Tribute To Barry Frank Hughes: 1936 - 2013
Barry Hughes was born in September 26, 1936. He was the only son of Winfred and Sam, an Airforce Engineering Officer. Barry attended Newington College in Sydney and Kings College in Adelaide. He was an Airforce apprentice and went on to become a self-employed toolmaker in Adelaide specialising in pure aluminium diecasting for high-tension powerline hardware. He later studied Industrial Design at Randwick Technical College in Sydney. Barry was a competent Engineering Tradesman and Toolmaker with diverse experience in design, drafting, manufacture, fabrication, maintenance and repair procedures. The photo to the left was taken in 1983 for a national magazine featuring earthmoving equipment he designed and manufactured.
In the sixties Barry successfully designed and supervised the fabrication of a clean air pressure control system for the U.S Navy and was awarded an honorary membership of ASHVRAE (U.S.A.). He was later retained as Chief Development Engineering Consultant for Heat Transfer Engineering in Sydney. In his spare time he created a revolutionary positive pressure clean-air system for asthmatics. He also built a reputation as an innovative engineer and in 1969 became a judging panelist on the original ABC Television program, “The Inventors” (photo right). Barry was the only practical engineering person and was known as the “inventors friend”.
In the seventies, Barry was Chief Design Engineer of General Electric, Plastics Division, in Australia and undertook a significant re-design of the 1972 G.M.H Torana radiator grille.
His work resulted in massive savings and a demonstration of how a large and complex injection moulding could be produced from the very first shot, without all the costly tool trials, which were usually associated with these programs. Barry’s development and tool design work on automotive radiator grilles took on legendary proportions and was closely followed and adopted by Detroit. Apart from Engineering, Barry had formal qualifications in Plastics Injection Moulding, Diecasting, and Engine and Airframe Maintenance. Barry also possessed an excellent knowledge of thermo-dynamics, air-conditioning and refrigeration, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, electroplating, paint and coating technology, industrial medicine, high-tensile steel fabrication, heat treatment of steels and non-ferrous metallurgy.
In 1976, following the end of his marriage to Ann, Barry moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast and launched Hughes Hydraulics business on Australia’s Gold Coast as aspecialist hydraulic consulting and service organisation. He later formed Hughes Engineers which manufactured equipment of his design. Barry was recognised as a leading Hydraulic Engineer and was regarded as one of the best hydraulics “trouble-shooters” in Australia. Hydraulic equipment of his design was manufactured under license in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.A. To date, thousands of hydraulic excavation implements of his design have been sold into markets around the world and continue in production today.
Photos above: Barry in 1983 at his 10,000 foot factory in Southport, Queensland testing the Skid Whiz 2000 earthmoving machine he designed and manufactured. Barry also developed and manufactured a revolutionary designs of hydraulic buckets, backhoes / excavators, tree-spades and other accessories for the skid-steer loader and earthmoving markets. He pioneered the use of high strength torsion boxes along with greaseless stainless steel pivot systems.
After selling his manufacturing business in the early nineties he became a technical consultant, providing services to inventors and the hydraulic, engineering and aviation industries. Barry was known as “the inventors friend” (harking back to his role on ABC Television's, The Inventors) and he assisted many clients to develop their ideas. Barry's final major engineering project was his unique engine concept which was originally conceived in 1982...... The Hughes Phase Four Serial Engine. This was a hybrid internal combustion and steam engine which he patented but failed to commercialise due to lack of funding and challenges with injector technology.
Flying was a huge part of Barry's life and he was a pioneer in the Australian ultralight aviation community. For many years Barry was also a flying instructor and trained many students including Kerry Packer. He was also Technical Manager and Magazine Editor for the Australian Ultralight Federation. Click here to see some of Barry's flying history kindly created by Alan Clarke in a blog.
Above left is Barry with his biplane which he rebuilt after several crashes (one by his son and one by himself). Above centre is his two seat Gemini which he used for training students, including Kerry Packer. The photo on the right is an Amphibian Osprey and Barry is seated with Alan Clark. Barry flew many different types of aircraft and operated on land and water.
