The funeral was held on Friday 22 August, 11.00 am, at St Paul's, Canberra.
Malcolm was husband to Helen; father and grandfather to James, Christella, Eleni, Yianni, Olivia; Tim, Teresa, Lillian; Nick, Sam, Alexandra and Anna.
He came from the country; he fought for his country in Vietnam; he played rugby for his country in New Zealand. He served at Maralinga, and defied cancer for almost twelve years.
He was a hero to us all.
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Bishop Neville, friends and family
There can be few more difficult tasks for a son than to stand up and speak at his father's funeral, so I apologise in advance if I don't get through this next little bit in one piece... a problem that I suggest may be made more difficult if you look like your father..!
Today my task is simple. On behalf of my brothers and mother I'm going to thank you all for being so wonderful to both my mother and father over many decades, but most particularly over the last decade as my father's illness ebbed and flowed. This was a long period of illness and the thanks will take some time, and I apologise for that.
There are some truly wonderful people in this world, and we are blessed to have so many of them here today and in our lives. Some are friends, some are family, and some have been around for so long we're not quite sure whether they are related or not.
These are people that have given their time, their kindness, their energy to ensure my parents have been as comfortable as possible over the last decade.
Firstly, our thanks to the local Clergy. To Bishop Neville and his colleagues of the Anglican Church in Canberra and Manuka. The church was so very important to Malcolm all his life. Bishop Neville's personal attention over the last nine months to ensure that he received communion in hospital and in Clare Holland was a huge source of comfort to him. Thank you.
Special thanks to a group of people Ive simply titled in my notes as "special people in Canberra", that have provided their continued friendship to Helen and Malcolm for so many years. Special mentions here must be made of Alan and Berryl Hodges, of Bob and Jenny Nairn, of Alan and Marietta Sargeson, of Paddy and Frank Milne, of John and Susan Essex Clarke and many others that I should mention. Your kindness and generosity shown at so many times has no limits.
To beautiful group of ladies that I secretly call the "Awesome Foursome". Paddy, Jocelyn, Peg, and more recently Sabrina. Quite simply my mother could not have managed to come through this last decade without your love and support. In my mother's beautiful words "Thank you so very much".
Our thanks to the continued companionship to Mum and Dad of his former military colleagues, the members of 2 Troop who have come from far and wide. The regular reunions were very important to Malcolm over recent years and we are all really thrilled to see so many of his former colleagues here today. To the old Duntroon representatives, (Bill Fleming, Bill Mostyn, Peter Tedder, Geoff Markham and John McGee (in absentia)), and to Troop 2 colleagues David Wicks, David Woods, David Crosby, John Pullen, and others. Many of these colleagues have travelled huge distances and the effort they have made and the friendship they have shown I suspect is in some way related to the reputation that Australian services have around the world.
A moment of thought and our thanks to God for special but absent friends of Malcolm's that unfortunately can't be here today. To Kevin Newman, Tony Barr, John Lessells, Don Ellis, Keith Archer, Dick Dowdall and literally hundreds of former military, rugby and work colleagues who were great friends (Alan Howes/Gordon Scott).
A wonderful thanks also to Malcolm's daughter in laws, Christella, Theresa, Samantha, and Im including in this category Ivana (for surely she now has this earned this formidable status), and all their families for being so understanding of Malcolm's condition and for providing and offering so much assistance to Dad, Mum James, Tim and myself.
Our thanks to two special people in Albert and Alfred Bonansea, and their extended friends and families, who showed Dad new horizons over the last decade and provided very special companionship. [In Albert's case, any one who could persuade Dad to build his own house with a lap pool in it and take him partying in Argentina at the age of 70 deserves a very special mention, and a special thank you to Alfred for the friendship to Malcolm and of course the wonderful flowers].
Special mention of thanks to Kay McInerny who was known Malcolm all through his illness and who has been a continual companion and provided such huge assistance to Malcolm in his last months sifting through a literal mountain of old papers, notes and diary with Malcolm to make some order out of what appeared to be chaos.
Our special thanks to many people whose services and kindness were so well above and beyond the call of any sort of regular service or duty. To Greg Darmody who handled Dad's cattle sales for decades, to Shane Burgess, Tony Del Col and Scott Ferguson who have all taken up the slack in both little and large ways on the farm and in the gardens as Dad's mobility was increasingly affected.
And thanks to the truly wonderful staff at Clare Holland House. This is a truly wonderful group of caring and kind people.
Finally, thanks to Lisa Jane Maher for the catering after this ceremony, and to all the people that have provided assistance.
