Ken Gordon Brown
Eulogy for Ken Gordeon Brown Read by Peter Brown, son of Gordon Brown
Robin Meredith, the founder of the popular Meredith's Orchard store on the Channel Highway in Margate, died suddenly on August 3 while working on the family farm where he had lived since he was three-years-old. He was 77.
More than one hundred mourners gathered at the Turnbull Funerals chapel in North Hobart a week later to farewell the man who was remembered as hardworking and determined, with a sense of mischief.
The Meredith's Orchard store began in 1980 when Mr Meredith took a week off his job at the Department of Agriculture and against his parent's wishes, built a small shed on the family orchard and cattle farm. Open every day, except Christmas Day, the store was packed with fresh fruit and vegetables and the farm was dotted with oddities - like fibreglass statues of ladies and pink elephants made of tin.
"I intend on keeping dad's legacy going with some weird and wonderful things on the highway," his son, and only child, Andrew Meredith told funeral guests. "So if you are driving along the highway one day and see something out of place, or that doesn't make any sense, then that is simply me keeping up with dad's tradition doing this to make the Channel Highway a little bit more interesting for everyone."
Andrew said "for a good twenty years" his dad worked seven-days a week. His typical day would involve collecting fruit and vegetables early in the morning from town, opening the shop, attending task on the cattle and orchard farm and finally at the end of the day, bookwork for the shop was done at night while watching television.
Mr Meredith sold the business in 2008, but continued to work on his property, supplying fruit and vegetables to the store and making outdoor timber furniture up until the day he died.
"Dad lived a good life and loved being on the family farm which is where he was raised as a child, worked during most of his life, raised me, saw the first few years of his grandchildren's lives and ultimately passed away on the farm doing what he enjoyed."
With permission from the Meredith family, we publish the eulogy delivered by Andrew Meredith.
"I can't really fault dad as a father. He made numerous sacrifices over many years so that I had the best possible start to life" … Andrew Meredith's tribute to his dad Robin.
Some of you here today have known dad since he was born, others have come to know dad quite well in just the last few years of his life. Given the number of people here today, it is obvious that he has made quite an impact over the years.
Dad was born on the 2nd of July 1946, he was the second child to Olga and John Meredith. Christine Meredith was the first child born to Olga and John, however sadly passed away at four weeks old. Dad's sisters, Elizabeth and Anne-Maree were born in the years following.
Dad lived at Kettering for the first three years of his life before the family moved to the farm and black timber house known as 'Wayside' at 1830 Channel Highway Margate.
Dad was raised on the farm, that was both an orchard and cattle farm and in a path that I have followed and as will my children, there was an expectation that the children help around the farm in their spare time.
The farm was not large enough to support both dad and his father and so when dad finished high school he obtained a full-time position working at the Tasmanian Government Insurance Office as a Junior Clerk at the age of 17.
A few years later at the age of 22 dad left the Insurance Office and bought his own land nearby in Margate that already had an orchard that he and his father farmed together along with the main family farm.
The Tasmanian apple industry collapsed in the early 1970s, and the Australian Government established a tree compensation scheme where apple growers were paid to bulldoze their orchards. Dad, now 26 at this time, decided to bulldoze all the trees on his land and then began a handful of new ventures for dad which included being a self-employed landscape gardener and working as a Furnace Operator at the Carbide factory at Electrona.
It was around this time that the family started selling apples direct to the public out of the apple packing shed that was and still remains on the family farm, approximately 200 metres up the driveway next to Meredith's.
During this time dad remained living at the family farm and helping out as required.
In 1974, at the age of 28 dad then began working for the Agricultural Department as a Technical Officer.
In about 1980 dad purchased a small shed, essentially a three-car garage, that became the foundation of the Meredith's Orchards fruit and vegie shed. He took one weeks leave from the Agricultural Department to build the shed. I have some notes from dad that state his parents didn't necessarily want the shed on the property, but they hadn't specifically told him he couldn't build it, so he built it anyway.
In 1986 Dad met my mother, Jennifer Spain and I was born in 1988. Dad and Jennifer separated approximately one and a half years after I was born.
Due to his father's ill health around this time, Dad took special leave for three months from the Agricultural Department, he subsequently requested further leave which was denied - dad never responded to requests to return to work at the Agricultural Department and was deemed to have abandoned his employment, which he told me was not a common occurrence back then.
