Remembering Greg Mason 1961 – 2018

The death of well known Boorowa district resident Gregory John Mason occurred at Mercy Care Centre, Young, on May 22, after a determined battle with cancer, at the age of 57 years.

District residents, along with family members, gathered last week to mourn his passing and to pay their respects to this highly regarded young man.

The funeral service in St John’s Anglican Church was conducted by Rural Fire Service Chaplain Brad Collins, who offered words of comfort and led prayers for those most important in Greg’s life, his loving partner Desley, his father Derrick and siblings Walter, Kathryn and Andrew.

Prayers were also offered for volunteers of the Rural Fire Service, in which Greg was so active, Greg’s sheepdogs, the sheep that he nurtured and the bush environment and the land to which he was so committed.

The eulogy was written by David Marsh, fulfilling a commitment he had made to Greg, but in a peculiar twist, a lifelong friend of David’s, to whose family he had made a similar commitment, died the day after Greg and his funeral was on the same day.

David thanked Desley and the Mason family for their understanding and generosity in the resolution of this dilemma. Rural Fire Service Operations Manager Trevor Reeves agreed to read the following eulogy prepared by David:

“Greg was a humble man. When he came to the venue at Young where he was presented with the National Medal, he expressed surprise that there were so many people there! Later he told me that he was in the unusual position of being able to plan his own eulogy and wondered if I might deliver it. He gave me permission to fill in the bits he had left out. I felt it was an honour to be asked and said of course I would do it.

Mary and I went away for a few weeks and on our return I contacted Greg and he told me he had made some notes. He said he had found it a much tougher job than he had thought. When I read the notes I realised that he had left out some important bits of his life, such as serving in Apex for twenty years, a huge commitment. Greg found it hard to talk about his achievements. He was self-effacing.

I have known Greg Mason for more than forty years. Greg was not one of the lads, he made his own path in life. This was a character attribute that stood him in good stead when he started to take on some leadership roles.

I had forgotten till Greg reminded me recently, that the first fire he went to was on Boorowa Picnic Race Day in 1976, on the back of my Land Cruiser.

When I visited Desley after Greg died, she mentioned how many talents he had. Not many of you would be aware that Greg was a prize-winning quilt maker, or that he completed the Herald cryptic crossword each day.”

Greg was born at Boorowa Hospital in 1961, the second son for Joyce and Derrick. Walter was his older brother, followed by Kathy and Andrew. He headed off jackarooing to the Riverina and South West Queensland after completing his education in year 12 at Boorowa Central School.

When he was twenty he came back to Boorowa to help Derrick run the family farm, Amerton on the Kenyu Road. He was always very recognisable with his khaki shirt and his big hat, and moustache, in the white Hilux on the Kenyu Road.

Derrick was editor of the Boorowa News back in those days and wrote an amusing column called Long Blows, which tended to be local tales he had picked up round the traps from unsuspecting folk who incautiously opened up to him.

Someone who featured regularly in Long Blows was the Quiet Stockman, a.k.a Greg Mason. The tone was usually the Quiet Stockman offering some wise advice on a variety of land related topics.

Greg loved the land and had a deep attachment to it; he saw land as much more than just a way of making money. As well as planting lots of trees and subdividing paddocks Greg had a project in the Grassy Box Woodland Stewardship Programme and a Whole of Paddock Regeneration site with Greening Australia.

One of Greg’s abiding interests was breeding Merino sheep. He was justifiably proud of his sheep and together they won the 1995 Boorowa Show Flock Ewe Competition.

To win this against the might of all the sheep breeders in the Boorowa area was a great achievement. Subsequently his flock won all the minor placings as well. Greg’s bloodline came from Tara Park, a Boorowa Merino Stud.

Greg and Derrick lived together after his mother Joyce sadly died in 1995. It was always interesting calling them on the phone, especially when no one was home. The answering service message was ‘Hello, you’ve reached the Mason brothers.’ They were both strong minded and I’m sure there were many robust discussions round the table.

In Greg’s own words he retained a childlike, somewhat pythonesque sense of humour throughout his life that he felt was often misunderstood. He was well read and often liked to talk about what he had been reading. One of his favourite authors was Alexander McCall Smith, who wrote The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Twenty years ago, Greg began inventing reasons to come to town around coffee time. This was more about Desley than morning tea, and he and Desley began to develop a long term relationship. Since then they have done everything together, they were soul mates. Desley has in many ways supported Greg in his interests and been a wonderful partner. Her care for Greg as he became ill showed her empathy and care for the man she loved.

Greg was a member of the Kenyu Goba Creek Brigade for 42 years and has fulfilled the role of Brigade Captain for the last twenty years, serving with distinction. Recently he was awarded the National Medal for his work with the NSW RFS. This medal is very seldom awarded and showed the esteem with which the RFS held Greg. He served his community for many years, but threw himself into training, not only the members of his own brigade, but also gave his time to train many other volunteers. People who are properly trained are safer on the fire-ground, and Greg showed great leadership in making sure his brigade members were well prepared. Leading people into a fire where the situation is often chaotic takes fortitude, and the Kenyu Goba Creek Brigade has an enviable record of attendance and effectiveness. This has been gained not only through their own efforts, but also due to their confidence in their leader, Greg Mason.

He attained a Diploma in Frontline Management from TAFE and was working towards a Bachelor of Training and Development with the University of New England. Greg was an educator and a self-motivated lifelong learner. He was a specialist in rural fire driving and chainsaws. Recently Greg drily remarked that while he loved planting trees and had planted many, he also liked cutting them down when necessary at a fire.

Greg was dedicated and responsible. About six years ago he was offered a position in an RFS group going overseas to train fire fighters in Botswana. He was inclined to turn down the offer because it would be overlapping with the fire season here and he thought it was irresponsible to accept. Fortunately Desley and some of his brigade members insisted that they would keep an eye on things and that, of course, he should take the opportunity and go.

Greg Mason was a good man who served his community in many capacities; he also had time to help out when asked by his siblings. Desley, Derrick, Walter, Kathy and Andrew and the Boorowa community will miss him. Vale Greg.”

Others to speak at the funeral were brother Walter Mason, and friends Lou Mastronardi, Samuel Tout and Andrew Dillon.

Walter thanked everyone for coming to pay their respects, and read a poem which epitomised Greg’s life. Andrew read the citation which had accompanied Greg’s National Medal.

Long time friend Jill Hodgson gave a reading from the New Testament.

Pallbearers were Walter Mason, Andrew Mason, Roger Mason, Christopher Mason, Guy Evans and Greg Carmody.

A guard of honour was formed by members of the Rural Fire Service from throughout the South West Slopes district and beyond.

Flowers, and a message of condolence, was received from NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons

Prior to his death Greg had organised almost every facet of his funeral in minute detail and the music he chose was “Shine on you crazy diamond,” by Pink Floyd.

As the service came to a close the Pink Floyd music soared: “Come on you boy child, you winner and loser. Come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine!”