Finally, thanks to all of our family that have come from afar to make this day special and who have given us a meaningful wider extended family and all its virtues. I cant tell you how much it means to my mother, and our sincere and heartfelt thanks to:-
1. Norma and Vin Bath, who were so very important to Malcolm, from Mittagong
2. Clive, Mary and Hilary from Melbourne
3. Doug and Jean van Gelder coming down from Bundaberg
4. Pauline and Ted Cornell from Queensland
5. Marlene and John, Bruce and Carol from up North.
6. Theresa and her parents from Melbourne. It would be extraordinarily remiss of me not to mention my wife Samantha from Singapore and her parents from Sydney.
And to so many other friends who have all made the wonderful effort to be here today.
And thank you to Malcolm.
On behalf of us all, thank you to Malcolm the friend, the soldier, the rugby player, the referee even, the colleague, the farmer, the lawyer, the mentor, the adviser, the husband, the grandfather, and for my brothers and I as a father.
In this last capacity, as a father, it is impossible to completely express our gratitude.
1. Thank you for the education which was provided to us at considerable sacrifice, by both Mum and Dad, for the guidance, for the direction, and for the instruction.
2. Thank you for explaining the Malcolm Fraser philosophy that life wasn't meant to be easy. That the rewards of life come from;-
a. learning and knowledge,
b. from sacrifice and hard work,
c. from Christian beliefs and principles.
d. from honesty and truthfulness,
e. from at least three vegetables a day and a glass of milk (without milo),
f. from fresh air and exercise
g. from friends and from relations.
3. And for instilling in all of us that there is a difference between right and wrong, that we can and should challenge the world in front of us, that everyone has something to offer, and we should be charitable with our time.
4. And finally on a personal note, thank you also for correcting my spelling up until the age of 42..!
During his last few days, Dad described to me a notion that he felt somewhat tricked or deceived. In my words, he couldn't understand, he couldn't comprehend, how, on a level playing field (and perhaps with 15 men on each side), he could be defeated by a mere illness.
He had gone into this final battle as a General on the Western Front once directed his soldiers, behaving as though defeat is not even a possibility.
This strength of character, the self belief, the faith, the courage and the conviction will be his outstanding legacy to friends and family, and for which all must we give our thanks.
I am sure our family's ongoing achievements will all stem, at least in part, from this inspiration.
Malcolm had many adages as I think many of you will recall. The most often used to his children perhaps was an exasperated "give me a man who can do simple things well". On the rugby field it was that "you only had to make one spectacular tackle a match to impress selectors", at dinner time it was always "eat as though you don't know where your next meal is coming from", but I think his favourite for his friends was one attributed to Queen Victoria relating to farewells, that many of you may have heard him say, being:- "It is not the manner of your coming that counts, it's the matter of your going." If the guest was not taking the meaning of this adage it was quickly followed by a rather more precise "When you're going, GO...!"
As the cheekiest of Malcolm's children even I didn't have the courage to ever tell him over 12 years of illness that he did not quite follow Queen Victoria's adage, because of course for this we could only be truly grateful..!
The unfortunate side of that particular coin, however, was a reduction in the quality of his life and to prematurely limit his already numerous accomplishments.
This was the long paradox felt paradox for all of us, but Dad, perhaps reminiscent of one of his fearsome rugby tackles, stared and met it face on for 10 years and it gave him great strain, from which we can now thank the lord that he is at finally at rest.
Sorting through some of Malcolm's papers in the last few days I found a poem that Malcolm had previously used in two of his own farewell speeches during his life, and as I go I shall repeat it here today (with apologies to TS Eliot):
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the notion
And the act
Falls the shadow
This is the way that Malcolm ends;
This is the way that Malcolm ends;
This is the way that Malcolm ends;
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Thank you all so much for coming here today.
Robert Nairn Eulogy at the funeral
I knew Malcolm for over 50 years since we studied engineering, served in Adelaide University Regiment and played rugby together.
He was a devoted husband and father who wanted the best for his family. All three sons won scholarships. One became a neurosurgeon, one a professor of Philosophy and the third a successful investment banker. One climbed on Mt Everest and another played rugby for Victorian schoolboys. All have married and given Helen and Malcolm grandchildren.