In about 1988, the Meredith's Orchard business changed from only being open during the apple season to being open every day during the year and the business started to sell vegetables and produce from other farms to sustain a business throughout the year.
In 1991, dad met Marcia Watkins and they have been together ever since. Dad and Marcia did quite a bit of travelling in their time together including around Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, England and the United States
Dad was quite keen on taking Marcia on surprise trips and often told Marcia to pack her suitcase the night before a trip and then the first time Marcia found out where they were going was when they were boarding the plane. Marcia didn't know she was going overseas to the United States on their most recent trip until she realised they were moving from the domestic terminal to the international terminal at Sydney Airport.
In 1992 dad purchased a fruit shed that was known as 'Groombridges' that was very close by to our family farm, dad was concerned that this property and shed could become a competitor to his business so he bought the property, stripped the shed and rented the house out to eliminate that risk.
Over the following years the Meredith's Orchard business slowly but steadily grew into the business it is now, at more than four times the size the shed was when it was first built.
Dad was always working hard, with a typical day for a good twenty years being collecting fruit and vegetables early in the morning from town, opening the shop, attending to tasks on the farm for both the cattle and orchard and finally at the end of the day, bookwork for the shop was done at night while watching television.
I can recall every few days we would drive down to Snug to see what specials the local vegie shed competitor 'Kelly's' had on their signs on the side of the road to make sure they weren't undercutting his prices - dad often had the cheapest bananas and apples in southern Tasmania and used these two products as drawcards to the business for many years.
Dad certainly didn't mind getting media exposure for the shop, with countless articles over the years about the shop and various events that had occurred. Some of you will recall the fibreglass statue ladies that dad owned, he often put these on the side of the road or in random places such as the staff toilet to give a fright to his staff. These statues were stolen one day and dad offered a reward for their return via the Mercury - these were eventually returned unharmed and we still have two of these statues today.
Dad was surprisingly strong despite his slender frame, he could throw a calf around and build large hardwood tables even in his final years. Dad had no fear of anything or anyone, one day there was a thief that was caught on the property, dad grabbed a hammer and confronted the thief and kindly advised them that if they tried to leave the property that he would smash all windows of their car.
I recall about 15 years ago we discovered someone snooping around the back of the shop late one night and dad and I confronted them - when we found the man he started walking towards me and I was screaming at him to stop coming at me as I knew dad was standing behind me in the dark with a loaded shotgun. It turned out the man was just after some boxes and there was a language barrier that explained why the man didn't follow my commands - which I suspect very nearly cost him his life as dad was very protective of me and I don't think he would have hesitated to pull the trigger if he felt my life was in danger.
Another time we discovered two gorgeous foreign backpacker girls bin diving at the back of the shop one night. As a 16-year-old I thought Christmas had come early but unfortunately dad gave the girls the order to move on.
Dad got shot at one point in his life, fortunately it was only a single stray shotgun pellet that had been fired at birds on the farm that had managed to carry to dad whom happened to be standing on the other side of the dam. The pellet hit him in the forehead and fortunately left only a small cut and bruise.
Dad loved his dogs over the years and had several Shetland Sheepdogs, unfortunately they loved chasing cars and tractors, at least one or two were run over by dad however they fortunately survived.
Dad wrote a letter to Dr Harry of the TV show Harry's Practice and a few months later Dr Harry turned up at the farm to shoot a segment on the Shetland Sheepdogs chasing the cars and tractors on the farm.
Dad's last dog was Bear that some of you will be familiar with. Bear originally lived with me but when our son Max came along Bear didn't like the crying and noise of a newborn and wandered down to dad's house and wouldn't leave. Bear and dad certainly shared a special bond over the past few years.
As we were going through some old photos in recent days, we found photos that dad had taken of me over the years with that interesting sense of humour of his - we found a photo of me at the age of about 5 sitting down with a tin of dog food, a VB stubby and a pair of earmuffs on - for some reason dad sent this photo into the media and it ended up in both the local papers and the national papers - thankfully as a humorous item. There is also a photo of me at age 6 sitting at the dinner table with a dead roadkill bandicoot on one of Marcia's nice dinner plates.
Some of you will know that dad had all his teeth removed many decades ago. He would occasionally take out his two sets of false teeth and become incredibly troubling to look at - he would do this to terrorise his staff and certain people at times.
