Vale David Evans – A man of conscience and good humour

David Evans  was affectionately known as “Big Tiger”. Pic courtesy of Wayne Pratt Photography.

David Evans was affectionately known as “Big Tiger”. Pic courtesy of Wayne Pratt Photography.

It’s been almost 12 months since Goondiwindi man, David Evans, passed away. At the time his grieving family didn’t think to publish his eulogy. We are happy we can share this wonderful tribute now. It was written by his brother-in-law,  Bill Hayden Gunn and Stuart Boothroyd...

A little over two years ago I stood here as I was honoured when David asked me to present a eulogy to his wife of 46 years, my sister Mary.  Today I see many of the same faces as when we gathered in one place for life’s inevitable end at a landmark event to make a journey that we all must take.

 In the very last conversation I had with David he lamented the passing of Mary and explained how much he missed her, a person to which he gave all he had and did so for a long time.  He has now reached across that divide and joined her and the time he spent without her turned out to be not long at all.  He joins her not after the long and painful ordeal that she suffered but quickly and without pain or remorse.  We all should give thanks and hope that our own ends comes with such ease.

David was certainly one of a kind, a character, not easy forgotten and never likely to be replicated.  We shall not see his like again.  He always appeared to me to regard life as not all that serious an undertaking, an attitude that he maintained for his whole life.  Many of us here today would like, I think, to be able to do that.  Most of us cannot – a pity I think.  Thus we all have something to learn and take away from a the life of David Evans.

The true guide to a man is his conscience, the only shield we have against the uncertainties and visitudes of life.  He lived with that and his humour as his guide and he did no evil to anybody as far as I know.  Many of us like to make that claim.  Surely if we can walk through life with that shield we would all be less mocked by the occasional failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations.  I pay him that honour.  David died on the 8th of February 2017.

A wonderful thing about my occasional returns to this community into which I was born is its sense of community, taken for granted by us all, but rare, rarer than you all think.  Indeed I know of no other place in the whole world that I inhabit that can be compared to it.  Perhaps it is because of the shared experiences of us all and the almost unique collection of families that have lived here for generations and been contributors to it and its community.  I ask you all to carry that on long into the future.

With a flickering flame we stumble along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct those rusty memories of what we in this community share, to revive the dreams and kindle with pale gleams the memories of former days.

The Evans family came here in 1889 to Oonavale and planted roots that took hold forming a family tree that has grown strong and enduring.  Many are here in this church on this day and by being here bear witness to all that is best in our Australian heritage.

The forebear’s brothers George and Herbert Evans who brought sheep from Warwick and planted roots here on this river.  They bear a classic Welsh name.  Many of their descendants, including David, are here in this place at this time.  How pleased they would be to know that.

George and Herbert, two brothers married two sisters the Bennett sisters Alice and Rhoda from Molong, George and Alice had three children, Stuart, Kitty and Gus but also George and Alice had both died by 1917 leaving three young children who were double cousins of Herbert and Rhoda’s kids who also had three children Lorna, Nancy and Runa.  These six children were then raised together at Oonavale and one Stuart, an adventures soul by all accounts married Nancy Easton of Clifton and low an behold from this union David was born in Tamworth on 26 of July 1942.

He died 74 years later in the same community into which his forbears were once the founders.

David's beloved wife, Mary.

David's beloved wife, Mary.

The ever adventurous Stuart subsequently married Ann Lord and that union produced a further two daughters Julie and Kym.

David grew up in Redcliffe, attended primary school Humpybong, went to school for a time in Charters Towers subsequently lived on his father’s property Talkara near Winton, married Mary, took her to the property Talkara near Winton returned later to Rugby north of here, then to Eukabilla and finally to a cotton farm called Sylvan Plains over the river and now to here in this church with us today.  Each step was progress.

He combined in his person the innate decency of the mainline Evans family like many here in this church today with the adventurous spirit of his father always regarding it all as perhaps a bit of a joke after all.

David, as we all know was unique and as such we will miss him and the good cheer that was an integral in his nature.

When some time later Gus’s daughter Christine before undergoing a life threatening operation while in hospital introduced her good friend Mary Gunn to her cousin David Evans.  They agreed in the parking lot of the hospital to meet again.

They married and in this church today are their three surviving children Robert, Cameron and Nancy and their seven grandchildren Isabella, Jasmine, Lucy, Brock, Nakita, Eliot and Sophie.  A son Stuart predeceased Mary and David and died in infancy.

Mary my sister was also a member of a long standing Goondiwindi family.

For those of us who are old enough to have regrets it will not be for the deal we did not do, the crop we did not grow or the laurels that did not come our way.  We will regret the friends we did not see when we could have or the family member we did not square off with before they died.  At time like this it is well to reflect that before us lies a church service like we are having today probably in this very church.  It should prompt us all to be sure that our relationships with friends and family are put in order as time is short.

As we wish David well on his journey to the unknown and his reunion with Mary.  David was a man without malice.  It will forever stand him in good stead.  Would that we could all make such a claim.

David was a man without malice. It will forever stand him in good stead. Would that we could all make such a claim.

Bill Hayden Gunn

Written and spoken by Bill Hayden Gunn

David Evans was a good bloke.

David Evans was a good bloke.

He was a friend to all gathered here this morning.

However, David was different.

Some likened him as a lovable rogue.

Maybe they had a point but David was more than this.

Others said he was a bit of a scallywag.

Maybe they were closer, however there was much more to David.

David Evans was unorthodox, unconventional and most of all he was original.

David Evans was unorthodox, unconventional and most of all he was original.

