Sid’s Eulogy


Cedric James Charles Hawks was born on 13 April 1907 at Belfast, Ireland, and died in Royal Darwin Hospital on 27 August 2004 aged 97. Sid’s health had been deteriorating, and thus his death was not unexpected; but his last couple of weeks in hospital provided the opportunity for a peaceful death in the presence of his family.

He was the eldest of three children born to Norwegian/Irish
James Thomas Hawks and his English bride Amy Ellen nee Durden. Sid’s brother Percy was born at Portsmouth in 1909, and Les was born at Malta in 1911. Sid’s parents and brothers moved to Ben Lomond in New South Wales in the late 1920s. Sid’s brother Percy died after an accident in the early 1940s, and Les at Brisbane in 2003. Thus Sid was the last surviving member of his immediate family.

I met Sid and Thien in 1974 when they were living with my parents in Cavanagh Street. Over the last thirty years I spent time with Sid learning about some of his life experiences, and admiring him as a special friend. In presenting the following picture of Sid’s life I hope to give a perspective to help you reflect on your relationship with him.

Sid’s birth certificate states that he was born at Holywood; actually the
Palace Barracks, Holywood in Belfast – Holywood was an appropriate birth place because his life was the sort of adventure about which movies are made. He lived and worked in exotic places, survived wars and cyclones, ran away with someone from the circus, encountered smugglers and pirates, was a Territory pioneer, married a foreign princess, and he was a very proud husband and father.

Sid’s father had been in the Gloucestershire regiment and with the Diplomatic Corp; as a consequence Sid spent some of his childhood in Malta and China. Sid’s extensive and detailed memories of their everyday life at Teintsin in China were in no small part due to his mother’s keen sense of oral and family history.

When about age fifteen, Sid commenced at the Portsmouth Naval College but, after being involved in a couple of indiscretions, he left and was sent to Belfast. He entered an apprenticeship in marine engineering with the ship builders Harland & Wolff where his uncle Charles was in charge of the drafting office. Sid explained to me that "with the name Cedric you got yourself into a bit of trouble" and on his uncle's advice switched his name to Sid. It was also during this time that his running skills were put to the test - partly to avoid trouble but also in competitions for which he won many trophies.

Seven years later he signed on as ship’s engineer with the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line and possibly spent up to nine years at sea before he settled in Australia. He may have spent less time at sea because some records indicate he worked for several years as an engineer at mines in Wiluna and Mt Isa prior to living in Sydney at the start of WW2.

In October 1939 he enlisted as a Flight Rigger in the RAAF and was demobilised as Sergeant in February 1946. His main postings were at Laverton, Evans Head, Port Pirie and Brisbane – but included trips to Darwin and Morotai in Dutch New Guinea. He was awarded the 1939/45 War Medal. His RAAF experiences were mainly routine but, as one would expect from Sid, he had some interesting stories and was involved in a few escapades - but none that got him into too much hot-water.

During the war Sid married
Thelma Anderson, an Adagio dancer and skilled acrobat of Spanish descent who, with her brother Young Apollo, had performed around the world. When Sid was posted from Port Pirie to Queensland, Thelma started a small clothing factory in Brisbane with about fifteen employees specialising in satin stitch embroidery. Later, when discharged, Sid did a three month rehabilitation course in Sydney learning to repair industrial sewing machines. The business prospered for a while, though Sid thought that working in the factory with his wife all the time was a bit dangerous; among all those women and often not much to do. Thus he sailed the Pacific for nine months working with a friend who owned a twenty-five metre cargo vessel.
During this time the clothing factory suffered from increased competition; the result of cottage-industries established by post-war migrants from Hungary.

The decision was then made to move to the Northern Territory. A preliminary survey for a spur line from Newcastle Waters, on the anticipated Alice to Darwin railway, and various official assurances, indicated that Top Springs would be a good place to open a store and trucking business. There was nothing at Top Springs in 1949 when Sid and Thelma arrived and starting from scratch they constructing the store and airstrip. The next decade was a busy time full of interesting characters; about whom Sid gave some great yarns.
In the early years they received much of their trade from cattle drovers. For example, in 1956 the drovers brought seventy-six mobs of cattle through Top Springs - 1500 was a standard mob with about a dozen fellows who needed supplies. It is reported that for three years running Sid sold more Akubra hats than anybody in Australia.
Sid also established a trucking business delivering the mail and supplies, especially fuel, to properties throughout the district. Within a few years he was starting to truck cattle.

After a decade at Top Springs Sid and Thelma went separate ways. Thelma stayed at Top Springs and built a new store at the current site, while Sid moved his trucking business to Darwin. Soon thereafter he sold to Quan-Sing, the Flying Rickshaw, and went into partnership with Bruce Perkins to own and operate coastal barges. This partnership dissolved a few years later and in 1962 Sid purchased from the Methodist Church their eighteen-metre mission supply vessel
Larrpan. Over the next six years he delivered supplies to most communities along the Territory coast, and undertook occasional charter work. He had several crew, usually from the missions, which kept him busy.

After selling the Larrpan in 1968 to Johnny Chadderton, Sid took a Mini-Moke to Dili and undertook a quite hazardous drive over the mountains to Kupang and then onto the Island of Roti to court Thien whom he had met some months previously.