Barry's funeral was held on January 2, 2014. A video of the service and transcripts of eulogies is below the editorial tribute below which appeared in the February 2014 edition of Sport Pilot Magazine.
Barry Hughes Funeral Service, January 2, 2014
(Play YouTube Video Below to see full service with all 3 eulogies)
Eulogy by Tony Hughes
January 2nd 2014, Nerang, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (Allambe Crematorium - Parkview Chapel)
Welcome and thanks for being here as we remember and celebrate the amazing life of my Dad, Barry Hughes. He plastered everything he owned with Hughes stickers; and we thought we’d do the same for him today on his final conveyance. Before I begin, and on behalf of Tracy and me, I’d like to specially thank Roger for the photos and music today, and also Alan Clarke for contacting so many of you and for being a great friend to Dad in his later years. We’d also like to thank the Ashmore Retreat Nursing Home staff for the kindness and care they showed Dad in the 3 years he was with them.
Barry Frank Hughes was born in Sydney on September 26th, 1936 to Sam and Winifred and he passed away aged 77 on the 22nd of December, 2013. Barry Hughes is survived by daughter Tracy and myself, Tony and his two grandchildren, Ann and Joshua, who are here today along with my wife, his daughter-in-law, Gail and also Tracy’s husband, his son-in-law, Roger. He married twice, first to my late mother Ann when he was 26, and later, when he moved here to the Gold Coast, to Patricia who is also here today.
Dad overcame incredible obstacles from a very young age, and he did so by dogedly pursuing his dreams and being true to himself. He once wrote in a letter to Bill and Vicky Knight: ”Life is for doing not contemplating.” Dad certainly did a lot during his life and will be remembered as a free thinking, non-conformist genius. He was an inventor, gifted designer and mechanical engineer who was generous with his time. His main hobby was his work but other interests were photography, theatre, sailing and golf but these paled into insignificance compared with his love of flying.
He had an unconventional childhood where he lived with various foster parents, estranged relatives, convents and boarding schools. By the age of 12 he had lived in 16 different places. This was because his father, Sam, raised Dad as a single parent and was an Airforce officer during World War II. His mother, Winifred, incredibly beautiful, suffered from postnatal depression and was subjected to electroshock treatment – she descended into severe mental illness and, as was the custom of the day, was institutionalized and never spoken of. Dad only discovered that his real mother existed when he obtained a birth certificate as part of applying for his driver’s license at age 22. He discussed this revelation with Mavis, Sam’s second wife who he believed to be his mother for many years and she told Dad: “Your father will never discuss the subject.” They never did.
From birth through to joining the RAAF as an apprentice in 1952 at Wagga, Dad’s childhood was as far removed from normal as one could imagine. He had no real sense of belonging or being loved. The Whitburn family fostered Dad on two occasions in South Australia and they were clearly an exception – Dad had very positive memories of them.
To compound his childhood problem of being relentlessly moved from situation to situation as Sam was posted at various bases around Australia, Dad suffered from a severe speech impediment, chronic stuttering. In every cloud there is a silver lining and through this affliction he met Ms Beatrice Ternan, a speech therapist, and she had the biggest positive impact on him as a child. Instead of forcing him to do speech exercises, she let him sit and read and then took him home for biscuits and lemonade. She taught him kindness and two principles that stayed with Dad for life: 1) “To be interesting you must be interested” and2) “Give generously and you will be rewarded many fold.”
He was forced to do Latin and French at school and was given special permission, due to his speech impediment, not to have to speak French in class nor for examination. Instead he was tasked with translating an entire chapter of the biography of Nicholas Sadit Carnot, the father of engine thermodynamics – he received a first prize and honors for his translation but most importantly, the exercise began his love affair with engineering.
Dad was habitually curious, something that stayed with him his entire life. He yearned to know how things worked. As a thirteen year old he even conducted a practical experiment when he stole dynamite from a local quarry and later blew up a big tree beside his school one afternoon when everyone had left. It was more of a social experiment than for thermodynamic analysis, and it did break a number of school windows.
