Different departures of Whitlam and Menzies

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

Honoured: Gough Whitlam on the eve of his 90th birthday. Photo: Steven SiewertThere were three Liberal prime ministers after Robert Menzies before Gough Whitlam was elected, but really it was the Victorian who passed the torch of Australia to Sydney’s son.

Whitlam ended Menzies’ Australia in many ways.

Yet the way both men left the nation is a wonderful picture of the changes that Australia has undergone since 1978.

Back then there were no didgeridoos, no Aboriginal singers, no jokes.

There was only a piper’s lament.

I was a reporter for The Age in Melbourne who had stepped out the 132 steps to be taken by a lone piper who led Sir Robert’s flag-draped casket to the J.H. Boyd Chapel at Melbourne’s Springvale Crematorium.

The piper, wearing Gordon tartan, played the songs of Sir Robert’s life.

First came The Flowers of the Forest, a 15th century lament written to mourn the Scottish dead at the Battle of Flodden. It was also played at Winston Churchill’s funeral.

Then came Lochaber No More, a lament from Sir Robert’s clan movement.

And then the recipient of the Order of the Thistle and the Knight of the Order of Australia was taken to his end in the late afternoon light on May 19, 1978.

The last bagpipe skirl that was played at Sir Robert’s cremation was The Thistle of Scotland, honouring him as a Knight of The Thistle, Scotland’s highest order of chivalry.

While thousands attended Wednesday’s state memorial service and hundreds of thousands around Australia watched and listened to live television and radio broadcasts, only a few actually saw Gough Whitlam go.

He was cremated in a private family ceremony last week.

Years before, in 1963, Sir Robert had famously shown his loyalty to the monarchy by saying of Queen Elizabeth: “I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die.”

Sir Robert was channelling a 17th-century English poet Thomas Ford. But the words are so powerful in the Australian memory that the actress Cate Blanchett rebirthed the Menzies line on Wednesday.

She told the Gough Whitlam state memorial service: “I was but three when he passed by, but I shall be grateful till the day I die.”

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