25/11/1954 - 3/8/2008
Colin McCrindle was the son of Sam and Margaret, brother to Eb, David, and Audrey. Husband of Gabrielle, father to Sean and Kirste. Grandfather to Jessica. Uncle to Zac, Thadeus, Kylie, Tammy, Kate, Tom, Hayley, Katey, Corey, Jessica, Allison and Patricia. Brother in Law to Una, Sue, Rick and Therese. Cousin to Linda and Ian, and many others back in Scotland.
My father Colin was the third child and third son of Sam and Margaret McCrindle. Dad was born in a small fishing village called Girvan on the south west coast of Scotland. He was in such a hurry to get into this world that my Grandmother had no chance to get to the hospital and so he was born on the coach. His father and grandfather were north sea fishermen who owned and operated their boats out of the small Girvan harbor. My father was destined to work the boats like his forebears.
But in 1962 when my dad was 7 my grandparents made a momentous move. Breaking with generations of tradition, they moved their 4 young children half way around the world to the fairly new nation of Australia. They had no family here, we were the first McCrindles that we know of in Australia. No doubt for the other Girvan McCrindles, this seemed a bold and courageous (and perhaps even foolhardy) move. For my father it changed his whole life.
Dad often recollected stories of his youth and that move which brought him to these golden shores. He would tell us how when they first went down to the beach they would roll up their trousers and expose their lily white legs and paddle up and down the shallows. Swimming was something he learned to do here. In the freezing and rough North Sea a man would die of hypothermia in just a few minutes, so swimming wasn’t much use. Once here though he became a very strong swimmer, winning several trophies in local swim meets. He maintained his swimming throughout his life taking kids to the aquatic centre in his later life to teach them to swim.
With 2 older brothers (Eb and David), my Dad learned to fight early on. He was a fierce fighter who had to make up for his lack of bulk against two larger opponents by being smart. He would often gang up with David against Eb, the oldest. The fighting practice stood him in good stead in school in those early days. He was a pale boy who spoke with a funny accent and therefore he was fair game. Despite their many fights, if anyone picked on one of the family, the brothers closed ranks and fought as one.
High school in the 60’s days never appealed to my father. He was well capable of the work, but it bored him and he felt he could do better out in the world. He left school at 15 and went straight into the workforce as a floor salesman in Harris Scarfe. Part of the black and white army, on the weekends he’d go along with his brothers and friends and watch the Port Magpies. It was only natural that he would become an inaugural member of the Power when they started. He followed Port fiercely his whole life, going to the games regularly.
My father assumed an Aussie accent when he was about 15 as did my uncle Eb and Auntie Audrey, although David fiercely held his brogue to the end. Despite his accent my dad was always a son of Scotland. Immensely proud of his ancestry, he reminded us kids regularly of the glories of the Scots. He retained his British citizenship to the end, although in recent years he had contemplated becoming an Aussie. But he would ask “What do I get for my allegiance? Do you even have a bill of rights?”. He felt that becoming an Australian was a two way street and he should receive a few basic guarantees before he signed.
At 16 Dad met the love of his life, my mother Gabrielle. Dad always described it as love at first sight. My mother is Aboriginal and in the mid to late 60’s an interracial couple was still a scandalous thing. In the first of many important stands of principle, my father refused to bow to social norm and proudly went out with my mother. They were in love and they didn’t give a damn. It was perhaps no surprise when my mother fell pregnant with me a year later. They built a home, even though it moved around a bit during those hard early years. But they were inseparable and during the long years since they haven’t ever been separated or lived apart. Theirs was a true love story.
Dad was always a very smart man and not interested in the bad teaching at school, he spent his whole life educating himself. He read widely, the great classics, books on science, all sorts of things took his interest. With the later rise of the internet of which he was one of the first users, he found his information nirvana I think, and he would often be found up late at night browsing through all sorts of websites. But he also had amazing recall and was the point of reference in most settings. If you wanted the true answer on something, Colin was the man to ask. Not only could he give you the answer, but if pressed, he could tell you why his answer was correct.
In 1977 my parents had my sister Kirste, who was his pride and joy. However in 1977 a major tragedy occurred in our family when my fathers father, my grandfather Sam died in a car accident aged 51. My father was 23 and it was a massive blow to him.
In 1979 both Dad and my Mum got accepted into Uni. He studied Journalism, she studied Teaching. While doing this they both juggled the demands of raising a young family. With a passion for words, Dad loved Journalism and was a regular contributor to the Uni paper. Graduating in 1982, Dad went straight to work in the ABC, as a researcher for CountryWide.