All through Dad’s childhood he was bullied and even abused terribly as a transient stuttering loner and outsider. In every conceivable way Dad was forced to grow-up way ahead of his years and this contributed to Dad always having many friends much older than himself. To Dad’s great credit he rejected bigotry, hatred or revenge – he was a person of goodwill. He said to me once that “all you need to get through in life is one person who will believe in you.” Dad found people who did this for him and he did his best to be that person for others, investing his time to help them read, or weld, or learn to use a lathe, or fly and he gave apprenticeships to those who would have struggled otherwise (Pat’s daughter, Joanne was an example as he taught her to weld).
Many of Dad’s positive childhood memories involved aviation. He remembered at age 6 when 5 Japanese Zeros flew over Geralton, WA; He was in school at the time and saw them up above. Their incursion resulted in him being moved to a Perth Convent for safety. He remembered a few years later regularly catching a steam engine to Richmond Airforce Base at age 8 when he was a boarder at Newington College in Sydney to stay the weekend on base to visit his father. On one of those trips he got to sit in the command seat of The Southern Cross as it was there during the filming of Charles Chevel’s “Smithie’. On another visit he climbed all through the Lancaster Bomber, G for George. His father was responsible for the instrument refit after it had been strafed in New Guinea. Sam was on board during the initial shake-down flight in co-pilot’s seat when it was flown under the Sydney Harbor Bridge but avoided court marshal.
It took about 5 years but Dad eventually overcame the stuttering, the final phase being at age 15 when the Master of Apprentices at Tube Mills in Adelaide took him under his wing and into his home inviting him to teach Sunday School at his church as a path to overcoming his stuttering. Yes, Barry Hughes taught Sunday School!
Before his 16th birthday, Dad transferred his apprenticeship to the RAAF and moved to Wagga, NSW to follow in his father’s footsteps as an instrument fitter. He abhorred authority but ironically loved parade and drill practice. He even managed to get himself into Princess Elizabeth’s military honor guard when she visited Sydney before becoming Queen. It was in Wagga that Dad’s gift as a master tradesman engineer began to show itself. In his first year, competing against all apprentices, he won the award for best Apprentice Leisure Time Exhibit with a free-flying engine powered Sopworth Pup that he ran beside to tap the wings to control direction. [The photo above left is the actual model aircraft and the award remains to this day in the mess hall on the base].
After the Airforce apprenticeship Dad moved back to Adelaide and assumed a fully independent life away form his father. He started riding motorcycles and pursued work opportunities that exposed him, so to speak, to young women. He sold Vespa motor scooters and also joined an amateur theatre company (what better way to hammer home his advantage over his stuttering and meet young ladies). He appeared in a 4 minute advertisement for movie theatres (before the days of TV) for Jim Hardy’s Tintara Champagne. He went on to have a minor role in Peter Finch’s, Robbery Under Arms movie and also performed in ABC Radio plays.
His motorcycle riding resulted in him badly breaking his knee while racing on a dirt circuit and this was the first of many mishaps. He broke his back in a windmill fall while singlehandedly erecting them in one of his jobs. But one of the farms in the Adelaide Hills he visited was the Brinkworth’s and they had 3 beautiful daughters. Barry Hughes was a handsome and dashing figure; hard to believe for those who knew him in his later years, and he managed to get their youngest daughter Ann pregnant and married her. I was born and 18 months later Tracy also. Dad established his own business as a toolmaker specializing in die-casting exotic aluminium for the power industry. Here Dad had another serious industrial accident when molten aluminium exploded showering all over him. He staggered out of his workshop on fire and threw himself into the swimming pool. He was in bed for months and Mum had to keep his business afloat. Before leaving Adelaide in the late 1960s Dad bought an auto-rotation gyro-copter – it had no engine and operated by being towed my motor vehicle along the beach. It self-destructed before becoming airborne with him at the controls on an early training run – it was almost his first foray into manned flight.
Dad and Mum moved to Melbourne briefly and then to Sydney where Dad’s career as an innovator in mechanical engineer really took off and in 1969 he was a judging panelist on the original pilot of“The Inventors” on ABC Television. In the seventies, Barry was Chief Design Engineer of General Electric, Plastics Division, in Australia and his groundbreaking work was followed and adopted in Detroit.
