Tonight I stand with sadness in my heart to pay tribute to a great ambassador for Tasmania. I speak of that great Hobart icon Roger Drummond, who died suddenly on Thursday, 11 November 2010. I first met Roger some 15 years ago, but I knew of him long before that. He was a respected man about town, a man known by many.
Roger Drummond was born on 11 November 1947 in Iraq to British parents who eventually settled in Australia. Roger’s early childhood was spent in the Tasmanian highlands in the small Hydro Tasmania village of Bronte Park. The family moved to the Huon Valley for a time and eventually settled in Hobart, where Roger completed his schooling. He went to the University of Tasmania, moved to Melbourne for a time where he worked for Shell, returned to Tasmania and completed an economics degree at the university, and worked as an accountant and in the finance industry with Citibank. With his wife, Lee, he owned and operated a number of catering establishments and pubs, including Newlands House, the Goulburn, Hadley’s and Nickleby’s. He worked in real estate before joining Hydro Tasmania in 1995 and, after it was disaggregated in 1998, worked for Aurora Energy.
Roger Drummond, or ‘Drummo’, was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a son who was devoted to his parents, Frank and Mindy. He was a brother to Pev. Roger was a loving and devoted husband to Lee—they married in 1968—and a wonderful father to four now-adult children: Kelly, Georgie, Sam and Jacqui. He was a grandfather, a sportsman, a mentor, an accountant, a teacher, a publican, a real estate agent, a salesman, a lover of old cars. He was a great digger of ditches and builder of fences and in his spare time he was also a renovator of homes. At one stage when the children were little, the family lived in 13 houses in 10 years. Roger was known for his sledgehammer approach to renovations—enhanced with a chainsaw if he thought the window might be needed! Apparently the chainsaw also came in useful in the gardening department.
He was a fantastic host and a fantastic guest. He was great at cooking on the barbecue, just amazing. He loved making sure everyone else was looked after with food or drink. He just loved doing things for people. He was known far and wide and had a huge circle of friends and acquaintances. It has long been said that if you walked down the street in Hobart with Roger Drummond, every second person said hello to him. They remembered him because he was kind and generous, always ready to help and always prepared to do what he could. Roger was thoughtful and cared about his friends and the community. He was a man once met never forgotten. He was a big man with a big heart and he will leave a big gap in many people’s lives.
Roger’s great love, besides for his family of whom he was extraordinarily proud and to whom he was devoted, was sport. Roger was an outstanding sportsman and nationally recognised coach. He represented Tasmania in rugby and rowed King’s Cup for Tasmania, winning a number of national titles. He was a stalwart of the University of Tasmania Rugby Union Club in the 1970s. He led the rugby club as president and senior captain. He led the club to its first senior state premiership for nearly 10 years when it defeated Glenorchy in 1978.
He was a senior rowing coach at several of Hobart’s private schools, the most recent being Hutchins. He coached for many years at the New Norfolk Rowing Club. In the words of Peter Wade, President of Rowing Tasmania:
Roger was one of Tasmania’s finest rowing coaches and his knowledge of rowing is second to none. There are countless young women and men that have benefited from Roger’s wise counsel and sage advice. As a coach, Roger had the uncanny ability to engage with his athletes, understand exactly what each individual needed and was then able to encourage, persuade and convince that athlete to achieve way beyond the limitations that they may have placed upon themselves. He encouraged people to believe in their ability, to be part of a team and to perform at levels that surprised us all. Roger would have a special word and a little message for each of his rowers that would set the scene and give them the self-belief to take on all comers.
Roger could take a bunch of fairly average athletes and turn them into champions. So many of his proteges are lifelong friends they share a common bond, a bond that was forged by Roger Drummond.
Roger Drummond was far more than a rowing coach; he was a life coach. He had a rare gift of communication. He was astute and honest but his comments were always fair and considered. He was always able to get his message across with humour and instilled in his group self belief and teamwork—nobody could take offence at his cheeky humour. His message was always clear and positive, he got the best and gave his best to all those around him.
As well as rugby and rowing, he played tennis for many years and the occasional round of golf. Roger was a noted sailor who competed in several Sydney to Hobart yacht races, finally giving up that activity after the yacht he was on in 1993 sank. I must admit, I was never quite sure of his role in that escapade.
Roger died too soon. He was only 63, but he died doing what he loved—he had stepped out of work to go and set up the Hutchins School boats for the afternoon. Roger was not only respected but also loved by his teams. Testament to this is the number of team members from over the years at Roger’s funeral, held last Friday. There were people in their 40s who Roger had trained, and the current crew of rowers and people of all ages in between. In his honour, there was an archway of oars for the coffin to travel through and more outside, where so many rowers and past rowers wanted to participate that they took it in turns holding the oars upright.
During his time as the Friends’ School coach he had many successes, winning many Head of River, state championships and national championships. Many of Roger’s athletes went on to represent Australia at Olympic Games and world championships. Two of his champion rowers from the Friends’ School days, Kate Hornsey and Kerry Hore, won silver medals in New Zealand at the recent world championships. He encouraged his crews to compete and win, but always to enjoy and grow from the experience. There are at least two boats named after him.
The last 15 years of Roger’s working life were spent at Aurora Energy. He brought a wealth of sales and life experience to the sales group where he account-managed the largest of Aurora’s retail customers and led the sales group. He was the momentum behind Aurora’s push into national markets in the middle of this last decade. His passion and vision were instrumental in this being a success. He always remembered the importance of his Tasmanian customers and formed strong relationships with his many customer contacts. Indeed, many of these led to strong personal friendships.
Roger’s work colleagues received a large number of condolence messages from his work contacts and customers in what was a tribute to Roger’s ability to develop professional relationships based on his personal values of honesty, fairness and integrity. There is no doubt amongst his work colleagues that Roger left a huge legacy. He was a wonderful, warm, fun-loving character. Roger was energetic and hard working. He loved to have a go. He was enthusiastic and passionate about his work and that rubbed off on his workmates. People turned to him for guidance as he had common sense and a practical way of dealing with problems and issues. His advice was always clear, sensible and straightforward. His work colleagues remember him because he was kind and generous, always ready to help, always prepared to do what he could. He was thoughtful and cared about his friends and the community.
Testament to the great respect Roger was held in by his work colleagues are the many messages in the condolence book organised by his colleagues. I read these messages on Sunday afternoon amongst tears of sadness and tears of laughter: messages of love to Roger, funny stories retold—although never in the same way Rog could—even cartoons, all depicting the great man he was. I know in the future this book will bring joy and pride to his family and friends.
Roger was a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal voter and loved to stir me up, but there was never any malice with Roger. If he thought you were right, he would say so and if not, he would tell you. He called a spade a spade and was not at all fussed by not being politically correct. Roger was a classic with the jokes, always ready with a laugh and he never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Selfless in life, ironically his last words were: ‘I’ve just come to help.’
Roger Drummond was a unique person, one I am truly honoured to have had the privilege of knowing. Thanks for keeping an eye on Bilyk in my absences and for being the colleague and mate to him that you were, Rog. I know he loved your road trips so much and he will miss you more than you will ever know. He is devastated by your passing, but as you would wish, he will move on. Every glass of red I drink will honour you, mate. That is the first thing I realised Roger and I had in common, with his fantastic quote: ‘Life’s too short to drink white wine.’ Roger has left a great legacy in so many different areas. I do not think I have done him any justice tonight. There is just too much to say about the great man that he was.