Vale my dear old Dad (1920-2021)

If it was my Mum who introduced me to Jane Austen and the classics of English literature, together with a love of language (and thus Scrabble and cryptic crosswords), it was my Dad who introduced me to Australiana, starting in my youth with the verse (as the poet himself called it) of Banjo Paterson. The grandson of a Presbyterian minister, my father never swore, but he’d read with great gusto the lines ‘”Murder! Bloody murder!” cried the man from Ironbark’. And we kids loved it. As Dad’s eyes deteriorated in his last years, he gave up reading books, but the book he kept by his chair-side, and the book he was last seen dipping into, was a book of Paterson’s verse.

Born in 1920, and living through the heyday of Australia’s development in the twentieth century, Dad loved stories about Australian pioneers of all sorts, from the exploits of Charles Kingsford-Smith to those of cattle kings like the Duracks. Mary Durack’s Kings in grass castles was one of his favourites, at least from the time when I was old enough to be aware of his reading. In later years, he became more aware of the politics of Australia’s colonial settlement and appreciated our need to revise our understanding of frontier life, but I don’t think that ever completely removed his love of these ventures. Dad, of course, also lived through the Depression and Second World War, with the latter inspiring another major reading interest, the history of the War. (He didn’t read a lot of fiction, being of that generation of men who felt fiction wasn’t quite as worthwhile as non-fiction).

My other main memory of Dad and books comes from the days when, as a very little girl, I would go to my parents bedroom in the morning – much to my mum’s chagrin as she loved a sleep-in – with my “twenty-eight books”. It wasn’t 28 of course, but for some reason, that was the number I would say. One of those books featured Jiminy Cricket, and Dad would feign great fear as I shoved this terrifying creature under his nose! This became a lasting in-joke between us for the rest of his life.

Now, though, Dad has gone – peacefully, at the excellent age of 100 years and 8 months – and I am left with these memories, along with the enduring knowledge of a man who loved me very much, who never failed to support me and compliment me, and who set an example of integrity, honesty, acceptance, stoicism, and love of and responsibility for family. He, like all of us, had his moments, but his, like Mum’s, was a life well-lived, one that will continue through our memories and through the lives of all those who loved him.

Vale, Dad. Go well, and thanks.

96 thoughts on “Vale my dear old Dad (1920-2021)

  1. That’s a lovely tribute, Sue. It sounds as if the man your father was for you and the life he lived is something of a consolation to you. Or it will be, in the time to come. Very sorry for your loss.

  2. What a beautiful tribute Sue. He sounds like a wonderful man and it will be a loss keenly felt by you and your family and by all those touched by his presence during the past century. Thank you for sharing something of him with us. My thoughts are with you.

  3. Dear Sue, you have my deepest sympathy and empathy at having lost both parents in close succession. But what fortunate women we are to have known ourselves loved by those parents. That you can say “I am left with these memories, along with the enduring knowledge of a man who loved me very much, who never failed to support me and compliment me…” speaks volumes about your father and the quality of your relationship. May that love hold you in good stead through this sad time. Warmest wishes, Angela

  4. What a touching and loving tribute to your father – Banjo and the 28 books and Jiminy Cricket. It’s funny how these things go – just yesterday I was writing to someone of my name and added in a reference to Jiminy. Like you and the thrill of that line from “The Man from Ironbark” Mr Shanahan in my 5th class at West Tamworth PS evoked the same delighted shock from us all – swearing as we thought – yet somehow not?! That you have had your father until just recently is something both wonderful and rare. Mine I had till just weeks beyond my 2nd birthday. In the nicest way and with condolences to you at this time – I envy you WG.

    • Thanks Jim. Love you Mr Shanahan story. I always feel very sad when I hear of parents of young children dying. Not everyone is blessed with loving parents but most of us are, I think, and losing their love, interest and guidance when you are very young is so sad.

    • Thanks Bill. Being loved is the absolute critical thing isn’t it? And yes, I’m holding up. Sad to have lost him and I’ll miss his love, but, also knowing that his life was holding fewer and fewer pleasures, makes it easier.

  5. Such poignant memories of your father—-I hope you can recall and share many more in the months to come. Take care….

  6. What a beautiful and touching tribute, Sue, he sounded like an amazing and much loved man. I read this with a tear in my eye. I am sorry for your loss. Sending you a virtual hug xx

  7. A beautiful obituary that does your Dad great honour, expressed with a daughter’s love. Your Dad and mine were of the same generation. Mine died in 2016 but would have been 96 this year. Your Dad certainly lived a long life and a good one. My condolences to you and yours. Losing a parent is hard.