The following is Sid’s description of that first meeting: “Thien was over here to visit an uncle and she was staying with a friend Danny and his wife. They all came down to the wharf as I was steaming in with Larrpan. In those days, Larrpan used to look a picture - I didn't wholly stain the deck, I did it with oxalic acid and that whitened it and cleaned it up; it was perfectly white, narrow boards with a black line of pitch. When I had tied up to the wharf, Danny and the other people all came on board and I met Thien. I say I distinctly heard Thien say: 'Who's that good looking young captain there? Introduce me to him, Danny.' She gets mad when I tell this story. But that's how it was - and I think I took her out to dinner a couple of nights later.”

Some time later Sid had asked Danny to tell Thien he wanted to marry her – at that stage Thien’s english was not very good. In reply Thien got Danny to tell Sid that he would have to ask her father, as was the custom. Even though Sid thought they were too old for such formalities, he made the trip on her insistence. Thien’s father (the hereditary Raja of Thie, one of eighteen states on the island of Roti) had previously rejected other suitors, but on this occasion said that if Thien was happy to have him and loved him then he would give his blessing! Sid and Thien married on 9 June 1972.

Sid conducted more coastal shipping, and especially survey charter work, aboard the nineteen-metre Arandel until November 1974. One of Sid’s many adventures with the Arandel was his involvement with his friend Johnny Chadderton and others, who turned out not to be his friends, in the attempted salvage of the Japanese submarine ‘Sensuikan I-124’. This submarine had been the mother-ship for the midget submarine attack on Sydney harbour, before it was sunk off Darwin in January 1942. The salvage drama included sabotage, stolen artefacts, questionable claims and counter claims. The controversy surrounding the attempted salvage eventually involved political leaders in Australia and Japan and the submarine is now a declared war grave.

Cyclone Tracy was a harrowing experience for Sid and Thien, all the more so because Thien was very pregnant at the time. Thien was evacuated after the cyclone to Kyneton Victoria, where on 7 January 1975 their son James arrived, much to the pleasure and continuing pride of his parents.

Not content with dealing with the loss of their accommodation, a pregnant wife, looters and all the other complications of a cyclone; Sid and Johnny Chadderton salvaged the Konpira Maru 15,
an eighteen-month old thirty-metre Japanese fishing vessel that had blown ashore at Bathurst Island. Their success in winning the physical and legal battles provided them with the vessel for a new joint venture; until Sid sold his share several years later and came ashore for the last time. Of course the venture had a variety of interesting and dangerous times.
Now is not the time to expand on his encounters with members of the infamous Mr Asia Syndicate, nor the trip taking Kerry Packer and several journalists to Dili in the midst of the Portuguese withdrawal and subsequent Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Sid did however have bitter/sweet memories that he and Johnny were able to at least rescue, under fire, about one hundred eighty refugees and bring them back to Darwin – plus a baby that Sid delivered during the trip back! That baby – Lilly Lay – now living in Melbourne, this week sent flowers to Thien with the following message – Uncle, “you will always be remembered in my heart for helping mum bring me into this beautiful world. You will always be my special fisherman, now at peace with the angels forever”.

In 1978 Sid and Thien purchased their house in Ludmilla. The house was occupied by squatters - motor bike men. In Sid’s words: I went around and had a look at them. I said: 'Well I've come to tell you that I'm moving into this place in two days time with a team of contractors to pull it down.' One bloke said: 'Did you ever hear of motorbike chains?' And I said: 'Yes, but did you ever hear of an old bastard like me?' 'Not yet'. I said: 'But that's to come'. And it did come - I moved in with Dino Kynetic, who was a very big man, and Johnny Andreou. And we were going to take those blokes to pieces, but they cleared out.”

Sid and Thien continued living at the house, which has remained much the same since his initial renovations. Not one to be idle, Sid conducted a picture framing business from his downstairs workshop and undertook small mechanical repairs. Sid was often seen at school and other sporting carnivals cheering on James who had inherited his father’s running ability.

A Freemason since 1939, Sid continued in the Craft until his death. He was a member of the Australian American Association. He was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth, and in 1980 the Legion awarded Sid The Australian Medal of Merit. He spent many hours as a volunteer with the East Point Military Museum, for which the Royal Australian Artillery Association (NT) in 1992 bestowed life membership in recognition of long and distinguished service. With Thien he attended the Uniting Church in Smith Street and more recently at Karama.

Sid and Thien’s friendships included people of many religions and ethnic backgrounds; but Papa Sid and Mama Thien had a very special relationship with the local Indonesian community. (As an aside – Some people may have been a tad confused by the recent NT News article quoting Sid’s daughter. In the cultural sense Sid and Thien have many sons and daughters and grandchildren, but James is Sid’s only biological child.)

Despite Sid’s deteriorating health, just over twelve months ago he was able to attend the wedding of their son James to Danni Harris.

From the number of condolences extended to Sid’s family over the last week, the extensive support provided to Thien and James, and the size of today’s congregation (approx 450), it is clear that Sid has touched many lives in different ways. He was willing to have a go and to give others a go. He spoke his mind and was not one to call a spade a digging implement. He was proud of his life and genuine in his friendships. As James said, he was one of nature’s true gentlemen. His failing health in recent years distressed him, not the least his increased reliance on other people – especially Thien who so willingly and lovingly cared for him. Like Peter Pan he stayed young; not that long ago after spending a day in respite care, he informed Thien that he didn’t want to go back there as he did not like it – the place was full of old people!

Ruary Bucknall

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