Gone but never forgotten
THE death of former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam today is a sad occasion especially for those of us who were privileged to have met him during his lifetime.
Our paths crossed when I was a young student attending Bonnyrigg High School in Sydney’s western suburbs during the 1970s. Mr Whitlam, his wife Margaret and their children lived in Albert Street, Cabramatta and he was a local champion of the Labor Party.
To be honest, I wasn’t much into politics in the day but when an opportunity to visit old Parliament House in Canberra on a school excursion came up, I jumped at the opportunity and guess who was on the steps of Parliament House to greet us … none other than the man himself Gough Whitlam who had been given the task of showing us around. His rolling commentary was a delight to behold and he soon bewitched us with his charismatic charm and humour.
A tall, distinguished, approachable man Mr Whitlam was obviously right at home in the midst of a 20-strong band of inquisitive students eager to learn all they could about the politics of the day. As an added bonus our day with the man who would soon become Prime Minister (1972-75) included a delicious morning tea at which I spent a great deal of time drilling the dignatary on what life was like as a politician. For a brief moment I was actually contemplating a career in politics but once out of our Local Member’s gaze, the feeling dissipated.
Our paths crossed several times after that first meeting, usually in Liverpool where he had an office.
His wife Margaret Whitlam and I were also special guests at a number of functions connected with my long involvement in the entertainment industry in Sydney. They included a celebrity luncheon held by the Australian Ladies Variety Association at which Dame Vera Lyn was also in attendance. Margaret was a great speaker in her own right and inspired many women to achieve in their chosen fields.
I feel very privileged to have had both Margaret and Gough Whitlam in my life and extend my sincere condolences to the Whitlam family on their sad loss. Gone but never forgotten.