Bugger me dead, what are you all doing here?
It’s the question he would have asked. You can just hear it, can’t you?
Its an impossible task to condense 84 years into a few words and a few minutes, so this isn’t dad’s biography. It’s not even a good highlights reel. It’s a handful of thoughts that we could get down while the fingers didn’t shake and the eyes were relatively dry.
He’ll be best remembered not by a eulogy, but by the countless memories and stories that we’ll continue to lovingly share over a beer or over a meal today and in the days, months and years ahead - every person here today will have special memories of Dad and most will revolve around his great expressions like, ‘well - bugger me dead’; ‘after harvest’; ‘it was the peanuts that made me crook’, ‘kick the bloody thing’, ‘have you got petrol and checked your tyres’, ‘have you cleaned your shoes and have you got a hanky’ – the list goes on and on.
DONALD BARRY GRIGG – how many even knew his first name was Donald I wonder?
Dad was born in the Hopetoun Bush Nursing Hospital on January 4th, 1934 – the fourth child for Rene and Ken, and the third son after Uncle Ken, Aunty Joan, and Uncle Des. Uncle Peter and Aunty Sue eventually made up the family of 6 kids.
Grandad got his way naming dad after Sir Donald Bradman. Nana got her way by dad only ever being known as Barry. Go Nana.
They may not have had much as kids but Dad spoke fondly of neighbourhood cricket and footy games, pictures at the hall on a Saturday night, helping Grannie and appreciating every single thing they were given.
Dad was educated at Hopetoun Primary and Hopetoun Higher Elementary School. Dad didn’t like school much – he didn’t always find it that easy to learn, but he was admired by many teachers as he excelled at all sports.
He remembers an imaginary line down the middle of the school – boys on one side with girls on the other – and getting the ‘cuts’ because he fetched a ball back from the ‘wrong’ side….. But able to get out of detention because he was needed to help win a football match.
One of his strongest school memories was being selected in the Senior Football Team …… when he was in Grade 5! A great way to make enemies Dad said, but he loved it.
When dad was 15 he left school to work in his father’s garage, but that was short-lived. Dad was diagnosed with an hydatid cyst, underwent extensive surgery, nearly died, and Grandad was told by his doctors that Dad needed to be working outside in the fresh air.
Dad went to live at Patche in Grandma’s house at Baring, and began his love affair with that community and its wonderful people.
When Uncle Alan selected some soldier settler blocks north of Baring, Dad worked with him and they eventually lived there at Grey Oaks. When Uncle Alan met and married Aunty Rita, Dad stayed on. When Maria, Virginia, Paul, Simon and Mark arrived, Dad stayed on – they were his first five children!
Eventually Dad bought and moved a house down the drive from the main house and he lived there for several years as he continued to work for and with Uncle Alan. The kids were frequent visitors to Dad, particularly when he bought the first TV in the area – even if the screen had a blue film over it and was full of snow.
“When are you getting married Barry?” the kids would ask. “After harvest” was always the reply.
There is no doubt that Dad loved Grey Oaks – the people and the place he loved dearly. It was wonderful that only a couple of weeks before he recently went into hospital he visited Grey Oaks for Simon’s 60th and Paul drove him all over the farm – he talked about that drive and about ‘the kids’ for days and days.
Dad was a really great sportsman and he loved any time spent in pursuit of a ball - whether it was a small white golf ball, a tennis ball, a cricket ball, a lawn bowl or a football – he loved them all. He also took part in boxing bouts, volleyball games and snooker nights and of course he loved horses and horse racing. In 1955 Dad spent 3 months at Puckapunyal doing National Service – Bob Menzies’ Cowboys Dad said they were called – and even there he won prizes and cups for his ability to shoot well.
For many years football was his sport – he did play briefly for Hopetoun, but Patche or eventually TGP was Dad’s team and we often heard stories about the great teams he played in and the premierships he won.
Initially, though, not from Dad.
Dad didn’t tell us much about how good he was at football, but one summer Dorothy Aulesbrook showed us all the scrapbooks she kept about Les’s football career and of course dad was mentioned in so many of those reports. He won Most Improved, Most Consistent and Best and Fairest trophies during his time playing in the mighty black and yellow.
Whilst he spent most of his own footy wearing the yellow and black, you wouldn’t say that the Richmond Tigers were his favourite AFL team.
