Jack was known to lots of his friends and their families as ‘Jock” or Uncle Jock. Jack was always called Jack by his family. His nephews and nieces and their friends called him Uncle Jack. Jack/Jock spent the last 8½ years in a nursing home in New Farm and it was moving to hear the nursing staff calling him and farewelling him as Uncle Jack. Following his initial strokes, Jack lived with myself and my family for four years.
Jack was George and Marie Murdoch’s third child. He had two older sisters. Betty, known to many as Margaret, and Fay. Dad insisted he be christened Jack. I was born sixteen years later. Mum and Dad always referred to Betty, Fay and Jack in one breath and then added Peter.
Dad was a station master in the railway. His work resulted in many transfers. Dad was working in Goondiwindi in 1930, the year Jack was born, and the beginning of the Great Depression. Mum travelled to Brisbane to give birth to Jack.
When Jack turned 1 Dad was transferred to Murphy’s Creek. The family moved into the railway house which previously had been owned and operated by the police. There was a jail built in the middle of the house. It was a lonely life for mum. She had 3 small children. Dad worked shifts. The railway station was manned 24 hours a day. The railway at Murphy’s Creek played a crucial role as it was the final stop before the trains, the majority goods trains, had to be reshunted and reorganised for the haul up the Toowoomba Range. Their house had no electricity. Homework was completed with the use of a kerosene lamp.
While living at Murphy’s Creek, Jack was allowed to roam more freely than his sisters. It has been reported Jack and his mate got into a lot of mischief. It is hard to believe Jack ever got into mischief! Jack was always accompanied by the dog “toby” at Murphy’s Creek. When Toby just went to sleep one day he was buried under a wattle tree on the bank of the creek. Jack and Fay were sure he went straight to Heaven. The pair made a wooden cross and found an old statue of St Joseph and put it on his grave. Jack’s faith was strong from an early age.
Dad was very keen for the three children to learn music. Dad himself played in brass bands all his life. Every Saturday the children travelled two train stops to learn music at the Helidon convent. Betty and Jack learnt the piano and Fay learnt the violin. Dad’s mother found a second hand piano in Toowoomba. It arrived at the house one night, brought up from the railway station to the house on the pumper. The piano still resides in the home of his sister, Betty and her husband, Fred.
After six years, Dad was transferred and the family moved to Beenleigh. Jack then went to the one teacher school at Loganholme. The school was situated on the main highway. Dad was then transferred to Tully for one year and received half wages. Betty, Fay and Jack stayed in Brisbane with mum’s sister, Aunty Mary Winter, known as Auntie Cis, in the Toombul railway house. Aunty Cis was the station mistress. Her daughter Peg (aged 93) is here today. Jack did scholarship at Nundah Convent. Betty was boarding at Lourdes Hill and Fay went to All Hallows.
When Dad’s year in Tully was completed the family then returned to Beenleigh. Betty started work and Fay travelled by train to finish Junior at All Hallows.
Mum was putting Jack into boarding at Nudgee when she remembered a visit to Beenleigh by Brother Ignatius and how impressed she had been by him. The Primary school here at Marist College Ashgrove is named after Br Ignatius. Following Mum reconsidering her initial decision, Jack started Year 9 with the Marist Brothers. The war meant the Ashgrove campus was closed and Jack was sent to the Tamborine campus for Years 9 and 10.
Dad was then transferred to Longreach and was accompanied by Mum and Fay. Fay started work in Longreach.
After the war Marist College Ashgrove was reopened and Jack returned to the Ashgrove campus for Years 11 and 12. To this day his Ashgrove student group have kept in close contact. They were a class of 17 students.
It was 1946, Jack was in Year 11 and a boarder at this College. Mrs Gilroy was his music teacher. There is a house (Gilroy House) named in her honour. Jack received a telegram during school hours to announce the arrival of his new baby brother, Peter. This was the beginning of our special bond that can never be broken.
The family moved to Brisbane in 1948 to enable Jack to attend the University of Queensland to study dentistry. Dad had again been transferred and was working at Albion railway station. He worked their until his retirement in 1969. The family lived in a flat near New Farm Park for approximately3 years before moving to their own home at Chermside. After one year, Jack decided Dentistry didn’t agree with him and he started work as a clerk with Caltex Oil. He worked in the city and at Whinstanes. Jack took up accounting and completed his accounting degree by correspondence. When living at Chermside Jack and I shared a room.
There are three significant memories for me as a child growing up at Chermside. One was the frame picture of the Good Shepherd hanging in the lounge room; the picture of the Holy Family that Jack took with him and hung in his room at the nursing home and thirdly the piano.
