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Eulogy: Gus Roy 1919-2006

Based on the eulogy given by son Rob Roy at Gus's funeral on 28 July 2006

Gus was born Angus Livingstone Roy in Larne, County Antrim, Northern Ireland on 18th October 1919 and was the third child of five.

His parents, Samuel Russell and Agnes Roy, migrated from Ireland in 1923 with Gus and brothers Tom, Maurie and sister Beryl, and moved to the warm climate of Cairns where another sister, Peg, was born. Sam started a cordial factory in Cairns probably because he thought people would be thirsty - Irish logic.

104 McLeod Street, Cairns about 1930-33

Gus was always involved in pranks of one kind or another. On board the ship on their way to Australia, Gus and Maurie managed to cause some consternation when they could not be found - but they had merely climbed up on to an awning on the rear deck and dangled their legs over the side as the searchers grew more and more frantic.

They lived in McLeod Street and the children attended Cairns Central School. Gus reached grade 7 at the State High and Intermediate School before moving into the workforce at age 14 .

When they lived at 104 McLeod Street, Cairns, there was a vacant lot next door on the corner of Florence Street. Growing on it was a grass with long tough reedy stalks up to a metre high. Being on a corner, pedestrians were in the habit of taking a short-cut diagonally across this allotment. Their father - referred to as "the old man" -used to come home at about the same time every afternoon - using the short cut. Maurie and Gus decided to tie some of the grass reeds together across the path at about the time "the old man" was due home.

According to Maurie they caught the old man who tripped over the grass flat on his face. And he knew exactly who was responsible - had to be Gus. According to Gus, they inadvertently tripped up a couple of nuns who were using the short cut. Or... maybe, knowing Gus, they did this more than once?!!

On another occasion Gus placed a penny bunger under the deck chair where "the old man" was dozing..

12 Glenlea Street, Edge Hill, Cairns
home from 19..-1952

He was offered a job at Burns Philp in Cairns by brother Maurie and started a career which mainly specialized in hardware. He was later appointed rep for Burns Philp which meant long periods away from home travelling all over north Queensland and as far away as the Torres Straits.

Gus was endowed with many talents, not the least of which was his beautiful tenor voice and as long as the family can remember he involved himself in his singing with great passion. He first joined the Cairns Choral Society and was winning trophies at 14. During his lifetime was in great demand to sing at weddings anniversaries, reunions etc. up until his early eighties. He sang with the Patrick Thomas singers with regular spots on television.

After he retired from full time work he teamed up with his old pal Rene Buckle and they became the Tom Jones and Karen Carpenter of the aged care entertainment in Brisbane.

When the war started Gus joined the Australian Army and was in the 2/5 Armoured Regiment and reached the rank of Sergeant tank commander and although he spent a lot of time training in the deserts of W.A. he never saw active service. He was discharged from the Army on the 10th of May 1946.

He had met Corporal Jacqueline Murphy in the Army and on the 18th of May 1946 they married just 8 days after his discharge. They married in Bundaberg and moved back to Cairns and Gus resumed his career with Burns Philp.

In September 1947 the first of their seven children arrived - Rob - then followed Greg and Neil.

It was 1952 when Gus decided to move to Brisbane in the hope of better opportunities for his young family which by then had another arrival in the form of Bev.

Gus was working at Milton and we were living at Sandgate which meant very long days traveling to and from work. He then obtained a job with Chermside Plumbing and hardware and his boss Wally Miller gave Gus an old Ute to get him to and from work. In the meantime we were given a brand new housing commission home at Grovely.

We even went to the "Ekka" that year and its no secret that Gus didn't have a lot of patience when he was tired and especially after a long day at the show. Nature was to test Gus that day because he had parked the ute quite a distance from the Ekka and had us stand on the footpath on Bowen Bridge Road and wait until he arrived. In the mean time there was a huge downpour and when he stopped there was an urgency for us to get in the ute, but the rain had weakened our show bags (they were all made from paper in those days) which we had sitting on the footpath and as we gathered them to load into the ute the bottoms fell out of every one of them. You can imagine the commotion .

Photo of Gus, Jacq and family on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary - taken on the steps of Burilda Street, Hendra

By the end of 1960 there were seven children - Rob, Greg, Neil, Bev, Tony, Trevor and Chris - and we had moved to Burilda Street, Hendra - now known as Headquarters. (This house has a million tales based on activities of the kids and friends of Gus and Jacq.

Gus was never a very energetic person and although he and Jac dabbled in ten pin bowling (both earning their 300 pins) for a while that was about the extent of his physical activities - except on one occasion. He bought a brand new Turner motor mower and one Sunday morning while we children were at Sunday School, he mowed the lawn - well that was the first and last time. From then on we were allowed to stay home from Sunday School if we mowed the lawn. I have to say that Gus spent an enormous amount of time at work and we didn't see him much - times were tough

Through Burns Philip, Gus met the late Sid Matchett and our families formed a lifetime friendship. With all the kids in the Roy family, it was time to add more bedrooms to headquarters and it was Sid who guided Gus and Jacq through the renovations. We all had to chip in and do our bit and our work was inspected by Gus when he came home each night, then he would get involved himself on the weekends.

I recall him hammering a 6 inch nail - he must have thought he could drive it home with one huge blow! Well, he missed and hit his thumb and we all disappeared leaving Jacq to administer first aid and consolation.

It was also Sid Matchett who introduced Gus to Freemasonry and started a dedicated relationship for the rest of Gus's life. He formed many friendships and gave Gus a great deal of personal satisfaction.

We all tend to remember the things that make us laugh and in Gus's case I recall one Sunday morning when 4 or 5 of us boys accompanied Gus into town to help him do something for Burns Philp. When we were returning home we were travelling down Ann Street through the Valley, which is one way, and there were two other vehicles travelling in the same direction, but in the next lane. Our brother Greg could do a great imitation of a Police Siren and in this case let out a beauty - the two motorists dutifully pulled over. This created immediate raucous laughter in our car and I still recall the tears of laughter running down Gus's cheeks all the way home.

Gus also had a mate called Norm Miller. They would dutifully head off to the races every Saturday to try to make their fortunes only to trudge out most times after the last race with barely enough money to buy a pie each.

They had this idea that owning a race horse might make them more money than punting. The idea never eventuated, but they had the name picked out and I'll spell it out for you H O O F H E A R T E D. Now say that to yourself.

Now, you'll recall earlier, I said that Gus had many talents - well, the one for which he is most remembered in our family is his flatulence.

Gus once told me (very tongue in cheek, mind you) that he was the Liberal party's secret weapon as he could single handedly disperse a trade union rally in King George Square simply by eating two tins of baked beans and mingling with the crowd.

As I live in Weipa and Neil in Melbourne, we would like to sincerely thank all our Brisbane-based family members, especially Cris, for flying the flag at the hospital day after day and keeping us informed.

- Rob Roy

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