He always had a workshop everywhere he lived and he would build the most amazing contraptions as if by magic. When he wasn’t at work he was in his workshop… manically building things and scheming his next big idea. Dad didn’t do family well, he had no real experience of it himself as a child; and all this led to his marriage to Ann ending in the early seventies.
In 1974, Dad started travelling from Sydney, here to the Gold Coast in his Triumph Spitfire. He later established himself in business with Hughes Hydraulics at Main Breach. This is where he built and installed a hydraulic dumb waiter at Grumpy’s Seafood Restaurant, a very upmarket establishment, and his relationship with them enabled him to have dinner there despite looking like a hobo.
When Dad moved to the Gold Coast he joined the Spotlight Theatrical Company and played roles in Fiddler on The Roof and other productions. It was through amateur theatre that he Met Patricia and they married in 1977. Tracy and I began to visit him from Sydney and have wonderful memories of tagging along to meet people in his network and watch him work on jobs. He was well liked by people who must have described him as the grubby barefoot engineering bloke who smelt of hydraulic oil. He had an 8 foot catamaran… that’s small, and he decided to fit it with hydraulic steering to make it easier to steer in the surf (not!, you had to steer with your feet or pitch-pole forward if you used your hands). Dad drew attention everywhere he went.
Dad built a very successful business in Hydraulics and construction equipment manufacture, and he invited me to join him in 1980. He had a 10,000 square foot factory and about 20 employees. His designs were renowned and we sold the business enabling him to live off royalties for 12 years which funded his passion for flying and also took him to the USA. Dad’s last major engineering project was his hybrid diesel / steam internal combustion engine and he spent time in Kalgoolie, WA on that project. He designed and built hundreds of amazing tools and contraptions in his life including a hand-made pasta machine, bread buttering machine, paver making machine, spray booths, cooling towers, clean air filtration systems for asthmatics, slew motors, 4-in-1 buckets, hydraulic valves and cylinders, hoe excavator, post-hole diggers, cutting-edge machine, greaseless pivot systems, and an entire skid-steer loader. And there was much more.
Dad first saw an ultralight when Lance Billman and Bill Knight were flying Scouts on floats on the Broadwater at Southport in the 1980s. Dad subsequently secured the Australian distributorship for Rotec by buying 5 aircraft and we built them in the factory from kits. But no-one knew how to fly them and Dad decided to teach himself at Gold Coast raceway. He crashed and lost his confidence. Then Roy, a helicopter pilot stalled off and crashed. Dad decided to move to floats so that he had an unlimited runway and no trees. He nearly drowned when he flipped while taxiing at planning speed. This led to one of Dad’s many TV appearances.
I then volunteered for Dad to teach me and he was a brilliant instructor. 20 hours of flying later and I was on Today Tonight on channel 7 and we were selling planes. My success gave him renewed courage to take to the air himself. Dad was aloft; now a successful student of himself! He moved from his Rally to my biplane which I crashed and he rebuilt. It attracted attention everywhere he went as did his Osprey amphibian. He survived quite a few ‘incidents’ where he broke bones and nearly drowned on several occasions. Flying was what he loved above everything else. It gave him mateship, adventure, a creative outlet to build, repair and modify things, freedom from random breathe testing while operating a vehicle and an object on which to focus his loathing – The Department of Aviation, the DOA (Dead on Arrival mob as he called them). During one of Dad’s manic episodes he was obsessed with flying The Spruce Goose from California to Canberra (for what purpose I could never establish) and convert the DOA head office into a Volkswagen factory. Tracy bravely came to rescue him as things escalated.
Dad had many wonderful friends including quite a few who are no longer with us. He loved his Friday night lodge meetings at Currumbin Valley with Ray, Pete and the others. He loved his flying adventures with Bill, Tanys and many others in the ultralight movement.
I’ve shared with you that Dad was an actor on radio, stage and at the movies; and that he was a television panelist on The ABC. He was also a flying instructor and taught dozens of people to fly successfully and safely, including Kerry Packer. Dad was also the last person to operate an aircraft on Australia’s only aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, in 1985 – he landed on it and took off while it was being towed to China for ‘scrap metal’ off the Gold Coast.
