Jock (David) BlairBy: Margaret Rose (Sep 19 2022)
If there is one word which most comes to mind when I think of Jock it must be ‘friendship’. In Jock’s company we were constantly reminded of the true meaning and value of friendship and the depth and richness of that experience.
Jock was a caring, loyal, and tolerant friend; in his quiet way he would be there for you if you needed help or support. But perhaps it was his simple and uncomplicated commitment to this relationship which made it uncommon and special.
I first met Jock some 30 years ago. When he was visiting Scotland in 1972, Don and I had started our relationship – when Jock returned I was promptly put under scrutiny – he had to see who was ‘this woman’ who was living with Don ! I am very glad to say I passed muster (although perhaps barely) and for me this was the start of a wonderful and long friendship. But I must say I did not forget that first lesson – from time to time one could be subject to gentle, but critical, scrutiny.
Over the ensuing years Jock and Noel have been a constant part of the tapestry of my life with Don. Gladly, my arrival did not change their custom of sharing morning tea on Saturdays – usually after shopping. Although this has not been as regular in recent years, it would be very rare for a week to pass without our making contact. However one thing has always been understood by Don, Noel and I, with any arrangements ‘the boss’ (as we affectionately referred to him in these circumstances) had to be consulted before anything could be finalised !
Jock had a wonderful eye for detail: the smallest changes would be noted and usually judgement passed. Sometimes, Don and I would wager to see if Jock would notice when we had changed something in the house – we were always proven wrong !
This attention to detail served Jock well in his work with GUNZ – his ability to methodically and accurately catalogue thousands of individual items was a quite exceptional talent and although I have no doubt that several computer programs have now been installed to monitor stock control I wonder what headaches management now have with accurate stock records.
This abiity also well served Jock’s passion as a collector. Jock was a true collector – each item was carefully chosen and had a place as part of the whole collection; his stamps and coins were meticulously and carefully catalogued and missing items were assiduously sought after. This ability to patiently apply himself to complex and detailed taska enabled Jock to pursue another interest – jigsaw puzzles. If you ever saw Jock in the midst of solving one of these puzzles with a myriad of loose pieces which it was difficult to imagine could ever fit together and for him to tell you with some mild irritation that he was looking for a piece of a particular shape and detail to put into a particular position then you will know what I mean.
Jock had a great curiosity to explore the world we live in.
Each year he would plan a holiday to take him to different, and often unusual, destinations. He met new friends and always came home with a tale (or two) worth hearing. One I remember well was when he went on a cruise on a cargo/passenger ship around the pacific islands. It turned out that within the small group of passengers were two mothers with ‘eligible’ daughters. It seemed that the rivalry between the mothers was causing considerable friction with the other passengers – that was until Jock decided to step in and announce that for the remainder of the voyage any time either was disagreeable to the other they would have to pay a penalty – he would not say how much he had in kitty by the end of the voyage but he assured us that the bickering stopped ! One other snippet I always enjoyed was when he came back from a holiday in the solomon islands – he was delighted to tell me that there women’s brassieres were called ‘baskets bellonga-titia’ – to my chagrine I could never extract from him what men’s underpants were called.
Jock also traveled extensively throughout Australia and, particularly since his retirement, his day excursions, often by train with Ray, were part of his weekly routine. He took an active interest in exploring places, often close to home, which perhaps some of us too often take for granted (I speek for myself here as talking to Jock about a recent trip often was a salutory reminder to me of how much there is to see and enjoy so close to home !).
Despite many different destinations, Jock never forgot his Scottish roots and regular visits home to Perth were a very important part of his travels.
Perhaps it was a mixed blessing that Jock was a good navigator. Although he never learnt to drive a car, I suspect none of us who drove when he was a passenger were immune from being asked why one had followed a particular route. Invariably Jock knew the quickest (although not always the most direct) route – after some years of struggling with this I finally gave up – it was simply sensible to go ‘Jock’s way’. However, when I thought I would preempt his comment by asking his advice as to a particular choice of route he would wickedly enjoy telling me to go the way I thought best !
In Jock and Noel’s home several areas were Jock’s domain but none more so than the kitchen. Entry to the kitchen to actually ‘do’ something was a prize dearly sought after – I am still waiting to be given permission to make a cup of tea ! I must admit this was after one attempt when I had failed miserably to follow directions. But we did enjoy Jock specialties from his kitchen – especially the wine trifle with lashings of glayva .
I have many wonderful memories of Jock – I loved his sense of humour which so often embroidered our conversations. Often he would announce – I have a new joke for you ! He knew I was hopeless at remembering jokes and always messed up the punch line and, I also suspect, sometimes he thought a joke needed some editing before I should hear it. A light banter was often so much part of our conversations and I must admit to often teasing him to the point of his saying ‘no’ with that gentle grin – it was so Jock.
Jock would often surprise you with something that was so thoughtful and generous. When my father went into a nursing home some years ago Jock arrived with some books in large print for me to take to him. He knew that dad liked reading westerns and that his eyesight was fading – Jock had found these books at a second hand sale and bought them for him. On a number of occassions after that I would come home to find more books for dad had been left on the table.
To enjoy Jock’s friendship was to know a person who was generous, honest, dependable and tolerant, with a sense of humour and, despite his general methodical approach, always capable of surprising. But he was a dour Scot !
That most precious gift which Jock gave us is long to be treasured.