Eulogy for Iain Craig

6 October 1927 – 6 November 2016


prepared by Alan Craig

Let me start by thanking you all for being here today. Gathered here are friends, relatives and acquaintances of my dad, as well as those kind folk offering their emotional support to his bereaved family. Unfortunately, not everyone who wanted to be here could come:

His grandson, Ian, is currently studying and doing exams in London, and it was just not logistically practicable for him to be home for this occasion. He loved his grandpa dearly, and I know he is with us in spirit. He posted this message:

A very kind, genuine and decent man, I pay tribute to the foresight you showed leaving post-war Glasgow in search of a better life for your family in Australia. You succeeded.

I have a lifetime of memories with you, but specifically: your fondness of your great-grandchildren, our 1992 holiday to the UK, your great Scottish accent that I wish I had, your drawings of those warplanes, your love of history and politics; and those peanut M&Ms that we always enjoyed during sleepovers. Rest in peace Grandpa.

Dad’s sister, Joyce, lives in California, and is unable to travel for health reason. Her sons, Craig and Martin, also cannot make it due to family responsibilities. They have sent this message:

We remember Iain with much love and abiding memories. Be it the treehouse he built with his Dad, the boomerang that took pride of place in his Mum’s sitting room, or the smiles and sadness we’ve shared o’er the years, Iain’s presence has always been felt in our homes and will always be. Love to all. — The Californians

Likewise, my mother’s cousins, Glyn and Dawn McKay, dear friends to my dad in the old days, cannot make the journey from Canberra because of Glyn’s failing health.

It is not our intention to make this event a ‘funeral service’; Dad was, indeed, privately cremated three weeks ago. Rather, the family want this to be an occasion where his friends and acquaintances can meet and remember the man that many have known for more than half a century. Today is a time to share your memories of Iain, and tell the stories of the times you have laughed and cried together; the good times, the difficult times—the old times.

I won’t go into a long and detailed chronology of my dad’s life, as he has, very thoughtfully, done that for us. Late last year, I discovered Iain’s hand-written autobiography of his early life, which I had printed and illustrated with photos from his own collection. Many of you will already have a copy of that booklet, but we still have a limited number left, and Robyn will be happy to give copies to those wanting one. If we run out, don’t despair, as I have also published it on our family history website, and a link to the story can be found on the back of the blue flyer we handed out today. Above all, this is a good read, and speaks to Iain’s underlying character and the things that influenced it.

Briefly, then, my father was born during the depression in the very working-class city of Glasgow. His father, Tommy Craig, variously worked as an engineer’s tool fitter and a tram conductor; his mother, “Sissy” Brown, was a shop-window dresser for various department stores. Since my grandmother was a working mum, much of Dad’s early care came from his Granny Brown and his Uncle Alex, a WW1 veteran. Iain had a fairly indifferent school life, more intent on playing with the neighbourhood gang of kids in the streets and parks of Glasgow than with schoolwork. He left school at 14 and went to work for a large inner-city warehouse, just as World War II, and the bombing, started.

An apprenticeship as a marine engineer was cut short with his conscription in 1945, and although his ambition was to join the airforce, he ended up as a signalman with the Kings Dragoon Guards. The war ended just as he finished his training, and he was shipped out to what was then Palestine to join his regiment. For the next couple of years, he spent his time with the signal squad at barracks near Tiberius, and when Britain pulled out of that troubled place, he went to Benghazi and then Malta on a long way back to base in Yorkshire. He was demobbed in 1948.

Back in Glasgow, Iain became a Railway Police Officer, and met and married my mum, Pat McKay, in early 1949. I was born in November of that year. With accomodation difficult to get in bombed-out Glasgow, our little family emigrated to Queensland in 1950, and we initially stayed with my mum’s adorable uncle and aunt, “Buddy” and “Wan” McKay, at Blackstone in Ipswich before moving into a little shack in Brassall. Iain worked briefly for Allan & Starks in Queen Street, Brisbane, riding a bike and taking a train each day, but then found work as a rigger at the mines in Redbank Plains. It was here he met two families with whom my parents formed enduring friendships: Kitty and Val Panochini; and Bill and Ann Mason. Sadly, none of these have been with us for many years.