Barry Hughes was a real genius who overcame great odds in everything he did, and he lived an adventurous and full life. Dad was also a man of paradox: Thoughtful yet reckless, surviving many accidents and financial misadventures. Kind yet judgmental, but always tolerant of other’s ‘defects’. Manic and also depressed, yet he overcame and managed the illness. Much of his life was sad yet he possessed the most fantastic sense of humor and he made the best of every situation.
Dad gave me and Tracy everything he could and he leaves the world a better place. His grandchildren, Josh and Annie, are evidence of this as they’ve inherited the best of his intellect, talent and sense of humor – and so has his daughter, my sister Tracy, who shares Dad’s incredible talents to create – she has her own thoughts to share with us now.
Final committal to close funeral service
As we come to commit Dad’s body to ashes, I would like to conclude our reflection with a prayer and then a quote from Desiderata. I understand that not everyone here today shares the same faith I have, but nevertheless I would like to thank God for the many wonderful qualities my Father possessed and acknowledge that in some way these things transcend what we know through our senses.
Dear God, I thank you for Dad and all that he brought into the lives of us who knew him – his ability to dream, his creative genius coupled with persistence to achieve, his willingness to forgive, his wonderfully weird sense of humor, his generosity and gift to others of believing in them. Thank you Lord for the privilege of knowing him and for the love and friendship we enjoyed. Into your care we commit him. Amen.
And finally from Desiderata which Dad embraced.
Be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Rest in peace Dad.
Eulogy by Tracy Hughes
January 2nd 2014, Nerang, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (Allambe Crematorium - Parkview Chapel)
My Dad was and always will be a huge presence in my life. He shaped me into who I am today and for that I am tremendously proud and grateful. He was the most authentic person I have ever known; without pretenses, airs and graces. He was most definitely his own man. I have always described my Dad to other people as a kind of eccentric, mad genius.
Although Mum loved Dad very much, she also knew that he could be a bit crazy sometimes and was difficult to live with. Mum eventually remarried and died about 10 years later at only 44 years of age. Her tragic death was something we all struggled to come to terms with including Dad who always loved her.
Dad and I would spend many hours on the phone talking about our latest ideas and supporting each other through our struggles with the dreaded Black Dog. He was always so proud of my achievements no matter how big or small and made me feel the centre of his universe. Usually within days of a call, my letterbox was full of books and Dad’s letters in his distinctive, bold writing! Often they were crazy ramblings but it showed me how much time he spent reflecting on our conversations and how much he cared.
In my teenager years I used to fly up to see Dad on my school holidays. He would arrive at Coolangatta airport, which in those days was no more than a tin shed. There he was; dirty bare feet in grease stained pants, left pocket stuffed with a screwed up hankie for hand wiping and loud nose blowing; a well worn shirt with the usual pen, note book and folding money. That was how he always dressed. After a big bear hug at the airport, I would climb into a dirty van, pungent with the smell of hydraulic fluid, rear view mirrors fixed with super glue to stop any one else’s unwanted adjustment, head rests hacksawed off, metal shavings on the floor and all manner of other weird objects scattered about which he would tell you not touch under any circumstances! In would go my bag after he rearranged things to his satisfaction and then off we would go!!
In those days to a girl in her 20’s the Gold Coast should have been an exotic place full bright lights, shiny things and boys! But in reality, a visit to Dad represented endless visits to factories that went on for hours! In the evening he would drop in on other close mates homes for a beer or two, but inevitably we would end going on for hours and we would have to stay the night. Ahhhh…. another glamorous day on the Gold Coast!
Dad would often take me to his latest favourite restaurant, always in the same dirty work clothes he had worked in all day. Dad especially liked these restaurants because they let him in with bare feet. A meal with dad was never complete without his beloved freshly shucked oysters – only ever natural, none of that crap on them he would snap at the poor waitress who had the misfortune to ask if he wanted Mornay or Kilpatrick. He would proceed to cover his oysters in black pepper as he did with all his food. When he finished and the plate was taken away, a thick pepper ring would be left behind on the tablecloth.
