Bill Hagan

Tribute to a gentleman of the bush.

Eulogy by Bill Hagan Jr. Delivered to a packed service at Kangaroo Valley 15.1.2013

William Fredrick HAGAN               9.6.1940 – 9.1.2013

Picture: Bill and Lyn in the good old days circa 1965

Good morning and Welcome friends and family

First off, I would like to say thanks to my Mum for being there for my dad every step of the way, and I mean every step. You were his rock. He was lucky, and so are we to have you.

I would also like to thank all of you here on behalf of my mother Lyn and my sister Dionne and myself, for your efforts both large and small to be here today, to help celebrate my father’s life and to mark his passing.

I am honoured to be here to speak to you all today

And I am deeply honoured to be here to speak to you about my Dad

Each of you here have your own relationship with my dad, and each of you has your own set of memories and your own words that would describe this man. I don’t presume to know the man that you knew. But after I’ve spoken, I hope that that you recognise some part of the man that we all knew, the man that is no longer amongst us, the man who will never be gone until all of us here have passed.

Things you may or may not have known about my Dad.

He did not like a fuss made over him……so he’ll be a little PO’d right about now

Born 9th June 1940 into humble beginnings. Dad has 2 older sisters – Shirley and Doreen. An identical twin brother Jim and a younger brother Adrian – who have all joined us here today. They were raised in Barraba about an hour north of Tamworth. At times it was a hard life, but it was a house full of love

His Dad, my Pop, mainly worked on the land in those early years and did everything from fencing to culling rabbits. Often Dad would work with him on school holidays. Dad would say Pop was a hard man, but gave them all their strong family values

His Mum, my Nan, was the glue that held them all together. I think Dad got his kindness from Nan and his work ethic from Pop. Dad told me when I first started working. He said ‘Son, when you put your hand out for your pay at the end of the week, make sure you’ve earned it’ ironically in later years, he would often say to me ‘ Son, why are you working so hard’ but that’s Dad

Growing up, Dad never had a 64GIG IPOD Nano which held 2000 songs; he had a harmonica and a squeeze box accordion, and played them both well

Dad never had a Hi-Def, Portable, blue ray 3D flat screen DVD player. He had the local picture theatre which would cost 25c. One his favourite movie was the WIZARD of OZ and favourite actors was Jimmy Durant. I always remember as a kid Dad walking around the house pulling a Jimmy Durante – ‘its unda tha big W’ or that’s not a trumpet, that’s my nose’ but that’s Dad

Dad never had an ingound, saltwater heated pool growing up in Barraba. He had the local creek, where he would love to swim and especially fish

It was a time of innocence. A time when you could just be a kid and no one was in any hurry to see to grow up.

In the 50’s Dad left school at 14, and had a few jobs, like selling lollies and ice creams at the picture theatre with his mate, Johnny Jackson, but eventually started working for the local dry cleaner in Barraba,

In 57’, when he was 17, Nan and Pop moved the family to Sydney were he started his apprenticeship in earnest at Fredericks Dry Cleaners in Newtown.

If you knew Dad, you knew his work ethics, and from them, it was only a few years later in 1961 he was running their Marrickville shop. He was 22. Owned a Mini and would love going for drives up the mountains on his days off

In 1965 when he was 25, Good Fortune smiled upon Dad. He was asked to go run the new Fredericks store at Bankstown Compass centre. And that was where he first met Mum. They soon became friends, and then close friends. Mum would tell the story when Dad was courting her, he would come around to her Grandmother’s house to have tea. 4 years later they were married and bought a 2 bedroom fibro house at Oxford St Smithfield. By the end of the sixties I was born. 18 months later Dee was born.

In the early 70’s Dad was in his early 30’s and good fortune smiled upon him again, and he upgraded and bought a new home at Georges Hall. He even bought a new car. Funny thing was when he bought it, it was an automatic transmission, and he could only drive a manual box. His younger brother Adrian had to drive it home for him and give him a few pointers.  A spanking new 302 Windsor V8 Ford Fairmont. Geez I loved that car. Mmmm Dad sold it when I got my driver’s licence!!