Jack was a great pianist with a natural ear. Hum Jack a song and he would play you the tune. Dad would comment on how Jack could tell him if the third cornet player was out of tune while a band was playing. Jack’s hearing was alert to the end. Listening to the radio was his constant companion in the nursing home.
Sing songs around the piano are a major part of the fondness for Uncle Jack of the next generation. They recall him playing songs like the Baby Elephant Walk and K,K,K, Katie. Jack bought a new 1954 FJ Holden with the money he earned playing for weddings, dances, parties etc. Jack’s owning the FJ was a bonus for me when Jack was working overseas.
Jack’s next big step was being promoted to the Australian audit circuit for Caltex Oil. Jack joined every State Catholic Bushwalker’s Association. He developed his great love for hiking and camping. This created many friendships.
Jack was eventually promoted to the international audit circuit for Caltex Oil. He was the first Australian to be promoted to the Caltex International Team. He was employed from New York. He worked away from home and in 5 continents for over 20 years.
Jack was working in Saigon during the Vietnam War. He was appointed Accounting Manager. He would describe how you just lived with the sounds of the bombing in Phnom Penh and Saigon. Fortunately Jack was home in Australia on medical leave when Saigon fell.
In his managerial position Jack was provided with a maid and a chauffeur. Jack only used his chauffeurs for driving him to and from work. Visitors who stayed with Jack still comment on being escorted around by Jack’s chauffeur. The chauffeurs enjoyed Jack having visitors to stay and were grateful for something to do. In Saigon Jack had two maids who were excellent cooks. After Saigon he had a term of 5 years I Thailand. He was then transferred to Hong Kong. He asked his maid in Hong Kong to prepare a tossed salad for dinner. When he arrived home from work the maid had made what looked like salsa. Jack commented on how the lettuce had been chopped up so small. The end result was Jack took up cooking. If he had sought the services of another maid, his maid would have been sent back to the Philippines. His solution was he taught the maid to cook. He wrote home to mum for her recipes. He even made his own Christmas cakes and plum pudding cooked in a rag. My daughters benefitted from Jack’s cooking skills and were pleased when Noela and I were not home in the evenings as Uncle Jack would walk down with a saucepan of mashed potato and pumpkin. The loved Uncle Jack’s vegies.
Jack’s position for 15 years was that of Accounting Manager for South East Asia. Jack wrote letters addressed to “Dear Everyone” at least once a week when he was working overseas. These letters were then forwarded on to each other by family members.
He returned home regularly where all his nephews, nieces and god-children (he was godfather to the children of numerous friends) got to know him.
Jack became involved with an orphanage and the Good Shepherd nuns while working in Asia. The nuns would teach the widows how to sew and earn a living. The nuns would then arrive with parcels of the completed sewn items to show Jack. They soon realised Jack would buy the lot. We were with Jack in Hong Kong in 1982 and witnessed this first hand. His family have fond memories of Jack returning home with his suitcases full of the clothing, stuffed toys and other items. Jack kneeling on the floor, opening his suitcases was a treat for his nieces and nephews.
Jack used to visit and work with an American priest called Fr. Crawford in an orphanage in Cambodia. During the Vietnam war and resulting evacuation of the orphanage, the door of the Hercules plane blew open and Jack was greatly affected as he knew personally these orphans who lost their lives.
Jack had eyesight problems in the mid-seventies. He was initially treated in Singapore which proved to be a mistake. He lost his sight in one eye. He regularly returned home to Australia for treatment on his remaining which we called his ‘good eye’. We fondly recall Mum and Dad looking forward to his coming to Australia for treatment as he always included a stopover in Brisbane. Fortunately, at that time, there were only 3 doctors able to treat his eye condition and one was in Melbourne. The other two were in the UK and USA. His eyesight issue resulted in his retirement in 1985, aged 55 years.
Jack’s friends, many international ex-pats, were evident by the number of Christmas cards and letters he received at Christmas time.
Mum and Dad lived their final years of their lives at Enoggera. At this stage, Betty, Fay and I all lived in Enoggera with our families. Jack was transferred back to work I Australia. He was transferred to Brisbane in 1984. Jack lived at home with Mum for two weeks before her passing. Jack always treasured this precious time with Mum and described it as a blessing. Jack was then able to assist in the care of Dad for the next two years. Dad died at the same age as Jack, 84 years. Jack suffered his first stroke at the same age as Mum, 72 years.
Following his retirement Jack would spent countless hours researching the family tree. He eventually traced back to the original convict, David Murdoch. Jack would often call in for a cuppa on his way to or from the office of Births, Marriages and Deaths. Jack has left a filing cabinet with numerous birth and death certificates of different branches of the Murdoch and Fahey families.
