Eulogy for Jack Tehan

Eulogy for Jack Tehan

Welcome and thankyou for joining us today to celebrate Dad’s most extraordinary life.

Born John Francis Tehan, known to all as Jack, on the 1st February 1933 in Ingham, North Queensland.

Dad is the younger of two boys. Patrick is the surviving elder brother, two years older than Dad.

Dad’s parents were Maida Isobel Ensor and Peter Tehan. Peter was an Irishman from a town called, Kilbeggan, located halfway between Dublin and Galway Bay. Peter came to Australia a few years earlier to flee the IRA and Irish troubles of the time.

Peter decided that as a trained shopkeeper, in Australia, he would take up farming…as you do!

When dad’s older brother Patrick was born, the family was living on a farm at Moggill, outside of Brisbane.

Depression forced them from the farm. Peter relocated the family to Ingham, to be closer to a fellow Irishman, Tom Duffy. The family rented another farm at Abergowrie, but was forced from that farm…. by flood.

The family then rented a house in Miles St, Ingham. Peter found a job as a Wardsman at Ingham Hospital where…. not long after…. Dad was born.

The family remained in Ingham until 1939. Jack and Pat attended the local Convent School and Catholic Church where Jack was baptised and received his 1st Holy Communion.

One of Peter’s responsibilities as a Wardsman, was to look after the flock of geese which the hospital used as security and watchmen of the grounds. Geese can be quite protective of their habitat, however Peter was able to teach dad how to gain their trust and help look after them.

I would guess that was the beginning of Jack’s interest and uncanny knack in handling birds and animals.

Jack was always very kind to animals and birds. Always finding time to give them a pat, (sometimes a bit of a rough old pat which somehow our pets Dumpy the dog, Algenon the cat, Roma the goat and Cecil The Cockatoo) responded positively and appreciatively.

Worried by the proposed Brisbane Line owing to the outbreak of War, Peter and Maida sold all of their possessions and relocated back in Brisbane.

Dad was six years old at the time.

On arrival in Brisbane, the family rented at Spring Hill then in Cooparoo. Maida and Peter leased a corner store at Annerley, returning to Peter’s trade as a shopkeeper.

Dad would reflect on those times and explain how much he enjoyed helping out – weighing up the sugar and flour, then packaging those products into brown paper bags for sale whilst attending Coorparoo State School.

Dad’s next adventure was to begin.

Owing to the war, many kids were sent to live in the country for safety. Dad was one of those. He was sent to Gatton convent, where he became a boarder from Grade Two. They did not come home often. The nuns were pretty tough on the young kids.

Dad did mention a couple of times that living as a young boarder in the town of Gatton was not as enjoyable as Ingham.

When he was allowed to come home for short visits, the family had moved from Coorparoo and leased a corner store in Banyo.

It was from Banyo that Peter… in 1941….. enlisted with the Army to do his part for the war effort.

This too had a lasting and profound effect on Peter and his relationship with Dad, Pat and Maida.

Peter was drafted into the medical corps where he served in a field hospital unit, helping the injured in New Guinea. We understand that Peter walked, carried stretches and aided the wounded on the Kokoda track. We also understand that he walked from Milne Bay to Port Moresby three times under appalling conditions whilst carrying out his duties as a field medic.

On Peter’s return, the family applied and were granted a defence home in Lunga Street Camp Hill.

I know where Dad’s dedication, persistence and toughness were coined.

The family later lost Peter to a motor bike accident at the location of the now Indooroopilly roundabout.

Jack’s luck changed. An opportunity and deserved break in his young life’s journey.

Dad won a scholarship to Marist Ashgrove. Jack boarded here at Marist in the white tower block across the road, for two years……. 1948 and 1949.

During these two years, Dad found happiness, support, friendship and lessons in life skills. Synergies that would bring new meaning to Jack’s way of life, how it is to be lived and enjoyed.

Dad’s principal, Brother Cyprian and his new fellow Ashgrovians, provide a form of family bond he had missed in some of his early years as a boy.

I remember, prior to our enrolment at Marist, Jack would take us back to Ashgrove to have a chat with his mentor, Brother Cyprian whose room was in familiar territory, the ground floor of the Tower Block.

Jack often spoke of the times he would work alongside Brother Cyprian and his school  mates, sewing the grass seeds on the then newly constructed flats, manually excavating dirt from the second oval and working on erecting/patching/fixing/painting parts of the fence surrounding the main oval.

