So, below is my draft eulogy for my younger brother Ian
Ian Barry Matthews
28/10/1953 – 17/7/2021
I am devastated that me and South Australian Members of the family are unlikely to be able to attend my beloved brother’s celebration of life but wanted to say a few things to mark his passing.
Ian was present in my life from my earliest memories until just a few hours before his death. He was the little brother I played and fought with, the one with the imaginative games, the little pest who wanted to play with me and my mates. We built shangeyes (sling shots) and cross bows together, playing for hours, roaming our neighbourhood as kids did in those days. Sliding down slopes on bits of corrugated iron, tadpoling, playing marbles and NEVER snitching on each other. Ian had a gold filling in a front tooth for many years from a slingshot injury I inadvertently gave him (he told Mum and Dad he ran into a wall) and I still sport a scar between my thumb and forefinger from a carving knife incurred in a scuffle over washing and drying the dishes (I told Mum and Dad I was washing up and accidentally sliced it).
Ian always knew how to rile me, was a natural sportsman and even though almost 2 years younger so often beat me at games like table tennis which I thought I was pretty good at. He was a small kid and one of his favourite tricks was ducking below the table tennis table when his turn to serve, which annoyed me, then he would suddenly pop up and deliver a killing serve. There was much chasing around the table after these incidents and blows were frequently thrown. I clearly remember Mum running down the passage toward me broom raised while I hit a laughing Ian with me saying ‘I’m sorry Mum, I can’t help it’
I did realise, very young, that while Ian liked to rile me, it was not a good idea to rile him. He was so unflappable most of the time that it was too easy to forget this. A tomahawk narrowly missing my head, at one time, reminded me of this. You really didn’t want to get Ian mad. When we were at primary school and were about 10 and 8, the bully of our working class school, a huge (to us kids) Greek boy who nobody challenged, one day decided to pick on Ian, one of the smallest kids. Ian lost it and started swinging his fists at him. The much bigger boy just laughed holding Ian at a distance while his arms flailed. But the big boy dropped his guard and Ian knocked him out with one punch. Ian was never threatened after that and neither was I because if the little brother could do that what could the older brother do? Interestingly, Ian remembered neither of these incidents as an adult and I had the strong impression that he thought I was ‘making shit up’.
Ian was a great hockey player and he passed the love of this sport on to his family. I asked him how he got into it and he told me that when he started high school he went to try out for the baseball team (my sport) but got the times wrong or it was cancelled and so he tried out for hockey and never looked back. I heard many tales about his exploits from mutual friends and Ian. One day in a high school match, Ian (Matty as his friends called him) was disaffected with the umpiring and stood in the middle of the field, dropped his own shorts, and shouted at the umpire ‘Pull your pants up and give your mouth a go!’ He was sent off but he was unrepentant- he had a strong sense of fairness. When a little older and playing district hockey, top level, his coach benched him because he’d missed a practice. This was a summer competition which had fewer rule constraints than the then winter main competition and Ian marched over to the opposition where he was welcomed. He scored the winning goals. I don’t know if his coach benched him again.
Ian, as most of you will know, was very intelligent but the constraints of formal education were not for him and he was fortunate that one of the senior teachers at Woodville High School, Mr Phillips, was also the Hockey coach and this saved his bacon on many occasions. It didn’t protect me, though. In 4th year high school (year 11) I was sitting in class and our Chemistry teacher came in for his lesson. He settled in, looked up, saw me and said ‘Matthews – out, I’ve had enough of Matthewses for the day’. He was Ian’s class teacher and had a double lesson with Ian just before mine. I didn’t really mind as I just continued reading a novel as I would have done during the lesson anyway – my noncompliance just wasn’t as visible as Ian’s.
We went our separate ways after our childhood, though Ian was always in my life. He ended up working at Moomba for SANTOS for several decades and more and that was where he acquired the nickname ‘Jock’. He worked in the laboratory at Moomba when he first started, somebody one day called him ‘the lab jock’ and it stuck. As Ian and I look similar, though he retained all of his hair, I’ve had the experience over many years of men approaching me with ‘Gidday Jock’ and then regaling me with difficult to believe tales about what he said or did. Though he worked there for years he was never happy with their poor health and safety practices protected by a government that valued the revenue too much and fellow workers who accepted increases in money as trade offs for poor practices. This came to a head when Ian’s. ‘other half’ the man who slept in the same room and did the same job when Ian was on leave, died in an industrial accident. Ian ramped up his words, made a pain of himself, SANTOS claimed he had mental difficulties, though their own psychiatrist thought not. Eventually Ian got the largest payoff in known history and retired from there.
Ian met Bernie and his girls on a bus trip to Qld to visit me and family when I worked in Maryborough for three years. He didn’t mention this, at first, but his visits became more frequent and eventually all was revealed. I still remember Yasmin and Aleasha clambering into bed with me and my first wife Margie on and early visit. Not sure which one it was but somebody had bloody cold feet and I remember thinking ‘These kids are really friendly’ and I started to understand how Ian bonded so deeply with them.
There was that period that followed when Ian and Bernie and the girls bought and lived in a house at Ottoway near where our parents lived. Ian had been employed out of Adelaide and that’s where he was flown back to so this worked and the girls had the opportunity to develop a relationship with Nana and Papa, both now passed.
Once Bernie and Ian split up, Ian moved to Qld to be near his girls, act as a support person to both of Bernie’s subsequent husbands (I’ll keep these tales to myself) and to enjoy the warmer weather. He once told me he showered in Qld to get clean but in SA it was to get warm. I suppose such a long time at Moomba had increased his affinity for warmer climes.
Ian had a funny attitude to money. Another tale he didn’t remember from his childhood was one where he was in the practice of borrowing money from me. We had little money then and I carefully saved my meagre pocket money for things I wanted. Ian spent his as soon as he got it and was always taking loans from me. One day he said to me when we calculated what he owed me ‘Brian, you know I’m never going to be able to pay you back, don’t you?’ I replied ‘Yes’ and he said ‘how about we call it quits’, I agreed and he immediately said ‘ That’s great, can you lend me two bob’. I laughed and laughed and ‘loaned’ him the two shillings. He paid me back in spades several times as an adult and I know he was incredibly generous with his money to others, on one occasion when he lived in Currimundi paying for expensive surgery for an elderly neighbour’s dog because he knew the neighbour couldn’t afford this. I’m sure there are many tales like this out there and he didn’t brag about his largesse, I had to drag those details out of him.
I could go on and on and then you’d truly be reminded of my little brother. His daughters and his family in Adelaide loved him dearly and all are devastated by his loss. Yasmin, Aleasha and family, you’ve lost my brother but you still have me and the rest of my family and we are truly grateful for the joy you all gave to him
A funny last tale for you all
When Ian was at Moomba and he’d come home to Currimundi, he would enjoy the beach and nearby lagoons and would often sit for hours contemplating his lovely environment. He started to notice that he got some strange looks from people and realised that a guy in his age group doing nothing was suspicious. So, he bought himself a fishing rod with weights, no hooks, and a bucket (Ian did not like fishing and the suffering of the captured creatures) but he would sit for hours, line dangling, taking in the world, with people occasionally commiserating with him over his lack of success
I laughed and laughed when he told me this tale
RIP beloved brother
This was a song he once mentioned to me that he wanted at his funeral