Vale Captain Patrick

Yesterday we attended a funeral for a man who died too young.

Ms Canada treasures the few relatives she has in Australia, in particular her second cousin on her mothers side, Patrick. We’ve spent a couple of very, very relaxing weekends visiting him and his family at their house in the hills behind Foster near the Prom, most recently over Easter.

Patrick has been suffering from cancer since before I met him, and every time we visited was looking progressively frailer. Last week he succumbed, only days before his 72nd birthday and yesterday was his funeral at the Mission To Seamen chapel.

Patrick, you see, was a sea-captain before he left the open waters for a post with the Port of Melbourne so that he could spend more time with his growing family. Pat was English, and had already left his native land and joined an Asian shipping company to marry Jennifer, an Australian nurse.

In his heart, he never left the sea. His home was filled with naval and shipping memorabilia and books. As a perpetual reminder in retirement, from the house’s wide glass windows he overlooked the rugged Wilsons Promontory and beyond, the often tempestuous waters of Bass Strait. Pat was active right up to the end with the Seamans’ Mission, the Company of Master Mariners and the Old Conway group – folks who trained on HMS Conway back in the UK. The chapel was filled with his nautical comrades.

The service was moving; the readings nautically related, the eulogies delivered below a pulpit that stood tall, modeled after the stern of a sailing ship. Pat’s son John delivered a warm and fitting tribute to his fathers’ life.

As we filed out behind the coffin, we did so to the slow tolling of a ships’ bell.

Pat, as I knew him, was a true gentleman. I never heard him complain about the cruel hand that fate had dealt him. He and Jennifer welcomed us into their home with open arms despite his illness.

Pat, may fair winds and a good tide speed you on your final voyage. It was a privilege to know you; and Jennifer we wish you and the family all the best for the future, and hope to see you again soon.

John Brian Patrick Blamey 5th May 1936 to 29th April 2008


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