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s my sister and I have all these memories of something always going on. I don’t think we ever had a weekend free. Day trips out for picnics. Australiana Village at Wilberforce was a favourite. Visiting Aunties and Uncles in Sydney and Parties! I see a few of the usual suspects in the pews today. Mum and Dad were always going to parties. German Oktoberfest, The Dutch Boomerangs, Ali’s place, Jessie’s Place, Evelyn’s place or our place.  There didn’t have to be a special occasion. And if it was fancy dress, then mum would be up for hours making their own costumes. I’ve seen Dad is Caesar, Fred Flintstone and my favourite “a priest” – my father the father. He wasn’t fond of the spotlight, but when it was on him he always hammed it up. Summer holidays, where it was always somewhere near a beach. Whether it was Port Macquarie, Coffs or Ballina, you would always find Mum covered in coconut oil working on her tan and Dad was body surfing like a champion. But if the tides were right and if he could find lives worms then we were fishing. “Son the secret is the worms, gotta be lives ones”. I swear the man had tuna oil running through his veins, we ate so much fish in summer; we couldn’t wait for winter just so we could have steak again. Christmas was always back home to Barraba, and we couldn’t wait to see Nan and Pop, Aunts and Uncles and all our cousins. The trip up wasn’t great. Up at 4am “because Son, you can’t beat an early start” we would always stop at the BIG tree on the putty road for curried egg sandwiches. And Dad would crack it if a semi-trailer went passed, that meant a slower trip through the putty road. But that’s Dad. 5 hrs further drive to Barraba with a belly full of curried egg sandwiches and you can imagine the rest. But that’s Dad, and that was our tradition.

If we ever had a weekend free you would find Dad either tending the garden and lawn or relaxing watch sport on TV. He was a very modest man, but fiercely house proud. He liked to take care of the things he’d worked hard for and taught those values to my sister and me. He always liked the house and garden to look good. He loved watching Rugby league on TV. Parramatta was his team. Dad wasn’t an actively religious man, he had his own beliefs that he generally kept to himself, but he would make the occasional reference to Jesus Christ. He would become particularly religious when Parramatta would lose or if I had cut his lawn too short or dug the mower in too hard into his prized front yard

Growing up in Georges Hall we were blessed with our neighbours. There were the Struckies, the Dewsburys, the Bonello’s and the Flemings to name a few, all now lifelong friends. Also growing up I got to see how a real man treats a lady. My Dad adored my mum and was deeply devoted to his family. We never had to want for anything. He believed it was his place to be the provider. It was a loving home to grow up in, with great memories and one which I will always cherish and be thankful for

By the early 80’s dad was just into his forties, when he and Mum decided to open their own business. They took over the lease of the old hair dressing salon at Georges Hall, and Opened up Hagan’s Dry Cleaners. I remember Dad put most of the machines together himself. Pressers, cleaners, boilers and pipework. He really knew the business back to front. I remember walking the streets with Dee dropping flyers into the local letter boxes advertising Mum and Dad’s new business! We were all very proud to see our name up on the shop front. The shop immediately prospered. Dee and I use to help out in the mornings before and sometimes after school, doing odd jobs to help Dad. You would very often find that people would just want to come and talk and catch up with Dad. Almost everyone knew him and Dad knew every customer by first name, and could tell you all about them and their family. But that’s Dad

For almost 20yrs my Mum and Dad had the shop. Dad retired in his mid-fifties. They already had their small mobile home, and they spent the next 4 years travelling around parts of Australia. Sometimes just the 2 of them, sometimes with groups of friends. Lots of good memories and stories from those travels.

