educated (M.A. and Th.L) at Cambridge, a Naval Chaplain during WW2, he spoke with a very upmarket “pommy” accent. He once told Mum, who was the House Mother of the junior boy’s boarding house, that in contrast to UK schoolboys, he really appreciated the way Australian country boys would tell you what they really thought. (In the 1950’s Canberra was a country town and most of the students were boys from Southern Tablelands and South/West slopes farms).


Amongst the many pearls of wisdom he passed on to us was that if you were considering marrying a young lady, have a good look at her mother. Because her daughter will probably be very like her in thirty years time!

In a very pleasant coincidence we re-connected in the 1980’s. When Dalgety purchased Winchcombe Carson my counterpart in Winchcombes was the late Lance Earl and we became very good friends. Lance was “Jack’s” brother-in-law, they having married sisters, Joan and Pauline, farmer’s daughters from Forbes. He spoke very warmly of his memories of Mum when the School kindly dedicated a memorial rose to her, a few years ago. At 91, he conducted Lance's funeral service with his usual aplomb. I complimented him afterwards saying "Jack, you have lost none of your style". He responded "Oh Jimmy I'm getting old". "But Jack you were always old" I spontaneously retorted. Such is the perception of schoolboys.




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