Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hugh Waring - 16 July 1917 - 17 April 2010

I learnt today that Hugh Waring has died peacefully at his home in Canberra. There will be a graveside service in Robertson tomorrow.

Hugh and Adele (Del) Waring have lived at the end of the road to the Cemetery in Robertson for more than 50 years. They were famous for selling (growing) "Christmas Firs".

I first met Hugh in 1992 at a funeral for his good friend, and a mutual neighbour in Reid, ACT, the late Dr Wilf Crane. Hugh delivered a brief eulogy to Wilf, and supervised the planting of a tree in his honour, in Geerilong Gardens, Reid - in the park opposite where Wilf lived.

Shortly after I moved to Robertson I called in to visit Hugh and Del, who I had met, but hardly knew well. They were very hospitable and welcomed me warmly to Robertson.

Hugh then took it upon himself to encourage me to grow "interesting plants, especially trees". Hugh loved trees.

He showed me the huge timbers in the main room in their house, which he said modestly that he had grown and harvested to fulfill a promise he made to Del, that he would build her a proper house, (once the trees grew).
There towering above me, in the main room, was the evidence.
I love a Man with a Plan.
It may have taken nearly 45 years (at that stage) but he had completed his commitment to his lovely wife, Del.

Hugh had a particular fondness for Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) the tree from which the timber known as Oregon is harvested. These trees were famously killed in their millions when Mt St Helens erupted in March 1980. They were the trees which looked like matchsticks strewn down the hillside in those famous photographs taken after the eruption.

Hugh had joined CSIRO, in Canberra, after the end of World War 2, and had become the Principal Research Scientist in the Division of Forest Research, at Yarralumla, ACT. Hugh had personally done much research on softwood trees suitable for growing in Australia.

In part, that was why he ended up living in Robertson, because Hugh was a great believer in soil chemistry influencing the outcome of attempts to grow trees, and he chose a south-east sloping hill, in a high rainfall area, with rich acidic soil as an ideal place to try to grow many of the northern hemisphere's most valuable timber trees, (including the Douglas-fir). The best place he could find which met those complex criteria was a little hill on the edge of Robertson, NSW. He and his brother, and their families jointly planted out their seedlings which now constitute a forest.

I look out over the Cemetery Hill, and Hugh's trees, every morning.

Incidentally, Hugh's trees created the backdrop to the main scenic shots in the movie "Babe", which was filmed on the adjacent property, Bell's Farm. But the movie would not have been made there without Hugh's trees creating a "non-typically Australian scene", for the producers of Babe did not want it to be identifiable as Australian scenery (there is scarcely a "Gum Tree" visible in the movie). They wanted an international "feeling" for the movie, and indeed Babe was an international success.

Hugh and Del featured in Andrew Ford's composition "Elegy in a country Graveyard", where they made several humorous contributions to the piece, including by referring to looking forward to being buried in their chosen plot, "next door". There must be something about living next door to a cemetery for 50 years which gives one a particular sense of humour when discussing death - certainly, in their case, there was a great sense of acceptance of death as part of life.

That, in essence, is what one would hope for in a man who devoted most of his life to the commercial growing of trees - and saw that they were harvested when ready.
The Canberra Times has carried this fitting notice of the forthcoming Funeral Service:

16 July 1917 16 April 2010 Late of Robertson (NSW) and Canberra.

Hugh was a very fine man, a philosopher, a scientist. A good brother, husband and father.He will be sadly missed by his extensive family and many friends. He lived each day as a bonus.

Friends and relatives of Hugh are invited to attend a Graveside Service to be held at the family property at 131 Missingham Parade, Robertson (next to Robertson Cemetery) on Friday, 23 April 2010, commencing at 11.30am.

In the Loving Care of G. Beavan Funerals 34 Station Street, Bowral 2576
Ph (02) 4861 2067.
Post script.
The Service was huge, and very moving. People came from all over Australia, especially Canberra, where Hugh had spent most of his working life. I met up with some people I knew from my days in Reid.

Members of the family, and friends spoke lovingly of Hugh. Fond reminiscences, with just a few moments of sadness.

Everyone spoke about the importance of trees in Hugh's life. I am reminded that I ought have mentioned yesterday, the Chapter which Hugh wrote about the "Experiment" he conducted on a steep hillside at Robertson. This is included in a book called, appropriately, "Think Trees, Grow Trees".

Our farewell for Hugh was conducted within his beloved forest. A truly lovely spot, enjoyed by many on a lovely autumn day.

Farewell Hugh Waring.
You have inspired a great many people.


catmint said...

an interesting and respectful obituary / post. HW has obviously inspired many people and had an important impact on the community.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Catmint,
Glad you picked up on the "respectful" and "inspirational" aspects of my obituary for Hugh Waring. He was a great man.
Thanks for the comment.

karren said...

Thank you, I wasn't able to attend my great uncle's funeral but you have reminded me about the imprint that visiting him and the family farm has made,
Karren Waring
Cooktown FNQ

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Karren
In those circumstances, I am glad that you found my brief write up of Hugh's funeral.
It was a truly great funeral, full of honour and respect for a great and influential man.
Denis Wilson