Trevor Davies 1956-2011
To understand Trevor’s passion for social reform, his devotion to politics, his love and compassion for the community in which he lived, and, of course, his commitment to the church, we need to know where it all began.
It began with Trevor’s parents – two people whose struggle and bravery set the foundations for the man so many people love and dearly miss now.
Trevor’s father was born in South Wales, the son of a coal miner whose family and ancestors endured the harsh existence of mining. They worked long, dangerous hours, day and night. History records the miner’s fight for the most basic rights we all enjoy today. Trevor continued this battle – he was always fighting for the underprivileged, for those in need.
His Father, known as Taff, was an extroverted, funny man who called a spade a spade – it is easy to recognise Trevor here. As an asthmatic, however, his father was never to go down the mines. At the age of 14, Taff left Wales and went to England to find a better life. And a better life he found. As part of this life, he was a keen and respected union leader.
Connie, Trevor’s Mum, was born in England and grew up during the war years. Losing her mother when she was only 5 she faced these awful times without the tenderness and affection only a mother can give. She, however, became the most loving person imaginable and Trevor learnt how to love from Connie – she had time and love for everyone she met.
It will be no surprise to you that Trevor was an unusual child – from an early age he was a happy, thoughtful bundle of paradoxes. Although born at home he spent the first few months of his life very sick in hospital, then at 18 months he won the beautiful baby competition! At 4 years he was the mascot of the teenagers in his neighbourhood – he went everywhere on their shoulders. His father’s nickname for Trevor was Jasper. Why? Trev was forever saying, “Jasper minute, wait for me!” He could never keep up and so his dad bought him a bike – Trevor could ride a two-wheel bike at the age of 4.
Trevor watched his first election when he was 9 years old. He wagged school, saying that he was sick, and stayed glued to the TV on Thursday October 15, 1964, and rejoiced as Harold Wilson was elected the first Labor Prime Minster of England for many years. At age 10, Trevor set up an “insurance” scheme for the children in the neighbourhood – they gave him a penny which they would claim back if and when their parents smacked them – the first injustice Trevor attempted to right.
In 1966 his family migrated to Australia as “ten pound Poms” and life was good and happy in the luck country. Trevor went to Cammeray Public School where he started the school newspaper – the Cammeray Chronicle. Later, he went to Chatswood High School where everyone knew him. He was always a character.
Sadly, his father died on Jan 11, 1969, of an asthma attack – Trevor gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but was unable to save him. Undoubtedly, this had a huge impact on him, made him question life and turned his world upside down. His sister can remember him holding the Little Red Book with the quotes of Mao Tse Tung in one hand and the Bible in the other!
The next years were tough financially and emotionally as his mother and grandmother struggled to bring up four teenagers in a new country. In those days there was no widow’s pension, so between them they cleaned houses to make sure that the family had food and clothes. Though poor, they were happy and close – with many friends and neighbours visiting regularly and copious pancakes and waffles served to ravenous teenagers. His mother’s struggle at this time greatly affected Trevor.
After high school he went to Bible College, and when they invited prayers for those in prison Trevor would supply names – not quite what they wanted or expected!
In 1979 Trevor moved to Redfern and lived with his sister, Susan, and her then husband. When they moved away, Trevor stayed and lived in Darlington for the next 30 years.
Trevor became one of the best-known members of the local community. He was very active in the Darlington Branch of the Labor Party, representing the Left of the party in all sorts of situations and discussions. No one could doubt his loyalty for the party and its causes, even if he had fierce debates with many of its leaders. Not many ordinary citizens of our country have their deaths announced and tributes read in State and Federal Parliament, as did Trevor!
He regularly went to sittings of the South Sydney Council, and later, when the Council boundaries were changed, the City of Sydney. He stood for membership of the City Council and was very nearly elected. Many of us did not regret that he was able to go on as he had been, immersed in local community life and as News Editor and distribution organiser of the South Sydney Herald, a project of the South Sydney Uniting Church. Today, this paper is a 16- to 20-page tabloid in colour with a distribution of 22,000, and its own website.
If the parish wanted to take on this project, it was because, at that time, South Sydney had no local paper which clearly focussed on its life, apart from a small area in Surry Hills, and people felt that the news from the area covered by mainstream media was almost always bad news.
Apart from the paid designer and the printer and a modest percentage given to a couple of people who gather advertising, all other work is done by volunteers, largely organised by Trevor. Over the years, the paper has had respected relationships with the City of Sydney and local community leaders, both political, religious, in social service agencies and in places like The Block. Politicians of all varieties take it very seriously and make regular comment on what is printed – sometimes negative and sometimes positive!
The mission statement is: “Celebrating the lives of the diverse people of South Sydney, inviting discussion on issues of concern and interest, adding encouragement to possibilities for community.”
All this arose from the dream of Trevor Davies, from his commitment to justice and compassion. Often over the years, those of us who have produced the paper have said that the one person on the editorial team who could not be replaced was Trevor. He was the one who collected the stories. He was the networker. You would sit in a café with Trevor and people would come in and ask, “Could we have this in our paper, Trevor?” and tell him some local news or concern.
At the centre of Trevor’s life was his faith. He was the Chairperson of the Church Council of South Sydney Uniting Church for a decade and rarely missed attending its services. He was a long-serving Elder of the congregation. He felt very passionate about his views on life, politics and faith, but you could have a good tussle with him and then move on to the next thing without anyone bearing grudges.
Throughout his life Trevor struggled with significant health problems and died after a severe heart attack. Locals requested and participated in a brief funeral with his casket present in the street beside his favourite café, his congregation held a vigil in the church which was Trevor’s spiritual home but not big enough for his funeral, and then around 800 people attended his funeral at the Pitt Street Uniting Church in the city.
Vale, Trevor Davies. The world won’t be the same place without you, and we love you and grieve your passing.
Susan Leith-Miller (Trevor’s sister) and Dorothy McRae-McMahon
(Originally published in the South Sydney Herald.)
For Trevor: The local legend
There he was,
in his favourite café,
with life unfolding around him,
engaging with everyone as they passed
and sharing the latest.
And then he was gone,
as suddenly as a bright red autumn leaf
falling off a tree in the wind.
We looked around,
unable to imagine life without him,
he who knew everyone
and gathered us all together in his knowing.
Plod, plod, plod, he went,
pulling his trolley behind him
as he delivered his papers to the community
and kept checking
to see that we all did the same with our bundles.
Then he was mixing with
the state and country’s leaders,
standing on the ground for what he believed,
a faithful representative
of his Party and the people.
“Do you vote Labor?” he asked the doctors
in the hospital emergency ward.
“Jesus loves you anyway” he reassured them
as they wondered what to say.
Such a mixture of determination
and vulnerability he was.
and yet a man of the people.
Such love and passion you leave behind you,
No-one can replace you,
but maybe your kindly spirit
will travel on among those who have known you.
Rest in peace, dear friend.
Jesus does indeed love you forever,
and so do we.
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