My partner, Erin, recalls a time when she was telling some young children at the shop about candy rotting their teeth, dad happened to walk past and Erin said to the children that Robin will show you what happens if you eat too many lollies and dad quickly popped his teeth out of his mouth - the kids were terrified and I suspect they didn't eat lollies for some time after that.
Dad always liked making the Channel Highway a bit more interesting for everyone, some of you may recall the two large topiary hedge ducks that dad shaped and maintained over the years that were located opposite the shop. The largest of these was a good 4 metres tall and was quite dangerous to trim, especially given the ladder we used to help trim the ducks was homemade from timber.
He made some large pink elephants out of roofing iron and put them in the paddock, I can still remember when we let the cattle into that the same paddock and the cattle got the fright of their lives. Unfortunately these large tin elephants were stolen, however dad was able to turn this unfortunate event into a positive and managed to get his photo and the story of the theft onto the front page of the Mercury and somehow onto the nightly news offering a reward for their return.
Most recently dad slashed crop circles into one of the paddocks near the highway, which became a favourite of children in the area.
I intend on keeping dad's legacy going with some weird and wonderful things on the highway - so if you are driving along the highway one day and see something out of place or that doesn't make any sense then that is simply me keeping up with dad's tradition doing things to make the Channel Highway a little bit more interesting for everyone. I progressively became more involved with the business in the late 2000s and was lucky enough to have worked with dad full time in the shop for a few years, by this time the shop had grown into quite a sizeable business with 5 to 6 staff on each day of the week - with the business only shut on Christmas Day.
Dad preferred to pay his suppliers on the day he got produce delivered, there was no taking 14 or 28 days or longer to pay invoices, he often had blank cheques ready for supplier deliveries that just required the amount to be filled in by his staff.
Dad was always generous, he would support local causes with either donations of money of hampers of food for raffles. If he knew a customer was going through a tough time he would often bag up some apples and give it to them as they walked out the door free of charge.
The usual rule in retail is that the customer is always right, however no one taught Dad that rule, his motto was almost the opposite. If he believed any customers were giving his staff a hard time he would soon let that customer know about it.
In 2008 dad advertised the Meredith's Orchard business for sale and it was subsequently sold. Dad didn't stop working however, he continued to build his outdoor tables, look after the cattle and grow vegetables in a market garden to continue to supply the Meredith's Orchard business. In fact it was only a couple of weeks ago that dad ploughed up a paddock ready to plant a field of potatoes.
Over the years of looking after cattle there are numerous stories I could share from being knocked over by them to both of us being chased into a dam by a rather wild cow. More recently we were trying to tag a calf and its mother took to dad and pinned him against the side of the cattle yard like it was trying to kill him, fortunately as the cow got her head underneath him I was able to lift him up and on top of her and he was able to scramble out.
Dad loved building outdoor timber furniture, particularly his tables, I believe dad has made and sold more than 5,000 tables over the past 45 years and many can be seen at pubs, businesses and homes all around southern Tasmania. The day dad died he was working on what would be his final table.
Approximately 7 years ago dad and I built a house on the farm for me to move into. He was at the age of about 72 then and built the house as an owner builder, managing practically the entire construction process and did quite a bit of the labour himself where he could.
Over the last few years Erin and I have had two children, Max and Lily and so began one of dad's final chapters.
He was an excellent grandfather and, as we lived next door to dad, Max and Lily were fortunate enough to be able to spend quite a lot of time with dad and I can see mannerisms that dad has imparted onto the kids.
Dad often brought home numerous toys, puzzles and educational games home for the kids and ended up with an entire room of his house having boxes of books, toys and games for the kids to do when they were there.
Dad would often be seen driving the farm with one of the grandkids on his lap doing odd jobs, with big smiles on all their faces.
We often dropped the kids off at his house unannounced and Dad would always stop whatever he was doing and start doing something with them. Keen to spend time with his grandchildren, whenever he had a prior commitment he would say something like 'I have to go up to Kingston at 1:30 but you can bring them back down when I come back'.
I can't really fault dad as a father and we shared a special bond that grew stronger over time. He made numerous sacrifices over many years so that I had the best possible start to life that he could provide me with.
Dad lived a good life and loved being on the family farm which is where he was raised as a child, worked during most of his life, raised me, saw the first few years of his grandchildren's lives and ultimately passed away on the farm doing what he enjoyed.
He clearly touched the lives of each of you here today and we each have our own unique memories of him to hold and cherish.
We are thankful for him being part of our lives and sharing life's journey with him. He has gone with our love.
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