It’s fashionable these days to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. Vulture Street was the home of the Jagera people, of whom my friend Neville Bonner was the senior elder.
Neville’s people lost this land long ago, and its stories have been told since by others. David Malouf internationalised its reputation; Powder Finger’s album Vulture Street, gives it beat. But for our family the person who has best sung this place, our times, and the world in which we exist, was my Dad.
In our family Dad was the story-teller, and he had those two qualities that story-tellers need the most: the knowledge that your imagination can create reality; and the courage to assert that reality against the world.
Dad’s published output is probably no more than a letter to the editor, but there was extensive correspondence between him and Mum, the fairy tales and short stories he wrote for us kids, and the ones he improvised on the front verandah while we snuggled up before bedtime.
The special thing about Dad was not that he told stories, and wrote some of them down. The special thing was that he lived his stories and made them real.
Lionel Edward Cooke Young was born in the front bedroom of 483 Vulture Street, East Brisbane, to Edward and Annie Young (nee Copeland) on the July 6, 1912. Annie and “Cookie” were both in the theatre. Annie’s mother Blanche who made stage costumes, and her second husband Reginald, who painted, also lived with the family.
When Dad was quite young, his father died. Alcohol was implicated, but I suspect tuberculosis was the real cause.
As a result the heroes of his family stories were women - his mother, his grandmother, and further back in the pantheon, his great grandmother Oomie - all of them single mothers.
Dad went to primary school at East Brisbane State and secondary school at the Normal School. His first full-time job was as a copy boy for the Brisbane Courier. Somewhere around 1930, in the middle of the Great Depression, at this time the sole bread-winner for the family and with a wage rise coming, he saw the writing on the wall. He took a cut in pay and forsook a journalistic career to become an apprentice mechanical engineer, still at the paper. As an apprentice he couldn’t easily be sacked.
Things might have been grim, but they couldn’t have been desperate. At some time in the ’20s his grandmother splashed out and bought a house on the beachfront at Currumbin.
As Dad grew older so did his family. His beloved gran died, as did his step-grandfather.
So then it was Dad and his mum, Annie. They seem to have had a great life together in a Dickensian type of relationship rare in the 20th century. She waited on him hand and foot - Mum says that when she met him he didn’t even know how to butter his own toast. He paid the bills, took her for their treasured weekends down to Currumbin, and as far as anyone knows, never looked at another woman.
This is an edited version of the eulogy, delivered by Graham Young, on the occasion of his father, Lionel Young's, funeral. Lionel was the major financial benefactor of On Line Opinion.
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