Dad’s favourite team was whoever was playing against Collingwood.
Dad was also a great cricketer, playing both here in Hopetoun and at Patche. He was selected for Country Week and Regional teams from a very early age – at one stage being the youngest cricketer from this area ever to be selected for country week.
Golf was Dad’s second great long-term sport and once again he did very well. He won trophies here at Hopetoun but he was so proud that he was, for many years, the only person to have won the M. U Walch trophy at the Patchewollock Golf Club twice.
When someone else finally equalled that feat, just to make sure of his name staying on top, dad went up and won it a third time. Rogo brought him home very noisily and very late that night!! “He stole it” yelled Rogo, waking up the whole house while he was trying to steer dad through the front door.
Dad played bowls here too and he loved it, and once again he made pennant teams and won some trophies, but when he went to work at the High School as the Groundsman he liked to work on Saturdays. He always thought it was safer to be doing most of his work with gardening equipment and machinery on the weekends when the students weren’t at risk of being injured.
Dad had originally ‘retired’ at 30 to a life of playing golf, working at the golf course, following the races, betting on horses and working magic in Nana’s beautiful garden in Evelyn Street – people told Nana her garden was like the Botanic Gardens but she knew much of it was due to Dad. Dad also loved the fact that he was able to spoil people, especially Nana and Aunty Sue.
So then when the Decker/Nicholls Matchmaking Organisation went to work in the early 70’s, one Loris Ackland came onto the scene!
Dad and Mum were engaged less than 12 months from that first date and they were married 6 months after that on Dad’s 40th birthday – a Friday night at 7.00 pm in Woomelang, January 4th 1974.
Dad gained Gran & Pa (Ackland), Graeme & Gwenda Ronan, Jeff & Lin Ackland and their families as new parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.
Dad and Mum went to live at Baring – in Grandma’s house – the house where dad lived when he first went to Patche and dad returned to work with Uncle Alan.
I was born 11 ½ months later – dad was a man in a hurry – he had lots of time to make up! They moved back to Hopetoun on Mothers Day weekend in 1975 and Dad went to work with the Dodgshuns. He loved being back in Hopetoun with easy access to the Golf Course and later the Bowling Green but wherever his feet were there is no doubt that his heart was always in Patche.
Cam was born 3 years later which made our family complete.
Throughout Dad’s working life after Patche, the Geelong woolstores and the Dodgshun family, Dad worked with Dennis and Norelle for several happy years – never a cross word in all those years plus the delights of Norelle’s cooking, and some very fond memories for Cam and I as well.
He worked for JJ O’Connor’s for a time and loved working for Hoges & Jacki, a bit of general rousying and driving for others and then some 25 years as the Groundsman at the High School, where he took such pride in the appearance of the Grounds…. when he had water.
Water restrictions and dad did not get along well.
Before long Cam and I were married, dad had grandkids to spoil and the focus for he and mum was definitely south of the Divide.
But its not like he wasn't already spoiling his nieces and nephews by then too.
It was finally Dad’s decision to sell Hopetoun and move to a cabin near Queenscliff. He was not really in favour of it when Mum bought the first cabin but grew to love their time there, the friends they made, their view of the water and especially the fact that it is a dog-friendly park. Dad was really looking forward to being closer to us all, especially the grandchildren and knowing that he would be able to take part in Grandparents’ Days and attend performances.
Dad loved having us all together and had a wonderful time at his 70th and 80th birthdays – he may have said that we were not to make a fuss, but he had to say that. He loved the party, absolutely loved getting his friends and loved ones together, he just didn’t want to make a speech.
Dad was typically a man of few words, but the ones that he said were worth listening to.
A fairly typical looking and acting farming type from the outside, those who knew him well knew him as someone who felt things deeply and who loved his friends and family very much. Those few occasionally brash words on the outside belied the softy beneath.
He loved mum dearly, loved his sons, and his daughters-in-law like they were his own, and loved his grandkids very much.
Dad absolutely loved animals, especially dogs and he had many throughout his life, but as he told one of the nurses just the other day – he has never had a dog like Raf – the other love of his life. They were inseparable and Raf is just as sad as we all are today.
He also cared very deeply about his friends, about our friends, and that’s certainly been returned in kind through many of the tributes we’ve received over the past week.
