Four years on - 38° 28' 49" S 145° 01' 34"

Still missing you Dad...

Here is the eulogy my sisters and I gave at Dad's memorial service in April 2021.


With a father like Dad, our childhood was run on adrenalin. The adrenalin of both pleasure and angst from adventures, misadventures and mad-capped antics with Dad.  Dad did and we followed with the thrilling discomfort that dominates our memories.

And our childhood came with a soundtrack - Neil Diamond, Carley Simon, Cat Stephens, Barbara Streisand... We sent to sleep with the likes of ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Peace Train’ being played loudly. Very loudly. There was no ‘sshh, you’ll wake the kids’ in our world.

As little people, a highlight was accompanying Dad to the sales at the Dandy Market to sell the vealers. It was a mass of noise, colour and smell and he humoured us with a walk around the many pens of various animals. Though he would not buy me a goat, Kate a pig or randomly and quite irrelevantly, Wendy a monkey, we loved the adventure of the trip. But the true highlight, if he got a good price for the calves, would be the stop at the Somerville Pub for lunch. 

As farm kids, we were expected to pitch in and there was certainly no allowance for gender.  We fed a stream of orphaned lambs, we chased cows, carted hay, helped with the fencing and chopped wood.  We are all quite deft at cracking a stock whip – a practice that was banned inside the house - Dad, of course, being the worst offender.

As farm kids, we rode on the back of the motorbike and bottle fed poddies and lambs...

And growing up on the farm, we had pets.  We just were not very good at naming them.  We had Big Pup, the Golden Dog, the Red Mare, the Grey Mutt.  And it was these creatively named dogs he would threaten to let off at Easter to catch Easter Bunny.  Can you imagine the cries, pleading and drama associated with that one?  

Dad was a reader. He read the newspaper each day and always had a book on the go.  Like any good parent, he read us books at before bed.  The favourite bedtime book was ‘The Maneaters of Kumaon’.  Set in the 1930s, it was a series of short stories about a big game hunter brought into villages in India to shoot man-eating tigers. Perfect stories to calm young kids before sleep - but only after a check under the bed for man-eaters. 

And then there were the bunyip hunts.  Dad’s bunyips had one spring leg and one wooden leg and would ‘hop bang’ over the trees. Out he would go with his three little girls trailing along, running across the paddock and through the bush towards the ‘hop bang’ he had heard.  Too terrified to stay alone, we would charge after him.  He would stop dead, us concertina-ing into him, then off he would go in another random direction pursuing the ‘hop bang’.  Surprisingly, we kids never actually heard a bunyip, let alone saw one!

Some parties were fancy - cousin Pete's wedding at Scotch

While writing this speech, Wendy announced ‘We need a paragraph on parties. They were such a big part of our lives’. Our parents embraced the 70s with vigour. Our early memories were being put to bed in driveways in the back of the yellow veedub beetle, or being tucked in at the Lawsons….or the Trahairs…..or the Hines…or the Farrows….or the Cornishes - you get the drift. And here again, we introduce that soundtrack of our lives, falling asleep with Neil Diamond blasting at full volume. As we got older, we have fond memories of endless games of ‘kick the can’, staying up way too late and terrorising ourselves watching ‘The Night-Stalker’ and ‘Kojak’ while the adults danced into the wee hours. All our lives, we have had awesome parties with Dad. He did love a good party. And it’s hardly a surprise that we do too. 

And some not so - an epic evening down at the creek...
That infamous night involving the Hilux and the dam!


Dad loved the sea and spent a deal of time in it, on it and under it. From bolting around in the tinnie to sailing the East Coast, there were always boats. Every trip to Flinders, to Mornington, to anywhere with a pier required a walk to ‘look at the boats’.  We bumped across Western Port to Seal Rocks to check out the seals, fished for flathead in Port Phillip and were left bobbing in the tinnie feeling a little scared, sunburnt and seasick while Dad was scuba-diving below.

Looking at the boats...

His ongoing passion for sailing meant the boats just kept getting bigger, initially with catamarans – the Quick Cat called Trad Dad.  And eventually bought a keel boat. The first being Western Rambler, the 33 foot Brolga that nearly finished us all. 

