Eulogy - George Robert MURDOCH
Eulogy - George Robert MURDOCH
Bruce Murdoch and Wendy Oldmeadow (nee Murdoch)
George Robert Murdoch (16.3.1921 - 28.12.2006)
George Robert Murdoch was born and bred on Oxley Island. He was the great grandson of a Scotsman, George Murdoch, an immigrant from Glasgow in 1848. It was his son, also George, who bought property at Oxley Island and reared 13 children, Hector, George Robert's father being among them.
The descendants of some of these uncles and aunts are here with us today. Thank you to all the Murdoch cousins, including Lily and Heather, for making the long journey to George's funeral. Thank you to the many other family members and friends who are also here with us today.
As the middle child of a farming family, George grew up with his older sister Dorothy, and younger brother Ken. In a world where T model Fords were just beginning to rattle along the dirt roads, the river was still the highway. It was the milk boats, grocery boats, and the big steamers that captivated George. He knew them all, drew wonderful pictures of them, and has loved the Manning River for a lifetime. His dear sister Dorothy, our Auntie Dot, is with us here today and she has many wonderful stories of George as a young boy.
She has told us that he was a terrible worry to his dear mother, Edith, as when not working on the farm or going to school at Oxley Island and then Taree High, he would be off up the river in a leaky boat or a homemade tin canoe seeking birds eggs. He would not come home for many hours on end, and as darkness fell, his poor mother would be convinced he had drowned. The birds' egg yield and variety was great, and although he would sometimes get diddled in a swap by a more canny other kid, he assembled a wonderful collection that was his pride and joy.
George saw big floods and he grew to respect the forces of nature. He was a born farmer. He loved the land. He was a tremendously hard worker and he grew physically very strong. His younger brother, Ken, became stricken with polio and the family had a struggle. George was a shy boy, and a good lad. Dorothy adored her younger brothers.
George and Dot were so very close. For nearly 86 years they have been the best of buddies, always in each other's thoughts, and in later life supporting each other with daily phone calls. They so much enjoyed visiting each other, and they shared a very lively sense of humour.
George was a left hander, with meticulous handwriting. He hated sports, enjoyed drawing and maths and was a perfectionist in all his woodworking and building.
George joined the Royal Australian Air Force in January 1941, and he trained as a wireless operator / air gunner, flying innumerable hours along the Australian southern coastlines, and then stationed in Queensland and afterwards in Gove, Arnhem Land. Their bomber squadron flew many sorties over the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), often pursued by enemy aircraft. George saw tragedy and felt great fear as a very young man, and the worst was yet to come. In January 1945, flying with his crew to test a Lockheed Ventura aircraft that had been giving some trouble, they crashed into the sea. With horrific injuries, George was just one of two survivors out of a crew of seven. His mate, Gordon Cathro rescued him, staunched the bleeding from his leg that was torn to pieces, and managed to get them into a dinghy and to a coral outcrop. There they survived for a couple of days on rain water and a Yankee ration pack until picked up by a Catalina. George was taken to Darwin where he spent six months in hospital, and then to Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne for the next two months, followed by a long stay with relatives, the Tilsons, before returning to Oxley Island. Gordon Cathro still lives in Adelaide, and was saddened to hear of the recent passing away of his good mate.
George's father Hector had died during the war, and family and farming duties called. After his wartime experiences George had a long road to recovery, but when he met Dorothy Jean Carey, a young nursing sister, hope of a new life welled within his heart. George and Dorothy were married on the 15th of October 1949. They loved each other deeply and were devoted to each other for life.
George was a good farmer and his world was the farming community of Oxley Island. This was his home, and he belonged with the people of Oxley. In July, just six months ago, his Oxley Island friends and neighbours and their descendants paid tribute to George at a morning tea at the Oxley Island hall. Being very unwell at the time and by nature a shy man, George was a bit overwhelmed. He said afterwards, "I don't like publicity", but he had been so happy to see them all.
