A long term golfing friend Rodney Bourke passed away on Thursday 12th of May 2016 in Murwillumbah Hospital, aged 98 years.
Roderick was appointed as a Life Member of the Tuross Head Country Club Veterans Sub Club in 2008, and as well as enjoying golf right up to the age of 95 he also played an important role in the activities of the club. His fellow golfers and his many friends enjoyed his company, his humor and his interest in their own activities, his seemingly never ending walks which were interrupted with planned drop ins at stops along the way for a cup of tea and a yarn before departing to the next destination.
Rod Bourke’s life is detailed below by his daughter Therese and we thank her for letting us share some of her memories. Vale Roderick Paget Bourke from your many friends at Tuross Head.
His daughter Therese speaks of her fathers life. Rod, as most knew him, was a relatively private, quiet man who lived a long and gentle life. He looked after himself from the time his wife, Joan, died in 1994 and was driving his mighty red Hyundai until only a month before his death on 12th May 2016 in Murwillumbah Hospital, aged 98.
Rod was born in Ballina, Co Mayo, Ireland, on 2 May 1918 as the sixth of seven children – five boys and two girls. His older sister Dorothy, who proudly turns 101 in June, survives him. His father Henry Charles Bourke, was a prominent solicitor and his mother Elinor, a keen horsewoman. Their horses won many trophies for point-to-point and race events. Elinor rode side saddle in ‘the hunt’ until well into her sixties.
All the children were sent to England for their secondary education, with an expectation for this to lead to a degree in medicine, law or teaching. Rod chose to attend Edinburgh University where he studied medicine. His education was interrupted with the outbreak of WWII, when he joined the RAF with the intention of becoming a pilot, however he was trained in communications and was assigned to bombers, miraculously surviving.
He returned to Ireland. In spite of pressure from his family, he didn’t want to finish his medical degree so took a different tack. He recalled studying a map during his boarding school days when he spotted Australia and thought it might be an interesting place, so off he went. It was in the 1940’s that he flew out in a Constellation, disembarking often for meals and sleeps while the plane was refueled.
Given his scientific background, he soon found work with the CSIRO in Sydney and then was transferred to Eden on the South Coast to investigate why prawns were ‘going off ‘ in transport. We never found out if he solved the problem. When asked to return to Sydney he chose to stay.
He bought the cinemas in Eden and Merimbula and became a true businessman. He traveled to Sydney quite regularly in his Austin A40 to collect films for the cinemas and met Joan, who was from Melbourne but visiting Sydney, during one of these trips.
They were officially engaged for nine days and married in Melbourne on 11th November 1953. My brother, Paul, came along in May 1955 and I followed in January 1957.
Rod did many and varied things while in Eden, including buying a series of small fishing boats that he took out on his own in pursuit of tuna for the Eden cannery. Rod and Joan moved to Tweed Heads then Ocean Shores in the early 1980’s where, except for a short stint in Narooma, they lived until they moved to Tuross Head to be a little closer to me and their grandsons in Canberra.
We moved from Canberra to the Far North Coast in 2007, which prompted Rod to move north again, settling himself in Mountain View Village at the age of 93. He loved hearing from his Tuross friends who kept in regular touch by phone and occasionally visited, and was planning to drive down there (a mere 16 hours) until quite recently, but even he knew it had become too big a call.
He was a great tennis player in his youth and loved his golf in later years. He began playing in Eden in his 50’s, has his photo hanging in the Mullumbimby Golf Club and left his mark at Tuross. At 95 he refused to use a cart and could still beat players half his age.
Rod had his occasional health incident, the worst being misdiagnosed appendicitis in his 70’s that resulted in septicemia, but he always bounced back. At his age, people wanted to know his secret to a long and healthy life. (He did always say he was “a thousand and eighty eight and a ball of muscle).
As he could never answer the question seriously, I will answer for him: 1. Exercise (walk and walk). 2. A weekly rotated diet that’s never varied. 3. An occasional shot of Irish whiskey. 4. Exercise. 5. Drive a red Hyundai and keep it immaculate. 6. Play golf. 7. Never take life too seriously. 8. Exercise. We loved him and we miss him.