On one of my visits, Dad arranged for me to go to Stradbroke Island by ferry while he flew there to meet all his flying buddies including Bill Knight and Alan Clarke. At the jetty, he handed me the supplies in a battered esky containing; a two week old yellowing cabbage, a lump of cheese he had found in Pat’s fridge, a case of beer and a bladder of wine. He then handed me a pillow that he was using as padding under a greasy engine part. In retrospect I should have known better when I saw the pillow!! When I arrived on a remote part of Stradbroke there were ultra lights everywhere. A makeshift airstrip and lots of tents. It was only then that I discovered Dad intended to camp there for two weeks!! I had no way to get back to the mainland for at least three days at the earliest. I had no clothes, no toiletries and no provisions!!
As Bill Knight, Dad’s best mate, describes in a very funny written account I have on file with all my other letters; “Baz extracted from his plane from what he referred to as his magic box; five gallons of extra fuel stored in one gallon bottles, three weeks of clothing which consisted of only one extra pair of pants an Hawaiian shirt, a bent tent pole and an old, dirty tent”.
Bill, Vicky and the others had all been bitten by swarms of red bull ants, sand flies and mosquitoes the night before. He went on to write; “we all looked at Tracy and wondered how she would manage in Barry dubious tent with no air bed, no food and a greasy pillow for comfort”. The memories of those few days on Stradbroke will remain some of the best I ever spent with Dad. Seeing him in his element, with his mates, flying all day and sitting around the fire each night. I would watch on as Dad got to his feet telling his stories, animated arms outstretched like a plane as he recounted his flying stories he danced around, occasionally stepping onto red hot embers around the fire; not noticing or feeling a thing!!
Alan, Dad and Bill took me up for many flights during those three days. We skimmed the sand with the landing gear as we flew Stradbroke’s endless beaches, then pointing the nose straight up for a roller coaster stall that made me laugh and scream; all at the same time!! Wow! Taking the controls and learning how to fly with them… it was an incredible time.
Dads mates were the world to him and over the years he lost some of them to ultra light crashes but no accident affected him more than when his best mate Bill Knight crashed. Dad called me sobbing, overcome by emotion as Bill battled with a life threatening brain injury and broken bones. Seeing Bill and Vicki here today means so much.
Listening to the radio occupied a huge part of Dad’s life. He never failed to arrive at our place without his little transistor tuned permanently to Radio National. It would be on all night to keep him company.
After a failed attempt to make me a magicians assistant because I couldn’t contort my body to fit into the illusion box’s he got me a job as a radio news and weather announcer on the Gold Coast, a job I loved. He was thrilled and gave me endless hours of advice and coaching on correct enunciation and extending my vocabulary with what began as a lifetime’s supply of dictionaries and thesauruses. Without fail I would receive one each year, bigger, heavier and better than the last.
At our place he would often sit out on the back deck, smoking his camels and cradling his drink in deep contemplative thought while listening to some talkback program. In fact, it was on the local ABC radio where he heard about a mango farmer in far north Queensland who was looking for a wife. Dad of course, decided this would be a great opportunity to find me a husband!! He contacted the station and organized for me to get on Channel 9‘s Ray Martin Show. All the while I had no idea, he didn’t bother to tell me!! A week later, out of the blue, Channel Nine called me. Dad was beside himself with excitement! Again!
I, on the other hand, was horrified to be set up on live television. Somehow I was persuaded to go on the show. There I was; being interviewed by Ray Martin, telling him I really didn’t have that much trouble meeting men, it was meeting the right man that I found difficult. At this point Ray turns to the studio audience and to my complete surprise there is Dad sitting there, the station had flown him to Sydney!! Ray says “hey Dad you have an intelligent good-looking daughter here, how come you feel the need to find her a husband”.
I held my breath; as Dad thoughtfully rubbed his chin and replies “Well Ray its not so not much as help, its more that I am ….. well, simply lubricating the situation”. The studio audience burst into laughter and I promptly went bright red! This was all on live television!
Dad loved language; written or spoken it was so important to him. He wrote books about the correct use of the written word and committed reams of paper to letters sent to Tony and I. We have hundreds of these letters; they were amazing insights into his life that I would file away. I am so glad to have them today as some of these precious letters go back 35 years. Often gifts would arrive for no particular reason. They were always wrapped in newspaper, stuck down with his trusty signature masking tape and addressed in his distinctive bold writing.