Uncle Jeff summed it up perfectly describing dad as “one of the good guys”, and that’s been echoed by many. Family and friends of have described him as another brother or a second father to them, a man with amazing spirit, a great dad, husband and such a gentleman.
Fond memories of “How ya going?”, “Good on ya”, a firm friendly handshake that seemed to get longer as he got older…. We’ll always miss his positivity, his inquisitive nature and his infallible fascination and amazement at what “they” could do in a world of rapid medical and technological advancements. I never really found out who “they” were, but they had dad’s respect.
He’s remembered by many as a man with a friendly aura and great spirit, a warm and welcoming man, always interested in others and never spoke of himself.
Jase Afford sent me a note describing a top bloke; he visited dad in Geelong a couple of years ago, and reckons he walked out better than he walked in. That probably sums up the sentiment of the heart-felt words that many have sent to us.
Dad didn’t thoroughly dis-like many things, but small bits of food on a big white plate, Shane Warne, John Farnham, and footballers who only ever handball are probably top of the list. “Kick the bloody thing” was what you always got out of him when watching the footy, and that was certainly helping to stabilise the low blood pressure in the week before he died.
Occasionally, though, be it a really good game or a really good singing or acting performance, there’d be the outlier, when dad would get really effusive, and say that something was alright.
You knew you were on a winner there.
Didn’t matter whether is was a 7 course gourmet meal, or a good bacon and eggs brekky, a Norm Smith Medal winning performance by Dusty, or the three tenors lifting the roof off a concert hall, the highest praise from dad would be “that was alright” – that is until the grandkids came along.
Suddenly one mis-spelt word written in five different colours of crayon was “very good”, and Cam and I have no idea how these kids have managed to pull that off.
Dad’s sense of humour and irony certainly rubbed off on his loved ones. Many would have heard the story of how, on mum and dad’s engagement when dad was 39, having never met Lindsay and Maureen Smale, mum received a telegram asking “what do you have that no one else had?”
I haven’t asked Lindsay and Maureen yet, but I’d like to think that when they asked dad what mum has that no-one else had, he would have said that she was “alright”.
Dad was very much a people person. The connection with friends and family and the closeness of the ever expanding Grigg/Walch/O’Sullivan clan meant so much to dad. We’d see each other once a year, maybe, but it was always like yesterday. Everyone wanted to know how dad was but all he wanted to do was ask questions about how others were and what they’d been up to… after having a quick brag about kids and grandkids.
As a parent he did it his way, and a good job too. Some of those stereotypical father-son things we didn’t do, but Dad did teach us to kick a footy, how to drive a car, and that if a job’s worth doing its worth doing well. Obviously the footy skill skips a generation. Or two.
But, thankfully, Dad’s taste in music will rest with Dad. After today.
Our driving skills are thankfully pretty good, though, born out of countless hours on Dad’s lap around the back roads behind the tip and the Schacke and Ferguson farms. But the skills it takes to be a good person, a good husband, a good father, we could not have learned without him.
Most of what I learned about what it takes to be a husband and a dad I learned while driving the ute, raking up rotten apricots from the back lawn, or shifting sprinklers at the high school. I can’t tell you exactly what he said, but I know the message, what he was feeling, and I know how that made me feel and that’s what got the job done.
There were other times, though, when I know exactly what he said. One of my most recent and I hope most lasting memories of dad is from just a couple of weeks ago.
I need to preface this by clarifying that he had an odd sense of priorities. Cam and I know for certain we come third. Maybe fourth. Pretty sure it’s the dog first, then mum, then probably the grand kids. After all, they’re the ones who kept getting the “very good” praise, but we know that we’re alright.
Anyway, mum and dad and I were sitting around the table in the kitchen at home, and dad got up to get something out of the kitchen drawer. He used to be able to just swing his arm around and reach from the table, but the old chassis wasn’t what it used to be, so there were a few grunts and groans getting out of the chair. As he stood beside me he turned and said something out of the blue, “if something happens to me, will you take the dog?”.
I said yes straight away, then thought for a second, and then I asked him, “who are you giving mum to?”. His face lit up straight away, he got that twinkle in his eye that he seemed to reserve only for mum, and he said in that loving, caring but downright bloody cheeky way that only dad could, “oh, gee, I hadn’t thought of that”. But he had.
He was a very special man, our dad – thank you all for being here today to help us celebrate a life well lived and forever loved.