Dad was a good student. His marks proved the choice in him as a scholarship recipient, would be rewarded in spades.

As Marist Ashgrove is often referred, Jack found…. boy heaven.

He was able to leave previous life issues at the gate and enjoy the benefits of a real swimming pool, hanging with interesting mates, indulging in all the sports on offer. Dad mentioned fairly regularly that on top of all of these wonderful activities, the food was good and filling.  The comfortable beds were a bonus.

Some of mine and Luke’s mates joining us today, who spent their years here in the boarding school, I feel would challenge Dad on this!

Jack was a good sportsman. He participated in Rugby League, Swimming, Boxing and athletics. Dad’s team photos are hanging in the foyer entry to, what most of us here refer, the Secondary block.

The 1948 Blue and Gold calls up Dad’s wining try to bring home the Premiership for the Seven Stone Seven Footy team. The team was down 5-3 in the final five minutes against St Laurence’s.

Bernie Creevy, the team captain writes, “The ball flashed along to our outside centre, John Tehan, who, sensing the opposition dwelling on Bernie Meade, shot through and had just enough pace to get to the business side of the line. John always runs straight”

An apt and foretelling description of Dad’s approach to being a committed husband, terrific father, grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, friend, neighbour and businessman.

This time provided Jack a new direction and determination to go forward and do something that mattered with his life.

The soil, smells, lessons learnt from Cyprian and boarding house, friendships of his Marist experience remained strong and proud in his veins during his post schooling life. He morphed into an Ashgrovian and was bloody proud of it.

The family’s financial position only allowed Dad to complete to Year 10 (Junior). Like many in those post war years, not many had the opportunity to continue on to Senior.

On leaving school, Dad joined the Housing Commission in Adelaide Street.

He and Pat were still living with Maida in Portland Place in the City. A great surprise to Dad was finding his good mate, Vince Cassells from Marist, was living next door. They remained good friends through their lives. During that time, he and Vince would spend their spare time fishing in the Brisbane River and riding a scooter to the Ashgrove Terminus and back for exercise.

Dad was called up for National Service in 1951 and entered the Royal Australian Navy in July of that same year. Whilst he was waiting for the call up to the Navy, he took a job labouring on a building site to build the Rockhampton Powerhouse. His wages labouring were 17 pounds 10 shillings ($34.20) a week. His wages as a Public Servant were 1 pound two shillings and six pence. ($2.50)

He never did make it back to the public service. Go figure!

After six months National Service, Dad signed up for a six year term with the Royal Australian Navy.

His second lucky break.

Like Marist, he experienced synergies in lifestyle, discipline, opportunity, sport, mateship, scholastic aptitude and discovery.

An easy transition ensured owing to his happy days as a boarder at Marist Ashgrove

Dad’s navy years were spent serving on destroyers, frigates and an aircraft carrier. These vessels provided Jack with great happiness, immersing himself into a life with many wonderfully exciting adventures around the Australian mainland, the Pacific, Korea and Japan.

Young, adventurous, boisterous sailors on shore leave in exotic locations with plenty of cash burning a hole in their pockets……..what could possibly go wrong! Those stories best left over a health few beers.

He served as a radar technician. His skill to math, interest in electronics and problem solving aptitudes, served him well in this role.

Dad also became the ship’s barber to earn a few extra quid.

Let’s clarify this new trade Dad has taken on-board……., Dad was self-taught in the art of hairdressing/barbaring.

As Dad explained to me as a kid, he watched these guys on shore. Surely it can’t be that hard and he needed far less tools than what was needed to fix or install radar on a War Ship.

He reasoned that a mistake in cutting hair had a far less a disastrous outcome compared to the ship’s radar going on the blink if under attack!

Jack represented the Navy in Rugby, water polo and swimming. When serving in Darwin, Dad won the 400 m swimming race in the Northern Territory swimming championships. His swimming strengths were in the middle distance events.

Still with the Navy, television was in its experimental stage.

Dad was given the task of helping install Australia’s first working model in the bridge of one of Australia’s warships.

To get around, Jack purchased a BSA motorcycle. He and his navy mates would ride out into the Victorian and NSW country to camp out on their leave. Dad even had a go at racing his BSA motorbike for a short while.