  8. That is a lovely tribute, you’re going to miss him so much, but how lucky you were to have him in your life for such a long time.

  9. A life well-lived indeed! Thanks for sharing about your dad. he sounds like a wonderful father and a good person all around. Condolences to you and your family as well as love and hugs.

  10. Dear Sue, such a lovely tribute to your father. How wonderful that he made you feel loved all your life and also gave you a love of Australian literature. Thinking of you.

  11. Dear Sue, What a wonderful memories you will have of your father. He sounds like a true gentleman, and you were lucky to have such wonderful parents. This must be so hard for you. Take care.

    • Thanks Meg. Yes ”true gentleman” would be a good description of him, and many of his generator I think. It is hard, but it’s helped by knowing he had a good long life, with few regrets.

  12. I’m with your Dad in loving Kings in Grass Castles! A lovely tribute to your Dad Sue, and sincere condolences from one Cheltenham girl to a Hornsby girl! The last year has been a tough one in so many ways for so many people. Warmest regards.

  13. From the photo, I’d say he also passed on your love of fine dining. Condolences. You know parents can’t last, but it’s hard when they go. But there are benefits. They are no longer around to correct your accurate recollection of a family incident 🙂

    • You are too astute Neil! Dining was one of our big pleasures as my parents got older. What’s not to enjoy about sitting around a table with people you love, sharing good food and wine?

      You are right about knowing they can’t last – so, I love your silver lining, and will take comfort from that as the years wear on!

  14. A great innings, WG, but that doesn’t diminish the loss. What a great father. My condolences and wishes for keeping the memories ever close to your heart.

  15. Sorry to hear this Sue. Losing your Dad is almost as hard as losing your Mum, and not really much less sad if he had a long happy life. He must have missed your Mother in the end too.

  16. What a lovely tribute, Sue. My father’s collection of Romantic poetry that sat on the book case outside my bedroom were my first introduction to poetry. My condolences on your loss.

  17. I felt so sad reading this glorious tribute but what an amazing life he had. My father was born in 1919 and I always marveled at all the changes they observed in their lifetime. How lovely he was a reader and passed that on to you. Thinking of you at this time. All the very best. 🐧🌹🌹🌹

    • Thanks Pam. Oh yes, what immense changes they experienced, and how well they adapted. (My father didn’t touch a computer, but at the age of 90 got an iPad, and used it right to the end. We were amazed.)

  18. Dear Sue, I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve written a lovely tribute to your father. The description of him never swearing unless he was reading aloud from a Banjo Paterson poem made me smile. He sounded lovely. Thinking of you, Rose

  19. More and more folks are reaching 100 and living these full, inspiring lives. I’ve been keeping a close watch on the gentleman in England, Captain Tom Moore, who raised 40 million in COVID relief for walking around his garden. Your dad sounded lovely, Sue.

  20. This has nothing to do with me and I apologise for that. But one of your blogees is dear to me, Anna Blay from Hybrid Publishing who are my publishers. Further you were very kind to review my book “The Last Wild West.” I’ve always been a Gummie since then but my emotional issues stopped me from daring to post. But your Dads passing and your so touching memories called, so thought I’d try to quill a little something for you. I feel sometimes the smallest memories take up the most room in your heart. Never weep because the memories are over; smile because they happened. Memories and life are similar; not how long life is, but how good the memories are after those who gifted them end is what matters. You were blessed to have a Dad like him. Likewise he was blessed to have a daughter like you who made him proud. You can hold memories in your heart until you hold each other again in a better place. To me, the best thing about your good memories of him was your Dad making them. I hope you don’t mind if I posted this? Blessings, Neil Atkinson

  21. My commiserations, Sue. It seems your parents were a double blessing. What a gift your father gave you in his devotion and decency.

  22. I’m sorry I come to this post late. My condolences for your lost, WG. Your loving tribute is moving and I can sense what a loss it is for you to say goodbye to such a wonderful man your Dad was. Well, his legacy lives on in you and for that we’re all benefactors.

  23. Aww, WG. I’m truly sorry to see this news here (although in such a fine form, as others have already said). Even though I know it was not unexpected, that doesn’t really matter in the end, does it. In another sense, it’s expected from the beginning…and that awareness doesn’t make it any easier to manage the personal sense of loss (although your observation of his loss of some joys in recent times is pertinent of course). May you find small comforts in these hard times and in the days to come.

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