Ronald George Able Millard (Uncle Ron) was born on 29th October 1927 in Birregurra to Harry and Grace Millard. Grace grew up in Warrnambool and was a school teacher at Boonah when Harry met her. Ron had an older sister, Doris, and brother, Alan, who are both now deceased. The Millard family lived on a large property on Rifle Butts Road, Deans Marsh. They raised sheep, grew oats, and sold chaff. Ron’s primary school education was at the Deans Marsh Primary School.
As a young boy, Ron loved life on the farm, whether it was riding on machinery such as the plough, drill or binder as it was being used, or riding high atop the wagon of hay and then trying to help out at chaff cutting time. He loved climbing trees. Also, riding his bike which is something he continued to do until only two years ago, with Saturday morning rides to Deans Marsh to get the paper… yes, at 85 years of age! Catching rabbits was great fun and a good source of pocket money. And then there was riding on a sledge behind a Clydesdale over the grassy paddocks, bouncing and sometimes falling off when the sledge hit a stump hole. What simple pleasures and what fun!
Ron was happiest when enjoying the peace and solitude that came with being on his own, but he was never lonely.
Each summer the Millard family would holiday in Warrnambool, visiting grandparents and cousins. Ron loved the train trip, the beach, the movies at the Capitol Cinema, and the Coles store with all its toys. When Ron was about eight the family travelled by paddle steamer from Geelong across Port Phillip Bay to Sorrento for a picnic. The young Ron dreamed of becoming a sailor.
The happy carefree childhood was interrupted in 1938 with the death of Ron’s mother from cancer. Although Ron was only 10 when his mother, Grace, died she had been a big influence on him, especially with religion and morality.
Recently Uncle Ron told us of a visit to church with his family. He was about four and at that time their church attendance wasn’t very often. His mother warned the restless young Ron that he needed to behave because the man with the big stick would be watching. Indeed, the Bishop was there that day holding his shepherd’s staff, and the young Ron had never behaved so well!
After his mother’s death there were a number of housekeepers to assist with the running of the household. Ron’s Aunt Ann and Uncle Ted lived across the road – actually it’s the house in which Bill and I live. Aunt Ann and Uncle Ted had a wireless – the ipod or mp3 player of yesteryear. The Millard children loved listening to “The Chatterbox Corner” and serials such as “Dad and Dave”.
Uncle Ted and the young Ron enjoyed listening to sport. When Geelong defeated Collingwood in the 1937 grand final, Uncle Ron felt sorry for Collingwood and as a result became a keen Magpie fan. While listening to the 1938 cricket test series with Uncle Ted he developed a passion for cricket. Uncle Ron would go on to play for Deans Marsh until 1978. He also became involved with coaching young cricketers, and with administration including being secretary of the Polwarth Cricket Association for many years. He was also awarded Life Membership of the Deans Marsh Cricket Club.
Ron struggled academically through primary school at Deans Marsh and then secondary school at the Colac High School, however, he excelled with tertiary education at Melbourne Teachers College. Ron was a student teacher at Deans Marsh and then in 1948 was appointed to the Bambra School. Ron loved the bush environment, the nice people, boarding at Mrs Ada Drayton’s place, and the fact that he wasn’t far from home at Rifle Butts Road. After four years, Ron thought a change would be good so he applied for a position at the Tatyoon Primary School near Ararat. How he hated those two years! Fortunately in 1955 he was able to return to his beloved Bambra School. Ron was happy to be back where he belonged. This time he stayed for 15 years, now boarding with Mrs Ada Mousley.
While not a student at Bambra myself, I have very fond memories of the wonderful school concerts each winter. Uncle Ron brought out the best in his students. The concerts were superb, the homemade lolly stall – to die for – and my greatest fascination… a small mangle from which money such as 10 shilling notes would appear. And the beautiful red camellia in full bloom at the front gate – wow!
During those years, Ron developed an interest in puppetry. He taught the school children how to make puppets and soon it became an obsession and career. In the early days, Neil, Maureen and I would enjoy his Punch and Judy Show practices in the woolshed. Around 1970 and now retired from school teaching, Ron began giving puppet shows to children at kindergartens from Geelong to Colac, and as far away as Port Fairy. At his peak he was doing 90 shows a year, and towards his retirement in about the year 2000, about 20 shows a year. The puppets – some of which you see here today – are now in the care and safekeeping of his niece, Sylvia Tyrer. He was also a member of the Union Internationale de la Marionette in puppetry. As well, Uncle Ron performed in many plays with the Deans Marsh drama group.
Let’s go back to 1957 when Ron was invited to be guest preacher at a service here at St Paul’s. Ron accepted and became parish Lay Reader. After two years of night time study he passed his exams with First Class Honours and in 1960 attained his Associate in Theology, then becoming a Lay Minister. On 23rd November – just one month ago, and after 56 ½ years of lay ministry – Uncle Ron gave what is now his last sermon. At the time of his death he was preparing notes for the December 14th service which sadly, we were unable to hear. His messages were simple, clear and often thought provoking.
In 1965, Ron’s father died leaving him 110 acres and the cattle thereon. Ron sold the cattle then used the proceeds to buy the house in which he lived on Fulton’s Lane since 1969. As he wasn’t interested in farming he leased the land. Also in 1969, Ron felt he needed a change from teaching. Coincidentally enrolments at Bambra fell to six and so the school closed. Ron loved living in his new house, making puppets, watching the clouds, the birds and the trees from his lounge room window, the quietness, reading and cooking.
A new passion developed in 1975 when Ron was asked to write the history of Deans Marsh. The more he discovered, the more there was to discover. He loved the research, the pursuit of the truth, and painstakingly exploring the archives. This first book led to several others and an interest in recording the Millard family history – and all before the internet!
Ron loved sport. He played bowls for three years before taking up golf, and as the distance between the greens at Winchelsea seemed to become further apart, he would ride his special three wheeled bicycle and tow his golf clubs to the ball for the next shot. This enabled him to continue playing during his advancing years. One day, Uncle Ron got a hole in one. I must explain for those who do not know, that it is a tradition for the person who hits a hole in one to shout the bar. Fearing he would have to shout the bar and quite possibly only having a small amount of change on him at the time, Uncle Ron spared no effort in making a quick departure whilst another committee member was in hot pursuit. Unbeknown to Uncle Ron, the committee member simply wanted the winning golf ball to mount and present to him as a trophy!
We also mustn’t forget that Uncle Ron taught RE at Deans Marsh for over 20 years, taught Sunday School at St Paul’s, and was a Warden, Treasurer, Secretary, and Vestry Person at both Deans Marsh and Bambra.
Uncle Ron would be so humbled and feel so honoured and blessed to have you all here today as we celebrate his life. Uncle Ron had such a positive attitude towards life, and only saw the best in everyone. Uncle Ron lived by the following motto which comes from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”: This above all, to thine own self be true – in other words always be honest with yourself.
Yes, Uncle Ron led a simple life. He was a man of great faith, a puppeteer, an historian, school teacher, son, brother, uncle and friend. And he was fiercely independent to the end. It was his wish that when the time came for him to leave this life that he would pass away peacefully and painlessly in his own bed, and that is what happened on 12th December. We will miss you, Uncle Ron.
Uncle Ron, you fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. God bless you. May you rest in peace. 1545