By Paul Grigg
Alan Edward Grigg (10.1.1920 30.3.2005)
Dad was the born in Rainbow on the 10th of January 1920 and was the 10th child of Ruby Jesse Cram and George Edward Grigg.
Dad did not know his father who died before he was born; Grandma remarried had three more children and moved with her 2nd husband Matthew Urban Walch to Baring Patchewollock in 1924.
Being one of 13 children with almost 20 years from the eldest to the youngest meant a lively, interesting and happy childhood it was not unlike many others of his era; initially 9-10 miles in cold and heat to school at the old Patche township. They were almost self sufficient on the farm, horses, cows, pigs, chooks etc, lots of neighbours, few cars, a much simpler but seemingly very happy childhood. His eldest brother Bert always claimed he brought Dad up. Dad was not sure if this was correct, but can remember in his prayers asking that he and Bert live for 400 years. Both, as history will record, fell far short of this target.
When the Baring school opened in 1927 it was only one and a half miles away. Sylvie, Neil and Dad milked 10 cows before school each day. I think Dad would have preferred to have a nine mile gig ride to Patche than do this job.
Dad left school at the end of 1933. He didnt do much serious work in 1934 sheparded sheep on agisted land six miles south of Baring, yarding the sheep each night, he had a dog but no horse, and said he was still young enough to be scared combated this to some extent by having a gun and a fire at night big enough to be seen for miles around.
Worked in the Mildura area picking fruit a few times in his mid-teens and really enjoyed this change of working environment.
Farm work started in earnest in 1935 Dad was a horseman in a way those of us of later generations could not begin to understand in old terms he was a Teamer. He drove a team of 8-10 horses most of the year, from when he was aged 15 to 21, when he enlisted. Two teams were used on the Baring farm to roll mallee scrub, plough, sow and harvest crops on the farm. They did purchase a Fordson tractor during this time, but in Dads words, It wasnt much good. Dad and his brothers, especially Neil and Arthur did contract channel work with their teams in some years, both locally and as far away as Murtoa.
Grandma and Skipper Walch were allocated Fred Hobbs block in 1935. Dad and his brother Arthur decided to roll the Mallee in 36 or 37. Arthur did the first 150 acres and then quit Dad finished the job (which he described as very tough and demanding, also very hard on the horses for which he really felt). He was very pleased with himself. It was not until much later, after three complete crop failures in about 6 years without one bag of grain harvested, that he thought brother Arthur may have been right this block wasnt worth clearing In his diary he notes perhaps we should ask Peter Walchs opinion, as Peter and Meg now farm this country.
Grandma was allocated Allot 1 Baring in 1936 - another block the original settler had walked off. Dad moved there in 1936 as a 16 year old with a team of horses and a 14 disc plough, fallowed 500 acres in a 5/6 week period and camped in a hut with about = sheep a week for rations.
Dad worked on and off the farm for the next 4-5 years until the fall of France in 1940, when Dad obtained permission from Grandma to join up. Such was the demand to join the forces that Dads initial attempt was denied because they stopped recruiting for a period and it was not until 1941 that he joined the AIF.
Dad enlisted on the 5th June 1941 and served with the 2/24 Aust. Infantry Battalion on full time war service in the Aust. Imp. Force for a total effective period of 1612 days. His army career started with camps at Bacchus Marsh and Wangaratta. His first action was in September 41 on the troop ship, the Queen Mary which was carrying 7000 troops to the Middle East, winning the middleweight boxing championship and receiving a write up in the ships newsletter. He used this to great effect when engaged in skiting debates.
He landed in Palestine near Gaza in 41 and was engaged in further training, routine guard, reconnaissance and patrol duty, until his first action in July 42 at Alamein. Dad was shot and injured at Alamein in October 1942. Of the 26 or 27 soldiers in 12th platoon there were only four left after ten days of fighting. He recuperated in Palestine for a couple of months and was then repatriated home to Australia on light duty for several months. He was then sent to Queensland for jungle training prior to action in New Guinea which commenced in August 43.