Dad was a kaleidoscope of colour and at times every shade of grey. It wasn’t always easy to have Barry Hughes as your father, there were so many times I wished for a “normal” dad like other people had. It never lasted long because he would give me a big bear hug, loudly kiss me on the neck, then grab me by the cheeks and say “Dadio loves his sweetie pie”. Dad made the most out of every situation, whatever challenges it presented.
He lived life to the full and loved us unconditionally. WITH GUSTO! I believe his legacy has been passed to Tony and I and for that I will always be grateful.
I will miss him terribly.
Eulogy by Alan Clarke
January 2nd 2014, Nerang, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (Allambe Crematorium - Parkview Chapel)
Hello everyone, thanks for coming here today.
Despite what's already been said Baz wasn't perfect. He certainly was the most brilliant engineer I've ever met - but did you ever see him trying to use a mobile phone? And ice cream tubs - I used to visit him in the nursing home and sometimes take him a tub of his favourite ice cream. He could never get the lid off the normal way, he used to have a Stanley knife and cut his way into it instead.
Don't worry, even at this sad time Baz wouldn't mind us having a laugh with him, he loved to entertain and could always see the funny side of any situation. In fact I'm really glad that you all actually knew Baz because he'd be a very hard man to describe to complete strangers. Baz was a REBEL, he hated authority and he loved to challenge the establishment.
When Health and Safety made industrial rules Baz couldn't help breaking them. I remember when Baz used to wear shoes in the workshop but they wanted safety boots, so Baz went barefoot instead. He steadfastly refused safety glasses and machinery guards but he was exceptionally aware and kept a perfect safety record.
He refused to wear seat belts and when they tried to fine him he got a written dispensation from a doctor. About 25 years ago I went with him to pick up his new van. The salesman gave him the keys and when he opened the drivers door the courtesy light came on. Baz hated courtesy lights because they flicker if you drive around with the door half latched. So without hesitation he reached up and smashed the light in the roof. You should have seen the look on the salesman's face.
Headrests were compulsory by then but he said they obstructed his vision. As Tracy mentioned - back at his workshop he cut them off with a hacksaw. He didn't notice the little button you press to adjust or remove them. He cut the seat belts off the drivers side – his Stanley knife trick again and he removed half the fuses so all those stupid warning lights didn't distract him. After all that he used to say modified cars shouldn't be allowed on the road!
When I was thinking about what I was going to say today I remembered so many flying stories involving Baz and they all had something either funny or fascinating about them. If I told them all we'd be here all day so I had to settle for just one. It's not the wildest of them by any means but it's one that I remember most fondly because it was the very first day I met Baz.
It was in 1985 and we instantly became firm friends and that was also when I discovered that Baz was quite fearless in the air. I'd just moved to the Gold Coast and I immediately contacted Baz because he was the local Guru of ultralight operations. Baz was a Chief Flying Instructor in ultralights and also the Editor of the Australian Ultralight Federation Magazine and shortly after that he also became the Technical Manager of the Federation. He had a new two seat aircraft which he used for flying training. It was a blue Thruster Gemini. He had a large doll for a co-pilot when he was flying alone, she was called No Pants Nance.
I also had an ultralight plane, a single seater which I'd brought in a trailer. Baz arranged for me to keep it at the Surfers Paradise Raceway because my house was just a few minutes away. TigerMoth Joyflights operated out of there and they said I was welcome as long as there weren't any incidents.
I wasn't a very experienced flyer at that stage and so in aviation matters Baz was God as far as I was concerned. A day or two beforehand I had assembled my plane at Peter Stuy's airstrip which was a cleared rectangle among the thick forest at the base of Mount Tamborine and Baz kept his Thruster Gemini there too so he said he'd fly ahead and show me the way to the Raceway. It was a windy day and before we started out Baz warned me about the rotors. I didn't know much about rotors. Baz said it was just the air flowing over the top of the mountain and it made the air act like water does when it's going over a waterfall.
