Truxton Leslie Cooper – Eulogy


Truxton Leslie Cooper1

14 April 1921 – 20 March 2007

Delivered by his son, Ian Truxton Cooper [E.6.13a.2b.1c.2d], 23 March 2007 at the Magnolia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium, Macquarie Park NSW.

Truxton Leslie Cooper
Truxton Leslie Cooper

Whilst going through Dad’s computer records I found that he had started recording some memories of his life. I’d like to start off today by reading you some extracts from this.

The earliest part of my life that I can remember is when I was about 4 yrs old, living with my parents on a property that Grandfather Cooper had given to Mum and Dad.

My parent’s property of about 5000 acres was located on the Gwydir River, about 26 miles from both Uralla and Armidale in a northerly direction.

Initially they had only a hut to live in which was quite rudimentary and I remember noting in later years that it was constructed from locally cut timber, and had a dirt floor and newspaper clad walls.

Eventually a proper home was built and this I remember well. Initially one had to go outside to fill kettles etc with water to be heated on the fuel stove. Later on, large tanks were used to supply water to the house via galvanised pipes.

The property in those days ran up to about 5000 sheep as it was top grazing land.

I had a fairly free run outside and caused much panic on one occasion by going missing for what could have been hours before finally being found sound asleep in one of the dog kennels.

I was told that I would get a pony for my fourth birthday and each day I would stare at the road that went through the property for the arrival of this pony. Finally it did show up. He was called Peter and he was very well behaved. I thought he was only 2 or 3 years old but I was very disappointed to one day find out the truth – he was nearer 30. I had great fun cantering over the paddocks after eventually becoming sufficiently competent as a rider. Nevertheless, I had two or three falls but did not come to any real harm.

One episode that even upsets me today if I think about it concerns a station hand and my fascination with fire. A great big heap of firewood had been collected and off-loaded in an acre near the dog’s kennels where a fire was burning away, boiling up meat, such as rabbits, to feed them over the next few days. For some crazy reason I thought it would be fun to make a trail of sticks from the fire to the wood heap but then became distracted and left this area. Later on in the day there was a great deal of commotion. The wood heap had gone up in flames and the station hand got sacked.

I had governesses from time to time, which I detested, but finally when I was six my mother, two brothers and sister and I went to Sydney not ever to return as a family.

We lived for a while in a cottage at Collaroy and I learnt to fish at a local pool for tiddlers, but it was all new to me and helped pass the days – not that I was bored.

Then we all moved to a new home at Roseville and at the age of 6 I had to start school. This was a problem as I was way behind all the other children scholastically and quite frankly I look back at that time as quite horrifying. Nevertheless I scrambled through the lessons – hating each day.

Not knowing any better, my mother sent me off in a suit with a small suitcase holding sandwiches and a hard-boiled egg. The other children thought all this a great joke and I was teased mercilessly and earned the nickname for a while of “googie”. I was just a country bumpkin in those days and the teasing truly upset me.

Eventually I made friends with boys that gave me great support, particularly one Ian Paton. This group of friends did nevertheless get up to some wild times. We were often in stone fights with other gangs and used such weaponry as catapults and slings. Later on even .22 rifles got into the picture but in a fairly harmless way. One lot of boys took to firing shots off a large rock that we were behind on one occasion. The bullets would career off with the typical scream; it was like being in cowboy pictures that were all the rage at the time. It was not unusual to be walking along a bush track and hear hissing behind somewhere. This was the signal to take off before an explosion. Boys would obtain empty .303 cartridge cases; fill them (usually) with homemade gunpowder and clamp a bit of detonator fuse in the open end. The perpetrator would hide in the bushes until someone walked past. You can guess the rest.

There was one boy a couple of years older than me who often sat on his back steps taking pot-shots with his .22 rifle at the top of his neighbour’s flagpole. One day this neighbour took the pole down to paint it and of course discovered the top full of lead. There was a police car cruising about for weeks, as I guess the neighbour was pretty upset.

