That was The Empress’s summation of our friend Malcolm “Lord Malcolm” Gleeson at yesterday’s memorial service. Needless to say he was not referring to Malcolm’s politics, which in some respects were to the right of Genghis Khan, but never without compassion. He was saying that Malcolm wore many hats, and kept them very much separate: Malcolm the sailor, Malcolm the flyer, Malcolm the ground controller at the Air Shows, Malcolm the flying instructor, Malcolm the reader, thinker and writer, Malcolm the web designer and creator of databases and networks, Malcolm the jazz musician, Malcolm the gay activist, Malcolm the administrator, Malcolm the foodie, Malcolm the HIV activist… And a chance for conversation I have missed just lately: Malcolm the deeply and personally knowledgeable bridge to the Aboriginal and Islander cultures. And possibly more, as yesterday’s service very much revealed a person whose still waters ran very deep indeed.
One theme that ran through everyone’s memories was Malcolm the dry humorist. There were some great stories told on those lines, and also stories of his compassion and of his helping people in a very real way.
Malcolm’s half-brother Sean had seen little of Malcolm in recent years, though I know Malcolm was very pleased to be reunited with Sean in the last weeks of Malcolm’s life. Sean spoke of Malcolm’s dignity, and that was true right to the end. Derek, another brother whose existence I only learned of yesterday, afterwards said he wondered if anyone remembered that Malcolm had once participated in the Edinburgh Tattoo. No, I hadn’t known that, though lately I have seen a photo of Malcolm in the RAN Band.
Watch this video through: at the end is something Malcolm definitely believed in.
If I can I will get a copy of the words Dorothy McRae-McMahon said about him, which are not yet in that order of service; two of the three poems used in the service, one read by Ian Smith and the other by me, are there now.
We did have a glitch yesterday. The chapel we had booked was unavailable, thanks to a communication breakdown. However, the smaller chapel, though rather packed, proved more than adequate.
A very large contingent flew or drove up from Melbourne to represent Airshows DownUnder. Let me quote a comment left by one of them on the tribute page yesterday:
From all his AGO mates at Airshows DownUnder Mal will be fondly remembered and deeply missed. It was great to be able to see him at Avalon this year albeit tinged with sadness at the ravages the “bastard disease” had wrought.
To watch Mal organise a flood of incoming light aircraft at Avalon was a sight to behold and something I don’t think I will easily forget. I doubt ASOG will ever find someone who can run tarmac Tan like Mal. I for one can thank Mal’s patience in imparting his knowledge and experience in dealing with aircraft. One thing I do know is that “The Green Room” wont be quite the same!
“Per Ardua Ad Astra” my friend!
Malcolm would have loved the music the Morrisons contributed too, not to mention the story of an encounter at a lonely Gove airstrip years ago between John Morrison and Malcolm, and a brand-new somewhat gaudily painted aircraft…
Jacki Cooper and John Morrison with Itty Bitty Big Band