Stuart Boothroyd

Who can ever forget the engineering feat that was the fitting of a Ford V8 motor into a Mercedes Benz.  David said that even though this was quite a feat in itself, one of the biggest problems was when he took the beast into town for a rego inspection the mechanic nearly fell over backwards when David raised the bonnet.  David said that the mechanics feared being sued by Mercedes if ever they discovered this transformation.  Apparently, it took two weeks to get approved to put the car on the road.

One of David’s favourite pastimes whenever they travelled, was to ask the driveway attendant to check the oil.

I am told on excellent authority that sometimes it took David half an hour to fill the tank and he loved being centre stage.

In fact, David did like others to recognise his achievements and there were many, too many to mention here this morning.

I would now like to move to one of David’s special talents and that was problem solving in a crisis.

I had a phone call one morning from David saying that he needed to replace a gas bottle and as the Kildonan Rd was closed by floodwater could I meet him at the backwater and he would come with a tinny and we would go into town and pick up a fresh bottle.

I also learnt that Mary had been at David for at least two weeks and that David had to wait until a flood to get the job done.  I think the only reason David acted now was the thought of missing out on a feed.

David turned up with the tinny and the twins, all packed into a station wagon. 

The plan was for David and I to go into town pick up the gas bottle and the boys would row it back to the station wagon and unload it.

David thought it would be prudent to pick up a slab of XXXX, as well as the gas bottle, to help him through the flood.

There was not enough room in the tinny for everyone and the boys were tasked to take the gas bottle across the flood and come back and collect David.

David and I thought it would be a clever idea to blow the froth off a beer or two while all this was going on.

Everything was going well until the boys were a third of the way over.  An argument ensued from the rowers as to which one of them was going to lead.  As they could not work out who was in charge the tinny started going around in circles.

David was shouting at the boys from the bank and the boys were shouting at each other, and to David as well, and the boat continued to travel around in circles.

By this time David and I were both on the third stubby just in time to greet the photographer from the Argus, who thought that the situation was hilarious.

Consequently, a photo graced the front page.

He hung about for a couple of stubbies, by which time the boys had made a bit of progress and then the cops turned up.  They thought the whole scene also hilarious and hung around while we consumed another stubby or two.

The boys then made the opposite shore and another argument ensued as to how they were going to lift the gas bottle into the back of the station wagon.  

Eventually this task was completed and the boys made it back to pick up David.

The problem was by this time the carton of stubbies was about two thirds depleted and David insisted that we go back to the Queensland to replenish supplies.

We went back and purchased another carton of stubbies together with a bottle of Bundy, just in case it started raining again.

Mary could feed the family hot meals and David was able to survive the flood with an ample supply of refreshments.

I would also like to make mention of a skill that David had that nobody ever realised.  David had proven himself as farmer and a cattleman.  He had good horse skills however, nobody ever realised his horticultural skills.

Anyone visiting the garden at Eukabilla could have seen Mary and David had tried hard to establish a garden however there was obviously a little something that the garden needed and they were not quite sure what that could be.

The answer came with infrastructure development at the hospital.

The hospital needed some half a dozen palm trees to be removed pronto.

Up stepped the horticultural expert David.  David figured that sixty year old palm trees could be transplanted just like anything else.  Let’s face it he had already been to the Noosa National Park, and knocked off a few fully established Blackboy Plants and these had been regrown into the Eukabilla garden why not a few palm trees.  I said to Mary one day what she thought of all this and in her own way she just shrugged the shoulders.

And so, it came to pass, Dave dug up and loaded these 30’ palms on the back of the semi and away they went with the top of the palm dragging along the bitumen.

I could not believe it when two of these survived and two were allowed to rest in peace in sympathy.

I would like to make a brief mention of David’s generosity.

Many of you remember the days when we used to spend weekends at the dam sailing and skiing.

David sometimes would go out a few days early and set up camp that you could live in for months.

When we had all returned David would stay on and often would run into locals that had set nets and lines looking for a decent feed.

One afternoon I had a knock on the door and here was David sitting at the door with a damp wheat bag.

We knocked the top off a stubby and David told me that he was about to do me a great favour.  He opened the bag and released about eight or nine dead catfish that apparently was given to him down at the dam.

I told him that he should give them to Mary.

David informed me that Mary had told him;

 “Get these stinking fish out of my sight and I don’t care what you do I never want to set eyes on them again.”

David then thought that he would give Stuey a surprise and delivered them to me.

Not wanting to offend such generosity I showed these to Pam who went off in a similar fashion to Mary.

I told David I would deal with them at the tip.

To finish I would like to make mention of David’s service to the community.

The Queensland Railway were upgrading the line to Goondiwindi and David rang me one weekend to say that there were twice as many sleepers around than the railways needed.  Could I bring the ute out and he would collect some for a set of yards that he was building and could get a few for the kid’s sandpit.  We collected at least 150 sleepers and I took home four for the sandpit.

On Monday evening, I got a phone call from David who in a very agitated voice told me that he had just received a phone call from the railways.

David described the conversation and it went like this.

‘’Mr Evans this is the Queensland Railways here.  I believe you are in possession of some property that belongs to us.’’

There was dead silence on Dave’s end of the phone.

The conversation continued;

“Mr Evans, we know you are in possession of our property and we are not going to waste our time to come and search for it. In fact.  Mr Evans if this property is not returned to us within 24 hours we will be out with a warrant for your arrest.  Let me tell you Mr Evans you will not be taken into Goondiwindi, you will be taken direct to Toowoomba.”

Thanks to David’s completely unselfish deeds the Goondiwindi railways upgrade was completed on time and my kids got a new sand pit.

Written and spoken by Stuart Boothroyd