Doug Shannon

Doug Shannon

Eulogy for Doug Shannon of Hunters Hill (9129-2013)

Delivered by his daughter, Keena Hudson, at his funeral at AAll Saints’ Anglican Church Hunters Hill on 25th Fenrurary 2013

Early Life

Dad was born, and lived the first 12 years of his life in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, moving often and attending Cranbrook. After moving to Hunters Hill he went to Malvern, a small private school. And as an interesting bit of trivia the playground for Malvern is now the car park for the Hunters Hill Club where Dad’s wake will be held.

From Malvern he went to Sydney Grammar and from there to Bert and Company as a trainee accountant. By this time his lifelong friend Peter Waugh had joined the Air Force, but Dad waited until his father died to join too. He was very proud of his father and didn’t want to leave him while he was alive.

Mum and Dad knew each other because they both lived in Hunters Hill. But it wasn’t until they went to a party, Dad with another girl and Mum with dad’s friend, that they really began to notice each other. There followed a number of flights up in small aircraft, Dad showing off by doing all sorts of fancy manoeuvres. After a short while Dad had to go to Korea with the Air Force for 9 months and then to Woomera. During this time they became engaged, but most of the engagement was conducted long distance. They were married in this very church in October, 1955. Peter Waugh was a groomsman, and Peter soon married mum’s close friend, Ann. Peter and Ann Waugh have been lifelong friends, and the four of them have lived parallel lives.

Dad’s other good friend in his early life was Gavin Alvarez. Unfortunately Gavin died many years ago, and Dad was very upset about his death.

The Airforce

Dad wasn’t one to blow his own trumpet but had a distinguished flying career in the Air Force. He didn’t even tell Mum of his achievements, however his friends did.  I think this is the time to set his Air Force record straight.Mum learned from his friends that:

1. He topped his intake of 23 in the Air Force. Only the top two went to fly fighter planes, and Dad was one of these.

2. On his first solo flight training to fly Vampires, the wheels to his aircraft wouldn’t come down. He kept his cool under pressure and managed to make a good landing on the belly of the plane.  He was only a trainee, but what he did later became protocol for belly landings on that aircraft.

3. Dad did precision flying with the Jindivik program in Woomera. They used to send up a rocket, but as they couldn’t land it, it would crash back to earth and break the instruments. They learned to eject the instruments and attach a parachute to them. Dad would then fly past trailing a hook to pick up the strings of that parachute. As you can imagine this was a tricky manoeuvre requiring the right speed, angle and timing.  Just the sort of challenge Dad loved.

4. Dad was endorsed to fly on many different aircraft. Geoff Malloy said Dad had endorsement to fly more aeroplanes than anyone else he knew.

Quick Decisions. Right Decisions.

One of Dad’s major strengths was his broader vision of the total picture, and his ability to quickly make the correct decision under pressure. And history proved those decisions right.

The first was that he wanted to move from the Air Force into Qantas, which was about to start a final intake for a while. He had to remain in the Air Force for only another 6 months or miss his Air Force bonus on discharge. He decided to leave the Air Force without his bonus. He had a mate who stayed and collected the bonus, but ended up driving a taxi for 3 years, and never got into Qantas. Correct decision.

Having got his career organised, you’ll notice that the remaining decisions were about fun.

Dad got wind of a ski lodge being built in Perisher Valley, and of course he had to be part of it. I remember spending a summer down there with a caravan and a concrete mixer. We had years of happy skiing holidays.

Dad was offered a Qantas posting to Honolulu for 6 months. The catch was that they only had 2 weeks to get ready for the move. Of course we went. And had a memorable family time.

While in America they didn’t pay tax in either Australia or the USA. With the extra money they decided to buy a block of land in McMaster’s Beach. It was a steep block and Dad built a platform, bought an old army tent and double bunks for us kids. Peter and Ann Waugh bought a block behind and we had many meals and swims with them. Right decision.

Not content with a ski lodge and land at the beach, Dad wanted to become a farmer. I think he thought money grew on trees. Poplar trees. So in 1968 they bought a farm in St Albans. This was to become their second home, but I’ll say a little more about that later.

