|Ronald Stanley David Drury AFSM
Recently, Dad had a discussion with me about conversations he’d had regarding the certainty of going to heaven. We agreed that we are saved by faith in Jesus and the acceptance of the salvation He has freely, but not cheaply provided. He spoke out strongly against being able to earn our salvation. In one way he wouldn’t want us to talk too much about the things he has done in his life. Perhaps, at the end of his life, he would allow us to reminisce on his works (both good and bad).
As I think back, Dad seemed to talk about faith matters mainly in the last few years. His life was close to the old adage, “Don’t preach me a sermon; show me a sermon!” This probably grew out of the fact that Dad’s generation were people who had a real sense of duty and service to their families and to the community. Alison said, ‘All those many things that Dad was involved in taught me that I have responsibility to my family and the community outside. He was an example of, “Let it begin with me!” I feel very grateful that I had such a person as my Dad, and for such a long time. I know that is something not everyone has had’.
Those are words from one who works daily with many of our struggling community members.
Deanne asked Dad to write some things down about a year ago and I would like to read this as if directly from Dad:
I was born Ronald Stanley David Drury, the ninth and youngest child of Andrew & Selena Drury of Central Lansdowne at Taree on 6 March, 1926. (Of this family he is survived only by his sister, Hazel, who spent a lot of her early years almost as a second mother to her baby brother. Hazel is currently in need of care herself in Sydney but she and Dad have always been in constant contact by phone.)
My only schooling was at Koppin Yarratt (or Round back ) School, later known as the Central Lansdowne School.
Being the younger (by 6 years) of my siblings, it was a pretty lonely life on the farm with two aged parents. Dad was 48 and Mum 44 when I was born. I played a lot of sport at school, in particular cricket and tennis. I guess we were lucky to have a young man, Alex Rae, as our teacher who was keen on sport and encouraged us to do well. I might add Mr Rae also taught all of Dad’s kids.
In about 1937 our school competed in the Primary School Sports at Taree where we won the coveted Ravenscroft Shield for overall point score. I had the honour of receiving it on behalf of the school.
I left school at age 14 to help my ageing parents on the farm even though I badly wanted to go to High School, which would have meant travel by bike (5 miles) and train or boarding, neither of which could be afforded.
By this time war had been declared and there was a severe shortage of manpower. This was also close to the end of what is known as the “7 Year Drought”, perhaps the worst dry time during my life time.
In 1942, at the age of 16, I was granted a driver’s licence and started driving a small milk truck, picking up milk cans twice daily and transferring them to a larger truck at Lansdowne for transport to Peters Factory at Taree. This helped my meagre income from the farm. I sometimes worked for other landowners, fencing, brushing, and splitting posts, often with my elder brother Clarry in Yarratt State Forest.
At the age of about 17 I met my future partner for life who has also been my best mate and friend and above all the mother of our four beautiful children. (We children have only learnt recently that because Dad's family were "staunch" Methodists - there was some opposition to their relationship in the early stages. Their love for one another withstood this and I am proud to know my parents stood against religious barriers based on minor issues within the Christian church.)
I turned 18 in 1944 and was keen to join up but was told that what I was doing (farming and driving) was more important than becoming a member of the armed forces.
After the war ended in 1945, things slowly returned to normal. In early 1946 I became engaged to Millie Irene Atkins and we were married on Easter Saturday, April 5, 1947 by Rev Munro in St Barnabas Church, Upper Lansdowne. We set up a very humble abode of a bedroom and an enclosed veranda for kitchen and living area within the farm homestead “Lynbourne”. This was the status quo for about 12 months until a small cottage was built about 100yds away for my parents.
It was about this time (1948) that new bails were built and milking machines installed probably around 1960??. Up until then we had milked about 30 cows by hand. In 1964 I took the opportunity to lease the farm on which the Hall’s lived next door. This increased our milkers to between 55 and 60. We lost the lease of Hall’s farm in 1972 and decided to sell our own property and move to Taree.
The farm was bought by Bob Crittenden to work with his own across the Lansdowne River. We lived on in the farm house until our new home was built in Whitby Close in January 1973.
I obtained work as a tractor salesman with Tractor Traders. I worked there from the time I sold the farm in April 1972 to September 1973 when I was appointed Noxious Weeds Officer with Manning Shire Council. This position I enjoyed very much as it took me to almost every nook and cranny within the vast council area, seeing places and meeting people I had only read or heard of previously. It was an excellent grounding for my next position. (It would be good to add here that the disappointment of leaving the farm also turned out to fit Dad’s outgoing personality. He was propelled into activities that brought him many more mates. I was so glad that on the night before he died he was able to regain enough consciousness to be able to say goodbye to us all, and especially to his mate Wal.)
In November 1978, I was appointed Fire Control Officer with Manning Shire Council following the retirement of Ben McDougall. This was a very new experience for me but one I enjoyed immensely because the people I relied on to operate the 35 brigades under my control were all volunteers and were among some of the nicest and most sincere people I have met.
