Neil's brother John will
talk about his childhood so I am going to talk about my father's adult life, which
began with teacher's College in Bendigo. He then did three months national service at Puckapunyal.
The only thing we know about his time there was that he didn't like it and they
served up too much rice.
Neil's first teaching
appointment was at The Brothers, near Omeo. He taught 7-8 students, an easy
introduction into teaching. He played cricket and football, winning a best and
fairest award for Benambra. It was through football that he met life long
friends Max Pendergast and Reg Tomkins. Max could not be here today due to
illness. Reg and his wife Norma introduced Neil to Doris. They went out for three months and then married in 1957. Both were
Not long after, they moved
to Mia Mia, 56 kilometres south of Bendigo. He ran a one teacher school with around 28 pupils.
So he had a bit more work to do. He played football for Tooborac and also
played cricket. While at Mia Mia Geoff was born in 1959 followed by myself in
Neil moved his growing
family into a new house in Bendigo in
about 1962. He taught at a large multi-class school for the first time. Kay
was born in 1962. Neil played football for Provincial and cricket, winning the
PCC batting average with an average of 58.4 in 1966.
Around 1967 he moved to
Newry in East Gippsland. He taught at BoisdaleConsolidated School. He stopped playing football and cricket and took up
golf while continuing to play tennis, his tennis team were B Grade Premiers in
1967 - 68. He was involved in the administration of the Newry Golf club for a
number of years. I think he was the handicapper for a while. Neil coached
children's tennis and badminton. He was lay preacher in the Maffra area.
Seeking promotion, he moved
to Baxter in 1972 to take up a teacher/principal position. We had to wait for
the retiring principal to leave the school residence so we stayed in a caravan
at his sister Kathleen's house in nearby Frankston for three months. He taught me
that year, which may have had something to do with him stopping teaching and just
being a school principal when he moved us to Heyfield the following year.
Heyfield is just down the
road from Newry. I am told by Crawford Mouat, Neil's vice principal for seven
years, that Neil made it his policy to know every child at HeyfieldPrimary School.
Golf started to dominate his sporting
life, but he also played tennis and badminton. He played in Heyfield's C grade
badminton premiership winning team in 1979. He also coached children's tennis
and badminton. I am have heard from one of those he coached, Wendy Moaut, that he encouraged
all children to participate and never raised his voice.
desire to travel and see Australia and the world started with long service leave enabling
a three month trip around Australia in 1975. The trip concentrated on the natural
wonders of Australia like Ayer's Rock, which we did climb. I'll always
remember dad stopping for a smoke before we reached the top, with Geoff and I
keen to carry on. He took his family on a month long trip to New Zealand in 1976.
had a many hobbies and interests while living in Heyfield. He saw the need for better
communication in Heyfield so he started a town newsletter, which continues to
this day. He was an active Lion's club member for most of his years at
Heyfield. A new arts centre was built for the school and he used its kiln to
make pottery. He took leather work classes and made belts and other items. He became
interested in rock collecting, leading to trips to Agate Creek and Buchan,
where we blunted a pick axe hacking chunks off boulders of agatised fossilised jasper.
He polished the rocks and turned some of it into broaches and other jewellery.
After nine years as a
principal, Neil tired of administration work and wanted to return to
teaching. So at the end of 1981 he bought a house in Wangaratta and started
teaching at AppinParkPrimary School the following year. He joined Jubilee golf club and
continued to coach children's sport.
1988, on advice from Dr Price, he gave up smoking.
1989 he retired at age 55. He wanted to see the world. He toured the US twice. He especially wanted to see Niagara Falls and the national parks. He went on a tour of Europe, where he particularly enjoyed the Edinburgh military Tattoo and a GreekIsland tour because of it biblical references. He
travelled to New Zealand a second time. While walking there with Geoff, Neil
said he had a sore neck and didn't feel well. When he returned home a week
later it was discovered that he had blocked arteries and needed a heart bypass
operation. A week after the operation he was up and about and taking Geoff for
a walk around the block at home.
frequently travelled to Queensland to escape Wangaratta's winters. And why wouldn't you.
fill in his time between trips he started going to garage sales and second-hand
book stores to collect books for his brother John who still sells them at a
market in Toowoomba. Neil also spent a lot of his time in the garden growing
vegetables and orchids, which he had done in all the places he had lived. He
was very involved in the church, being treasurer of the AppinParkUnitingChurch for 15 years and an elder for a few years.
He went to the Sydney
Olympics. Kay informs me that the most exciting moment for him was when he saw Cathy Freeman ran in one of her heats. He enjoyed going to musicals like Cats
and the Phantom of the Opera.In
2003 a harmful skin cancer growth was found on his neck, and he had surgery to
cut it out. He then had to endure radiotherapy. The surgery unfortunately cut away
some shoulder muscle, so Neil could no longer play golf, but he continued to
walk and ride his bike. We
noticed his memory beginning to fade a few years ago, but it didn't seem
anything to worry about, we just put it down to aging. But, in October last
year, he was diagnosed with low level dementia. Then a series of operations
ending with one to remove a tumour from his bladder worsened his dementia. His
family could no longer safely look after him. So he moved into a dementia ward
at Illoura nursing home in January this year.
Neil didn't seem to mind the
nursing home as he had a lot of nurses and volunteers to fuss over him and he
had plenty of room to wander. The staff told us that he was a lovely man, who
was very considerate of others and always apologising when things beyond his
control went wrong. A week before he
died he stopped eating and drinking, probably from a combination of dementia, cancer and other illness.
He lived a full, principled
life and loved travelling and sport. He was community minded, always there to
lend a hand. He loved his family and was loved by them.