Soon, levering off the back of his training as a signalman, dad had joined the PMG’s Department and sat the Open-Tech’s exam. He worked as a telephone technician in Ipswich for the next couple of years, and added new family friendships: Allan and Nell Harris; and Jack Grayson. Jack, a polio victim, was a great Bohemian character, and very much shared my dad’s intellectual interests in history, poetry, literature and music. They were great mates until Jack died just a few years ago.

John “Iain” Craig, 1927–2016.

In 1959, Dad transferred to the PMG workshop in the Valley, and we moved into a Housing Commission house in Dunbar Street at Mt Gravatt East. My parent’s later bought that house, and this is where they lived until my mother died from a lung infection in 1992 while holidaying in Scotland. After moving to Brisbane, my parents forged life-long friendships with several other families, including Joel and Margaret Beskin, Graham and Lurline Healy, and Lloyd and Lois Hicks. Mum and Dad had travelled several times throughout those years, mostly to Scotland and the Greek Islands. When my dad retired in about 1982, just as he began to suffer a series of ‘mini strokes’, the travelling became more regular. Mum’s loss was a terrible blow to my father.

Iain had always been a tireless worker around the house, but his domestic skills did not extend to cooking, so it is with great fortune that, in 1994, he met and married Colleen. They set up home at Goorari Street in Eight Mile Plains, and here they lived for the next twenty-odd years, while continuing to travel. Two years after Iain and Colleen married, Dad had a large, though benign, brain tumour removed. This tumour, along with the earlier mini strokes, had seriously scarred much of his brain, which inevitably led to his gradual memory loss and dementia, the cruellest of diseases.

However, Colleen rose to the occasion, and I would like to publicly thank her here today for the wonderful job she did nursing my father through his spiralling descent into dementia. Dementia brings with it mood swings, irrational behaviour, anger and frustration, as well as the inability to properly care for one’s self—but through it all, Colleen courageously cared for Iain, right up until the doctors declared he was no longer able to be nursed at home. Robyn and I are eternally grateful to you for your love and care of my father.

I also want to acknowledge the wonderful support that my wife, Robyn, has given to my dad over the years. Robbie was like a daughter to my father, and he adored her. Robyn’s support throughout these last few years has been nothing short of wonderful, and I’m not sure how any of us would have coped without her amazing efforts. 

Summary

So, who was my father, and how can I summarise the person he was? He was never a man for acquiring wealth or power; he preferred the simple things of life. He was intensely interested in history and politics, but was never able to reconcile them both. To him, politics was, in practical terms, the failure of history. He would always argue, like George Orwell, that there were many truths in the world of human endeavour, and it was better not to too strongly align yourself with particular ideals, as they would, inevitably, be found wanting. “Philosophy,” he would say, “is just a way of making a man more unhappy more intelligently.”

Despite his deep introspection, he was a man of great humour. He loved to tease, clown around, play act, and make endless witticism. He delighted in arguing as the ‘devil’s advocate’, taking an opposing view so he could test out how much others really knew about a particular topic, even if he agreed with them.

He never lost his Scottishness and, in truth, his heart probably never came with him when he departed for these shores. He was unerringly faithful man to his family, and he liked nothing better than spending time with friends. My dad was never a ‘football and fishing man’; but he was an avid reader, and preferred books and poetry to sports. I cannot recall ever going to a football match with him; however, I’ve never seen this as a failing; my appreciation of history and poetry and literature come from him, and he could not have bequeathed me anything better. Rest in peace, Dad, and know your family loved you.

The Parting Glass (Scottish song)

Of all the money that e’er I spent,
I spent it in good company;
And of all the harm that e’er I’ve done,
Alas, it was to none but me.
But for all I’ve done, for want of wit,
To memory now I can’t recall –
So, fill to me the parting glass,
Goodnight, and joy be with you all.

Oh, all the comrades that e’er I’ve had,
They’re sorry for my going away;
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve known,
Would wish me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not –
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call,
Goodnight, and joy be with you all.

I belong to Glasgow, dear old Glasgow town,
But there’s something the matter with Glasgow,
For it’s going round and round;
I’m only a common old working chap, as anyone here can see,
But when I get a couple of drinks on a Saturday,
Glasgow belongs to me!


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