The Water Front

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Keith (Gus) Murray’s life was celebrated at a memorial service at the Garden Island Chapel, HMAS Kuttabul, in Sydney on Friday, 3 May 2013.

Here are the Eulogies and photographs, kindly provided by his son Angus and close friend, Bill Wilcox.

Hi everyone,

On behalf of Mum, Penny, Anthea & I… Thank you all for being here today. For all the condolences, messages of sympathy, calls, cards and flowers, again: thank you, we are very touched. We’re overwhelmed by the turnout, it means a great deal to us and I know that Dad would have been really touched that so many people turned out to remember him.

We are especially pleased to see his old term mates from Cook year 1950 and of course some of his crew from HMAS Teal. He talked about you guys all the time. We don’t know all of you (yet), but for every face we don’t know, there is a name that we do. It’s a pleasure and an honour to meet you all.

I’d like to start if I may by thanking a few people on behalf of the family.

Mike Rayment, Des Owens, Nathan Peters & David Whetton for acting as ushers for us today.

My dear friend and old bandmate Espie Watt for playing his bagpipes. Seeing us on parade was an enormous source of pride for Dad, to know that you were here today playing your pipes for him would have brought a tear to his eye. I know it did to Mum’s.

Michelle Lettoof and her staff at Tobruk, for making Dad’s twilight months comfortable and peaceful. It was a great relief to know that Dad was in the care of such dedicated people. Having tried as best we could to manage Dad’s condition we know first hand how incredibly difficult it could be. To you, we are eternally grateful.

Naval Chaplain: Tett for his support, understanding and time, thank you.

Finally, Uncle Bill & Megan Mary – also known as Bill & Megan Wilcox without whom today would have been largely impossible. For your friendship (predating us kids) and in particular for the support you have given to both Mum & Dad over the last few years: Our most sincere thanks.


As a family we never knew the Navy man, Dad had already left the Navy and was flying when we came into his life. I speak for the whole family when I say that we think we got the best of the deal. We remember a supportive, devoted husband, besotted to the end. A man who, even after he’d forgotten who Penny, Anthea & I were, still had a smile for Mum.

We remember a dedicated, patient, affectionate and loving father, who happily ate scores of bread sandwiches because his little girl had made them for him. A step father who was gifted a child upon marriage and cared for, provided for, and loved as his own from day one.

We remember a man of priorities, who dutifully taught me as a teenager how to change the oil, spark plugs & tyres on a car, but not before I could shuck an oyster.

Dad was a man of sacrifice, who threw everything he had at birthdays & Christmas' for us kids, despite his own childhood being largely devoid of both. He was a man whose ambition was to give his kids every opportunity that he didn’t have, whatever the cost. In return he wanted, and asked for nothing.

We remember an ambitious and talented DIY builder and renovator who along with Mum (and the odd professional here and there) turned a tiny 1 bedroom fibro shack into an impressive family home. He loved to joke in those early days that anyone who had to use “that outhouse” would be invited back when the day came to help knock it down, just bring a plate, hammers provided.

We remember a master of spaghetti Bolognese, corned beef silverside, bangers & mash, and south Indian lamb curry. The undisputed King of Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble and the Malacca Strait.

Most of all we remember a great human being. Who like all great human beings wasn't perfect – but didn’t pretend to be. We loved him, and remain forever grateful for the life he provided for us.

We will never forget him.

©A Murray 2013. All rights reserved

EULOGY FOR GUS

It is my special privilege to stand here in honour of a life well lived by a good friend.


As were so many of others here today Keith Murray was born in 1936. He was the son of Hugh and Louisa Murray and he grew up in Mayfield, Newcastle. He was educated at Mayfield East Public School and Newcastle Boys High School.


At the age of 11, he and his mother experienced the calamity of his father, his brother and an uncle drowning whilst on a fishing trip in Broken Bay. It says much for his fortitude and self- confidence that, within eighteen months of this tragedy, he submitted himself to the examination and other processes for entry into the Royal Australian Naval College.  He entered that unique institution a little later than others of the 1950 intake – I think of him as a reinforcement - and it is an indelible memory for those who had already been introduced to and inducted into the very structured formalities, with sanctions attaching to them, of a new boy, leaning against a chest of drawers, an apple or perhaps orange in his hand, stating to a Cadet Captain (to the rest a very superior being) “she’ll be jake, Bairdy”.


All wondered at what horrors awaited him before he was brought into line. Whatever they were, he quickly joined into the brotherhood of the 1950 Cook Year entry, and embraced the practices and the tricks of survival. He became a good cadet, without losing at least a little of his cheek. He was good at his studies - particularly French as I recall – and was an enthusiastic sportsman. He was sufficiently popular with his fellow Cook Years to be rechristened “Gus”, a nickname which, along with the nicknames of a couple of others of his year, became his given name for life.


So I can now speak of Gus Murray.


He “passed out” of RANC in 1953 with the ambitions I recall, to fly in the Fleet Air Arm and to play the drums as well as Gene Krupa. Fortunately for us who lived with him, he did not pursue that latter ambition.


As he proceeded with the whole of the professional training experience – training ships,  Midshipman’s time in HMAS Sydney, Greenwich, Sub-Lieutenants specialist courses – we saw the blossoming of Gus into the man he became. Especially travelling to and from England, first class, in the big white ships of the P&O and Orient lines, Gus discovered and revelled in good living. For him life became an experience of enjoying himself in the company of good companions, but without losing his individuality and sense of adventure.


