A Tribute to Greg Russell

Gregory Russell, 26th March 1924 – 18th January 2016

Eulogy by Barry Aitchison, edited for the web by Mick Holton.

Gregory Russell

It is an honour and privilege to be asked to reflect and look back upon Greg’s life, it is hard to know where to start and where to finish.

Greg is a man who has left his mark on the Adaminaby and Monaro communities. He was a no nonsense person, never wanting recognition for his contributions to the district. Greg was a bushman, stockman, common sense and practical minded man. He was both articulate and diplomatic, able to always get his point across. Greg was a great manager of the land and a true family man, who can only be described as one of nature’s gentleman. We miss Greg’s chuckle and his way.

Greg’s early childhood was spent at Milroy, Adaminaby.

In 1931 at the age of seven, Greg started his formal education at the local Holy Mount School. The school had a total student enrolment of eight children and required Greg to walk 1.5 miles to attend each day. At the time, the school was not a huge building, but in later years it was relocated to the Nungar Plain and is now known as Brayshaw’s Hut. Greg commented once that he was happy to see the old school on Nungar Plain an area he spent so much time at and knew so well.

The second part of Greg’s schooling, was in Sydney at St Joseph’s boarding school for a period of 12 months. This was long enough for Greg, and he completed his schooling in 1939. During his time in Sydney, a highlight for Greg was seeing the Harbour Bridge being built.

Greg was a keen and talented stockman. He recounted fondly his droving trips to Bairnsdale and Gundagai. It was during one of his cattle droving trips to Bairnsdale in the early 40’s that he bought his first saddle.

Greg was involved in the voluntary defence corp during the second world war.

In 1945 at the age of 21, Greg married his childhood sweetheart Mary Bourke.

Greg was always a community minded man and devoted his time to many local organisations and his achievements and actions included;

  • Being an advisor local lands board
  • Rural lands protection board
  • Wild dog board, where he pushed hard for the dog fence
  • Greg was awarded the Man from Snowy River Award in the early 90’s and in 2009 he was made a Life Member of The Rural Bush Fire Brigade and at the same time opened the new Fire Station for Adaminaby using a drip touch.
  • Long standing involvement in the local church. Greg would often be seen selling raffle tickets in the Snowy Camps to help fund the relocation of St Mary’s Church from the old town into Adaminaby. Greg, like so many other community members was saddened when the church burnt down.
  • Greg had a lifelong involvement with the bush fire brigade. He was at the very first meeting in the old town to form the Adaminaby Brigade in 1940. In later years Greg was involved in the Hume Snowy Bushfire Protection Scheme and District Bushfire Committee, where many debates were held about hazard reduction. Greg proved that he was always able to get his point across in his quiet diplomatic manner and Senior Rangers from the National Park always held him in high regard.

Greg often spoke of an incident in the 1942 fire that affected Denison Providence and Old Adaminaby. This was Greg’s first big fire. Greg was Brigade Captain during many other major fires, including the one in 1965 that burnt 65,000 to 70,000 acres. He described the fire run and conditions present at that event as frightening. This is something that has sadly become all too familiar. Greg’s comments in regard to the 1965 fire was that it was the start of something big without proper management.

Greg and I went through a number of major events together. Greg could always be relied upon to be accurate in his reporting on weather conditions, fire behaviour, what needed to be done and he simply just did it without any fuss.

I remember taking Greg to a fire school in Jindabyne in the late 80’s. The night session was held at the Bowling Club. The next morning, Greg said he had caught the flu. I know I learnt a lot from this old fella.

Greg was very passionate about the high country and we shared many of the same beliefs about the management of this unique part of the world. Over the years Greg was involved in many debates with local and government organisations about our beliefs in the management of the land. Greg had the proof on his property, where you only had to look on his side of the fence to the unmanaged and unburnt land on the other side.

Mary and Greg’s marriage spaned 62 years and they worked in partnership, side by side on their property to make it one of the most productive and successful properties in the area.

I spent many hours with Greg and Mary, sharing stories over a cuppa at Milroy or along a fire trail with Greg. To me Greg was a mentor, he was a person you could spend a day with and learn so much.

Over the past few days, many people have commented that they remember Greg as very caring, a true gentleman. He was regarded a great manager of his properties and he was a man who loved his family and was happiest by his Mary’s side.

Greg will be so greatly missed by us all.

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