Neville (Nifty) Eckersley
Date of Passing:
Neville was a Marrickville boy who became a JCT in the 1962 intake, and who came off the scheme and went straight into Ticket Sales sometime in 1964. I, like John McHarg, did a JCT stint in the ticket office, and got to know Neville when he had been put in charge of us Passports and Visa messengers.
We had somewhat similar backgrounds, though he had somehow slipped past Harvey Ward’s strict limit on the number of high school boys he let onto the scheme. We became close friends almost immediately, and, along with John Burkitt and Peter Lysaght, seemed to see the ticket office as our private playground - dressed like peacocks in pinstriped three piece suits, carrying on like entitled royalty, and dodging Athol Bulmer and John Holland’s frequent wrath.
Neville stayed on in Sales, and then, as Peter has mentioned, he got a European summer posting to GVA and ATH in 1966. Towards the end of his time in Athens a bloke came in to reconfirm his trip home to Sydney - he had a major problem, in that he had driven into Greece in a huge old Mercedes Der Grosse that he had bought in Germany. He had not realised that the Greeks would impose a 300% levy on a sale in Greece. Without time to do anything else, he ended up giving the car to Nifty. At the end of his posting, In November, ‘66, Neville organised some leave and planned to drive around Europe. When he got to Rome, he called into the office there and was told to hightail it to FCO to catch the last QF flight to Oz for, maybe, months as the pilots were striking from the next day. He parked the car in the FCO car park, left the keys with Long John Ward, the then DSM there, and flew home.
In early 1968, I got engaged and Neville promptly offered me the car if I wanted it for a European honeymoon - clearly I was going to have to buy some new tyres and a battery, but what else could go wrong? Sadly, a few months later, he received from Long John in Rome a large bill for the towing, destruction, and lunch(!) of the Merc. By a car wrecking gang...No appeal, no comeback was offered.
He was still in sales in August 1969 when he got married - he had been my best man the year before and he returned the honour a year later.
He left Qantas a few years later and got a job with Uzzell real estate selling houses on the North Shore, and not long after that resigned and enrolled in Morling Theological College in Sydney to train as a Baptist Minister. I think his first church was in Frankston in Melbourne, from which he then moved on to become the Director of a welfare charity. This work sparked an interest in psychology as a treatment option for abused welfare recipients that led to him doing a post grad psychology degree. (He was later to do, in Queensland, a theological PhD thesis on the anti-Nazi hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from a psychological perspective.)
By the late 70’s he had moved with his family to Brisbane to work as a school chaplain before going on into child protection work for the Catholic education authority, specifically dealing with the victims of child sexual abuse in schools and families. He continued to work with these people well into his mid 70’s. In retirement he took to tilting at entrenched windmills in both church and political establishments, occasionally with some success.
Over the past couple of years, he and I have kept up a discussion about modern Christian responses to social, ethical, moral, and political issues the early Christians could never have imagined would ever surface. In my last conversation with him a few weeks ago the passion was still bright and he was looking forward to getting well enough to get on with a book he had started work on.
He leaves a partner, Tess, 3 children, an adopted son, and his daughter Penny’s children.
I know I going to miss those long, late night, always stimulating, phone calls.
See you later, my old mate.
Graham Hercus (1963 JCT Intake))