My parents have moved around constantly, first leaving Adelaide in 1974. They lived in Darwin in the 70’s, setting out on 2 epic journeys around Australia when I was just a little kid. They spent months roughing it and with just the bare essentials and little money they travelled right around the country. Dad was always a strong advocate of women’s rights. He encouraged my Mum in her career and willingly put his own career second to hers. In 1983 we moved to Fregon, in the Pitjantjara lands for a few years. This was a life changing experience for us all. Dad taught for TAFE and spent his spare time in all sorts of community minded pursuits. For example, one day as he was driving into the community he saw an old man with one leg and a crutch. In the other arm the man was dragging a large dead tree trunk, his firewood for the cold desert night. My father immediately saw the need and after helping the old man home with his wood, he started a firewood gathering service. Every evening he and I would go out and gather a few loads and make sure all the old folk in the community had a supply of wood for the night. With his mechanic skills, Dad kept half of Fregons motley cars out there and on the road. My father never took a dollar from anyone in need.
My father was held in high esteem by the Pitjantjara. It is a mark of the man and the respect the Elders had that they initiated him as a full man of the Pitjantjara, an extremely rare honour for a white man, and would ask him to take them to remote sacred sites where they could perform ceremonies. Their trust was well founded, to the end he never spoke of what he saw there.
My father was always interested in music and would play well on the guitar and sing with gusto, putting on a show as he always liked to do. He helped the local Fregon band, The Wedgetail Eagles put out their first album. As the band got tighter he took them around the central desert to perform at all sorts of venues and occasionally he’d have to bail one of them out. He also wrote a song with Trevor Adamson which went on to win Tamworth’s Best Song award that year.
Dad was always a cool guy, able to sing, play guitar and dance. Always ready with an anecdote or a proverbial story from his varied life, he was a witty and clever man, firmly rooted in the real world. He felt an affinity with how Aboriginal people were excluded and would often tell people in his broad Aussie accent, “Hey I’m not an Aussie, I just got off the boat! They dragged me kicking and screaming the whole way! ”.
My father was a champion of Aboriginal rights his whole life. Married to an Aboriginal woman, he saw the injustices that occurred and he worked visibly and actively on indigenous issues. He went to all the marches he could. He was often the first call for someone who was in jail. He was often the one to post bail. He taught countless people skills in literacy, numeracy and computers. He did tax returns, he filled out paperwork for people. He maintained a completely non judgemental open door to the communities he lived in. He always had a beer in the fridge if you wanted one. He always had a moment to sit down and talk about some problem. He was equally popular with women and men. For literally hundreds of kids he was the kind and benevolent Uncle Colin. He was often the one to call in a crisis, his wise advice and good counsel being sought by many. He gave countless references and delivered a number of eulogies himself. Indeed I learnt this from him.
With the premature passing of Cyril Lindsay, My parents became godparents to Cyril and Denise’s young children Louise, Cyril, Janelle, Emily and Trevor. He taught them all life values and guided them to help them become the intelligent independent people they are today.
In 2001 Colins granddaughter Jessica was born to my sister Kirste and Daniel. It was his happiest moment. He doted on Jess and loved her more than anyone I think. He lavished his time and wisdom on her to help her become the smart kid that she is. My father always put family first and the birth of Jess was the affirmation of everything he believed in.
My father was everything to me. He was my hero and my mentor. He taught me what true strength was. He taught me integrity and honesty. He challenged my intellect and made me into the independent, thoughtful man I am today. He was also quite capable of taking me down a peg or two if he felt I needed it. He taught me compassion and humility. He breathed some of the fire in his belly into me so I could go forth and challenge the world myself. I wish we could all have a father like him. My father was a wonderful father.
Although raised in a Christian household, Colin was not spiritual in any way. He was more of a skeptic with a philosophical view of the great questions. Nonetheless, for those of you with a spiritual outlook, I think it’s fair to say his deeds have earned him a place at the table of his ancestors.
Colin was a wonderful man in so many ways to so many people. A natural wit and with a masterful turn of phrase, he was kind and generous, thoughtful and witty, possessed of a razor sharp mind, knowledgeable on any topic, moderate and balanced, the life of a party, loyal and trustworthy. It seems almost impossible that he could contain all these virtues in high measure, and yet he did.
Colin had a brain aneurysm on the 28th July and was found unconscious. The medical stats show that while 1 in 5 people have aneurysms and live their lives out happily, only 8 in 100,000 people will have one burst. It was a rare injury. He died a week later on the 3rd August 2008 from a second major bleed.
He was 53.
He was a true legend.