Later, Mum’s sister in law, Janet, suggested that they look at a house in Newport the next day, but Dad wasn’t a tomorrow sort of person. Why not today? They looked at it today, and Mum said she’d come back with a cheque the next day. Again, Dad said not tomorrow. Today. So Mum signed the cheque, turned around and there was another buyer with cheque in hand. They bought the house in Newport, and it is still owned by a family member. Quick decision. Right decision.

Cecily wanted a horse so they went up to the Pittwater area to look at and buy it. While they were there, they also looked at a 33’ yacht. And bought it that same day too. Quick decision. Right decision.

Dad loved to sail the Wah Moon. Apart from sailing days with friends on the Harbour, they went for many years on the Squadron May Cruise up to Port Macquarie. He was very proud one year to win the prestigious Wind Song trophy. He also enjoyed the start of the Sydney to Hobart for many years, and would go very close to other boats but to my amazement never bumped. Just like precision flying.

He retired at 55. He’d been counting down the time till he could retire for at least 5 years. Not a quick decision, but still the right one.

Involvement

It was after his retirement that life really got busy. He often quipped that he had to retire because he didn’t have time to work.

Since that time Mum and Dad lived in 2 places simultaneously. St Albans and Hunter’s Hill.

St Albans

After buying the farm, his old friends Peter and Anne Waugh, Geoff and Sandra Molloy, Graham and Shirlyanne Gibbs, and Roby and Rosaline Tidswell bought farms in the valley. Peter, Geoff and Dad also flew for Qantas so they had lots to share.St Albans has a unique area, a “Common”. This is 10 square kilometres set aside for the use of the Commoners – residents of the McDonald Valley. For a number of years Dad was a trustee on St Albans Common Trust. He enjoyed rounding up the cattle on occasion.He was also very involved with the Bush Fire Brigade.He attended church at St Albans. Dad and Mum became Synod members for St Albans and for around 10 years he loved to attend Synod at Newcastle.

Sydney

In Sydney he was involved with this church, All Saints Hunters Hill. He was also busy with many other organisations, and often held positions of responsibility.He was on the board of the sub branch of the Hunters Hill RSL for a number of years, and a trustee of the hall.He was on the board of the Bowling Club. During his time there they sold an extra block of land so that they could modernise the club.He was treasurer of the Hunters Hill Theatre during the period after a fire had burned it down. He helped the theatre get back on its feet financially and had a lot to do with converting the St John’s Church into a theatre. He enjoyed working with Mum on this, she as president, he as treasurer. She was very grateful for his strength behind her.He was Chaplain for the Masons for around 10 years.During the Olympics he loved being a volunteer driver for the USA team. As a driver he spent the whole day in the village, even eating with the athletes. It was a highlight for him. He and Mum both got to watch the closing ceremony.In later years he enjoyed four Cunard cruises.  On every Cunard Queen they have.

1. The first was the QE2 in September 2001 from New York to Southampton. Mum and Dad were in the World Trade Centre the week before it was bombed.

2. The second was the Queen Mary in 2007. Again they sailed from New York to Southampton. During that trip he had pneumonia and was quite sick, but that wasn’t going to deter him.

3. Then the Queen Victoria in 2009 from Sydney to Perth.

4. And finally the New Queen Elizabeth just last July. He was very sick, but managed to rally for one final trip. They flew to London and enjoyed being there for the Queen’s Jubilee also attending 3 shows in one week. Then they took the new Queen Elizabeth around the Baltic Sea, visiting St Petersburg. I really don’t know how he did it because even then he looked so ill. But his determination to live and enjoy life was stronger than the illness.

Cancer, pneumonia and other minor annoyances

15 years ago Dad got oesophageal cancer and was offered palliative care. I don’t think so. He attacked that cancer full on, and beat the unbeatable. Bladder cancer was given similarly short shrift. Pneumonia? Wouldn’t want to let that slow him down. He was so determined to live. Golden Staff in his toe? Chop the toe off. Problem solved.

The melanoma on his head was a setback, but he surprised his GP by surviving radiotherapy. However, lung cancer, fluid build-up, a failing heart and kidneys were too much for his depleted body to endure.

Dad lived a very full life. He had a great sense of humour, loved good food and a party. I am particularly grateful to dad for my love of food and fun.

Dad married Mum in this very church 57 ¬Ω years ago. He had 4 children, 16 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.

His GP, Andrew Bowes, described Dad as ‘indestructible’ and said that, medically, Dad couldn’t have lived another minute. He lived a full life.

Cheers to you Dad