Dad recalled laying face down on a single file track in N.G when he heard a voice, to this day of whom it belonged he had no idea. I quote, I have only been in one place worse than this a place called Patchewollock! The chap must have recognised Dad but just kept walking. Dad said it raised a few laughs.
Dad had several bouts of malaria over the next couple of years, one of which he said saved his life his replacement on his designated patrol, when he fell ill, was killed the same day. Dad was shipped back to Australia for the last time in Feb 44 suffering malaria and a bung knee caused by of all things, playing football. His war was effectively over he had a knee operation, recuperated in Ballarat and Heidelberg Repat. and was discharged 27th November 1945.
All in all the Grigg/Walch family had a lucky war, with 6 brothers on active service all coming home.
Dads passion was his family, his farm, his community work and current affairs. He was an avid reader spending 2-3 hours daily on the Age. Biographies, history, religion and politics were all important to him. There wasnt a time you could visit when almost immediately you werent embroiled in an animated, opinionated, political discussion (which he often won).
Then there was bowls. He just loved it. Dad recorded all important events in his ledgers. An entry on Feb 12th 2000 reads
Received my Super Veterans Badge at our annual pairs. Held up the start of the 3rd game about 80 bowlers gathered around the green. Very good presentation by Max Whiting and Ted Casey. Even when, he could no longer chop wood, use a crowbar or draft sheep, if he could play bowls with his mates (and they know who they are) he was happy.
Dad was a very community minded person with life memberships of
Patche and T.G.P Football Clubs
Patche Golf Club
Patche Bush Nursing Centre
Patche Branch RSL and Meritorious Medal of RSL
Walpeup Shire Councilor for 16 years and Shire President for 2 terms.
As well as numerous other clubs and organisations, especially his staunch support of Our Lady Help Of Christians Catholic Church in Patchewollock.
Once several years ago while watching a television show about the Pope with Fr Tom Brophy, Dad remarked how he thought he looked much fitter than the pope. Fr Tom replied You havent been shot to which mum fired back yes he has. Fr Tom didnt say another word.
I wish to relate a story of Dads golfing days. At the end of a very successful tournament it started to pour with rain, which, as we all know in the Mallee, is the perfect excuse for a long party. Anyway by the time Dad and Barry Grigg, who lived with us at the time, left the golf shed it was very wet indeed. The combination of good cheer and wet clay proved disastrous. The car ended up in the table drain bogged. Only thing to do was walk 8 or 9 kms. home. Again the combination of good cheer, pitch blackness, thunder and lightening proved too much and they decided they had better hold hands so as to not become separated. The distinct tracks winding up the wet road the next morning clearly highlighted the torturous trek home. Mum has actually said the funniest thing about this was seeing dad with his overcoat draped across his shoulders, his pants rolled up to his knees, soaking his frozen feet in a dish of hot water looking very dispirited. Barry just went to bed.
Dad was married to Mum/Rita nee Monaghan for 53 years in a lifelong commitment which joined two large Mallee families. Family was very important to Dad. His grandchildren were lucky to have a Pa who showed such an interest in their growth from infants to adults. He loved hearing about, and sharing their lives, sporting and academic achievements. If his grandsons were playing football all was right with the world. He even somewhat begrudgingly learnt about netball.
Our family was privileged these last few months. Dad was nursed and died at home. To witness Mums love, attention and devotion was wonderful. To Maria and Virginia, his personal nurses, we thank you and in Dads words they were worth thousands. As a family, we have not lived together for about 40 years so while Dads illness has been sad and emotional it has been a very special time which has enabled our family to grow.
Dad had lifelong friends from all walks of life, a very proud but at the same time humble man and if ever there was a single word to describe Dad it would be fair. He was a fair and honest man to his family, his business associates, in his ideals and principles and if this oft quoted saying is true, that all you can take with you is your reputation and integrity then he has done that.
It has been a time when I have been very proud to be a brother and a son.