They particularly loved the valley, and when the opportunity came up in 1999, it didn’t take long to decide to sell up at Georges Hall and move to the valley. They started adding a tree here, and a tree there, and over the years have made it to their own little piece paradise

In 2001 Mum and Dad became Nan and Pop with the births of Laura and Jack, followed by Paddy in 2003. The 3 of them were the apple of their eyes. They spoiled them with love and kindness at every opportunity. I could see how much he loved each of the kids. For Laura he was her POPPY FALOPPY, for Jack and Paddy, they were his WHISTLING POPPY. He would always say “good boys, my boys” I’d often have to chastise Dad for letting the boys eat the wrong things or getting away with too much. He’d say ‘oh the poor little things, let them be’ But that’s Dad. He’d get so excited when they came, and he’d spend hours talking to them, telling them stories, walking around the property, picking vegetables from the gardens. They could all just sit there and eat the strawberries straight off the vines. He’d drag them around in the Billy cart until he was puffed out, and the boys would be screaming ‘come on Poppy more!!’ in later years he had to hook up the billy cart to the ride on mower just to keep them happy. He particularly loved making them laugh.  Dad was a funny bugger with a very quick wit and always had a joke up his sleeve. When he laughed it was from his belly to his eye brows

In 2005, Dad was 65 and my Pop passed away, and it wasn’t long after that my Nan passed as well. Their passing hit us all very hard, particularly Dad. I think Dad really valued how precious and fragile life can be. He became a little more patient. Not a lot! but a little more patient. His close friends became closer. His family were more important to him than ever, particularly his brothers and sisters. I think he stopped sweating the details and made every day count for himself and everyone around him, taking the opportunity to mending a few fences along the way

A few years later Dad’s health started to deteriorate a little at first. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying his life to the fullest. He still liked to travel and visit friends and family, still loved his garden. He would always grow more than he and Mum needed, just so he could proudly offer an armful to a neighbour or friend. He was always like that. He would love helping and giving to other people and rarely asking for help for himself, but that’s Dad. He made some great friends in the Valley, and although not having met all of you, I knew about you all through Dad and Mum

He had recently seen and caught up with all his friends and family. Words were exchanges and all that he wanted to say, was said, and that was important to him. Dad had a good life with little regret. He touched us all in some shape or form. He didn’t want to be a burden on anyone, particularly mum. He didn’t like to impose on people. And in his final days his wishes were kept. Last Monday was as hot as it had been in recently memory. But Dad was comfortable and resting peacefully, the pain was gone. He was happy.

Dad died last Tuesday morning. It was cool and calm, a lot like dad

So as we all go our separate ways today, take my Dad’s spirit with you, When you know a man who does everything that he can to help you achieve happiness, you have an immense  advantage and I can express my deepest gratitude in all the ways he moulded me into the man I am today

Dad I will always love you and already miss you, you were done too soon mate, but will be forever in our hearts


Bill Hagan - A Tribute

This tribute was read by Norm Greer at the service.

Bill Hagan was reared in the old school of country Australia where the working day is as long as the light lasts - sometimes longer. He loved and respected the old bush values. He liked nothing more than to talk about the way his Dad and Mum had instilled in their family the need to work hard and to do the right thing by people.

Bill was one of nature's gentlemen, a bush gentleman, he always had a kind word to say, he was humble to a fault and he would do anything to help you and there was always a wry, humorous comment or twist of phrase up his sleeve to take the edge off the day or the task at hand.

My boys grew up with Bill as a neighbour. Dash remembers the day when he was a primary school kid  that Bill actually turned his hand to bowling a few balls to him in our game of backyard cricket. All of my three sons knew that in Bill they had a good family friend who was always encouraging and supportive of them. They knew that if something happened they could call on Bill and Lynne.

The things that my boys loved about Bill carried through from his own family. Bill was a very loving and proud husband and father and though my family met him well after his kids left home, from the way he talked about them, he loved and was very proud of his children and their kids.

In so many ways Bill and Lynne had a wonderful partnership. I came to understand that Bill gave Lynne that quiet stability, security and love she needed so all her amazing creative abilities could come out and the dolls are just a small testimony to that. As everybody knows, these are no ordinary dolls they belong in a museum as exquisite works of art and that is an indication of what Bill brought out in Lynne. But it also says something about Bill as a person. He was very much a quiet giver and encourager who could take away the problems of people and the world.

