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Loved poet could spin good yarn

MAN OF THE LAND: The late Geoff Elliott.
MAN OF THE LAND: The late Geoff Elliott. Contributed

TRAGEDY reunited the few of us left from Cannon Hill, on February 6 as we gathered to pay our last respects to Geoffrey James Elliott who passed away on January 30.

The chapel overflowed with mourners for Geoff, among them, family, friends, livestock agents, buyers, stockmen, fellow poets, representatives of the film and entertainment industry and RM Williams.

Almost everyone went to a wake held in his honour at the home of his dearest friends, Don and Judy Ross and family. Under Geoff's instructions, we did our best to have a good time under difficult circumstances.

One thing that touched my heart was the attendance of a young doctor and her mother who had met Geoff through me on not more than a dozen occasions, a tribute to his magnetic personality.

The ladies told me they felt they had known him for years and considered him their friend, such was the attraction of this good man.

Geoff was a well-respected identity in the tight-knit community that was Cannon Hill.

Together with his father Jim and his grandfather, they proudly claimed a hundred years of service to the Vesty company as stockmen and buyers.

Geoff started as a clerk on the slaughter floor - with instructions from his father to inspect the cattle in the yards and put a weight on them, check the weight off the scales and, when he perfected this, he would learn to be a buyer.

Jim sent him pencilling with the best of Vesty's buyers to complete his initial training and then turned him loose with the cheque book. Geoff did justice to Jim's confidence and went on to buy many cattle for the company.

Geoff moved on to a position of pastoral inspector on Banka Banka station in the Territory and, while there, took a great interest in the customs of the Aboriginal people on the station.

In keeping with his insatiable quest for knowledge of Australia, its history, geography and its people - Geoff became something of an authority on all of this, which is vividly depicted in many of the wonderful poems he wrote.

By the time Geoff and I met in 1972, he had finished his adventure in the Territory, been to the USA and, ready for the next chapter, was working on the set of the Ben Hall TV series as a wrangler, riding double and extra.

This interest urged him to write a screenplay of his own and have many more experiences in the entertainment world.

Eventually Geoff tried hard to settle into an urban lifestyle, buying a truck (it had to be a Mack, nothing else would do). However once again, this would lead him back to the bush carting grain and sugar.

Once more he tried normality when he traded down to a light delivery trucking operation that was tolerable for a while but again he moved on.

A picture-book 220-acre block on the Brisbane River at Fernvale became his home where this multi-talented man could explore his passion for timber, building many pieces that could only be described as masterpieces (what most would see as firewood Geoff saw as the arm of an ornate rocking chair or an intricate jewellery box).

Most of these pieces were gifts to his family and friends and, along with exquisite finely plaited bridles, hang proudly on display in their homes.

Geoff had a remarkable grasp of the English language, a tremendous vocabulary and the talent and wisdom to record his experiences into a fabulous collection of poems.

His last request was that they be published; with the tenacity of his closest friends this will happen and all of you may have the opportunity to enjoy the magic of his talent, his humour and his deep appreciation of our country and its inhabitants.

For many years Geoff and I have worked together drafting the prime beef cattle at the RNA (the Ekka) - we do it for the sake of tradition as many of our Cannon Hill predecessors have before us.

I will continue, however it will not be quite the same without him. We were a double act, working to our best all day and socialising well past our best each night, taking particular care to flirt with all of the girls so as to not be thought of as discriminatory (harmless as we may have been, it was all good fun).

Geoff once described himself to me as a very average student in school.

I found that hard to believe, as he was highly intelligent with a tremendous thirst for knowledge on many subjects but, like so many of us, his real education was in the school of life and his life was full, experiencing so much along the way with an almost uncanny ability to truly observe and see so much that others might miss.

He was gifted with a unique sense of humour and could spin a yarn better than any I've known before and doubt I will see again.

To sum Geoffrey up, I would say he was a talented, intelligent man with great dexterity and imagination, a pedantic perfectionist with the good grace to forgive those of us who could not be and the generosity to regard it as his duty to educate us if possible.

To simply make our day happier by his presence, he could always make people laugh; he lived his life by his terms.

I truly hope I have done justice to a good mate who will be mourned for the rest of our lives.

Topics:  bush poet obituary