On Boxing Day 1988, like any responsible father with a new yacht, he loaded up his daughters and partners, and set forth to sail across Bass Strait. And directly into the type of storm that Bass Strait is legendary for. In a following sea, we were joyfully waa-hooing down the waves at great speeds for a little yacht, when disaster struck. The dinghy broke loose and in the ensuing scramble to retrieve it, a halyard wrapped around the prop. This left us without an engine. With storm sails the size of hankies, we were unable to round the headland to shelter, so we tacked out to sea. With the waves towering above the top of the mast, the wind howling and the eggs flying around below, Dad assured us we would be fine – just as long as we didn’t hit a whale or a shipping container. Comfort indeed! 

Setting off across Bass Strait aboard Western Rambler

We weathered the Force 10 storm for over 8 hours before finally limping into Waratah Bay. Our survival was a testament to both Dad’s sailing capability and a seaworthy yacht. We learnt a lot on that trip – never stack the champagne on TOP of the storm sails, you can eat green legs of lamb, your hair does feel clean if you shampoo it in salt water, you can cool the champers by lowering it into the chilly water of Bass Strait and..  you will NEVER get the egg white out of the pale blue velour seat cushions.  

Despite the storms, a grounding and being terrified, we also have fabulous memories of beautiful islands, azure seas, clear waters, laughs and precious family memories. This trip was the first of many adventures and sailing became a big part of all our lives. Dad owned a series of yachts for most of his life sailing up and down the East Coast most seasons.

With the Whitsundays having been a favourite sailing destination, his 80th birthday was a week-long party on Hamilton Island with all the kids, spouses and grandkids. This included sailing on Popeye to favourite snorkelling spots and the mandatory trip to Whitehaven Beach. A perfect family celebration. It was after this that Sean, Dad and I brought Popeye down from Hammo to Southport. We sailed the 600 nautical miles straight through with Dad monopolising the helm, wind in his face, and a grin from ear to ear.

Dad in his happy place at the helm of Popeye


Dad also loved his horses. We always had a multitude of horses in the paddock as we grew up. Ours were not the docile, purpose-bred ponies of modern days, we had a ragged collection of motley mounts, predominately ex-racehorses in both size and speed. Dad didn’t think twice about lifting his tiny girls atop towering horses telling us to ‘just hold on, she will stop at the fence’. I did end up with a ride in a helicopter to the Royal Children’s hospital when she didn’t. 

Wendy and Dad on Tuppence.  She was our 'starter' pony - a 16.2 ex-racehorse!

From being little girls escorted to pony club, we advanced to epic rides around the Peninsula. From Gunnamatta, galloping up and down the sand dunes, to Point Leo for an evening belt along the beach, or an after school burn out to PJ’s to chase the kangaroos.  Dad was always leading the charge on these grand equine adventures.

Dad discovered skiing in his mid-30s, he went to Mount Buller one day, absolutely loved it and so it began. We would leave home at 4.30am drive to Buller, don our plastic waterproof pants over our jeans and be abandoned to the free poma. Despite ourselves, we learnt to ski and as a family have a shared passion for the slopes.  

When Dad turned 50, he took on the lodge management at Terama Ski Club, providing his daughters with cheap and easy access to the slopes. He also became a ski instructor – imagine the boasting rights for us that came along with that one!  Each of us has continued to ski, with the sport being a big part of each of our family’s stories.

We are a family of skiers thanks to Dad.

In his latter years, Dad moved over to the dark side and substituted the yacht for a power boat.  Much bigger and more comfy than the tinny, our last big adventure with Dad was a trip out to Seal Rocks to see the seals. Then Dad, in typical style, surprised everyone by taking off to circumnavigate Phillip Island before having fish and chips for lunch at San Remo.

Dad was the ringmaster of our little circus and raised us to be independent and adventurous. Adrenaline still pumps through our veins as we embark on our own adventures – skiing down mountains, riding the high country, sailing across seas.  We are farmers and skiers and sailors and riders and very, very blessed to have had a legend as a Dad.  

Riding in the Victorian High Country - Dad channelling The Man from Snowy River.

Thanks Dad. 

We will always miss you.

We love you.


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