His naval career then took off. First to the training ship HMAS Swan where he obtained his Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate,  HMAS Anzac, Initial Air Crew Course at Point Cook, HMAS Melbourne as the Fleet Sports Officer, service in the Base Intelligence Office in the East Australia Area, then HMAS Albatross where he was enrolled in the No. 1 Helicopter Course. Having learnt to fly choppers, he was then reappointed to HMAS Anzac.


With his next appointment, he really hit his straps, for he was one of the first of his year to be appointed in command, as captain of the minesweeper HMAS Teal. Having come to grips with the business of towing lots of minesweeping hardware, one of his earlier experiences was to be involved with the search for survivors of HMAS Voyager on the night of that disaster. It is fair to say that he was not very impressed with the conduct of that operation and he would return to discuss it regularly until quite recently.


Then, the six ships of the minesweeping squadron were deployed to Singapore, seconded to the Inshore Flotilla of the Royal Navy’s Far East Fleet, where they acted on patrol duties, facing off the Indonesian Confrontation to the formation of the Malaysian nation. On 13h December, 1964, having already intercepted and arrested one craft of suspected infiltrators, Teal was patrolling in Singapore Straits, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.  Teal intercepted another attempted infiltration by two craft, one opened fire and Teal returned fire and pursued that vessel which was making a run for its home Indonesian waters and captured it. The other was more circumspect and quickly and quietly retreated home in good order.


To quote official references to this action “For his coolness and judgment during this, and a previous interception, Lieutenant Murray was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.”


Teal subsequently intercepted yet another infiltration attempt off Port Dickson in Malacca Strait.


Gus’ DSC, is the only one awarded to an RAN officer in this campaign. It is noteworthy that the recommendation for this award was made by the Admiral commanding the Far East Fleet, himself a recipient of the award.



Crews were normally changed midway through the ships deployment to Singapore, but Gus stayed on to serve the whole of Teals 17 month deployment.


It is fair to state that all other captains and ships in the Inshore Flotilla were judged by the yardstick of Gus Murray and HMAS Teal. Gus was known and popular throughout that large fleet, from it’s Commander,down.


Gus nursed a quite worn Teal back to Australia for refit and repair. His next appointment was to stand by HMAS Queenborough then being converted to a training ship at Williamstown Naval Dockyard.  This was soon changed to put him on the staff of the Naval Officer in Charge, Victoria. So, after being promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1966, and with the prospects of flying or sea time diminishing, within a month of his promotion Gus resigned to pursue the flying option.


That option started with Rotoworks, flying helicopters, generally locally here in Sydney, and then EAS where his helicopter flying took him to remote inland drilling rigs where towns like Innamincka were the local centre of civilisation. He then moved on to fixed-wing flying, his principal interest, with the NSW Air Ambulance. Later in life, when his memory of most things had gone, he still remembered the pride he felt for some of his Air Ambulance actions.


Then he moved to Qantas, flying DC3s and then 707s. Retrenched in 1971 with a slowdown in domestic air travel, he moved to Fiji and flew with Air Fiji. This lasted for only two years when he returned to Qantas and DC4s and 707s, with 747s coming later. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that at various times in his flying career he became very familiar with the Norfolk Island, Japan and Saudi Arabian Haj runs.


One incidental advantage of flying with Qantas was the ability for Gus to take his family to Frankfurt for a deployment of several months.


Gus retired from Qantas and flying on turning 60.


Now I mentioned earlier that Gus enjoyed good living with good companions. Some of those companions were of the other gender and it is fair to say women also found him to be a cheerful companion and an attractive human being. But it was not until 1976 that he struck it lucky and met Jill. He was really lucky in 1977 when Jill said “yes” and they were married with a splendid garden wedding in Roseville. Adding to Gus’ good fortune at this time was his joy that Jill’s daughter Penny became part of his new family.


They first set up home in Balmain where Gus discovered, or perhaps rediscovered, a talent with tools and refurbishment. Nearly two years later, the family grew with the birth of Anthea.


The family then moved to their new home in Robertson. Those of us who knew it will never forget the cottage into which they first moved – an old, tiny, weatherboard cottage and yet full of the joy of living. Angus entered the family the following year.


Gus’s renovation talents (and we assume Jill’s design) soon came to the fore and piece by piece, the property grew to fully accommodate a growing family and the very regular visits of friends. Those of us privileged to be in that category will never forget the legendary hospitality of the Murray family.


Children grow up and leave home and big houses become hard to maintain, so ten years ago, Gus and Jill moved to Budgewoi where, again, redesign and renovation, accompanied all the while with generous hospitality to friends, became part of Gus’s life. It all ended six years ago when Gus’s mild stroke obliged him to move to Sydney to live in the flat which Jill had acquired to support her work in the Courts there. Then, last year, it was necessary for him to move to the dementia unit at the Collaroy War Veterans village.


In passing I must recognise the wonderful care and support he received from the staff there.


There ended a life well lived. Jill, Penny, Anthea and Angus have lost a loving and loved husband, father and friend. Many of us have lost one of our special number and others a cheerful and professional shipmate. The nation has lost one of its better servants. And I have lost a mate to whom I owe much.


All that remains for me to say, as one old Australian man speaking of another, and my highest accolade, Gus Murray you were a good bloke.


In sorrow, Bill Willcox


©B.Willcox 2013. All rights reserved

Obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald can be found here and in the UK Telegraph here

All photographs used with permission and copyright remains with Mr A Murray and the family of Mr K Murray and Mr B Willcox. All rights reserved, must not be used without express permission.

Tribute to Lt-Cmdr Keith (Gus) Murray, DSC