Dairy farming on a small property in the 1950s was hard, and with two young children and wet years, it became a challenge to pay the bills, and pay off the bank loan. They sold up at the end of 1959, rented the property out, and moved to Taree. George got a job at the Peeress milk factory to begin with, and then trained as an AI technician. George worked throughout the 'sixties and 'seventies in this Milk Board job, one that was six days per week, with long hours and lots of travelling to farms throughout the district. Even up to these last few weeks George could still tell us who owned which farm, who was there before them, and the names of their kids!
George was known by all as a good bloke. He was straightforward, and although shy, was a bloke who liked people and was interested in the wellbeing of others. He always had lollies for the kids and remembered their birthdays. He was much adored by his nephews and nieces.
Dad was a good father to us, and we owe him a great deal. We will always treasure the kindnesses and love he has shown to us, even in times of great adversity.
He had found settling back into post-war life very challenging at times, and in retrospect, he probably had post traumatic stress disorder. But, like so many ex-servicemen, it was push away the memories where possible, and stew or get angry when not. At times George could get the wrong end of the stick, but things were sorted out eventually as he was very kind hearted.
George was a firm friend of many, and a wonderful neighbour. Folk would return home to find he had mown their lawn, or there were fresh picked beans, tomatoes or a lettuce on their doorstep. George never let any visitor go home empty handed and he always took some flowers or produce to others when he visited.
If we were able to calculate them, we would all be astonished at the number of hours George spent mowing lawns. Not only the lawns at his Taree and Cundletown homes, but a very large lawn at the farm. It was the imperative of a lifetime! Lawns must be mown! We were very amused just four weeks ago, on the 4th of December, when we took him for his last visit to the farm. He was very frail, barely able to stand up, let alone walk. The lawn had not been mown for about a week and was growing fast. It could do with another mowing, thought dear old Dad. " Where's the mower?" he asked. "I'll do an hour for you." "Oh not today, thanks Dad, no mowing today." "Come on," he replied, "Every hour helps."
On his retirement from the Milk Board job, George raised beautiful cattle and grew vegetables on the farm at Oxley Island, travelling down from Cundletown each day in his little boat, with picnic lunch, ready to cut out thistles and pull out fireweed until late afternoon, day after day, before returning home for dinner.
During these years, the 'eighties and early 'nineties, George became a very proud grandfather of three, Daniel, Juliette and Jordan. There are many lovely photos of him with the little ones sitting on his knee for tractor rides, or being shown a bird's nest. By this time at least George did not steal the birds' eggs! Juliette, as she grew older, realised what a gem her Grandpa was, and she loved his sweetness. "You're cute, Grandpa" she would say. "What's this cute business?" he'd ask.
George was a gentleman, greatly respected by all who knew him. He was a thrifty man and a very hard worker, and his greatest pleasure, gardening, involved even more work. He was forever doing jobs around the house or in the garden. Not a reader, nor a watcher of TV, his greatest challenge was to sit still and do nothing. This past year has been so hard for George - the "misery", to use his own word, of not being able to do jobs. The nurses who have cared for him so gently and kindly at Storm Village have seen his restlessness and his need to be useful, and have racked their brains for little jobs to give him. Our family greatly appreciates the many kindnesses and the superb care given to George by the nursing staff at the Mayo Hospital and at Storm Village these last six months. To Stephanie George and staff, hats off to you, and heartfelt thanks.
George was no stranger to the carer role himself. After his dear wife Dorothy had a stroke in 1994, she was incapacitated and lived first at Laurieton Lakeside nursing home and then at Storm Village. George, with tender devotion, would bring her flowers, usually gorgeous roses, from the garden, and her favourite fruit to eat. He did this almost every day for the five years she was at Storm Village. Dorothy was his darling and her loss two and a half years ago was very hard for George.
At Christmas 2004, after Dorothy died, George visited the War Memorial in Canberra. Even a lifetime could not erase his memories and he needed to revisit the pain and the grief. It was a moving and a healing experience.
For a couple more years, George managed at home as he had been so accustomed to doing. He was a brave man and as he became more frail and his pain increased, he never complained. We have seen him suffer greatly these last months of his life, and now we know he is at peace.
We thank God for the life of this sweet man and we farewell him, this great grandson of a Scotsman who came to Australia for a new life.
Bruce Murdoch and Wendy Oldmeadow (nee Murdoch)
2 January 2007