During this time, Dad had joined Northcliffe surf club. He won honours in the surf race, belt swims and the R&R. His circle of friends again grew.  That dormitory lifestyle mixed in with sport, surrounded by mates, sharing a laugh and a beer……. resonated strongly with Jack.

One of his fellow surf club mates, Paul Modini and Paul’s wife Iris, have remained close friends since.

In 1954, whilst still serving his country with the R.A.N, Dad came home on leave. Travelling on the same train Jack met a young WRAN.( an acronym for a woman  in the  Woman’s Royal Australian Navy).

Her name, Shirley, Mum’s twin sister. Shirley Bligh introduced Jack to a young Gloria Bligh.

They met in the kitchen of the Bligh’s Hawthorne home.

For the next four years, there were many letters and dad returned on leave every six months.

Dad proposed to Gloria in one of those later letters.

They were married in Townsville in St Mary’s Catholic Church on the 4th of October 1958.

In those times, Dad was to wait until mum turned 21. Socially accepted norms of the time frowned severely on a young Anglican girl marrying an older Catholic…. sailor and surf lifesaver.

Owing to Dads’ skills and knowledge in radar and electronics, on leaving the Navy, he was able to quickly secure work as a television technician in Sydney.

Dad and mum moved to 38 Carrington Parade Curl Curl.

The downstairs flat was located opposite the beach and six blissful months were spent there. Jack also began his strong support of the Manly Warringah Rugby League Club, until the mighty Broncos came to town.

Jack and Gloria moved back to Brisbane, firstly renting a flat in East Brisbane and saving for a piece of land and house to follow.

To reach the goal, the car of the time was sold to enable the purchase of a block of dirt at 15 Cranbrook St Mitchelton.

So the next phase of Jack’s life commences.

With further savings, they built a modest Housing Commission place they called home for the next 25 years.

Our home was the last house in a dead end street.

We had a playground encompassing hectares of the bush covered Taylor Range as our front and side yard.

It was in this home they raised their four children: Luke, Deirdrie, Ben and I.

Dad’s cheerful character….easy going approach…. allowed him to add a circle of neighbourhood friends. I would not hesitate in saying that Dad is the neighbour we would all like to have. Friendly, but not too intrusive, always good for a chat across the fence, a friendly beer over the many neighbourhood barbies or fancy dress parties in the back yard, eating the many billies of cooked freshwater crayfish we caught in the nearby bush waterholes.

Jack was a strong believer in community involvement and spending money locally.

He upheld and practiced his strong catholic faith. He actively participated in the Holy Name, Church Council, working bees and other related church activities at our local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Dolours.

The parish priest of the time, Fr George Nugent, was another equally strong character with a vision of where the church stood in our daily parishioner lives and had a good understanding of finances.

Much like Dad.

Dad and George had many vigorous and respectful conversations. Dad was never one not to bring up the hard questions and seek a result. Not all outcomes were to Dad’s pleasure; however, Jack always respectfully accepted Father Nugent’s decision. Once the discussion was had, Dad never went any further, grumbling or speaking badly about anyone.

A measure of the bloke he was.

Jack was active within our local school convent attached to the Church. He helped with school working bees, fetes and social functions. The other upside to such involvement, everyone had a TV set. His sharp business mind was ticking and he could see opportunity beckoning.

With his long service leave pay, Dad commenced a risky venture in starting Tehan’s TV Service…….for sick sets…….555757. Dad selected that telephone number as he often said they were easy prime numbers to read and remember. Only Dad would have clarified the numbers to be Prime.

There were many happy years spent at Mitchy. The house was regularly in extension mode with Dad applying his skills to construction. He could build cupboards, install plumbing pipes, run electrical to the countless power points in our home, paint rooms, plaster walls, fix the car, change tyres, build bird cages, lay countless metres of hand mixed concrete, make kites that did fly, kick a footy and even do back flips. To that, he built a workshop that kept us entertained for hours, if not years.

That workshop was also our barbershop. Jack had two styles of cut. This was dependant on how many TV sets were lined up on his three work benches.

There was the

  • IHTTT&C ( I have time to talk and cut)

And there was the

  • GI&GOS (The get in and get out shear)

He had a full length mirror that was placed in front of us. We thought that was to watch and see how he was going with the cut. It turns out Jack would adjust the mirror to reflect any interesting programme such as sport or the news for him to watch whilst the shearing was taking place!

