Eulogy for my grandfather, Percy John Brown

Today, at 10am, I am giving the eulogy for my grandfather who passed away, aged 87, after a long illness.  This is the eulogy I have prepared.  Rest in peace, Percy.

Percy John Brown.  Jack or Johnny to some, Percy to others, but certainly Pop to his fifteen grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and three great, great grandchildren.

Pop spent most of his adult life surrounded by children – children who generally could be improved, in Pop’s opinion, by a good swift kick up the bum.  You always knew you were in trouble when Pop threw a full-blown Percy.

Just ask his children, Rodney, Jeanette, Margaret, Marlene and Sue, all born in New South Wales, and Anne, Peter & Sharon, all born in the Sunshine State.

Pop is one in a million.  Although his descendents will all recognise when the Brown is coming out – that’s when they’re being stubborn and pig-headed and won’t change their minds.  For the spouses of these descendents, please, nod your head sagely when this happens and tell them to ‘stop doing a Percy’.  It won’t work, of course, because it never worked with the one true original!

To go some way towards understanding the man we come here today to honour, you need to know a little of Percy’s history and where he came from.

Pop valued his independence, certainly, and it may surprise you that he showed a strong romantic streak – well, at least twice in his life!  He never did something by halves, and always had firm views to offer by way of advice to any errant grandchild or child whom he felt needed his advice.  Which, let’s face it, was most of us most of the time in his view!

Pop was also something of a hoarder, and looking for an angle if he could manage it.

Let’s talk about Pop’s fierce independence.

He was born in Lithgow N.S.W. on the 27th May 1922, the son of a blacksmith, James Brown, and a coal miner’s daughter, Nellie May Brown, Percy John was one of three, brother to his two sisters Edie and Joan.  Never of the most robust health, the young Percy, having fought off polio and in fact being lucky to be able to walk, left school early to work in the mines with his father.
This hard start in life, though, helped Pop become the man we all remember.  Would it be too far to say ‘stubborn’?  No, I think not.

Now, the war uprooted many of Pop’s generation, and sent them off to all the corners of the globe in defence of the nation.  Such was the case with Pop when he enlisted in the AIF in 1942.  Now in the 4th Pigeon Section in the Signal Corps, Pop and his pigeons saved many Australian lives fighting in PNG.

However, Pop’s meteoric rise through the ranks in the army was thwarted, perhaps, by the fact that the fiery Jack didn’t take kindly to those rules and regulations that the army insisted upon.  Would you also believe, though, his romantic streak didn’t help either?

Well, that and the fact that he may have had an altercation or two with a sergeant.  For which he was fined one quid– which must have hurt a lot in 1945!

But Pop’s romantic side also got him into trouble, when as a young soldier he wooed the young volunteer Adeline May Willey.  Our Nanna, at whose graveside we stand at today as well.  He went AWOL in pursuit of his lady love – which cost him another two quid.  Back then, you could probably have bought a house with that money, or at least several weeks’ worth of pigeon food!  Truly, love hurts.

Years later, after Nanna had passed away, Pop’s strong romantic streak also led him to pursue Anita across international borders as well.  Perhaps Pop was more of a ladies’ man than we thought?

Times were still tough though immediately after the war, although I’m sure there’s no truth to the rumour that Jeannette’s hair was used as a rabbit trap to catch rabbits.  What is fact though that during the great coal miners’ strike in the 1950s, Pop supported his family by shooting rabbits and selling the pelts.  As Nanna would later say, there’s only so many ways you can serve up rabbit!  All the Lithgow children were brought up on rabbit and blackberries – which might explain a bit about those children born in Lithgow!

Now in Pop’s view, you never did things by halves.  If it was worth doing, you did it properly, and you did what you said you’d do.  Like the time he bought 100 ducks, and 150 turkeys.  Frankly, those ducks smelt a bit if you got too close – like, within a kilometre!

Or the 25 sheep he once bought.  I believe he may have fancied a lamb chop.