Bill was one of those people whose quiet values embody the good things about Australia and Australians, he was of the generation after W.W.II that built the foundations of our contemporary national prosperity. Bill told me of the apprenticeship he did in Sydney as a young man and of how he felt the need to start off on his own. He and Lyn created their own dry cleaning business in Bankstown   and they literally had to build their customer base from nothing. They did this through pure hard work in hot and really undesirable conditions. After tens of thousands of perfectly pressed shirts, pants and dresses, they were able to comfortably retire in Kangaroo Valley. 

You got a picture of how they worked from the way they lived in retirement, well for a start, their home was always spotless, the fruits of Lyn's  handiwork were everywhere whether in dolls, curtains or cushion covers, their larder was always full with jams, chutneys and delicious relishes overflowing.  The gardens and lawns were perfectly maintained and nothing was more frustrating to Bill than when that ride-on lawn mower was not working well or when the water from the dam gave up.

I can imagine how special that Bankstown dry cleaning business was from the house and garden. Lyn and Bill would have done a perfect job and wherever possible their labours would have exceeded customer expectations. Bill would always do something extra, better if he could.

Bill sometimes talked about how he and his family had caught rabbits and of the joy of fishing in the river when he was a boy, and later, of the special skills of his twin brother catching black fish.

Solid work and simple joys - I know that was his and Lynne's compass in life.

The vegetable garden was of course Bill's “golf”. It had all Bills trademarks of attention to detail and careful thought, and there was of course Bills famous saying: "I don't like to water weeds". It was one of the best planned and most productive gardens, but, of course, he would never let you say so, and there were no weeds.

Bill was an Australian before the entitlement culture. Everything he did sprung from his own endeavours. He took the opportunities he had and turned them into something whether it be a piece of ground, or a friendship or a business. He wanted no hand outs or even hand ups, so long as there was a fair chance to make a living, you were right. In all this you could be sure Bill would make things better and his standards were quietly high.

There are people who had more material wealth, but none were richer than Bill Hagan. In his retirement he was so happy, and why wouldn't he be?. Maybe there was something more he might have wanted, but my impression was Bill was richer than King Solomon.

Bill had a wonderful marriage and partnership with Lynne and their daily fare could not be topped. They really knew how to make a house a home, to live well, eat well and relax. As hosts they could not be beaten.  For good measure Bill had his soul mate Uwe down the road, and there were those trips up North to catch black fish with his brother and see his family. Life was good.

Right to the end, even when illness kept on pulling him down  Bill had a twinkle in his eye. My view is Bill had absolutely no regrets, and you have to have done something right to feel that way at the end of your life.

Bill would cringe at being called a great man. But for us Bill was the greatest of men. In our country of Australia, thankfully, titles, riches, reputations, fame, pagentry and ceremony, reduce down to nothing. What matters is humility, kindness, devotion to others, the ability to listen and to speak and talk in a way that welcomes and creates good company. Bill had all these things. He wouldn't want the attention, the fuss, or any sort of special treatment. But in my mind Bill met all the tests. He had what it takes to make his family, his community and his country strong and good. 

If you did something for Bill he wanted to pay you but of course he loved just doing things for the sake of it. He loved impromptu gestures of generosity, whether it be bringing up a bucket off vegetables or sharing fruit from his trees, and he wanted nothing in return just the thought that he had created something good for someone.

He was a wonderful neighbour and friend and he will be greatly missed.

Bill created good vibrations, good feelings wherever he went and i think his greatest wish would be for us to carry on those values. 

When you lose someone like Bill its easy to become distressed and disappointed. It's easy to look back and say, " if only", or "I wish he were here". Bill would not want that, he would say enjoy your day, love every minute, the best way you can remember me is by living your life to the full and being happy. He's not physically here but his spirit and his quiet values  lives on in his family and friends.

He was a great one in the pantheon of Australians. My family is proud and all the richer for knowing  Bill Hagan as a neighbour and a friend. I am sure this is true of all of his friends and especially his neighbours on Mackays Rd.

Peter Botsman and family Sunday 13th January, 2013