Soon after my appointment, a training scheme was introduced which required all volunteers to reach a satisfactory level of training. This meant many long hours for me travelling to the Brigade areas at night to conduct training courses.
When a radio network was set up for Fire Control, a base station was placed in our home, which intruded greatly on our private life, particularly during several bad fire seasons when Millie was left to man the set.
I served as State Vice Chairman of the Fire Control Officers Assn of NSW for a period of 11 years, which meant a day trip to Sydney every month.
I retired in April 1992 and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June I was awarded the Australian Fire Services Medal, which I received at Govt House in Sept 1992, an unexpected honour but one I cherish greatly.
In 1942 I joined the Lindsay Branch of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows and served as District Master in 1948. I had the honour of being elected Grand Master for NSW in November 1955 which culminated in leading a delegation of over 100 by train to Broken Hill the following year for the Annual General Meeting.
I served for five years as a member of the Committee of Management which meant a train trip to Sydney each month for meetings.
For sport I played cricket and a little tennis in the winter. I enjoyed my cricket and was able to hold my own with both bat and ball being Captain of Lansdowne ‘A’ Grade team for several years.
Following my retirement in 1992, I joined the Taree Croquet Club and have enjoyed the fellowship of many fellow players throughout the Mid North Coast. I was fortunate to win the district singles in my division in 1998.
Church attendance has always been a priority for me and my family, in the early days at Upper Lansdowne, and since moving to Taree, at St John’s where I have been the Parish Recorder since the early 1990’s. I am responsible for all banking for the Parish.
Dad was a very community-minded man who absolutely loved serving in the organisations in which he was involved. Significantly he ended this document with the Parish recorder position because he was still doing that this year, I believe. He didn’t mention being president of:
The Upper Lansdowne Hall Committee
Central Lansdowne Public School P&C
Chatham High School P&C
Manning River District Cricket Association
Taree Croquet Club
District Croquet Association
He also did a term as President of Taree Probus.
Dad also omitted writing down the fact that he held many other church positions over the years, from the Secretary of Coopernook Parish Council down to even one of the lawn mowers around this church.
Dad would want to be known as a Family Man.
As children, grandchildren and great grandchildren we have always known Dad had us upper most in his mind and his love.
Meryl was reflecting back on 1965 when Alison was very ill in Camperdown hospital for two months and Dad’s care for us was top rate whilst juggling farm and house duties, although he has been teased ever since for making the custard too runny.
To my shame I think it was that time when I was rostered on to help milk one morning at about 5 o’clock. Dad had started milking with the machines, which needed constant watching, but finally had to make two separate sprints up to bang on my wall in between removing cups from the cows who were finished. Bed was very warm that morning.
There are many enduring memories of good times:
Fishing was something Dad enjoyed. There was always a lot of beach fishing done on the annual two week holiday to Crowdy Head but we also have memories of Dad bringing home fish caught from Harrington wall after the cows had all been milked on an evening when the moon and tides would be right.
Dad loved his daily newspaper. I think he always read the sport first. He always barracked for Balmain (Wests Tigers) but also liked to see Alison's favourite team, the Roosters, do well, just because she is such a loyal supporter of theirs.
Dad loved his vegetable garden. I believe it kept him attached to the land he loved so much, especially as it was largely formed from cow yard sweepings from a mate living on Moto. When he and Mum moved to Taree he devoted a lot of time to growing a huge variety of vegetables in that back garden. In the last couple of years he hadn't been able to do this as much but Mum now tends the garden which he started all of those years ago. His favourite flowers were, of course, roses of which there are many in the front yard.
I will miss not being able to ring up and ask if it is time to plant the spuds or the corn.
Dad developed multiple health problems during the recent years of his life. During the last 2 years his quality of life was reduced. He rarely complained and put on a brave face to the end. Mum has been his hard-working, loyal and devoted carer for the last 2 years especially and even though she has not always been in good health, she has devoted herself to his care. When it became apparent that she could no longer care for him at home, he went into Storm Village nursing home in April of this year. Even then, she visited him every day. My sisters and I all live away from Taree and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our very special mother who cared so well for our Dad over the past few years so that he was able to stay with her in the home that he loved for as long as he was able.
The family would also like to thank the staff at Storm Village who cared so well for Dad and also Dr Munnings for his care over many years. We all greatly appreciate all of your care and the kindness shown towards both Dad and Mum.
My cousin, David, (who has also recently given the eulogy for both his parents, Ray and Joan) said to me the other day, as we were visiting our Aunty Hazel in hospital, that when preparing his talk he was conscious of the fact that “you only get one go at it”.
I hope I have done justice in sharing the things Dad has done and experienced in his life and that it comes across as a celebration of his service and duty to God, to family and to community.
Although he was a tireless servant in the secular world as well as the church, today is really about who he is: a simple child of God who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ his Saviour.
Nothing that he has done has earned him that privilege only the acceptance of that fact.
My sister Deanne said to him recently: “Don’t forget God loves you Dad.”
And Dad replied: “I’m counting on that!”