That didn't give me a lot of confidence especially as the wind was getting stronger and I didn't know how I would recognise a rotor if I came across one. Baz very patiently explained that if at any stage I had full control inputs one way but found the plane wanting to roll over the other way then it was best not to fight it - just go with it and by the time I was back up the right way I'd have got past the rotor.
He also advised me to stay high over the trees because if I hit any bad turbulence in that wind it could push me right down in amongst them, he said the tops of the trees wouldn't stop the wind like the ground does. Well that was enough for me to abandon the whole idea but by then Baz was pointing at the solid wall of trees at the end of the runway and warned me not to try and go over them, they were too high and he said I'd stall and crash if I tried that, he said I should just go straight out between them. I really had no answer for that and before I could say anything else Baz was on full power and half way out of sight. I suddenly felt very small and lonely.
Bazza's relatively powerful two seater with just him and No Pants Nance aboard cleared the tops of the tall trees quite easily but my little 26hp was quite a different matter. By the end of the strip I was only at about half the height of the trees and those of you who have flown through narrow gaps will know that they never look anywhere near big enough.
While I was circling and climbing over what seemed like an ocean of trees I spent the time searching the sky everywhere looking for Baz but he was nowhere to be seen and I wasn't sure what to do. I got to about 2000ft and by then I could see some highrise buildings beyond the Wangawallan range so I headed off that way and kept searching for any sign of Baz.
Then I had one of those moments where the image just gets indelibly burned into your memory. Quite unexpectedly this blue plane flashed into view from behind, above me and and to the right, and dived past, really close in front of me, slipping sideways strongly so I could see the whole top of his wings, and there was this barefooted leg kicking wildly out the side of the cabin. I had no idea what he was up to but it looked like he was either in serious trouble or very urgently trying to get some sort of message across to me. I decided he must be trying to warn me of something and pointing the way I should go so I turned left as hard as I could go.
Much later I found out he just had a cramp in his leg and was trying to stretch it out.
Very soon I was on final approach to the Raceway and only a few seconds from landing, Baz was already taxying off the runway. Then all hell broke loose, there was a tremendous drumming noise and I found I had to use full power to just maintain height. What happened was my windshield had come loose and was flapping wildly and also acting as an airbrake. My only thought was to get away from there to not upset the Tigermoth people so I veered away to the south and made a much too hurried landing in what I thought was long grass but it turned out to be 10 foot tall reeds in a swamp in the grounds of the German Club. Everything turned instantly green and I was upside down and hanging in the straps.
Someone saw it happen of course and made an emergency call and by the time I was on my feet the police were there and the Channel 9 helicopter was landing. Baz saw it and took off again and then landed right on the German Club's front lawn. He was never shy if there was camera around and within moments he had a microphone in his face and was doing a piece to camera explaining how there really wasn't anything newsworthy here at all as all ultralights these days had to be tested in many ways including unusual attitudes - there was even a standard for it now he said. He did a great job – the story never made the news.
Bazza's knowledge was extraordinary. I've never come across anyone so completely proficient on such a very wide range of subjects - and the majority of it was self-taught. It didn't matter whether it was Engineering, Aviation, English Language, History, Geology, Psychology, Physics or Chemistry, to mention just a few, Baz was never satisfied by just knowing the part which he might need for a particular project - instead he had to Master the entire subject. And Baz was always willing to pass on his expertise to anyone who was interested.
Here's an especially valuable and simple engineering lesson I learned from him and I'd like to pass it on to you – if ever you're undecided about some engineering thing you're designing, just ask yourself "would the Germans do it that way?"
If Bazza's knowledge was extraordinary it was only exceeded by his generosity which was truly legendary. If he had something and thought that you might need it he would never ask how much you needed, he would just give you all that he could. It wouldn't matter whether it was something of physical value or whether it was his time, his work or sharing that colossal store of knowledge, his generosity was endless. I've never known anyone else quite like that.
I only discovered some of what was behind Baz's kindness relatively recently. He told me that many years ago he came across a quotation which affected him deeply and he adopted it as a kind of personal motto. It is attributed to a Quaker Missionary called Etienne de Grellet who lived from 1773-1855.
I expect to pass through this world but once.
Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.
Let me not defer, nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.