In 1996 Jack accompanied us on a trip to the UK. Our daughter, Katie, was working in London at the time. Jack was able to visit the Heritage Centres in Scotland and Ireland and trace the history of Dad and Mum’s families. Jack and I visited the Aberdeen Court House in Scotland where the original convict was sentenced. We were able to visit Ballyvaughan in Clare, Ireland, where Mum’s ancestors originated from before walking across Ireland and catching a sailing ship for Australia in 1870. This is at the southern end of Galway Bay.
Jack took it upon himself to research the history of the two Marist College Ashgrove airmen killed in the war. Previously they had never been identified. Their photos are hung in this Chapel. Their story was documented in an Ashgrovian magazine.
Following Jack’s retirement, Jack again became involved with the College. He had been Treasurer of the Old Boys in the early 1950s. The Association, back then, had 2 shillings and sixpence in the bank. He and his good friend, Arthur Apelt, began a recruitment drive for membership for the Old Boys’ Association and spent many hours working on the newsletter. They were instrumental in all boys receiving one year’s free Old Boys’ Association membership following Graduation. Jack was President of the OBA in 1988 and 1989.
In 1990 Jack was on the Marist Jubilee committee with some of his old classmates. He was involved in the MCA Arts and Crafts Show for many years. Jack would assist Pat Keating, Secretary to the Principal for many years, in researching and organising notes for The Ashgrovian magazine.
Jack volunteered for the reading program organised by Jan Mulvihill for students with learning and reading difficulties. He took an interest and followed their results during their time at the College. He was pleased to see these students achieving.
In 1991 Jack was invited and became a member of the Australian Marist Affiliation. Jack took his official plaque and his Marist Jubilee clock and they hung on his wall in his nursing home. Various nursing staff commented and recognised his attachment to his two Marist mementos.
Jack was an appointed ambassador and volunteered in the Vatican Pavilion at Expo in 1988.
Jack’s retirement was a blessing for his family. Jack became an integral part of the lives of his family and especially for my wife, Noela, and our children. After Dad died in 1986 Jack ate the majority of his meals with us. When we moved to Windsor in 1992 Jack up and moved into a unit in the same street. We did not need an alarm clock. Our wakeup call was Jack walking down the footpath whistling. It was time to put the kettle on and prepare breakfast. Jack always accompanied us shopping and most times came on holidays with us.
Jack was a simple man. He never made a fuss. He always used the stove. He never used his microwave oven. He was pleased to hang up and retire his suits, his daily attire during his working life. My son recalls buying Jack new shorts, T-shirt and thongs each Christmas which became his day wardrobe for the following year. Jack loved to spend time in the garden weeding.
Jack was given some bee hives. He was working overseas. This resulted in my having to attend a course on beekeeping. When Jack and I were dressed in our full protective clothing I recall Jenny and Anne, then small children, describing us as “going to the moon”. Then Jack volunteered with the Beekeeping Association. They would call him out to attend to removing a swarm of bees. This caused us a chuckle as Jack had to put on the full protective clothing and, with his one eye, look for and catch the Queen bee!
Jack joined a four-wheel tour across the centre of Australia to the Kimberley, sleeping under the stars. It was one of two trips he wanted to undertake. The other was a trip back to Longreach. Jack recalled over the years how the house I Longreach had had galvanised walls. Jack and I undertook the nostalgic trip just prior to his first stroke.
Jack loved cappuccino. He was delighted when a coffee shop was opened at the end of our street. Following his strokes, and prior to his taking up residence in the nursing home at New Farm, Jack could be seen hobbling down on his walking frame and enjoying his cuppa. Some days he did this 3 times. It was one of the few things he could do before losing his independence.
It is over 12 years since we heard Jack’s familiar whistle. His strokes robbed Jack/Jock of his ability to walk and speak. I would take Jack for a walk and push Jack in his wheelchair around the streets of New Farm. I was able to describe and Jack enjoyed hearing about the changes. His memory from his days living in new Farm were quit vivid. We were with him when he took his last breath.
One of Jack’s old classmates and close friend, Tom Treston, told me that he does not have to pray for Jack, as Jack went straight to Heaven. There is no doubt that this is the belief of all of you here present today. I am sure Jack is in Heaven and putting in a good word for all of us.
To his immediate family, he has been an influence with his great personal faith that has shone through to us as a living example of God’s love for us all.
I know you will all agree that anyone who met Jack during his 84 years always benefitted from knowing him.
Jack donated the perpetual lamp in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel in St. Stephen’s Cathedral as a memorial to Mum and Dad. I believe this lamp is now a tribute to the memory of Jack Murdoch. If ever you visit the Cathedral, think of Jack.
Sam Murdoch, Jack’s great-nephew instinctively wrote on hearing of Jack’s passing, “I will miss you very, very, very much”. So will we all.