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Tribute to Roy Walsh - Long Standing Shack Owner and Member of the Community RIP Roy.

Posted: 10th April 2011

Roy Walsh was what you might say a “true Anzac”, a dinky die Aussie – a man who lived his life following the basic principles of Mateship.  There was nothing pretentious about dad.  What you saw was what you got.  A loyal and honest friend to us all.   He didn’t seek fame nor fortune, accolades or awards – he lived a life of kindred spirit and care for his fellow man.  He taught us so much about the meaning of life.


People often refer to someone as “a self made man” He was born in Plymouth Devonshire in 1923.  His Irish Dad Michael Joseph and his mum Winifred emigrated to Australia when he was less than one year old.  They settled on a soldier re-settlement block in Denmark  and later moved to Perth finally settling in Maylands.


Maylands was his childhood stomping ground.  He would often tell me how he and his brothers would play in the bush around the river, swim in the river, collect veges from the numerous Chinese vegetable gardens around the area, and help support the large Walsh family.  His mum died when he was only 9 years old.  He was the 4th eldest of 7 siblings.  His father and step mother Elizabeth then added more brothers and sisters…dad was a lucky man to have in the end 11 wonderful brothers and sisters (Gwen, Edna, Michael, Dave, Marjorie, Eric, Ronnie, Frankie, Dougie, Shirley, and Billy).


Times were tough.  There were a lot of mouths to feed. He was on the streets selling newspapers by the time he was 12.  He met some of his best mates then. Young Don Angwin was one such lifelong friend.  He always reckoned he learnt more about life living this way than he could possibly have done thru reading books.


In 1938 aged 15 dad put his age up to join the army cadets, and once again when war broke out,  moving in to the 11th battalion proper and becoming an NCO in “D” company.  He was the right man for the occasion.  He was initially stationed in Darwin where he was used to train army recruits particularly in physical fitness and un-armed combat. 


His unit was then sent to New Britain in New Guinea where he saw action as part of the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion.  The then Corporal Walsh  distinguished himself in combat winning the Military Medal for bravery.  His last remaining platoon officer had been struck down by fierce enemy fire, and lay very seriously wounded and isolated forward under Japanese machine gun fire.  Corporal Walsh acted immediately. He called on the platoon to provide covering fire and moving forward on his own, and retrieved the officer to a less dangerous position.  Then assuming command, he directed heavy fire to an outflanking movement thus obliterating the machine gun position and its occupants.


He saw many gruesome things that he never forgot which surely forged and cemented the virtues of mateship in him that we all knew and loved.  Dad left the army with the rank of Sargeant.  He remained a leader and President of the 11th Battalion Association throughout the remainder of his life.  Dad never missed an Anzac Day march.


He married Iris, in 1948 and shortly afterwards along came his son and daughter, Brian and Lyn. They settled down at Sexton Road in Inglewood which still remains the family home today. This marked the beginning of his family life which of course for Lyn and myself, my wife Robynne and Lyn’s husband Mel, and dad’s 6 granchildren, Rebecca, Clint, Tim, Shane , Emma and Jasmin – we remember most.  This was our period when we got to know our Dad, or pop to the grandchildren.  While Mel showed himself to be the perfect son-in-law, I always remember dad being pretty impressed with the ability of Robynne to shell a crab and a prawn under pressure.  Alex, Sally, Chris and Kelly were later also able to pass the test with flying colours.


At times like this those memories flood back.  The numerous vegetable gardens;  the chook yard that eventually morphed in to the hand made brick Barbie in the 60s; Roy coming home from work when we were allowed to ride the last 50 metres on the running board of the old Morris cowley;  adding on to the house and enclosing the old verandahs; - dad did everything himself and made everything. I don’t think there was any trade he couldn’t do.  Our beds were made by him, remodeled kitchens; toys and revamp second hand bikes – I remember we would get what we thought was a new bike for Xmas only to find out later on it was the old bike with a makeover – had us fooled for many a year.


Roy was a one-eyed West Perth supporter, a garlic muncher, and we went to all their games. Roy always supported Brian in his Junior footy days and contributed a lot to the running of the Bedford Youth Club.


He was a talented Lawn Bowler and represented the Bedford Bowling Club as a skipper in second division for many years.  He had many friend at the Bowling club and this was an important part of his life after retirement.


He was also a Freemason for over 50 years.  He took great pride in his role in the lodge.  From what I have heard he was one of the best!  Always the first to help his fellow brother.


Brian said, “And I can remember all of Dad’s neighbours in Inglewood – they all looked out for each other.  But then Dad and Mum were lucky to have a new wave of neighbours come along who recognized the goodheartedness of dad and mum.  And I know dad was very appreciative of your support.”


Above all I believe his abiding love was the Naval Base shacks.  It started out with Nance and Jack Akenhead Mum’s parents – and our family and mum’s sisters families (The Gregsons and Fitzgeralds) and we would all pile in to the small caravan and canvas annex for what seemed at the time the whole summer.  Dad loved the fishing (of course he built his own boat the ‘Sea Queen’) and we would live off the ocean for that summer.


He loved the casual life at the shacks, a chance to catch up with all his mates and indeed make new friends.  It was here he so much enjoyed the sense of community that was an integral part of his makeup. A chance for the old larrikin in him to surface once more.  Many a boozy night was had by all.   


As family we could never leave without being laden down with filleted fish and crabs, invariably his last 3 or 4 crabs.  Plenty more where they come from he would say.  Wasn’t it fantastic that he had the chance to enjoy one last summer at Xmas down at the shacks!  We couldn’t have written the script better.


I can vividly remember the fishing in the then pristine waters of Cockburn sound. This was the highlight of my boyhood.  I won’t bore you with the fishing tales only to say dad was the best fisherman going!  However I used to get a little worried on occasion, when the sea breeze was howling, the boat overloaded with people and fish, and Dad in control at the helm of the mighty 1 hp seagull outboard, calling out instructions while furiously bailing water at the same time; then jumping on to the oars as this was always going to be a faster way to get home!  We always made it home safely.