My name is Greg and I have known Ross since our teenage years in the early 60’s and I do appreciate the opportunity to share with you some of the memories and good times we shared with Ross during our sea cadet days. It is said that a true mate is always there, no matter how many years since the last “goodbye see ya latter”. Ross was indeed a true mate.
Alex, Ross and I met at the Sea Cadet Corp TS Gayundah at New Farm in Brisbane in our early high school days – Ross travelling from St Lucia and Alex & I from Coorparoo by bus and tram. We learnt about the sea and seamanship, discipline and leadership. We spent a lot of time generally messing about in boats ….. dressing us as sailors, learning the ropes, how to sail, some navigation and marching around the parade ground in different rigs – as you do.
We shared training camps together on school holidays at HMAS Moreton living in the forepeak and sleeping in hammocks on the old corvette HMAS Mildura. Ross and I learnt to sail on 14” skiffs and in 27” whalers against the lousy river tide on the New Farm reach of the Brisbane River. We even rowed the big heavy 27” whalers in races against Churchie and Paluma cadet units. Ross as coxswain most of the time. He loved the idea of leading the junior cadets – he was a born teacher.
Ross enjoyed sailing the big open whalers and together we spent the Easter of “63 sailing around Moreton Bay camping out on the beaches. Our first stop for the night was at the mouth of the river at Bishop Island, now swallowed up by Fisherman Island. We managed to hole one for the whalers on top of submerged steel spikes off the beach and then conducted repairs before sailing off the next day. A great adventure in those days ! This was the last time ever the whalers were allowed out of the river.
In those days the drinking age was still 21 but that did not stop Ross and the rest of us from making the occasional visit to the haunts of Brisbane city masquerading as visiting sailors looking for a good time. There was no way we looked 21 but still managed a beer or two.
I can also remember many relaxing times at the Coulter residence in St Lucia playing Beatles songs and Ross playing the guitar – and yes we did see the Beatles together at Festival Hall.
The sea cadet corp continues to this day as the Australian Navy Cadets and Ross’s niece and nephew Georgia and Ben are with us today beside me to celebrate this period in Ross’s life. Some very strong friendships were formed in those days and those friendships remain today.
With Ross that friendship continued after he left the cadets, became a teacher, was conscripted into the army to serve his country in Vietnam and later married Kate. Alex & I were groomsmen at Ross and Kathy’s wedding in Biloela staying in a shack on Kathy’s parents property. That shack and the outhouse were never the same again.
Ross turned up at Alex’s workplace in town one day in his uniform – a proud man – before he left for Vietnam to serve his country.
Over the years we kept in contact, stayed at each other’s homes and shared celebrations of family births and other milestones. There was always a welcome mat and the odd pool game and beer at Ross & Kathy’s home in Camira.
I remember on time later on the Noosa River we were out sailing on our 14” Paper Tiger cat and I said to Ross “I think the girls want to learn to sail”. “That’s easy done said Ross – when we get back to the beach – jump off and push the girls off in the boat – the wind will take them away and they will need to learn to sail back”. It worked but I remember words from Kate when they finally tacked back to the beach that would make a sailor blush !
There was a period in the early 80’s as happens that we did our own thing going our separate ways at other ends of the country, but as I said earlier, Ross was a true friend and we soon caught up again, married and raising families. Later in life we found time to catch up and not only to reminisce but share 60th milestones together and brag about our grandchildren.
Ross & I shared a common frustration – gold. I remember often Ross telephoning saying – have you 3 putted lately? – a throw back to an admittance on my part of a bad day at golf.
Ross also had a fascination for all things First World War and spent hours on the old battlefields and memorials in France sketching and painting those scenes. He later put together an exhibition of his art works on the Gold Coast – a huge success.
In later years Ross had need to visit repat at Greenslopes for surgery. On occasions my father was in the same ward. They would meet – 2 brave veterans – stopping for a chat – along the way.
To this day Ross remains a true mate to us all. Cheers Mate.