Jim McIntosh OAM (1913-2003)
Image of James Gordon McIntosh
Part 1 of Eulogy, delivered by Jim’s Grandchild, Angela Green, on 6th March 2003 at St Andrews’s Presbyterian Church, Canberra.
Our Grumpa, Jim McIntosh, died at Calvary Hospital, on Sunday, the 2nd March 2003. He was in his 90th year. I would like to tell you something about Jim’s life.
Our great Aunt Doreen summarised Jim’s life very well. He was a son, a brother, a worker, a soldier, a loving husband, proud father of three children and three grandchildren, good citizen of Australia. Above all, he was a good man, with great integrity, a sense of independence and loyalty. He was also a great sportsman, a craftsman of wood, and a teacher of young men after the Second World War.
Let me now take you back to the beginning. Jim was born at Canberra’s first post office at Ainslie on 11 October 1913. He was the 5th generation of the McIntosh family to live on the Limestone Plains. Jim’s great great grandfather migrated here with his sons in 1837 in the barque William Nicol.
Jim’s early childhood was very happy. His Mother, Hilda, a teacher by profession was running the post office when Jim arrived, and his father, Hector, was a resourceful carpenter by trade who turned to the land as did his forebears.
Jim told us about playing in the limestone outcrops that are still to be found between the Ainslie Hotel and the CSIRO Headquarters. The arrival of the horse drawn Royal Mail coaches, travelling between Yass and Queanbeyan, must have been very exciting for a little boy in a remote outpost. He was good at cricket and tennis and had a life long interest in fishing. A Billy cart was one of Jim’s early favourite possessions until he upgraded to Taffy, his pony.
At about eight years of age, Jim suffered a severe fever that resulted in the total loss of his hair. Jim told us recently that this used to worry him when he was a teenager and he wore a wig until he decided to throw it away. This created that timeless, seemingly indestructible profile that we knew so well. His later years were never aged by the grey that descends on most of us.
Jim was educated at Duntroon Primary School and Telopea Park High School. By 1925 the family had shifted to Callum Brae, a farm that still exists adjacent to Narrabundah Lane. Early in that year Doreen, Jim’s sister, was born.
Jim recalled being at the opening of the provisional Parliament House with his school mates in 1927. After getting his Intermediate Certificate, he left school. Jim shepherded sheep to start with and soon after began in the carpentry trade, working on some of the icon buildings of this city, including this church. He later contributed to the Australian War Memorial and the spiral staircase at the American Embassy.
Jim was lucky to be able to go back to Callum Brae as the available trade work fluctuated during the Great Depression. It was about this time that Jim built the “Red Shed” at Callum Brae. On his 88th birthday, Jim revisited Callum Brae with some of his family, and they were amazed by the “Red Shed”. You would think it had been finished the day before, and Jim’s great skill as a carpenter was quite obvious. Jim was full of stories of the events that took place there.
Jim was well practiced in the dispatch of bunny rabbits, and he took up the pastime of target rifle shooting. His father was a founding member of the Canberra Rifle Club, which celebrates its 90th birthday in 2004. Jim enrolled in the Club on 30 August 1930, and soon established himself as a permanently A Grade shot.
Callum Brae was sold, and Jim’s parents moved to Glendon, near Murrumbateman. Jim remained in Canberra working as a carpenter, boarding with various families. Jim started a marathon period of service on the Committee of the rifle club, which ended only last year. Jim was an active member of the Militia, the Army Reserve of its day. He cut a dashing figure no doubt, in his little green sports car, a Singer Bantam 9.
Jim had to fight hard with bureaucracy just to get into the Second AIF during World War 2. He finally sailed to Singapore to join the 2/30th Battalion, and trained in jungle warfare for several months. In December 1941, the Japanese invasion of Malaya began and Jim’s battalion was put in their way. This culminated in the famous battle at Gemas on the 14th of January 1942.
Jim said “I was running forward on a road between rubber plantations, and the next thing I was flat on my face looking at my tin hat rolling down the road ahead of me.” Jim was severely wounded in the right hip. Taffy Phillips, at risk to his life, pulled him through the barbed wire on the side of the road. Jim lost his trousers in the process, and was hauled through the mud back to safety where his life was saved by the surgeons Coates and Fagin. Jim was taken off Singapore in a hospital ship just three days before its fall, and was always full of praise for his mates and the nursing staff who got him home via Ceylon. Jim was very proud that his daughter became a highly qualified nurse.
Jim found it hard to reconcile why he survived, while so many of his mates died or suffered dreadfully as Prisoners of War. It hardened Jim as a person who gave his all to his mates at all times.
Demonstrating his enormous strength of character and will, Jim went on to take up his main career in 1945, which was as a teacher at the Canberra Technical College. After a career spanning 28 years, the number of tradesmen who were influenced by Jim’s expectations of: careful planning, attention to detail, and perfect execution, were large. He taught the “Foreman of the Clerk of Works Course” for qualified tradespersons, many of whom went on to highly placed positions interstate and overseas. Jim took a keen interest in the construction of the National Capital and was very proud of this city.
Jim took up dancing as physiotherapy for his injuries. Enid Chapman and Jim had known each other from their days at Duntroon Primary School. They were re-acquainted at these dances. Romance blossomed and they were married at St John’s Church, Reid on 3 January 1948.