Or the time he coached the local Under 13s soccer team through to the Grand Final when no-one else would do it!  He was a super-coach, kind of like the Wayne Bennett of under-13’s soccer.  Although given Peter was on that team, it probably was a minor miracle.  Mind, the Under 14s the following year didn’t go quite so well!

Except perhaps for rabbits, Pop loved animals all his life and showed canaries, finches, and pigeons, and got involved with horses off and on.  Racing pigeons, though, always held a special place in Pop’s heart.   You certainly never went near the pigeon lofts on race day – not if you valued your life!

But he certainly didn’t do things by halves when Lithgow’s coal dust and cold weather became too much for Nanna’s asthma, and the mines were running out.  Pop believed in taking charge and dealing with it, so in true Pop style he chucked a Percy, loaded up the 36 Ford and headed to the Atherton Tablelands.

Unfortunately the old Ford didn’t quite make it that far – they broke down in Ipswich, and so that’s where they stayed.  I can just imagine the Ipswich Hillbillies loaded up in that 36 Ford.  I wonder if that makes Rodney Jethro and perhaps Jeannette Ellie May?  So Lithgow’s version of the Clampetts put down roots in Ipswich, Queensland, perhaps a little short of their destination.

Still, our Jack was a man of firm views.  No, sorry, I’m told that those views were VERY firm, not just ‘firm’.  Pop was never one to shirk from hard work himself, and he had little time for someone he thought was a bludger.  Or looked like a bludger.  Or, maybe, at some point in the future, might become a bludger or a ratbag!  Goodness only knows what he thought of those young biker chaps that started wooing his daughters in the 1960s!

Although on second thoughts Jeannette and Margaret probably have a fair idea what he thought, if I come to think of it.  You were never left wondering with Pop!

He was always open for a bit of an opportunity to make some money, and to try something new – usually involving animals.  He did try his hand at the trots with Anne and Trevor with Stocks and Bonds and several races were run and won.  But, it’s also possible he was, perhaps, just a bit, of a hoarder!

In an age before everybody recycled and worried about global warming, Pop was a man before his time.  He’d always thought that you shouldn’t throw something out if there was a chance you might need it later, but this thriftiness was only encouraged when, after working as a butcher and coal miner in his earlier life, his job on the dumpsites combined with a move to a five acre farm allowed him to hoard even more things.

Like expired chocolate biscuits.  Packets of chips – seriously, twelve cartons?  Buckets of soap.  Endless tubes of toothpaste.  Bread.  Broken gramophones.  Butter churns.

Well, you just might need them one day!

Now, Pop really chucked a Percy when the entire family pitched in to help move from Fernvale to Coolana.  It seems that some people may have been a little ‘enthusiastic’ in dumping some of that valuable stuff.  Pop drove straight to the dump, and brought most of it back home!

Now there’s a rumour that Pop mellowed a little over the years.  Not so much as you could tell, perhaps, but if he mellowed at all, this may have been because Anita and Percy were married on 17th August 1991.  And all the older lads in the family were heartened and threw away those little blue pills when he became a father for the eighth time with the birth of Sharon.

Maybe Anita and Sharon did help knock the edges off a bit, for in his later years he insisted on feeding his great-grandchildren biscuits – when the parents would perhaps rather he didn’t – instead of saving the biscuits for the pigeons!

Today we honour the life of Percy John Brown.  A caring, loving husband and father in his own way.  A man who was truly independent, and more of a romantic than perhaps you’d first think, a man of firm views who never did things by halves.  We all of us, friends and family, can and have learned a lot from Percy John Brown.  Percy, Jack, John, Pop – just don’t call him late for breakfast.  A man of quick temper, perhaps, and that hat would get thrown to the ground when he cracked a Percy more often than we can recall, but we love him, and he loves us.

1 thought on “Eulogy for my grandfather, Percy John Brown”

  1. That was very nice Mike. Since it was probably not appropriate that I was there (although I would have like to have been) this was as close as I was ever going to get. A very interesting life, and one, it seems, well lived. Thanks for putting this up.


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