Mum turns 93 next month. Some years ago she self-published her autobiography. Recently her biography of my father was finished. This was my contribution to the afterword.
My early memories of Dad are in Katanning – the radio going on a Saturday afternoon with a Subiaco game as he painted the bathroom; stories about seeing Keith Shea at a party in Perth stab kick a ball across a room at a chair and break it; other stories about Barney Wild and the Yampi Lass, the boat that they crewed together off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, that seemed at the time so exotic. Later, when we lived in Busselton and I left to go to school in Perth, Dad seemed to have so many reasons for a business trip to the city every 2 weeks or so, usually on a Friday. I recall numerous long drives as he and I chatted about politics, economics, books, religion, football and the many other things that were his passions (outside Mum, Judy and his boys).
Dad was of his time, but ahead of it as well; his vehement hatred of the banks, his pacifism, his atheism and his leftist political outlook were born out of his experiences as a boy and a young man; but they appear so prescient from our standpoint in the twenty first century as we contemplate a world riven by fraudulent bankers and their political fellow travellers, religious superstition, sectarian war and inequality of wealth. I still remember how early in the piece Dad fiercely denounced the right-wing Catholic politician and eventual premier of Western Australia, Brian Bourke, and accurately predicted that he would corrupt our polity, and he was loud in his contempt for Alan Bond well before it became justifiably fashionable.
Dad was proud of Judy and his boys, but never prouder of any of them than he was of Mum and what she achieved and helped him and all of us to achieve. So it’s fitting that she has now told his story as she told her own for us. Her autobiography is a gem and she has now given all of us and those who will come after us another jewel.
My particular memories of Dad’s pride in me are of how proud he was of my piano playing and how much he loved to listen when I practised. I knew that he was disappointed when I gave it up to join a band. But it was when I rang him at the end of 1993, 6 months before he died, to tell him my results for first year law, and I heard the glowing pride in his voice, that I realised just how upset he had been.
I’m so happy that Dad met Bernadette, and she him, and that they grew to love and admire each other. My only real regret in life, apart from not playing centre half forward for Subi, is that he never knew Bella and Bridie. They would have loved and admired him as those of us who knew him do. I am proud of Dad; he achieved so much from humble beginnings. He gave his children so much in material terms but, above all, he gave us the example of his loyalty, integrity and commitment to social justice.