Jim and Enid had three children Stuart, Susan, and David. Some of the family’s happiest days were spent at the holiday house at Mossy Point. Jim loved cooking and home life and a succession of family cats, especially Tommy. The family home was and remains at Duffy Street, Ainslie. While being of a determined nature, Jim had a mellow personality always putting his own needs last. He demonstrated his enduring love and devotion in caring of our Grandma Enid, through her long illness. The organisers of many successful kids’ parties, Granny was the grand planner and Jim the practical one. Together, they produced many wonderful birthday cakes! Enid and Jim were married for 46 years and were devoted to each other, Grandma died on 15 September 1994.
Jim fulfilled the role of husband, teacher, father, carer and grandfather as well as achieving great things as a leader of the target rifle shooting movement. The Canberra Rifle Club faced its severest test in 1966 when the Mt Ainslie Rifle Range was closed by the construction of the road to the summit.
The development of the current range at Majura is a credit not only to Jim’s skills as the coordinating tradesperson, but to the grit and determination of the whole band of volunteers who made it happen. It was re-opened in 1969 and named the McIntosh Rifle Range in honour of the family’s links to the club, and especially Jim’s leading role. As it happens, the Majura Valley was the site of several McIntosh family properties including Gladefield and Malcolm Vale, which still exist and bear those names.
By 1972, the range was doubled in size under Jim’s direction to accommodate the annual national championships for the sport of full bore target rifle shooting. The National Queen’s Prize Shoot was a highlight for Jim and he was made Captain of the Australian Rifle Team for a match in 1973. Among the competitors was a team from Japan and it is recalled that he said: “these men cannot be blamed for what their fathers may have done, it is time to forgive”.
Jim cared for his rifle range like a baby. It was Jim giving back to his mates who did not come back from Malaya. While it is not fashionable now, Jim always saw the discipline of “skill at arms” as a valuable asset in the defence of Australia. Jim was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his services to target rifle shooting on Australia Day 1980 and was later admitted to the ACT Sports Hall of Fame.
David took up Jim’s sport in 1973. They travelled to many competitions together and being of equal ability greatly enjoyed their private competition. On one occasion, a friend from Jim’s 34 years on the NSW Rifle Association Council remarked: “No generation gap here!” – even though the age difference was 43 years. David will sorely miss Jim’s friendship in sport.
Stuart, Susan and David will miss his unwavering support, wise counsel and love. Jim will also be sadly missed by Robyn and Ramsey who knew and appreciated his conversation and wealth of knowledge on local and Scottish history.
For me, Jessica, and Rachel growing up, Jim was most of all, Grandpa: kind, sweet eyes full of spark and always ready with a good yarn, a listening ear and patience. We will miss him greatly, as will our mum Susan.
Jim was characteristically independent and strong, as his health declined, he remained fighting in spirit, but greatly appreciated Stuart’s concern and practical assistance around the house. The continuing friendship of Val Ockenden, Ivy Byrne, Jack Milligan, Anne Pitcher and many others in this period was also very comforting.
Although we all knew this day was coming, Jim’s departure did come as a shock. He was alert to the end, seemingly on the improve and planning his next project. He would have hated losing his independence and was determined to go home. We all wished that for him as well, but it was not to be.
Lord, we thank you for this remarkable life, a son, brother, worker, soldier, husband, father, grandfather, citizen and above all a good man who touched all of our lives. Lord, we commend our friend to you.
Part 2 of Eulogy was a Solo rendition of Amazing Grace by Jim’s Grandchild, Rachel Green.
Part 3 of Eulogy was the following poem penned and delivered by Jim’s Grandchild, Jessica Green.
tall, and straight backed my Grandpa was,
Always fiddling in his shed.
A shrine of sorts
to the building of things,
with those enormous, gentle hands.
were like the very thunder of God.
like a rifle shot.
and you’d know
that a very large heart indeed
(at least V8)
must be revved up full throttle
behind such a powerful force.
About his hair,
I used to wonder why occasionally, it wasn’t there,
but mostly I just saw his hat
proudly on his head.
Like an old friend
accompanying him always
whether driving his ford
taking me to school
fixing the vic mower
with some precision tool
or sitting at the stern
of the old orange dinghy
me bouncing in the middle,
hoping to catch as many fish as he.
My Grandpa didn’t say many words
but he spoke purely and true.
It was a language even animals knew.
A purring tomcat
the family dog.
Or that Kookaburra,
that used to come back every year
for a bit of meat
on the fence post
at the Blue House.
And Grandpa would say,
“here he comes, watch him kids, he’ll grab it right out of your hand.”
Grandpa was always there
it seems right from the beginning of this town.
His memories came
before television screens
when stories were remembered.
And he was always there
at our table end
on occasions of celebrations to lend,
(upon the third glass of wine)
amazing tales of the doings of women and men
and we’d all try and re tell the story later
but forget the who, the why and the when
He was a man of few words,
but upon a visit
that was in no hurray
a door would open
and I could glimpse back
for a few moments
to the days before the lake
to a boy who used to pedal wherever he went
who’d fetch the milk when he was sent
He one time was amazed to see,
the biggest bloody bonfire you ever saw
burning at the top of Mt Ainslie..
he began to talk about the war
and I would struggle to understand,
to hear the sounds of grenades and gunfire
to comprehend the terror he saw
that gave his eyes a faraway look.
But he came home
and built this town
to lay foundations and forgive.
He was able to live with that great pain
and love only greater.
All for simple things,
dinner in front of the 6 o’clock news
arguing in gusts, upon his worldly views
giggling at the modern world, finding it absurd
and when asked if he’d like some cake
he would reply “My word!”
My Grandpa was a man of many strengths
of which he’d tell you none
but anyone who’d spent time with him
would have loved him for every one.