Malcolm was a sportsman:
- 1952 RMC middleweight boxing champion
- 1958 Wallaby and represented Australia scoring two tries in New Zealand the ACT’s first Wallaby – an ambition many dream about but never achieve
- When playing for Victoria he scored a try against the All Blacks
- He played for 4 states – SA, Vic, NSW and ACT - it did not stop there
- Refereed 466 matches in the ACT for over 30 years
- 12 months ago, in Adelaide for the 75th anniversary of AURUFC, Malcolm was feted.
He was a cattle farmer and built a small ‘alternative life-style’ village on “Malcolmvale” He was known for the quiet personal help he gave to those less fortunate.
Malcolm was an educated man – a graduate in Military Science, Engineering, Economics and Law. He had an eye for antiques and history and he supported Engineers Australia activities throughout his lifetime. He won two AMF Gold Medals for essays he prepared.
Malcolm was my solicitor, frequent bridge partner (taking great joy in beating the two Bridge Club Masters who opposed us) and my travelling companion, sharing many rather exotic experiences in remote places such as:-
- Saw him off on a trip on the “Rocket”, a steamer, for a trip on the Ganges;
- Party with Russian Generals in Delhi at the time of their Afghanistan War;
- Weekend in Katmandu – they had cleaned up the place for QE2’s visit;
- Stayed with the Milne’s in Rangoon, played tennis and met a Shan poppy-grower;
- Visited General Chang’s home on ShenYang in NE China. Chang convinced Mao to join with Chiang Kai Shek to fight the Japanese.
So Malcolm was a man of many parts, a disciplined fighter, but most of all Malcolm was a loyal friend for over 50 years and my life will be less without him.
Click on the thumbnails for readable images.
Canberra Times Obituary, 22 Aug 08
Click on the image for a larger (readable) version
Announcement on Australian Rugby website
Vale Classic Wallaby Malcolm van Gelder
August 21, 2008 - 11:07am
Story by: ARU
A funeral service will be held in Canberra tomorrow for former Wallaby Malcolm van Gelder.
A funeral service for former Wallabies backrower Lt. Col. (Ret.) Malcolm van Gelder – a member of the 1958 touring team to New Zealand – will be held in Canberra tomorrow.
Van Gelder represented the Wallabies while serving as an officer in the Australian Army and played matches against Southland and Manawatu on a 13-game trip where the first Test was played 50 years ago this Saturday.
He also scored a try on his Australian debut against Southland in Invercargill.
Holding a special place in the annals of South Australian Rugby – he won Wallabies selection the season after playing with Adelaide University – former teammates remember van Gelder as “a marvellous, aggressive and attacking breakaway”.
He entered the Royal Military College Duntroon in January 1952 and graduated into the Engineer Corps in December 1955.
Van Gelder headed for Adelaide to continue his studies but was back in Canberra playing with the Easts club when chosen to tour with the 1958 Wallabies – an Australian squad that included John Solomon, John Thornett, Des Connor, Arthur Summons, Kevin Ryan, Jon White, Terry Curley and Beres Ellwood.
He later served in Vietnam from February 1968 to February 1969 as the Officer Commanding of the 17th Construction Squadron RAE.
Van Gelder left the Army after service in Vietnam and became a lawyer in Canberra, participating very actively in public life.
He passed away in the Canberra Hospice last Saturday. He was 75.
The funeral service will be held in Canberra tomorrow (Friday) at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Griffith, at 11am.
Australia vs South Africa, August 23 2008
From Fox News:
By staff writers
August 22, 2008
AUSTRALIA will wear black armbands on Saturday night against the Springboks in Durban in honour of Classic Wallabies Roy Prosser and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Malcolm van Gelder, who passed away over the last fortnight.
Prosser, once Australia’s most-capped prop with 25 Test appearances from 1967-1972, made his Test debut on the 1966-67 tour to the UK and Ireland.
He learned his Rugby at Newington College before joining the Northern Suburbs club in Sydney, where he made 220 first grade appearances and played 236 games in all.
In the mid-1970s he moved to Brisbane and was captain-coach when Western Districts won its inaugural top grade premiership in 1977, along the way Prosser coached future Wallabies Roger Gould and Stan Pilecki.
Van Gelder, who toured with the Wallabies to New Zealand in 1958, was an officer in the Australian Army, who scored a try on his Australian debut against Southland in Invercargill. He holds a special place in the annals of South Australian Rugby, as he won Wallabies selection the season after playing with Adelaide University.
Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said the Men of Gold would be playing for Prosser and van Gelder on Saturday.
“When we run on to the field we take all the former Wallabies with us” he said.
“We are carrying on their tradition and legacy in every Test we play and on Saturday we are proud to honour the memories of Roy and Malcolm.”