Jack was grounding us with skills that would provide independence, self-belief and a sense of belonging.

He taught us to fish and bait our hooks, tie knots, drive cars, change tyres, change the oil, fill the radiator regularly, read a referdex, bodysurf, swim in the sea, kick a footy, fix our push bikes, be respectful to mum, set up tents, light camp fires with one match, cook jaffles, shoot straight and safely, ride motorbikes, mix concrete, dig holes properly and how to look after and love our pets.

Dad ensured that Luke and I joined the church altar boy team. With that came the responsibility of getting up early for when it was our turn to do weekly morning mass at both Our Lady of Dolours and the following week up at the Good Shepard Convent in Gaythorne.  He thoughtfully bought us the second loudest and most detested alarm clock in living history. What a legend!!!

He made sure it was clear that it was our responsibility to get up, get dressed and get ourselves down to the church. That is, he did not wished to be wakened and asked for him to do something we could do ourselves. I know he did wake and was happy we were learning a skill that would prove useful later in life.

He was finding new meaning in what he was placed on this earth to do.

He did not want clones of him.

He did wish that we learn to stand on our own two feet….knowing he was always reliably in the background…. carefully watching his brood of young heathens grow.

Owing to his tough and fairly independent upbringing, he wasn’t forthcoming with hugs or displays of closeness.

Somehow, it did not bother us….. Even now.

Dad was able to provide that in ways that we just knew he cared and loved us.

Except when he began with “There is no necessity for That”

We knew then….we were in trouble.

We were never left in doubt that he was forever watching over us.

So….who was this bloke…a young father and emerging local businessman?

A good mate of mine, Shaun Sykes…Syksey…..shared a lovely story with me about Dad.

Jack was down at the Sykes’ place in Mitchy repairing their TV set. Syksey was about nine at the time. That would be somewhere about 1967-68.

Shaun was standing by watching Dad as he worked. Picture it…..here is this young kid most probably asking questions…Mr Tehan…why is the TV called HMV….Mr Tehan….why is that top dial so big….Mr Tehan….how does a TV work….Mr Tehan…do have a dog?

You all know how it goes.

Most tradesmen when visiting your home probably give the kids the short shift and ignore them.

Dad, on the other hand, always responded, gave answers and addressed them at their level and as a human being.

Jack was a quick thinker. To get the job done, he needed to concentrate in working math to calculate resistance, load, current etc. to get the TV working again.

Dad turned to young Sykes and imparted a small jewel of knowledge that Shaun has carried with him all of this time.

Jack told Shaun that in a few years, televisions would be only as thick as a framed painting and be hung on the wall.

At that time, Shaun thought that Dad was watching too many episodes of the Jetsons!

Yes, Jack had a very good idea on where technology was taking us. However, there is more to this in drilling down …..understanding this bloke…. Jack Tehan.

Dad was a man who gave time to everyone.

A common bloke whom did wonderfully uncommon things that left a little jewel in each of us. I am sure all of you today are carrying some small piece of treasured information or fact that Dad has shared with you at some time.

During those twenty five years at Mitchelton, Dad and Mum sent Luke, Ben and I to Marist Ashgrove and Deirdrie to Mt Saint Michaels and then Mt Maria.

Dad was again back at his Alma Mata, helping out with the many Father’s working bees and other functions.

Dad struck up a friendship with the College’s Principal, Br Alexis.

Brother Alexis was implementing new technologies to the school. He and Dad spoke regularly about the where and how this should happen. Alexis even spent work experience joining Dad on a number of days to learn the structures and workings of the emerging age of technology and its application in the Educational setting.

Dad counted Alexis as one of his close and dearest friends. Dad respected Alexis as a man of vision, intelligence and commitment to the Marist calling.

In Dad’s words, “Bex is a good bloke.”

Dad’s love of the sea found him joining the Underwater Research Group of Queensland. There, he furthered his diving skills from those learnt in the navy and sustained his love of the great outdoors.

No true diver or sportsperson is complete without the best of equipment. Jack was a true believer in spending those few extra bucks to ensure the gear he used was reliable and lasting. With that, came his pride and joy……the Arunta Star.

It was Dad’s dream to have a boat that was functional and safe in all conditions.

This was not just any boat. Jack did the appropriately thorough due diligence in design, speaking with boat builders and the like. He researched and found skilled boat builder. Together, they created The Arunta Star. What a boat!

