George Brown was born in Glasgow 83 years ago, moved to Edinburgh at an early age and was educated at Holy Cross Academy. He only attended primary school and went off to join the British Royal Merchant Navy when he was 13. He travelled the world as a radio officer on many ships. At the age of 17 he was a radio officer on landing craft at Normandy France during the second world war and he wore his medals every Anzac day with pride.He met Nan Brown when travelling as a radio officer on a ship to South Africa.
They married in Melbourne, went to Scotland where he (and Nan) joined a scientific expedition to the Antarctica as a radio officer. The expedition was led by Sir Vivian Fuchs. George and Nan lived at South Georgia in the Antarctic for two and a half years where their first child Fiona was conceived.
From the Antarctic they traveled on a whaling ship via South America and Japan to come to a new job in Alice Springs. George was appointed the director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), quite a contrasting environment to the ice cold weather of the Antarctic.
He served the people of the outback with effective two way communication providing health support to many people living on cattle stations and communities from 1957 until the early 70s. He travelled widely to help fix equipment in an old ute on very rough tracks, sometimes getting lost and only having the stars to guide him back to main roads. He acted as host to his Prince Philip twice and the Queen on one occasion.
George’s broad Scottish accent over the two way radio at the Flying Doctor Base gave many outback people much amusement and his sense of humour and attention to detail was widely respected.
George and Nan had two beautiful daughters, Fiona and Catriona who sadly passed away two years ago a victim of ovarian cancer.
George was a life member and president on several occasions of the Alice Springs Rotary Club (later known as Stuart Rotary Club). He was a member of the Aboriginal Advancement League along with the late Milton and Arthur Liddle as he believed in the empowerment of Aboriginal people in the town.
George was a founding and active member of the Alice Springs Pipe Band.
He also established 8HA with other people in the town and was a board member for many years. When his daughters took up horse riding, he became involved in the Alice Springs Pony Club and was an active member of the Alice Springs Show Society.
He always played his pipes for the Bangtail Musters, Alice Springs Shows and Anzac Parades for many years.
After leaving the RFDS George and Nan began the first travel agency in Alice Springs with Lorri Sitzler. It was located in Mrs Golder’s old house on Todd Street. They were successful business people helping Alice Springs residents to access wonderful holidays both interstate and overseas.
George was a member of tourism boards in the town. Following this they started a new business Codan Communications to provide radio and installation equipment for better communication in the region. Their daughter Catriona became involved in the business which was later known as XL Com.
George decided to travel with Nan so Catriona and her daughter Alysia operated the new business for many years until she became ill. George then decided to sell the business and support his daughter undergoing intensive chemotherapy in Adelaide for several years. Catriona relocated to Strathalbyn, nearer cancer treatment, and bought a farm because of her love of animals. George stayed with her, as well as in Darwin with his other daughter and in Edinburgh where he owned a flat. Sadly Nan died tragically 16 years ago and George decided to continue spending his time between Edinburgh, Liverpool where his sister lived and Alice Springs. This arrangement worked well for all the family as he was a free spirit, travelling the world, including working on a major restoration project of the whaling station in South Georgia that is now a major tourist attraction in the Antarctic. Whilst in Edinburgh George started to raise funds for fighting ovarian cancer when his daughter Catriona was diagnosed with the disease. He committed the rest of his life to fighting the dreadful disease, by playing his 55 year old bag pipes in traditional national costume, handing out leaflets between tunes and talking to passers by from all parts of the world about the symptoms of ovarian cancer – the hidden killer. He spent the past three years in Edinburgh playing the bagpipes on the Royal Mile and raising funds for Australian Ovarian Cancer research.
Most recently he collected $5000 from July to November. He also donated money to the veterans of the Merchant Navy who are not eligible for a war pension in Britain. He was loved and admired by all the visitors to Edinburgh, this remarkable old gentleman playing favourite Scottish tunes on the pipes at the Royal Mile in the heart of the city. Twenty four days ago he left Edinburgh to spend some nine days with his only sister May and her family in Liverpool before he took a flight home, returning from Manchester to Singapore and then on to Adelaide where he underwent major surgery in St Andrews Hospital.
Though he fought valiantly for his life he passed away on Friday, December 16. His birthday was the next day.
George leaves behind his daughter Fiona McLoughlin, granddaughter Alysia Wagenknecht, his grandsons, James, Rohan and Miles McLoughlin and his great grandson Cooper George Wagenknecht whom he all adored.
George in the past year has written a story he was hoping to publish about his life, this contains funny stories of the early days in Alice Springs. He knew many many people in Alice Springs and his humour, sense of fairness and story telling will be sadly missed by those who have known him.
Daughter Fiona McLoughlin
Mobile 0434 152 553
Pictures (from top): George Brown and his daughter, Fiona. George was a hit with the public when he was busking in Edinburgh – lots of babies were photographed with him. Nan on a South Georgia stamp when she and George lived in the Antarctica.