Another trick we got up to was to use a largish key that was hollowed out at the lock end as part of its function. Match heads were scraped off the body and inserted into the key hollow followed by a nail A piece of string was then tied to form a loop to each end of the key. The assembly was then swung round so that the nail hit a brick or concrete wall exploding the match-head material. I figured this was worth trying out one summer afternoon and nicked the laundry door key for the purpose. My first and second attempts did not produce any results at all so I upped the number of match heads for the next attempt. It is worthwhile commenting that it was very quiet that afternoon – about 2pm – and I suppose many local people were having a nap. Opposite our home was a very large paddock with two or three horses browsing or keeping cool under trees. I swung the contraption round my head, with the nail striking the brick wall perfectly and then immediately followed by an almighty explosion. The horses careered off across the paddock, windows went up here and there and I disappeared, so had the key. My Mother never did know why it went missing.

Unfortunately Dad did not complete his memoirs, but with the help of my mother and my sisters I can share with you just a few of our memories of this quiet and wonderful husband and father.

Dad, like his brothers Bruce and Phillip after him, went to Mosman Prep around the age of 12 where he was a much happier student. From there he attended Shore, where his lifelong interest in electricity and electronics was started to emerge, as can be witnessed by some of his fellow students who received a shock from the urinals courtesy of a small electric current.

Dad qualified as an electronics engineer after leaving school and when he enlisted in the army became a member of the signalling corps. The end of the war found him on Moratai Island where another of his lifelong interests was encouraged when bored Australian servicemen, whilst waiting to be returned home, utilised various aircraft parts to build sailing craft – that’s Dad standing at the mast of the Weona in the background picture inside your programs. Some of my earliest memories are of seeing Dad go off to sail with his cousin Rodney on his yacht Mustang each Saturday and then having an enormous sail strung up to dry in the backyard on Sundays. One particular Saturday during a race Dad was knocked overboard by a swinging boom, but somehow managed to grab a trailing mainsheet and haul himself back on board with both his glasses and his hat still in place. He never did find out if the rest of the crew would have sacrificed their position in the race if he hadn’t grabbed that sheet. It was Dad who later taught me how to sail my own little Flying Ant, leading to my own love of sailing.

Another of Dad’s passions was his love for swing jazz music. Combined with his interest in electronics this meant that the Cooper home became a maze of wiring, with increasingly sophisticated equipment being connected throughout the house. We were amongst the first people in our neighbourhood to get a TV set as Dad had to pull it apart and put it back together again to find out how they worked so he could fix other people’s TVs. As a result, our TV never worked properly again, to Mum’s chagrin spending most of its life out of its wooden cabinet because every time he reassembled it something else would go wrong with it. He also taught me a very useful technical device that I still use these days when fixing computer monitors – namely a massive thump in the right place on the outside of the device.

Dad first met my mother whilst playing tennis, later in life he enjoyed playing squash with colleagues from work – another interest that he passed on to me. As he grew older Mum was concerned that playing squash once a week could become dangerous to his health, so when Wakehurst Golf Course was in the planning stages she encouraged him to give up squash and join with her as a foundation member of the club, buying him his first set of golf clubs as a Christmas present. They sat collecting dust for some months before he ventured out to have some golf lessons and play some rounds with his friend Jaff Fenwick. Little did we know what a passion had been sparked.

Apart from our family, Dad also had immense affection for his “man’s best friends” Soxie, Bindi, Patch and Candy. He was extremely saddened when Candy in particular passed away, as the two of them had grown old and slowed down together.

Seven years ago, Dad showed that you’re never too old to learn new tricks by purchasing the first of a number of computers. Prior to this he and I had rarely just chatted together on the phone – he saw phones as a tool to be used for specific purposes only. Once he had his computer, though, I started to receive two, three or more phone calls a night to ask me how to do something. As he became more confident these calls dwindled to once or twice a week, until it got to the stage where he was ringing me just to have a chat – I will be forever grateful that our relationship thus continued to grow despite our geographical separation.

I would like to finish by giving you an example of just how determined, patient and resourceful my father was. Many of you will have seen Dad’s workshop, but for those of you who haven’t Dad started with a small workshop under the back of the house and then over many years chipped and dug away at mostly sandstone to create a workshop that was and is the envy of many. In fact our neighbour Len called Dad The Waterview Street Miner and was so impressed did a similar, if smaller, thing at his own house.

Dad passed on some “pearls of wisdom” to me when I was growing up and I’d like to share a couple of them with you that I still use on occasion myself. The first was A good habit is just as hard to break as a bad habit and the second was You’re not a fool if you make a mistake; you’re only a fool if you keep making the same mistakes.

We will miss you, Dad.

  1. [E.6.13a.2b.1c]

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