It was a twenty One Foot, aluminium, single broad hulled, centre CONSOL Dive Boat. The engine ensured Dad was able to skipper her through any sea.

Dad and his boat are pictured in todays prayer booklet.

I can assure you, it was one of the most reliable boats out on the sea and in the bay for its class.

Another good mate, Brendan Moon during the week also shared a story with me about Dad and his Arunta Star.

Brendan spent some time diving with Dad, motoring around the Bay to various dive sites.

He reminded me of a day we were out with Skipper Jack on the seaward side of Moreton. The USRQ was diving that day on Henderson’s Rock, a couple of kilometres off Moreton Island’s surf beach.

With midday approaching, the swell jumped quickly in height and frequency.

I mean…….. it was starting to get sizeably dangerous.

Dad decided to pull up anchor and make a break to steam back to Scarborough. We had to cross the bar on the North of Moreton. We kept our wetsuits on as we were in for a rough, wet ride home.

This was the first time we truly appreciated that this bloke, Jack Tehan, could skipper a boat. At one point, Brendan and I were sitting on the bench aft. We turned around to see a wave, a roller, a huge wall of water moving very quickly and about to break onto us. All Brendan and I were able to get out was “Dad, Jack!”

No panic, with the skill of a seasoned bay skipper, Dad coaxed the Arunta Star onto the back of another big roller in front and safely navigated us across the bar and back into deeper water.

There were a few extra bricks at my and Brendan’s feet!

We arrived home safely….stirred and shaken, but safely.

Dad simply grinned and commented “now that was fun!” It was nice to hear Brendan comment on Dad’s skill as a bloody good skipper who knew his way safely around the bay in all conditions.

We saw some amazing sights from that boat:

  • Trams being dropped from Chinooks
  • barges being sunk to create the Curtain Artificial Reef.

Dad was one of the driving forces with Frank Curtain in creating the Curtain Artificial Reef.

Dad took his boat on many dive trips to Islands on the Great barrier Reef with the URGQ.

When out  diving, he was able to use his skills to bring home a feed of fresh Mackerel and crayfish. Many a Sunday night was spent with Dad cooking up a storm on the barbie of fresh fish and crayfish for Sunday night dinner. The cat nearly turned itself inside out waiting for the scraps.

We had many loud, happy parties and family get-togethers at Cranbrook Street.

Dad and Mum left Cranbrook Street and moved to Red Hill, onto Alderley, then laying anchor in Ashgrove, taking his business with him. Technology was moving forward very quickly.

Dad was concerned that he would soon not be able to keep up with the progression television set manufacture was taking.

Dad’s first heart attack was in 1991, forcing him to undertake bypass surgery. It took many months to rehabilitate and recommence his business, Tehan’s TV.

Dad did enjoy his work… communicating with his many loyal and long standing customers. Jack was one never to complain of his choice of career.

A little later, Dad again was incapacitated with a severe infection, leaving him hospitalised for a number of months and forcing him into an earlier than expected retirement.

For Dad, it was the forced retirement from diving that really hurt him.

The bright side of this was the opportunity to spend many wonderful times with hiss grandchildren and more recently, his great grandchild.

These precious times bought Dad his greatest joy whilst recovering from this latest health set back.

Ongoing health issues forced Dad into dialysis at Greenslopes hospital every second day. His time and vitality was challenged. Such issues were taking a toll on what was once a strong and fit body.

Through this, Jack remained sharp as a tack in mindful awareness.

Last week, Dad suffered a series of heart attacks, which took him from us.

I am unable to articulate enough superlatives to thank and praise the staff and doctors at Greenslopes Hospital for their compassion, gentle yet exceptionally professional care of Dad over his time there.

A brief insight into a good man whom lived an extra ordinary life.

He has left his mark…….. a bloody good one!

Dad

  • aimed high
  • set his sights on noble goals
  • had a brave heart
  • was never content with mediocrity
  • lived with a clear vision
  • prized things that are worthwhile
  • had the courage to choose what is right
  • he was not petty
  • shunned all selfishness
  • hada heart that was strong and brave, pure and happy, docile yet courageous
  • who has always had as his motto – Viriliter Age – Act Courageously

Jack Tehan is a man whom will leave a legacy of learning through his deeds as a common man whom achieved wonderfully uncommon results.

Thankyou